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12/16/2010

Charlie Gilmour Cleans the Cenotaph


If it's any testimony, the state of Charlie Gilmour's mind on the day in question can hardly have been helped by the scenes he saw in front of Parliament a short time before his infamous cenotaph stunt. He would have seen the blows of the riot police raining down on unprotected heads. And been crushed as a result of the same idiotic police tactics like everyone else. His response was not violence, but to bare his chest and invite the TSG to do their worst. Which is, in my experience, one classic response to the traumas of demonstrations when they involve violence.
The loss remembered by the Cenotaph is a spiritual loss, not a national one. The memorial carries a spiritual message, not a national anthem, glorifying a country or its head of state or its name or its flag. The Cenotaph is not a rallying call for another generation of dead young people, it is a warning against wars between nations - each defined by its own flag. Let's face it, the Cenotaph and flags don't mix.
And so by removing the Union Jack from this memorial to the dead, the exhibitionist Charlie Gilmour was in fact de-vandalising it.  The real desecrators are those insisting on draping a badge of so much war on it, and on prosecuting anyone attempting to purify it.

12/13/2010

The Lost Memorials of Giodarnus Bruno

'The only thing ever officially condemned or banned during the benificent reign of the great leader Themystocles of Decron was a portrait of himself painted by his ex wife, Desdezine, who he knew was plotting to kill him, and who he hated with such venom that after her sudden, fortuitous death from anthrax at the age of eighteen, he declared a whole year of national holiday, during which time no taxes were paid.
As a civic warning, he mounted her rotting body in lead hoops above the gates of the city for all to see, and made of her brains a delicate stew. This he forced her twelve private advisors and co-conspirators to eat at a great public banquet. After they all subsequently died of the anthrax, their corpses were cremated and the ashes baked into the lining bricks for the new public latrines in the city square. The perverse result of these acts of spite was the idolisation of Desdezine in the public memory as the cause of both the year without taxes, and the eradication of cholera from the city, which had been a regular visitor until Themystocles’ sanitary works were completed.
Within two generations the adoration of Desdezine had grown beyond that of the ancient gods of Decron, and its priests held all power in the land. Worshippers held a meniscial sacrifice of pigs, whose blood was poured into the latrines in a ritual cleansing. Thereafter, the pig became generically associated with Themystocles, until eventually the original Gallian ‘dsem’ (pig) became corrupted to ‘them’, which remained the word in usage until swine were cleansed from the land by the Moorish covenant.
Other than this indignity, the king’s name and works were utterly forgotten. This was the immortality granted to Themystocles by his grateful subjects for his benign rule.
Of the painting nothing more is known.'

Local Feuds for Local People

Eric Pickles' 'Localism' involves nothing less radical than promoting Mrs Doomes-Patterson from running the bi-ennial production of Pirates of Penzance to running the refuse, education and library services of Suburbiton Borough Council.
It is a great way of preventing any unsightly council housing from being built. And a fantastic opportunity for the Point-Elbowed Classes to enact their petty agendas, but it is inherently un-democratic, and actively elitist. It will create factionalism and vendettas within 'communities', and take away from the hardest-working and least-educated what little power they have left
.
The Tory/Liberal coalition which ran Southwark for almost ten years destroyed what little community participation there was, crippling it with confrontational Westminster-style administrative models, and helping small cliques of leaseholders to monopolise local Tenant Management Organisations.
Decentralised power is a great idea, but it isn't a cost-cutting measure. To set up it needs investment and understanding of how society works. The condems can provide neither.

Revenge of The Anti-Pastor

The nutty nobody invited to star at the neo-fascist disturbance in Luton doesn't know what he's letting himself in for. He may be able to indulge his fantasies without question on his lawn in the brainwashed pastoral idyll of Bumfuck Alabama, but he will find that our culture is a little more challenging. 
The rabid thugs of the EDL will exploit this mail-order minister until his teeth shake. He will find himself imbroiled in the attempt to blame the Muslims of Luton for the Swedish suicide-bomb attacks of the weekend. And should realise that the random hate-attacks generated by the EDL carnival of spite will be partly on his Christian head.
But since when were the Americans Christian?

12/12/2010

Naughtie's Shaft of Wit

BBC veteran James Naughtie caused much hilarity last week by inadvertently re-naming Tory Nobody Jeremy Hunt in the finest Cockney Rhyming-Slang style. A new euphemism is born, and a very useful one too.
Naughtie blamed Reverend Spooner for his bungle. Naturally this blog deplores such facile displays of logo-tistical dexterity. But it has to be said that Naughtie did not perform a Spoonerism, but merely muffed his lines, possibly because of Freudian slippage, possibly not.
When Robert Newton uttered the famous out-take 'Arrr, Jam Lid!' on the set of Treasure Island - that was a Spoonerism. The title of this blog, for reasons I've forgotten, is a Spoonerism.
Scum scaremonger Richard Littlejohn, however, is simply a cunt. And the shafts of wit by fellow-traveller Jeremy Clarkson will never be the same again either.

12/11/2010

Wikileaks - The Death of Spin

The greatest truth about Wikileaks is that there is no way of blocking it. Not while governments rely on the internet. So all the quibbling is totally irrelevant.
As for the idiots who believe the lie that the files are all about how the Pope wears a hat, it isn't interesting enough to hear exactly how Washington sabotaged the Copenhagen talks. And hear that China is prepared to pull the plug on North Korea, and hear that Burma is building an atom bomb.  Or what the Americans really think of Pakistan and the Yemen.

