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

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

More Idiot Posturing Over Immigration(Yay! more police..)

A new national police force...wonderful, where do I begin to shower my praises on the political genius of the Crosby era Conservative party. That the so called 'Liberal' Democrats actually thought up this idea before the Conservatives is even more disheartening. As a Libertarian Socialist the thought of ever more police with their accountability yet further removed from local communities is not a pleasant one. Yet another top down hierarchy created by political need rather than the actual needs of the country.

Also the general impression given by the term 'border police' is not a good one and in itself is a sop to the electorates darkest fears that the UK is 'besieged' by asylum seekers and immigrants. It creates and fosters fear of the 'other' and promotes a siege mentality neither of which are conducive to a rational nuanced debate on immigration and asylum seekers.

The Tories plan to roll together customs and excise, home office immigration staff and police working at ports and airports. In some senses they are catching a trick of the US Republicans who did a similar presentational job on a bureaucratic tidying up exercise to create their Department of Homeland Security. So this policy proposal is (potentially)workable but alas still a bad idea that any liberal, libertarian or socialist should oppose. Britain is already one of the most centralised countries in Europe this proposal would just make it worse.

Monday, March 28, 2005

The Baby Eating Bishop of Norwich Makes the Best Argument For The Disestablishment of the Church of England I've Heard in Years....

Why is the BBC employing the Bishop of Norwich? What purpose does using license payers money to subsidise a parasitical priest placed at the centre of some hideous BBC quango called the Central Religious Advisory Committee. The Bishop's position in this committee is purely down to the UK's fetishisation of the Church of England as the state church. The BBC is compelled via it's charter to have a certain percentage of religious programming in its output.

The Bishop of Norwich is merely part of the Weberian bureaucracy devoted to producing and regulating this religious programming. His latest tirade is against the BBC for not considering 'religious sensibilities' in its latest programming with the inoffensive(if crap) Vicar of Dibley coming in for some stick regarding an episode on midnight mass. What really annoys me is his contention that the BBC has a 'western liberal secular mindset' and his statement that the BBC should engage with religions more. Now what the Bishop is doing here is equating the liberal secular viewpoint with religious viewpoints. If all these viewpoints are equal he is implying then religious viewpoints should get an equal share. The Bishop of Norwich then is echoing shallow vulgar post-modernist doctrine regarding the relativity of beliefs with secular liberalism being just another consumer choice in the 'marketplace'. So what the Bishop of Norwich is objecting to is the liberal secular framework in which his and others beliefs are placed in arguing that they should be presented free of secular bias.

This seems an untenable proposition, even if you agree with his contention(which I do) that there has been a worldwide religious resurgence(see American..Iran et al). The BBC's job is not to proselytise for different religions it is to try and present them truthfully. The BBC will inevitably be biased about this presentation but one could argue a secular bias is better than an outright atheistic bias or the pretence of neutrality. What the Bishop's bleatings do make clear is that position of the Church of England is untenable in modern society. Church and state as in the US should be separate and religious belief should be a private matter. That the Church of England has an input into the state broadcaster is an abomination in itself the fact that it complains about it adds further insult to injury. Disestablish the Church of England scrap the BBC's compulsion to provide religious programming and put the remainder on BBC4 and remove once and for all the inherent conflict of interest that a state church generates.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The Living Death of Schiavo, An Uncomprehending Brit Looks On...

If ever an event illustrated the huge chasm between US and UK politics this case does. The tragic case of Terri Schiavo to an outsider like myself throws into relief the fault lines running through the US body politic. On one side we have the nascent theocrats of the anti-abortion movement who have occupied the commanding heights of the Republican party. To them the Schiavo case is the perfect combination of 'morality' and expediency.

The Schiavo case is a perfect rallying point for the whole 'culture of life' with its nexus of anti-birth control rhetoric, misogyny and biblically motivated desire for controlling the US government. Schiavo has then become a cipher, a mere insubstantial symbol for the hard Republican Right to motivate their base and demonstrate that they have leverage over the wider party. It becomes for the hardcore activist a win/win scenario if they 'save' Schiavo then they have blown a major hole in the separation of the judiciary and the executive in the US. This would then allow them to advance their other agendas. If they loose it spins perfectly into their narrative of being embattled and oppressed by wider American cultural. Rationalisation and the religious right go together like coffee and cream.

The problem for Republican activists is that it risks turning off the wider American electorate and worse for their wider strategy it might actually motivate the American public to act against the religious right. The whole strategy of the religious right in America is based on manipulating policy through an active Republican party and an acquiescent apathetic public. This has so far been a tremendous success and like a frog being slowly boiled in water the American public hasn't noticed the rising heat.

So the Shiavo case brings to a head two competing currents in American culture, that of the secular post-enlightenment idea of a rational republic built on the idea of a separate church and state. The competing narrative is the evangelical revivalist notion of America as the 'chosen nation', the new Jerusalem a new Israel crowned with a shining city on the hill. America to these people has always been a Christian nation and whole idea of separating church and state has always been an anathema to them(see the Mormons in Utah..). A nation for the poor unchurched masses in the world. This conflict has existed in the USA since its inception with the deistic masons Washington and Adams talking at cross purposes with the evangelical poor and their prophetic preachers.

