Monday, December 08, 2008

Waiting Books

I have a big list of books to read. Most of the books are sitting in piles around my study. Waiting to be read. Waiting to be picked up and read. Mostly just waiting.

Recent acquisitions include:

The Magna Carta Manifesto: Liberties and Commons for All by Peter Linebaugh.

The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz.

Terrorism and Communism by Leon Trotsky with a preface by H N Brailsford and foreword by Slavoj Zizek.

Getting round to reading them. Slowly. Reading.

Test Department

Last weekend we went to London. In Rough Trade in Brick Lane we rediscovered Test Department's soundscape "The Unacceptable Face of Freedom".

I saw them do an Anti Apartheid Benefit in Wolverhampton in February 1987. They could only do an afternoon gig. That it snowed and there was a demo in town protesting the police killing of Clinton McCurbin in Next meant there were only about 20 people who braved the demo and the weather to see the band. They had the brilliant Sarah-Jane Morris guesting on vocals. Still one of the best gigs I have ever been to.

Here's some Test Department, but not from The Unacceptable Face of Freedom.

Couldn't get the sound to work. If you get any sound do let me know.

Stuckism in IT

Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues again, or stuck trying to move a 240 gig database from an AIX server to a Windows server.

It's depressing doing a cross platform migration of Oracle databases especially where the table that's essential to our users is almost 200 gig and indivisible by design. And the export runs for two days and bombs out.

Our users only have to use the damn thing as a read only data source for 8 hours on Sunday while our computer centre temporarily has no power or communication links. And the pace of the export is like a sleeping tortoise walking through mud.

The reasons we have to struggle to put our production system on a Windows box and not use our disaster recovery site are too technical to list here but forward planning and infrastructure development are two reasons.

Sometimes I hate technology. The sheer monotony of it. Waiting. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better. And our emergency duty team of social workers will have an application to work with on sunday.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Psychoanalyse This

I found a psychoanalysing tool for blogs (via Coffee Shop Philosophy). The analysis gives a Myers-Briggs personality type.

It seems this blog is an ISTP - The Mechanics.
The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment are masters of responding to challenges that arise spontaneously. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.

The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.
Now I know it's all about the writing and not the author (rumours of the death of the author are greatly exaggerated) but most of the description also applies to the author. Most but not all. The final sentence, "They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters" is a no, no, no when it comes to the life of the author.

ISTPs are sometimes described as Crafter Artisans,
"introverts, [but] authoritarian in their interactions with others and .. forceful at influencing people. They focus on accomplishing tasks efficiently and skillfully.

To master the tool of their interest, ISTPs require a certain degree of seclusion in which to practice. The result is often a virtuosity that other types find difficult to match."
It seems that DSTPFW is also ISTP.

And it seems that Rullsenberg is ESTP - The Doers, also described as Promoter Artisans. ESTPs are "hands-on learners who live in the moment, seeking the best in life, wanting to share it with their friends." Strikes me as like Rullsenberg.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Billy Bragg at Rock City

Wednesday night I rushed with Rullsenberg to town to get tickets to see Billy Bragg.

He plays his guitar. He points out some pissed trouble makers. He carries on playing his guitar and singing in that Billy Bragg way. I am the milkman of human kindness. I will leave an extra pint. Chorus sung by the audience. [Corrected]

As Swiss Toni recounts
He chastised people who want to "throw piss" over the hope generated by Obama's election in the USA and suggested that although he is going to disappoint us over some things, at the moment he represents possibility above everything else and we should embrace that. The last time he played Rock City, he told us, was the night before the General Election in 1997, when the Labour party finally swept the hated Tory regime aside. No matter how much we felt that the Labour Government had let us down (I doubt all that many tories attend Bragg gigs), we had to gear ourselves up for another election next year because a Labour government still represents possibilities that we would not have if the Conservatives get back into power.
Half way through the show his voice started to go (you at the back, I heard you say, how could anyone tell) so he drank a mug of Throat Coat tea, "guaranteed to get you singing in tune", or so he said.

The encore was A New England with the audience singing the chorus - "I'm not looking for a new England, I'm just looking for another girl".

Politics. Tunes. Singalong. Is there any more you want from a night out in Nottingham?

Brendan Barber and Golden Balls

Meeting the Treasury Select Committee the other day Brendan Barber, head of the TUC, criticised the pay, and bonues, of bankers. Fine. A good thing.

Then Barber put his feet firmly in his mouth by speaking up for multi-million salaries paid to premier league football players:
"the remuneration paid to David Beckham is part of a system which does not apply to the rest of the human race"
No. Footballers' pay should be no different to the pay of everyone else. No special cases. Sure some people are better at their job than other people but that does not warrant a vast differential in salaries.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Leaked List of Johnsonian Scoundrels

There's a leaked list of Johnsonian scoundrels floating about, or, to be blunter, there's a list of names and addresses of fascist BNP members floating about.

It's likely to be taken down soon but as of 10pm on Tuesday 18th November 2008 it's available at

Most of the entries are just name, address, phone number, and possibly email address. But then there are those that describe hobbies and interests, and sometimes those interests are a tad bizarre.

Here's an, anonymised, example of hobbies and interests:
Tour guide ([XXXX] Cathedral). Writer for local paper (church/village history). Runs a Christian singing group. Vegan/supporter of organic produce. Members of the Woodland Trust, National Trust, VIVAI, Anglican Society, Open Doors, British Israel World Federation.
oh, and being an activist in the fascist B*N*P.
Being curiouser than Alice, I looked up the British Israel World Federation. I thought it was a Victorian relic of Empire that had long since passed the way of the Primrose League and the Economic League. How wrong could I be. It even has a website.

Apparently they believe that some (go on and guess what sort of people they believe this applies to) people in Britain are descendents of the lost tribe of Israel and the country is thereby blessed by the spaghetti monster (or G_d or sky bully or non-existent entity).

I bet this fascist read the Da Vinci Code.

Friday, November 14, 2008

East meets West

Terminology collides with geography.

This annoys the ever brilliant xkcd as well.

Sunday, November 09, 2008


Talking. It's what makes the world go round. Here's the brilliant Studs Terkel in conversation.

[ Via Linda Grant. ]

Sound of Colour

Simon Hoggart makes the outrageous, racist and daft point that "[Obama] does not even sound black".

How does "black" sound? How does "white" sound? Is this just Hoggart saying that Obama does not sound how Hoggart imagines "black" people speak? Or is there something else to this?

Does Hoggart think all "black" people sound the same? Does Hoggart think all "white" people sound the same? Does Hoggart think there's a range of voices that are "black" and a range of voices that are "white"?

Individual people have a voice. That voice is a product of geography, society and education. Even if you could make statements about a group having a common accent, or dialect, is it fair to argue that someone without that accent is outwith the group? I think it's only fair if the sole definition of the group is that it is made up of people who all talk the same way.

