Friday, 31 December 2010

more self-indulgent wanking

P.S. (i) the song i remember euphorically losing it to more than any other whilst out this year was 'Katy On a Mission'

(ii) one mix i loved more than many this year is actually about ten years old, but i only discovered it this year (!)

it's our man Droid, with his Droid Inna Dancehall Vol. 1, which somewhat improbably starts with some almost twee, rather beguiling Mike Paradinas electronica before edging into fairly urgent chat.

and obviously big up Cee Lo Green and i look forward to seeing Janelle Monáe and Chas and Dave in the next few months with any luck.

oh i'm also going to get into yank telly show Burn Notice, having caught one random episode the other day.

any programme with Bruce Campbell in a loud yellow shirt eating a slurpee can't be all bad.
"Class war: your boss believes in it, even if you don't"

one thing i learned today is that Daily Express journalist Richard Palmer shares at least a trait or two with David Cameron and Nick Clegg: all three mischaracterise the state of things, and all three have, at times, blamed the last Labour government for problems not, in fact, caused by the last Labour government.

now, we all know Clegg is a liar *, as he does like to mention how he's all about the fairness (this is, of course, simply untrue) and we know Cameron is a liar, as he will go on about the mess he's inherited from Labour, something Clegg has occasionally joined him in (to say they are being disingenuous is an understatement).

Palmer, in noting a welcome bit of official recognition in the New Year honours list for Aylesbury estate tenants' association chair Jean Bartlett, writes whose plight became a symbol of Labour's failure in the inner cities.

now, the last Labour government did not do enough on issues of social deprivation and social mobility and fairness, that's self-evident (though, as Owen notes, their extremely necessary investment in public services is the one thing that made New Labour particularly distinct from preceding Tory govts on the home front), but, to have a writer for an extremely conservative newspaper - strong supporters of neoliberal extraordinaire Margaret fucking Thatcher, let's not forget - almost airily summarise decades of neglect in this manner basically takes chutzpah to new and exciting levels.

to quote Graeme (i borrow the class war phrase at the top from him), quoting David Harvey:

My view is that [neoliberalism] refers to a class project that coalesced in the crisis of the 1970s. Masked by a lot of rhetoric about individual freedom, liberty, personal responsibility and the virtues of privatisation, the free market and free trade, it legitimised draconian policies designed to restore and consolidate capitalist class power. This project has been successful, judging by the incredible centralisation of wealth and power observable in all those countries that took the neoliberal road. And there is no evidence that it is dead.

* no fashionable and oh so easy cynicism about mendacious politicians in democracies please: these are demonstrable falsehoods on a big scale about important, structural matters that have the potential to really reshape society

on a lighter note, another thing learned (or perhaps that should be reminded of) today watching the pop video telly year round-up is that whilst i don't exactly care buckets for every last Katy Perry single this year, there's one kind of almost fey number ('Teenage Dreams') about a boy she digs i really like (plus it's hardly the same but i've seen quite a lot of lush, lovely, hushed neo-folk gigs this year and it evokes some of these for certain reasons), and the euphoric sounds of that Starstrukk tune's chorus she's involved in are mint (and i like her "set them up" lines), and, yes, still dig the cast of Glee doing Journey.

and i adore Alicia Keys, adore adore adore her.

out to the London club Night Slugs, and out to anyone caning it to Plaid and Weatherall and Moss Side's finest in SE1 tonight, and out to Nicki Minaj, among others.

here's a LRB piece that makes a really good point about John Cage.

(via the magnificent Will, no longer at the greatest politics site i've known, but at least tweeting.)

the below 8 minute long YouTube is from Britain's Channel 4, and their journalist (a proper journalist), a bloke called Miller.

it was originally broadcast a few weeks ago.

(contains graphic images.)

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

incidentally, it's hardly the biggest (or, to be blunt, gravest) headline from the continuing intrigues thrown up by the UK's Tory-led government, but culture secretary Jeremy Hunt's (who, to be fair to him, is nowhere near as big a cock as his boss) musing aloud that cuts to the arts sector could be an opportunity for the UK to foster an American-style philanthropism in the arts is classic small state baloney, the sort of line of shit that British Tories and their Liberal Democrat accommodationists (well, certainly the Orange Book wing of that party) just love to further due to it being in their DNA.

wealthy individuals helping the cause of the arts is all well and good, but, let's be honest, today it's the arts, tomorrow it's something else.

fuck the Tory party and fuck Nick Clegg and the horses they all rode in on.

out to the city of Derry for winning that European capital of culture award; a fine town.

i've only been once, spent about four nights there, mainly looking at things, eating fried food, drinking a lot of alcohol, and talking to locals (and some other English) in her pubs and bars and clubs.

big up.

my fellow greater Mancunian Owen Jones has a blog, now up in my links bar just past the lovely Maura Johnston as one of the newer additions up there.

check out his first proper post, 'Will Cameron build a new political consensus?', here.
(i hope Owen's conclusion is proven right.)

Owen has a book forthcoming next May on Verso, 'Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class'.
I am absolutely sure that our wise people will have absolute trust in the first president, the leader of nation, which means stability in the society and the well-being of every Kazakh citizen

- Vladimir Nekhoroshev, parliamentarian

("Kazakhstan's parliament has backed a plan to scrap the next two presidential elections, allowing Nursultan Nazarbayev to stay in power until 2020.
Parliament, made up entirely of members of his party, said the proposal would go to a referendum.
Mr Nazarbayev has led Kazakhstan since its independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.")

Monday, 27 December 2010

great quote from yer man Richard Dowden in an Observer piece yesterday about Gbagbo.

Gbagbo is a big and blustery character, a bit of demagogue, but his wife is really scary. When the civil war started, she was saying things like, 'We cannot have Côte d'Ivoire ruled by foreigners', which is just language for northerners. His wife and other allies do seem to be driven by racism towards the north. The idea of the country being handed over to a northern Muslim is terrifying.

there's a tangential point from today's wires here: "Ouattara still draws his support from the northern half of the country, where residents feel they are often treated as foreigners".

as with a recent flare-up in violence around Jos, seems instructive that fault lines in African society that can be seemingly sectarian, may have deeper roots, be they structural causes, or manipulation by powerful people.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

i want to mention that this day of surrealist lectures at Tate Modern last month included a talk from young artist Simon Fujiwara that was not 'just' a talk (as all the other participants gave, all with illuminating screenings accompanying their presentations, or in the case of Liz Rosenfeld, two fine short films of hers), but was something rather special, and a real privilege to catch.

i'm just going to quote a Frieze piece at length to describe Fujiwara, and the lecture of his we saw that day.

‘I am my work,’ Simon Fujiwara told me when I visited his studio. The implications of this revealing statement are two-fold, for not only does the artist personally deliver the performative elements of his work, but much of his material is rooted in the autobiographical. Born in Japan to a British dancer mother and a Japanese architect father, Fujiwara, who is the recipient of this year’s Cartier Award, studied architecture at the University of Cambridge, then spent time at the Städelschule in Frankfurt and became an artist. Or did he? Artist, architect, novelist, cellist, son, father, lover: these defining terms become impossibly entangled in a body of work that may take the form of imaginary buildings, erotic fiction or live cello performances. Fujiwara adopts a quasi-anthropological approach – presenting evidence and interpreting it – during which a simple autobiographical fact is quickly swept along on a current of metaphor, exaggeration and pure fabrication.

Take the series ‘Welcome to the Hotel Munber’ (2006–ongoing), a work that, as Fujiwara puts it, ‘retells my parents’ life as erotic fiction’. Before he was born, the artist’s parents ran a hotel and bar in southern Spain during the final years of General Franco’s dictatorship – a fact Fujiwara uses as a springboard to considering Franco’s censorship of pornography and homosexual activity, making up for the absence of gay erotica of the time by concocting his own, with his father as the main protagonist. The artist’s conceit of casting his own father as a homosexual adventurer in what is effectively an intra-generational exchange of sexuality is an uncomfortable one, which is amplified by the protagonist satisfying his repressed desires using the objects and architecture of the hotel itself as sexual surrogates; more revealing, perhaps, of Fujiwara’s own psycho-sexual investments in architecture than the approach of his architect father.