So due to these inherent tensions in US culture there will be more Schiavos, more anti-abortion protests and more attempts to destroy the separation between church and state in the USA. Given the UK's state church and flimsy back of a fag packet constitution I feel blessed that our religious fanatics got it out of their system with Cromwell. A similar movement here would be hard to stop, but ironically the secular nature of the UK population combined with the dead weight of our state church The Church of England mitigate against this kind of situation happening in the UK.

Howard The Political Alpha Male: The Sacking of Flight....

So the Tories are yet again in disarray, well that's the superficial impression given from the sacking of Flight for his remarks on government spending. Now Flight has not done anything unexpected here as he is renowned for speaking his mind and being politically honest.

Flight is an unreformed Thatcherite with all the requisite vulgar libertarian cant about 'small' government and rolling back the state being pretty much a given when it comes expounding his views on politics. Howard probably agrees with everything that Flight stands for but it is inconvenient for this political strategy for him to actually say this in public.

The Tories official line is to reduce the growth of public spending not to reduce the total amount of public spending. Flight has paid the price for speaking honestly what alot of Tories are actually thinking. For Howard this sacking has some beneficial effects, firstly it demonstrates that Tory MPs must cleave to the parties message, secondly it shows that Howard will not be crossed and that any deviations from the party strategy will be punished without mercy.

Howard is trying to introduce a strict culture of loyalty and message discipline into the Conservative party, hoping to emulate the 'New' Labour machine of the mid-nineties. I do not think in the long-run that this will be successful the Labour party's mindset has made it conducive to the kind of message discipline propounded by Blair and Campbell and the ex-commies and Trots who created and birthed 'New' Labour are expert in constructing and running movements and cadres. 'Democratic' Centralism comes as second nature to the likes of Reid and Blunkett.

The Conservative Party lacks this organisational culture with MPs being motivated by the twin sticks of fear and greed. The lack of labour movement traditions of solidarity make Tory MPs very hard to corral and organise and being a minority opposition party makes this worse. The only motivational tool left for Howard is that of fear, his implicit bargain with the party is follow me or loose your seat. Flight's sacking is an instructive lesson for those Tory MPs who might rock the boat or who have leadership ambitions of their own...

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

'New' Labour Just Can't Stop Trying To Lock People Up Without a Trial..

After somehow managing to get its House Arrest laws on the books(albeit with major caveats) 'New' Labour is now trying to curtail liberties in another way. The government's mental health bill contains measure that should worry any proponent of civil liberties. In response to tabloid headlines and the public perception of risky, violent mentally ill people the government proposes to detain and enforce treatment of mentally ill people.

The government as per usual wishes to make laws that appeal to the Daily Mail reader within us all, thus confirming popular prejudice and making the mentally ill even more stigmatized than they already are. The government's argument is that it is protecting us from potential harm. It is hard to see that even if these illiberal and coercive measures were adopted that they would make us any safer. Many violent crimes are committed by people who suffer mental illnesses yet are not patients and the further monstering of those suffering mental illness could make them even less likely to get the help they need. Indeed it is quite possible to posit a scenario where violent crime from mentally ill people increases with these laws.

The other objection is the potential threat to our civil liberties, introducing indefinite detention with trial is something that democratic governments should never do. Power tends to corrupt and provide its own rationalisations for the most despicable of actions. It is not to hard to imagine a potential future when this legislation could be abused as a tool against political and cultural opponents. We of course have a real historical example of how psychiatry can be abused by the state. The Soviet treatment of dissidents and those unable to accept the communist party's rule condemned to the asylum for 'treatment' and 're-education', consensus reality shocked into them via the electrodes of the 'people'. This is not the future I wish to see in Britain and this is not the future that the public should let 'New' Labour unwittingly create.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Howard and Crosby Sink to New Despicable Depths

So the poor beknighted Gypsies have become public enemy number one in the Tories eyes. Gypsies like asylum seekers area marginal minority attacking them is politically easy and costs the Tories little political capital. Obviously Crosby has been taking tips from the Goebbels school of news management: select a generally distrusted minority pick a few examples of minority behaving badly and smear the rest of them. So via tapping the brainstem of the average Daily Mail reader Crosby has found another means of wrong-footing the increasingly shambolic 'New' Labour election campaign. As I have noted before tactically the Tories are playing the pre-election build-up very smartly, spinning the news cycle in their direction hence dictating the politcal pace to the government.

Interestingly the economy no longer seems to have the hold that it has in previous elections with the budget falling flat, failing to resonate with the wider electorate. The general public takes prosperity as a given and thus can fixate more on percieved niggles and worries. The Tories have exploited this complacency to good effect time after time and 'New' Labour is on the defensive. It will be instructive to see how they respond to being out-triangulated...

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Invisible Hand of Lynton Crosby: The Tories Puppet Opposition to the Human Rights Act

Contemptible, cynical, well all of the above really. The Tories are yet again displaying contemptible, low and cunning tactics when it comes to winning votes. This time their target is the European Covention on Human Rights and all its imagined 'abuses', a clever populist target to be sure and politically it pressures the government and puts it on the defensive when it comes to law and order.

The Tories are also playing to their traditional political strengths here, with the general populace associating Howard with the whole 'lock 'em up and throw away the key' strain of bootboy Conservatism. Also for the Tories it takes account of the strength of the economy and hence Labour's lead on economic issues. To take the Labour party on economically is a mugs game as William Hague discovered at the last election.

So I can see why the Tories are targetting the human rights legislation and it does truly disgust me. Liberties in this country seem under threat from both our major parties and with the Lib Dems supine response to House Arrest bill I'm not left with much hope.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

More Meta-Blog Type Nonsense (and further meditations on UK political blogging..)

