Sunday, 31 July 2011

just in

'AFP: Activist says at least 45 civilians killed by Syrian forces in tank assault on city of Hama'

Friday, 29 July 2011

not even amongst the greatest set of men

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Yes, we back Sure Start. It's a disgrace that Gordon Brown has been trying to frighten people about this.

- David Cameron, 5 May 2010.

it turns out funding for Sure Start centres (one of the crowning glories of the New Labour years, a programme of community outreach for childcare, early years learning and such) was not ring fenced - contrary to what Cameron implied would happen, whilst on record last year - and so twenty of them have closed across the country to date (with possibly more getting effectively mothballed), and overall government cuts in early years, youth and child services programmes will disproportionately affect poor areas to boot in "an act of reverse redistribution", as the below shows.

desperately sad.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

ford to city: drop dead

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

how long? not long

Monday, 25 July 2011

By one means or another, what is being avoided here is that Anders Breivik's politics were shaped not by the fact of immigration, nor by jihadism, nor by any actually existing Muslims, but by ideas beginning in the mainstream right and radiating out to the far right.



Saturday, 23 July 2011

earlier this year the always exceptional Graeme made a couple of posts about the ideology of craft beer (part one here, two).

you should read both the posts in full, certainly if you've ever drank a beer and enjoyed it, or, if, like me and some of my mates, you know a bit about the stuff.

Graeme started to hit on some - you might say - peculiarities in the north American craft brewing scene (what the UK calls micro-breweries, or independent brewing, not the giant conglomerates pumping out the same carbonated lager that corners most of the global suds market).

if you've ever drank a few American (or Canadian) craft brews, you'll know a lot of their brewers often enjoy really hopping up their beers (for a rather bitter taste), and a lot of their brewers produce some powerfully knock-out stuff, with a very high alcohol content (by beer standards; which is i guess one in the eye against the Python-initiated joke that American beer is like making love in a canoe, fucking close to water).

Graeme's first post - writing from Montreal, though he has lived in the UK and knows his beer onions to say the very least (though i cannot vouch for terms and conditions at micro-breweries in the UK, but am interested in a discussion of the north American scene on its own merits) - discussed this, and more (it really is worth your while reading them), then he let fly in the second post even more widely

(sample end-quote: Things that I plan on looking at further in depth over the coming weeks, months, years:

-The way in which craft beer is percieved to be about more than just what's in the glass or bottle: when you drink craft beer you're making a political/ethical choice. I'm going to critically examine that notion.

Craft beer and labour. Craft beer hearkens back to an earlier time before the advent of megabreweries, but completely overlooks the role that trade unionism and labour radicalism had in the brewing industry. We're looking at a neutered version of history, and one that in particular benefits the bosses. What sort of political/ethical choice are we making by drinking craft beer when the workers at those breweries are making far less (ie close to half as much) as workers at the unionised megabreweries?

-Whatever else comes to mind. I'm sure there will be plenty to write and think about.

i hope he carries on.

this is a particularly pointless vanity post (so like any post here) as i have nothing to add to what Graeme is saying in general (his typically thoughtful points are starting to say it all as he teases out what he means), except i really just wanted to blurt about the hopping in some American brews (i've drank plenty of Canadian craft down the years, but have spent far more time in the USA, so i will restrict my necessarily generalising remarks to the States), and the strength, so, more a 'me too' just on the styles of the beer itself, as opposed to all the extra structural issues.

now, we all know that the USA is one of the great beer nations, Bell's Brewery near Kalamazoo, Michigan, is for instance (just to restrict myself to one example) in my view one of the greatest breweries on earth.

one could go on.

Portland, Oregon is up there with Munich in terms of breweries per head of population, if not more (if you like food, coffee, the outdoors, or beer, you'd like Portland), and the Pacific Northwest in general is very good for beer, Denver has a reputation, the Bay Area's steam beer (the only original indigenous American beer style AFAIK) has its fans, Delaware's Dogfish Head brewery is very fashionable among ale drinkers in the UK these days, my British mates that drink beer all know i'm a huge fan of Chicago's Goose Island brewery, and so on, these all illustrate its strength in beery depth.

Graeme already mentioned it once, but whilst American craft brewers have been very strong on high alcohol by volume brews such as imperial stouts, or India Pale Ales, down the years, they haven't gone in for session beers so much (as understood in the UK, lower strength, usually bitter ales, though often not very 'bitter' in taste, certainly not compared to some of the scoops you get across the pond).

presumably this may be because the relatively low-strength lagers that are the mainstay of every American street-corner local bar, your Millers and Old Styles and Buds and what have you, are the true working man's session beer (anyone who's drank in a blue collar bar in the States will marvel at the keg Guinness and the cheap pitcher deals, and the fact that in some places, a bit like in Irish villages where the pub of yore can double as a general store, you get a bar stuck in the middle of a pharmaceutical shop or what have you), and perhaps US craft brewers wanted to set out to do their own thing and just experiment all the way up to 11.
(interestingly, as in the UK, beer drinkers in the USA of history were at first ale people, New York two centuries ago for example was an ale town, but over the decades for various reasons that i won't go into, lager came to predominate, as it did in the UK from certainly around the 1970s onwards - my middle aged father is uncompromisingly a lager drinker only, for instance, my elderly grandfather a bitter drinker, and because my brother and i had the good fortune to grow up in an era when micro-breweries are fashionable in the UK and enjoying a renaissance, my little brother and i are bitter drinkers. well, i'll drink anything, including lager, but you get my drift.)

but the amount of times i've sank overly hoppy, strong brews (an abundance of hops means a beer will inevitably taste bitter) in the USA is too many to mention, and the amount of times i've just wanted a mildly hopped, more balanced (a beer is not just hops, malted barley is all-important too) lower strength ale of some sort instead, the same.

i appreciate everything that goes in to a high-quality American craft beer (the Old Rasputin Imperial Stout from California's North Coast Brewery is a fine, fine drink, for example), but trying for a broader range of styles and strengths would be a welcome development for American craft brewers (who may be doing this these days for all i know, it's been years since i paid attention to that area).
certainly Goose Island's pub, not far from downtown Chicago, was showcasing more diverse styles and strengths of beers the last time i was in there (as well as continuing to knock out strong, classy bottled products, such as the Belgian-style Pere Jacques).

