Call them blacklegs if you like, as many have over the years, but people have to pay the bills, and if the banks won't do the job, someone else has to do it for them. In fact, the longer the strike lasts, the better the wiseguys like it.
The Americans were particularly interesting because of the time of year. Their appalling human tragedy was that having completed one holiday, they would not be able to get immediately to the next one. They were in the stuck in the desperate position of being not on any holiday at all. Holiday starvation soon began to set in.
One victim of the horror spoke for many:
“Have you any idea of the tens of thousands of people whose plans you’ve screwed up? Tomorrow is a real big holiday in the States and many people will miss it because of some cockamamie little protest that you’ve got going.Missing you already. If Barack Obama can at least persuade people like this that the rest of the world matters, he will have been worth the ticket price.
We won't be coming back to Thailand again."
After all, people have been killed in this cockamamie little protest in this silly little country, with its funny little people always shouting and getting excited over nothing.
The obscenity of this depicable case of utter degradation is, perhaps, one of the times when the word 'evil' is justified. But even this is arguable. Surely, to understand actions like this we should be trying to describe them in modern terms, informed by what we now know about people and what makes them function - or cease to function. we should not be relying on biblical buzzwords like Evil, with all its horny-headed overtones.
Liberal Democrat Nick Clegg used it freely, but then went on to commit the graver error of calling for 'The Community' to be deployed in scrutinising itself for cases of abuse and crime in general. Like all Westminster politicians, his definition of a community is one which delivers its morality from the top down, by constant supervision and judgement. In his liberal utopia, the police would wither away to be replaced by the nosy neighbours and children. A religious model of morality, handed down by an unelected body of elders and betters.
In fact, community morality, if it is anything, is delivered by example, not imposition or spying. It is something learnt by experiencing the co-operation and care which happens when a community is a living thing, and not merely a collection of nuclear family bunkers dumped in the same inter-hyper-market-hinterland. Community morality is a prevention, not a snake-oil cure.
If this monster had ever been part of one, he may never have gone insane as he did.
Generations of British children got their first psychedelic technicolour shopping experience inside one of F.W.Woolworth's art-deco emporia. Amid the scent of castor sugar and salted peanuts, many got their first warm hit of consumerism. Generations of spotty saturday teenagers grunted their way through their duties there to subsidise their night on the lash . Their unemployed friends would come in to gloat and browse and shoplift and get some more giggling photos done in the booth.
So many people have deep attachment to the name. It reminds them of their childhood, there are vague architectural associations with that other art-deco haven of youth, The Odeon, where, amid the unique scent of popcorn, Silk Cut and fish, generations of Britons discovered sex.
These memories have helped lull the British, at least, into a sense that Woolworths was more a maternal national institution than a business. Something the rates paid for, or the National Trust. And now it's to vanish from British high streets. A victim of the notion that as long as rubbish is cheap enough, someone will buy it.
This must be what a recession feels like. It will for the 30,000 or so who lose their jobs.
You too can do your bit to support our gallant boys at The Front by going out immediately and spending every penny you've got on the most useless rubbish you can possibly find, anything to put money in the accounts of businesses so that the thing that works the spring that turns the thingumebob can keep working until the next Big Push. Buy For Victory!
The message from Andrew Darling in today's apparently historic attempt to keep us out of the soup kitchens, with its 2.5% cut in VAT and its promise to fight the next election on a manifesto of tax increases, is basically Let Your Shopping Help Our Shipping, or Combined Operations Includes You. Who knows, perhaps Darling was trying to say that:
It is therefore our duty to put our shoulders to the wheel, our backs to The Front and our noses to the grindstone, and bunker down to spend all our money as fast as our entrepreneurial superiors need us to.
As we were told on July 6th 2005, our courage, cheerfulness and resolution will bring us Victory. And then, after the next election, and the one after that, we will still cheerfully and resolutely be paying the price of rescuing capitalism from itself. So that even if the Cameron and Boy Wonder win the next election, they will be saddled with such an ideologically intolerable burden of debt that they might be better off losing, and let Gordon Brown pick up the pieces. If they win, it will only be for one term.