Over on the left side of the US blogosphere a great fuss has been kicked up over a Brookings blog panel and the paucity of ideological balance in the panel itself. The starting point for this mass bout of kvetching was the inclusion of Wonkette on the panel and the contention from many US left-wing bloggers(Digby, Atrios etc..) and commenters that she doesn't represent left-wing bloggers in any shape or form. After perusing her site this would seem to be the case, with it merely being a Washington DC gossip column detailing the comings and goings of the powerful and well-to-do. So the US bloggers would seem to have a strong case that Wonkette is not representing them or their work effectively and thus giving a false impression of the strength of their political opponents.

From a UK perspective it seems quite amazing that bloggers get any kind of airtime or wider respect at all. We are the neglected step-child of political media in this country and due to various cultural and structural reasons don't occupy the same position as the US left-wing bloggers. The election is fortunately stimulating some interest with Radio 4, Newsnight and The Times trawling for political bloggers to chronicle the forthcoming campaign. So the old media in this country is trying to reach out to the nascent political bloggers, the more cynical might say co-opt; but I remain hopeful that if bloggers engage with say the BBC they can retain their unique voice while still being able to reach a larger audience. If traffic rises for the UK political blogs in the coming General election campaign then I think some kind of threshold will have been crossed, then maybe we'll start seeing Bloggerheads, Europhobia et al on Newsnight or on the radio. Well we can all dream....

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Brown Tries to Prop up the Housing Pyramid...

So another year another budget, Brown has it seems concluded that 'New' Labour's political prospects are tied up with the housing market. The more house prices rise, the more people can release equity from their homes to say pay off a credit card go on holiday, buy a car etc... So to the chancellor a rising housing market lifts all boats and thus is a political positive for 'New' Labour. There is however a problem with this cosy state of affairs house prices are stagnating if not dropping in some areas of the UK. It is not a full blown crash quite yet but some commentators put the risk of a crash happening at one in four. If there is a house price crash a la 1988-89 then all political bets for 'New' Labour are off. A major source of stimulus for the economy would be knocked away with serious consequences for the wider British economy.

Gordon Brown is many things but one of is not stupid he realises that he needs to prop up the property market to prevent such a scenario from happening(well at least on his watch..). A key proposal in the Budget today is the subsidy for first time buyers with the government offering interest free loans to subsidise the purchase of their house. First time buyers have been priced out of the housing market by a steady increase in prices over the last ten years. The treasury is spinning this as a means of helping first time buyers onto the property ladder but neglects to mention it's desire to keep the housing market going for wider economic reasons. Without a fresh supply of firs time buyers the housing market will stagnate and possibly crash. Like any pyramid scheme fresh entrants are needed to buy properties,support the market and ensure steadily rising prices.

This then leads one to ask will these subsidies actually work? My take on this is: yes but for a limited time. These measures will postpone and make the inevitable housing crash even more painful than if it happened of its own accord by its attempts to re-inflate a partially popped bubble. The governments re-inflation of the housing market would then seem to be a short-term measure aimed at getting it re-elected and some positive headlines about 'helping' younger first time buyers. In political terms this proposal works very well for government both in the short and medium term but economically the country could pay the price in the long run.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Maybe All is Not Lost, A Bad Law Gets Challenged

Welcome news in the Independent today as lawers for the terrorist suspects placed under house arrest are set to challenge the terms of their confinement. Then men's lawyers are set to challenge the house arrest laws as untenable under European Human Rights law. This is no suprise to anyone with any knowlege of human rights legislation or British law. The 'control orders' clearly contrevene rights to a fair trial and will be challenged in court on this basis. So the government will loose yet again and be forced into a humiliating climbdown. . It is hard then to see what the government will do next if its hastily cobbled together house arrest laws are struck down again as there do not seem to be any viable alternatives(I hope!)

Monday, March 14, 2005

Cromwell Would Have Been Proud....

Christians can't live with 'em or err can't live with 'em. The minute legions of the Whitehouse Taliban are gearing themselves for battle and the BBC is firmly in the cross-hairs. The idiocy and cultural philistinism of the fundamentalist Christian types who persist in trying to turn the UK into a giant trailer park with a church attached.

The mental cripples of Christian Voice have alas interpreted 'Jerry Springer' in much the same way as they would interpret the Bible: literally with the tin ear of dogma. Like their reading of the Bible there is no room for metaphor, for simile, for poetry, just a shopping list of demands from the biggest bully of them all. So true to form they reduce 'Jerry Springer' to its component parts, pick out the swearing completely missing its context and thus miss the point of the Opera completely.

They then kvetch about the portrayals of God and Jesus whining about how offended they are, demanding victim status. The absurdity and petty mindedness of these complaints barely needs comment. God does not need idiot human beings to defend him or herself, God really has more important things to do with his or her time than get offended at mere maggots like ourselves passing comment. God in short can take care of himself. The God that these so-called Christians worship is a mere idol and proof of the superficiality of their alleged faith.
Christian Voice will not of course succeed Britain has been too secular for too long to change now and lacks the fertile soil of Calvinism that the US has. Their complaints have no wider cultural resonance and no natural constituency, but they are learning to use the media better and have ready sources of funding so should be kept an eye on.

