Little Red Blogger

This blog looks at radical politics(with a libertarian socialist slant), music and culture. Marx to Mises, Girls Aloud to Steve Reich...

Location: Wiltshire, United Kingdom

Monday, February 28, 2005

Concessions are a Sign of Weakness, Now Press the Advantage!

The concessions by Clarke on the government's house arrest laws are a good thing in that the government recognises that it must cleave to judicial authority, but they do not go far enough. The government is still fundamentaly wrong when it comes to these proposed laws.

The act of arbitrary house arrest can never be justified both under European human rights law and English legal traditions. The reasons being that it contravenes the basic right of having a fair trial before one's peers. It also frees the government to detain anyone potentially under any pretext with the government's sole guarantee of 'trust me'. I and it seems from this comments thread a fair few members of the British public are not and are never prepared to trust the government when it comes to basic liberties like these.

So my message to Labour rebels, Conservatives with conscience and Lib Dems is to hold firm and defeat the bill!

Liberties Cheaply Thrown Away

So as Europhobia points out it looks certain that Clarke's ammended anti-terror laws are going to be passed through parliament and that house arrest is going to become a reality in this country. As a Libertarian Socialist this saddens me greatly and shows yet more encroachment by the state on our commonly held freedoms.

This law should not pass...but it will and this is an indicment on our political class and the illiberal Labour party in particular. It also shows one of the dangers of a representative democracy: that of a tyranny of the majority and consequent targetting of minorities. Hopefully this bill will be challenged and stopped in the Lords or in the courts and MP's will get a chance to rethink and hopefully throw out this misguided piece of legislation.

British Banks and the Money Monopoly

Oh for a true free market in banking and credit...This of course is not going to happen in our current Capitalist system. Generally excessive profits in a market situation are an example of a lack of competition and of government favour granted to a corporation. In a true free market and not the current Capitalist sham of one we have at the moment profits of £9bn could not and would not exist. The effect of this on your average Joe is that he or she will get exploited and overcharged for use of the banks capital, if they can get access to the capital in the first place...

Banks such as HSBC are an excellent example of this, being private enablers of a government backed private monopoly on money. HSBC could not exist without state intervention and support and have rigged the system to continue this state of affairs into the indefinite future. This demonstrates the wider Mutualist point that Capitalism is a state created and maintained economic system designed to inhibit and pervert a true free market. Free the money monopoly and free the people!

Sunday, February 27, 2005

I Love The Smell of 'BBC Bias' in the Morning...It Smells Like Victory!

The Conservatives are playing this pre-election climate very cannily alas. The pseudo-populist charges of bias towards the corporation are another example of fantastically cynical electioneering. The charges of bias emanate from a drama called Faith that is set during the miners strike of 1984.

The Tories are trying to take a leaf out of the US Republicans approach to the media by implying that the BBC is a nest of metropolitan lefty pinkos systematically biased against the Conservative Party and the 'common sense' of ordinary Britons. This is quite a clever strategy by the Conservatives, keeping them in the news and throwing a little red meat towards their core supporters.

One possible reason for the attack on the BBC might be that it's designed to provoke the Labour party into some kind of response, to draw them out in some way. It will be interesting to see how this manufactured controversy plays itself out over the next couple of days and especially if the Murdoch press pick it up...

'New' Labour takes a Reality Check...

I do sometimes wonder as to the bubble politicians end up living in when they take residence at Westminster. In many ways Westminster resembles some decaying third rate public school(which is actually a private school..for my foreign readers) with all the political obsessives hothoused together giving rise to some very sickly blooms...

So politicians are isolated and in some senses alienated from everyday life due to the nature of their jobs. For they are to be on message and on call twenty four hours a day, isolated from the ordinary rhythm's of everyday life and hence in some ways to everyday concerns. These factors loom ever larger for party leaders with their unique political positions as dominant males(and they are almost always males...) in the pack.

Blair has always lived a very insulated life, protected and promoted by his patrons, cloistered at Oxford very much the traditional career path of an aspiring PM. Blair has never struggled and never suffered financial disadvantage his whole life has been politics of which he has been very good at. However he lacks the raw smarts of Brown and lately has surrounded himself with the 'true believers' the Blairite ultras. This has served to further insulate Blair from wider reality and promote the self-delusion that he is actually politically popular.