Whatever the intentions of today's desperate Darling Day landings, or how much histrionic adrenalin pumped through George Osbourne's veins while he tried to placate his own back benches from the dispatch box, or whether either tactic are likely to succeed, Osborne is no Nye Bevan, and the tories are now faced with the prospect of offering the electorate a range of public service cuts or more public service cuts in their next manifesto. And there wasn't much else in it to begin with.
There was no mention of any measures to recover some of the money we lent to the banking system last month - by plugging tax loopholes, for instance. Nor any mention of breaking the banker's credit strike. Winston knew what to do with essential workers on strike in a crisis. Perhaps we might even see the employment of Darling Boys; keen young accountants and business studies graduates drafted in to the banks to help maintain productivity. Some might call them blacklegs, but those who live by the blackleg can die by the blackleg.
No doubt the swots at the FT will point out this omission in due course.
A study by Suzanne Zeedyk, of Dundee University's school of psychology suggested that current, convenient, cheap form of infant transport, the bulldozer or battering-ram buggy, is not a very nurturing experience for tiny, vulnerable mind.
The study found that in traditional parent-facing buggy, babies were twice as likely to fall asleep in this orientation, suggesting they may be more stressed when in away-facing buggies. Mothers and infants also laughed more often in face-to-face buggies. Only one baby in the group of 20 laughed during the away-facing journey, while half laughed during the face-to-face journey.
One sight of the various terrified or stupified faces of infants being propelled through the looming, screaming alien chicanes and obstacles of the modern shopping high street, with its roaring cars and flashing lights is enough confirm that. The city environment is enough to cause stress in sober adults, never mind infants capable of being frightened by a beard. The aspirin industry depends on it. So it hardly takes a saintly level of empathy to realise how traumatic such a ghost train must be to a little person just coming to terms with the dark. The adult equivalent would be to be strapped to the front of a skip lorry plunging through the rush hour. Or, of course, to be in the front seat of the recently closed Corkscrew at Alton Towers, which adults pay to be scared on. Perhaps they're trying to recapture their infancies.
Dr Zeedyk said:
"If babies are spending significant amounts of time in a baby buggy that undermines their ability to communicate with their parent, at an age when the brain is developing more than it will ever again, then this has to impact negatively on their development. Our experimental study showed that, simply by turning the buggy around, parents' rate of talking to their baby doubled."
Surely the emphasis during these early years should be on contact between the parent and child. It is sad that this has been sacrificed for the sake of convenience. But surely it is not beyond the talent of British designers to create a buggy which is just as portable and cheap, but with the baby facing the non-traumatic direction. It may even be a simple case of repositioning the seat.
But the basic question remains. why was this fashion allowed to become the norm in spite of all the obvious drawbacks?
The promotional video for any enterprising company would be simple. effective and cheap.
Just put a cheap video camera in a standard buggy, set the lens to the wide angle field of view of the infant human, and the microphone to match its acute hearing, and wheel it up and down Oxford Street a few times. There would be no need to do anything to enhance the result. It would be quite scary enough, and might make a few people think about subjecting their children to this form of stimulation, whether it is likely to produce a future Jeremy Clarkson or not.
Report PDF Copyright © National Literacy Trust 2008
A survey commissioned by children's charity Barnardo's has suggested that more than half the population believe UK children are "feral" and behave like animals.
Some 54% of the adults questioned thought that British children behaved like "animals".
More than a third of those surveyed also agreed that the streets were "infested" with children..
On internet messageboards and comments
Staff found messages where children were described as "feral" and some suggestions teenagers should be "shot". Barnardo's points out that
The British blame children for "up to half of all crime" when in fact they are only responsible for 12% of criminal activity.Barnardo's campaign to reclaim childhood from those trying to destroy it for money is spearheaded by this powerful film. It says it all.'Breaking the Cycle' PDF
Why should Britian should be like this? Most other european countries adore their children and their childishness. We seem to see childhood as an incovenience. A messy, noisy, squabble until they can earn their own keep and are out the door. We have 'child-free' restaurants, curfews and Baby P. We demand more freedom and safety for our cars than we do for our kids, and allow them far more room to express themselves, including their more homicidal tendencies.
The Daily Scum will howl in agony at a fee of £5 to drive a Porsche into central London but sees nothing wrong with a single mother having to pay twice that to get her child into a creche so that she can work part time in a school just down the road.