 'If our troops’ presence in Pakistan was going to be visible, Pakistan might not let them into the country. And the Yemeni government might veto transparently American drone strikes.
Meanwhile, critics who would have happily hanged Daniel Ellsberg for the Pentagon Papers are blustering that Assange is not even a pale imitation. But the man himself is quite certain.
We have discovered an America that was under our noses, in both the literal and metaphorical senses. After Hilarious's tender Epistle to the Brits yesterday, the Special Relationship seems to have got Specialer, if anything. But the only real question is "What do documents released by the Wikileaks website tell us.." And the answer is that everything is now very, very different. Turned inside out like the Lloyds of London building.
The other accusation of Wikileaks is that it doesn't understand the entire scope of how world affairs work behind closed doors and thus is unable to use proper discretion in what it releases, which assumes that the ruling classes do understand, which is patent nonsense.
They haven't shown much evidence of understanding yet, or we wouldn't be in a state of perpetual, industrially essential war.
The fact that the entire Wiki-Witchhunt cannot cite a single case where operatives or contacts have been placed at risk, and now have had to resort to a Fatwha on Assange and stealing the assets of Wikileaks, is testimony to the level of scrutiny exercised by Wikileaks and its partners in the conventional media.
If Joe Lieberman wants Assange's head on a pole today, how long before he wants to haul the editor of the New York Times onto the scaffold, and even poor old Alan Rusbridger? Wiki-Terror? The neologisms fly to all the 9/11 jargon like pins to a magnet. The state terrorists are being outed by their own actions. It's like watching monkeys with a mirror.
 The reason reactionaries and other corporate poodles are trying to sneer Wikileaks onto the back pages is because they know that the next tranche of files are just as likely to reveal the murky dealings of their beloved banks and oil corporations. They get that much, at least.
The cardboard house is collapsing in a rain of Kings and Queens and Jakes of Spades and Diamonds and Clubs. There isn't any precedent for this, I don't think. Though I'd like to hear some nominations.
If it's done nothing else, Wikileaks has flushed all the crazies out of the woods.  Screams like:

'YOU ARE CRAZY IF YOU ATTACK OUR GOVERNMENT!' are now common from the reactionary right, especially the American right, who have spent the last two years trying to destroy their own government themselves..
What they mean of course is:
'THE PARTY IS ALWAYS RIGHT!'
Did Orwell ever get a Nobel Prize? Of course not. Now that is crazy. 

As a side effect, the so-called 'Liberationists' will have to decide how much Liberty they really want, since they seem to be the ones demanding Assange's head on a spike. They will have to choose between Mother state and the truth. Between the Ku Klux Klan as supported by the banks, and Wikileaks, robbed of its assets and deprived of its donors by the banks. 
Progressives should welcome Wikileaks.  By scrutinising bureaucracy and the managerial world it makes a progressive society possible.  When it's done that, and there is a progressive country to blow the whistle on, the leaks can still be judged in the same way that they are now. But with Wikileaks and its clones in place, constantly monitoring the state from the inside, there may not be much to blow the whistle on.
 Meanwhile, don't worry about being able to donate to the toxic Ku Klux Klan, their website, bank accounts and PayPal streams are safe. Isn't that reassuring for you? Doesn't that ease your paranoia a bit?

For turning this into a moral issue, with Wikileaks on one side and the Klan on the other, America has been incredibly stupid. Again. Just as they were after 9/11, and after the fall of the Warsaw Pact, to name but a few. If they'd stuck to the mind-numbing trivialities of authenticity and ownership, the story would have shrunk down to the level of a Congestion Charge quibble. A battle of the bureacrats. But instead, by tomorrow, some smart Alec somewhere will have redrafted the I Have A Dream speech, and they won't be far wrong. Not only have Paypal Amazon and major banks been implicated in the Fatwha, now Twitter and possibly the rest of the 1st generation social network giants are under suspicion.  It could be All Change soon if they don't follow their users, rather than government and corporate convenience. 'Facebook - The Decline and Fall'? If Mastercard is not safe from attack, who is? Who's the Daddy now? The true power-structure of the internet is becoming clear, and it isn't good news for those who thought they controlled it. What we now have is a territorial war between billions of modern free-minded individuals and the dinosaur states and corporations who keep them afloat. And the dinosaurs have more to lose by a Scorched-Earth policy than we do. So turning off the internet is not on the cards.
But the likelihood is that for the dinosaurs, the meteor has already struck, and the shockwave is just over the horizon. Only the mammals will survive.

Along with the Guardian and the New York Times, the BBC has been one of the few organisations willing to co-operate with Wikileaks. And will be one of the few major organisations left relatively un-scarred by the new internet power-structure. In fact, they have everything to gain, whereas the commercial jackals have everything to lose, if they haven't already lost it.
But this isn't simply a matter of right and left. There will be some very strange bedfellows brokered by Wikileaks. Even The American Civil Liberties Union have joined in the debate on the side of Assange.
 "We’re deeply skeptical that prosecuting WikiLeaks would be constitutional, or a good idea. The courts have made clear that the First Amendment protects independent third parties who publish classified information. Prosecuting WikiLeaks would be no different from prosecuting the media outlets that also published classified documents. "
If the corporate world wants to get even more paranoid in its bunker, fine. But it won't do it any good. It will make its job more difficult and we will all see it happening live in cinemascope. There isn't anywhere for it to run anymore. The Sword of Damocles is always going to be over its head. Governments have a clear choice: come clean or become Chinese.

12/10/2010

We Pledge Not To Riot

Winston being useful.

'VIOLENCE IS NEVER JUSTIFIABLE!' 
All the usual predictable lying idiocies being wheeled out again I see. Are earthquakes and floods 'justifiable'? The truth is that yesterday's violence was inevitable, and not so much because of the usual petty barbarisms by the police, but because of the massive lies and vandalism of this so-called government.
If Braindead Boris Johnson and the Blustering Classes are furious at a few broken windows, just how incandecent do they get are wars which kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people to boost oil-company profits, and which cost fortunes which could be spent securing the future of society? Not very, it seems. Their 'opinions' can be ignored with confidence. 
All civilised societies have long accepted that education benefits all, not just the student, and so my degree was paid for by everyone, and so I was happy to become a taxpayer afterwards. My generation felt a moral obligation to repay what others had done for us. 'Felt', not calculated, or granted, or submitted to. It was a natural, cultural convention which helped include us in something which was recognisable as a society. If this government truly believes what it preaches, the logical conclusion is to privatise all education, making parents pay for the best education they can afford. In fact, why not repeal the 1870 Education Act and be done with it? The Market will Provide.
The theory that only graduates benefit from their degrees inevitably leads to the conclusion that they should bear all the cost, and therefore that they should keep all the rewards. The result, more tax-exiles at one end of the scale, and more subversives at the other, and more resentment all round. The gross wanton Vandalism of the Condems is breeding the next generation of tax-avoiders and sociopaths. 