Before the Iraq War this might have been true but some basic trust seems to have been breached with the British public and Blair and his inner circle seem befuddled that he is provoking such hostile reactions from ordinary Britons. So the wonks are adjusting their strategy to make Blair seem less 'presidential' and are trying to reel Brown back into the campaign after giving him the kiss off. This seems to me too little too late the public seems to have made up it's mind regarding Blair and his trustworthiness. The Blairite response most amusingly is to feature less Blair in the actual campaign, the paradoxes of politics.....Gould Blair's chief pollster is confident that this is working and that Labour will widen the gap with the newly resurgent Conservatives and who knows he may be right, but as the Chinese used to say we live in interesting times....

Saturday, February 26, 2005

The Tension Between Localism and Internationalism in the Left

Maxspeak's post I think highlights a key tension in left-wing thought between that of the local and that of the international. He does this through looking at the infamous Walmart and their effects on local and small businesses. The traditional state socialist approach to Walmart is found in Doug Henwood's approach to corporations, he argues that socialists must live up to their name and 'socialise' these corporations. Also Henwood is very sceptical towards the way that small businesses treat their employees in terms of working conditions and union recognition.

The mutualists would disagree with this position seeing the corporation as a state created and state subsidised entity and that consequently the existence of such entities in any post-capitalist society would be untenable. So by rejecting the corporation in its traditional form then you have to reject the current mode of 'globalisation' in its corporate/mercantilist form. However some of the new style localists reject any form of global co-operation what-so-ever. Now I see this as wrong-headed in that any post-capitalist future must be an inherently global project based around global linkages and global co-operation between communes, co-operatives, small businesses etc...

In short Walmart is the wrong type of 'globalisation' based on shakey mercantilist foundations and severe market distortians in favour of larger corporate entities.

Kevin Carson's Excellent Mutualist Take on 'Contract Feudalism'

An excellent excellent post by Kevin Carson the original mutualist guru himself on the idea of 'Contract Feudalism' or to look at it another way the lack of democracy in modern workplaces. Having temped around myself in different companies and state institutions his charges against Human Resources departments read very true. Anyway enough wittering from me and get yourself over to that link above!

A Story of Corporate Subsidy and Your Average Working Stiff....

Ahhhh the minimum wage where to start... As a mutualist I see the wage as a good thing for ordinary working people and find the bleating of corporate capitalists against any rises offensive.

Ah I can hear you thinking...Beowulf is one of those horrible Libertarian Socialist/Mutualist types who's completely opposed to statist solutions of any kind. Now this is broadly true but I am also a political pragmatist when it comes to legislation that helps ordinary working people. Until employees are in a decent bargaining position with employers vis a vis wages and hours then this kind of statistic intervention will always be needed alas. Also the proposed increase in the minimum wage prevents employers from living off state subsidised wages and externalities the true cost of their business onto the taxpayer.

So 'New' Labour are doing the right thing by increasing the minimum wage. This then leads to the question as to why they are increasing the wage now? As ever for 'New' Labour it is a case of panic induced political calculus. They have seen the polls and they have seen fear, the fear that their core vote won't turn out. Thus this small increase is calculated to get their core vote out on election day. Which leads us onto the question of whether it will actually work or not? I don't really know to be honest and I think the only way that we'll know for sure is at the coming general election sometime in May.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Oh dear...redux

The Conservatives are looking confident and their tails are up. I have very mixed feelings about this. On one hand it pressure the Labour party to actually do vaguely progressive things like offer to up the minimum wage to £5 an hour..on the other hand it could make 'New' Labour ever more reactionary in it's policies towards immigrants and asylum seekers among other things.

The Conservatives have used the imported Australian poll guru Lynton Crosby to work their way to this position. However the
Backing Blair campaign will I think be quietly happy about the narrowing of the polls and the pressure on Blair and 'New' Labour...

Thursday, February 24, 2005

MRSA, the Bean Counters, the pseudo 'Free Market' and those annoying Externalities

This story truly disgusts me and sums up alot of what is wrong with the NHS and contemporary British business practice. Like the PPP/PFI debacle big corporations have been indulged, false economies made and fortunes extorted.

As the Liberal Democrat spokesperson in this story points out the drive to lower costs and meet political targets has resulted in rising infection rates. Cleaners employed at minimum wage cost via private contractors do not have the same loyalty and pride in the NHS that a proper employee would have.