It's a total disgrace, and apparently getting worse, and the international court of opinion is watching.
Throughout the Clinton years, wild-eyed survivalists in reinforced arsenals were all the rage, threatening dire consequences if the dictator Clinton dared improve social health care. They even killed hundreds of Americans in Oklahoma to make their point. Throughout the election campaign and as recently as yesterday, nasty words were being thrown about Obama. He is a Marxist Nazi, apparently. People have been arrested for plotting to kill him. Gun sales in parts of the south went up in anticipation of an Obama defeat and the subsequent riots. So the paranoid diehards haven't gone away. Or should that be 'blowhards'?
Quite possibly, if the statistics on US obesity are to be believed. In key anti-Obama states Mississippi Alabama and West Virginia, obesity is some of the worst in America. With the worst will in the world, it's hard to imagine the current generation of good ol' boys running a koala bear out of town, let alone a civil rights demonstration. And it would be cruel to make them.
So is the industrial food industry to be thanked for the conspicuous absence of any public hostility to a black man in the white House, rather than any change of heart? There is a war of words but no action. More a Fatlash than a Backlash. Governor Faubus is spinning in his grave. Meanwhile, his political opposite in many ways, George Orwell, is vindicated again.
the peculiar evil is this, that the less money you have, the less inclined you feel to spend it on wholesome food. A millionaire may enjoy breakfasting off orange juice and Ryvita biscuits; an unemployed man doesn’t. Here the tendency of which I spoke at the end of the last chapter comes into play. When you are unemployed, which is to say when you are underfed, harassed, bored, and miserable, you don’t want to eat dull wholesome food. You want something a little bit ‘tasty’. There is always some cheaply pleasant thing to tempt you. Let’s have three pennorth of chips! Run out and buy us a twopenny ice-cream! Put the kettle on and we’ll all have a nice cup of tea! That is how your mind works when you are at the P.A.C. level. White bread-and-marg and sugared tea don’t nourish you to any extent, but they are nicer (at least most people think so) than brown bread-and-dripping and cold water. Unemployment is an endless misery that has got to be constantly palliated, and especially with tea, the English-man’s opium. A cup of tea or even an aspirin is much better as a temporary stimulant than a crust of brown bread. The results of all this are visible in a physical degeneracy which you can study directly, by using your eyes, or inferentially, by having a look at the vital statistics.
In all the months of the hottest campaigning, the words 'Katrina' and 'New Orleans' were hardly heard. In spite of New Orleans having more reason to vote for Obama than most. There may have been election night coverage from Louisiana on one of the networks, but I didn't happen to catch it, or any features in the print media in the run up to November 4th, or since.
The hope given by Obama - 'this is the place where the renewal began' on the second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, should not only be honoured, but should take priority. If the new administration means business about sustainable change towards a people's future, the system of community schemes it sponsors to renew New Orleans will show how to manage a large technological society without greed. By doing this, New Orleans would become a testing ground for a global model. So that Palestinians watching might believe that a black man with a muslim middle name might be a man to trust, and not just as much of an insult as if America had elected Salman Rushdie, and given him control of the world's most powerful military machine.
Government reports confirm that half of the working poor, elderly and disabled who lived in New Orleans before Katrina have not returned. Because of critical shortages in low cost housing, few now expect tens of thousands of poor and working people to ever be able to return home. The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) reports Medicaid, medical assistance for aged, blind, disabled and low-wage working families, is down 46% from pre-Katrina levels. DHH reports before Katrina there were 134,249 people in New Orleans on Medicaid. February 2008 reports show participation down to 72,211 (a loss of 62,038 since Katrina). Medicaid is down dramatically in every category: by 50% for the aged, 53% for blind, 48% for the disabled and 52% for children. The Social Security Administration documents that fewer than half the elderly are back. New Orleans was home to 37,805 retired workers who received Social Security before Katrina, now there are 18,940--a 50% reduction. Before Katrina, there were 12,870 disabled workers receiving Social Security Disability in New Orleans, now there are 5350--59% less. Before there were 9425 widowers in New Orleans receiving Social Security survivor's benefits, now there are less than half, 4140. Children of working class families have not returned. Public school enrollment in New Orleans was 66,372 before Katrina. Latest figures are 32,149--a 52% reduction.Bill Quigley. CounterPunch'New Orleans Exposed'
'Anger In New Orleans'
New Orleans Reconstruction. We Shall Overcome
Post Katrina New Orleans
Nina Simone's Backlash Blues suddenly made a lot less sense today than it did last week. Something was missing, apart from George Bush. Obviously, the blues is more than just politics, but a certain kind of angry blues is now a bit more lavender. For the time being, at least.