Hoggart's statement is muddled and nonsensical and capable of racist interpretation.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Galbraith Centenary

One hundred years ago a wise and witty economist, JK Galbraith, was born on the shores of Lake Ontario.

There's a good appreciation of Galbraith by a Black Country Bloke.

In the Affluent Society, Galbraith wrote:
People are the common denominator of progress. So... no improvement is possible with unimproved people, and advance is certain when people are liberated and educated. It would be wrong to dismiss the importance of roads, railroads, power plants, mills, and the other familiar furniture of economic development.... But we are coming to realize... that there is a certain sterility in economic monuments that stand alone in a sea of illiteracy. Conquest of illiteracy comes first".
Read more. Read widely. Read wisely.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Backstage with Obama

Obama prepping to go into the gladiatorial debating chamber!

Propaganda or Political Commercials

Party political broadcasts in the UK have always seemed dull.

Here's a chance to see some really dull political broadcasts from the USA. But some of them have a historical resonance.

Political broadcasting all the way from 1952 to 2008.

Here's one from 1968.

It's an analysis, of sorts, of why Spiro Agnew for Vice-President appeared as unlikely as Sarah Palin.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Banning Books Is a Bad Thing

This blog holds it to be a self-evident truth that banning books is a bad thing.

If Sarah Palin has her way it could be the hottest thing in town (as hot as Fahrenheit 451).

Inevitability and Reasons Not To Be Cheerful

Somethings seem so inevitable that they just cannot not happen. Like Wolverhampton Wanderers getting promoted to the Premier League; like Labour winning the election in 1992; like Obama becoming the next President of the United States of America.

Okay, the first two examples are not particularly good ones. Just suppose McCain wins. That'll take one hell of a lot of explaining. The map of the USA will have to be redrawn: red states, blue states and totally racist states. I could see how, if you're a right-wing diehard Republican, you could vote McCain and Palin. If you're not a rabid Republican pitbull then why would you do that? McCain stands for the same old Republican voodoo-economics. Palin stands for a belief in the victory of old certainties and old prejudices. But some of the media coverage, like that coming from Pox News, has been racist, appealing to the worst characteristics of the worst, unprogressive sector of the electorate. For Obama to lose with poll ratings like this would be a death blow to the poll industry.

Anyway, Slate magazine has "A McCain Victory Survival Kit", subtitled "A just-in-case guide for reporters just in case Obama collapses." By Jack Shafer

I'm just waiting for the fat lady to sing.

[Via PooterGeek]


One of Rullsenberg's favourite children's books is The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961).

In the Family supplement to this Saturday's Grundie was a review, by Lucy Mangan, of The Phantom Tollbooth. If you haven't read it, it recounts a tale of a country, the Kingdom of Wisdom, two capital cities Dictionopolis and Digitopolis
The cities are governed by two warring brothers who banished the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason from the land, after they were asked to adjudicate between the merits of words and numbers and refused to accord one more importance than the other. Since then, the kingdom has descended into chaos.
The story seeks to resolve this conflict by a newcomer to the kingdom.

Anyway, the book was ilustrated by Jules Feiffer.

And, then, what do I read, but a review of cartoons by Jules Feiffer, from 1956 to 1966.

It's not some plan. It's just the sheer connectedness of everything that makes this world interesting, and, like, totally random.

Drawing Against National Socialism and Terror

Will draws my attention to a good exhibition of the work of Arthur Szyk at the Deutsches Historisches Museum in Berlin.

Here's a Szyk image, Freedom From Fear (1942).

Arthur Szyk - Freedom From Fear - drawing

Here's Anti-Christ (1942)

Arthur Syzk - Anti-Christ (1942) shows Hitler as the Anti-Christ

And here's a review of the Szyk exhibition from the New York Times.

And here's the Syzk online exhibition.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Marx and Money

You can get a money box that looks like an old leather bound copy of Das Kapital.

Somewhere for bankers to put their stolen bonuses.

A house is a place to live

It's not an investment. It's a place to hang your hat. It's a place to keep your books. It's a place to keep your clothes. It's a place to eat. It's a place to sleep. It's a place to make love. It's a place to have fun. It's a place to be happy. It's a place to be sad. It is not an investment. Or as Charlie Brooker puts it:
For years, money was just appearing from nowhere, or so we were told. People bought houses and bragged about how the value kept zooming up, and up, and up. In fact they didn't seem to be houses at all, but magic coin-shitting machines. It was all a dream, a dream in which you bought a box and lived in it, and all the time it generated money like a cow generates farts. Great big stinking clouds of money. And none of it was real. And now it's gone.
All that was never real melts into a big cloud of nothingness.


Governments all the world over fly to the rescue of banks. Are bankers grateful? You betcha (to borrow a phrase from Ned Flanders). More money for them to pilfer from the till.
Financial workers at Wall Street's top banks are to receive pay deals worth more than $70bn (£40bn), a substantial proportion of which is expected to be paid in discretionary bonuses, for their work so far this year - despite plunging the global financial system into its worst crisis since the 1929 stock market crash,
Thieving bastards.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Curry and Economics

It turns out that the great bank rescue plan was powered by curry.

Anticipating the long and tense night ahead for him and his team, Darling had taken matters in hand at 8.30pm, personally ringing one of his favourite restaurants, Gandhi's in Kennington, south London, to order £245 worth of rice, karahi lamb, tandoori chicken, vegetable curry and aloo gobi.
From the article it's difficult to work out how many people were there. Eleven named and one unnamed, and probably note takers and support staff. Was £245 enough curry?

Would the government have got a better result if they had ordered some naan?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Miami Five

Not a mash-up of Hawaii-5-0 and CSI Miami but the five Cubans held in the United States for nothing more than informing the FBI of plans of terrorist attacks on Cuba.
The five are Gerardo Hernández, Antonio Guerrero, Ramón Labañino, Fernando González and René González.

This is the Miami 5 page from the Cuba Solidarity Campaign.
But instead of arresting the terrorists, the FBI used the information to identify and arrest the Five anti-terrorists on September 12, 1998 in Miami, where they were illegally held in solidarity confinement for 17 months.
A miscarriage of justice

The trial began in November 2000 in Miami, a hugely hostile environment where the anti-Castro Cuban-American community wields enormous political influence.

Defence attorneys’ motions for a change of venue were denied five times by the judge, although it was obvious that a fair trial was impossible in the city.

During the trial, the judge, prosecution and US government officials suppressed defence evidence and ensured key witnesses would not testify.

Despite intimidation of witnesses by the press and testimonies by prominent US officials that the Five had not accessed any classified documents, the jury reached a unanimous guilty verdict on all charges, without once seeking clarification of any evidence.