This however was not easily measurable or quantifiable for our bean counters and hence was disregarded. But at the time when private cleaning contractors were introduced into the NHS, pseudo- 'free market' theory was at it's zenith amongst the 'stupid party' thus making the Treasury and the Tory ideologues happy. So the potential externalities and complications of this policy were disregarded or ignored, but hey! it's only the little people dying, so who cares.. thinks our craven political class...

The Nepotism of Pole Greasing Monkeys

The secret with this government is always to lower your expectations that way you'll never ever be disappointed. The Current revelations on how the legal advice was cooked up by two of Blair's legal allies is a case in point. Blair who cannot truly tell a lie (as he truly believes the rationales that he sells himself) needed legal cover for his pre-arranged and pre-agreed upcoming war.

So he taps his old political/legal friend Lord Falconer who duly cooks up the evidence needed for Goldsmith's shaky legal backing for the war. To a political cynic like me none of this is particularly surprising, as Blair was operating in his full Niezstchian 'will to power' mode, seasoned with some light muscular Christianity. Like Bush's Neo-conservatives Blair saw himself as one of 'history's actors' and nothing was going to get in his way...

Political relationships between males seem to follow some depressing dynamics, and although I give no credence to Evolutionary Psychology and its simplistic nostrums the hierarchical nature of these arrangements seem to be some kind of human universal, when it comes to male group dynamics. Falconer wished to keep in Blair's favour and scratched his back picking a few irritating fleas off in the process.

I don't pretend to know Falconer's true thinking on the war, but it is not inconceivable that his loyalty to Blair outweighed any moral consideration regarding a war in a far-away place of which most people knew very little.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Will The Real Opposition Please Stand Up....

It is heartening to see that the current Anti-Terror bill is being opposed in Parliament effectively and efficiently by the Lib Dems who made an excellent point about 'New' Labour's reflex "reaction of the government is authoritarian". This was in reaction to to the government's proposal that the Home Secretary have the power to issue these detention orders rather than a judge.

The Conservatives really have no moral leg to stand on with regards to these proposals given that it chimes with every political prejudice in their political bodies. The hang 'em flog 'em brigade in the Conservative party probaby sees these proprosals as too 'weak' on the terrorists. Also there is their complicity in previous internment laws in Northern Ireland to consider along with the Diplock courts and extra-judicial killings...

So everyone should be grateful for the Liberal Democrats living up to the first part of their name and not trying to outbid either party with ever more repressive attempts at half-arsed legislation.

A 'Crime of Aggression'...among other things...

Ah, yet more evidence of the mendacity of our current business and deep unease within the legal establishment. It is interesting that at some level even the government knew what it was doing was wrong and feared some kind of legal comeback in the ICC and had the lawyers prepped and ready.

The true weakness of the government's position on the Iraq war can be summed up in its refusual to publish the legal advice given to it prior to the war. Which then leads me to assume that while it backed the war in Iraq it was by no means definite backing and had many many caveats. As Lenin noted the establishment is not happy about what has happened and I think we will see further leaks and whispers before this is all over.

The Fall and Rise of Gannon...

How very a British Blogger and an effective political tourist on this whole affair, it has been fascinating to see the interaction of the American lefty blogs and their news media about this.

That they have manged to get the Democratic Leadership to propose an investigation is very big news indeed... I will be watching this story with renewed interest. Kudos to John Aravosis or breaking and chasing the story.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

The New! Safer 100% Better! Internment Recipe from 'New' Labour, Guaranteed 100% Protection from Pesky Human Rights Laws!

Charles Clarke has done the semi-decent thing here by watering down the house arrest proposals. The fact that I actually have to applaud him for this is slightly depressing and a telling comment on 'New' Labour's civil authoritarianism. He has recognised that morally and legally he hasn't got much of a leg to stand on...but since when has politics had anything to do with morals!

Consequently Clarke has left himself an escape hatch by keeping the future option of derogating from the European Convention on Human Rights in future. So the beast is not yet fully slain and there remains the prospect of unrestricted house arrest arriving in this country in the near future, we must alas put our fate in the hands of the judges...

Oh dear....

Ken Macleod may have a 'tin ear' when it comes to US electoral politics but when it comes to UK politics his worrying about a
UK Conservative revival appears to have some teeth. The news that the Conservative party is closing the gap with Labour is somewhat disturbing.

