Monthly Archives: October 2012

Da Don, his ‘truth’ and a little bit of business in Aberdeenshire

Donald Trump is a nasty piece of work. If anyone saw the film You’ve Been Trumped on BBC2 the other week, you’ll know that the billionaire property developer purchased land in Aberdeenshire with the intention of building one of his luxury resorts. The site that he purchased was identified as a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Those that lived nearby were harassed and their homes described as “slums” by Da Don, a man who’s used to getting his own way by simply waving his wedge about. There are also serious allegations that Trump regarded Grampian Police as his private security team and has been putting them under pressure to act. Does he get away with this shit in Noo York? Probably.

Trump is a bit like a Mafia don but without the garottes, knuckledusters, violin cases and pretensions to a Sicilian heritage. He’s a plastic don. He’s got the dynasty – da family. His hair, often resembling a mutated piece of shredded wheat, attracts ridicule and bafflement the world over. He’s got the money (but is it real or just debt?) and influence. But it’s his claims to have access to a special kind of truth that has been attracting the most ridicule, especially on Twitter.

Last year, Da Don claimed to have ‘evidence’ of Barack Obama’s ‘foreign’ birth. It turned out to be another one of his attention-seeking stunts (He’d earlier claimed that he was going to run for the Republican presidential nomination but went a bit silent). This time around, it’s all about the President’s college records. Sigh. This is… how can I put this? Juvenile?

Let’s be clear about this: demands to see Obama’s birth certificate or any other document smells suspiciously, in The Cat’s view, of crypto-racism. In other words, it’s the sort of racism that does its best to deny its true nature by claiming to be something else. That can be either a concern for the ‘truth’ or an economic rationalization (see the classical liberals’ arguments about Jim Crow and segregation). Questions of one’s birth were, rather curiously, absent in the case of John McCain, who was born outside the Continental United States in the Panama Canal Zone, which was not, at that time, an incorporated territory. McCain is white, therefore his citizenship was never in question as far as the Tea Partiers and assorted conspiranoids are concerned.  On that basis, McCain should have been disqualified on the grounds that he was born outside of the United States. Even those born of US service personnel overseas are barred from running for the presidency. Is that fair? Well, not really. But those are rules.

The discourses of citizenship and national identity are often deployed by the right, nationalists especially, to question the right of those persons of a particular ethnicity or culture to live in, what they see as, ‘their’ country. Therefore such discourses almost always contain the hidden and unpleasant discourse of racism. In Trump’s case, it’s fine for Black people to be athletes and boxers, but President of the United States? Not in Trump’s world! The word that springs to mind, but which Trump did not say, is “uppity”, which is always attached to the other word. The one that begins with the letter, “N”.

But what about Trump’s authenticity? Is he what he claims to be? Listen to The Guardian’s Adam Gabbutt as he tries to obtain a copy of Trump’s passport and college records. The person who takes the call is pretty unpleasant.

If you haven’t seen You’ve Been Trumped, here’s the trailer. The film may still be on BBC iPlayer.

Trump recently announced that he would donate $5 million to charity if Obama showed him his college records. I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours! Ooer, missus!  The Mambo rips into The Man with the Mystery Hair here.

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Filed under Society, US Presidential Election 2012

Dirty money makes the world go round

Money isn’t called “filthy lucre” for no good reason. Not only do many hands touch the stuff, somewhere along the way, it  may have been involved in the oppression or deaths of others. Maybe you sell arms to dictators or gangsters. Perhaps selling crystal meth to minors is more your thing. Whatever the case, your utility provider doesn’t care where it has come from. It’s all money and money is good. Or is it?

Ayn Rand worshipped money

Ayn Rand once argued that capitalism is a “moral system”. If that is the case, then what is so moral about mass killings being funded by your taxes and channelled to some bloodthirsty tyrant overseas in a country that you’ve probably never heard of? If capitalism is a “moral” system, why doesn’t your utility company or mortgage lender never ask you the question, “How did you make this money” when you pay your bills? Surely, by accepting money that has been made from the proceeds of crime, does the recipient not become an accessory to the crime? If someone gave me some money that they’d made from crime, wouldn’t I be guilty of being an accessory?

As things currently stand, a pimp can go to his utility provider and pay his bills using the money that he obtained through immoral means. Arms dealers can pay for their meals at restaurants with money they’ve earned by selling guns, tanks and rockets to some violent dictatorship. Yet no one bats an eyelid. Who cares? I do and so should you.

Money laundering is a common method of cleaning dirty money and even legitimate institutions like banks become involved. Recently HSBC Bank was charged with money-laundering. Its CEO found himself answering the Senate’s questions.

A report compiled for the committee detailed how HSBC’s subsidiaries transported billions of dollars of cash in armoured vehicles, cleared suspicious travellers’ cheques worth billions, and allowed Mexican drug lords buy to planes with money laundered through Cayman Islands accounts.

Other subsidiaries moved money from Iran, Syria and other countries on US sanctions lists, and helped a Saudi bank linked to al-Qaida to shift money to the US.


HSBC’s Mexican operations moved $7bn into the bank’s US operations, and according to its own staff, much of that money was tied to drug traffickers. Before the bank executives testified, the committee heard from Leigh Winchell, assistant director for investigative programs at US immigration & customs enforcement. He said 47,000 people had lost their lives since 2006 as a result of Mexican drug traffickers.