'VIOLENCE NEVER ACHIEVES ANYTHING!' 
Last night's Newsnight featured batty Prof David Starkey claiming that this level of insurrection hadn't been seen since The Chartists, which is probably untrue. He failed to mention that the Chartists' inevitable attitude to violence was as follows:
'By moral force if we may. By physical force if we must.' And eventually that logical approach won most men the vote, as it did for women later on when the Suffragettes bombed and smashed their way through Whitehall and Oxford Street.
The vast peaceful impotent protest against the Iraq war, and the decade long candlelit vigil against Apartheid show just how much contempt governments feel for actions which don't express true anger. They have proved over and over that violence is the only language they understand.
Inevitability cuts both ways, of course, and all protestors need to understand that. It was inevitable that the police were going to prevent an invasion of Parliament. And that they would use violence to do so. Being crushed against barriers in Parliament Square, and hit from behind by police batons (twice) was not fun. But the prospect of being hung with £30,000 of life-crippling debt at the age of 18 must be far less fun.  And the destruction of further education,  and the atomisation of society into millions of squalid penny-pinching micro-businesses, all indifferent to anything but their own wealth makes violence on the streets far more inevitable. People are not accountants. And further education is not a glorified Gradgrind apprenticeship, existing merely to Gerrajob!
If yesterday seemed like violence, wait until those whose homes are threatened by the Condem's mad, vindictive housing vandalism take to the streets. If demonstrations are still allowed, that is. They will definitely pledge not to riot. But we all know what pledges mean these days, the Fib-Dems have taught us that, at least.


The Day In Pictures
At Trafalgar Square, things were confused, with much to-ing and fro-ing, but some structure. 
Then the police blocked Whitehall, and seemed about to kettle everyone in Trafalgar Square, as they have done before. That was when the people decided to go down the Mall and turn left to Parliament Square, singing 'Who ate all the pies?' to the flabby plods trying desperately to keep up (and failing). 
The Kettle has spawned a much more mobile protest strategy, which is beyond the control of anyone, creating chaos. Ask Prince Charles - though it didn't get as ugly for him and Camilla as it did for poor Alfie Meadows.

'Cut Your Nose Off To Spite Your Face - This is Going to Get Ugly'
The Grateful British Public.
The first sign of trouble at Parliament Square. A reporter notes the number of an officer who attacked a protester, to dismayed cries of 'What's he doing?' from his fellow officers. So they do know who the rogue elements are in their ranks. The unfortunate violent minority who come along just to cause trouble.
 The crowd still stayed overwhelmingly peaceful. With a wide range of protest on display.
R.I.P. Education 9/10/2010
 'Debt Is Not The Answer To Debt - Nick Clegg 21:04'
The Education Maintenance Allowance is vital to countless working class students. Soon it will be gone, and instead of going to college, young people will have to scrape by in the jungle of the streets. Cottage-industry dope-dealing has a reasonable profit margin, apparently - given a modest and unambitious lifestyle.




The fences around the square couldn't last. There simply wasn't enough room on the streets for all the people who wanted to be there. If the square had been made accessible in a civilised fashion, as for the Lebanon demonstration in 2006, the situation could have been defused. But the police and London Authority have decided that this shabby patch is sacred. That to damage it with the feet of dissent would be a betrayal of their curatoship of a glorious national treasure. Property is sacred. 
After this, the standoff in front of Parliament was bound to be ugly, as was the rest of the day.
15.07. The first significant bit of defiance gains access to the square for the huge crowd, which was probably much the safer option for all. 

Reclaiming Parliament Square for free expression. One concrete achievement.
15.16. We Are Not Your Slaves

'Hands off now!' was the command. Anyone touching the barrier could be batoned.





15.30. 'Hit me, hit me. HIT ME!'
15.40
Not long after this, I was batoned to the head, and later to the shoulder blade. Both from behind. A new experience for me. More uncomfortable was being crushed against the barrier with a steel rail against my chest at one point. Which was inevitable, but not a good idea. As the people at the front kept suggesting: 'Pull the barriers back! Don't give them back to them!' But the natural direction of a crowd is always forward.
It became obvious that the barriers were never going to be breached. Storming Parliament is not really going to be allowed, and everyone knew that, though it is always a gesture which has to be made.
After it got very cold indeed, and the bonfires had started on the square, the crowd in Victoria Street were Kettled by police and horses.

 Damaged protester being dragged from the scene.
 The Kettle tightens its grip, with predictable results.
 Protester being arrested for escaping the kettle, and separated from her little friend (or relative).
17.10
By this point, my body was giving out, as was the light, and I quit while still ahead - and while out of the Kettle. I knew that leaving was a mistake, but this kind of demonstration is definitely for the young and very fit.
The first use of riotshields on the British mainland was in Lewisham in 1977. Perhaps this year will see the first use of riot gas or baton rounds to protect the listed windows of the Courts of Justice. But since the protest can now be spread across the entire city, targeting the tax-dodgers of Vodaphone and Topshop and other feral Consumerist troublemakers, it is hard to see how the police can control the resistance now possible via the mobile phone - unless there is some kind of blanket ban, which will cause ten times more violence.
The question nobody stops to ask is why are there so many young people who are so alienated from society that they want to burn it down. The answer is simple. Every edition of every tabloid rag and every hour of shock-jock talk-radio is a licence to insult, vilify and persecute young people. ASBOS, Mosquitos, hoodie-bans, curfews.. the list of paedophobia goes on and on. This is a culture which deeply hates and resents kids. And now their hopes of enlarging their minds, and of lives with some degree of spontaneity are about to be wrecked. From now on, every 18 year old will be expected to have his or her life mapped out as clearly as any Victorian apprentice or Eton schoolboy, or Michael Heseltine. And central to that plan will be massive amounts of personal debt. Not the £9,000 of government lies, but more like £30,000 after living expenses. Add to that the now-obligatory mortgage, and the chains begin to weigh like Jacob Marley's.