Jerry Springer(who is most likely smoking an infeasibly large cigar and snorting cocaine delivered by mute Columbian dwarves right now) is probably laughing his very wealthy arse off right now.

Alas, A Budget!

If any event in the British political calender reminded one of the symbiosis between big business and big government then the budget does. Favours are done backs are scratched tax breaks given and ordinary citizen is left with crumbs from the technocratic table. 'New' Labour perhaps more than the Conservatives is deeply enmeshed in the welfare-industrial complex with its espousal of PFI, PPP and other corporatist profiteering monstrosities.

The budget will of course reflect this unstated, yet implicitly accepted narrative on the economy, the idea that There Is No Alternative. Neo-liberal ideological assumptions are taken as a given and any uppity lefties who squeak about it have(in the Blairites eyes) not got their pips arranged correctly and are indulging in that most heinous thing to Blair..'pointless protest'. After all Brown is trying to translate the language of European Social Democracy into a pseudo free-marketese Chicago dialect. A heroic enterprise but one doomed to failure in the long run due to still unresolved structural weaknesses in Britain's economy(low productivity, poor vocational skills, a reliance on the housing market for economic stimulus, high personal debt load) along with all the usual problems of over-accumulation and need to recycle those pesky surpluses...

The businessman to 'New' Labour is the epitome of 'modernity' and pragmatism only doing what works and doing so with supreme efficiency. Indeed 'New' Labour's deification of the businessman reaches Soviet heights of hagiography and surely it can be only a matter of time before Blair awards in true Stakhanovite style one of these businessmen the Order of Brown for increases in his productivity quota of 'entrepreneurialism'. Poor public sector workers will then be encouraged to match these daring feats of 'private' sector magic for the party and the greater glory of 'New' Labour. Much like the Italian Futurists worshipped the speed, noise and velocity of warfare for it's aesthetic qualities. 'New' Labour makes a similar mistake to the Futurists concentrating on the epiphenomena of the state capitalist marketplace to the exclusion of the corrupt compromised reality.

The budget itself will be last act of Brown prior to the election so will be structured to win 'New' Labour the election and give the Chancellor a chance to claim the crown himself. While the Tories cannot win the election the number of seats they acquire could set in motion the ambitions of Brown and trigger an early leadership challenge to Blair. As ever economics is politics carried on by other means and the Budget reflects a personal feud, a personal vision and a potential future be careful what you wish for Mr Brown as you might just get it!

Friday, March 11, 2005

A Bad Bill Passes? Beowulf Watches as Parliamentarians Light Their Cigars with the Magna Carta.

Well it looks like a deal has been cooked up and the right of British citizens to a fair trial, along with presumption of innocence before guilt have been consigned to the dustbin of history. This abysmal piece of legislation will most probably pass and the game of parliamentary ping pong will come to an end.

Charles Clarke has compromised on the sunset clause instituting it in all but name there by allowing the government to save some measure of face. I do not think this bill will ultimately hold and like its predecessor will face challenges in the courts. It is a bad, flawed and rushed piece of legislation as has been stated by parliamentarians of all parties any number of times, yet the bill will pass as will our liberties..

Insomniac Lords Leap on House Arrest Bill

The House of Lords is holding out over the House Arrest Bill, extending it's debate over night. The irony that the undemocratically elected Lords are preserving our ancient liberties, while the democratically elected MPs are selling us down the river has not gone unnoticed. This has led to the craven argument from the government that the Lords must submit to the will of the elected house. The current activities of both houses would lead one to think the reverse with the government submitting some of the weakest arguments in living memory for passing this awful bill.

'New' Labour sees this as a trial of political strength and as a win win situation for them electorally. If they win they get to be seen as 'tough' on the terrorists if they loose they can paint the opposition as supposedly 'weak' on the terrorists. Like everything else that this government has done image trumps substance, rational debate and the production of good laws. What will be interesting to observe is whether 'New' Labour is politically damaged from the shambles surrounding the House Arrest Bill. The current mess does not do it's image of cool calm technocratic confidence any favours at all, but will the electorate pick up on this and if so will it cost Labour any seats? Harold Macmillan said that 'a week is a long time in politics' if so then the next two months are going to last a very long time indeed for the government.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Does Blair Actually Believe Anything he Says Anymore?

Ahhh where to start, macho bullshitting politics from the messianic delusions of a security service lackey. Larded with sub-Thatcherite rhetoric as if spoken with the mouth of Bush busy trying to pull a Churchill on the British public. All the cosmic rays he's absorbed while crossing the Atlantic seems to have further interfered with any attempt at rational thinking concerning these terrible authoritarian house arrest laws.

Blair typically refuses to engage with issues casting the whole debacle as a test of his political 'manhood' a pissing contest with the shadowy terrorists who don't give a toss about the laws being passed. Blair is as ever cynically playing politics here, bolstering his image as 'tough' on law and order issues. Perfectly contemptible yet understandable behaviour from a government who have never found a liberty they wouldn't curtail.

Yet again he equates an unpopular and morally wrong policy as being correct. Blair's brain works something like this: find extremely stupid policy, find that general public hate policy, immediately embrace policy as the 'future' then define all those who oppose policy as being 'conservative'. An optional extra to this retarded thought process is a little light moralising topped with some messianic flourishes. This formula has obviously been altered slightly for the House Arrest Bill with sullen Blunkettesque attempts at bullying his opponents mixed with paranoia about unspecified 'threats' fear is such a wonderful political tool...