HSBC Bank said, “Sorry”. So I guess that makes it okay. If you or I had done the same thing, we could expect to spend years behind bars but not HSBC Bank or any of its executives: they get a fine and a slap on the wrist. Naughty boys! Don’t do it again!

It’s hard to estimate how much money has contributed to the death and misery of its victims. Some people simply aren’t interested such details. These people tend to worship money and for them, the stuff can do no wrong. But is the money that’s been laundered really clean or are we deluding ourselves into thinking that such processes magically disinfect the money? To be honest, money is magical and I don’t mean that in a nice, fluffy Harry Potter kind of way. Its magical powers are derived from the meaning that people project on to it.  In other words, it isn’t real, but it isn’t tied to anything real as it had been in the past. It is based on nothing. Not gold, not oil, not platinum. You can’t even take your paper money to a bank and demand your pounds of silver in exchange,  because the teller will laugh in your face if you try.

Yet for all its magic, money is dirty, nasty stuff that ruins people’s lives. But without it, none of us can do anything.

There really has to be a better way.

Next time you pay your bills or your rent, tell the other person that you earned your money by nefarious means. I guarantee you that they won’t refuse it.

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Filed under Money, Society & culture

The Great British Institution Of Bullying

Rugby School, where tyrants are trained to rule

It’s as British (for that read English) as drinking warm flat beer on a summer afternoon, while watching cricket on the village green. Bullying is deeply-ingrained in the cultural psyche of this nation. It’s institutionalized in the nation’s public schools where it was once called “fagging” and because of the seamless transition from the public school to Oxbridge to the Palace of Westminster, the baggage of bullying is carried from one place to another. It becomes the norm.  Nicholas Ridley, the architect of the Poll Tax and the closure of the nation’s coal mines, went to Eton. His fag was the future Labour MP, Tam Dalyell of whom he is reputed to have said “I wish I’d have beaten him more”.

From the Telegraph,

As late as the 1950s, senior boys in public schools were entrusted with beating their fags. John Betjeman, at Marlborough in the early 1920s, described the horror of Big Fire – where 16 senior boys sat in huge armchairs beside a roaring fire or played indoor hockey, while the fags, Betjeman included, sat on benches around a smaller fire.

Once they’d finished their game, the fags picked up the senior boys’ scrap paper, apple cores and darts, and put it in the bin. Whenever a senior boy shouted “Fag”, a fag ran to their study to make them toast, and woe betide you if you messed up. Then you were “basketed” – stripped to your shirt and pants, stuck in a huge wastepaper basket, had ink and treacle poured on you, and strung up by a pulley system to the ceiling. Even in his mid-50s, Betjeman remembered the pathetic sight of the basketed fag staring down through the slats of the basket at his tormentors below.

At Westminster, it was the particular duty of the most junior fag, nicknamed “Light-the-Fire”, to get up at 3.30am, to light a fire, boil a kettle and wake the senior boy every half an hour until he chose to get up; like a mini-alarm clock. What a blessed relief for Louis Theroux, me and a thousand other modern fags that these rituals gradually faded away, at Westminster and other public schools, through the 20th century. What’s left – the fag-end of fagging – is fairly harmless stuff, a watered-down version of Light-the-Fire; or Wake-the-Clegg, as it is now known.

The system of fagging encouraged boys to see the world in terms of slaves and tyrants (Nash, 1961). We should also remember that bullying is an accepted part of prison life and is tolerated by staff as an unofficial means of discipline.

But there are other criticisms of the prefect-fagging system
whose implications are more serious. For example, although it
admittedly produces competent leaders, they are leaders of an
autocratic type.


Those running the country went to such public schools, they emerged from them safe in the knowledge that they were destined to rule (this is where colonial administrators went to school). For them, bullying is both a means of getting things done and keeping people in line. Manifestations of this Tory-led government’s bullying includes but are not limited to, getting the those in work to attack those on benefits (which also include those in work). Telling those who own their own homes that those who rent are less deserving. Announcing that council housing will no longer be for life, removing security of tenure. The use of phrases like “hardworking families” is designed to create an artificial distinction between those people who earn decent salaries and those that rely on benefits to supplement their meagre incomes. When the coalition took power in 2010, they immediately set about pitting private sector workers against public sector workers.

When Diane Abbott told the world that “divide and conquer” was the common tactic of white people, she expressed this point inelegantly. Divide and conquer is a tactic that is taught at public schools; it is the way the British ran their empire and we still suffer from its consequences. The Middle East is the best possible example of how the British, along with their junior partners, the French, carved up vast swathes of land along ethno-religious lines. We continue to live with the prospect of the Middle East going up in flames because of Britain’s penchant for divide and conquer.

Flogging was once a common punishment in public schools and was replaced with other forms of punishment in the 20th century.  The fagging system remained more or less until the 1980s. The punishment regime has been transformed into other forms of punishment: the removal of benefits, forcing the disabled and long-term sick into work (some of whom have died as a consequence) and taking away workplace rights.

But bullying isn’t confined to those who went to public school, it has percolated through the layers of British society where it finds expression in the shouting of abuse at red-haired people or the mocking of the disabled on street. You can see it in the so-called comedy of Ricky Gervais and his “Derek” character, whose feeble defence was “it’s just comedy”. Channel 4 liked it so much, that it commissioned a series but then C4 knows all about bad television.