Part of ‘Welcome to the Hotel Munber’ takes the form of a lecture in which Fujiwara describes this awkward conflation of political and family history, reading extracts of erotica and illustrating the talk with a number of props arrayed on a desk in front of him. These include snapshots of and original relics from his parents’ hotel, newspaper clippings, flags, a copy of a typewritten manuscript, pornographic images and an ostrich egg inscribed with Franco’s name. Setting up this pseudo-academic environment of accumulated evidence, Fujiwara spins a tale that veers from the touching to the absurd, culminating in the plaintive admission that his erotic novel is incomplete, the artist-as-writer blocked by the improper conflation of family values and deviant sexuality.
(now for something, er, slightly different)

10 for '10: a year list

10. Bloomberg New Contemporaries 2010, the ICA.

mixed bag.

glad i went.

(also spent the day with old, dear friend L here, and at no.7, and eating soup, which helped.)

9. Facing East: Recent Works from China, India and Japan from the Frank Cohen Collection, Manchester Art Gallery.

another mixed bag (including some large sculptures appropriately enjoyed by many adults and children the day i visited; Yoshitomo Nara's mixed media house attracted a lot of attention, too, and Murakami's mushrooms seemed popular).

it was Yue Minjun's disconcerting canvas Between Men and Animal, and a big Thukral and Tagra canvas that were up there, personally.

but out to Fang Lijun, a member of the Cynical Realist bunch, though. 'price of admission' pick for me, astonished by his large canvas of repeated, faint men in cloud.

(the same gallery had a few Ron Mueck sculptures in the next room during the time of Facing East; he is always worth mentioning.)

8. A World Observed 1940 - 2010: Photographs by Dorothy Bohm, Manchester Art Gallery.

first ever full retrospective.

great stuff, from exquisite early portraits, sublime landscapes and later streetscapes containing the planet: a world observed, truly.

7. Louise Bourgeois: The Fabric Works, Hauser & Wirth.

to quote L (see 10), a "lovely footnote".
(L's art teacher thinks no. 3, below, has over-rated colours!)

6. Steve McCurry retrospective, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.


5. Aloe Blacc's I Need a Dollar song.

a catchy neo-soul tune with a title like this would always be a relevant anthem for many people; sadly, more people than ever would find something first-hand in it in recent years.

4. the Bridget Riley Hayward touring exhibition, Flashback, seen at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.

epiphanies from Riley, yet again.

3. Gauguin, Tate Modern.

ignorantly, i thought he was basically Polynesian smut.

not so.

multi-faceted wonder.

2. Mike Nelson's 2000 installation The Coral Reef is at Tate Britain these days.

the Guardian's Jonathan Jones said "a modern masterpiece".


1. the Toronto-Dominion Gallery of Inuit Art.

a small (200 or so pieces) yet, actually, perfectly formed gallery in a downtown bank, and, seemingly, without too much fanfare locally AFAICT.

game changing.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Bad to worse in Côte d'Ivoire.

Fucking A.

Elsewhere, i had a Christmas drink with an old pal earlier.

J teaches PE in a tough school in inner Nottingham.

He spoke eloquently, movingly and angrily about the Tory govt's Michael Gove and Gove's attempts to starve school sport (since partly reversed, thanks to ordinary people, children, athletes and the Labour MP Andy Burnham rightly fighting back against Gove's odious intentions); one remarkable 16 year old girl, a teen campaigner who sounds like a fabulous young woman, was name-checked.

Feliz Navidad and that.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Death squads and disappearances: from Abidjan in the Guardian.

"We are most frightened when we hear them speaking English and wearing balaclavas. Then we know they're Liberian mercenaries, and if you are a woman, they are the ones who will rape you."

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

On Tuesday, Mr Gbagbo appeared on state television for the first time since the election to restate his claim to be the country's legitimate leader.

He blamed his "opponent's refusal to submit to the law" for the recent unrest.

Shorter Laurent Gbagbo: Wot, me guv?

P.S. 'At least 50 people have been killed in violence linked to the dispute, the UN says.'

Saturday, 18 December 2010

the D.C. based NGO Friends of the Congo has a page of links for the UN Mapping Exercise, including the uploaded report (.pdf) from the UN in the original French and their English.

documenting the most serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law committed within the territory of the Democratic Republic of the Congo between March 1993 and June 2003

Thursday, 16 December 2010

out to everyone protesting on the streets of Italy against that asylum seeker persecuting thug Silvio, yeah?

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

WikiLeaks mirrors are here.

here's ThaiLeaks - they've recently released a load of Thailand-specific cables.


Friday, 10 December 2010

11 years ago today Franjo Tudjman died in Zagreb's Dubrava clinic.

Tudjman was 77 and it is understood he had been battling cancer for the final three years of his life.

the contemporary, well-informed obituary in the London Independent by Branka Magas is masterly, and remains well worth reading.

the opening two paragraphs and closing paragraph pretty much said it all:

AS THE one who led Croatia to independence, Franjo Tudjman secured a special place in the country's history. Yet history will judge him harshly, because of his cavalier attitude to the country's true interests, because of his policy towards neighbouring Bosnia-Herzegovina, and not least because of his persistent hostility to Croatia's citizens of Serb and Bosnian descent - all of which has contributed to the country's present international isolation.

Death arguably saved him from indictment by the Hague Tribunal, for his overall responsibility for war crimes committed by Zagreb's proxy forces in Bosnia-Herzegovina and the unpunished brutalities visited upon defenceless Serbs who have remained in, or tried to return to, Croatia.


The aberrations associated with Franjo Tudjman's period in office were exacerbated, no doubt, by the aggression to which the country was subjected from the very moment of its proclamation of independence and by the policy of appeasing Belgrade long followed by Western governments. It remains the case, however, that dismantling his legacy remains a precondition for Croatia's democratic development.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

UK housing benefits to be slashed: analysis here.

The government spin was that their cuts were all about capping benefits for a small number of families in inner London. But even their own reports spell out the truth – these cuts will hit hundreds of thousands, will increase homelessness and overcrowding, disrupt the education and attainment of poor children, disrupt services for disabled people and force people on low incomes into even poorer quality housing.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

(from the Tuesday December 7th edition of my local paper, the South London Press)

FOUR men have been cleared of killing an innocent teenager in a drive-by shooting.

The group were accused of gunning down 18-year-old Ryan Bravo as he entered a shop to buy a pint of milk on August 6, 2008.

It is claimed Ryan was caught up in a clash between the Organised Crime, or OC, and the Peckham Young Guns.

Jurors have heard that the OC gang were chasing two rival gang members who pushed past Ryan to hide in the Costcutters store, in Camberwell Road, Walworth. In the hail of bullets, Ryan was hit once, in the back and died.

Prosecutors said the five were Terrell Lewis, 20, Nathaniel Bailey, 19, Nathaniel Grant, 19, and Anthony McKenzie, 21, and Ashley Bucknor, 21.

But halfway through the Old Bailey trial, all but Bucknor were cleared on the direction of the judge Gerald Gordon. He ruled there was no case to answer due to insufficient evidence.

It is claimed the murder was in revenge for a shooting on the Myatts Field Estate in Brixton earlier that same day.

Bucknor, of no fixed address, denies murder.

Eighteen years of age.

shot dead for buying a pint of milk.
another one of the most essential sites anywhere right now is the UK's Channel 4 page on the Sri Lankan civil war

Monday, 6 December 2010

it seems characteristic that Hole's frontwoman Courtney Love rest her left foot on a speaker, as in this clip; a pose i've seen before from her.

i love Courtney.

i fucking love her.

her voice is amazing.


the undemocratic Thai govt is more bothered about Bangkok vendors selling flip-flops with satirical images printed on the soles than they are by the fact that they (the Thai govt) massacre their own citizens by the dozen for the, er, crime of protesting the Thai govt's increasing authoritarianism
Guardian's US embassy cables - one of the most essential websites on earth for a minute now

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

i note the wiki for the Scottish painter Peter Howson (an artist who, among other pursuits, cranks out enjoyably large canvases with visceral gusto, and does some corking album covers, as my flatmate and i were saying to each other) refers to his time as an official war artist during the "Bosnian Civil War".

this precise phrase, civil war, is actually used twice in the wiki (at time of posting).

it's almost certainly an innocent tag but the word civil really needs to be dropped from the description.

the Bosnian war was a war of federal Yugoslav and Serb aggression; 'civil' could imply an attempt to get into moral equivalences.

there should be absolutely no room for anything remotely resembling equivalency when discussing the murderous assault on Bosnian Muslim society that was the major part of this war (that obviously tragically affected all communities in Bosnia), and to deliberately say otherwise is a rank piece of ethical bankruptcy that must be met with continuous contempt.

no room at all.

if you know about the subject, you'll be familiar with the name (and probably this forthcoming hat tip), and no apologies for linking again to the Marko Hoare article 'What do the figures for the Bosnian war-dead tell us ?'