Blair is wrong in principle, wrong in practice and contemptible in approach this bill must go no further.

'New' Labour Ruminates..If Only I Had a Soul...

This news story really does turn the stomach asserting that 'New' Labour needs to learn from Bush's re-election and the so called values rhetoric that went along with it. British leftist types often assert that Brown is the superior 'Real' Labour alternative to Blair seeing him as the more grounded in the Labour movement and as the advocate of more progressive policies than Blair.

What these people seem to forget is Brown's often unabashed endorsement of US economic model and his swallowing of the myth of US productivity increases. He promotes the shibboleths of 'flexibility' and 'enterprise' with all the zeal of a neo-liberal and seems to regard Europe with disdain. That Brown's political allies look to the US for political tips regarding re-election is not then surprising. However political lessons from the US do not often translate that well to the UK, with our largely secular body politic, strong unions and history of social democracy. The idea that 'New' Labour can promote the kind of values rhetoric being shilled in the US is I think misguided. The structural differences between the two countries mitigate against this.

Douglas Alexander in this Guardian article does concede this point. Throughout the article there is a general queasiness with Blair's 'post-ideological' agenda. He seems to be aware that technocratic managerialism does not fire up the the base or get voters out to the polls, hence his call to specious 'values'. This has always been a problem with 'New' Labour it's lack of ideological spine and has always been the deal breaker when it comes to comparisons with the impact of Thatcherism on politics. Blair has not forged a new consensus merely tidied up the old one. Alexander is I think suffering from a case of buyers remorse, he is uneasy with the whole direction the 'New' Labour project has taken bemoaning the brand led strategy of the Blairites and the consequent descent of politics into vacuous consumerist language.

Alexander here is I think speaking for Brown. This article and his comments are a coded message to 'Old' Labourites that they have not been forgotten by the chancellor after all if Brown wants to be Prime Minister he will need this faction's support and this call to 'values' will help him secure it.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Hull Giroscope Housing Co-op versus The Big Boys

Excellent although worrying article in the Guardian's usually depressing Society section. The article looks at the Hull based Giroscope Housing Co-operative who have renovated and rented out dilapidated properties since the early 80's. Giroscope has done a good job of putting Mutualist principles into effective practice.

Giroscope are unfortunately in a spot of trouble, but not luckily of their own making. Many of of the houses that they have painstakingly renovated are threatened by a diseased local housing market and the predatory practices of local developers. The area that Giroscope has been operating in has been used a dumping ground for anti-social tenants benefiting the slum landlords. There are also plans to extensively redevelop the area that Giroscope operates in which would involve compulsory purchase orders and levelling of a large number of houses. All of this is in the name of that sacred cow 'development' or as I like to think of it 'enrichment'. Local councils and local developers rigging the local property market and extracting rents from the poorest and most deprived in our society, Capitalism as usual really!

In the article Giroscope openly imply that the local council and the development corporation have no idea what is actually going on the area. It is clear that in Hull we have a clear clash of approaches and mindsets, local planners and corporate types are used to thinking in the language of command and control. There is plan and it must be executed and then profit will be extracted. Giroscope operate in almost the opposite way working in traditional co-op fashion from the ground-up expanding organically and minimising the amount they exploit the local population as they do so. So it is a clash of ideologies and a clash of world views Giroscope seeing themselves as ordinary working people yet cast by the developers in that insipid phrase 'client group'..when the developer is aware they exist at all..

So who will win? being fairly cynical my money is on the local council and it's corporate cronies. The classically capitalist combination of corporate and state support arrayed against local people will crush the co-op unless they get help and support from the outside. Unfortunately they do not have a website or much of a web presence at all. All we can do is wish them luck against the oppressive forces working against them.

Blair Proclaims 'No Surrender' - What Does he Really Mean?

So Blair is refusing to compromise on the House Arrest Bill, as ever he believes and trusts the security bureaucrats who have never seen a civil liberty they couldn't subert or abuse. It is hard not to see this as more than a political tactic designed to put the Conservatives and Lib Dems on the back foot. In Blair's quest to be ever more conservative than the Conservatives the anti-terror legislation comes in very useful and in the up and coming election campaign will be a useful stick to beat the Conservatives with. Neither party has actually bothered to oppose the true problem with this bill: it's breaching of the right to a fair trial. I don't if this is a tactial move by the Tories or the Lib Dems being fearful of being seen 'weak' on security and terrorism or a combination of the two.

As a spectator of British politics sitting out in the sticks in Wiltshire it is utterly depressing to see ancient liberties such as the right to a fair trial being bargained away at Westminster. Even more depressing is the apathy in the wider population about it. I think there are understandable reasons for this, British people think that this legislation won't affect them so why bother getting worked up about it; or conversly they with resigned realism assume that they can't affect the outcome of these debates, so why bother . People don't seem to care that they could potentially be locked up without trial while being kept ignorant of the charges made against them.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Mr Raimondo I Tip my Hat to you Sir!

Fascinating developments in Lebanon with Hizbullah mobilising it's support for the post-Syrian jostling to power to come. 500 000 supporters in Beirut is an impressive testament to Hizbullah's ability to organise and a telling show of it's political strength. Justin Raimondo at the excellent has probably the best take I've read on the whole situation being like me sceptically agnostic about the whole alleged 'Cedar' Revolution and its implications for the Middle East.

A Self Facilitating Meeja Node Writes About Nathan Barley(it's well weapon!)

