Friday, 31 December 2010

A new decade

#newdecade 
2011 hails the start of a new decade. Sadly the media won’t be making any fuss about it because most of those working in the media are a bunch of morons incapable of logical thought. Your average person in the street won’t realise either because most people’s thoughts are conditioned by the media. This time last year people were duped into thinking that a new decade started with 2010 but of course those of us that are at least mildly intelligent know this not to be the case.

Does it really matter?
Compared to the scale of human suffering in the world, no it doesn’t really matter, but the point I’m trying to make is that if people are easily fooled into believing something illogical they will believe other nonsense, like black is white, there is a god and that the Con-Dem cuts are necessary and not just driven by political dogma.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Poor Adults?

The BBC reported that:
In a major report, Labour MP Frank Field says improving the life chances of under fives is the key to cutting social inequality.

I suspect that he is right, but it is not the whole story. If we genuinely want to tackle social inequality in this country then a broader approach really needs to be taken. Yes children need a good start in life. I wouldn’t want to deny any child that. For me, as a libertarian, liberty is about giving every single child the same life opportunities. You are hardly free if your life is mapped out for you because of the environment that you happen to be born into.

Mr Field said he was urging the government to adopt a new approach in its fight against child poverty, focused on better support for parents of young children to improve their life chances.

I think he might well be making some valid points. I’m not suggesting that everything he appears to say in this report is perfect but parentage must have a very big influence on where people end up in life. Therefore if we are to address inequality then a number of things about the way society is structured need to change, and amongst them we need to address the way some people bring up their children. I can just hear the pseudo-libertarians, Daily Mail readers and other assorted nutters shouting out “nanny state”. But what is so wrong with the state trying to give people a helping hand up the economic ladder? Inequality is a Catch-22 situation. That circle needs to be broken and often it is only government that can do that breaking. The market place won’t do it. Capitalism’s whole raison d’ĂȘtre is to perpetuate inequality.


Mr Field's report concludes that, for many children from disadvantaged backgrounds, by the time they start school "life's race is by then already effectively over".


New thinking on education, childcare and benefits was needed to "prevent poor children from becoming poor adults", Mr Field says.


Education is part of the solution, but as I’ve said before, it is not all. But, and here’s the big but education is not just for kids. Education should be life long, and free at the point of delivery. Unless the basics of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are met any amount of education is unlikely to help.


Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Secrets and lies

Governments around the world have condemned the latest ‘WikiLeaks’ which spill the beans on opinions and viewpoints held in certain corridors of power around the world. Governments like keeping secrets and in general tend to be jolly unhappy, much perturbed and well exercised when those secrets escape. They don’t like secrets becoming Unsecrets. Whilst to governments ‘WikiLeaks’ is the devil incarnate I happen to think that it is a force for good. For “every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” so to speak. I like the idea of governments having very few containable secrets. I happen to think that it would make for better government. I am reminded about a scene from Crocodile Dundee; there is a discussion about psychiatrists. It continues, “You're right. Guess we could all use more mates. Suppose you don't have any shrinks at Walkabout Creek?” and Mick Dundee replies with “Back there, if you've got a problem, you tell Wally. He tells everyone in town, brings it out in the open, no more problem.

So there you have it: ‘WikiLeaks’ tells everyone in town. This brings it out in the open. No more problems.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Oh dear what can the matter be?

This story about a poor old French lady stuck in the lavatory for three weeks amused me. It wasn’t the poor woman’s plight, although I have to be honest and say that I was drawn by the ‘Lady Stuck In Lavatory’ link headline on Yahoo. What really amused me was the last little paragraph in the story. Read it now. Do you think they formed a committee and passed a resolution about dialling 999 or whatever the French equivalent is?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Resonance, Renewal and Rope-making in Chatham

The Saturday before last saw us, en masse, at Chatham Dock Yards in Kent. We were there to see the Stanley Spencer paintings that he created during WW2 of the Clyde shipbuilders. All eight of Spencer’s paintings – originally commissioned by the War Artists’ Advisory Committee – and more than 20 associated drawings were on display.



Spencer’s style is very appealing to the eye. His images mostly of men toiling in the Clyde shipyards depict them as safe cuddly marshmallow type figures rather than the grim reality of gritty hard working Glasgow men sweating at a dangerous job. It’s as if he is depicting the inner goodness and honesty of working class people rather than the grim reality of the grime and unsafe working conditions. Spencer packs a lot into each of the pictures. There’s so much going on. They are the sort of paintings that you would find it hard to tire of. The exhibitions on until 12th December so hurry if you don’t want to miss this treat.



After feasting our eyes on the delights of Stanley Spencer’s paintings we headed for the rope-works on the dockyard site. Our guide was Steve or ‘Mr Steve’ as he informed us we should address him. Steve was ‘in character’ playing the part of a foreman at the rope works in the year of eighteen seventy-five. Steve clearly modelled his character on Genial Harry Grout that not so lovable rogue from Porridge. Steve was most entertaining and informative. Part way through several of us were ‘roped in’ to do some rope-making. My part in the process was to turn a handle on a flywheel that drove belts that in turn facilitated the twisting of the strands. One of my great grandfathers was part owner of Haverhill Rope works around the early part of the 20th century. For a very brief period I felt an affinity with my forebear. Well, sort of. The rope works is most certainly worth a visit. The camera doesn’t lie:





Tuesday, 9 November 2010

It’s hip to be square?

#maths 
Kellogg’s produce a sugary snack bar called Squares. Actually it’s hard to tell if it’s a bar singular or bars plural from the advertising and promotional images, and as it’s packed with far too many carbohydrates for any sane person to want to eat, I shan’t be buying a pack to find out. But either way, singular or plural, it/they ain’t squares. A square is a two dimensional geometrical shape. A Kellogg’s Square is, I firmly believe, a three dimensional confectionery item, thus in reality making it a cuboid. I wonder if Kellogg’s are aware of their faux pas? Does no one at the company have a maths O’level?

The Kellogg’s Cuboid – I think it will catch on!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

numb curd

Recently we've had the odd day or two when it’s been quite cold. Days when it’s been a bit more winter than autumn. I hate the cold. I've often thought it would be quite nice to be able to hibernate. Is it just me? Am I the only person who has to wrap up in umpteen layers before I can venture out? Why do I feel the cold so much? Even in the mid of a deep mid winter you see people (let's be honest, blokes mainly) walking along in t-shirt and jeans as if it were a balmy summers day. How do they do that? Don't they feel the cold? Now I can accept that people can have their temperature tolerance levels set differently and that whilst I feel the cold when it’s bloody freezing others may not. I can accept this. It’s not fair, but I can accept it. But what I really don't understand is why these same people who are warm in a t-shirt in winter aren't rendered totally incapable in summer? And, why don't they spontaneously combust at the merest hint of a heat wave. Life is so unfair.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Get your white poppy now!