Monday, 29 November 2010

in a shop the other day and their stereo was playing Do they know it's Christmas (yes that time of the year is looming), which reminded me of two things (by bloggers i occasionally link to anyway) i wanted to excerpt a bit and link to.

both articles are by the Barders.

Brian Barder was the British ambassador to Ethiopia during the mid-1980s when famine struck Ethiopia and the international community responded with famine relief aid; five years ago he wrote this letter to the Guardian in protest at a David Rieff article then doing the rounds (i remember a few blogging peers finding Rieff's line sympathetic; i was personally ambiguous).

the BBC has recently apologised for broadcasting a load of old turkey about the international famine relief effort in a stupidly misleading World Service documentary broadcast this past spring, in March.

Barder has blogged more than once on his site about this, but it's worth reading in full his excellent account from late March taking the BBC to task. it's here, and i want to quote in full the summary at the start of his piece (it's a fairly long article overall).

the final two sentences of Barder's summary are really, really important, and, i fear, may well be prescient. (even with the BBC apologising - after Brian wrote this particular article, it must be said - the damage has been at least partly done, for sure.)

A BBC World Service documentary programme broadcast in early March 2010, and the advance publicity for it, gave the impression that a huge proportion of the famine relief aid given by the international community to Ethiopia in the 1980s was diverted from starving people to buy arms and ammunition for use in the civil war then raging in northern parts of the country. The specific allegations made by the BBC about the diversion of aid related only to the tiny proportion that was supplied by some NGOs to rebel-held areas, a distinct and very small part of the total relief effort in Ethiopia at the time. The incorrect inference has been drawn that a substantial part of the total aid to Ethiopia, including the much larger sums provided to the government-ruled parts of Ethiopia, were diverted for military use, including the aid raised and managed by Band Aid. While the programme did not make this claim explicitly (just as well, since it would certainly have been exposed as false), either deliberately or negligently the BBC has allowed, and to some extent encouraged, this misunderstanding of its findings, and has failed to point out (other than sotto voce) that its allegations related to a quite separate, and very small, part of the aid. As a result, there is now a widely held and completely false perception that a substantial proportion of the aid given to Ethiopia in the 1980s was diverted for military use. This has potentially disastrous implications for public attitudes to future emergency relief appeals, and to development aid generally.

Brian's son Owen is a development and aid specialist who lives in Addis.

earlier this month, on November 4th, at his blog, Owen posted this piece.

the introduction gives a good flavour of his feelings.

It has entered our collective consciousness that a large part – perhaps as much as 95 per cent – of the aid given to Ethiopia during the 1980s famine was diverted for military use. This misapprehension was caused by a misleading programme on 4th March, compounded by the BBC’s publicity for the programme on television and radio and online.

As Mark Twain remarked, “a lie will fly around the whole world while the truth is getting its boots on”.

Today the BBC has apologised. The apology is abject, and rightly so

Friday, 19 November 2010

PLEASE go away Canadian Tories

Graeme: "Seriously, fuck this government sideways in the ass with a broken bottle."

true - this one is genuinely disturbing, a shocking attack on democratically willed efforts to combat climate change from unelected Tory senators

see also - er, so's this.


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Now the Tories are pouring out money in propaganda of all sorts and are hoping by this organised sustained mass suggestion to eradicate from our minds all memory of what we went through. But, I warn you young men and women, do not listen to what they are saying now. Do not listen to the seductions of Lord Woolton. He is a very good salesman. If you are selling shoddy stuff you have to be a good salesman. But I warn you they have not changed, or if they have they are slightly worse than they were.

- Aneurin Bevan, 3 July 1948

That's a sin

- Iain Duncan Smith, 11 November 2010

Mr Duncan Smith's defenders (including Nick Clegg in this paper on Wednesday) like to compare the scale and intention of his plans with the Beveridge report of 1942. They forget there was a second Beveridge report, in 1944: Full Employment in a Free Society. He knew that without jobs, the welfare state wouldn't work.

- The Guardian, 12 November 2010

There are at least 18 millionaires in the cabinet...Though few people seemed to notice, on 3 November, a Treasury minister named Lord Sassoon served notice that the coalition's work on City bonuses was done: "The government has taken action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the banking sector," he said, and that seemed to be that. Six days later, Barclays announced that its latest bonus pot would total £1.6bn – which is about a third of what the government currently spends each year on university teaching. The annual season of big executive payouts is about to commence once again

- John Harris, 12 November 2010

The latest wheeze is the welfare reforms being proposed. I haven't read them in detail, but the language is clear enough; penalties for refusing a job, compulsory community work, and the idea of unemployment as a lifestyle choice. Underpinning it all is the dreadful notion of dependency culture. I hate this concept. I can find little in the way of empirical grounding and even less of empathy and understanding. In many ways, and I intend to cover this in a subsequent post, it is anti-liberal and even authoritarian in its import. It brings no great insights, it is simply a regurgitation of the worst prejudices of the Philosophic Radicals of the early 19th Century. Its attraction lies in it being a neat way of making punitive policies sound compassionate - 'tough love' in the revolting parlance of the Clinton era. Government as Victorian father. Spare the rod and spoil the child.

I want to make a stand for dependency. What is wrong with it? Why should some people not be dependent? After all, we are all dependent at some time or other in our lives. When we are children, ill or old are obvious examples of times when we cannot function without support. And though we prize our independence, it is a sign of a civilised society that those who fall dependent at any one time are cared for in whatever way they can be. Even more, like it or not, we cannot escape the ties of emotional dependence. Actually, we treasure them and those that don't have them long for them. We are all dependent. Love is not tough.

Dependency is not a stigma, it is an inescapable part of human life. We need dignity in dependence.

- Peter Ryley, 12 November 2010

Monday, 25 October 2010

RIP Gregory Isaacs.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Thursday, 21 October 2010

We were automatically women's rights by being who we were and making sure we were who we were and remaining who we were.

- Ari Up

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

it seems almost like a sort of cruel joke that the Conservative party conference this year took place in Birmingham city centre.

the downtown of Britain's second city is part of the Birmingham Ladywood parliamentary constituency, which is one of the most deprived areas in the UK.

Ladywood has the worst child poverty rates of all 650 UK parliamentary constituencies.
it also has the highest unemployment rate of any constituency.

(incidentally, the neighbouring constituencies of Birmingham Hodge Hill and Birmingham Erdington have, respectively, the second and fifth worst rates currently, with other neighbouring constituencies also doing badly.)

and so it came to pass that a politician who represents one of the wealthiest constituencies (in fact, very wealthy by some measures) went to conference, in this suffering zone, to address us about a desire to inflict his brand of sadistic aristocratic economics on everybody else.
(he should weather the storm himself just about OK you'd imagine, if only owing to his £4million trust fund.)

whether it's Tory and Lib Dem buzzwords about fairness proving to be so much demonstrable rubbish, Chancellor George Osborne's laughably threadbare defence of his ridiculously compromised sources, or a potential assault on the fabric of our cities (a severe assault at that), there is much evidence to suggest that the coalition approach to tackling the British deficit may be misguided, although, from the point of view of the Chancellor, what does that matter?

attacking public services is ideological for this guy, and not just incidental to current economic conditions.

growth, after all, will return sooner or later; it's just a shame a concern for wealth and income differences is for wimps (it's certainly not something the Tory party appear to care for).

my friend Ruth wondered re Osborne, that, as a constituency MP for a very wealthy area with relatively few social problems, how much experience he has of life at the deep end.

compare Osborne with recently defeated Labour leadership challenger David Miliband.

