2 January 2015

New Year, same shit………..

As the New Year fireworks fade to a distant memory we can look forward to an election less than 6 months away and it will be interesting to see how the various political parties position themselves.

The Tories will follow the script that they have used for the past 4 years which is that Britain's economic troubles and the consequent 'Age of Austerity' was caused by the preceding Labour administration. They will say that Brussels is a huge threat to Britain's sovereignty and must be constrained. They will say that immigration needs to be curtailed. They will say that we must all work harder and for less in order to 'make Britain stronger'.

For their part, the Labour Party will seek to be reasonable and rational in the face of Tory claims. They will cosy up to big business and the CBI and suggest that Tory extremism is a threat to the economy and stability. They will promise not to rock the boat whilst, at the same time, seeking to achieve a fairer redistribution of wealth without increasing taxes on anyone with influence. They will also try to recast Ed Milliband as a dynamic and attractive leader.

The Scottish Nationalists will share the same objective as UKIP where both will be trying to achieve enough votes to give them leverage in the likely event of a hung parliament.

As for the LibDems, what can they do to save their deposits? Probably nothing.

And throughout the run-up to the election, everyone (Tory, Labour, LibDem, SNP, UKIP) will ignore the reality of the global financial crash - that it was the culture of capital that caused the crash and it is the culture of capital which continues to visit austerity on the many in order to benefit the few.

There is no co-operative balance between the interests of capital and the interests of wider society - society serves capital and the interests of capital and, until something is done to reset that imbalance, the age of austerity is likely to continue. None of the political parties have the balls to address that issue. Its far, far easier to blame immigrants.

19 December 2014

15 December 2014

A threat to the establishment……..


Last week I did something unusual, I watched Question Time on BBC1 but only in order to see how Russell Brand fared, and he didn't disappoint. Russell may not be everyone's cup of tea and I am sure that he turns many people off but he did illustrate the chasm that exists between the political establishment's view of Britain and any wider consideration of where we are and how we got here.

Brand isn't a polished public speaker (yet) but he has what the rest of the panel lacked - passion. A couple of years ago I had the chance to speak to one of the producers on Question Time and, talking in the context of my own experience in Somerton, the producer said that Question Time didn't want passionate people on the panel because they didn't fit the programme's profile. What he was saying was that Question Time is, in effect, a mouthpiece for the Establishment and the debate needs to be kept within the tight confines of the establishment's agenda. Brand's appearance on the programme was therefore quite unusual but it did illustrate the point.

As the programme unfolded, it became quite clear that the other panel members, conservative, labour and UKIP, entered into a loose coalition against Brand because his passionate consideration of the bigger picture was a threat to them all. Whilst they wanted to argue one policy against another, Brand looked at the bigger picture and, with regard to 'austerity', sought to point out that 'austerity' had been brought to us by the culture of banking, about which nothing significant has been done.

What was also interesting were the comments made by a member of the audience who challenged Brand to stand for Parliament. The moment this person started to speak, it was quite obvious that he was a plant (confirmed by the BBC) but the point that he made underscored why Brand is better off staying outside parliament and speaking to his 9,000,000 twitter followers. Parliament is just like Question Time where the debate stays within the very narrow confines of what the establishment sees as 'acceptable'. Like Question Time, Parliament is all about Punch and Judy politics where knock-about debate (PMQs) disguises a determination (on all sides) to maintain the status quo.

We need more like Brand, if only because it shows just how bankrupt our political system actually is.

28 November 2014

Post-consumerist society………….?


I've been getting it wrong. When I read the phrase 'black friday' I thought that somehow, some marketing wonk had found out that this particular friday was the worst day for sales throughout the year. As a consequence of that fact, I thought that the stores were just putting on a one-time sale to prop up their figures. But I was wrong. So very wrong.

The idea was probably dreamt up by some marketing wonk but the idea is to give consumers the chance to squander their austerity shrunken wedge on a one-off consumer splurge so that, when Christmas comes around, they will be even more broke or in debt than they were before. Brilliant.

Not only is the idea brilliant but, going by the news today, the idiots were out in their droves, kicking and gouging their fellow men and women i order to get their hands on the latest flat-screen TV that will be discounted to next to nothing by next February, when the next 'New version' of the same flat screen TV will be rammed down their throats by the same cynical bastards who did the ramming today.

It reminds me of almost any of Ralph Steadman's drawings:


And, as you might have guessed, the idea originated in the United States of Consumerism.