12/03/2010

"I'm Julian, and this is My Friend Assange."

By tomorrow, Wikileaks Arch-Mastermind Julian Assange could be behind bars. A new European warrant has been issued for his arrest on very dubious Swedish charges. The Americans are also after his blood, shaved ape Joe Lieberman declaring that Wikileaks is the "most terrible act of espionage in US history" and is busy reinventing the treason laws to put a stop to it and try to turn back time and un-invent the internet. While the hapless Bradley Manning faces calls for his execution, in public, presumably. Lieberman is also busy bullying as many servers and associated sites into taking hostile action against Wikileaks. Amazon, in particular.
In effect, there is now a Fatwha on Julian Assange, even the Canadians are joining in:

"I think Assange should be assassinated, actually. I think Obama should put out a contract and maybe use a drone of something."
Like the other village idiots sitting on the bridge sucking their thumbs, Lieberman doesn't understand what is happening to him. He doesn't understand that Wikileaks is not a website with lots of TopSecret information on it, but merely a piece of technology which anyone can use to do the same thing. It is the invention of the sickle. Lieberman's Law will not prosecute or deter a single 'spy', but will be as futile as trying to make all cameras 'illegal'. His law is unworkable since it would mean unplugging the internet, which his state machine depends on just as much as Iran's or even North Korea's.
Lieberman doesn't understand that we now have our own surveillance cameras inside government and corporations. Wikileaks amounts to another form of the 'Counter-veillance' used during the G20 demonstrations in London. Regardless of the destructive power of any of the individual leaks, the mere existence of Wikileaks represents a new map of the political universe, one as radical as Copernicus' heliocentric solar system. The state no longer being the sole arbiter of truth. The confidentiality provided by the Wikileaks system implies the eventual erosion of secrecy. And those states who will not voluntarily open their operation, and decide to retreat into a bunker of hyper-secrecy will ultimately become unworkable due to their own isolation. 
At this moment, it's perfectly reasonable to assume that there are disaffected lieutenants and captains and passed-over majors in the Burmese dictatorship who have their own axes to grind with their bosses, and who are now aware that revenge is only a few clicks away. Wikileaks might well prove to be be the mechanism behind the biggest wave of regime-change since 1989, if blockheads like Lieberman would get out of the way.
Yesterday, www.wikileaks.org was shut down (whether from direct attack or mere overload is largely immaterial) and had to relocate via Switzerland and Sweden (ironically enough) emerging as http://wikileaks.ch/. Producing the sequel was as easy as that. The Web Strikes Back. If all else fails the fastest way to access the site is to type its Internet Protocol address into your browser, which is http://213.251.145.96/.
 The next tranche of leaks are rumoured to uncover the machinations of the banking implosion of 2008. Whether Assange is in prison or not, the levels of betrayal and sheer sabotage of the bankers will make any accusations against Assange shrivel up like salted snails. 
Without Julian Assange, the US cable leaks would have been released un-cut. The White House needs him far more than he needs them. Together with his media partners, he is the only thing protecting the US from its own leakages. Which makes the ridiculous Fatwha against him all the more stupid and vindictive.
Some of those attacking him now should be very, very careful. When the revelations emerge which attack their political Bogeymen (the EEC, Walmart, Wall Street) they will have to perform a hand-brake turn of Essex delinquent proportions, and be revealed as stupid and vindictive too.. the rest were always a bunch of bastards, and have long sacrificed any right to mercy.

It's interesting also that no outlet has yet gone to the trouble of finding someone charged with the same offences as Assange, and asked them how they were treated, and how many superpowers tried to extradite them, and how many US Congressmen and presidential hopefuls called for their assassination.
No doubt this will be because the case is sub-judice?

We The Undersigned, Solemnly Pledge NOT to Riot Next Thursday

After solemnly pledging not to increase tuition fees, Vince Cable has now decided to vote for his own plans to triple them - after yesterday saying he would abstain.
The depth of student anger against the liberal Democrats at such bare-faced treachery will be revealed next Thursday, but another demonstration tomorrow will give a clue as to what students now think about the pledges of politicians. Perhaps they should make some of their own.

