Saturday, December 26, 2009

Work made by the devil

This is easily the most entertaining blog post I've read in a long time.

Does kinda make me wonder if people have a cognitive bias that tells them that they have more time on their hands than they really should have though...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Noddy Xmas

The continuing ubiquity of Slade's xmas hit shouldn't be allowed to obscure what a good pop band they were in their time.

A few years ago, Noddy had a bit-part in a sitcom called The Grimleys. He did a few cameo slots with his guitar as well. The best one was a genuinely soulful rendition of Mama weer all crazee now. It's not on YouTube sadly but this less-good version of Cum on feel the noize gives a flavour of it.

Here's the original of their best hit though:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Royal neutrality

I'm definitely warming to this whole transparency lark. I wonder how long it will be before the content of Prince Charles' letters to ministers are revealed? Apparently the argument against this is that doing so would compromise the neutrality of the monarchy.

Perhaps a better way to express this is that it would expose the falsehood of that neutrality?

Here's a good post that Anthony wrote a while ago on The Democratic Society blog.
"...who needs politicians with their silly “democratic mandates” and their facile “years of experience hearing and channelling the views of voters”? If you really want to know how things are, you need to ask a man who was brought up surrounded by servants in a world of nearly unimaginable luxury.

It’s a strange fallacy, the idea that a hereditary monarch is going to be better at understanding the people than their elected politicians. There’s something disquietingly blood and iron about it – the idea that if only these footling politicians got out of the way, the true spirit of the nation would be revealed."
(I've used that quote before, in this post)

The Adams family

If Anthony McIntyre's understanding of Gerry Adams' conduct in recommending his brother for a seat in the Dail in 1997 in the context of
"...his knowledge of child sex allegations against [his] brother – allegations which Gerry Adams claims to have believed from ‘the very beginning’ - for over twenty years without having brought them to the attention of any authority North or South..."
.. then it's hard to see how even a low-level politician would survive such a revelation - never mind the President of a political party.

On a lighter (!) note, it raises a point for me about the way that a rejection of civil society on political grounds - i.e. 'we won't co-operate with the police in any way because we reject the flavour of government that the policing is grounded in' - highlights the fundamental problem with the IRA rejectionism: That it is unable to reject the social contract in part.

In practical terms, you either take the rule of law or leave it. There isn't a practical way of going halfway. When Irish Republicans chose to leave it, they ended up countenancing something far worse than British rule. They countenanced a pragmatic alliance with drug-runners, protection racketeers and local vigilantism in all of it's nasty glory. Their political actions carried disproportionate levels of violence, they covered up their own 'accidents' and left bereft families without answers. It created a fractured society - and one, ironically, that no 26 county government would ever wish to absorb.

If these allegations are true, Gerry Adams chose to leave a known child abuser to his business. There is a warped sensibility in Irish Republicanism that may understand that action in the context of an inability to involve the RUC. To promote the same brother as a potential elected representative, however, must surely be unforgivable for even the most stubborn Republican.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Want for Xmas

K-punk's Mark Fisher has a new book out - Capitalist Realism.

I want a copy almost to the point of actually paying for it. Here's a review.

"If there was any doubt that capitalist realism has survived the bank crash - or that capitalist realism has nothing to do with 'realism' as such - one need only look at the recent (entirely predictable) display of government cowardice in the face of the RBS directors.

All that hot air about the threat of "talent" leaving the bank if they are not paid bonuses.... Such rhetoric played a crucial role in the ludicrous overinflation of business and managerialism over the last thirty years which served as an ideological cover for capital accumulation.

(That the adjective "talent" should ever be applied to bankers is condemnation enough of neoliberal culture.)"

I noticed that it's had a good write up from Will Davies - one of (IMHO) the most perceptive left-wing writers around. Will has become part of 'ResPublica - the new think-tank home of 'Red Tory' / 'Tory Philosopher King' Phillip Blond.

This is one of those little facts that threatens to make your head explode - unless you've read (many years ago) Paul Addison's excellent 'Road to 1945' in which he made the case that Harold MacMillan (someone who - in the mid-1930s -was strikingly similar to Blond in terms of personal positioning) helped to create the political dynamic that enabled Labour to acheive what it did in 1945.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bloggers4Labour iPhone app


Check it out.

From what I gather, you can mash up any combination of blogs and do something similar, so it's a short step to being useful for any combination of bloggers. Apart from Tories, obviously....