The Five were convicted on charges ranging from being foreign agents to conspiracy to commit murder, and sentenced to between fifteen years and double life.
For opposing terrorist acts on US soil the Miami Five were prosecuted in a strongly anti-Castro and anti-Cuban government city and given sentences of more than fifteen years with little chance of parole. That evokes mental pictures of justice dispensed by a bouncing kangaroo.

Cuba is not a socialist paradise. Amnesty International in its 2008 Report cited:
Restrictions on freedom of expression, association and movement remained severe. At least 62 prisoners of conscience remained imprisoned and political dissidents, independent journalists and human rights activists continued to be harassed, intimidated and detained.
Many of the dissidents were convicted of "social dangerousness" which is defined as "proclivity to commit a crime". This "crime" carries a sentence of up to four years in prison. Further penalties include “therapeutic treatment”, “re-education” or “surveillance by the Revolutionary National Police”.

All that stands against Cuba as a socialist Eden. Many things are good in Cuba: the increasing use of cooperative farms; the (albeit forced by circumstances) recycling of materials from cars to fridges. As the country moves from a central party dominated culture to trusting its people to act and work independently of the party things will improve.

The lifting of the embargo by the United States government will lessen the control over the economy of the party and government, giving more decisons to be made by the people of Cuba.

Free the Five!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Greenspan and Revolution

A year ago Alan Greenspan was quoted by the FT (on 17th September 2007) as saying that "Profits are much higher than they should be in a world of ever intensifying global competitition". He managed an accounting explanation for this by saying that "workers compensation in the USA and other developed nations is unusually low by historical standards".

An economics explanation was lacking but he did say that real compensation parallels real productivity in the long run, but not now and, here's the killer, if wages for the average worker do not rise quickly "political support for free markets may be undermined".

So even the ex Chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve sees that the acts of capitalists threaten the existence of capitalism.

As the man said, "sometimes even the Chairman of the Federal reserve has to stand naked".

[ This is borrowed from Ken Coates's introductory essay the The Spokesman 97, Brown Studies, published earlier this year, see Spokesman Books]

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Miserabilism and Emil Cioran

When international finance capitalism is falling willingly into the hands of governments you know it must be up shit creek without a paddle.

There is a mood of pessimism in the air, and, to quote Gramsci, it's not just "pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will" pervading the ether.

Once upon a time I had a thing for the writing of EM Cioran. His aphorisms have an almost beautiful streak of pessimism. Witness "Basis of society: anonymous sweat" or "We are afraid of the enormity of the possible".

Unfortunately in the 1930s and 1940s he, like the Daily Mail, admired a chap called Hitler.

Shalom Auslander has been reading a book of Cioran's.
This week Shalom read EM Cioran's The Trouble with Being Born: "Imagine the worst mood you've ever had, and now imagine there's someone for whom that mood would be the best mood they ever had. Now imagine they wrote a book."
That's a good summary but somehow it fails to describe the despairing beauty of Cioran's aphorisms.

Several years ago we were in a pub in the Bloomsbury fringe. Someone came round putting out notices saying that the research notes of a friend's six year study into Cioran had been stolen from a car and asking had anyone seen the notes which were worthless to anyone but the student. There is something beautifully tragic about a study into Cioran ending in despair; but I do hope the student recovered to submit their thesis.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Who Gives to Which Political Organisation

Just found a site that records donations to the United State's political parties.

You can search on names, like Stipe, and find that R.E.M.'s singer donated $2,300 to the Obama for America Political Action Committee.

With patience you may be able to find out something important. It helps if the person you are searching for has an uncommon name. Searching for a name like Moore gives over 300 pages.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Every Child Matters As Long As It's Not An Asylum Seeker

The United Kingdom is a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. All fair and nice cuddly politics. Now the UK has a general reservation against the UN Convention on Rights of the Child. That means the UK can ignore the Convention in pursuit of its border control and immigration targets. That strikes me as being wrong, unjust, unethical, immoral and just an all round bad thing.

The Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture argues
The general reservation states that: "The United Kingdom reserves the right to apply such legislation, in so far as it relates to the entry into, stay in and departure from the UK of those who do not have the right under the law of the UK to enter and remain in the UK, and to the acquisition and possession of citizenship, as it may deem necessary from time to time."

The question is timely, 2008 being the year that the Committee on the Rights of the Child will scrutinise the UK's record of compliance with its Children's Convention obligations.

So how does the reservation affect child survivors of torture? According to the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA), it "allows the UK to apply its immigration laws without having them interpreted in light of the UN Convention". In other words, it allows blanket discrimination against foreign national children in the interests of so called "effective immigration control".
So the UK government discriminates, in contravention of the Convention, against children who may be survivors, or witnesses, of torture just so that it can meet its immigration targets That is managerial target-setting entering the door and throwing ethics and morality out of the window. Such is the reign of managerialism in the UK in 2008.

As the Medical Foundation says
It is paramount to send a clear message that the UK finally recognises its full responsibilities by formally and publicly removing the reservation. An act which at least for children would be every bit as important as the coming in to force of the Human Rights Act 1998.

For Medical Foundation clients and all other children who have suffered serious harm, Article 39 of the Convention can then be demonstrably implemented to the fullest effect: "States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to promote physical and psychological recovery and social reintegration of a child victim of: any form of neglect, exploitation, or abuse; torture or any other form of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or armed conflicts. Such recovery and reintegration shall take place in an environment which fosters the health, self-respect and dignity of the child."
And, as the government keeps telling us, Every Child Matters. So, make it so.


The BBC is reporting that the UK government intends to sign the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in full. About bloody time.

Liberty, Equality and Fraternity But Don't Invite The French

With all the coverage and reminiscences of 1968 and the discussion of the revolutionary moment and the glories of spontaneity, I was surprised to find someone berating the pace and the lack of preparation of the participants.

A correspondent to Peace News, 2497, May 2008 writes
The French are known for their failed revolutions. This time in 1968, having done nothing to educate the people or communicate with the trade unions, they went through a revolutionary charade producing excellent poetry but resulting in the complete defeat of anarchist nonviolent aspiration throughtout the world.

The French activists had no right to spoil years and years of work towards a universal understanding of the tasks in front of us, to create a worldwide peaceful society without rulers."

Publisher, 77, London
As my old five-a-side captain used to say Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance and Preempts Post Revolutionary Pangs of Passion for a Glorious Failure. And the P's ran away with it.

Tax The Rich Until The Pips Squeak

I've just discovered that Denis Healey never said he would "tax the rich until the pips squeak". There's one illusion shattered. But back in the heady days of glam rock in 1973, at the Labour Party conference he did say "I warn you that there are going to be howls of anguish from those rich enough to pay over 75% on their last slice of earnings".