Miliband represents South Shields in northeast England, a far less affluent constituency than Osborne's Tatton (a semi-rural area of suburban villages in Manchester's commuter belt).
Miliband apparently once remarked how the problems of constituents (someone facing eviction from their home, and someone facing deportation following an asylum claim, were two examples cited) were a slap in the face to him as a young constituency politician (he comes from a comfortable background and had worked in a policy role in glamorous central London for some time).

now, with all due respect to the people of Tatton, it is inevitable that, say, South Shields - let alone Birmingham Ladywood - will have a greater proportion of beleaguered constituents in the sort of real trouble that demands the intervention of a public servant, not just somebody's private purse.

good for the voters of Tatton, of course, good for them, but it does raise an interesting point about Osborne, and would ideally have more of us asking more urgent questions of him and his ideas given many of the toughest proposals he will be unveiling will, in general, surely not be felt that much in Tatton (though will in all probability be felt keenly in Birmingham Ladywood).

sadly - as Krishnan Guru-Murthy acknowledges - the Chancellor knows the way he wants to go; an observation donpaskini also made recently:

Poorly designed child benefit cuts which take away benefits for some families on £44,000 while giving them to other families on £86,000: £1 billion.

Giving party activists something to cheer by cutting benefits for homeless families in temporary accommodation: £150 million

Not having to explain where the other £13 billion in welfare cuts is going to fall: priceless.

There are some things money can't buy. For spinning savage cuts to the poorest, there's Tory Party conference.

Friday, 15 October 2010

i wonder if certain powerful men in Ottawa have read this?

Sri Lanka: Groups Decline to Testify Before Flawed Commission
Government War Panel Lacks Mandate, Credibility, Independence
An asylum seeker who was being deported on a flight from Heathrow begged passengers to help him moments before he collapsed and died beneath three security guards, according to a new witness who has spoken to the Guardian.


An engineer who works Angola's rich oil fields alongside other western expatriates, Michael said Mubenga's death spoke to hypocrisy in global border control. "You have got a man deported from over there. Did you ever stop to think how many British are over here, making £400 or £500 a day in Angola?"

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

from that Globe and Mail piece noted on one's Twitter earlier today: "Thailand has not signed onto the international conventions that can make refugee removals time-consuming."

but of course!

Thailand's neighbours only include such paragons of virtue as the Myanmar junta and the Laotian dictatorship.

in addition, the likes of Vietnam and China are nearby. (and Sri Lanka, granted.)

time time time, we are very busy and pressed for time, we are professional people, we do not have time for all this.
political language decoded: when wealthy, (relatively) powerful governments such as Canada or Australia use some sort of variation on a 'Tamil boat crisis' or such, they are in fact discussing a virtual handful of bedraggled Sri Lankans fleeing who knows what.

in a slightly less imperfect world, the word "crisis" would be reserved for momentous events causing widespread social upheaval, such as the genuine villainy that was what Margaret Thatcher did to much of central and northern Britain in her time in office.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Sunday, 10 October 2010


concerned about the deeply pernicious Tory lies taking root in the UK about Labour's handling of the economy ('everything is Labour's fault' etc), and with so many willingly credulous dicks propping up the UK press corps and giving these lies an easy ride, it's got to be worth lauding when someone stands up and challenges such ludicrous falsehoods.

so, then, with such lies abroad, Brian Barder fisks "six Tory myths" here.

elsewhere: Spotify, thank you for Solomon Burke (RIP), for Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers with Thelonious Monk, and for the Pearson Sound tunes Wad (the longer 5 minute + version that is news to me), and Indelible. oh and the Brownswood Recordings compilation Brownswood Electr*c.

i want to go mental on a dance floor to Wad.

should and probably could have got in with a beautiful young woman in a pub last night but am moving city on Wednesday, so didn't really see the point.

you learn more from a few Private Eye columns in one afternoon than an entire month of mainstream British journalism, swear it.

Friday, 8 October 2010

street paper The Big Issue has a column that interviews celebrities about advice for their younger selves. writer AL Kennedy and actress Sadie Frost have been two particularly affecting ones of late.

among other things, Kennedy noted I'd like to tell my 16-year-old self - don't go out with predatory men. They are less interesting than you think while Frost admitted I wish I could go back and be more gentle, more compassionate with my dad. I had a very difficult relationship with him. I didn't understand his illness - he had manic depression, he was undiagnosed hepatitis C and he had issues with alcohol. He was very unconventional and larger than life and I was very unsure of him and neither of us could connect very well. I think my love and validation would have really helped him. I only came to grips with it all after he died and that has haunted me because I think I broke his heart.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Our mission was to show the world that girls can play rock and roll. When people would say to me 'girls can't play rock and roll' I'd say what do you mean?
Do you mean they cannot master the instruments? Because I'm in school with girls playing cello and violin performing Beethoven and Bach.

What you mean is rock and roll is sexual. And when you play rock and roll, you own your sexuality. And that's threatening to some people.

People are more willing to give girls a shot these days but there's still absolutely that glass ceiling.

- Joan Jett

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

apparently the World Bank estimate more than 800 million Indians get by on £1.26 a day (that's roughly 2 Canadian bucks or 1.45 euro at current rates).

yesterday i travelled on a coach from London to Manchester, 200 miles or so a trip, a fairly long journey by the standards of geographically small Britain, which is smaller than many states in the USA.

i was with my brother's partner in the morning and we had a central London food court breakfast (which is obviously going to be expensive by the standards of many wealthy nations, let alone in absolute terms), that i shouted.

i had a bagel with cream cheese, and a flat white and a bottle of a fruit smoothie, and she had an egg sandwich and a flat white.

all this was about ten pounds. ten pounds before 9 in the morning, and then i later got on a coach that cost about five pounds for a return journey (a cheap price by the standards of much British inter-city public transport travel, to be fair: because i have an internet connection where i live and a laptop, and can search for cheaper prices - very lucky).

15 quid by lunch because i have the immense good fortune to be a particular middle-class Briton with money to spare.

what luck.

all because of an accident of birth.

i suppose this somewhat self-aggrandising anecdote just goes to show that small-state conservative politicians in the wealthy world are the enemy, because they do not acknowledge that the good fortune of some of us which is built on the structurally sustained bad fortune of others (so therefore, no accident, in truth) must be remedied by more state intervention on capital than has been the case.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

this deep house mix is gorgeous

oh and happy birthday to my younger brother, currently watching the football with some cans after a curry at his local pub - quality celebration, i'll hope to rock my next born day like that

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Curtis Jackson III grew up in the South Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, in New York City. He grew up without a father and was raised by his mother, Sabrina, who gave birth to him at the age of fifteen. Sabrina, a cocaine dealer, raised Jackson until the age of twelve, when she was murdered in 1988...After her death, Jackson moved into his grandparents' house with his eight aunts and uncles. He recalls, "My grandmother told me, 'Your mother's not coming home. She's not gonna come back to pick you up. You're gonna stay with us now.' That's when I started adjusting to the streets a little bit".

- Wikipedia for American rap musician and actor '50 Cent'

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

though, as Madeleine Bunting did rightly note recently

'Equality is the one item nobody wants on the UN agenda next week
For all the progress on the millennium development goals, it seems countries are growing richer leaving their poor behind'
in New York these past two days, on behalf of the UK, Andrew Mitchell tries to chide other wealthy countries

Britain is leading the way in helping the world's poorest people, with a firm commitment to spending 0.7 per cent of GNI on aid from 2013. The UN Secretary General has praised Britain's 'visionary leadership' on this.
Now is the time for other countries to step up and keep their promises too. We will push for that - and I will push for all aid to be more transparent and more accountable.

Nick Clegg will discuss malaria.
At home and abroad, Serbia's enemies are massing against us

- Slobodan Milošević

We each took an area to organise. We told our lads to prepare for a real fight. We parked two lorries full of stones. We didn't say they were for the police. They were there "just in case".
- Miroslav Solevic, Kosovo Serb nationalist

whoever reduces the war in Bosnia to a civil war between various "ethnic groups", is already on the side of the Serbs.