#peace

No sane person could ever support or condone war, yet as a nation we seem to have been hoodwinked into accepting the sanitised glorification of killing that it Remembrance Day. Despite the white poppy being around since 1933, first distributed by the Co-operative Women’s Guild, we still have a long way to go to change the mass attitude to war. There is no ‘glory’ in war even though that is what the British Legion would have us believe. War is murder; indiscriminate slaughter at the behest of the rich and powerful. War is a money making opportunity that culls millions of lives; human sacrifices to the profit motive. When will the madness end?

WAR IS OVER, IF YOU WANT IT

You can make a difference! Buy a white poppy. Support the Peace Pledge Union. Spread the message that peace matters. PLEASE do your bit to help. Together we can eradicate war.


Monday, 25 October 2010

Regressive

#csr

“We’re all in this together” goes the cry from the ConDems when talking about their politically motivated cuts. ‘Fair’ and ‘fairness’ are words bandied about like they are going out of fashion. They profess to spread the pain of the highly accelerated deficit reduction equally. The trouble is that some are more in this together than others.

The comprehensive spending review is an exercise in extreme right wing ideology. The Tories want to butcher the state in such a drastic way that would no doubt win the admiration of the American Tea Party movement, and they are using the LibDems to do it. It has absolutely nothing to do with sane economics. The Tories have always been very clever when it comes to justifying economic policies. It seems to be a reflex action for them to reach for the analogy of the household budget when describing the country’s finances. I have no doubt this approach is done on purpose and for very cynical reasons. It’s done to muddy the waters. But it is also done because they assume that the average person in the street is incapable of realising that running the exchequer is actually a bit more sophisticated than household accounts. Unless of course George hasn’t twigged that it’s a little more complicated. In that case heaven help us.

Thank goodness the IFS tells it like it is!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

UpdatED

I haven’t really commented much on political stuff of late. The Labour Party conference was on whilst we were on holiday, with the leadership election announcement being made on the night before we flew out. Ed Miliband was my third choice but I was very pleased that he won over David. Blair might have delivered us into the land of electability, but many of the associated ideas and ideals of New Labour are now well past their sell by date, so it was good to get a leader than was not part of the Blair camp. I thought his acceptance speech was excellent and particularly his ‘I get it’ bits. I sincerely hope that he does ‘get it’ and keeps his ear to the ground enough to continue getting it. His divvying up of the Shadow Cabinet jobs was most certainly inspired which proves that he is a pretty shrewd operator Let’s hope that he can lead us back to the political promised land and that the next Labour government doesn’t ignore the people who elected it.

The video everyone is talking about

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Cyprus

I'm sure that there must be some good parts to Cyprus, but halfway through our September week there and we hadn’t found it. Cyprus is hot, arid and underwhelming. In its favour they drive on the proper side of the road, the electricity is British three pin plug style, and at British strength. The pillar boxes and phone boxes are also from a British mould but yellow and green respectively. Unfortunately much of the plumbing is Greek. You can understand why a certain sort of brit loves to holiday and retire here as it is a sort of little England in the sun. You've got household names here like Marks & Spencer and Debenhams plus US fast food establishments like KFC, Starbucks and the ubiquitous MacDonald’s. If you are a lager drinking Sun reader or a wine drinking Daily Mail reader you could live a 'normal' lifestyle here without ever having to subject yourself to "foreign muck" or be in danger of exposing yourself to any meaningful culture. Large proportions of the leather-skinned ‘ex pats’ seem to live in ghettos; reasonably specified ghettos admittedly, but ghettos all the same. Many of them will be the bigoted twats that will have criticised and felt threatened by immigrant communities when they lived in the UK. Personally I care not for isolationist ethnic communities wherever they exist. I understand why it happens and depending in which country you are in it can often be born out of necessity but segregation can never be right whether it be forced or voluntary. To get the most out of where you live you need to be part of a wider society.

Later on in the week we went up to Nicosia and crossed over to the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. The Turkish part is stuck in time (early 1970s really) and quite charming as well as being somewhat dilapidated in parts. A certain rough around the edges charm. We had a wonderful lunch sitting under the trees between a mosque and a church.


I am assured that during the winter Cyprus greens up nicely, and I can quite believe it. No doubt during the winter it must be a reasonably pleasant place to be, but not so the rest of the year. If your idea of heaven is a hot dusty rock of an island, four and a half hours away by plane, where most of the buildings are boring concrete blocks and the beer is classically bland lager, then Cyprus could well be the place for you. As far as I’m concerned I have no plans to ever go there again.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Alternative Vote

Since turning eighteen I have voted in every election that I’ve been eligible to vote in. At every general election I’ve voted Labour. I’m now fifty-five and I’ve never elected a Labour MP in my life. Do you know how painful that is?

In 1997 I came close. Labour were less than 400 votes short of taking true-blue Bury St Edmunds. Now that would have been a victory. When we moved permanently to Norwich last year it was to a constituency that had a sitting Labour MP, Charles Clarke. Not an MP whose political views seemed to wholly equate to mine, buy hey it was a Labour seat. Then of course as we know disaster struck and Charles narrowly missed re-election. So close and yet so far. If I live until I’m sixty will I finally elect a Labour MP? I do hope so.

I have never liked the first past the post system. It is so undemocratic, and just plain unfair. How can it be fair when less than half the voting public in a constituency vote for a particular MP? Why have we put up with it for so long?

One thing that I along with many others don’t want to lose is having a member of parliament that is directly elected by a constituency, but that doesn’t mean you have to stick with first past the post. AV gives you a constituency MP, and an MP that has actually been elected by more people than first past the post gives you.

Democracy has to be about consensus and often compromise. It is totally wrong to stick with an outdated system just because it favours a particular party or parties. No political party should ever push for a system because it favours them. That’s immoral.
Emily Thornberry in her blog posting on LabourList doesn’t seem to grasp that first past the post is undemocratic and therefore can never be supported by a party that should always take the moral high ground.

Come the referendum I shall vote for AV. It may not be the very best solution but it is a damned site fairer than what we have now. I think that’s called progress. Labour is a progressive party, isn’t it?

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Great Moments In Pop Music

Alan over at Gen X at 40...posed this question.

To Alan I say not a chance, "Cum On Feel The Noize":



And if you want the bestest song in the history of rock-a-boogie then give this a whirl:

Dan & Dan Are Still Here

Thank goodnes for that!