In Tribune, 11th July 2008, Paul Anderson wrote the government should increase personal allowances and pay for it by introducing a 60% tax rate on incomes over £200,000 and abolishing the upper earnings limit national insurance. The income figure of £200,000 was chosen so as not to frighten the middle classes, but is in danger of being useless as so few people earn that figure and pay tax.

According to HMRC, in tax year 2005-6 99% of tax payers earned less than £132,00. So there are probably less than 2 in a thousand people earning more than £200,000. Is it worth having a 60% tax rate on such a small number of tax payers? How much tax do those on such high incomes actually pay and how much do the avoid and how much do they evade?

It's either sending out a signal or it's a tax to generate income for the treasury but it's not really doing both.

After writing this post based on his Tribune piece I find this Swiftian polemic on his blog, Gauche.
1. An increase in personal allowances to take everyone on £10,000 a year or less out of income tax altogether.

2. Introduction of new top-rate income tax of 60 per cent for everyone earning more than £60,000, 80 per cent on £80,000-plus and 100 per cent on £100,000 or more.

3. Standardisation of national insurance rates so everyone pays the same percentage on every penny of income above £5,000.

4. An end to all non-dom privileges.

5. A council tax revaluation with abolition of bands and a straightforward proportional relationship between value and payment, so households in £10m homes pay 100 times what a household in a £100,000 home pays.

6. Abolition of inheritance tax up to £500,000 and introduction of 100 per cent inheritance tax over £1m.
That's more like it but I'd still debate the amounts.

Happiness of the People

Over the summer I have been working, relaxing at festivals and generally not writing as much as I should. It's now time to catch up.

Last weekend I was going through some old copies of Tribune and various other journals and spotted this piece by Bryan Rostron in Tribune 27 June 2008, p13,(available online at Mail and Guardian), on Stalinism and the ANC.

In his epic novel, Life and Fate, Russian author Vasily Grossman tried to explain the slavishness of "party-mindedness" and the acquiescence of once brave revolutionaries who kept quiet as Stalinism took hold. "Fear alone cannot achieve all this," he wrote. "It was the revolutionary cause itself that freed people from morality in the name of morality, that justified today's pharisees, hypocrites and writers of denunciations in the name of the future, that explained why it was right to elbow the innocent into the ditch in the name of the happiness of the people."

How else to explain that not one of Mbeki's ministers took issue with his Aids denialism? Minister of Health Manto Tshabalala-Msimang even trained at a Soviet institute influenced by Stalin's lauded agronomist, Trofim Lysenko, who applied Marxist dogma to biology with disastrous results. "Perhaps," observed James Wilmot, "this is why she does not appear to understand how the genetics of retroviral co-evolution works."

Grossman, famous for his war reporting from Stalingrad, witnessed the corruption of Stalinism from within. His great, breathtaking novel was published only in 1980, after his death, yet Grossman also captured something of what is going on in South Africa today: "The hide was being flayed off the still living body of the Revolution so that a new age could slip into it; as for the red, bloody meat, the steaming innards -- they were being thrown on to the scrap-heap. The new age needed only the hide of the Revolution -- and this was being flayed off people who were still alive. Those who then slipped into it spoke the language of the revolution and mimicked its gestures, but their brains, lungs, livers and eyes were utterly different."
So goes the revolution as the baton passes to those who only hear tales of how the revolution was won from those who lived its adventures.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

England Lions v South Africa

Today I went to Grace Road, Leicester, to see England Lions play South Africa at cricket.

On the train over I happened to sit in the quiet carriage on the train. I was quiet until a passenger phoned a friend and recounted all about his holiday and his windsurfing fun and games. He was on a train to London. But he wasn't stopping in London. He was off to Richmond to speak to Jamie Redknapp and Scott Parker (whoever they are).

I took a taxi from the train station and got dropped off by the Cricketers pub. But where was the entrance to the ground? Behind an unmarked black garden gate was an alley that lead to the entrance. If some other people weren't heading in that direction I would never have found the ground.

Inside the ground I met my friends and we watched England bat. Robert Key scored a creditable 51 but that apart there was a reckless abandon of wickets. England were all out for 184 inside the 50 overs.

Herschelle Gibbs played a good innings for 81 to lead South Africa to a convincing victory despite some disappointing batting by his team mates.

On Saturday I'm off to Derby to see both teams battle it out again.

For a full match report of England Lions v South Africa at Leicester, see Cricinfo.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Olympic Spirit

Here's some videos from Amnesty.

False Start.



Citius. Altius. Fortius. Indeed.

Purges and Guilt

Owen Matthews' grandfather was Boris Lvovich Bibikov, a solid member of the Soviet Communist Part throughout the 1920s and 1930s. He was murdered by the NKVD in summer 1937.

Matthews describes how
Bibikov was no innocent caught by an evil and alien force beyond his comprehension. On the contrary, he was a propagandist, a fanatic of the new morality - the morality that now demanded his life, however pointlessly, for the greater good.
The men drawn to serve in the NKVD, in the famous phrase of its founder, Felix Dzerzhinsky, could either be saints or scoundrels. But they were not aliens, not foreigners, but men, Russian men, made of the same tissue and fed by the same blood as their victims. "Where did this wolf-tribe appear from among our own people?" asked Solzhenitsyn. "Does it really stem from our own roots? Our own blood? It is ours."

This was the true, dark genius behind the purge. Not simply to put two strangers into a room, one a victim, one an executioner, and convince one to kill the other, but to convince both that this murder served some higher purpose. This can happen only when a man becomes a political commodity, a unit in a cold calculation, his life and death to be planned and disposed of just like a ton of steel or a truckload of bricks. This, without doubt, was Bibikov's belief. He lived by it and died by it.
And so it goes. And so it goes. For the greater glory ...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Life, Art and A Priest

A priest in Lourdes has been found with a large amount of money in his bank account. He is rumoured to have gone for the "the money is just resting in my account defence".

Italian Fascism

There's an excellent post over at DSTPFW on the rise of Fascism and the disgusting treating of Roma and Gypises in Italy.

My Italian not being what it should be, Babelfish tells me the poster says "For greater emergency you offer a finger to Maroni" (Maroni is the Italian Interior Minister, and leader of the anti immigrant Northern League, responsible for a planned census of Roma and a much criticized plan to fingerprint Roma children).

Never forget. Don't let it happen anywhere.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Zimbabwe and the UK's Caring Border Agency

The Observer reports on Britain's reprehensible attack on Zimbabwean refugees and asylum seekers. "Britain is forcing as many as 11,000 Zimbabweans seeking refuge here to make a stark choice between destitution or returning home to possible torture or death". Why are refugees and asylum seekers forbidden from working? It's almost as if immigration policy and asylum is biased towards the independently wealthy. That couldn't possibly be the case under a Labour government. Tell me I'm wrong.