Being a child of Thatcher, I know precisely how bad a Tory government can be and do not wish to see a repeat. Although I am not a Labour party member and have never voted for them(due to the absurdities of our first past the post system) they do seem to use that tired phrase the 'lesser evil'. However I would like to see a reduced Labour majority and a greater Lib Dem representation in parliament to pressurise 'New' Labour into more progressive policies, but as ever we shall see....

Monday, February 21, 2005

PFI, PPP and the Great Tube Robbery (the story of a very British swindle....)

Picture have an ageing, decrepit but working Underground system in London under-invested and over-used. Add to this depressing starting point the oxymoron of a PM who is zealously ideological about his non-ideology and a conniving Chancellor who saw an opportunity to cook the books, plus the construction industry suckling at the public trough and you have a very British swindle indeed...

This then leads to the question: what has allowed the Tube renovation to turn into a corporate dole cheque? Three very simple letters P F I or the Private Finance Initiative. This Tory wheeze has been wholeheartedly endorsed by the Labour Government for all the wrong reasons to Blair it handily presents a 'modern' 'forward' 'New' Labour looking way of involving the private sector in public projects. To his erstwhile rival Brown it allows the government to borrow money of the Public Sector balance sheet. But what is the problem with this I hear you say...

Put simply the government can borrow money at a cheaper rate than the private sector(the joy of a monoply...), which means that any job done using PFI/PPP is inherently more expensive. Ken Livingston repeatedly made this point at the time with his attempts to issue public sector Bonds to fund his Tube modernisation. The effect of imposing PPP on the Tube has been to fragment the command and control of the network compromising safety, raising costs via the enrichment of various fauna of legal and banking parasite.

PPP and PFI are an example of Capitalism at it's absolute worst with all of its mercantile tendencies in full swing. Backs are scratched money is made and the general public is left to pick up the bill that the government has run up on our credit card thirty years later. They don't call it the Great Tube Robbery for nothing...

Hunter S. Thompson RIP

Dr Thompson...what else is there to say. A genius writer and journalist, accutely insightful when it came to American politics and his bete noire Richard Milhous Nixon...

He will be missed, and it just seems to me that it was the wrong time for him to go, with a president worse than Nixon in the White House and Gannon knocking on the door Thompson still had work to do.

I'll leave the last words to the good doctor himself...

'As you were, I was. As I am, you will be'
"Hell's Angels", Hunter S. Thompson, In Weird

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Out Hud - Let Us Never Speak Of This - Review

This album has proved to a real surprise...often it's nice to listen to an album without any preconceptions or expectations. I loaded it up on my Karma I flicked play and let it wash over me.

Nobody appears to have told Out Hud that punk/funk/disco* (delete as per critical prejudice) is 'over'. However Out Hud make a sound that defies easy catergorisation or pre-fitting into scenes. What Out Hud do do is take in an epic sweep of eighties dance influences and use them very well. From sharp chic style guitars to NY style deep house and blondie pop/punk vocals. Out Hud update all these influences with some sparkling modern production and sharp song writing.

This to put it simply is a very very good album with nary a weak track on it and will be well worth picking up on it's release date of March 21st.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Comrade Negroponte and the Bush Commissars

The accession of Negroponte to the blood stained throne of intelligence chief is a sign of intent with regards to the Bush administrations attitude to torture and other repressive activities.

Negroponte's involvement in Central America and his tacit and not so tacit endorsement of the death squads no doubt acted as an automatic recomendation to the Neo-Conservative ideologues that infest the Bush administration.

Negroponte is in many ways an excellent expression of Neo-Conservative cognitive dissonance. Superficially the Neo-Conservative ex-trots want to spread a global democratic revolution via the force of US arms. But once you look behind this facade the iron spine of their ideology is about the maintenance of US hegemony. Although they affect to despise Kissinger style realpolitick the Neo-conservatives use many of the same methods(albeit incompetently) to acheive their aims: military coups, subversion..propaganda..etc...

To Negroponte and the Neo-Conservatives the ends will always justify the means which is why for our cousins over the pond they are such a dangerous combination.

A Police State with a Human Face, the Reflex Authoritarianism of 'New' Labour

Charles Clarke plans to bring in house arrest laws in this country after the 'New' Labour government failed to uphold it's internment laws in the highest court of the land. Never has the European Convention on Human Rights been more welcome or more needed....despite the government's derrogation from the convention in the first place to implement these repressive laws.