'Nathan Barley' is the newish creation of Chris Morris(Day Today, Brasseye) and Charlie Brookner (TV Go Home). Nathan Barley is situated amongst the flora and fauna of meeja London's style magazines and new media focusing on their numerous idiocies and population of no talent hacks. Morris and Brookner narrow down the scope to the barely imaginary 'cutting edge' magazine Sugar Ape and it's population of what pathetically compromised mid-thirties journalist Dan Ashcroft calls the 'idiots'. Nathan Barley is a freelance web designer of does no designing..) and 'self facilitating media node' loathed by Dan Ashcroft yet fully accepted by the 'idiots'.

The Ashcroft labelled 'idiots' are where Chris Morris' wonderfully twisted use of language comes into play with Morris inventing a Clockwork Orange style vocabulary for his charges. Language is dissolved into meaningless clichés and shorthand, the desire to shock detached from any real meaning or intent. Radical political statements and events such as 9/11 are rendered into aesthetic choices for bleeding edge fashionistas. Chris Morris has always played with language from 'The Day Today's' gleeful dismembering of 'Newsnight' style BBC English to 'Brasseye's' full bore attack on tabloid headlines and the emptiness and desperation of the language used by micro-celebrities to fill them.

'Nathan Barley' then is in some way two fingers stuck up towards Chris Morris' traditional audience with Chris Morris doing an 'In Utero' to his loyal fans in the media and all the other 'idiots' who derive their fun from the shock value in his work. Like Kurt Cobain given a crash course on the British meeja and the works of Swift, Chris Morris is biting the hand that feeds him, subverting the very writers who promote and review his work and the magazines that work this particular demographic.

Plutocrats 1 Democrats 0 How the Lords Stopped(for now..) the House Arrest Bill.

Yet again the undemocratically appointed Lords attempt to save British democracy from itself. Luckily for British liberties they have voted the governments proposals for house arrest or as they euphemistically call them 'control orders'. As I have noted in previous posts this issue needs to be settled prior to March 14th when the current bill expires. This then places the pressure back on the government to either heavily modify the proposed legislation, drop it or temporarily continue with the current detention without trial.

It will be interesting to see how the government reacts under this pressure, with the Conservatives breathing down their neck about law and order and the Lib Dems hammering them on their left flank about civil liberties.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Cutting Out the Middle Man: A Mutualist Examines Online Loan Exchanges

The idea of an online loan exchange is very interesting in that it cuts out the middle man, making banks, credit card companies et al irrelevant. Like the betting exchanges and ebay it puts buyers directly in contact with sellers. Zopa takes a cut from the borrower and the lender can use the service for free. Now mutualists should not get too excited at this scheme as it is corporate funded and backed by Benchmark Capital and also makes use of the same debt collection agencies as the high street banks.

There is also the prospect of debt peonage between individuals, although Zopa does acknowledge that ultimately the lender bears the final risk in cases of default. There is also the fact that it uses standard credit risk arrangements to asses borrowers, dividing them into profitable sheep and miserly goats. So this online loan exchange does have its good points in that it potentially allows ordinary people greater access to capital and minimises the role of exploitative capitalist banks. It is possible to see how this kind of arrangement would work in a mutualist or co-op banking system freed of state control, with local co-ops and small businesses exchanging and borrowing from one another using informal loan exchanges descended from early capitalist examples like Zopa.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Best of British Blogs Round Up

Ok the weekly best of British Blogs by Tim Worstall is up. Lots of interesting stuff so go take a look(have helpfully linked for you all up top)

Robert McCartney: The IRA as Defacto State and Monopoliser of Violence amongst Northern Irish Catholics: A Libertarian Socialist Analysis

The Sinn Fein and the IRA always present progressives with a dilemma,their cause is just but their techniques are not. Recent events with the murder of Robert McCartney in Belfast have thrown this dissonance between ends and means into sharp relief.

First of all a brief history lesson. The Provisional Irish Republican Army splintered from the Official IRA in 1971/72 to defend Irish Catholic neighbourhoods from Unionist Protestant aggression and intimidation. The starting point for this were the marches by Irish Catholics demanding civil rights and equal treatment before the law. The IRA then developed further into an movement concerned with evicting the British from Northern Ireland and reversing partition.

So the IRA has had a dual role from it's very inception: that of defender of the Catholic community and 'freedom' fighters against the British. To a libertarian socialist the development of the IRA in the absence of the British state in Catholic areas should by analysed and looked at carefully. Libertarians of any stripe wish for the disestablishment of the state, in Catholic neighbourhoods this has actually happened to some extent. What happened next is particularly instructive.

The IRA styles itself a resistance army and although making some concessions to modern guerilla warfare with the cell structure is still very much a command and control organisation.
So by seeing itself as an army the IRA takes on the mindset of command and control. Strategy is decided from the top and disseminated down the ranks. Military discipline is to be enforced ruthlessly and those who disobey orders are to be treated accordingly. The military mentality is that of the collective with the individuals needs and wants subordinated to the 'cause'.

How then does the IRA interact with Catholic communities of Northern Ireland? In many ways it has become the de facto state in parts of Belfast for working class Catholics. Businesses both legal and illegal are forced to pay a tithe to the IRA, mixed with bank robberies and other activities. The IRA in this way holds the monopoly of violence in Catholic communities and people tow the line. The IRA's political wing Sinn Fein also co-operates acting much like Stalin's political commissars enforcing ideological purity and submission to the cause.