As the Observer reports
A UK Border Agency spokeswoman said that, although the agency was sending out letters ordering failed Zimbabwean asylum seekers to return home, it had no plans to start forced removals. 'We always seek to assist anyone who wishes to return,' she said.
So there are no plans for early morning raids and the barbarity of forced removals, just give people the option: living in the UK with no financial or social support or return to Zimbabwe. That's not putting people in shit creek without a paddle, is it? Crap choice one, or crap choice two. Isn't the Border Agency wonderful? Make life so intolerable in the UK that anywhere seems better. Wonderful.

You can read the official UK Border Agency Operational Guidance Note (OGN) on the state of Zimbabwe here Zimbabwe OGN.

It's full of descriptions of what someone has to show to remain in the UK. If they do not show what is required then they can be deported back to Zimbabwe. They may get returned from whence they came. If they're lucky they may be "internally relocated" in Zimbabwe.

Someone sitting in a comfortable office in the UK makes a decision on the condition of Zimbabwe and threats to another person's life and liberty. That hardly seems the actions of a government that believes in fairness, justice, internationalism, international law, and the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

The OGN "provides guidance on whether or not an individual making a claim is likely to face a real risk of persecution, unlawful killing or torture or inhuman or degrading treatment/ punishment". A liberal interpretation of this notice would make almost any claimant successful - and I think that's a good thing. However the likelihood is the interpretation is anything but liberal.

Section 3.6 looks at members of the MDC and states:
3.6.6 Internal relocation. Where the ill-treatment or persecution feared is at the hands of the state itself and the threat is credible, relocation to a different part of the country to escape this threat is not feasible.

3.6.7 Where the threat is from local ZANU-PF activists or locally based war veterans so that the claimant is at risk in their home area, the question of whether internal relocation is a reasonable option must in each case be considered on its merits taking into account the fact that there is a network of information available to ZANU-PF and war veterans.
3.6.9 Conclusion. Each case must be decided on its individual facts to determine whether a particular applicant is at risk, and, if they are, whether internal relocation is available. MDC activists who are able to establish that their political activities will mean that they are of serious adverse interest to the present regime in Zimbabwe will have a well-founded fear of persecution. It is unlikely that they will be able to relocate internally, and therefore it is likely that a grant of asylum will be appropriate.

3.6.10 Not all MDC activists, supporters or members will be able to show that they are known to the authorities or ZANU-PF activists or war veterans. For example, taking part in mass demonstrations, or being assaulted in random violence associated with the demonstration, is unlikely to result in an ongoing interest. It is therefore unlikely that such individuals would be able to demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution, and even if they could do so in their home area, internal relocation may be available. Where this is a feasible option for the individual and would not be unreasonable, such a claim will not warrant a grant of asylum or Humanitarian Protection.

3.6.11 However, where a low level activist, supporter or member is able credibly to show that their activities have resulted in them personally coming to the serious adverse attention of the authorities, ZANU-PF etc., they may be able to demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution. Such a person would not be able to rely on the protection of the state and it is unlikely that that they would be able to relocate internally, therefore it is likely that a grant of asylum will be appropriate.
My reading of that is that all a Zimbabwean has to do is plead membership of the MDC and "demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution" and they qualify for "asylum or Humanitarian Protection". Now what is the bar set to on "demonstrating a well-founded fear of persecution". Does the Border Agency require videos of threats? Written death threats?

The UK government cannot say that the situation is intolerable in Zimbabwe but we are sending thousands of people back anyway, without coming across as total bastards.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Tesco Rhymes with Alfresco Rhymes With Fiasco

One of our local centres, Beeston, is about to see the construction of a megalith. Sorry, that should read, a great big monstrosity of a Tesco. To clear the site they have demolished several shops, a pub and a garage and devastated a corner of the town.

A protest campaign has started led by the Church of the Militant Elvis Anti-Tesco Popular Front. Their manifesto begins:
Our candidate is fed up with Tesco wrecking Beeston town centre and putting small shopkeepers out of business. If elected he will do all he can to stop the relentless expansion of this corporate monster because at this rate by 2010 there will more Tesco's in Britain than Elvis impersonators.
Will Tesco just leave us alone? Or are they really bent on total domination of every bloody high street? When will they stop? Rapacious capitalist bastards.

[Via Liam]

Friday, June 27, 2008

Testimonies of Torture

June 26th is the UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

To mark the day B'selem and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel have put together a video of "David Senesh, an Israeli soldier who was held hostage by the Egyptian army, and Amjad Abu Salhah, a Palestinian who was arrested by Israel, describe the methods of torture to which they were subjected and their long-lasting influence."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Night Wraps The Sky

There is a new book out that looks at the work of Vladimir Mayakovsky. It's called "Night Wraps the Sky: Writings by and About Mayakovsky" and it is edited by Michael Almereyda.

There was a public performance earlier this year which you can listen to.

And here's the cover:

I'll be ordering it.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Broken Records and Twilight Sad

Last night we went out to see Twilight Sad and support.

The first support was a rather competent and earnest singer song-writer playing his acoustic songs about former girlfriends. What the world does not need is another singer song-writer bewailing his former lovers.

Then onto a stage the size of a dining table came the seven piece Broken Records. Drums, bass, 2 guitars, keyboards, violin and cello. Then they started. Echoes of the Waterboys. Echoes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Echoes of Arcade Fire. Awesome. Inspiring.

Then came the headliners Twilight Sad. Noisy. Energetic. Moody. Inspired by Joy Division. The lead singer is very inspired by the spirit of Ian Curtis. The potential is all there to be a very good band. The singer should be himself more and drop the Ian Curtis performance style.

Here's Rullenberg's take on the proceedings (and here as well).

Make your own mind up.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Coming and Not Going

Mark Haddon visits the Migrants Resource Centre and meets some interesting people.

According to official statistics, from the Home Office, which, by the way, says it is building a safe, just and tolerant society, the UK "removed" 3,025 asylum seekers in the first three months of 2008.
For the first quarter of 2008, the number of principal asylum applicants removed was 2,805, 13 per cent lower than in the first quarter of 2007 (3,205). Including dependants, a total of 3,025 asylum seekers were removed in the first quarter of 2008, 14 per cent lower than in the first quarter of 2007 (3,515). In 2007/08, 12,125 principal applicants were removed from the UK, 19 per cent lower than in 2006/07 (15,050). Including dependants, 13,100 asylum seekers were removed in 2007/08, 22 per cent lower than in 2006/07 (16,710).
Those statistics were brought you by the Home Office, which, by the way, is saying it is building a safe, just and tolerant society.

The Home Office, which is saying it is building a safe, just and tolerant society, is still forcibly deporting about a thousand people a month.

A "safe", "just" and "tolerant" society for who, exactly?

Here's a video report on local communities making a "safe", "just" and "tolerant" society by supporting the right of asyum seekers to stay in this country. Here's the associated article on communities campaigning for the right to remain.