Being the incredible, flexible musical form it is, it will adapt, and it is far too deeply interfused with existing popular culture to ever disappear. But surely the blues can only be sung by the underdog - not the winner. So as long as there are underdogs, someone will sing the blues.
'Ain't nobody perfect, 'cos ain't nobody free.'And if Obama turns out to be only the first black president, and no more, the blues will definitely have to be unleashed again. He wasn't elected to fight better wars, and make more billionaires, but to make more people free. Truly free, without fear of the same gangster world which has just gone into meltdown, forging Barack Obama's victory in the process.
'Mr Backlash, who do you think I am?Maybe Obama should write himself a blues.
You raise my taxes, freeze my wages
And send my sons to Afghanistan.
You give me second class houses - and second class schools
Do you think that all working folk are just second class fools?
Mr Backlash, I'm gonna leave you with the backlash blues.'
You're the one who'll have the blues
Just wait and see.
But by electing Obama most of America does seem to have arrived at the collective conclusion that the problems of the next decades cannot afford the luxury of racism; that everyone will be needed to solve them.
America did not undergo a wave of liberalism and conscience on November 4th. It acted through its electoral system in its own interest. Dumping the baggage of slavery made the journey to the future look a bit less frightening. In that sense, Obama is the perfect man for the time.
Meanwhile, obituaries for corporate America are still a bit premature. Coca Cola up to its old tricks again.
Coca-Cola Sustainability Review Omits India
some of the key findings included:
- A key recommendation that the Coca-Cola company shut down its bottling plant in Kala Dera because "the plant's operations in this area would continue to be one of the contributors to a worsening water situation and a source of stress to the communities around."
- Coca-Cola did not respect the rights of farmers and groundwater conditions, and that it had located its plants in India from a "business continuity" perspective without due consideration to community impacts.
- Coca-Cola did not meet the company's own waste management standards at all the plants surveyed.
- Shortcomings in the effluent discharge in four of the six plants assessed and concluded that Coca-Cola plants do not have adequate pollution prevention measures.
- Increased pollution in the immediate vicinity of Coca-Cola bottling plants.
They don't need the same form of delegated, proxy politician today, they need more access to the decision-making process itself. We now have the technology to restore an element of the community camp-fire to politics. And if that technology can put the first black man in the White House, it can surely help restore the balance in favour of those deserving community interests hitherto out-priced and out-lobbied from power by vast commercial conglomerates.
America has so far pogo'd its way through history on a single political spring. From the outside, the differences between Republican and Democrat are almost academic. But because of widespread disillusionment with the politics of profit, it is going to face a deep ideological choice quite soon between the strategies of the last 200 years, and those which can sustain the next 200 years. Whatever they might be, if we're lucky enough to agree on them, there will be a degree of conflict. The trick will be to be seen to be explaining the impracticality of continuing the past, rather than accusing its frightened disciples of sabotaging the human race. That survival will require more co-operation than competition, but that there will still be room for the expression of enough self-interest and for enough heroic sacrifice to satisfy most political instincts, however primeval. In fact, there will be more reward from the discomfort of creation than from the comfort we now enjoy. As Orwell puts it.
'I suggest that the real objective of Socialism is not happiness. Happiness hitherto has been a by-product, and for all we know it may always remain so. The real objective of Socialism is human brotherhood. This is widely felt to be the case, though it is not usually said, or not said loudly enough. Men use up their lives in heart-breaking political struggles, or get themselves killed in civil wars, or tortured in the secret prisons of the Gestapo, not in order to establish some central-heated, air-conditioned, strip-lighted Paradise, but because they want a world in which human beings love one another instead of swindling and murdering one another. And they want that world as a first step. Where they go from there is not so certain, and the attempt to foresee it in detail merely confuses the issue.'Those who still prefer to live alone in the woods with their arsenals would be welcome to do so.