Sunday, 5 September 2010

I’m voting for Dianne Abbott



The circus came to town today. Murdoch’s Media Circus, along with the five Labour leadership hopefuls. My ballot papers arrived the other day and I’d sort of made up my mind how I was going to vote but I went along to today’s performance with a relatively open mind. Well as open as it could be given my political leanings. The extravaganza was being held at a venue in Norwich called Open 247; a rather grand hall that was previously a Barclay’s Bank but is now a youth centre. Being in the audience of a television programme is a little tedious. There’s a lot of waiting around and when you’re finally allowed to take a seat you have to listen to some non-entity of a presenter (no idea who he is) go over his lines several times whilst your bum gradually starts to go numb and any political fire you might have in your body evaporates ceiling-ward. Does anyone actually watch Sky News?

The audience was made up of roughly fifty percent Labour members and a fifty percent mix of non-aligned voters and a token ‘youth contingent. At the ‘standing around with a coffee and losing the will to live’ stage before going into the hall I had a brief conversation with a ‘non-aligned’ gent of around my age. He was apparently a Labour voter but not a member. He was persuaded to come along by a market research company who phoned him up on behalf of Sky. Obviously he was interested to hear the candidates speak, but they also offered him twenty quid. He said that as he could cycle there he thought ‘why not?’Labour party members did not get the twenty oncers. I’m not sure why Sky insisted that members of the general public needed to be there as ‘balance’ shouldn’t really come into it. This nonsense meant that less party members could attend. I feel so lucky to be one of the few who got a ticket.

The presentation, for that’s what it was, was an interesting show. It wasn’t a debate as there was no cut and thrust of argument and challenge. But that doesn’t make it a bad thing. It doesn’t always have to be adversarial. All five candidates presented themselves very well. If fact the only one that was not as slick as I thought he’d be was Ed Miliband. His older brother David was perfect in terms of delivery and apparent ease with which he answered questions. Shame he’s a bit too Blairish for my liking. Before today the one candidate that left me cold was Andy Burnham, but after seeing him in the flesh, so to speak, I warmed to him a bit more than I would have imagined. He’s another Blairite so he doesn’t really float my boat but I was impressed with his passion for ‘care’. I’m not totally sure I know what Ed Miliband stands for apart from whatever it is it is to the left of David, and he mentions ‘change’ a lot. He no doubt feels that if it worked for Obama and it worked for Cameron he might as well give it a go. Ed Balls is a star. You can’t greatly fault the man. He talks such sense. He’s the only one that has been seriously challenging the Con-Dems on their vindictive Tory policies. His arguments are credible. His economic policies are sensible, right and fair. If he doesn’t make party leader and Labour do get re-elected at the next election he would make a fantastic chancellor. He makes no apologies for being part of the last government, whilst at the same time pointing some of the things he was unhappy with and argued against; the joys of cabinet collective responsibility hey Ed? He also quite rightly points out that 13 years of Labour actually delivered some really good stuff. Stuff to be proud of. And in fairness all five of the candidates took this positive stance just that Ed Balls was the most robust, credible, eloquent and convincing on the matter. Ed Balls was my number one choice for leader until Dianne Abbott joined the race. Dianne Abbott just ticks all of the boxes for me. You can’t not approve of anyone that was against the war in Iraq. A thorn in Labour’s side that many in the party I’m sure don’t realise how many votes it cost us. But she’s not a one issue woman. For me she offers the policies closest to my beliefs of any of them. And, more importantly I think she is the most ‘in touch’ with real people out of the candidates. With Dianne Abbott as Prime Minister we could just well get the fair and just society that so many of us crave.



If I had any doubts before the presentation they were put to rest when all the candidates were asked which one of their policies was key. Dianne Abbott mentioned the magic words of building many more council houses. That sealed it for me. Dianne Abbott really gets it. She’s my number one choice.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Education, Equality and Environment

I’d like to challenge the notion that the two sacred cows of schools and hospitals should always be the most important when it comes to government spending. Yes, they are very important but they are not always the most important.

If we are to create Jerusalem, the equal and fair society that those of us on the left hope and strive for we are not going to create it just through education and the NHS. Economic equality will not be achieved by throwing large wads of cash at education and health. You can’t build robustly if the foundations are made of sand. In my opinion there is an area that qualifies for just as much priority on spending as education and health if not more. That area is environment.

It must be some strange middle-class fetish, which I clearly don’t understand, that demands that ‘Education’ should triumph over nearly all else in the government priority spending stakes. If you are middle-class then education is important. If you are middle-class, spending on education pays dividends. If you are working-class it’s a bit more hit and miss.

As I’ve said before my approach to politics and my political beliefs are influenced by Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow’s fundamental ‘Biological and Physiological needs of air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.’ need to be adequately met before a person can then be concerned with moving on to the next level. Economic equality for all won’t be attained until everybody has passed up through all of the levels.


If people are consigned to live in poverty and inadequate housing then their environment will never be conducive to learning and good health. If you have the misfortune to be born into a poverty-stricken, dysfunctional family then your chances of becoming a brain surgeon or a captain of industry are extremely remote.

I was brought up on a council estate in the fifties through to the beginning of the seventies. The only heat in our council house was a fire in the living room plus the odd electric fire when we could afford it. I was lucky. I came from a loving family and we were slightly more prosperous than many of my contemporaries, but it was still a struggle financially for my parents, who both worked full-time. In winter it was damned near impossible to do homework at home. It either had to be completed in the living room in the warm with the telly blaring or in the arctic temperatures of my bedroom. Concentration was an issue. Personally I think I did well to ingest and attain the level of education that I did. Going to university or getting a degree just didn’t feature on my radar. So when people harp on about ‘social mobility’ and how education is somehow going to single handedly increase it they are talking out of their arses.

Yes keep building schools and hospitals* but more importantly build social housing and lots of it. And, let’s spend some serious money so that we enable all children to be brought up in a stable and disciplined** family style environment. Only that way will you start to help break the cycle of poverty and facilitate true social mobility.




* fat chance of this with the ConDems in power of course
** discipline as in ‘structure, rules and responsibilities’ rather than some Victorian notion of ‘spare the rod and spoil the child’

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Yellow peril

If a law is deemed to be generally acceptable by society and a person breaks that law it would seem equally acceptable, if caught, for that person to be dealt with by the justice system. I have no desire at this juncture to go further on the outcome of being dealt with by the justice system as it is irrelevant to my argument and I have blogged on it here. Suffice to say that if you break the law and get caught there will usually be something referred to as punishment. As a procedure or process this doesn’t seem unreasonable to me and I suspect most people feel the same.

Are burglar alarms an affront to people’s individual liberty?
Are they evidence of the ‘big brother’ society?
To a burglar the answers are probably ‘yes’ and ‘yes’, unless of course you are Norman Stanley Fletcher, in which case it could be ‘yes’ and ‘no’. But to most of us they would seem to be a useful, if not occasionally annoying when they go off in the early hours near where we live, piece of crime prevention equipment.