Tanya Gold writing in The Guardian said,

These are woeful times for the disabled in Britain – 20% mandatory cuts in disability living allowance, government plans to coerce disabled people to do unpaid work, a 75% rise in disability hate crime between 2008 and 2009 (the last year we have data for) – and the satire of Ricky Gervais.

Satire, my arse. It’s a form of abuse. She continues,

But the real evidence against Gervais’s satire is what he says when he is not being satirical, or speaking to journalists. Consider his infamous stand-up routine in 2010, where he talked about Susan Boyle. “Look at Susan Boyle,” he says, “if you can. I don’t think she’d be where she is today if she didn’t look like such a mong.” He then inserts a fictional critic: “He said mong! You can’t say mong.” “You can,” Gervais comes back. “It’s easy. It’s one of the easiest words to say. You just needs lips. Even mongs can say it.” Back comes the critic: “Why does he get away with it and no one else can? Ban him from the telly!” Gervais smirks, “good luck”, and that bellicose child is, I think, his dominant self. He apologised later; of course he did.

You see, Gervais believes it is perfectly acceptable to refer to someone as a “mong”. In September, Gervais was accused of Internet bullying when he asked his followers to troll his critics. New Left Project has other examples of cruelty as comedy here.

Thanks to Britain’s culture of bullying, cruelty has become the new comedy. No more do comedians attack the powerful, it is much easier for them to attack those who are under increasing attack from this government’s cuts. Gervais and those like him, work as proxies for the bullying politicians at Westminster. They help to circulate notions of Otherness and perpetuate the cruelty that has become such an integral part of British culture. By using the disabled, for example, as butts, Gervais helps to legitimate and rationalize the cruelty as ‘humour’.  “What’s the matter? Ain’t you got a sense of humour or something”?

Comedians like Gervais can dismiss criticism of their bullying with a simple “It’s a joke”. The Tory politicians who inflict misery upon the poor and the disadvantaged have no such line of defence.

Workplace bullying has also become, sadly, all too common.  With the government removing the right of workers to take their employers to court for unfair dismissal, it is unlikely that bullying will be  fully eradicated from the workplace. Indeed, it will become more entrenched.

Essentially, we have a situation where the government see themselves as prefects and the rest of us as fags. The only way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them, for underneath all that bravado, they are nothing but cowards.


Nash, P (1961), “Training an Elite” in History of Education Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Mar., 1961), pp. 14-21 Available via JSTOR.


Filed under Bullying, Society & culture

Savile and the dark heart of British politics

The shit has really hit the fan over, what is now being called, “The Savile scandal”.

Like many interested commentators, The Cat believes the Savile Scandal goes beyond the BBC and into the heart of political power.

I’d seen the pictures and the video of Savile with Thatcher and I’d heard the rumours about Ted Heath (he of the biggest sulk in history), his yacht and the Haut de la Garenne children’s home in Jersey.

Today as I watched Prime Minister’s Question Time, you could have heard a pin drop as Labour MP, Tom Watson, suggested that there was a “powerful paedophile network” that may have had links to a former Prime Minister.

Watson told Cameron,

“The evidence file used to convict Peter Righton, if it still exists, contains clear intelligence of a widespread paedophile ring,” he told MPs.

“One of its members boasts of his links to a senior aide of a former prime minister, who says he could smuggle indecent images of children from abroad.

“The leads were not followed up, but if the files still exist, I want to ensure that the Metropolitan Police secure the evidence, re-examine it and investigate clear intelligence suggesting a powerful paedophile network linked to Parliament and No 10.”

Cameron, who hadn’t been doing well at the despatch box was stunned.  He replied by saying it was a “difficult and complex case” and pledged to help in any way he could. Well, he has no choice.

Tom Watson’s blog has more.


Filed under Savile Scandal

Nightmare on King Street (Part 12): a round up

Things just go from bad to worse for the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. Their cherished dream of ‘redeveloping’ the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates as part of the Earl’s Court regeneration scheme has hit a massive pothole in the road. To add to their misery (Mmm, Schadenfreude, I love it!), the Council’s tax affairs, which have been reported in some detail by both Shepherds Bush blog and The Guardian’s Dave Hill, look set to kick another great big hole in their claim to fiscal responsibility.

Let’s look at Earl’s Court first. It would seem that LBHF has broken the law and tried to sign up tenants to some kind of “VIP list” if they co-operate with the Council’s scheme. We already know that the ruling Tory group, anxious about the huge opposition to its plan, had set up its own astroturf group as a means of claiming that it had complete support for the project. Of course this is a lie and to make matters worse, in January, the director of the pro-demolition group resigned.

Now what about that “VIP List”? Hill tells us,

Last month a document was handed to the Metropolitan Police containing information, which, it said, “substantiates allegations,” that officers of the Conservative flagship West London council of Hammersmith and Fulham promised preferential treatment in the allocation of new council homes to certain residents of two housing estates in the borough in return for their supporting the estates’ demolition as part of controversial proposed redevelopment scheme in the Earls Court area.

The document – entitled The Early Movers List: Homes for Votes? – claims to supply “evidence that may contribute to a police investigation into Misconduct in Public Office, which could lead to criminal charges,” and might additionally lead to civil litigation for a breach of the Housing Act 1996. I understand that Scotland Yard detectives have been making an assessment of the material.

Oops! On 11 October, Shepherds Bush blog tells us that the High Court has ruled against the Council.