From the Afro-American viewpoint, demolishing the ancient race barriers could be seen as being just as important as tinkering with the economy. Historically, they are used to being betrayed by business and politics. But this is one achievement which simply cannot be denied. 'They can't take that away from me' as the old song says. Black parents will have Obama to hold up to their teenage boys, which might just weave a slender bond, enough to change a few minds and alter a few lives.
Obama is a symptom of the rise of the black middle classes, which are a product in turn of the liberation struggle which has its own causes. No Dr King, no Oprah, no Condi, no Obama. He will therefore pursue a middle class agenda, as every other president. That is understood. But at least the decision taken by America has improved its image beyond all expectation. In that sense, the Vote Black campaign served its country as devotedly as any studious voter who'd trawled through all the policies with a slide-rule and made a decision based on the 'facts' supplied by the two party machines.
Those voting for a black president were voting for hope, not for a race. And the ultimate hope is that Obama can recreate some of the goodwill towards America that existed the day after 9/11, and were a similar opportunity for international co-operation to emerge, not to squander it, as George Bush did.
The malicious, nitpicking cleverness of this quibble over race doesn't do justice to the American ideal. Race has been politicised in America for a long time, and has been used to lever vast amounts of privilege into American society. If it is now used to 'unleverage' some of that debt, that is merely a small historical payback from the political bank.
By the way, did anyone complain that people had voted for George Bush because of his idiocy, or for Kennedy because of his looks?
The viral poem for 11/4.
'Rosa sat so Martin could walk.
Martin walked so Obama could run.
Obama ran so we could fly.'
'it's been a long time coming, but the change is gonna come..'but without quotation marks or acknowledgement. As common property. Maybe we will have a better idea of what to expect from President Obama when we hear a speech of his own, without the Sam Cooke impersonation or the 'charisma'. Until then, he is the President of last resort. A repository of mass hope in a desperate time. A candidate who exploited the vast desire for a way out of the dirty little corner the neo-con madness had dug for America. Mohammed Ali, who we can expect to see soon, invented the strategy in the Rumble in the Jungle. Obama gave it a twist and 'Hope a Dope' was born. This tactic involves offering no concrete proposals for real change, but simply allowing the electorate to exhaust themselves into your arms as they fill you with their expectation.
'Our climb will be steep, we may not get there in one year or one term, I promise you, we as a people will get there . etc etc'
It sounds bad, but might be as good a C21st policy-making strategy as any other.
Similarly, because every world leader now wants to be his new friend, and be photographed smiling alongside this demi-god of Cool, the myth might be at least as effective as a raft of detailed, costed policies produced by a ministry full of experts. The medium is the message, I suppose.
All of which sounds like a return to a far more regal, courtly style of rule between powerful leaders. A whiff of Deripaska. A further centralisation of power, rather than the redistribution which the people who elected Obama expect.
Looking back, this victory will be seen as a the first internet election, when individuals played a bigger part than ever in deciding the political outcome by the warm glow of their monitors. But on the evidence so far, Obama might also be the first virtual president. A CGI model of political appeal. If the good folks at Industrial Light & Magic were commissioned to produce an avatar to melt the hearts and minds of as many people as possible in an age of frantic chaos, who else could they come up with but a mixed race, glowingly-handsome, basketball-playing father of twoe with a gorgeous wife and no convictions? An American Adonis. A Coltrane-cool vision of self-control and Hope. And Change - however vague and dependent merely on the differences between Obama and the stumbling chimpanzee Bush.
If this is all bluff, who will call it first? At some point, this American president is not going to be able to put off the question of Robert Mugabe. If Obama is real, the old bastard's days are numbered. The discreet villa beckons. Surely a decrepit wounded dinosaur like Mugabe cannot withstand the healing spirit of the great redeemer? But what if he does? And what will Valdimir Putin do with this political whelp who has never poisoned any opponents, apart from announcing new missile bases on the edge of NATO territory?