- Slavoj Žižek

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

"The study also cites senior Lib Dems describing their party as like an adolescent child and admitting that they had 7,000 policies that no one gives a flying fuck about".

"Sacrifice is for the little people"

billionaire businessman possessed by wholly inappropriate comparisons?

check. (actually, he compared Obama to Hitler: yes, really.)

the mainstream business magazine Forbes making pretty much racist comments that are completely wide of the mark, not to mention grounded in a completely laughable, unsupportable and half-arsed cod psychologising?


this and more!

Paul Krugman explains.

The spectacle of high-income Americans, the world’s luckiest people, wallowing in self-pity and self-righteousness would be funny, except for one thing: they may well get their way. Never mind the $700 billion price tag for extending the high-end tax breaks: virtually all Republicans and some Democrats are rushing to the aid of the oppressed affluent.


Monday, 20 September 2010

Lauryn Oates, 48 hours ago:

In the last 24 hours, the Taliban have struck in almost every province of Afghanistan with a series of coordinated attacks. Innumerable IEDs have been found and some have detonated, grenades thrown into polling stations (many of which are in schools), civilians abducted and cars of election workers hijacked, rockets launched at polling stations, and armed attacks against voters, the police trying to protect them, and elections workers. The death toll is mounting. Last I checked, 95 people have been killed. The Taliban have proudly declared that they've attacked 150 polling stations.

And yet, people went to vote.

rest here.

(via Terry Glavin, must read as always.)

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Giles Ji Ungpakorn is a writer and activist.

he is in exile from Thailand after he ran afoul of the country's ridiculous lèse majesté law (bottom line, they try to put you in chokey if you slag off the King: an absurd anachronism).

here he explains a bit about the background to Thailand's Red Shirt movement (including the massacres of a few months back, when the army rolled in and shot up largely peaceful protesters in Bangkok this spring).

i want to quote a central passage below, as it shows that grasping a basic premise is not difficult, that is, one can be appropriately critical of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra's crimes and excesses and also be critical of the coup that removed him.

you might think pointing this out sounds a bit simple-minded, but a lot of people damn the democratic, emancipatory Red Shirt movement by association with Thaksin; of course, since these people may often be supporters of the anti-democratic (and certainly far less politically progressive) Yellow Shirts, such complaints should be taken with salt.

Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party (TRT) was modernising and it captured the imagination of millions of citizens. This is why the conservatives hated it. For the first time in decades, a party gained mass support from the poor because it believed that the poor were not a burden. They argued that the poor should be “stakeholders” rather than serfs. “Populist” policies, such as universal health care, were developed after the 1997 Asian economic crisis and were a result of widespread consultations in society. This was no socialist party, but a party of big business committed to free-market policies at a macro and global level, and Keynesian policies at the village or grassroots level. The TRT government also believed in using a “firm hand”. This resulted in thousands of deaths in “the war on drugs” and the war in the Muslim Malay south. That is why I never voted for or supported the TRT. Nevertheless, I was totally opposed to the coup and the anti-Thaksin PAD.


Saturday, 18 September 2010

earlier this week: Linda Melvern and her short, unblinking gaze towards the UN's mapping exercise in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

the mapping exercise (a draft of which was recently leaked to Le Monde, as the UN news centre reports here) is a forthcoming "inventory of the most serious human rights abuses between 1993 and 2003, identifying potential leads and sources of information for further investigations should trials follow".

it gives form to hell.

In its 500 pages it describes more than 600 serious violations by perpetrators from the armies of Burundi, Uganda, Angola, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Congolese rebel groups, and Rwandan Hutu Power génocidaires. It was, however, the allegation against the Rwandan army that drew the most media attention...Whoever leaked this document was distracting attention from another abject UN failure when, only days before in Congo's North Kivu province, rebels – including remnants of Hutu Power forces responsible for the 1994 genocide of the Tutsi – had systematically gang-raped hundreds of women and children. Atul Khare, the deputy head of UN peacekeeping, later admitted that the UN's forces in the DRC had failed.


The story of what happened in Congo remains massively incomplete. It is inappropriate, or so the Belgian journalist Colette Braeckman wrote last week, to simply blame African states. Braeckman, an expert in the region, says the Congo wars have depended upon tolerance and compromise within the UN security council. They have also depended on the exploitation of mineral reserves and the defence of foreign investment – they are about wealth and influence in Africa.

Braeckman discloses how at one stage the Hutu Power forces in the DRC had received military assistance from Serbian mercenaries hired by the French. She includes a startling claim that the US had provided satellite intelligence to Rwandan forces in order to show the location of Hutu refugees in sprawling forests.

The 1994 genocide and the subsequent massive exodus of more than one million Rwandans – the "Hutu nation", as one military leader called them – into the neighbouring DRC contributed to the destabilisation of an entire region. There have been 16 years of war, human deprivation, rape and misery, with untold and unimaginable brutality, and an incalculable number of victims. It is not over.

can you imagine?

the United States of America gives up the location of refugees to a pursuing army.

France funds genocide.

can you imagine?

Friday, 17 September 2010

Either the left and the labour movement get their act together at this pivotal moment, or they will be destroyed by the coming onslaught, and we will have a future in which Nick Clegg occupies the farthest left of bourgeois politics, with a right-wing increasingly defined by petit-bourgeois reactionaries and fascist provocateurs. Imagine - it would be like living in America.

it's exceedingly true to say this blog doesn't always see eye-to-eye with LENIN'S TOMB (i'm sure a published author and well known blogger like Richard Seymour must be weeping into his cornflakes with this retrospectively lukewarm endorsement), but this sober riffing on the Liberal Democrat party seems fair in analysis terms, contains a few clear-eyed, pretty heart-rending paragraphs about the actual implications of Nick Clegg's benefits announcements, and also includes one sensible - and welcome - reminder about the fundamental inch of difference between Labour proposals, Liberal Democrat proposals, and Tory proposals wrt the choice that faced British voters at the last election, as quoted here.

22% of people back the government's cuts. 37% support the lesser, more gradual cuts that Labour proposed at the last election.

the amount of letters one encounters in the press here at the moment banging on about how Labour's bleating on cuts should stop because they would be cutting too ignores, of course, the modest but crucial distinction between the three main parties in terms of what they said they would do in their manifestos ahead of the election.

put simply: the Tories said they would cut, cut, cut, and with a budget that hit the poorest Britons hardest.

the Liberal Democrats were somewhat less punitive towards the vulnerable than that.

and Labour less so again.

if you cannot understand the difference between the more phased cuts, mild redistribution and some stimulation that Labour said they would do, and the - to be fair to the Tories, they are a reasonably honest bunch about their intentions (which is, admittedly, more than can be said for the national Liberal Democrats in some ways these days) - full-blooded hollowing out the Tories said they would set about, then you really need to wise up.

and, natch, in the interests of completeness, let us recall that the fully advertised in advance Liberal Democrat proposals were quite inferior to what Labour had to say, and rather superior to what the Tories had to say *.

so, yes.

there has been about an inch of difference on social justice between Labour, and the Liberal Democrats, and the Tories these past years.

and you know what?

that inch?

it is a really significant, wide, 2.54 centimetres, where a lot of the poorest Britons get by just a bit better thanks to Labour.

Shuggy, meanwhile, is not optimistic.

Underneath everything this government says about anything - whether about health, education, family life or deficit reduction - you'll find just one thing; the notion that the 'good society' is one where the state is smaller - period.

The Lib Dems have traditionally stressed making the state smaller in relation to personal conduct, the Conservatives with the economic sphere, but with both - especially when you factor in the degree of overlap - the near universal presence of this central idea should be better appreciated. Is there anyone on the government benches that doesn't think the state should be shrunk in some way?

Now, simple ideas have a habit of breaking on the rocks of experience because the human situation always proves to be more complicated but for now the cohesive role it is playing should be tackled more directly. In other words, the opposition to the coalition needs to be clearer about what its attitude towards the state is. This isn't easy because to respond to a simple idea like this with an equally simple one runs the risk of sounding either conservative (keep it the way it is) - or a bit Soviet (make it bigger). Whereas a more complicated idea - while it would do more justice to the mess of actual life - can sound like obfuscation, if you're not careful.