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Southern Poverty Law Center and a coalition of other civil rights groups asked a federal judge to block Alabama’s anti-immigrant law from taking effect Sept. 1.


Thursday, 21 July 2011

Bruce Wayne: Targeting me won't get their money back. I knew the mob wouldn't go down without a fight, but this is different. They've crossed a line.

Alfred Pennyworth: You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed them and hammered them to the point of desperation, and in their desperation, they turned to a man they didn't fully understand.

Bruce Wayne: Criminals aren't complicated, Alfred. We just need to figure out what he's after.

Alfred Pennyworth: With respect, Master Wayne, perhaps this is a man you don't fully understand either. A long time ago, I was in Burma. My friends and I were working for the local government. They were trying to buy the loyalty of tribal leaders by bribing them with precious stones. But their caravans were being raided in a forest north of Rangoon by a bandit. So we went looking for the stones. But in six months, we never met anyone who traded with him. One day I saw a child playing with a ruby the size of a tangerine. The bandit had been throwing them away.

Bruce Wayne: So why steal them?

Alfred Pennyworth: Well, because he thought it was good sport. Because some men aren't looking for anything logical, like money. They can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.


Bruce Wayne: The bandit, in the forest in Burma, did you catch him?

Alfred Pennyworth: Yes.

Bruce Wayne: How?

Alfred Pennyworth: We burned the forest down.

Monday, 18 July 2011

fuck. me.

B'Tselem interviewed 50 Palestinian minors for the report. Many described being arrested in the middle of the night, denied access to their families or lawyers and mistreatment. Only two of the children interviewed for the report, No Minor Matter, had an adult present during questioning.


(via Elizabeth.)

Sunday, 17 July 2011

love this war and i love gun

Sunday, 10 July 2011

there was a incisive (indeed snarky, and in some respects rather unfair but hey) Number Crunching in a recent Private Eye that i want to quote but before i do i just want to note it made me flash on a very good point yer man Owen Jones made in his recent book Chavs: The Demonization of the working class (do get hold of a copy of this essential tome about class and how society's imbalances are structured).

Owen notes how Margaret Thatcher launched the 'right-to-buy' scheme in the late 70s, a policy whereby tenants of British local government-owned housing were encouraged to buy off their property from the local authority and own it outright. the policy was opposed by housing and homelessness charity Shelter, who had the foresight to realise the negative impact it would have in the long-term on housing for the poorest and most vulnerable Britons, people who had come to rely on so-called social housing (local government provided).

as Owen notes "The policy was undoubtedly popular with many working-class people" (one million homes sold off in ten years), and all part of Thatcher's plans to make Britain a more individualistic nation.

the big effect (that Shelter called) was that the very poorest tenants got left behind, unable to afford to buy their home.

local authorities were encouraged to run down their properties, Thatcher started to spend far less on social housing than previous governments, and local authorities were encouraged to flog all their housing stock, whilst proceeds from sales of houses were not put back into social housing, helping to create a perfect storm of ghettoisation (rates of deprivation in social housing areas sky-rocketed under Thatcher), as she left Britain a far less equal place than the Britain she was put in charge of.

anyway, owning your own home is a big thing in the UK as we all know, and it is with this societal golden rule (and clearly to be fair, as it is, a mortgaged property can easily be cheaper in the long run than renting, natch) that was in mind when the Eye recently printed the following Number Crunching

Average age at which young people in UK can soon expect to be able to afford to get on property ladder, according to new figures described as "worrying"

Average age which young people in Afghanistan, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and Sierra Leone can expect to live to, not described as worrying

Saturday, 9 July 2011

"There was random shooting at people, no distinction between women, children, armed or unarmed men. Many, many were killed, many unarmed civilians."

"I left Talkalakh to protect my honour. When we talk to our relatives in Banyas, Homs and Talbiseh they tell us horrifying stories. They told us that so many women were raped. These men don't fear God."

"Once they beat me so hard on the back of my head blood filled my eyes, I couldn't see anything. When they interrogated me they would tie my wrists and leave me hanging for hours."

hell in Syria.

Friday, 8 July 2011

In March, the coalition Government ignored the pleas of students and Further Education Colleges alike and announced it would scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) that so many young people rely on to afford education beyond school. A bursary scheme replaced the EMA, albeit proposed with less than one third of the funding.
The Government is now using the News of the World phone hacking scandal as an opportunity to bury bad news, disclosing that the bursary funding will be reduced by a further £65m - a drop of 36%.

UCA Students’ Union Executive have said: “not only does the abolition of EMA itself show disgraceful disdain, but further reduction from the promised £150m replacement scheme shows that the Government is not committed to adequately supporting students and is actively undermining its own commitments.

“How much lower will the figure fall over the coming years, as the EMA recedes into distant memory?”


Thursday, 7 July 2011

This Fourth of July weekend, one very powerful and wealthy man named Dominique Strauss-Kahn was free to leave house arrest because of so-called problems with the victim's "credibility." I do say so-called, because neither lying on an immigration application, nor having an incarcerated boyfriend, makes it less likely a woman will be one of the 600 women raped on any given day.


Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Cy Twombly has died.