Archive for June, 2011|Monthly archive page

Music

15 February 2011
Joan as Police Woman did not disappoint. I cannot find a review for this particular gig which Joan herself described as one of her best. She tends to be plagued by bad sound. At the Wedgewood Rooms, apparently, they always get it right. I wish that there had been more people there; not a bad audience, and very intimate, but I do not know how she pays the bills. I’m helping having now bought the album on CD and Vinyl (albeit signed by the woman herself).
13 February 2011
Tonight I go to Portsmouth to see Joan as Police Woman. I saw her a couple of years ago in Brighton and she was brilliant. The new album is, as she says herself, rockier than the melancholic ‘To Survive’. Tonight she will wear her leather jump suit which she says she intends to wear for the whole of the 50-date tour. She suggests that it might stand up by itself by the end. Maybe.
27 July 2010
Neil Hannon performs “The Complete Banker” (right).

The Divine Comedy’s new album “Bang goes the Knighthood” is in my collection. It is a little understated. But like all good albums, they mature with listening. Even better is seeing the artist performing the songs. This is what Neil Hannon did on 17 July at Somerset House in London. Actually he did a lot more than that. For nearly 2 hours he performed songs from across his career with his piano or guitar. The audience in a few places had to remind him of his own lyrics; but he was excused in that the songs were new and he had performed for so long that evening. The great thing about this performance was the fact that he seemed to be enjoying himeself. On the one previous occasion I have seen him (with a full band) he seemed not to be really interested and keen to leave the stage. This was symbolised by throwing beer into the audience. This time his tipple was white wine that went only into his gullet.

UK Politics

30 June 2011
Things have got to be bad if the ever-economic-liberal Evan Davies (Today programme, Radio 4) gets upset with a politician (Francis Maude) who refuses to interpret his own report contrary to his party’s ideological view. Hutton says that public sector pension contributions as a percentage of GDP peaked last year and will decline in the coming years. Hence public sector pensions are ‘sustainable’, though they are ‘untenable’. Seemingly.
27 March 2011
The March for the Alternative, organised by the TUC, was certainly a large Trades Union demonstration. It galvanised people – particularly in the North where the public sector cuts are going to be particularly felt – for the struggle ahead as the cuts bite. The diversity was reassuring. People regaled about the last time they attended such a sizeable demonstration – the Iraq war demo 8 years ago. And that is perhaps key. The demonstrators were right then and they are right now.

17 January 2011
Anyone who takes pleasure in the discomfort of Michael Gove, the Tories egregious Education Secretary, should listen to his dissection on Radio 5 Live last week and his attempt to patronize his way out of it.

31 October 2010

Yesterday I attended a demo in Brighton against the public sector cuts. It is a while since I have been amongst so many trades unionists. I had forgotten how angry they are; which is strange when we know how much there is to lose when one ‘loses’ it. Some of the most high profile cases in recent times have been the BBC’s Nick Robinson smashing a protester’s banner when it was provocatively placed in camera shot whilst Robinson was waxing lyrically (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rU8YU3loeQ), and Adam Boulton of Sky News losing it in debate with Alistair Cambell (with whom it is often difficult to sympathise) on post-election speculation about how to form a government (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lbuXj1HyNy8). Even Caroline Lucas the Green Party’s sole MP (Brighton Pavilion) felt the need to shout at the audience who were all there to support most of the things the speakers were saying. Come on you people, the reasoned arguments are there to be made – this is not ideology, this is pure pragmatism. Leave the ideology to the Tories to hang by.

21 October 2010

That explains a lot. Picture from http://tankthetories.com/

Yesterday’s comprehensive spending review delivered by George Gideon Oliver Osborne, heir to the baronetcy of Ballentaylor, was the culmination of the expected attack on British society by a wealthy man who is ideologically driven to attack the public sector under the guise of deficit reduction. The impact on myself remains to be seen. I work at at university and 40 per cent cuts are anticipated. I don’t think he is a fan of my subject areas (social science) and my university is not in the elite group. It has no Bullingdon Club or equivalent (even if I was still a student).

As for social housing, another area that I have some affinity with, the CSR is most challenging. I don’t understand the arithmetic that says increasing rents to new tenants to 80 per cent of market rents realeases sufficient funds to build 150000 new dwellings, even if that was fair.

The housing benefit rules, moreover, will cause people to become migrants. There will be considerable pressure on cheaper parts of cities such as London. This then affects service provision in these areas such as social care and education. Local authorities will have to deal with these pressures with reduced budgets. Good for the swanky parts of town, not so good for elsewhere.

If he has applied the same logic to other spending areas, we are in big trouble.

Thought for the Day – BBC

15 March 2011

It is time for me to have another gripe at the BBC’s Thought for the Day. Naturally the contributors are now turning their attention to Japan and how a benevolent God could allow the combination of earthquake and tsunami to happen (the nuclear emergency could conceiveably be put at our own door as humanity). The Catholic commentator, Catherine Pepinster (pictured, left), started the ball rolling on Saturday (12 March) with the following explanation: “For all the sudden eruptions of nature, God plays by the rules. Creation includes the thermodynamics that lead to earthquakes and tsunamis, but the same laws of chemistry and physics allow us to have brains capable of understanding those thermodynamics. There’s a consistency about the universe that means we can learn about the kind of world we inhabit in all its complexity.”Then yesterday (Tuesday) the extraordinary Professor David Wilkinson (pictured right), an astrophysicist, offered the following: “Yet underneath, is the search for a coherent long-term narrative, which understands the natural world and science as both good and risky. As a Christian I find such a narrative in the conviction that this world is the creation of a good God, who risks giving freedom to human beings and the natural world. Today the people of Japan will take inspiration from their own history of rebuilding a nation in the face of devastation. For those who are inspired by a God who walks the pages of human history in Jesus to demonstrate the prioritize compassionate action towards all those in need, the challenge to stand with them is clear.”
Decoding these rather insensitive bits of prose is not my task now. But the BBC’s continued concession to these people to have free rein to spout this nonsense gets increasingly intolerable.
23 January 2011
We have waited some time for the winner to be announced of the Platitude of the Day annual award – the Web’s antidote to the nonsense that is Thought for the Day on Radio 4. Those of us who are regular contributors to the Platitude blog agreed with the Adminstrator that it should be Clifford Longley for his consistency over the preceding year. The Adminstrator last week offered a list of nominees which included Ratzinger’s effort on 24 December (despite it not being particularly platitudinous). However, Ratzinger has offered plenty of platitudes over the previous year. Not enough, it was Longley. Incidentally, the quality of contributions so far this year has been poor relative to the last quarter of 2010.