And the Judge gives short shrift to our Council’s expensive lawyers who tried to get the application by the residents thrown out on the grounds it was submitted late. He had this to say:

“The defendants and interested parties [Hammersmith & Fulham Council and the Developers] argue that the claim was not filed properly and that permission should be refused. I am not persuaded that the claimants [the residents] should be denied permission on this basis.

Last week, the Evening Standard carried this story.

A flagship Tory council faces fines and back taxes of almost £1 million after failing to pay its correct tax bill.

Hammersmith and Fulham admitted a “careless” approach to its finances after telling HM Revenue and Customs 59 cases where it had not taken tax off employees at source, out of a total workforce of 4,800.

The council said it had failed to carry out proper checks on whether people were consultants, who are responsible for their own tax, or staff.

So much for economic literacy, eh? The Tories like to tell us that they’re “good with money” but it seems that they’re anything but. By the way, this expensive blunder happened while the Dear Departed Leader was in charge. He’s now Deputy Mayor for Policing. Yeah, breathtaking, isn’t it?

Meanwhile, the iconic Shepherds Bush Market is under threat. A High Court judged had earlier ruled that what the council’s plans were unlawful. Cllr Stephen Cowan writes,

On Monday night, Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s Conservative Administration met to vote through compulsory purchase orders (CPO) for the shops on the Goldhawk Road. They did this against the wishes of the small retailers who have long run those businesses  – many fearing that this will finish them off.

Incidentally, this is the same Monday night that LBHF Tories voted to end council tenancies for life and deny those with incomes of £40,000 a place on the waiting list. Cowan continues,

I asked the Conservative cabinet members why they had placed hundreds of thousand of pounds of tax payers’ money, their officials’ time and other resources at the disposal of their chosen property speculator. They explained they believed it was necessary to push this deal through.

“Necessary”? What’s the rush? Cowan explains what happened next,

Cllr. Mark Loveday (Con) made a somewhat emotional interjection involving shouting personal insults at my colleagues. In part this was his usual technique to try and stop a line of questioning. But, Cllr. Mark Loveday had been responsible for many of the unhappy deals the Conservative administration has made with big property speculators across the Borough. Regular readers will recall how he enjoyed a £12,000.00 tax payer funded jaunt to the French Riviera where he met many property speculators while hawking the Borough’s “contentious development sites.” He was also exposed as having misled the public about dealings with the same property speculator on another site. So Loveday’s ill-considered personal defensiveness is perhaps understandable.

Personal insults are what today’s crop of Tories use whenever they’re asked to provide explanations. They don’t much care for evidence or questions either. For to question them is to question G*d Himself – or so they like to think. Like many of his cohorts, Loveday is involved in the Young Britons Foundation. Speaking of which, Frank Manning,  YBF’s Campaign Co-ordinator recently wrote a defence of the Council’s decision to scrap tenancies for life on HF Tories blog site. Here’s the last paragraph of his article,

The current system is unsustainable. Houses worth more than £1 million are used as social housing, distorting the market and pushing up rents. In August, Policy Exchange released a very interesting report advocating the sell-off of high value council homes, allowing the government to use the funding to build new affordable homes. As usual, the left used emotive language such as ‘social cleansing’, but the real issue is quite simple. In these difficult economic times, there is only a certain amount of investment available for social housing, and it should be aimed primarily at those most in need and most deserving.

Dissembling. Damned dissembling. It’s a congenital disorder with these Tories.

Back to the Earls Court mess, yesterday the Council’s Chief Executive ordered Deloitte to investigate allegations of a “VIP list”. Shepherds Bush blog again,

More tax payers cash is lining the pockets of accountants as our Council has just responded to the legality of its actions over the West Ken Estate being ruled open to question by a High Court Judge not by simply co-operating with the police or answering the allegations in court, but by instructing Deloitte to investigate things independently.

Stupid question: but do you get the feeling that the Council has something to hide?

Finally, the Lib Dems have become involved. Caroline Pidgeon, the leader of the Lib Dems at City Hall has written to the Business Secretary, Vince Cable, expressing her concern over the way in which the Council has circumvented procedure and corrupted the processes. As I have learned from my own personal experience, the Council is arrogant, makes frequent errors that it refuses to acknowledge and rides roughshod over the wishes of residents.

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Filed under Hammersmith & Fulham, Hammersmith & Fulham Tories, London

Police and Crime Commissioners: a truly bad idea

I have previously mentioned the proposed Police and Crime Commissioners, who are to be elected next month, a few times on this blog. At the risk of repeating what The Cat said on previous occasions, this is a bad idea. A disaster waiting to happen. This idea of police commissioners is an American one that has been grafted onto an already existing and functioning system. The current arrangement of police authorities made up of local people is perfectly fine. In other words, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”.

The PCC idea was originally touted by Hannan and Carswell in their book, The Plan. The rationale behind the idea is to subject policing to the democratic process, but what will really happen? I can foresee conflicts arising between the PCC and the local constabulary and as I warned a year ago, the PCC will be a political office, meaning that the whole business of policing will be subject to ideological colonization. In other words, if a Tory or UKIPer should win, they could focus their attention on harassing minority groups whom they erroneously believe to be ‘illegal immigrants’. Tellingly, the Lyin’ King revealed his admiration for Maricopa County Sheriff, Joe Arpaio. The sheriff has recently been the subject of complaints and a federal law suit. He is also a prominent ‘birther’.