So in reply to this damning judgement the government has proposed house arrest laws for the internees in Belmarsh. Yet again the government has refused to shift it's position that it can intern these these people without trial and throw away the key. All that would really change for the internees under this proposal would be the location of their internment.

House arrest to me makes me thinks of Mynamar, Chinese dissidents, the dirty war against the IRA in the seventies not the UK in the noughties. Any socialist/libertarian/liberal/anarchist will and should be opposed to this unwarranted use of arbitrary government power and invasion of liberty.

Missives from a blog orbiting round Pluto...or that's how it feels being a UK political blogger sometimes..

So here I am a UK blogger reading about the Gannon affair, and to be honest feeling a little left out...for it is a truth universally acknowledged that the blogosphere's centre of gravity lies in the USA. This is especially true for political blogs. Which then leads us onto the question of why?

As any good Marxist will tell you: follow the money! If politics is economics by other means then all roads lead to Washington DC the latter day Rome. Politics in the States is being played for much higher stakes. Blogs reflect this reality of US imperial dominance and reach.

US political decisions have much more effect on my own everyday life in some ways than that of the UK government. So I read and pay close attention to US blogs and hope that they will pay attention to a minor provincial languishing in an imperial backwater, marking time playing the waiting game...

Friday, February 18, 2005

Tales of a 'complex monoply' or how to be a complete banker....

Never has the Mutualist/Austrian position on banking been so abley proven than by Cruickshank's report, with Cruickshank coming the conclusion that:

"Sustained [and] very high profitability is an indication that they are operating in a complex monopoly and that on balance this is bad for an economy"

Banks in our current corporatist economy are leeches on the government teat. It is not accident that there are no serious competitors to the current 'big five' UK banks as the current ownership structure of UK banking mitigates against any real Free Market competition. Banks are ependant on government control of the money supply for their priviliged position and then using this to extract unfair and unjust rates of interest from the general public, pricing capital beyond most peoples means.

In this way banks are in an analogous position to landlords in our current economy enforcing an artificial scarcity via an artificial monopoly.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The continued venality of the Conservative party towards immigration

Yet again the Tory party sinks to new stygian depths with regards to immigration. The racist subtext of their latest proposal is so blatant and simplistic that even I am amazed by it's brazen nature.

To the desperate cynics at Central Office the equating of immigration to the propogation of disease must have looked like a winner, a veritable machievellian masterstroke, ticking all the right boxes in terms of their estranged base. Linking little Englander fear of the 'foreign' and exploiting British people's love of the NHS by openly saying that immigration might harm it through abuse. All this with the added side benefit of further dehumanising and obscuring the immigrant him or herself.

After all in British politics anything that the Daily Mail and Daily Telegraph likes has got to be winner hasn't it? If but it were so for our courageous boys in blue for 'New' Labour has triangulated the poor luckless Conservative party out of the picture when it comes to immigration policy.

Monday, February 14, 2005

England's Dreaming: God save the king...he made you a moron he ain't no human being....

Never did that tired old sell-out Johnny Rotten sing a better line...Yet again the prone and abject British media prostrates itself before what Private Eye call 'The Firm'. Once more we are subject to reams of coverage of a marriage that 19% of the British public could care less about.

The whole bread and circuses aspect of how this wedding will be treated fills me with contempt for the whole institution of monarchy. It reinforces social division in this country by topping off our archaic yet functional(for the people at the top...) class system. So for the people who really control things in this country the monarchy does have its uses, as a distraction and an illustration of the 'natural' hierarchy and divisions within British society.

The British public does seem to have some confused attitudes to the monarchy. Many wish to see Charles bypassed in the line of sucession and William to take the throne. This seems a bizzare attitude to me, either you support the hereditary pinciple or you are opposed. The minute one introduces public choice into the monarchy it ceases to be a monarchy and you might as well just elect President Mandelson...

I have no animus towards the poor benighted royals caught up in the monarchy, in fact I would argue that the monarchy represents a unique form of mental tortue for all those involved. It is impossible to see how any normal family life could develop under such circumstances, let the royal family return to their natural sloane ranger state... For the sake of the country and the mental health of those poor unfortunate people at the heart of this charade the monarchy must end and it must end with Elizabeth.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The epic pointlessness of Ellen Macarthur's global circumnavigation

I find all the media focus on this event annoying and somewhat tiresome. I can hear you thinking..but why Beowulf? surely this is a magnificent achievement against great odds by one so young... I would agree it is an achievement and salute her skill and dedication but I still see it as a pointless and decadent one of no serious import.