Just remember "no one is illegal".

Asylum in Sunderland

Just finished reading Bryan Talbot's magisterial Alice in Sunderland. It makes the case that Lewis Carroll's work was largely inspired by the scenery and history of Wearside and Sunderland. It also discusses the history of comics and the history of Sunderland - a city that gave the world the electric light-bulb and the stars and stripes.

Some bits work wonderfully - actually all bits are brilliantly done - the exception being the overlong discursive meander with a community crime writer and artist. But, hey, the book tries so much and everything can't work. Talbot is willing to wander and connect various themes. A final documentary section, graphics on lined paper, uses English, and Sunderland, history to support asylum seekers against prejudice (both the whipped up and innate sorts).

It's a massively inspired and wondrous work. They don't mackem like this anymore.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Principia Mathematica and Stupidity Rampant

The petulant Simon Jenkins regurgitates a hobby horse and writes that the study of mathematics is unneccessary for most people and "finance, marketing and design, on service activities" have fed Britain's booming economy which has led to more students studying finance, economics, psychology and other "soft" subjects instead of mathematics, science and engineering. Note that Jenkins picks "soft subjects" that all require an understanding and use of higher level mathematics.
What stimulates today's students is the realm of the creative imagination and the working of the marketplace. This spectrum, from English and drama to business and finance, seems benign both to individuals and to the economy. Students are not stupid. They know where money is to be made, which is why they flock to medicine among the sciences.
And there was me thinking the money was to be made as a quantitative analyst in a hedge fund. The piece is just so wrong I don't know where to begin and Jenkins gets a new one torn in the comments.

In the comments Professor Ross Anderson makes the equally egregiously wrong point that
I teach computer science at Cambridge, and we've found that students can't cope with our course unless they got an A in A level maths. Pretty much the same holds in engineering, economics, physics and chemistry - indeed across the schools of technology and physical science.
Stop and think through the statement "students can't cope with our course unless they got an A in A level maths". One would think that computer science students at Cambridge fit into one of two camps: those with A level maths at grade A (as with any other grade would you be at Cambridge?); and those who haven't studied A level maths. So the evidence comes out as "students can't cope with our course unless they [have] A level maths". So unless Cambridge is accepting students with Bs, Cs, Ds and Es in A level maths Anderson's point about an A grade being necessary lacks evidence and becomes "our course requires A level maths".

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Education, education and no right to leave the country

Societies thrive when all members are healthy, vibrant, active and reflective. Similarly my life is improved by the wellbeing of my neighbours. But that may just be me. Others may delight in the misfortunes of their neighbours. But not me.

Israel's future depends on a thriving Palestinian state. And a thriving state needs intelligent educated people. Students in Gaza have been given scholarships to study overseas. Some have been given Fulbright scholarships to study in the USA and others have places waiting at other institutions elsewhere.

I would have thought that it was in Israel's interest to let out all students with offers of places to study overseas. Well, after much protesting from the US State Department some of the Fulbright scholars have been allowed to proceed with their Israeli entry visa applications. Other students are not so fortunate.

At least two students have places in the UK. Wissam Abuajwa has a scholarship and a UK visa to study at Nottingham University; and Abir Abu Warda has a Ford Foundation-funded place at London Metropolitan University. Both of these students are appealing to the British government to support their applications for entry visas to Israel so they can leave the country.

In the Israeli High Court of Justice, Justice Elyakim Rubinstein is reported by the Jpost as saying that the ban is no less harmful to the Israeli interest because we have to live with the Palestinians in the future, too."

He warned that preventing students from accessing education "harms chances for some kind of coexistence."

The court case was run by Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, an Israeli non-profit organization.

Gisha say that Israel has refused to grant hundreds of requests by Gaza students for entry permits to Israel so that they can travel abroad to continue their studies. And Gisha further says
"the ban "is part of a policy of closure and collective punishment that is trapping 1.5 million civilians."

Gisha's briefing on Israel's ban on students, and others, leaving Gaza, is an informative document, that argues
according to the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Hague Conventions of 1907, which were designed to protect the rights of civilians in times of war and occupation, the State of Israel is obligated to protect the residents of Gaza, to allow them to live normal lives and to safeguard their rights. Also according to the Geneva Convention and the Hague Conventions, Israel must provide for the regular functioning of civil institutions in Gaza, including the school system and institutions of higher education.
The Fourth Geneva Convention and its First Additional Protocol prohibit the use of collective punishment.
Among the rights which the State of Israel is obligated to uphold for the residents of Gaza is the right to leave and reenter the Gaza Strip. The right of any person to leave a given territory, including the territory in which he or she lives, is protected by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Israel's policy of stopping students take up courses either in Israel or overseas is morally and legally wrong and is politically stupid.

By its actions Israel is building up a generation of disaffected intelligent young people with a rage against Israel for stopping them studying overseas *and* is also delaying the much needed economic growth of Gaza and Palestine.

That's a double whammy of bad consequences that comes from being politically inept and stupid.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Save the Nottingham One from Deportation

As someone said, when you are known by a number and the name of a place then you are in deep shit. Let me introduce you to Hicham Yezza. He was the "administrative officer" arrested at Nottingham University last week over the downloading of a freely available document.

As this Hicham Yezza campaign site puts it
Hicham has lived in Nottingham for 13 years while he studied for undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and worked at the university, where he has built up a large network of close friends. The huge campaign to prevent his deportation is a testament to this. He served as a member of the University Senate for two terms (2004-5) and on the Student’s Union Executive Committee, was President of the Arabic Society, was the editor of the influential Voice magazine for international students, and is the long-time editor of Ceasefire magazine, a political journal. He was a prominent member of the artistic group ‘Al-Zaytouna’, and weeks before his arrest performed the leading role in a feature play at Nottingham Arts Theatre. Numerous references have been collected from reputable professors and prominent members of the local and national community that testify to his integrity and strong roots in the city. He lives and works in Nottingham and has shown every intention of fighting his case, as he thinks he has excellent grounds to remain in the U.K.

Let's not forget that no-one is illegal. The UK immigration service is a racist organisation that deliberately seeks out to deport people who's only crime is to overstay a visa. Often these are solid members of communities doing all the things that governments admire: relocating for education and employment; becoming active citizens.

Deportation on the grounds of involvement in a download of "legitimate research material" is just morally wrong, irrespective of Hicham Yezza's "status".

Hicham Yezza must stay and the Immigration Service needs a solid reform if not total abolition.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Ban Cluster Bombs

There's a petition from Cluster Bombs org uk that seeks to ban cluster bombs. As they say
Cluster munitions, weapons that release several hundred smaller ‘bomblets’ when fired, pose an unacceptable danger to civilians both during and long after a conflict. Civilians constitute 98 % of cluster munitions casualties.