I have looked at the candidates and they are principally from the three main parties and UKIP. There are some exceptions: the British Fascist Freedom Party is standing a candidate in Bedfordshire, the birthplace of the English Defence League. In Northamptonshire, the far-right English Democrats are standing a candidate. Devon and Cornwall has the largest slate of candidates, many of whom are “independents”. In Kent, a minor fascist party, The National Liberal Party, is standing a candidate.

Turnout for these elections is predicted to be low. Hardly anyone in the country knows about the elections or what the role of a PCC is.

Today, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair  urged people to boycott the elections. Today, the Lyin’ King takes a swipe at Blair.

Plenty of people will vaguely nod at the idea that we shouldn’t have ‘politicised police chiefs’. But ask yourself what we have at the moment. Consider the career of Ian Blair himself: his spending of resources on 28 diversity advisers while street crime was rising; his attacks on the press for giving disproportionate coverage to white crime victims (erroneously, as a study of column inches later showed)

“White crime victims” (my bold) is the most revealing phrase here. But why racialize crime reporting anyway? I think Blair was right to point it out. When a black kid goes missing, the press don’t bother to report it. But when it’s Madeleine McCann or some nice white, blonde-haired kid, the press are all over it like flies on a dog turd. Remember classical liberals and self-described Whigs hate the idea of diversity and would love to return to a time when people ‘knew their place’.

The PCCs are expected to be paid a salary of between £65,000 and £100,000. Chief Constables already get paid around £100,000 a year. If the country is so “broke” as the Con Dems keep telling us, then how can they afford to spend money on PCC’s salaries?

PCCs are a bad idea made worse by the fact that the jobs will be filled by someone from a political party on a possible turnout of less than 17%. But will such turnouts be questioned by the Tories? Of course not. They’re hypocrites.

UPDATE 22/10/12 @ 1047

I’ve just been alerted to this article by Kennite, who tells us that there are “Secret US lobbyists” behind the PCC election. I shall quote a little,

Mervyn Barrett has flooded Lincolnshire with expensive leaflets, free DVDs and full-page newspaper adverts in his bid to be elected as its policing supremo next month.

Unusually for a rural local election, he has employed professional campaign staff, commissioned weekly opinion polls, opened “field offices” and is driven in a chauffeured Mercedes.

He has poured tens of thousands of pounds into the elections, far more than any other candidate anywhere else in Britain.

Mr Barrett describes himself as an “independent”, opposed to “party politics” in policing. He has refused to disclose who is funding him, despite widespread local suspicions generated by the intensity and professionalism of his campaign.

However, it can now be revealed that it has been run by a team from a US-based neo-conservative think tank, the Fund for the New American Century, funded in part by a variety of corporate donors with an interest in public-sector privatisation.

Given Hannan’s enthusiasm for this idea, you have to wonder what he’s getting out of it.

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Filed under Conservative Party, Government & politics, Law & Order, Policing

Marching for a Future that Works

I march, I protest, therefore I am. The Tories, UKIP and their LOLibertarian friends don’t protest because they don’t need to and even when they try to organize a rally, it’s a complete flop. The word “pathetic” springs to mind when I recall The Rally Against Debt last year, which attracted a mere 150 people. With that kind of dedication, it comes as no surprise that the Chinless Ones can’t even muster an insignificant counter-demonstration.  But perhaps it’s not a lack of dedication, rather, it’s more a sign of their complacency and the notion that they are born to rule. They don’t march or protest, therefore they rule.

As usual, I set off late to the march and it’s unlikely that I’ll reach Embankment in time. Somehow today feels different to the other rallies and marches that I’ve been on – even my choice of music seems strangely out of place.  I have Be-Bop Deluxe’s Modern Music on mp3 player instead of my usual march-rally-demo music courtesy of The Redskins. I’m sitting on the Number 10 bus; it moves slowly up the road as we pass a row of 8 Number 9s. The bus pulls up at the stop outside Olympia and people seem to appear from nowhere as they jostle to get on the bus. I’m expecting heavy traffic along Kensington High Street. To my surprise it isn’t too bad. Then, the driver comes upstairs to tell us that the route’s been changed because of the march. I should have known, really.

The bus heads down Bayswater Road, taking me away from the march but close to the rally point in Hyde Park. It’s getting late, there’s no point in hopping off the bus and taking the Tube to the Embankment. It’s Saturday and a lot of the network is closed for the ongoing upgrades. This is London. To be honest, I’m not sure that I want to listen to a load of dull speeches from the likes of Prentis and most of all, Miliband, whose appropriation of the phrase “One Nation”, still makes me feel queasy. Why is he speaking anyway? I’m at Marble Arch, there are tourists and shoppers (probably one and the same, really) not paying attention to where they’re going.

My ankle, which hasn’t been hurting up till now, starts to hurt. It’s an old war wound, so to speak; a compound fracture held together by a steel pin. It’s been giving me a bit of pain recently, often making it hard to walk. I limp through Speakers Corner, where there are, oddly enough, no speakers. There’s the usual range of left-wing paper stalls; all of them competing with one another for the ideological souls of passers-by. Gawd, even the RCG are here displaying a banner with their ever-present “Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!” slogan in big bold letters.  The issue of class doesn’t interest this lot. Some things never change.

After 24 hours of rainfall, the ground is heavy with ponds of water in between the woodchips  and patches of mud. It looks like the aftermath of a festival. It’s swampy. I fear I’m going to be on my feet for much of this.