Macarthur's global circumnavigation is a sign of the poverty of western civilisation's ambition with it's hamster like circling of a shrunken globe, for nothing new has been acheived no new frontier conquered just an abstract record changed. Which brings up another issue for me, the context of her voyage was one of sport, not exploration which immediately lessens it's impact, in a 1000 years time people will remember Yuri Gagarin but not Ellen Macarthur.

Political language and the perversion of meaning

While reading The Guardian I was struck by how politicians and their media flacks use and abuse the English language. Although this has been analysed before I want to look at two words that have been abused and perverted for political gain.

From a UK perspective the word that has been most abused by 'New' Labour is 'modernisation'. 'New' Labour has used this word in a cunning underhand fashion throughout its political life. To 'New' Labour modern automatically equates with good and that which is not conservative.

But what do 'New' Labour actually mean when they say that X goverment department should 'modernise'? Essentially it boils down to the idea that department X should be more responsive to 'consumers' and parody market based mechanisms to do so via the importing of private sector managers and their techniques.

Of course this is usually glossed with a patina of managementspeak bollocks a la Birt's reign of management consultancy terror at the BBC...So via this incoherent mish mash 'New' Labour defines itself and its opponents.

The genius of this approach is that to be 'modern' implies progress...and what self respecting leftie wants to stand in the way of 'progress', for this would make you *shock horror* a conservative! in 'New' Labour's eyes. It gives 'New' Labour a very useful rhetorical stick to beat it's opponents on both sides of the political spectrum. By redefining and narrowing the use of the word 'modern' while keeping it's original conotations 'New' Labour brilliantly controls the political discourse for it's own ends.

A Eulogy to the Brilliance of 'Shameless'

Words cannot capture how good the Channel 4 TV series 'Shameless' is, but I'll have a go. 'Shameless' is not a comedy yet makes me laugh, it's not a 'serious' drama but moves me almost every episode. It's not a Soap opera but makes you identify with the characters, it's not reality TV but feels more real than Big Brother could ever be....

'Shameless' focuses on the life, loves and general goings on of the Mancunian Gallagher clan. Unlike most British TV Shameless just works. Which then leads to the question of how it works..
'Shameless' works because of it's strong loveable yet realistic characters. Simple as that! From Frank the alkie wastrel absent father to Fiona Frank's daughter yet surrogate mother to the clan. Paul Abbot makes you care and feel for the characters by bringing real emotional depth to how the family interact

'Shameless' is one of the few drama programmes on TV that actually makes me forget that it's scripted, the writing is that good and Paul Abbot deserves credit for that.

In short buy/beg/borrow/download/steal 'Shameless' you will not regret it!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Thoughts on Mutualism, Socialism and Capitalism

As the byline to my blog indicates I am interested in radical non neo-classical economic theories of both Marx and Mises.

Reading Kevin Carson's thoughts on Mutalist political economy has made me think about the differences between Capitalism and the Free Market, in particular his brilliant de-coupling of the two. Carson's main argument is that Capitalism is a result of state and corporate power combined and that if you remove one the other will collapse.

Carson's main insight is that to generate capital you need monopoly and state support. Without this capital then large corporate entities are impossible to support and the relationship between employer and employee is suddenly much more equal. How though are these monopolies to be broken up? Carson cleverly attacks patents, the idea of corporation as legally defined person

Although Carson draws heavily from the American Libertarian tradition this hostility to capital accumulation places him very much within the Marxist tradition even though he does not share much of their historical analysis. Carson offers a new synthesis of seemingly incompatible ideas through re-defining the Free Market as the free non-coerced exchange of goods and ideas through what ever forms free stateless people choose to they a co-operative, commune, small business etc....

Monday, February 07, 2005

UK Immigration hysteria, or how politicians play on prejudice and exploit the weak for political gain

The current political flap on immigration is to me profoundly dispiriting and shows in many ways the craven flint hearted opportunism of the current political class.

No opportunity is spurned to exploit, use and abuse asylum seekers and immigrants for their own and their party's gain. From a politician's perspective the logic is impeccable, asylum seeker's or potential immigrants can't vote, therefore they can be ignored and scapegoated at no cost to themselves politically. Mix this in with some 'War on Terror' grandstanding and you have a poisonous cocktail of intolerance and bigotry leavened with cheap nationalistic sentiment and flag waving.