And underneath all the global expectation, is still the untapped depth of domestic redneck resentment and race hate. The less savoury cousins of the people who booed Chips McCain's speech last night acknowledging defeat. Those who agree with Slim Pickens that
"Here we take the good time and trouble to slaughter every last injun in the west, and for what? So that they can appoint a president that's blacker'n any injun. Boy, am I depressed."Barack Obama may be all that he seems. He may indeed embody all the Hope he has been commissioned with, and his promises may all be kept, in which case, we will indeed have entered the Promised Land, even if we've still no idea of what it might be like. At the moment, it still seems more like Jam Tomorrow than anything real.
But not perhaps as unreal as the fact that a black president has been elected with so little fuss. The fact that the first black presidency also happens to be one of the most difficult jobs the world has ever seen, with more responsibility on the head of the poor sap in charge, is obviously a massive co-incedence. And if he happens to succumb to this massive historic burden, and fail to live up to expectation, that is hardly likely to deter the American people from electing another black president for 50 years at all.
Here's hoping that the immortal pledge of Obama The Builder is honoured:
(Isaiah 9:6) For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
It would seem that the deadline for any disruptive action has now passed. And that Obama will win. This is now taken for granted, though nobody yet knows what he is supposed to do. He represents 'change'. So does dry-rot.
So what questions will be asked and answered in three years time when President Obama has comprehensively failed to domesticate consumerism - unless he and Fate have got something very big up their sleeves. What kind of disillusionment will that create, and who will make the most advantage of it?
A union is an association with an agreed set of standards for its members.
Racism in a general association is not only 'unacceptable' it is physically incompatible with the aims of any body working in the collective interest of its members.
And more than that, collective bargaining is politically incompatible with the rest of the BNP's right-wing, supremacist agenda. So everyone should be ecstatic that their paths will never cross.
If racists want to set up their own racist union, good luck to them. They will then have really eaten their own tails.
And so Lewis Hamilton's great sporting achievement becomes a stick to beat black boys with. That is the function of the sporting Role Model. To convince everyone that life is a competition, and all can win it.
But life isn't sport, strangely enough. And Lewis Hamilton would have never been heard of if the state had not pampered him with education and health care, and the anonymous, underpaid people who worked in those professions hadn't, on balance, done their work almost as well anyone about to become a billionaire for driving a car in circles. The Carole Malones and John Gaunts and other media bitches have always offered sport as a route out of, and therefore a validation of the class system. 'There is the door, why don't you use it?' The entertainment industry serves the same purpose, ostensibly demolishing class and race crimes at a stroke. Minstrelsy was very popular, for a while.
Before the desperate gutter press seize on this as another justification for gross inequality and for their denial of the class structure and for slashing the dole at a time of rising undemplyment, they should remember that exceptions only sometimes prove rules, they never make them. That Lewis Hamilton's triumph is built on such a vast network of labour and support, from midwife to wingnut-maker, as to be almost meaningless as a heroic sporting achievement which can be paraded as a Triumph Of The Will. This is Formula One Motor Racing we're talking about, which is more of a mobile country than a sport, with cars instead of an army, and a large amount of political and economic clout. And the days of the death-defying gladiator-driver are gone. The driver should have a knack for driving fast round corners, enough of a nasty streak to not worry about putting others at risk, and be good at games of Chicken.
But in fact, what we really need are more and better-paid midwives and fewer, poorer Formula One Champions. At least they would live here.
At least, that seems to be the assumption across much of America. Obama Bumaye!
If Obama is elected, it will be a break from the past, even though he does not share the same slave heritage as the rest of black america. The fact that he has got this far is more than most expected this early in the C21st.
If he isn't, there will be a lot of disappointment, but also suspicion, especially if there is another 'hanging-chad' fiasco, as in the suspect Bush election - only much worse.
Of course, a certain killer for the Obama campaign would be some kind of civil unrest in a significant black community. And given the heat of expectation, and that American history is no stranger to the use of incitement and provocation for political ends, and that racism will play a major part in this election, it's easy to imagine a bunch of seething rednecks in some bar mulling things over from this point of view. If so, they will have to be quick.
Even if the culprits and their motives were eventually discovered, it would be too late to undo the damage, especially after the massive nation-wide riots which would follow.