The IRA promises freedom and liberation yet it's authoritarian techniques deny that to the population it is allegedly defending. The IRA has rolled back the state and replaced it with something worse: a stateless army who keep their position through violence, intimidation and the tacit resignation of working class Catholics. Libertarians should see the IRA as an example of how power can corrupt and warp an organisation and how the state can reassert itself in many different forms.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

The Politics of Scarcity in a Digital Age

As anyone vaguely technically minded from the UK will know the BPI has recently started suing people who partake of filesharing services like Grokster, Kazaa, WinMX etc. This legal action is intended to scare and punish those who share copyrighted music files and those who have been sued have been forced to settle to avoid further legal damage.

This type of legal action seems to me and act born of weakness rather then strength by the record industry. Networked computers with large amounts of storage and processing power pose a big threat to the economics of the traditional record industry. This threat is two pronged, firstly people can produce music cheaply and quickly using freely available or very cheap software in many this is particuarly the case for electronic music. Secondly peer to peer distributed networks cut out the middle man artist no longer need sign up to a record company to distribute or sell their work ergo the record company gets no cut. Combine both of these threats together and you can start to see a future where record companies are redundant.

Now turkey's don't vote for Christmans and record companies most definitely don't vote for peer to peer filesharing. Record companies are a classic example of a government backed oliogopoly. Artists are indebted and legally bound vassals of the record company with advances used to discipline and corral them into marketing campaigns and promotional gimmicks. Record companies see the artist as a farmer sees cattle: just another asset to be milked. Artists after costs and expenses see very little profit from each individual CD, roughly 10p per CD in this country.

So if record companies are such a bad deal for the majority of artists why do they continue to occupy such a key position in the music industry? Put simply they monopolise the means of distribution and promotion of new artists in this country, which then explains why they see filesharing as such a big threat.

Being a Mutualist I wish to see a world where the record companies no longer exist and the artist gets fairly compensated for their work. How then can this be reconciled with the reality of file sharing and that old hacker cliche that 'information wants to be free'? The only possible solution that I can see working is some kind of yearly flat flee for file sharers combined with direct payment to the artists concerned. The record companies at present are trying to enforce an artificial scarcity, this has a market distorting effect and prevents new business and legal solutions being found to the reality that is file sharing

Friday, March 04, 2005

Livingstone's Rather Excellent Funny Money

Ken Livingstone is known to be iconoclastic when it comes to his policies for London. His latest suggestion is that Londoners should have access to a new form of electronic currency or 'e-money' as he puts it. This currency will unfortunately be backed up by the current banking system and seems to be more of a replacement for small change than a complete local replacement currency. But it is a start and may develop into a proper LETS or an alternative currency.

Now as a Mutualist I am in favour of more rather than less currencies. From a supranational Euro via the Pound to local and regional currencies. so this is an interesting development and Mutualists should encourage it further, as it leads to further economic de-centralisation allowing people greater control over their own lives and partially frees them from the central bankers money monopoly.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Politics Officially Rubbish: Declare All Major Political Parties

The 'nice but dim' party appears to have learnt a political trick or two from it's abusive 'New' Labour owners. The whole media campaign around Margaret Dixon's treatment by the NHS brings back memories of Labour's Jennifer's Ear debacle. The Tories have cleverly set the tone for this particular media flap puitting Labour on the defensive, giving John 'oh fuck not health' Reid the political run around.

The Tories like 'New' Labour before them know that most people just read the headlines, or skim the news and trying to have an emotional not intellectual impact on the potential voter. What they are trying to do is create the impression that the NHS has got worse rather than better. Nothing unusual in modern focus grouped advertising driven politics. 'New' Labour has been forced to operate in damage control which is an amusing sight. The Tories unlike previous years seem to have some sort of pre-election plan and for a change the discipline to follow it. The Tories are it seems back in the game and while they may not win the general election they may ressurect their status as a competent opposition party.

Committee to Protect Bloggers: Heads Up!

A short post to lend my support to this fine blog. Support free speech and liberty and support this blog.:

Committe To Protect Bloggers

Issues of free-speech in places like Iran, China etc..should concern every blogger. So show your solidarity and pay 'em a visit.

Review: Vitalic - OK Cowboy

Finally a music post! am trying to keep this blog balanced but it's hard sometimes, anyway let's get on with this review!

Vitalic are products of the French club scene and like Daft Punk, Motorbass and Cassius before them they are here to do one thing: make you dance. Vitalic unlike say Daft Punk are not disco and chicago house obsessives. Vitalic's touchstones are 80's synthpop, house, classic electro, Moroder and Kraftwerk mixed with late 70's Bowie. Vitalic originated in and around the Electroclash scene, surved it's demise while carrying on in a similar vein.

As Simon Reynolds pointed out in his interview with LCD Soundsystem dance music is currently between 'big things' and like rock music in the 80's looks to combine and re-combine various different elements of dance musics past. To invoke that crusty old literary critic Leavis dance music is in canonical phase with artists like Vitalic trying to innovate knowing the sheer weight of previous music can both inhibit and free them to make better music.

But what of the album itself? It starts off fantastically reminding me very much of prime mid-seventies Kraftwerk with naive analogue synths puttering away making me think of retro futures past backed up by some kind of bizarre teutonic oompah beat. The next track 'Poney part 1' is pure dancefloor funktionalism with sweeping filters, hard jacking teutonic kicks and Vitalic's cracked processed voice jutting through the mix.