The Labour party and the Conservatives both have different motivations for using immigration as a political tool. The Tories see it as a way of shoring up their UKIP hard right base and a means of attacking the Labour party to scrounge some votes and to paraphrase the famous expression about Big Blue, no political consultant ever got sacked for plugging a repressive asylum policy... The Labour party seeks to leap frog the conservatives and thus neutralise the potential threat. Whatever the motivations it leads to increased discomfort for asylum seekers and immigrants by demonising them and framing their presence in the country as a problem to be 'solved' rather than as individual human beings with individual problems...

Thursday, February 03, 2005

State of the Empire....(A commentary from a Greek in an age of Romans...)

With messianic undertones fully in place Bush yet again pushes for global 'democratic' revolution, talking sweetly while implicitly waving the big stick. Syria and Iran are named and shamed and the world is to be remade in the pure Christian image of the 'chosen' nation. The tropes of Trotsky style global revolution and US exceptionalism are dangerously merged in this speech, a more poisonous cocktail of ideologies I cannot think of...

If anything this speech exposes the cultural gap between the States and the UK and the alien tenor of US political discourse; the United States truly is the nation with a 'soul of church'. If anything the State of the Union makes me appreciate the parliamentary system and definitely shows the problems with merging the roles of head of state with head of the executive, elected monarchs are just as bad as the hereditary kind in my book...

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Daft Punk - Human After All the culture side of the blog, in a desperate hope to emulate my bloggin' heros a la Simon Reynolds Woebot etc..I present a review of Daft Punk's 'Human After All':

My first impression of the album was good. Human After All seemed a continuation of Discovery's general sound and vibe with vocoders draped over the pleasantly simple rock style drum pattern, with Daft Punk undermining their robot schtick in a Kraftwerkian stylee. 80's influences are ever-present in both programming and the use of rough analog 80's synths and guitars.

Prime Time of Your Life continues the same general style voices vocoded and general hissy home recorded feel to the track. As with the first track it seems to have a sketchy at best relationship with house music only really getting going towards the end of the track. But unlike the first track I felt that it was lacking something and it seemed half finished.

Robot Rock, in short love this track absolute dancefloor killa even if it is based on a Breakwater guitar loop. However Daft Punk use it well remorselessly repeating moving your ass so that your mind will follow. This one will remix well, and appear on a million BBC ads.... So this track raised my hopes again and I eagerly flicked foward to the next track:

Steam Machine: another okish track simple and loop based again . Also like Prime Time of Your Life it felt unfinished more of a sketch than the finished article. Sonically it hinges round the repetition of the title and dissapointingly the same synth sound, which seems to back up the idea that they knocked off this album very quickly compared to Discovery. Drum programming is yet again fairly simple and uses traditional 808 electro style sounds nothing special or particuarly amazing there I'm afraid.

Make Love: This track is truly excellent and shows how Daft Punk manage to make repetition and simple vocal refrain beautiful and moving. It particuarly reminds me of Larry Heard's early material and Deep Dish. Yet another track that you will used and abused by TV producers the world over.

The Brainwasher: This track truly lives up to it's title, a deaf dumb and mute kickdrum pounds away relentlessly as Daft Punk pronounce themselves brainwashers! The main riff kicks in and you really can't argue with them... This track is designed for maximum destructive impact within a dank dark and sweaty club at 3am in the morning, fear this track for it is a DJ weapon aimed directly at your cerebellum!

On/Off: ladeez and gentlemen..the intermission

Television Rules the Nation: Vocoders are firmly back in saddle on this track. One of the more housey numbers of the album with the use of standard 4/4 kick n' clap topped of with the use of AC/DC style filtered guitars. A good track in my opinion solid without being anything extraordinary.

Technologic: Mixed feelings about this track, starts with a nice looped vocal and I love the old skool drum programming that kicks in a few seconds later. However the bass line is a tad dissappointing I really wish they'd managed to find a new preset on their synth by the ninth track.

Emotion: Really this does nothing for me, I don't jknow if Daft Punk were being 'ironic' with the naming of this track but it seems nothing of a nothingness to me. It plods, and that is not what I expect Daft Punk to do even on their slower tracks. Tired sounds matched to a tired beat do not a good ending of an album make!

Generally I felt let down with this album it feels unfinished and I know they are capable of so much more. Daft Punk have made a middling to good album when they are capable of making a great album.