12/02/2010

Oligarchs 2 - Football 0

In a chilling impression of a schizoid robot zombie narrating his own storyboard, Sep Blatter eventually announced that FIFA had chosen Russia to host 2018 World Cup - Two self-serving oligarchies scratch each other's backs - Panorama is justified.
If FIFA rejected England's bid because of Panorama, they do not deserve the stranglehold they have on world football, and the sooner a rival accountable, transparent organisation emerges to put football on a reputable level, the better.
Competing governing bodies are a sad prospect, and with little hope for the sport, as in boxing, but they are inevitable when the monopoly controlling power loses this much credibility.
The idea that we shouldn't have Rocked The Boat is despicable. A craven submission to coercion and censorship. FIFA had a glorious opportunity to prove its detractors wrong, and instead it proved them, and the BBC, right. The Murdoch papers will try to whip up a hate-storm against the BBC. The Panorama revelations being the fatal dagger in a fiendish plot to rob Britain of £Billions with which to build orphanages and kitten sanctuaries.
A Russian World Cup certainly robs Rupert Murdoch of £Billions, but like FIFA, he would have had to pay very little tax to Britain in April 2019. In fact, almost all those trying to suppress the truth about FIFA stood to gain from an English tournament, but would have paid less to Britain in return than the average consumer.
It also seems that Blatter instructed the jury, mentioning the 'toxic' British media, who he was not happy with - who have not been very co-operative with The Organisation. What, he asks, has FIFA done to reserve such disrespect? 
A responsible FIFA would be less worried about investigative journalism which uncovers corruption, and more worried about a muckraking British press willing to destroy the reputations and morale of the English world cup squad in the run-up to the tournament, as it did this year, effectively scuppering any chance of success.
But if only it were journalistic integrity which was at stake. The fact is that FIFA's Terms & Conditions include exorbitant tax breaks and suspension of trifling rights such as the Minimum Wage. We're well out of it. If the price of getting on the World Cup gravy train is censorship and exploitation, we can leave it to the professionals. 
The Dutch estimated that, done properly, hosting the World Cup would have cost them money, not made a profit. But then, their estimates included silly little luxuries like the tournament's carbon footprint. No chance of Russia worrying about trifles like that. Another chance wasted. 
If major sporting extravaganzas are to continue, they will have to learn to live within environmental limits. FIFA will be the last governing body to pioneer such an agenda. And we do not know exactly how today's decision was taken. 
But we do now have more confirmation than ever that Russia is a gangster state, thanks to Wikileaks, and the BBC. Presumably there are just as many principled people left to blow the whistle on FIFA as there are on Russia, or the security of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal, or the behaviour of American troops when they invade other people's countries. So maybe we will eventually find out just how much back-scratching went on between the various players. But it will be no thanks to the Murdoch media and its fellow-travellers, whose appetite for censorship and suppression grows steadily with each advance in the technology of free-expression.
South Africa and Russia did not win the tournament rights because they had the best stadiums or the best level of football or the best crowds, infrastructure or security levels. They won because of the legacy of consumers left behind after the corporate Blitzkreig of advertising had done its job. As with all wars, it was a battle of market expansion. Maybe we will one day see a World Cup and an Olympic Games which aren't merely vast advertising campaigns for Coca Cola, Nike and McDonalds, but not until FIFA and the IOC are about sport, not profit.
Now that history hasn't repeated itself this far, and we haven't won the rights to stage the World Cup 2 years after the Olympics, we can only hope it goes all the way. The last time, our celebrations were very brief.

12/01/2010

Kiss Blatter's Arse, Says Murdoch & Co

There has been a predictable tsunami of guff from the usual suspects about the BBC Panorama report into sporting criminality. They are absolutely disgusted that the BBC will potentially influence the outcome of the World Cup by revealing a few home truths before the decision is taken in two days time. They are, in effect, prepared to turn a blind eye to FIFA corruption as long as England gets the tournament.
That there should be any question of this report prejudicing England's bid goes to show the level at which FIFA operates. If it became known that Spanish or Russian TV was witholding a similar report in order to ensure its bid there would be howls of rage in Wapping and Canary Wharf. If, of course, they could find a Spanish or Russian TV station with the guts and independence to do so.
Most rational opinion is that we'd be advised to understand the nature of the organisation we'd be signing away lots of sovereign rights to, such as taxation and minimum wages. Who would want to be a member of a club which allowed Sep Blatter to be a member? 
This afternoon, David  Beckham was wheeled out to defend the England bid and FIFA. The usual primary school mumblings aside, he sounded like something out of a 50's gangland movie with Sidney Tafler : 'Look, I know these boys aren't exactly angels, but they get the job done. Know what I mean? We scratch their backs, they scratch ours, no questions asked." The BBC has broken the unwritten code. It has snitched on its partners, which is an omerta! It simply doesn't know to keep its nose clean. Or how to accept an offer it can't refuse.
No wonder sport is riddled with crime and becoming In-Credible. In other words, dying.
Is it a co-incedence that the Kiss Blatter's Arse Brigade are in agreement with the Anti-BBC media corporations who would all make a fortune from an English World Cup 2018?
Because if England does win the rights, which they should if their bid is taken on its merits, and goes on with a bright young squad hopeful of success after winning its qualifying group, which they probably will - it won't matter. Because after the final group game, the gallant British tabloid press will systematically dismantle the team with a succession of 'scandals' and general muckraking. More than likely the captain will be forced to stand down, and at least two of its star players will be pilloried out of form by the gutter-sheets, just as they did to this year's team in South Africa. And the only winners will be the media and the global corporations. The British public will be fleeced, as usual.

11/30/2010

Wikileaks and the Pope's Hat

STOP PRESS! POPE WEARS HAT!
Just about sums up the popular response to the latest Wikileaks revelations. Diplomats and politicians are liars? Tell us something we didn't know - which is missing the point by a mile, whether from deliberate stupidity or just the usual kind.
 The main point of Wikileaks is that it ensures anonymity for the source. It reduces the risk to any whistleblower and therefore breaches an entire level of state and corporate secrecy. All of a sudden they have no trousers. The revelations of past actions and attitudes by those who run our lives are significant enough, but the it's the way they behave from now on which will show the real significance of being able to monitor their machine from the inside. It's an extension of the phenomenon of 'counter-veillance' which shed light on the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 protests.
In effect, Wikileaks has lifted the burkha of mystery from the comely maiden of diplomacy to reveal the gurning Anne Wiiddicombe beneath. Of course the parents and the potential in-laws are going to be annoyed. The question now is how much states will feed misinformation into the archive, and how much more paranoid and secretive and insular and removed from reality they become. But in that case, Wikileaks is calling their bluff. It offers them the choice of genuine openness and democracy, or of abandoning all pretence and retreating behind Russian (or even Chinese) curtains of secrecy and paranoia. But they have to remember that the bride in the Burkha is still more marriagable than one in a suit of armour.

Wikileaks also reveals the hypocrisy of all the media corporations which refuse to publish it, and which try to smear this new freedom as old fashioned Treason. These are largely the same corporations which killed to publish the MP's Expenses information, and will eventually publish the choice titbits of Wikileaks. And which, incidentally, are also in favour of turning a blind eye to FIFA corruption as long as England's bid wins, and they get to make vast amounts of money.
The other ridiculous accusation is that Wikileaks are not a 'democratic' organisation. Wikileaks is just as 'democratic' as nay other form of journalism. In fact, since it does not rely on advertising revenue, it is approximately 27.63 times more democratic than NewsCorp, which would suppress this information and Wikileaks and the entire internet if it could. Just as it has suppressed every piece of politically inconvenient information it has ever known. By its opposition to Wikileaks, it is in fact admitting that it would have suppressed the revelations which led to the MP's Expenses Scandal.
The BBC is doing its job by giving these revelations the space they deserve, as it is in publishing the truth about FIFA. If journalism has a future, it is through working with the consequences of the internet, not by trying to deny or vilify them.