The relentless build and breakdown on this track are simple yet very effective and designed to do maximum carnage on the dancefloor. This track and others on the album like 'No Fun' do showcase an interesting side of Vitalic's music, the rock like attack mid-frequency blare and general lack of digital cleanliness to his music. This is made even more explicit in 'My Friend Dario' where Vitalic deploys actual riffing rock guitars along side a programmed rock n' roll back beat. As Silver Dollar says it's interesting to see where scene's end up sometimes..

This sonic dirt and detritus is there even in the most beautiful tracks of the album with overdriven synths all over the shop from 'Wooo's' heavily swung schaeffel beat and child like melodies. 'La Rock no 1' what more can you say, with filtered step sequencers playing off martial electro kicks, utilising that classic noisy Vitalic build-up and breakdown. The first Vitalic track I'd ever heard and a good introduction to his sound.

Vitalic can do more than dancefloor bangers as is evidenced by tracks like 'Trahison' and the beautiful 'The Past' with it's subtle beautiful use of vocoders and retro synth sounds evoking futures that never came to be.

This album is thee essential dance album of the year so far, better than Daft Punk, M.I.A et al, do Vitalic a favour and pick up his album on April 25th.

Best News I've Heard All Day

Every cloud has a silver lining it seems, and although I kvetched about Blair rejecting the Tory proposed Sunset Clause on the forthcoming house arrest laws. The possible upside might be that the Bill does not pass at all due to time constraints as the original legislation expires on March 14th.

Blair's argument against the Sunset Clause was particuarlyfallacious his key point being that there was no need for such a clause due to the fact that house arrest orders would be reviewed annually. Blair commits a classic category error confusing the renewal of a house arrest order within the law with the renewal of the law itself. All of which makes me wonder if he actually believes what he's saying, on second thoughts he's a lawyer of course he does!

So fingers crossed this bill will not pass due to the tactical maneuvering by the Tories, rebel Labour MP's and the Lib Dems.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

More War on Stupid(with thanks to Bloggerheads): Blair rejects Sunset Clause

So the Tories' half-way sensible suggestion for a sunset clause by *shock horror* the Conservatives on 'New' Labour's house arrest anti-terror laws are being rejected by Blair in Prime Minister's questions. Now I am an implacable opponent of this bill, but being a political realist if it must pass then at least include some sort of provision like this. So much bad kneejerk legislation has been passed by Parliament in the last fifteen year..Dangerous Dogs act, the original derogation from the European Human Rights Convention etc....

The problem is that 'New' Labour has an election coming up and is trying to use this bill to shore up its(to use that horrible blank facistic phrase) 'national security' flank. Triangulation as a political strategy never dies it seems, just skulks away like a red headed step-child until needed again...

Did You Hear the One About the BNP Councillor who got on the Racial Equality Committee...err sorry it's real no punchline folks!

Just when when you thought satire was dead reality comes along and administers a sharp thwack to it's head just to make sure. I mean what is the point of political commentary when reality does such a damn fine job by itself!

Yet again the 'Stupid Party' live up to their fine traditions of intellectual incompetence and ham-fisted political maneuvering by their appointing of a BNP* counciller to a Racial Equality committee. Now I can see the twisted logic behind this by the Tories as the intellectual pygmies behind this strategy obviously think they can isolate the BNP councillor and cut his support off at the pass by making him look ineffective to his own supporters. This would then protect the Tories right theory.

Of course the Tories are obviously banking that the BNP Councillor is as thick as two short planks and can't see the poisoned challice that's being handed to him here. The real danger is if the Tories have handed the BNP on this council a chance to look and act as a legitimate party. This is the real act of stupidity on the Tories part and the other parties on Calderdale Council(West Yorkshire) realise this. The Tories will reap as they sow...

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Commoners Rights and the Tragedy of the New Forest Becoming a UK National Park

The New Forest is one of the few places in the late Capitalist UK where land enclosures were successfully resisted and the tradition of commoners using common land persisted for over a thousand years. It also gives a partial glimpse of how a society could structure itself in a true non-capitalist voluntary free market...

In practice this means that farmers and small holders may allow their ponies and cattle to graze the forest without restriction and commoners have formed a number of different voluntary associations such as the New Forest Commoners Defence Association to represent and defend themselves. So the New Forest is a good example of a society that does not operate according to the accepted rules of either the right or the left. Many vulgar Libertarians find it hard to get their heads round the idea of common but not collectively owned land. Whilst left wingers would tend to see the arrangements in the New Forest as a historical anachronism standing in the way of progress, rural stick in the muds who have yet to arrive in the twentieth century.

However the New Forest is not some Mutualist paradise and the state has intervened many times over the previous thousand years with many parliamentary acts trying to regulate the commoners practices. The latest unfortunate example of this is the making of the New Forest into a national park. The commoners rightly fear that power over the running of their forest will be taken out of their hands and professionalised by local politicians and wider national interests. The commoners, who actually work, live and maintain the forest have of course been ignored and overruled as per the last thousand years the central state has decried something and they've got to lump it or subvert it...

It is easy to see why the New Forest provokes these kinds of attacks as it must appear as an irritating anomaly to the dead hand of statist law and tradition, maybe there is a folk memory of the enclosures that haunts our body politic still...

This Would Explain Alot....

BBC NEWS | Health | Many politicians sleep deprived

Say no more....