I limp towards Hyde Park Corner. As I arrive I can see the head of the march and behind that, a big brass band coming through the somewhat blingy Queen Mother Gate.  Gawd, it’s ugly. Unite has given out vuvuzelas to people. Some may think that’s an inspired move. I’m not so sure. Lee Jasper rides past on his bike one-handed, a vuvuzela pressed to his lips. His saddle is far too low – again. I can see a helicopter hovering over what seems to be Oxford Circus/Regent Street. I know UK Uncut are focussing their attention over there and I’m tempted to quick-march over but my ankle has other ideas.

I hang around the gate, in the hope that I might see someone I know, but it’s pretty hopeless, so I limp back towards the rally point and take photos of some banners.

Richard ‘Tidy Beard’ Branson gets the caricature treatment on this one. Here’s another that caught my eye

The kindest cut, for sure.

The first speakers come and go and then, Christine Blower of the NUT comes on but I miss most of her speech because I’m looking for the loo. It goes down well. She’s the scourge of Hon Tobes and his chum Pob. Len McCluskey follows Blower and comes on like a rock star, saying all the right things. “We’re marching against a millionaire government… the whole rotten elite!” he says. The crowd loves it. He talks about the recent government scandals. Mitchell’s gone and Osborne’s been caught trying to blag first class travel with a standard class ticket on a train journey. One rule for them? You betcha. McCluskey starts to wind up his speech, “Food banks in one of the richest countries in the world?”, he demands in mock disbelief. He tells us that he want to “boost the minimum wage by a pound an hour”. I think we need to do better than that. Everyone should be paid a living wage. A citizen’s wage, maybe?

I need to eat my sandwich but there’s nowhere to sit… well, nowhere dry at any rate. A placard would be handy but I don’t carry other people’s placards; I prefer to make my own, if possible. I’ll have to bide my time…

Kevin Maguire in full effect!

The Daily Mirror’s Kevin Maguire bounces onto the stage and announces that he’s going to be the compère for the next half hour. He’s an entertaining fellow on television but working this crowd could be a tough gig for him. He looks cool and casual, he cracks funnies but I’m not sure they’re hitting the spot. There are huge  Daily Mirror balloons being suspended from people who wandering about the space.  The presence of these balloons tells us something about the ideological tenor of the British press: it is overwhelmingly sympathetic to the Tories. But the Mirror is not The Morning Star. That’s on sale too, along with the smaller Weekly Worker. More people are arriving and it’s starting to look more like a rally. There are over 100,000 here already. There was just 150 at the Rally Against Debt.

Ed Miliband is introduced. He is greeted with a mix of boos, heckles and polite applause. I add my obligatory cry of “Traitor!” to the mix. Behind me someone says, “Blair never did this”. Yes, but that doesn’t prove a thing. Mr. Ed is playing liberal father to this crowd of, what he sees as, naughty children in need of a damned good chiding. “End the privatization of the NHS” he says. That gets a cheer but then he begins to talk about this newly-resurrected “One Nation” stuff. He’s in denial. It’s true. He repeats Labour’s commitment to cuts if it got into power, which gets the boos it deserves and makes me wonder why he bothered to come here in the first place. He leaves the stage to the sounds of boos and applause ringing in his ears. Here’s a choccy drop, now sit up and beg, Ed.

The dreary Prentis comes on. He’s still dull and still running his union like a brothel but he leaves to cheers and applause. He pressed the right buttons for some folk, I guess, but not The Cat. I find my friends to the left of the stage in time for Big Bob Crow. I find a discarded placard and sit down and eat my sandwich. This is better. Crow speaks about the changes in employment laws that strip workers of the right to take their employer to court for unfair dismissal. He also calls for a 24-hour general strike. Come on, be bold! Call for a three-day strike!

Crow is followed by Mark Serwotka. “Francis Maude walked into the Coventry tax office and the workers walked out”, he tells us. The crowd loves it. Maude is another relic of the Major sleaze years; the man who advised the nation to store petrol in jerry cans, empty baked bean tins and old milk bottles to beat a manufactured panic at the pumps.  He’s not the sharpest tool in the box. Serwotka tells us of the need to have “strike action right across the country”. The crowd concurs. It’s the only way.

It’s 3pm and there are still marchers arriving at the park.  My friends want to leave. I’m feeling a little tired too. We part and I head to The Bling Gate to meet someone else who’s just arrived. On the way, I bump into someone from uni who’s in the Socialist Party. We have a chat. For some reason, the Worker’s Revolutionary Party is mentioned, I make some comment about Gerry Healy and his sexual abusiveness and go off to meet my other friend. It’s getting late and when I meet her, it’s time to head home. It’s starting to get dark and my ankle is really giving me a hard time.

When I get home I hear there were 200,000 at the rally. The Rally Against Debt could only muster a tiny 150.

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Filed under Cuts, Government & politics, Trade Unions

Channel 4: pandering to people’s prejudices for the sake of entertainment

Channel 4 has been going downhill since the 1990s. When I first started watching C4 in the 1980s, it was innovative and groundbreaking. It also got up the Thatcher government’s nose. Michael Grade, the station’s chief and a Tory supporter, was often cast by the tabloid press as Britain’s “pornographer-in-chief”. The station was known for hard-hitting and gritty soap operas like Brookside and off-the-wall comedies like The Comic Strip Presents...