11/24/2010

By The Right - Wait for it! - LEARN!!

Michael Gove's latest wheeze for slapping Britain's students into shape is to militarise schools. After all it never did him any harm. Take a drill-sergeant who has terrified his last Orrible Little Man, give him some basic training, and put him in front of a class of rowdy teenagers and see how they like that!
Of course he is right. Convicted murderers who have served their sentence would make great teachers, with suitable training. Their broad experience of life, and the insight into society they might gain from being detached from it would be invaluable in making a subject like History come alive, to name just one. Their lives would give them a certain presence in class. So why not soldiers?

11/22/2010

Charity Deficit Housing. The Poor Law Amendment Act Of 2010

Social Housing is now effectively a Charity Hostel service. To be allocated on the basis of a Means Test. The 're-assessment' will involve an unprecedented level of intrusion into personal finances, and will create the greatest poverty trap since the Victorian era which inspired it. To use the dialect, it is a 'positive disincentive' with nobs on. Why take that part-time, underpaid menial job when all it will do is dump you at the bottom of the greasy property pole with all your family and trappings. And don't dilly-dally on the way.
The greater damage to British society is almost unmeasurable but will make the government into an even bigger enemy than it already is, and will therefore increase crime and anti-social behaviour in general. Should it remain un-repealed, it will decimate already fragile communities, and nip any budding neighbourliness in the bud. Even if your Charity Tenancy overlaps with that of your neighbour, what is the point of forming a relationship with someone who will be gone in less than 2 years? In today's busy working schedule, it can often take almost a year to establish any sort of relationship, based on the kind of casual interaction which normally happens in crowded council flats with no community centre or well-planned garden space. So any sense of community will be a thing of the past, and any fantasies of a Cameronian Big Society will recede even further into the fog.

The great lie is that social housing is a rescue service for the poor. A necessary evil which, in the capitalist utopia to come, will wither away, like the rest of the welfare state, and even the state itself. The reality is that it is a vital part of the social infrastructure of any advanced, industrial state.  As necessary as the road network or the national grid, providing the bedrock of local identity via stability and affordability of tenure. And requiring the same degree of investment and maintenance, not the open-season sabotage of the last twenty years.
As much as anything, it once offered genuine 'Choice' (remember that one?) of housing lifestyle. Those more interested in living their lives than chasing a mortgage, and who saw the buildings they lived in as homes, not machines for investment, were able to form strong links within their neighbourhoods, and the longer they stayed, the deeper the store of local knowledge and experience became. When responsibly managed the result is a strong community with all the benefits, all of which result in lower costs for other social services.
The teenager minister for housing Grant Schapps is claiming with some pride that the rolling bi-ennial wave of evictions, combined with a punitive increase in rents will pay to build more new social housing, which he says he believes is necessary. This is the biggest lie of all. If the New Poor law Amendment Act delivers any revenue at all, which is doubtful, it will immediately find its way into the pockets of grateful cowboy speculators, who will bang up their usual tacky boxes, and vanish overnight. The only real benefit to the government will be as another bulwark against local action and organisation. It is another shackle to genuine progress.
The Whig Poor Law Amendment Act Of 1834 decreed that external relief for the poor was to be stopped within two years, leaving them with the choice of the workhouse or starvation. No able-bodied person was to receive money or any other help from the poor law authorities except in a workhouse. The legislation was designed to root out the "undeserving poor". 
Some things never change. The act, passed by a combination of the predecessors of the Liberal Party and the Tories of the day, had exactly the same contempt for those who had no property, and was just as fearful of them.
The other effect of the 1834 act was to create a huge interventionist state machine to imprison or evict the 'undeserving poor' and safeguard its political dogma. The same thing will happen this time. As Cameron should have grasped from his holiday reading ('The Spirit Level', Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett) enforcing inequality always creates a bigger state. 
The default slogan of the Condems now appears to be 'You've Never Had it So Good', whether sanctioned by Number 10 or not. Which in a government is always a sure sign of being divorced form reality. It was predictable in the latter days of the Eden/Macmillan tory reign, and even excusable. But barely six months into a new administration must be some kind of record.
On our 
decrepit little South London estate in the late 70's there used to be 2 accountants, a doctor, 2 architects and even an executive from a city pensions fund. Along with various graduates in a range of scientific and clerical jobs, including one very well-paid person at the Home Office. As well as a range of plumbers, electricians, chippies and other tradesmen.
In general, people were quite happy not owning their homes. It was so much less worry. And people had more time to spend getting to know their neighbours and working with them to make all their lives better. 
That community is now a wasteland of strangers thanks to the wonder of the property ladder. Furthermore, our collective efforts in renovating and managing the block have made it so desirable to the property market that our reward will be excessive market-led rent increases, and the danger to or tenancies from the new housing benefit limit of £400. So the message is obviously 'Only Suckers Make An Effort'.

11/17/2010

No Honeymoon In Paris

The royal wedding announced. William Windsor and Kate Middleton to marry in the spring, so that hubby can go to the Rugby World Cup. Does she have the X-Factor? Will Simon Cowell produce the ceremony? Only time will tell, but either way it will be a publicity plague of all plagues. The deficit crisis can only sell papers for so long, whereas a Walt Disney dream of courtly love shifts advertising space like nothing else. Because they have a schedule, a 'narrative arc', they're much better news than disasters where thousands are killed overnight.
Incredibly, we still have a fairytale royal family. An ultra-celebrity, media-magnetic elite, pumping out tacit endorsement for the concept of exclusion and hierarchy. One reason this is such a potent media cocktail is because we still allow royalty to retain some power, and lots of wealth, of course.
Were they like some of the continental cycling day-job royals, their media rating would fall, and they would not be worth much as a franchise. But Diana Spencer would probably still be alive, and even happy.
You pays your money and you takes your choice. If we were responsible custodians of our royal family, and their children, we would de-sanctify them as much as possible. But they are a profitable industry, so we are told. And so we must expect to incurr a few business expenses along the way at the hands of the baying media. Some collateral damage.