No conoces la diferencia entre el bien y el mal

There's something a bit incongruous about a Spanish subtitling of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. At least Spaniards won't spend the entire film moaning about how the Nottingham accents aren't right though....

Monday, December 14, 2009

Positive censorship?

Thinking about Isiah Berlin's notion of 'positive liberty', it occurs to me that this framework could be applied to a number of other areas of thought.

Take, for instance, the question of censorship. I think that most of us can agree that negative censorship - particularly the state or other powerful individuals stopping the rest of us from speaking our minds or bringing evidence into the public domain - should be kept to a minimum.

There is, of course the 'shouting fire in a crowded theatre' defence of censorship. Then there is the apparent rights that we all have to be free of damaging defamatory attacks that are based upon fiction. Other areas where we accept censorship - however grudgingly - are the D-Notice-type censorship in which the state protects it's ability to act against it's enemies or to defend itself and it's officials from personal attack.

I don't think that there are many of us that don't accept - in principle at least - the need for any of these forms of censorship - and I'm sure that there are others that I've missed along the way that we're all happy with.

However, all of these forms of censorship are rightly contested. They can often be abused to silence people who reveal something that we all really ought to be told. They can be used disproportionately, used in a way that has undesirable or unexpected consequences, or they can be used to mask instances of where the state - or other agencies - are doing something that they shouldn't be doing in the first place. Thus, I suspect, 99% of public debate on the matter.

But what about the question of positive censorship? I find that most of the discussions about censorship are grounded firmly in the view that we should be free from any impositions placed upon us by the general will. It's sterile ground and it often silences what are - for me - the big questions:

  • Should powerful or wealthy agencies be allowed to drown out rival messages by using hefty advertising or PR budgets?
  • Should we collectively be taking steps to ensure that there is a well-funded ecology of people who are researching the claims of commercial organisations and governments and providing commentary and counter-evidence?
  • Should people with money or time-resources be able to use the libel laws more effectively than the rest of us?
  • Should any business own media interests - particularly in proportions that suggest the word 'monopoly' - that allow them to amplify or promote their commercial interests at the expense of their rivals?
  • Should any organisation, business or government body be allowed to get itself into a position where it exerts a monopoly over the way it is described? Government departments and civil servants certainly have this in a way that gadget manufacturers don't.
  • Should anyone be able to monopolise the indexing of other people's content in a way that undermines their ability to produce it?
In a knowledge economy - one where we increasingly acknowledge the value of the 'hive mind', these appear to me to be key issues. It raises question that could - in theory - transform the economics of information sharing. It seems to me that the reason that content is being undervalued and unfairly appropriated in so many ways is because of Google's monopoly in indexing and carrying advertising alongside the indexes of other people's content.

If there were five equal-ish competing Googles, each of which wanted to build the best permissive index of particular pieces of content while providing us with tools that allow us to determine how our content is indexed, I doubt if broadcasters or newspapers would be laying any journalists off.

Quite the reverse.

I could go on and on thinking aloud about this one, but I'd be interested to know if this is something that anyone else has done any work on?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Spontaneous organisation

From the every-good Counago and Spaves:
"No modern factory could function for twenty-four hours without [the] spontaneous organization of work that groups of workers, independent of the official business management, carry out by filling in the gaps of official production directives, by preparing for the unforeseen and for regular breakdowns of equipment, by compensating for management's mistakes, etc."
From "The Proletarian Revolution Against the Bureaucracy," by Cornelius Castoriadis, in the December 1956 issue of Socialisme ou Barbarie.

(The whole post is worth a look)

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Biter bit

According to the very lovely Ars Technica site, it seems the record companies have their own version of illegal filesharing....

Saturday, December 05, 2009

The Stupid Party - a litmus test

If there is a god, surely s/he will give Dan Hannan a fair wind. They really need to fully understand the many benefits that direct democracy can bring to a political party.

I mean, just ask Tony Benn about how the CLPD made Labour stronger and more electable.

And the Ulster Unionist Party are the force that they are today because of this.

Please please please god, turn the Conservative Party bloggertarian?

(Tony Benn pic from here).

Population growth explained

Really interesting explanation of a problem:

What stops population growth? from Gapminder Foundation on Vimeo.

Good night. God bless. Safe home.

There are only a handful of recording artists that I've listened to more often than the great Liam Clancy who died yesterday:

I saw this YouTube on Dublin Opinion, but if I hadn't, it'd be the performance I'd have looked for myself.