Today’s C4 is voyeuristic and trashy. The schedules are cluttered with cheap programmes fronted by the likes of the ghastly Hon. Kirstie Allsopp and her chum, Phil Wotshisname. C4 is described as a “public service broadcaster” but it barely fulfils its remit these days. I mean, when was the last time you saw a programme on C4 that could be genuinely described as “public service”? There’s Dispatches, itself once a bastion of investigative journalism is now reduced to being the platform for Tory hacks and former RCPers to spout nonsense and misinformation.

Recently we have seen a rash of programmes that can only be described as “low budget dross  designed to pander to people’s deeply-held prejudices”. The first of such shows was My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding which showed some of the worst aspects of traveller life. It also conflated the Romani with Irish Travellers. While the nation’s couch potatoes were gawping at the ‘pikeys’, the residents of Dale Farm near Basildon were being threatened with eviction. Other travellers are constantly moved on by local authorities who are no longer obliged to provide pitches for travellers . The show fuelled anti-Ziganism rather than doing the reverse.

C4’s latest hit is Jewish Mum of the Year, which treads pretty much the same ground as MBFGW. You can hear the conversations up and down the country. “Oh, aren’t they funny”?

Its producers, naturally, defend the show, while Maureen Lipman finds it “appalling”. Quoted in the Telegraph, she said,

“It is very damaging, with anti-Semitism being what it is. Not to mention that being a Jewish mother is nothing like the way they portray it.

“It is just the next stage in this culture of humiliation on television, and I think it is appalling. A programme like that would never have been made when Jeremy Isaacs was in charge of Channel 4. I haven’t spoken to him about it, but I suspect he would be appalled, too.

By the way, Lipman played “Beattie”, a stereotypical Jewish mum in a series of crap adverts for British Telecom. 

Jennifer Lipman (no relation) writing in The Independent is more scathing,

So why did watching Jewish Mum of the Year – with its token religious spoilsport, steely Alpha Mum, not to mention X Factor contestant Stacey Solomon dispensing wisdom – feel akin to having a tooth pulled? Mainly because it wasn’t about informing its audience, it was, unfortunately, all about cheap laughs at the expense of quirky traditions.

C4 started the race to the bottom years ago, dragging the other networks along with it. But C4 differs from the rest by showing what it believes to be ‘groundbreaking’ programmes that are little better than gawp-fests. Programmes like MBFGW and JMOTY are possibly the worst of C4’s entire output and do nothing to challenge the stereotypes, instead they pander to prejudices.

I wonder what’s next for C4? My Yardie Friend?  Maybe they’ll start showing repeats of the disgraced sitcom Curry and Chips. Perhaps I shouldn’t be giving these lazy bastards any ideas.

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Filed under Media, Trash television

Ethics, morality and the right’s economic arguments

Gordon Gekko: patron saint of greedy bastards everywhere

“Greed is good” was the quote attributed to the character Gordon Gekko in the film Wall Street. But he never said those words, this is what he said,

Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A

As you can see, the sentiment that “greed is good” is contained within the speech. Perhaps the most revealing part of that speech is the phrase “evolutionary spirit”. In other words, the form of capitalism that is currently  being practised is a form of social Darwinism.

Greed is a highly-regarded character flaw among the neoliberals who currently dominate economic discourses. They will tell us that those who salt their vast sums of money away into off-shore accounts are “wealth-creators”, not tax-dodgers who pay their employees peanuts and who continue to rake in vast profits while paying no corporation tax.  As we know already, this newly-coined phrase “wealth-creator” is indicative of an ongoing effort on the part of a group of pathological liars to convince us that it is in our best interests to cut our throats for the benefit of these parasites and, indeed, the nation. These wealth-creators create wealth but only for themselves. You and I will see not a penny of it.

It says a great deal about the morality of the right when they tell us that greed is “natural” and that it should be encouraged. Hayek, whose word is holy writ among neoliberals and the mendacious, self-delusional ‘classical liberals’, rationalized greed as something inherent in our make-up, which therefore meant that the small state should do all it can to facilitate it. No planning. No regulations. Just pure unabashed greed would benefit us all, he alluded.

We don’t praise or celebrate murder nor do we sanction murder as a good thing unless it has been given license, as in the case of war for example, where murder is regarded as a good thing, because it is in the “national interest”. People get medals for murder.  The greedy are rewarded with bigger tax cuts and knighthoods for their ‘risk taking’. The aftermath of the Iraq invasion showed us how both murder and the clever justification for greed could be used as a means of social control and a means to cart loot out of the country under the effective guise of the “free market”. “It isn’t greed” they’d tell us. “This is freedom”!

But why should we praise anyone who is permitted to give full expression to their greed? We don’t praise murderers unless, of course, they wear medals. Should we also allow those who burgle their neighbours to carry on because they’re showing ‘entrepreneurial spirit’? That’s another slippery concept: entrepreneurialism.  What is it? Is Grant Shapps an entrepreneur? Some, his fellow Tories, would think so. I say that he’s a crook and a parasite.

The trickle down theory has been thoroughly discredited. Even George Bush Sr had his doubts when he called it “voodoo economics”. Yet this government and its Lib Dem human shield persist with this notion that only greed can save us from our economic woes. Instead of clamping down on the cheats, they are given ever greater license to rip us off.

I find it bizarre that some of these greedy people would describe themselves as Christians but doesn’t the Tenth Commandment advise against greed? I do believe it does.

What Hayek and his acolytes propose is nothing less than a form of economic natural selection. Those that have money will survive and carry on exploiting others, while those without will either die or will otherwise be enslaved by the greedy.