Arab Spring

12 June 2011
The spring now moves inexorably into the summer. The green shoots are now going brown. Or red, as the blood pours. Gaddafi is now indicted by the International Criminal Court while the fighting goes on. Yesterday it was reported that 31 ‘Rebels’ had been killed in Misrata (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/10/gaddafi-forces-kill-22-rebels-nato?INTCMP=SRCH) and the bizarre possibility that Gaddafi has at the very least sanctioned rape as a weapon (by supplying Viagra type drugs to his forces).
Today, however, news from Syria that Assad’s forces are effectively torching the rebellious town of Jisr al-Shughour forcing at the very least a refugee crisis, is very disturbing. The circumstances behind the deaths of 120 security force people last week remain mysterious. But this town has long been troublesome to the regime…
There is some spring-like news, however, from Yemen with the exit of  Ali Abdullah Saleh after his brush with weaponry left him in need of medical help. It was of sufficient urgency for him to have to go to Saudi Arabia to receive it. Whether he will come back remains unclear.
20 March 2011

Care needed when picking friends

And so another war begins. I was there protesting against the UK going into Iraq in London on that cold February day. I will not be demonstrating this time. The cause is different. I wake up this morning with a heavy heart. But Gaddafi supresses and kills his own people with their own ‘defence’ forces (using weapons supplied by us). He has said that there will be no mercy. The proliferation of independent media show the often uncomfortable outcome of the regime’s brutality. These changes in the Arab world, but particularly in North Africa, are different. These are not colonial wars – an excuse for the West to occupy yet more territory. These are wars of liberation. These are wars of ‘the time has come for change’. The people of Egypt go to the polls today to vote on their own ongoing push towards democracy after their own relatively velvet revolution. Meanwhile, the inability of the people of Benghazi to protect themselves from Gaddafi’s forces threatens their own progress towards a new future of self-determination. It seems that it is relatively easy to drive out the authorities from towns and cities. We could probably do that in Brighton and Hove. However, Gramsci wrote that they will regroup and come back with force. They will show no mercy, even if it was their’s to show. There is something in this for all of us to learn. It is also time for us to get real about weaponry, who we sell them to and why we make them. And whilst I have not been in favour of secular views to be part of the ‘Thought for the Day’ slot on Radio 4, perhaps it is time for radical voices to be heard at that time in the morning rather than apologists for God’s inhumanity? (Picture: http://shirazsocialist.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/gaddafi-and-friend/)

28 February 2011

Gadaffi is a true thug; slowly but surely he moves towards his judgement day. He was a great admirer of Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania. At least he knows how it will end. His son Saif al-Islam, however, really has written a suicide note. And listening to the Director of the London School of Economics this morning on the radio, has left them with a pot of blood money. Education is a wonderful thing, but blood is thicker than water. Seemingly.
13 February 2011
It was momentous. I think Mubarak had said to the generals that he would stand down on Thursday 10 February and then went on TV to say the opposite. I hope he enjoys his time in Sharm el Sheikh. It looks a delightful place.
6 February 2011
Still hangs on Mubarek. The behind-the-scenes diplomacy, however, looks intriguing. I wonder how the Bush Administration would have handled this. Obama seems to be opting for the the least worst option: change. Whilst Mubarek is a staunch US ally, at 82 his days are numbered in any case. Better to embrace the will of the people, so-to-speak, and have influence over the next incumbent of the presidential palace rather than alienate and see the Israeli peace deal literally go up in smoke?
4 February 2011
There is no other story than Egypt. This is epochal change in the making; it is only a matter of time before the edifice tumbles. It always surprises me the arrogance of certain leaders and their own importance. Thatcher and Blair spring to mind in the UK, but Mubarak takes this to new heights. Whilst the country is in chaos with thugs on the streets fighting against the demonstrators, Mubarak argues that whilst he would like to go, without him the country would slip into chaos.
The Guardian today offered a comment from a protester who rejects Mubarak’s plea to be patient and wait for elections in September. The protestor noted that if this was the first day of a peaceful transition, they are right to stay until Mubarak leaves office.
It may be a facile comparison, but take airports, for example. In the event of a cancellation, one should not leave the airport until the airline has made alternative arrangements for passengers. Leave the airport and one is at the mercy of airline phonelines. In Egypt, I imagine, one is at the mercy of the secret police. Tahrir Square may be the safest place. The protestors in Cairo and Alexandria are hugely courageous.
30 January 2011
Events in Egypt are extraordinary. Uprisings are always events, but this one is much more strategic (than say, Tunisia earlier this month). One senses that both the US and UK governments would prefer to keep Mubarek. Calls for peaceful transition seem a little empty and disengenuous. 30 years of one increasingly despotic leader suggests change is needed. Whatever we think of the US, constitutionally, the President can only serve 2 terms. Even the Russians have this constitutional limitation.