The problem here is that I can't see Labour getting even close to agreeing a broad road on which to travel, never mind coming up with a line.

* this is probably a literally perfect example of 'damning with faint praise'

Thursday, 16 September 2010

There are two chief schools of thought about this.

One is that a man who would put lobster in bouillabaisse would poison wells. The other is that a man who would leave it out would starve his children.

- Waverley Root

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

The Globe and Mail met with four men from the village this week to find out how they feel about the social and military experiment that is being conducted in their backyards.
One of them is so angry at a Canadian cultural blunder that he said he is forcing himself to overcome thoughts of revenge. He's the exception.
The other three said they are glad their boys are in school and their villages are safe...most of all, they said, they are delighted to be paid for cleaning the canals in Deh-e-Bagh..."They give us a good salary," Faridullah says. "I am happy with Canadians because they keep our young people busy."


It will be many years before the community has the security forces and the economic resources to sustain itself - and there is only one other employer in the region, the Taliban, he said.

"Today," Faridullah said, "the people are working. They don't have time to speak to the Taliban. So I need to tell the Canadians to continue for a long time. Do not stop."

from a piece by Gloria Galloway on this "model village" approach from Canadian forces in Kandahar, the Globe and Mail, October 16, 2009 (not online)

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

For every death of a British soldier you hear about, there are four or five Afghans who are killed.

- Doug Beattie won a Military Cross, serving alongside Afghan soldiers, in the Royal Irish Regiment (motto: Faugh A Ballagh or clear the way).

remarks to London Metro, July 14 2010, not online.

Monday, 13 September 2010

what they achieve in terms of farming is remarkable given the limited tools and manpower they have – I have a lot of respect

remarks in today's press from a British Lance Corporal (1st Battalion Duke of Lancaster's Regiment), describing meeting locals in Helmand

Sunday, 5 September 2010

leonine Terry Glavin and the wonderful Peter Ryley are on fine form in the comments of this Terry post on Afghanistan.

says Terry: "A pal of ours, civil rights lawyer in Kabul, a Talib just shot his brother in the head so I'm in a bit of a mood."

Friday, 3 September 2010

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Monday, 30 August 2010

the unutterable tool Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (his latest wheeze is to publicly wish for Abu Mazen to be eradicated from the plane of existence) is clearly a horrible bigot with a despicable and total disregard for humanity.

reading the BBC story, an aspect of another one of Yosef's past announcements is particularly disturbing.

in the box about halfway down the page, they write

"Rabbi Yosef: Man of controversy

5 August 2000:
Said the Nazi Holocaust was God's retribution against Jewish sinners.

Later added that he believed all six million Jewish victims were pure and complete saints."

the second part of this formulation, about Holocaust victims all being pure and complete saints, is troublesome. (let's ignore the first part, which is standard wingnut fare.)

if you take this narrative to its logical conclusion, it could be used to imply only people of virtue are worth commemorating and fighting for when they fall victim to rights abuses, and such.

it could be used to imply that, for example, generally unpleasant people with some socially obnoxious views who may fall prey to rights abuses, are not worth seeking remedy for as much.

this is a departure from universal norms, which are the only true currency of human rights, and which are of course diminished by the likes of Yosef's words and some of the actions of Israel, just as surely as they are diminished by the words and actions of some of Israel's enemies.

speaking of Israel:

AUGUST 18, 2010

(Jerusalem) - The Israeli government should immediately stop demolishing the homes of Bedouin citizens in the Negev desert in southern Israel and should compensate those displaced and allow them to return to their village pending a final agreement that respects their rights under international law, Human Rights Watch said today.

it does seem, in many ways, that Israeli Bedouin Arab citizens have a similar lot to how Roma residents are treated in some European countries.

unpeople all.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Friday, 27 August 2010

when we say something is unacceptable to us, one can draw his own conclusion.

- from a Pakistani Taliban statement reported in the international press today

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

House GOP leader John Boehner gave a speech today in Ohio about his policy demands as he limbers up for a shot at becoming Speaker.

the Daily Kos has gone to the trouble of fisking what Boehner actually said, and it turns out - i hope you are sitting down as you read this - that what he said was a load of old cobblers.

(i know, i know. me too.)

turns out the only time Boehner goes into much practical detail (as opposed to making absurd moon-on-a-stick requests in Obama's direction) it's to laud a set of proposals from GOP Congressman Paul Ryan.

unfortunately, as the Kos notes, this eventually brings us back to, well

In other words, far from being some brilliant new innovation, Ryan's Roadmap is basically the same sort of economic mumbo-jumbo peddled for years by the Bush administration and conservative Republicans.

And it's now the centerpiece of John Boehner's economic platform as he campaigns for Speaker, which brings us back to the central question voters will face this November: do they want to allow Democrats to continue trying to revive the economy, or do they want to give up on the Dems and go back to the Bush economic policies of the Republican Party?


Monday, 23 August 2010

one of the many perennially awesome rolling threads on Dissensus is questions you are dying to ask but are too scared to b/c of music nerd cred?

New Jersey's gentlemanly Leo recently posed ' it the same thing as dancehall? a form of dancehall? not related to dancehall at all?', which got a fabulous, short, informative reply from the lovely John Eden here.

(see also Tea, who has recently put up the self-explanatory Mr. Tea's Top 10 Badass Phenomena, an extremely freakin' brilliant piece of work.)

Thursday, 19 August 2010

RIP Edwin Morgan

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

UK benefits fraud debate *: "Only about 1% of all benefits are fraudulently claimed" (i.e. about one billion pounds, to which one can add about 460 million pounds of fraudulently claimed child and working tax credits)

this is not the impression you would get from following some of the country's right-leaning media.

the amount of tax evasion in the UK may be to the tune of about 70 billion pounds.

this is also not something you would glean from following the country's right-leaning media, although for totally different reasons to the first observation's occurrence.

tangentially, wrt that 1% figure above, David Osler makes an interesting and fair note when he points out

A billion here and a billion there, and pretty soon you are talking big money. Even so, it is little more than small change in comparison with the £850bn spent on the bank bailout.

* by debate, i mean a public schoolboy Prime Minister - whose father was a stockbroker and whose business executive wife is the daughter of a land-owning Baronet - lining up to roll back the frontiers of the state, cheered on by the likes of certain misguided Guardian columnists, and the populist conservative nitwits that populate much of the British printing presses.

incidentally, if you think mentioning the guy's background is unreasonable, Cameron himself brought this into the terms of the debate w his recent 'i'm just a normal, sharp-elbowed middle-class guy' routine

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

not that i should really have to say this, but, just, to be clear, yes, The Washington Times is a often kooky rag - which, apart from its excellent wire services in the print edition (good coverage of international stories from one particular continent each day, IIRC, no?), still has (last time i checked and all, etc), i gather, a sketchy rep - but the following August 5th editorial is worth a read in full, you know, Lord Halifax, The Daily Telegraph, all that.

below is its final paragraph

Propaganda aside, brutalizing the population is a key Taliban tactic. They are not a "popular front" but an armed extremist fringe group that imposes control by terror. This was evident during the period when the Taliban ruled Afghanistan. Even minor violations of their bizarre, extremist Islamist creed were punished by torture and death. For them to attempt to portray themselves as friends of the Afghan people requires the world to forget the charnel house that was Afghanistan in the 1990s and ignore the Taliban's ongoing brutality. Mullah Omar's order to his fighters to respect the rights of Afghan civilians is about as believable as if he ordered them to accept Jesus as their lord and savior


Monday, 9 August 2010

from today's London Metro (not online)

The PKK, which formally ended its ceasefire in June, has now killed more than 100 soldiers this year, exceeding the total for last year.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

here's a link detailing just some of the dirty tricks that BP have been up to post-spill (sadly aided by the US govt in some cases, predictably of course), and the link also has awful photographs of affected (dead, stricken) wildlife, you may wish to know. (via.)