Road safety experts say that “speed kills”. We have laws that say speeding is an offence. In general most people accept these arguments. So what is it about speed cameras?
Why are they seen as an instrument of oppression by the BMW driving, Daily Mail reading hang ‘em and flog ‘em brigade?
They encourage people not to break the law and they catch them when they do. Agreed they are more effective than your bog-standard burglar alarm, although the more sophisticated burglar/surveillance equipment is pretty good at ‘catching’ people. They are electronic witnesses to law breaking. What is wrong with that?



Now I know that some people object to speed cameras because they see them as an easy tax revenue raising facility, and I have some sympathy with this viewpoint. But I do think the use of the camera and the penalty need to be kept separate in the argument. Personally I’d like to see the emphasis put well and truly on rehabilitation. If people are caught driving dangerously then perhaps the answer should be re-training and education in the consequences of bad driving rather than a fine.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Public service announcement

It’s a shit time if you are working for the civil service or local government. And, it’s going to get shittier by all accounts. The Tory propaganda machine seems hell bent on rubbishing the work of public servants, whilst the Con-Dem collaboration plans to make as many as possible unemployed. This government is biting the hand that wipes its arse.

As if that is enough to contend with our much battered public servants have to deal with members of the public!

Friday, 20 August 2010

Everybody must get stoned!

There are a couple of lines in Moving On by the Oysterband that go:

“We asked the man for justice
Well, he handed us a stone”

Last week’s stoning by the Taliban was rightly condemned for the barbaric act that it was (although it raises so many other questions and comparisons) but we in ‘the west’ don’t really have grounds to criticise when we are guilty of acts of collective barbarism ourselves. I am appalled by the posturing, whining and intolerant belligerence (is that partial tautology?) on the part of the lynch mob that is the voice of the American Establishment. Their continued howls for the head of Abdelbasset Ali al-Megrahi are quite sickening. If ‘the west’ wants to criticise the behaviour of the rest of the world then we need to put our own house in order first. If we are to prove to the rest of the world that ‘our values’ are the best then they need to be so in reality. The Lockerbie bombing was a cowardly and evil act and we may never know if it was committed by al-Megrahi or not, but in many ways the issue of his guilt is irrelevant. We are also not to know at the moment if there were murky dealings regarding his release, and again in many ways this is not the issue. If we take what the Scottish executive and the doctor concerned are telling us at face value then what they have done in releasing al-Megrahi on compassionate grounds was the right, honourable and compassionate thing to do. Compassion should be always be one of the USPs of any civilised society. If we are to place ourselves on the moral high ground we need to act according to those morals. Something the loud-mouthed pseudo-Christian American establishment right-wingers should adopt. ‘Tit for tat’/’eye for an eye’ actions just perpetuate the downward spiral of the retribution cycle.

The white American Christian establishment right (WACERs) need to answer the following questions honestly:

  • In the case of al-Megrahi what would have been the Christian response to him being diagnosed with terminal cancer?
  • Why do they think Lockerbie and for that matter 11/9 happened?
  • When are they going to stop supporting injustice?


As an atheist I accept that everyone has a right to follow the religion of their choosing but I despise anyone who hollowly wears a religion as a badge and uses it to oppress others.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Ziggy Stardust Came from Isleworth



There was a great little programme on Radio 4 today about Vince Taylor. I knew of Vince Taylor and his fantastic Brand New Cadillac but very little else.

I was weaned on Rock-a-boogie. Six Five Special and Oh Boy were required viewing by my parents when I was a toddler. I don’t remember too much about the acts on these programmes but I absorbed the music. I don’t remember anything of Vince Taylor from that time though. My first alert to his existence was a song on the B side of a Golden Earring single entitled Just like Vince Taylor. Next up came the Clash with their version of Brand New Cadillac (equally as good as Vince’s version), sheer brilliance! Now I’ve been a fan of David Bowie since Jean Genie but until today I had not realised that Vince Taylor had been the major inspiration for David’s erstwhile alter ego Ziggy Stardust. The Radio 4 programme explains all. Give it a listen, but hurry you only have 7 days to do so.

Be there or be square.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Can clothing really be offensive?

Why should it matter what someone wears?
I suppose it matters for a number of reasons. I’m not saying that it’s good or bad but it matters because clothes have become badges. Clothes invariably speak volumes about the person wearing them. Like it or not they are a statement about the type of person we are.

Can clothing really be offensive?
I don’t have a problem with the human body. I felt sorry for that poor chap who attempted to hike from Lands End to John O’Groats naked and kept being arrested. If people want to walk around naked or in various states of undress they should be allowed; subject of course to necessary public hygiene measures. The human body, or exposed parts of it are only offensive if you let them offend you. By the same token if people wish to cover up then there is nothing wrong with that. Offense based on aesthetics is a baseless and shallow reaction. Clothing per se, by its very inert nature, fails to be offensive. What tends to cause offense is the meaning that people attach to clothing. Usually it is a political or religious in meaning. I suppose when clothing manifests itself as the representation of an ideology then it ceases to be clothing and becomes a uniform. Then it is what the uniform represents that is or is not offensive, depending on your point of view. If people wish to dress in a peculiar or idiosyncratic fashion, or be swayed by some magic man with a beard then so be it. The only time it become unacceptable is if it’s used as a means to oppress. But again that has little to do with the clothing as such. I do not believe that the law should be used to proscribe clothing, and the countries that have gone down this road are misguided. Equally people and organisations should be allowed to choose not to ‘do business’ with individuals that refuse to show their face. I think it is fair to say that face to face transactions should be face to face.

Essentially what I’m saying is let’s just relax about what people wear; after all there are much more important concerns to focus on.

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

BT Poster

BT has a poster campaign at the moment offering Sky sports channels via the BT delivery system at a discount. I’ve no idea if it is a good deal as I have absolutely no interest in watching sport therefore have no concept of how much these things cost. But I would have thought that if they had something good to shout about their ad agency could come up with something a little bit better than the poster they have produced. I’ve no idea who the four geezers are but they appear to have been chosen on the grounds that they are probably the ugliest bleeders in all of Christendom. I don’t think you’ll sell much that way BT!


The world’s economic woes sorted in a nutshell

Keynesian economics dictates that it is better to pay someone a living wage to dig a hole and then fill it in than to have them sitting around on a pittance with their soul slowly being destroyed and their thumb up their arse. Thus money circulates quicker, generating greater prosperity.




Monday, 2 August 2010

Crime and punishment

I made a comment recently on a friend’s Facebook wall, or whatever it is called, stating that I was against punishment. It occurs to me that this stance might horrify many people, and I’m not just talking about Daily Mail readers. It might well be just a question of semantics but I truly am against ‘punishment’. Punishment is the action of a bully. Without getting into the rights and wrongs of certain laws, if a person commits what is judged to be a crime by the society that they live in then punishment is not the answer. Punishment is essentially driven by the destructive emotion known as revenge. Revenge has no place in a civilised society.