The UK currently stockpiles and exports cluster bombs.
Here are some basic facts:
* 98% of recorded casualties are civilians.
* 27% of casualties are children.
* 67% casualties are killed or injured in course of earning their livelihood.
* 24 countries and regions are affected by cluster munitions worldwide.
* 5% to 30% of cluster bombs fail to explode on impact.
* 34 countries produce at least 210 different types of cluster bombs and 73 countries stockpile cluster bombs.
* The UK currently stockpiles and exports cluster bombs and used them during the war in Iraq.

Handicap International calls for
* A ban on the production, use and transfer of cluster bombs
* A commitment from the UK government in favour of an international agreement on this ban
* The destruction of any existing stocks

Can you really support the use of a munition that goes on killing and maiming when the region is no longer at war?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Yesh Din

I've just found, probably years behind everyone else a source of news from Israel, with particular reference to Human Rights abuses: Yesh Din. Here's a news report:
Over the last year, “Yesh Din” has received a number of complaints of settlers seizing private Palestinian agricultural lands. Today “Yesh Din” exposes for the first time that a meeting was held after the signing of the Oslo Accords, in which senior figures among the northern West Bank settlements decided to take measures to expand into lands surrounding the settlements, although these lands were not under their jurisdiction. Under the method chosen for carrying out this plan, the local councils of settlements appointed individual settlers to seize plots outside their jurisdiction, restrict access to the Palestinian landowners of the plots, and after a few years demand that the army declare them ‘state lands.’ According to “Yesh Din's” information, in some of the cases the army did in fact agree to this demand and the lands were declared state lands and officially made part of the settlements. This method was exposed during discussions held by the military appeal committee in Ofer camp, while reviewing an appeal of a Civil Administration order submitted by Michael Lesence, a settler from Kedumim. Lesence was given an eviction order from a plot of land belonging to Palestinian residents of Qadum, after the local council agreed to “Yesh Din's” demand they do so. During the discussions over the appeal, the Kedumim Council’s land coordinator, Ze'ev Moshinsky, and a former Council security officer, Michael Bar Neder, both gave testimony. Both confirmed that the Kedumim Council's practice of seizing lands surrounding Kedumim was used to expand the settlement's municipal lands. Moshinsky confirmed that the meeting of senior figures from the northern West Bank settlements took place, and that it was decided to map and seize "uncultivated" plots surrounding the settlements. Moshinsky even confirmed that the Kedumim council had the settlers sent to man the plots sign contracts avowing that they would not claim ownership of them. Bar Neder confirmed that the objective was the turn the plots into state lands by designating them as lands in use by the settlements. According to Moshinsky and Bar Neder's testimonies, Kedumim seized at least seven plots, some of which have already been declared state lands and became part of the settlement. From “Yesh Din's” information and testimonies by army representatives at the appeal committee, it is revealed that a central component in the "method" is to forcefully prevent Palestinians from reaching their lands and therefore legally ensure the declaration of the plots as ‘state lands’ by claiming "non-cultivation." Over the last year “Yesh Din” received seven complaints by Palestinians of seizure of their lands through this method.

Ban Flechettes

Knee-jerk response time.

There may be a case for justifying some armaments. But don't expect me to make that case. How does anyone make a case for flechettes? Let's fire in an area and kill and maim people indiscriminately. There again, is discriminate killing and maiming ever justified? Ethics 101 I'll leave for now.

BT'Selem argue against flechettes:

Reuters cameraman Fadel Shana’a was killed by a Flechette shell. This is the result of B’Tselem’s investigation, as well as the results of Shana’a’s autopsy, as reported in the media. B’Tselem demands that the Israeli Army’s Judge Advocate General order the immediate cessation of the use of this prohibited weapon in the Gaza Strip, and open a criminal investigation of the event.

The flechette shell is an anti-personnel weapon that is generally fired from a tank. The shell explodes in the air and releases thousands of small metal darts, which disperse in a conical arch three hundred meters long and about ninety meters wide.
According to B’Tselem statistics, at least 18 Palestinians were killed over the past 7 years due to the use of Flechette shells. Of them, 11 did not participate in the hostilities when killed, 2 were taking part in the hostilities when killed, and as to the additional 5, B’Tselem does not know whether they participated in the hostilities.

Circumstances in the Gaza Strip render the use of Flechette shells illegal. This is because to the wide area of dispersal of the darts shot out of the Shell makes its use in populated areas a type of indiscriminate firing which endangers innocent civilians, in violation of international humanitarian law.

B’Tselem is continuing its investigation into other civilian deaths as part of yesterday’s events in Juhor a-Dik village, southeast of Gaza City.


I'm in Glasgow on a weeks's course.

On Monday saw Mike Leigh's entertaining Happy Go Lucky. It's not filled with conflict or action but it leaves you feeling up. The moments of emotional depth are when it deals with bullying - by a primary school kid and also the after effects of childhood bullying on the racist, conspiracy theorising driving instructor.

Channel 4 quotes Mike Leigh:
"It's important to reject the growing fashion to be miserabilist, the growing fashion to be pessimistic and gloomy because the world is in a bad way. Everywhere there are people on the ground getting on with it and being positive."
And says
Poppy is the incarnation of Gandhi's words, 'Be the change you want to see in the world.'

But what was most important was that I saw it in the coolest cinema: the Glasgow Film Theatre as featured in the opening chapter of the splendid Lanark (if I recall correctly) when Duncan Thaw meets his mates.

Tonight I'm off to see Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip. Get down with the Pipettes or whatever.

Monday, April 07, 2008


Here's Robert Burns' epitaph to his "ever honoured father".

O YE whose cheek the tear of pity stains,
Draw near with pious rev’rence, and attend!
Here lie the loving husband’s dear remains,
The tender father, and the gen’rous friend;
The pitying heart that felt for human woe,
The dauntless heart that fear’d no human pride;
The friend of man-to vice alone a foe;
For “ev’n his failings lean’d to virtue’s side.”


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Workplace Spying

Here's a tale of bosses spying on workers.
Lidl has been discovered spying on its staff. The German supermarket chain is accused of "Stasi methods". I find it irritating that the Grauniad, in its sometimes patronising way, thinks its readers require a reminder that the Stasi were the East German secret police. Note to Guardian: we are intelligent people and we know who the Stasi were.

The story says
The detectives' records include details of precisely where employees had tattoos as well as information about their friends. "Her circle of friends consists mainly of drug addicts," reads one record. The detectives also had the task of identifying which employees appeared to be "incapable" or "introverted and naive".
In the Czech Republic
A female worker was forbidden to go to the toilet during working hours. An internal memorandum, which is now the centre of a court case in the republic, allegedly advised staff that "female workers who have their periods may go to the toilet now and again, but to enjoy this privilege they should wear a visible headband".