Guardian letters. 1/9/1997
"Surely it is now time to reassess the validity of the royal family. The powerless European monarchies are evidence that without political power the fairytale disappears, leaving those families in relative peace to pursue fulfilling real lives.
The press has instantly been cast as the baddies in this sad incident. This misses the point entirely. The British people pay those who photograph royalty. But now the royal fantasy must end, and we must face up to the real world unaided.
There is justifiable concern for the future well-being of the two princes. A responsible nation which really cared about them would now start to examine the possibility that tourist dollars and cosmetic pageantry do not justify the torment which waits these tow boys as they grow older."
_____________________________________________________
"...We should ask whether it is reasonable to expect one family to make this sacrifice simply for the convenience of providing us with a head of state. Princes William and Harry deserve an early answer to this question and one which respects their needs as children rather than their role as servants of an institution."
_____________________________________________________ 
Meanwhile, the internet forums and messageboards are crammed with Monarchists praising the bargain price of Royalty to the taxpayer. Roughly £1 a week for all that foreign tourism, they claim. These are often the same people who froth at paying the same for the BBC. They are willing to be forced to pay for an institution which enshrines the values of privilege and inequality and the lie of elitism, but fume at the idea of one dedicated to broadening the scope of human achievement and enlightenment. Not to mention bringing in vast amounts of revenue in merchandising and franchise sales overseas, and acting as a catalyst for much of British culture.
It's as if the Civil War never happened. But then, some people stay children for life, and will always need a nanny to guide them. The same people, again, who rail against the 'Nanny State' (i.e. the N.H.S, Housing Benefit etc) Their political correctness simply won't allow them to think beyond their own inhibitions and childhood traumas. Sad.

11/15/2010

Deficit Happiness

A month ago it was 'Fairness'. November's 'Virtue of the Month' sees the Idiot Cameron  trying to find out what Happiness is, in order to 'measure' it.
Garbage. The object of society is not happiness. Happiness is just a bi-product of people working together and trusting each other, not trying to trample all over each other in pursuit of ever-receding material security and job-supremacy.
The reason so many people are unhappy to the point of mental illness is because our society is gladiatorially sick. Less a case of 'my enemy's enemy is my friend' than Everyone is My Enemy.
People can never be happy with that deal. The millions of dead we just remembered on scraps of red paper did not die to make us all blissfully happy and content, they died, if anything, to bring us together. In the name of human brotherhood, not the Rat Race. Happiness is the result of the endorphins and dopamine released when we are most in communion with our innate Human natures. When we are in a state of natural empathy with other people. When we don't see them as threats or obstacles to our security and advancement.
As Orwell puts it (best):
 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.
But what are the chances of Cameron even being able to read the words of a committed socialist without retching with pain?
'It Burns! It Burns!
Apologists for the destruction of the welfare state often point to Sweden, with its legendary high social provision and high suicide rates. The link is obvious. People who do not have to fight each other to survive kill themselves from boredom or frustration of some primeval, undeniable instinct. In fact, the high Swedish suicide rate is a total myth. But even if it weren't, there is a very reasonable explanation of why a 'happy' society might have the highest suicide rate. If people reach old age and feel they have fulfilled their lives, why wouldn't they feel, like Hancock in The Blood Donor, that they 'could go tomorrow.'?
The real Hancock had all the money anyone could spend, but was intensely frustrated, and ended it all because it could only get worse. People who think they have fulfilled their lives might end them for exactly the same reason.

In Twain's words:
"The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time."
Red Dave Cameron has a real problem. If he is sincere in his belief that happiness is more important than prosperity, then he will have to abandon competition as the prime mover of the economy and put the brakes on Consumerism and ditch the entire tory dogma of total competition. In effect, he will have say goodbye to the Rat Race theory of society and surrender to socialism in one form or another.
If he is not sincere, then he is just another Tony Blair and should not be stoned to death, but should be laughed out of office.
The likely truth is that he is just a moron who hasn't got the faintest idea what society is, how it works, or who it's for.

Deficit Democracy

By cutting the number of MP's by 50, The Electoral Reform Bill will cut the amount of democracy per voter at a time when the electorate is better informed and more vocal than ever, and when they are about to suffer the worst attack on their communities since the Blitz. There should be twice as many MPs, not 50 fewer.
The twin effects of this de-democratisation will be to make the government seem like they are saving money, when in fact it will cost huge amounts; and to vastly increase the workloads of MP surgeries when people are being evicted because their street has become interesting to the property speculators, or their streets are overrun with gangs of unemployed youths raging against anything to hand in Cameron's wonderful Bog Society.  It will also be the biggest act of sheer Gerrymandering on the British mainland since the achievement of Universal Suffrage, making Lady Porter's shenanigans in Westminster look like a rehearsal.
The depressing, ridiculous public attitude at the moment is that All MPs Are Bastards. So speaks the voice of well-engineered apathy. In a Britain which boasts one of the highest rate of online social networking in the world we still retain a quota of  MPs which is more a result of the C19th rail network than the demands of democracy. More MPs - more representation. Cameron thinks we have too much democracy. And is exploiting knee-jerk reactions to the Expenses Scandal to impose his social vandalism on us all.
Each British MP now has to deal with far more constituents than ever before. That means we should have more of them, not fewer. We deserve as much representation as it takes, and at the moment, MPs are far too important because they are so rare. And we certainly don't need to follow the US further into the Land of Millionaire politicians.
And if there were enough MPs to cope with the burden of the people's everyday needs, politics might not be in the quagmire it is now. Making parliament even more of an elite will cause far more problems than it solves. And the only problem it will solve is a PR job for the Condems.

11/11/2010

Ian and the Sweet F.A.

There's a little seaside team called Blackpool.
What's noted for football and fun.
And young Master Ian Holloway
Went there with a job to be done.

He didn't think much to the stadium.
The stands was all piddlin and small.
There was no riots and nobody trampled.
In fact nothing to laugh at at all.