There are two ways in which our approach to crime is wrong. The first is the revenge aspect that manifests itself as punishment, and the second is that we consistently fail to address the root causes of most crime; those causes being poverty, social deprivation, mental illness etc etc. If someone is convicted of a crime the emphasis should be on rehabilitation. If for their own safety or the safety of the community it is considered necessary to withhold their liberty for the duration of their rehabilitation or part thereof then that is not unreasonable. But removing someone’s liberty should not be seen as punishment. Punishment achieves nothing. Every time someone commits a crime it must be seen as a failure, and it is my belief that it is rarely failure of the individual but a failure of society. Society fails so many people. Rather than dealing with crime in a reactive way we need to prevent crime from happening in the first place. No to “tough on crime” but yes to “tough on the causes of crime”. The solutions are clearly is not as simple as a few slogans. Changing the makeup of society won’t happen overnight. Reducing the gap between rich and poor is never going to be easy. The need to do this has so far eluded the mindset of the majority of the electorate. But that is no reason not to try and persuade them to believe in it. If people could grasp that by significantly reducing the gap between rich and poor that everybody would benefit then perhaps the vast majority might start to come round. You can’t have justice whilst there is injustice.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Let’s see action

The Government’s desire to coerce charities into doing some of their work will backfire. It will decimate the workforce in the civil service, local government and other agencies, thus adding to overall unemployment, it will lead to inadequate and second-class services and it will come at a price ultimately for the government. As I’ve said on many an occasion cost savings in reality relatively are. At the end of the day you usually get what you pay for. Charities also have different agendas to governments, and unlike public servants they are not apolitical. I’m not knocking charities although in a perfect world there wouldn’t be a need for them. Charities are focused on helping people, the ConDem government isn’t, so there is bound to be a conflict of interest. Charities tend to speak up for the people they wish to help; they will probably do so even if their paymasters are the government. They will bite the hand that feeds, and quite rightly so.

I like charities that take positive action to forward their campaign. If this news story from Sky is to be believed the charity ActionAid are mounting a passive guerrilla type campaign against Asda to highlight the exploitation of foreign worker in the Asda supply chain. I’m not sure how effective ActionAid will be at getting their message understood by the average Asda shopper but I wish them success. A bit more direct action from charities can only be a good thing.

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Bastard!

Got back last night from a few days in Edinburgh. Will be blogging about it soon but in the meantime here’s a photo I took in the High Street. Why the Scots want to commemorate one of their ain folk that has caused much pain in the world god only knows.



This bastard has got a lot to answer for!


Thank goodness there is an antidote – shame no one in power wants to use it.

Friday, 2 July 2010

“Poor in UK dying 10 years earlier than rich, despite years of government action”

That’s a headline from the Guardian website today. It is sub-titled: “Department of Health and NHS criticised for making too little progress on tackling key barometer of inequality”. I think the point is being missed, big time!

Medical science and the health service have both come a long way in my lifetime. I think the NHS do a great job under the circumstances, and that’s not damning with faint praise. The NHS can only do so much on the life expectancy front. Throwing more money, resources and new procedures at ‘the problem’ I suspect would not really yield a significant return. It is not an NHS problem. There is a clue to the proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ in the Guardian headline. It is the poor who are dying. The poor! Perhaps some of it is down to the standard of health care delivered, but I expect the greatest reason for the poor dying earlier than the rich is because they are poor. Poverty is a curable disease, but I don’t think it will be cured by a wonder-drug from some mega-rip-off-pharmaceutical company. Poverty might be a health issue but it is surely outside of the remit of the NHS.

Whilst we have poverty in this country, and whilst we continue to lack the courage to tackle the great wealth inequalities, the poor will continue to die prematurely, prisons will remain full, crime rates will soar, drug and alcohol dependency will continue to wreak havoc and social cohesion will remain a far off dream.

Equality saves lives.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

There's more to Iran than a Marti Pellow lookalike!

The Iranian regime seems to engender much polarised viewpoints throughout the world. If you take the US Imperialist stance then the Iranian government is evil personified. If you are a Muslim you possibly see the US stance as yet another western attack on Islam. There is another viewpoint that rarely gets reported and some very brave people risk their liberty and their lives because of their passion and commitment to a secular socialist movement in Iran.

I was very moved by this ‘Message from workers in Iran to 2nd ITUC World Congress, Vancouver, Canada’ on the Worker-communist Party of Iran blog. Please take some time to read it and to visit Maryam Namazie’s blog.

I’m not suggesting that I totally support the Worker-communist Party of Iran but I think they deserve the right to exist and operate in a free and democratic environment.




n.b. the title of this post was inspired by this older post of mine. 

Did you listen to John Peel?

Ken Garner, who put together the, quite frankly anal, tome known as The Peel Sessions is soliciting information from listeners to John Peel’s shows; my thanks to John Osborne for bringing this to my attention. If you were a listener to John’s programmes why not help Ken with his survey – click here.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Workers Playtime

It is my belief that education should exist for the enlightenment, enrichment and stimulation of all. It should not be confused with training and it should not be considered the domain solely of the young. Education should be a life-long experience. That doesn’t mean that you have to permanently on a course or always studying for exams. Education is much broader than that. It can be studying for a degree but equally it can just be reading a book. Education should be for education’s sake and not be about producing candidates for jobs.

The Workers Education Association has always struck me as a laudable organisation. An organisation whose raison d’ĂȘtre is to bring knowledge and inspiration to the working masses. Recently and for the first time in my life I was fortunate enough to attend one of their day classes. The day school was about place names in Norwich, and it was both interesting and informative. The class was well subscribed. I would guess there would have been at least fifty of us there. Ironically, despite it being run by the Workers Education Association, I would suggest that at most half a dozen of us would have been in some kind of paid employment. The rest of the class was made up of people over retiring age, the majority women, and most well into their retirement. It was like a convention of aged ex-schoolma’ams. All Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail readers to a man and many apparent groupies of the short, rotund, balding, slightly camp pedant* running what was essentially a lecture. Strangely a large proportion of the assembled masses present seemed to know a hefty bit about the subject matter before they went. That’s the middle classes for you; swots! I went knowing nothing at all, but came away knowing a whole lot more about my new home. I also came away slightly saddened by the news that there is no longer a Gropekunte Lane in this fine city.