incidentally, a few weeks ago, when Obama maybe once or twice (a few, i don't know, i wasn't paying any attention) publicly used the words "British Petroleum" we suffered all sorts of tools in the UK (Toby Young, the mayor of London and so on) banging on and on about this.

this despite the fact that Obama had certainly used the term "BP" (i believe BP is short for Bernard Poots) beforehand and had appropriately excoriated other large companies involved in the spill concerned.

so, one or two no doubt calculated slips of the tongue made by a political leader under extreme domestic pressure, which were then corrected by diplomatic overtures, were blown up out of all proportion (he's just as bad as the Republicans, a populist goon, fat yankees in their gas-guzzling cars, god damn look at Bhopal, damn bloody yankees, after all the help we give them in Afghanistan, and that Mrs Clinton is mean about the Falklands, grr! etc etc etc), as the BBC's man in the USA sanely explains here.

from a (necessarily parochial) British observation viewpoint, this just goes to show (not that we need to be told), Tory cant must always be treated w the strident and utter contempt it deserves.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

so now Gillard is pointing out because there was not a full house voting in East Timor (about half its MPs were not present ahead of parliamentary holidays, although every single member who voted rejected Australian proposals), and 'we deal with the government', she can continue to explore Timorese options for her offshore processing centre plan.

she'll probably get somewhere with that. the top brass there want to keep their big neighbours onside after all.


silly me.

be that as it may, i was under the impression elected representatives should have free votes in parliamentary systems that express their will, and this should count as equally as the view of any other representative, regardless of which party that representative happens to sit with.

ach. (nothing if not naive round these parts.)

ah well.

"Setting out the facts for Australians must occur in the long term and not just in the lead up to the election," said John Menadue AO, Center of Policy Development director and former Department of Immigration and Ethnics Affairs head.

Less than 2 percent of Australia's migration intake comes from asylum seekers. However, Essential Research reports that 38 percent of Australians believe that more than 10 percent are asylum seekers. Only 18 percent of the population were accurate.

"What a story of misinformation. What an opportunity to exploit ignorance."

Monday, 12 July 2010

"East Timor's parliament has rejected a proposal by the Australian government to establish a regional processing centre for asylum seekers.

All parties of the East Timorese government were in opposition to the proposal floated by Prime Minister Julia Gillard last week, ABC Radio reported.

The decision to reject the proposal was unanimous among the 35 members of East Timor’s 65 person parliament who voted on the resolution...Ms Gillard was criticised last week for not consulting Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao on the centre proposal ahead of announcing her policy."



Ms Gillard has in recent days backed away from suggestions the centre would be located in East Timor.

Home Affairs Minister Brendan O'Connor has also left open the possibility of more than one country housing a processing centre.

now, from the bottom of that second piece (my emphasis follows)

"East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta said last week he had discussed with Ms Gillard the “possibility” of hosting a processing centre.

But he said the purpose of any centre in Timor would be to take in and process asylum-seekers who were in danger on the high seas and had not found safety in another country.

He also specified that any holding facility in East Timor would need to be administered by the UN, not Australia or Timor."

it's clearly fair to take that attitude in terms of the human kindness of first responders (such as the Spanish Red Cross tending to people who have made it across the Strait of Gibraltar) is always with us, and to codify that would be a welcome small step.

but the brass tacks of this situation - as in so many other similar situations elsewhere - are that a wealthy country is seeking to extend out its initial zone of exclusion for a handful (relatively speaking) of bedraggled people. so, indeed, even such codification would have a huge downside, an exclusionary and structural one.

the Timorese may be signatories to refugee conventions, which John Howard's Nauru dumping ground of choice wasn't, and Julia Gillard is far less barking than her opposition, but however you seek to dress it up, that is the bottom line.

do Julia Gillard and team have a preferable set of asylum proposals to their opposition?

sure they do; though opposition leader Tony Abbott's temporary visa plan is so mean-spirited that seems like damning w faint praise, TBH.
(incidentally, you can't blame Abbott for sniping his opponent w 'all at sea' gags.)

but in taking up this issue in the ways they have been doing, Gillard and team are shifting the debate ever further toward an increasingly populist-friendly viewpoint, thus opening up even more space for Abbott to feel emboldened as he goes about on his hectoring, insular way, and legitimising ways of thinking about asylum seekers that delegitimise those washing up on Aussie shores.

it's an old, distressing, predictable cycle.

P.S.: In a further setback for the Australian government, plans for Australian officials to discuss the plan in Dili this week seem pointless.

Mr Horta, along with East Timor's foreign affairs minister and the country's senior advisers will spend the week in Shanghai, part of a delegation of more than 100 people.

East Timor's prime minister Xanana Gusmao is, meanwhile, touring the country's remote districts all week.

"There is no one serious left here for them to talk to who has any authority on this matter ," said one East Timorese official.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

oh jesus wept.

as you may have heard, Gillard wants to seize the initiative on asylum seekers (well there is an election coming up), because as any fule kno, the hugely over-crowded and physically tiny island-state of Oz is over-run with the grasping buggers, especially from notably peaceful and wholly uneventful countries Sri Lanka* and Afghanistan.

unfortunately, the new offshore plan wholly-different-in-every-way-plan-from-what-John-Howard-did-plan-way-thing has had some people - tentatively - calling a spade an implement for digging: However, Gillard's announcement last week that she had discussed the issue with East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta met with a mixed response, with some Timorese figures saying they did not want their country to become a "prison island."

why should East Timor have a processing facility for Australian refugee claims? is it a wealthier and more stable society than Australia? has there been any conflict there in recent history that might mean its infrastructure for this sort of thing might not be as good as that in a larger, more affluent society?

it is all very well for Gillard to rightly attack Tony Abbott on his simple-minded 'turn back these boats' bill-of-fare, but, as has been noted elsewhere, "she also called for an end to the extremes in the debate. My view is that instead of telling people it’s OK to be ‘anxious’ about boat arrivals, our political leaders should be educating people that fears about terrorists and stolen jobs are widely unfounded."

still, you can't keep all of the people happy all of the time, so at least focus on someone, eh?

Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s July 5 announcement that she would solve the refugee crisis by being tougher on refugees did what former PM John Howard failed in his 11 years of conservative rule. She has made former One Nation MP Pauline Hanson feel at home.

Hanson announced she wasn’t emigrating to Britain, as planned, saying she was in “total agreement” with Gillard’s plan to “sweep political correctness from the debate”, the Australian said on July 6.

(just want to add that, personally, i am shocked and truly surprised that the Rupert Murdoch-owned Australian should applaud such a straw-mannish approach to that damn politically correct NONSENSE.)

Gillard may be more humane sounding and attempting to keep the national conversation at a reasonably superficially civil level more effectively than her opposition, but we have seen before now in Anglophone economies what can happen when a centrist, left-looking government attempt to seize the initiative on asylum from further right opponents.

take New Labour Home Secretaries.

each iteration of that shower succeeded in royally shafting a lot of incredibly marginalised people (laudable schemes such as borough councils adopting refugees were admirable but also brought attention to many others left high and dry), whilst emboldening ever more those parochial quarters whose grip on reality was (and is) about as firm as my ability to play top-class international cricket.

so, nervy times indeed, though i don't mean for ALP strategists.

a closing note, then, from that third and final link above.

It is not clear that Gillard’s strategy will even work. Labor has shifted to the right on refugees, but the Coalition will probably win any race to the right on that issue.

The July 7 Sydney Morning Herald interviewed a voter from a marginal seat in western Sydney: “Good on her. I don't want the boats here. Won't change my vote though.”

Both big parties say refugees should have fewer rights. They both target refugees from particular countries


* speaking of which: housing minister Wimal Weerawansa.

so, you held a, probably media-targeted, three day hunger strike (which has now ended), because you don't want the international community looking into (credible and seriously troubling) war crimes allegations your government should (but, realistically, will not) answer for?

i can think of ways to describe your stunt, but none of them are diplomatic. which is a laugh really, since your government is quite good at getting diplomats from lots of different nations a bit ticked off with you.

Friday, 9 July 2010

The Dreaded Cold Collation - Davey B with all your food review and recipe needs, including some mouth-watering photographs and a charming line in just being generally lovely, really.

i particularly enjoyed the sketch of Dough restaurant in Manchester's Northern Quarter.