PS Have a look at Ralph Steadman's work here or almost anywhere on Google

24 November 2014

In praise of the diary


A couple of months ago I decided to buy a Filofax. I remember the Filofax being the personal organiser of the late 80s and early 90s but today its position has been usurped by any manner of phone, tablet, netbook or digital slab. But, the fact is that I have fallen out of love with the tsunami of digital devices that rule our lives.

I first became involved with the 'digital revolution' in 1984 when I was involved in the UK launch of the original Macintosh. At that time the little box with a keyboard and mouse was a complete mystery to me and it needed a lot of explaining. Then came 1991 and my first Macintosh, the pizza box Mac LC and I was hooked.

The Mac was and generally has been seen as the PC of choice for 'creatives' and its GUI (graphical user interface) made it easier to use, easier that is than using other PCs which did similar things that I also didn't understand but thought must be important.

And so it has been ever since, or at least till the last two or three years when Apple has come to dominate the public conciousness with its design and fashionability. Sure, these digital devices do all manner of whizzy things and let us buy lots of stuff at the click of a button. They also allow some people to have millions of 'followers' and have made serious communication a thing of the past by enabling email which, to many people, is an irritant.

And I started to resent having to press the button on the back of my 27" i7 3.4GHz 256SSD 2TbHd Intel iMac in order to see anything. And it dawned on me that, as long as the sun shines (or the lights are on) a diary will work perfectly well. So I bought a Filofax and, so far, I'm getting along just fine. I've also started to put letters in the post rather than sending .pdfs across the ether. Yes, I compose these letters on the iMac but I'm writing this on a nice little Toshiba netbook running Linux and it is beginning to do everything that the iMac does and at a fraction of the cost. And somehow, I expect less of the Toshiba. I see it more as a tool to do something with, rather like an old typewriter. I don't want the Toshiba to say anything about me, in fact, I'd prefer it not to. Hopefully the words will speak for themselves.

So, I think that I'm disconnecting from the digital revolution, maybe not completely and maybe not even more than less but certainly somewhat. And I'm beginning to see the diary, with its analogue calendar, alphabetical phone and address book and its instant on-ness, I'm beginning to like it rather more than the digital devices I used to think did so much for me. Yes, digital devices work for many people, but less so for me. Analogue just seems so much more substantial.

18 November 2014

Gosh!


Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England, has made some shocking statements recently. Talking about the culture of banking in the context of yet more fines imposed on banks because their staff were making huge amounts of money in very dubious circumstances, Carney said:
“The repeated nature of these fines demonstrates that financial penalties [on banks] alone are not sufficient to address the issues raised,” and,
“Fundamental change is needed to institutional culture, to compensation arrangements and to markets.” and,

the succession of scandals “mean it is simply untenable now to argue that the problem is one of a few bad apples. The issue is with the barrels in which they are stored.”
How long has this guy been in the job? How much is he paid to make these pronouncements? Any cab driver could have told him this.
Banking is a pretty peculiar business. When banks go belly-up, the tax-payer steps in and bales them out. At the same time, the people running the banks get huge bonuses to leave. Then a new bunch of bankers 'sort everything out', whereupon there are more scandals and the people running the banks are  given huge bonuses. And at the same time, whilst all these bankers are making shed-loads of 'Wonga' out of schemes which in any other situation would be called a scam or criminality, the taxpayer has to endure the 'age of austerity' so that the banks can be given more money to build up their capital which has been reduced by the bankers and the fines.
Isn't there something wrong with this picture. How is it that Dave Cameron and George Osborne can tell everyone that things are getting better because they are making everything worse for the ordinary man woman and child, and everyone seems to believe them?
When are the lumpen masses going to wake up to the fact that the many are getting royally fucked by the few and, at the same time, the same many are expected to pay for the privilege. 

11 November 2014

Hide in plain sight……..


So the saga of the missing files, all 114 of them, continues at the Home Office. Now we know that the Home Office didn't have a terribly good filing system back in the 1980's and that would seem to be the reason that these pesky files are missing. And the manner in which the filing system was set-up doesn't seem to have helped. And the fact that the current Home Secretary, Ms May, didn't give the Wanless Investigation enough time to look through the hopeless filing system to see if the files had been mis-filed. So it looks like the Wanless investigation was doomed to fail from the start. How terribly convenient.

And then I hear that the Geoffrey Dickens file may have been covered by the Official Secrets Act and, were that to be the case, any retired civil servant would put their pension at risk were they to admit that they had read the files, far less share the contents with anyone.

If Dave (Big Tent) Cameron or Ms May really want to get to the bottom of this odd story, they might just want to declassify any files relating to abuse of any sort. Then maybe someone might step up and spill the beans.