* Not a term of abuse. Absolutely nothing wrong with pedantry!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Vindicated

A certain amount of snobbery goes with the territory of owning a railway season ticket. As much as you try you just can’t help it. You have a tendency to look down on the occasional traveller. Those hapless individuals that are never quite sure of the rules of train travel. Those hapless individuals who get on the wrong trains and who when they get on the right train can’t understand the concept of sitting in the seat that has been reserved for them. The occasional traveller will stand out a mile. They are the ones with unruly baggage, unruly children or will have purchased a take-away coffee and or pastry from a station kiosk. Whilst I dislike all of them I find the last category pompous (I realise that there is an irony in that statement) and worthy of much ridicule. They think that getting on the train with a take-away coffee is ‘what you do’ no doubt they are trying to look cool, to fit in. Take-away coffee, I suspect, is seen by the uninitiated as a form of traveller chic. A must have accessory to facilitate blending in. A badge to say, “hey, look at me, I do this every day”. When in reality it says the opposite. Do you get the picture?

Today, part way on the journey from Norwich to Thetford, a twerp a few seats ahead of me chucked take-way coffee everywhere. The gormless one had clearly just taken the coffee out the brown paper carrier bag that reinforces the take-away status and had either squeezed it too hard or lifted it by the lid. The murky brown liquid went all over the table top in front of him soaking everything on it including the papers of a poor unsuspecting woman opposite him who was busy working away and minding her own business. He stood up, and as is usual with twerps, he just stood there not really knowing what to do. Finally his victim, the unfortunate woman with the coffee coloured work papers got up, went to the loo, and returned with some paper to mop it up. This then ‘inspired’ him to try and mimic the behaviour of someone with some common sense. Eventual the mess was cleared up and they settled back into their seats. Unfortunately my concentration had been broken and I found it impossible to go back to reading my book.

To be a bona fide twerp a person has to meet certain criteria. The list of possible attributes is as long as your arm but as ‘the twerp’ only has to meet a few there is little point in exposing the vast array of variables here. All I will convey are those attributes that qualified the above mentioned twerp to be a twerp. He scored heavily in the following way:

• Take-away coffee in a brown carrier bag
• He was wearing shorts
• He was wearing sandals
• He had no regional accent

I don’t like prejudice, and I know I shouldn’t really think the way I do about the person mentioned above, but it’s hard to think differently when you feel vindicated for holding such views.




Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Serious sport...

#world cup
" Serious sport has nothing to do with fair play. It is bound up with hatred, jealousy, boastfulness, disregard of all rules and sadistic pleasure in witnessing violence. In other words: it is war minus the shooting. "

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Something to chew over

Gristle anyone?

Et tu Cable?

I could go into great detail about the irresponsibility of the Chancellor, George Osborne, and how unfair his changes to tax and benefits are going to be, but I will leave that to more accomplished commentators. I will comment on what is probably the most unfair part of his budget. There is nothing progressive about raising VAT. VAT is an unfair tax and the higher it goes the more unfair it is. The rise from 17.5% to 20%, announced in today’s budget, will hit the population in direct correlation to their income; the lower the income the higher the impact. A credible tax policy can only ever have fairness as its basis, and fairness is derived from tax payers’ ability to pay; the more wealth/income you have the more tax you should pay. The less wealth/income the less tax you should pay. The rise in VAT goes firmly against this principle. The VAT rise will hit the poor hard whilst the wealthy will hardly notice. Why is it always the poor who suffer, when it’s never their fault?



Watching Vince Cable on the telly tonight it is evident that he is becoming distinctly uncomfortable with his and the LibDem role in the debacle that is the coalition government.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Jon Richardson at Norwich

Jon Richardson is a very funny man. He doesn’t tell jokes. He doesn’t really tell that many stories. What he does is convey personal anxieties and observations. And, he does it in a very very funny way. It has been over two years since the first time that I saw him. Last time it was in a comedy club and whilst some of the audience would have known who he was I suspect the majority didn’t. Last night was different; people were there just to see Jon. Having made more of a name for himself he was able to fill the Norwich Playhouse. The tickets said that the show started at 8.00pm and as you’d expect from Jon it started dead on time. I’m not sure how much of his ‘This Guy At Night’ show he performed as a lot seemed to be ad lobbing but it didn’t matter, he was most entertaining. I think I find Jon amusing because I can identify with so much of what he says in a ‘been there done that and yes I find that irritating as well’ sort of way.

As Jon said there are only two sorts of people, putters and leavers. Putters know exactly where they have put stuff, and leavers just leave stuff anywhere and wonder why they can find stuff again. Like Jon I’m a neurotic neo-OCD sufferer, and a putter. There was no support act; Jon did an hour and forty minutes including an encore and not including the interval. Jon claims not to do many encores so I guess we were honoured. The audience loved him. The evening was packed full of laughs. Jon Richardson is still on the way up but he has the capability to go to the top. He stands apart from many comedians who tend to rely on similar formulas. Jon Richardson is different, original and extremely funny. Catch him if you can.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Double dip anyone?

Recession is a cruel and merciless beast that can even be summoned just by talking it up. That’s exactly what I’m going to do now but as I’m so insignificant I’m hardly likely to influence matters. Brace yourselves another recession is coming!

Just when it appeared that we had come through the worst of the recession the blessed Tories go and get in. Unemployment and economic downturn are never far away when the Tories are in power. They have a forte for economic mismanagement which is driven by a desire to please their paymasters. And, guess what? They are at it again. This time its slightly different as the fat Conservative bully has got the snivelling little Lib-Dem spotty Herbert to hold their blazer for them while they duff up the country. Cuts, cuts, cuts, cuts, cuts. So what’s that going to do to the economy then? Cuts in the public sector are going to put people out of work. You don’t make the sort of cuts that the Tories are talking about just by relying on natural wastage. There’s talk of unemployment hitting 3 million (and it won’t stop there) but many more than that will suffer. As unemployment rises and as a consequence wages for those still in employment stagnate so the tax take will go down. At the same time social security costs will increase. The population will have less money to spend in the retail sector thus creating even more unemployment. It will be a downward spiral that will no doubt mirror the Thatcher years. The couple of years prior to the election will seem like a boom time compared to the slash and burn financial devastation that the Con-Dems have planned for us.

I hate to sound like Private Frazer in Dad’s Army but it would appear that “we’re all doomed!”

Monday, 7 June 2010

The Promised Land

I watched a documentary about Dunkirk at the weekend. The programme was built around interviews with soldiers who were there at the time, interspersed with film footage from the time. Having thankfully never experienced it, I can’t hope to imagine what the horrors of war are really like, but the way these chaps were describing their experiences left me in no doubt just how grotesque war is. Several old soldiers said things that I’m sure will stick in my mind, but one thing in particular seemed very relevant to events now. He was describing how, nearing Dunkirk, he was injured by enemy fire. He went on to say that despite his injuries he behaved like a cornered animal; he wasn’t sure how but he scrambled and fought his way to the coast driven by the desire to survive. Desperate people will do desperate things to survive.