So seeking for further amusement
They got promoted a division or two
Where there was United and Chelsea and Arsenal.
Not Scunthorpe and Barnsley and Crewe.

They caused quite a stir in le League Premiere
They'd forgot they were not mean to win.
In their shirts as orange as stewards
On a day out to sunny King's Lynn.

There were one great big team called the Villa
In claret and blue they were dressed.
And since a big match were on at weekend
Ian gave ten of his lads a quick rest.

Now Ian had heard about Villa.
How they was all nervous and tame.
And seeing as how he'd got nothing to lose
Told his lads: 'Play your usual game'.

It were a right proper upper and downer.
That wednesday night clash there's no doubt.
The crowd cheered and clapped their endorsement.
And some paid again on't way out!

But the lads at the football headquarters
Were watching and said 'What's to do?
There's far too much fun here for comfort.
We'll stop that - or they'll all want some too!'

So they fined little Blackpool a fortune
For playing the game with some zip.
While United and City were walking the park
Like pensioners on a day trip.

The F.A. were quite nice about it,
Saying 'No-one was really to blame.'
And hoped that Ian and Blackpool
Had enough money to play one one more game.

At this Ian got proper blazing.
'And thank you sirs kindly' said he.
'Run our legs off each week playing football
To feed Rupert Murdoch - not me!'

(apologies to Marriot Edgar)

The Premier League's line is that they are the Quality Control department for each game. So any sub-standard product must be rejected, and the standard is the 'quality' of the line-up on the day. The game is the product on the conveyor belt.
They don't specify 'standards' for the players. They do leave that to the manager, who is the only person in a position to assess the fitness of every player in the squad. Better a fit sub than a crocked star. So the PL does accept the principle of manager quality control. They just can't accept that he might use it in the long term interest of the club rather than to provide a constant parade of star players for the benefit of the Skysports subscribers.
The game would undoubtedly benefit from greater, or even compulsory, rotation of squads. And even Sky's reliance on the superstars would be fed more regularly if they were rested more often. But that's not the Murdoch way. And there's always some new Wonderkid on the chopping block, willing to wear himself out in two years for the glory and the Ferrari. So what does Murdoch care how many broken bodies, and how much sidelined talent he leaves in his wake? As long as there's a story to print.

And we do love a good narrative 'arc'. From youthful hope and talent to despicable corruption. It's a primeval need as old as the first time we noticed the sun moving across the sky. But most important of all it sells papers. It doesn't matter if, as with John Terry, it wrecks the moral and preparation of the England team steaming through qualification for the world cup. The disaster in South Africa sold papers too.

By Moral Force If We May. By Physical Force If We Must.

The broken windows at Millbank Towers on yesterday's demonstration by students against the government's policy on tuition fees has triggered the usual dreary monotone of deadness from the usual media poltroons, and calls for 'clampdowns' on future protests, which are now seen as a universal threat to public order, which they will be. See any protest in the last 200 years for identical defeatist quotes. The calls for clampdowns will be counter-productive. The more they crack down, the more violence there will be. If the Condems wanted nice protest, they should have made nice cuts. In other words, they deserve everything they get because they are the cause of it.
One particular snide-issue is the accusation that these demonstrations are expressions of pure self-interest, and not to be mentioned in the same breath as the campaigns of the 60's against Vietnam or Apartheid. That 'it is all about money'. This is the attitude of those who only see life in terns of money, and is therefore irrelevant. But the points it misses therefore need airing. 
The student campaign is not just about the Sword of Damocles of tuition fees. It is essentially about the nature of education itself, and therefore the kind of society we want. The bureaucrats and Gradgrinds want a future of obedient cannon-fodder to carry on fighting the war of Consumerism, whatever the cost. An education system churning out little turtles every three years to carry the next generation of turtles on their backs for all eternity.
Turtles all the way.
While a growing number of students refuse to see why they should not be granted the same mental freedom as the generation which demonstrated against Vietnam and Apartheid. A generation which knew full well that those crimes were all about money.
This is a moral argument. And in spite of a few broken windows yesterday, the government does not hold the high ground. And many will be encouraged by yesterday's scenes. So there will be more demonstrations of anger, and more violence. And while the students alone are no Chartists or Suffragettes, together with the many other blameless victims of free-market madness they constitute a coherent single case against the atomisation of society and community, and for progressive change. And so the Chartist position is a perfectly valid one to adopt, as it is for all opposition to the excesses or idiocies of government.
'By moral force if we may. By physical force if we must.'

11/09/2010

Sandy and Sam. The Beginning of Jazz.

In his 'new' autobiography, Mark Twain tells the story of the Maryland slave, Sandy, who wouldn't stop singing. The boy Sam Clemens asks his mother to get Sandy to 'Shut up'. But she won't:
"When he sings, it shows he is not remembering, and that comforts me, but when he is still, I'm afraid he is thinking, and I cannot bear it. He will never see his mother again. If he can sing, I must not hinder it, but be thankful for it. If you were older you would understand me then that friendless child's noise would make you glad."
This is probably as close to the origins and appeal of jazz and blues (and therefore most popular music today) as it's possible to get.
It's a simple insight into the real attitudes of ordinary people to the inhumanity of slavery. But she is merely being prophetic when she says that 'when we grow up' we 'will be glad of the 'noise'. That's exactly what happened when 'the noise' became jazz, and it became the soundtrack to the western world. Congo Square may be the Plymouth Rock of black music in America, but the music clearly fed on the daily life of every  50 acre farm, and was vital to ease the pain of slavery.
Apparently, there have been criticisms of this first edition for its small print, and of the work for its formlessness. If it's all as crammed with gold as the first extract broadcast on BBC, none of that will matter. It's just a shame that earlier generations of Americans didn't have the benefit of Mrs Clemens humanity. If authors have something to say, they shouldn't keep everyone waiting 100 years. But Twain was notoriously timid about some things, while still managing to constantly get in trouble because of his big mouth. It's hard to be annoyed with someone that contradictory for long. Just like America itself.