Greed is no more natural to us than spree-killing. We don’t tolerate spree-killers, why should we tolerate greedy capitalists?


Filed under Cultism, economic illiteracy, Economics, laissez faire capitalism, neoliberalism, robber baron capitalism, Spiv capitalism

Be-Bop Deluxe: a celebration

It must have been a late Sunday night in 1976 when I first heard the sound of Be-Bop Deluxe (BBD) coming from my wireless. Their album Sunburst Finish was being featured on Sounds Interesting on Radio 3 with Derek Jewell. I’d stumbled on the show entirely by accident while I was looking for something hip (for that read “obscure”) to listen to. It’s more than likely that Radio Caroline was having some maritime issues at the time, which accounts for why I landed on Radio 3.  Caroline was the station of my youth – that is, apart from Armed Forces Network (AFN), whose signal would drift in and out, often right in the middle of a song I really, really loved. As for Luxembourg  it was Top 10 mush with lots of ads for things I didn’t want to buy. But that isn’t to say that Caroline was free from crap. It was going through its “Loving Awareness” thing. Don’t ask me what it was about, all I know was it sounded a bit quasi-Eastern and they plugged the fuck out of it.  Music wasn’t portable as it is now and most of the FM band was a hiss – especially out in the sticks – which meant that most, if not all, stations were on Medium Wave (AM for the Yanks and Canucks reading this) with its crackles, pops, splashes and heterodyne whistles. BBD was, in truth, Bill Nelson’s project and it was he who wrote and sang the songs and played a pretty fine guitar.

The “prog rock” label has been retrospectively attached to BBD for no other reason that the musicianship of the band was superb and Nelson’s songs often used sci-fi imagery, but this is where the association with prog rock ends. The prog rock tag is the mark of the lazy hack. If BBD are prog rock, then so are Roxy Music and David Bowie. Following the release of Axe Victim, their first album, they got tagged with “glam”, due its arrival towards the tail-end of that period. I suspect the reason for this was due to the fact that the band wore make-up, but so did everyone else. Truth be told, they were a little hard to pigeon-hole.

This is “Jet Silver and the Dolls of Venus” (a turn on Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars?), a single taken from Axe Victim. it’s a straightforward rock track that owes a lot to Bowie, in terms of its sonics and captures the Zeitgeist of glam.

The line-up that produced this song would be dissolved by the restless Nelson, who felt frustrated with being pigeon-holed by the music press and wanted to take his ideas in a new direction.  He recruited Simon Fox on drums, keyboardist Milton Reame-James with Paul Jeffreys completing the line-up on bass but the latter two left the band before an album could be recorded and were replaced by Charlie Tumahai on bass and Andy Clarke on the ivories for the live shows. He would join the band full time for Sunburst Finish a year later.

Here they are playing “Maid in Heaven” from Futurama on the Old Grey Whistle Test.

This song along with “Ships in the Night” and “Bring Back the Spark” would be compiled into the Hot Valves EP.  The thing I like about “Ships in the Night” is its reggae vibe but there’s more to it than that. Like the artist he is, Nelson paints a collage of sound: he blends the reggae with the rock and adds some jazz and classic to complete the picture.

Here’s BBD playing “Ships in the Night” on Popquiz.

In 1976, I can remember reading in the NME that Tumahai, a New Zealander, had issues with his work permit, and was told to leave Britain which meant the band’s existence was potentially under threat. Charlie eventually won his case and was permitted to live and work in the UK but this was after a great deal of struggle that saw him having to live in France while the problem was resolved.

In Crying to the Sky, Nelson’s guitar literally weeps (eat your heart out George Harrison!).

The band’s second album of 1976 was Modern Music, which spawned this title track; a most gorgeous suite of songs.

This album was released just as punk was beginning to stir and this prompted a change in Nelson’s musical direction by the time of Drastic Plastic in 1978, but instead of going for three-chord thrash, he makes more use of synths, which most punks rejected, the instrumentation is more understated and Nelson’s use of guitar tends to be modest. It’s around this time that synthesizers are getting smaller and therefore becoming cheaper. Sheffield bands like Cabaret Voltaire and the Human League are also beginning to attract attention. This happened a full two years before Gary Numan’s “Are Friends Electric”?

This is “Electrical Language”, taken from BBD’s final album, Drastic Plastic, released in 1978.

From the same LP, this is “Panic in the World”.  It’s proper post-punk…well, maybe New Wave.

At the time of Drastic Plastic’s release, the real prog rock bands were quickly disappearing up their own jacksies. ELP was riding high in the charts with the flabby “Fanfare for the Common Man”, while Yes, who’d welcomed back Rick Wakeman and his collection of capes the year before, released their turgid LP Tormato.  They were getting stuck in the past, while Nelson was blazing ahead. In 1978,  BBD was dissolved  for the last time and Nelson formed Red Noise. With them, he released one album, Sound on Sound, which spawned two singles, “Furniture Music” and “Revolt Into Style”.  The groundwork for Sound on Sound had been done with Drastic Plastic, this is “Furniture Music”.

Ever restless, Nelson would dissolve Red Noise and go solo. He continues to perform and holds an annual festival called “Nelsonica”. He also makes 5 albums a year!

I recently learned that Nelson had also been ripped off by his record label, EMI and his manager. The judgement is here.

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Filed under Popular music, Society & culture