“One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist” is a familiar saying. As a pacifist I could never condone or excuse acts of war or terror, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to try and understand why these things happen. Why individuals or states turn to fighting rather than politics to solve their differences. One thing is for sure; the more oppressed either financially, physically or politically a group of people are, the more likely they are to react against that oppression. No matter how subservient those oppressed appear on the surface there will be elements that will see their only means of freeing themselves from the clutches of their despotic masters to be violent means. When you have nothing to lose life ceases to be sacred. Rarely do you get revolution or terrorism when the populace are relatively affluent. Shit on people and eventually they will throw some of that shit back. The higher up the Maslow scale that people are the less prone to violence they will be. How can Israel expect the people of Gaza and their legitimately elected Hamas government to reject violence when they are denied the basics?

I continue to hope that pretty soon the ‘western world’ will come to recognise and desire to do something about the plight of the Palestinians. The incidents over the last week or so have indeed been condemned in some western quarters but it is still not enough. Whilst Israel continues to have the unquestionable support of the USA it will continue with its oppression of the Palestinian people.

A perpetual frustration for me are those societies who think of themselves as civilised yet continue to support pariah states, like Israel. If the majority of these countries upped their moral game the world would become a fairer and slightly more just place. The trouble is that all countries put trade above everything else save the occasional bit of national political self-interest. Just imagine the international condemnation, general hoo-ha and sabre rattling that would have taken place had it been Iran rather than Israel acting in such an illegal manner over the Gaza blockade.

What is needed is for a power block, the EU is the obvious example, to start taking a unilaterally more ethical stance on its trade and relations with other countries. It wouldn’t even have to be an instant change. The EU could declare what it considered to be a set of minimum standards that it expected from its trading partners. If those standards were not met then sanctions could be applied to countries and their supporters who continue to operate in an unethical way. These sanctions could range from mere classification as a country with unacceptable behaviour, to higher import duties, to the banning of trade on certain commodities right through to complete embargoes. There would of course be retaliation which would really test the mettle of many governments but if the EU could show that there is an alternative way of doing things others would follow suit. None of this would be done without diplomatic initiatives running in parallel, and the EU would have to ensure that it practised what it preached, but this course of action if performed right could change the world quite significantly. Once started any action like this would then snowball. There will be critics that will prophesy world recession at such action because of tit-for-tat economic reprisals. They will have a point which is why any action would need to be explained and phase in. This is no reason not to do it. The EU could lead the way in ethical trading and in establishing a new world order. An order built on peaceful, sustainable and equitable behaviour. Fanciful?

Today’s ‘pie in the sky’ is tomorrow’s ‘normality’.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Square peg in a round hole

Before this all blew up I had decided that I didn’t like David Laws. Now that he has resigned I have realised why. With all the praise being heaped upon him from various Conservatives and their sympathisers it is clear the man is really a closet Tory. What on earth is he doing in the LibDems?

Friday, 28 May 2010

Title deeds

Despite being an atheist I did for a period of five years attend Quaker worship. I won’t bore you with the details or my reasons for attending. Putting the religious element to one side the Society of Friends has from its inception has been a forward thinking and truly egalitarian organisation. I am totally in favour of pure secular government, but if we had to have a religious based government one based on Quakerism would be just fine. Ironically though Quakers wouldn’t want to impose their ways on others so it would never happen. Basically what I’m trying to say is you could do a lot worse than turning to the Society of Friends for inspiration.

One thing in particular that Quakers do that reinforces their egalitarian credentials is that they don’t use titles. To a Quaker I am Paul Garrard. Not Mr Paul Garrard, Sir Paul Garrard or Dame Paul Garrard, just plain old Paul Garrard. I suspect you are thinking, ‘does this really matter?’, and my answer to you would be that it does. If we are to build Jerusalem, that fair and equal society in this green and pleasant land we need to eradicate unnecessary labels that continue to segregate or mark us out by gender or class. I realise that Daily Mail types that think that this is ‘political correctness gone mad’ but equality is as much about perception as it is about economics. If you change people’s perceptions and remove erroneous classifications you make it a bit harder to discriminate and enable social mobility to be that bit easier. This of course needs to go hand in hand with economic measures that facilitate equality - better housing, better education chances, employment and decent wages – but they do need to be done together to have the greatest possible effect. Having said that if any government introduced a law that banned to use of titles for all form filling and systems, be they in the public or private sector, it would at least start us on the road to changing the mindset of the whole nation in favour of equality for all.

In the future all people will be equal, and some won’t be more equal than others!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Credit where credit is due

Whilst I obviously don’t care much for the new government’s policies, there are two in particular that I actually welcome. The first is an issue relevant to where I live. They are going to scrap plans for Norwich to become a unitary authority. Norwich being given unitary status never really made any sense and I don’t understand why the Labour government was so keen on it. I’m not against unitary authorities in principle but the solution for Norfolk always seemed like a costly one for a small city and a not so densely populated county. The other decision that I agree with is the Con-Dem’s plans to curb excessively large salaries in the public sector. I hope that they tackle the nonsense that is bonuses in the public sector as well.

Before you start to think that I am in some way bashing those that work in the civil service or for local government, or you think I’m starting to turn from red to blue, fear ye not. One of the great achievements of the last Labour government was the introduction of the minimum wage. I personally think it is set too low but it doesn’t dilute the fact that it is a good thing. And, interestingly, the sky didn’t fall in when it was introduced, unlike the reactionary prophesies. Unfortunately the social chapter doesn’t go far enough because as well as a minimum wage it is my firm belief that we should also have a maximum wage. Not just for one section of the economy but for all. Wages should be controlled both for public and private sectors alike. Is it such a crazy idea?

There are no doubt lots of reasons why a maximum wage wouldn’t work, and people would find loopholes to get through it, but those loopholes could then be plugged by punitive tax measures. Just doing nothing can never be an option for those that want to build a fairer future for all. A society where one person earns more in a day, a week or a month than another earns in a year can never be cohesive or unbroken.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Dieu et Mon droit!

What right has any person, through accident of birth, to own great riches, to be venerated or hold constitutional powers?

What right has any person, just by being famous, to own great riches, to be venerated or influence the process of government?

The answers, in case you are in any doubt, are none and none.

The cult of ‘celebrity’ is a strange beast. Many think of it as a modern phenomenon but in essence it’s been around since time immemorial. Nowadays the machine that creates this superficial infamy uses the technology of the digital age to full effect. Celebrities wax and wane at the blink of an eye, and in their droves. The limelight life of the latter-day celebrity tends to be quite ephemeral. Most fall by the wayside quickly, but occasionally some manage a near permanence. Nouveau celebs are no doubt frowned upon by those that have been practising the mystical art of celebrity status for generations; namely the aristocracy, and in particular the monarchy.