Recording how a German employee identified as Frau M spent her break, one report read: "Frau M wanted to make a call with her mobile phone at 14.05 ... She received the recorded message that she only had 85 cents left on her prepaid mobile. She managed to reach a friend with whom she would like to cook this evening, but on condition that her wage had been paid into her bank, because she would otherwise not have enough money to go shopping."
It is just wrong that any employer should snoop into the private lives of its staff. These practices breach laws on freedom of movement and freedom of expression. What makes management believe they can override the rights of workers?
Lidl said "the purpose was "not to monitor staff, but to establish possible abnormal behaviour". So "establishing possible abnormal behaviour" makes snooping a legitimate management activity? What is "possible abnormal behaviour"? And could we have some more "abnormal behaviour".

Thursday, March 20, 2008

At First It Was A Rumour

Somewhere in Canary Wharf a chap in a three button single breasted Boss suit whispers to a colleague, wearing a double breasted Armani suit. "I say, I was having a drink at lunch with old Pongo. He said he knows someone who works as an accountant at HBOSH who told him that HBOSH is bust."

Armani suited chap says, "If HBOSH is bust then their shares will fall and we can sell short and clean up".

And that is just what three button single breasted Boss suit chap and double breasted Armani chap did.

These two chaps acted on inside information to trade in shares.

Unofficial information has to start somewhere. Any information about a company that is not a public announcement has to come from people either inside the company or from their associated advisors. That makes it inside information and trading on inside information is illegal.

What is the legality of acting on information you thought was inside information but was just a load of cockamamie airy fairy fantasy? Can Armani suited chap be prosecuted for insider trading?

And what is to be done with the whole rotten edifice of parasitic financial trading?

Sure, in a capitalist system there is a place for raising funds for worthwhile, and not so worthwhile, enterprises. But most trading is just a parasitic activity that benefits no-one bar the traders involved.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Jazz And A Monday Lunchtime

This Monday lunchtime I found myself in town. Buzzing in my head were some jazz riffs so I popped into a record store and decided to buy some jazz to fill the gaping lacunae in my cd collection.

Found a great cd Jutta Hipp with Zoot Sims.

Took a chance on someone I had never heard before. Got it home. Listened. And wow. It's moving. It's emotive. And it's got feeling. Listen.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pi day

Today is the 14th of March, or as the Americans put it 3/14. That's an approximation to Pi and that's why today is the day some people celebrate Pi.

Here's the first million digits:
And here's a start
1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209 7494459230781640628620899862803482534211706798214808651 3282306647093844609550582231725359408128481117450284102 7019385211055596446229489549303819644288109756659334461 2847564823378678316527120190914564856692346034861045432 6648213393607260249141273724587006606315588174881520920 9628292540917153643678925903600113305305488204665213841 ...
Go on. Take a look.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Update on the world

Or should that be to the world?

At the end of January I flew from London to New Zealand for my dad's funeral and to see family.

Got back to London, and thence to Nottingham, last Tuesday. Our house has no kitchen - the old one has been demolished to create a new one.

Last weekend Rullsenberg and I went down to London. Dinner at the excellent Ristorante Olivelli in Store Street. Hotel. Breakfast at Bar Bruno in Wardour Street. Then a walking tour of some churches around King William Street, especially the Hawksmoor. Nottinghamshire lad Hawksmoor definitely had his own style.

Rullsenberg had to be dragged, kicking into a guided tour of The Globe.

Saw The Killers with Burt Lancaster at the too too hot BFI.

Sunday made it to Spitalfields Market and Rough Trade East. Walking back met up with celebrating Kosovans in Trafalgar Square. Cars flying Kosovan flags circled central London making lots of noise and causing gridlock. Kosovans seem very happy to have their, limited, independence; Serbia seems unhappy that Kosovo wants to leave. Has Kosovo the wherewithal to survive as an independent nation? I am left wondering if it is a good thing that a nation splits into nations on the grounds of historic disagreements. What makes a nation? A shared past? An identity? A unifying culture?
Does Kosovo have what it takes?

Jetlagged still.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Some Mothers

Here's a tale about Bobby Fischer's mother, on the picket line at Grunwick,
In 1977, standing on the Grunwick picket line in north-west London, I recognised Regina Fischer and introduced myself. "Ah yes," she said grimly, "you're the one who writes all those horrible things about Bobby." I explained that I would be delighted to learn that Bobby's alleged views on the inferiority of women, the evils of socialism and the duplicity of the Jews had been totally misrepresented, and I would be sure to get published whatever she told me.
She considered this offer carefully. After some thought, she handed me a slice of the orange she was eating and said: "I forgive you." She added some words on the significance of vegetarianism and the meaningfulness of giving fruit. "But now," she said with absolute conviction, "I will stop this bus."
Arthur Scargill's miners had tried and failed to stop the Grunwick bus.
As it reached the gate, Regina threw herself in front of its wheels. Braking sharply, it ground to a halt. This was the only time during the historic Grunwick strike that the infamous bus was stopped by a demonstrator.

Graham Taylor

Definitely a "strong-willed woman". And where would we be without optimism of the will?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Democrats for Romney

As "approved by some guy you've never heard" of here's an appeal by Democrats for Romney.

You know it makes sense.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Hawk and A Hacksaw Gig

How do you describe Hawk And A Hacksaw? I suppose you could use words like Hungarian folk, Balkan wedding songs, Turkish folk. Whatever words you use if you like that sort of thing then you'll like Hawk and a Hacksaw. Oh, I forgot to say, it's party music.

Here's some pictures I took at a gig, at the Malt Cross in Nottingham on 5th December 2007. The lineup for this gig was Jeremy Barnes, Heather Tost on violin, Kovacs Ferenc on trumpet and violin, and Balazs Ungar on cimbalom (which is a hammered dulcimer, my sources tell me).

Jeremy Barnes and Heather Tost.

Jeremy Barnes and Kovacs Ferenc.

The whole band.

The logo on a drum

As an encore the band walked into the audience for some crowd participation. It was hard to tell the band apart from the audience if not for the instruments.

There's a review of an earlier Hawk and a Hacksaw gig here. And there's a cracking review of a night on the same tour at Anti-Social Life.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hawk and A Hacksaw Review

Coming soon: pictures of a Hawk and A Hacksaw gig.

That Was Then In The Here and Now

There I was reading this week's super soaraway SW when I saw this gem of logical reasoning:
If the left allies with the invader, the eventual resistance will hate the left. Feminism is now very weak in Afghanistan because in the 1980s Afghan feminist women supported the Russians and their violent occupation.
So Jonathan Neale is arguing that if not for the political mistakes of Afghanistani feminists in the 1980s you would be unable to move for Feminist books and Feminist practices in downtown Kabul.

Oh! Optimism of the will. Wild wonderful optimism.