"I'm not sure how long Dough has been there, because I'm not very observant and I'm not cool enough to be allowed in the Northern Quarter that often"


Thursday, 8 July 2010

love his Misfits shirt

Your job?
My job.

Your job was illegally
shaking down churro vendors.

Look, a job is a job, lady.
here in London there's a sound called garage

i heard they don't like me in garage
news round-up

(a) "Supreme court judges predicted that "more and more" gay and lesbian refugees are likely to seek protection in Britain after a landmark legal ruling recognised the rights of asylum seekers.

Five supreme court justices said gay and lesbian asylum seekers should not be expected to "exercise discretion" in their home countries to avoid persecution. Their ruling met with cheers and applause from campaigners."

good good good, a magnificent, magnificent landmark. typical of the previous New Labour govt's appalling record on civil liberties that they ended up playing dog-whistle politics to the right-wing press all the time, appeasing people they shouldn't have been bothering to appease in the first place (to be blunt)


[BBC radio disc jockey] "Nicky Campbell asks [on his BBC Radio 5 live programme], should sexuality be grounds for asylum?"


Are Migration Watch a load of complete tools?

("Sir Andrew Green from Migration Watch [UK anti-immigration pressure group] says it shouldn't be grounds for asylum.")

(b) "European court of human rights will not allow Abu Hamza to be extradited until it is satisfied he will be treated humanely"


also: i don't know what the case is against him, there may be a lot of evidence against him for all i know, but is he actually involved in anything current? er, not AFAIK, no.

you can't go around dumping on people because you disagree w their views. (well, of course, the American govt * frequently does just that, of course.)

(c) "Police forced to abandon power to stop and search the public without reasonable suspicion after European court rules it illegal"


* not that the American govt is unique among world govts in that regard, natch

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

A young artist must be aware that he does not have to invent everything anew: his job is to sort out in his own mind the compatibility of the different approaches in the works of art that impress him and at the same time question nature.

Henri Matisse

the above is shortly off to a new, good home

some excerpts before then

as follows

In foregrounding the role of perception, Riley's art engages with our experience and understanding of the world at a fundamental level. A new-born infant's view of its surroundings is untainted by experience...Hidden from our understanding, perception nevertheless lies at the centre of our being. This is the area of experience which Riley's art investigates and celebrates...There is nothing in her art that cannot be found in nature...a profound adherence to the 'pleasures of sight'


For Schopenhauer, perception is central to our understanding and experience of the world...The problem he identifies with perceptions is that, because they are immediate and fleeting, they cannot be retained, and they therefore cannot be communicated. His plea - 'if perceptions were communicable' - has enormous significance in relation to Riley's art.


From 1967, when she first introduced colour, the emphasis shifts. It is as if the grammar of perception has now been defined, the point made...The central principle of the black and white works was one of 'repose, disturbance, repose'...In perceptual terms, every colour affects, and is affected by its neighbour. The basis of her work in colour is therefore 'continuous' instability


After 1980, a fundamental development occurs. Following a trip to the Nile Valley in the winter of 1979-80, when she visited the tombs of the later Pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings, she returned to London suffused with the memory of the five colours she had observed as having been used by the Egyptians in their tomb decoration. At the bottom of her fascination with the so-called 'Egyptian palette' - red, blue, yellow, turquoise and green - was the realization that these same intense colours occurred in all aspects of the Egyptians' daily existence...Rather than using the new colours as elements in a perceptual argument, she found instead that the palette invited a different kind of organization...Having mined the quarry of perception for so long, we now witness Riley seeking to extract, from perception itself, 'the gold hidden in the ore'. Her objective is 'sensation': pure, primary visual experience, preceding the structures of cognition


the painting returns us to that state of innocence which precedes the dawn of perception

- Paul Moorhouse

discussing the shift in Riley's work from the 1980s, her employing repetition, simple variations in arranging her work, this grabbing at "sensation", etc ("She no longer accumulates sensation to a particular perceptual end, but is allowing, as Schopenhauer would say, 'the things themselves to speak'"), Moorhouse quotes some late-period Beckett, to showcase some sort of 'effectiveness through reduction'-type approach.

here's an extract from Rockaby anyway

V: Her recorded voice.

V: till in the end/the day came in/in the end came/close of a long day/when she said/to herself/whom else/time she stopped/time she stopped/ going to and fro/all eyes/ all sides/high and low/ for another/another like herself/ another creature like herself/ a little like/going to and fro/ all eyes/all sides/ high and low/ for another/ till in the end/ close of a long day...

Modern painting, I believe, should always be a beginning - its own re-invention, if you like...I realised that any direct depiction of Cornwall would not express what I felt about being there...the cliffs in the early morning, the blackness of the sea in deep shadow or the shiver of tiny grasses...I wanted to recreate such sensations...I start at the other end...en route to a painting


I think that good work needs an internal resistance...I have found a stricter foundation results in greater freedom.

- Bridget Riley

on the different phases in Riley's career (eg 1960's Pink Landscape, a dappled work in colour, came before the major black and white works of the early-mid 60s - it was never monochrome from the start - which in turn were succeeded by greys and then colour, the famous colour that Moorhouse refers to as being 'introduced' in '67), Lynne Cooke writes:

irrespective of how systematic any single line of enquiry might prove...her practice has never become programmatic or predetermined but remains, as Anton Ehrenzweig argued, always 'aware of its ultimate mystery, [of] the transformation which will give her work its independent life and secret "presence"'

more Cooke (partly whilst discussing the art in Riley's own pantheon- eg, Matisse, Seurat, Cézanne, Klee, Mondrian, Pollock, her love of the Alhambra):

her characteristic tendency is always to move forward by looking back

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

RIP Bob Probert

Monday, 5 July 2010

as a lot of people know, the fact that in the Grand Theft Auto video-game series, a wide variety of music genres (and chat shows) are available for players to listen to as part of the in-game radio whenever your character is in a motor vehicle, is, quite simply, freakin awesome.

one of the many wonderful stations is the drum'n'bass channel, MSX FM, that is available in the game Grand Theft Auto III.

below is a YouTube embed of part of the station as heard in that game.

the usage of the tune 'Spectre' by Aquasky by about 42 seconds in, is hairs on neck territory
We have today a government already showing the hardest face towards the poor in living memory. It takes a special kind of brassneck to describe this as 'new politics'.

- Shuggy

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Aren't you sharp as a tack, you some type of lawyer or something, somebody important or somethin'?

I ain't passed the Bar but I know a little bit
Enough that you won't illegally search my shit

Well, we'll see how smart you are when the K9 comes

a good pal was telling me recently the Daily Mail was running a story slagging the NHS.

this is the same paper that lauds Cameron's small state approach. Cameron would be taking his axe to things whether neoliberalism had deemed it 'necessary' (by its own logic) to do so, or not.

Cameron is living proof that structural imbalances exist in society, and that they are entrenched.

fuck the Mail.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

really, really feeling Drake at the moment

Kylie's joyous pop is touching

Friday, 2 July 2010

Thursday, 1 July 2010

as a companion piece to the table yday, Richard Murphy - way back last summer - also noted a few home truths about VAT here.

incidentally, out of the ten or so comments under the piece, the one from the author is worth a look, whilst the final crucial comment - from somebody named GWI - is fair and fine.

in fact, i'm going to quote it, because somebody in the thread of this article mentions about the high VAT rates in Nordic countries.

The real point about the Nordics is that while gross total tax incidence is regressive (mainly because of high VAT), net incidence (after looking at how tax receipts are spent) is not—it’s far more progressive than in the UK; eg, good pensions, good social provision for the aged, children’s pre-school care and so on.
Much the same is true for many other EU states, and helps explain why the post tax Gini in much of the EU is much lower than in Britain. That’s the bit of the story that always gets left out!

if VAT receipts were spent in a more fair way in the UK - New Labour achieved some redistribution overall, yes - some people would probably be less concerned about VAT (and a total tax package is always the thing to look out for, w attention paid to all aspects, granted).

as it is, they are not, and have not been, and that is that.