It is hard to understand why in an age of supposed equal rights we still have a monarchy and an unelected second chamber. Whilst it’s conceivable that the new Con-Dem government might actually do something about the House of Lords, one thing that’s for certain is that they are not likely to call a referendum on the UK becoming a federal republic. No Tory would ever support the abolition of the monarchy, and I suspect if there were a referendum tomorrow a vote in favour of abolition would be highly unlikely. The ruling classes never let up in their propaganda war and the populace continue to fall for it, as a result the status quo is maintained. If we are ever to build a fair and just society this can only ever be carried through if we have a fair and just form of government. Power should only ever be bestowed upon an individual or groups of individuals via the ballot box. Political power and vast wealth gained through birthright is unfair, undemocratic and immoral. The monarchy is morally indefensible. A democratic republic is the only form of fair and just government. Principles and practicalities need to go hand in hand. Without both we can never transform society into an equal and cohesive collective.

Monday, 17 May 2010

A level playing field

#equality
Being the old cynic that I am I would treat with suspicion anyone who claimed that a book had changed their life. But a book has changed my life. Well its change the way I think about people and many of my political beliefs, so from that point of view it has changed me. The book responsible for this Road to Damascus type revelation is The Spirit Level by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett

If the data in this book is to be believed then there is an undeniable case for the need for greater equality in our society, and fast. Before I read the book I so wanted it to offer compelling evidence to justify the need for more equality in our society, and it certainly seems to do that. Whilst it is obvious that a lot of this information has been available within academic, health and political circles for a little while I think it is fair to say that it is only now starting to seep into the consciousness of society.


It would seem that contrary to, what is probably, ‘popular belief’ just raising the living standards of the poorest in our society is not enough if the upper end of the income scale continues to rise in an uncontrollable and ever extreme way. What people earn is not as important as the difference between those at the lower end of the economic scale and those at the top. The greater the income inequality the more ills a society has. In the UK where income differences can be quite extreme we have higher rates of crime, substance dependency, mental illness, obesity, teenage pregnancies, lower average life expectancy overall and lower average educational attainment. More equal societies like those in Japan and Sweden have a much lower rate of these ‘social ills’. Inequality facilitates social breakdown. The extremes difference of wealth levels in society creates anxiety. At all levels in the socio-economic scale people are anxious about their position. They will measure this using any number of criteria and react according to their perception of their position. This anxiety fosters mistrust and hostility towards others. It produces a heightened form of individualism where people either feel far superior to others or very much inferior. This perpetuates the anxiety, fuels further mistrust and the further eroding of social cohesion. It affects those that have and those that have not in equal measure.

This book doesn’t answer all the questions but it certainly goes along way down the road. Also, it doesn’t offer solutions, save make society more equal. It gives you the goal but leaves it open as to which road to follow. It challenges a lot of preconceptions people have about tackling social ills.





I urge you to read this book. If enough people are made aware and can be convinced by the message that equality is not only desirable, but essential for improving the quality of life for all, then we can build a better world.



For more information please visit the Equality Trust website.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

New Dan & Dan




As always the sting is in the tail!

Gogol Bordello

Last Monday night we went to see Gogol Bordello. ‘Never heard of them’ was the response we universally received from friends, family and colleagues on mentioning our attendance at the UEA gig. Thankfully many other people had heard of them and the concert was sold out. The audience was made up of a wider than normal age ranges which always make me feel good. It’s great when you don’t feel like you are one of the oldest in the audience.



The gig itself was a lively affair with the band giving it their all, sweating profusely for their art. Gogol Bordello play what they describe as ‘Gypsy Punk’. I call it bloody good music. I’ve only managed to find one clip of the concert on YouTube so far. It is embedded below. Unfortunately it is not really typical of much of their output. Their best known song ‘Start Wearing Purple’ best sums up what they are about. Catch them if you can.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Bayerische Motoren Werke

Prejudice is a terrible thing and unfortunately it is something that most of us, apart from the truly pious, are guilty of. I know I am. Many of us might not be guilty of any prejudice towards people from other countries of different creeds or of different ethnicity but we are none the less guilty of prejudice towards people for other reasons.



I go to work by train, and my walks to and from the station take me past a number of riverside flats and houses. These relatively recent developments all have car parks nestling behind automatic gates. The other morning as I walked towards the station I noticed someone attempting to drive out of one of these car parks. This person had driven up to the gate, clearly pressed a button on their remote control and then suddenly realised that only being 6” away from the gates that opened inwards (towards them) was not a good idea. I looked at the car and smiled. It was a BMW. Typical I thought, that explains everything. You see my impression of BMW drivers is that they are self-centred, pea-brained Neanderthals. How judgemental is that? I was quite horrified. I don’t know this person. They’ve done nothing to me. I felt quite ashamed that I should feel so negative towards someone because of their slight error of judgement and their choice of car.



Quakers look for “that of God in everyone”. I think I should try harder to look for ‘good in everyone’. Not always an east task but I must try. If we all became rather less judgemental, bigoted and downright discriminatory this world would be a far better place.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Lovers are mortal


Dave: 'how about a snog then Big Nick?'      Nick: 'tee hee, yes but no tongues'

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Accountability

#ukelection
I’ve been a fan of proportional representation for many a long year. Long before it became fashionable. I don’t say that with a sneer as I’m rather glad it has become fashionable. The only way we will get proportional representation is if it is fashionable. Our current system is far from democratic and that needs to change. The old adage states that democracy is government for the people by the people. This is not how it is in the UK at the moment. But changing the mechanics of the voting process is only half of the story.

The outrage that was the MP’s expenses scandal left many people feeling angry, cheated and in many cases politically impotent. Still to this day there are, I imagine, MPs and former MPs who don’t understand what they did wrong. The electorate in some constituencies did tell their ex-MPs what they thought of them by not re-electing them, but having to wait for a General Election is a far from satisfactory way of dealing with an MP that no longer represents or commands the support of their constituency. If we are to make our ‘democracy’ more democratic, enabling our elected representatives to truly represent us, we need a greater degree of accountability from those representatives. Whilst it shouldn’t be too easy, it should be possible ‘recall’ an MP (or councillor come to that) if it is felt that they are not representing their constituent’s best interests. As I write this I have an open mind as to how this might be achieved, but the current system does need to change.

Political parties also need to play their part, and parties need to better reflect the wishes of their members. I realise that sometimes members wishes will no doubt be at odds with those of the general public but that shouldn’t mean that we shy away from a system that might contain these challenges. Greater accountability would I’m sure increase the interest and participation in politics by the population at large. We need greater accountability. We can’t carry on as before.



http://www.takebackparliament.com/