Monday, 31 August 2009
Carni may not be what it was but it is still a good day out. Red Stripe, curry goat, Jamaica Patties, sound systems that suck the air from your lungs. What's not to like? Well,all right perhaps it was a trifle insensitive to site the hog-roast stall right in front of the Golborne Road mosque but how reassuring to know that my safety is being taken care of by the same stalwart thin blue line of heroes that looked after us at G20!!!
Friday, 28 August 2009
The media continue to big up the advantages of "growing your own" but aspiring growers must face up to the huge waiting list for allotments and the fact that not all off us are lucky enough to have gardens. This situation is giving rise to all kinds of initiatives from growing spuds in towers of old car tyres to the radical expropriation of unused land. I'm in favour of all of it, let a thousand cabbages grow. Last weekend I headed over to Hackney to check out one such project and you can do the same without moving from this keyboard by clicking here. It's not the eruption of the marvellous but projects like this can bring people together and lead on to who knows what.
Thursday, 27 August 2009
Can it really be true that anyone is seriously considering building a high speed rail link between London and The North at the cost of twenty seven billion pounds? We are told that the journey time between London and Manchester could be reduced from two hours and ten minutes to one hour and ten. Amazing! Now this is what I think politicians should do. Take a stroll around Tower Hamlets, hop on the slow speed train to Manchester, take a look round Moss Side and have a long hard think. Twenty seven billion quid, could it be put to better use?
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling claims that much of the UK is just like the Baltimore portrayed in The Wire. It's not clear how much if any of the TV show Grayling has actually watched, and I see the thumbprints of spotty young researchers all over this, but what part of the programme is this Tory Boy referring to? The bit about corrupt, self serving politicians and the power of property developers, is that what you mean Chris?
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Most maritime safety legislation, and a good deal of health and safety legislation in general, comes about as the result of a tragedy and the sinking of the Thames passenger vessel Marchioness was to eventually result in a whole raft of new initiatives. I say eventually because it was only after determined campaigning by relatives of the 51 people who lost their lives that night twenty years ago that all of the changes where put in place. One of the initiatives was the introduction in 2002 of RNLI lifeboats to the Thames. I was proud to be asked to take on the training of volunteer crews at one of the new Thames stations and having helped set up the station stayed on for three years.
I have a lot of respect for the RNLI and I'm not the first anarchist to feel that way about it. Peter Kropotkin was not only an admirer of the lifeboat service but was fond of pointing it out as an example of how a post-revolutionary society might operate. His vision of independent individuals freely cooperating in groups that in turn freely federated with others was in the opinion of that prince of libertarian communists something that could be witnessed here and now in the form of the lifeboat service.
Sunday, 23 August 2009
Despite a promising start the Summer of Rage never really materialised and the time honoured English tradition of letting things fizzle out seems to have won the day. We can console ourselves with the fact that another time honoured English tradition, letting the Aussies get the better of us, has been forgotten about with England's win at The Oval. What a fantastic Ashes series this has been. 2009, Summer of Rage? Well at least the cricket was good.
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
As Ronnie Biggs lives out the final act of a long and eventful life as a free man there is one thing that he and his family can be grateful for; at least he never did anything to upset Amerika. Had he been unwise enough to fall foul of the Empire of Stupid he would no doubt have died in prison.
I have no idea if Abdelbaset al-Megrahi is guilty of the Lockerbie bombing, nor do I have any very strong views about him being released to die at home. I am however more than a little pissed off with hearing American politicians gobbing off on everything from the NHS to who should or should not be freed from British prisons. It's bad enough to have America as intergalactic police force without having to suffer them as world arbiter on ethics and morality as well.
Saturday, 15 August 2009
I missed Man on Wire when it came out on general release and watched this account of Philippe Petit's blood chilling 1974 high wire walk between the World Trade Centres twin towers for the first time last night. It was worth waiting for. The film was a celebration of adventure, victimless crime, love, playfulness and optimism. It stands in stark contrast to the dreadful final moments of those twin towers. Perhaps this film should be watched by all aspiring jihadists.
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
My Unison in house magazine arrived yesterday and unless you can get wildly exited about Dave Prentis and A Million Voices for Change it's, well, not wildly exiting. One thing that did catch my eye was a full page advertisement for the "Nostalgic Cook Book - the ultimate book of old fashioned recipes including many wartime recipes that kept our workforce both happy and healthy and kept our soldiers fit to fight in the battlefields!" Among the gastronomic delights on offer are Wooton Pie, Mock Oyster Pudding and Grilled Pilchards on Toast. On the same day that Unison unleashed this on it's unsuspectimg members Environment Secretary Hilary Benn announced a new government initiative on food security in the face of climate change and population growth. Conspiracy theories are launched on less than this.
In the coming months the debate on food security will no doubt give rise to a number of ideas that have been around for a while being dusted off and given a new airing. Three that the media have picked up on already are:
Grow Your Own. Very trendy at the moment and certainly there is much to be said for it. DIY food production has a long and honourable history in this country and there is no doubt that it can make a significant contribution to overcoming food shortages but the real problem is the lack of available land. Every unused piece of waste ground would need to be brought into production as happened during World War 2. DIY food production has the potential to bring people together both in the struggle to make land available and in the collective effort to feed ourselves. I look forward to the launch of the Red and Black Pig Club.
Vegetarianism. I don't know why but the anarchist movement has always seemed to have had more than it's fair share of vegetarians. There are certainly very sound arguments for reducing our meat consumption but that is not the same as becoming vegetarian. The reality is that it is not possible to produce eggs, milk, cheese etc; without also producing meat. What we choose to do with this meat is up to us but the best thing to do is eat it! Livestock is a major component of all agricultural systems and is likely to remain so.
Improvement in efficiency. It depends of course how we measure efficiency, but in terms of yields per acre agriculture has never been so efficient. It's not production that is inefficient but distribution and I'm not referring here to the fact that half the world can't afford to eat what is produced, criminal though that is, no it's the shocking levels of waste that are now inbuilt into the food distribution system that I'm concerned about. Don't let them con you into thinking that you are somehow to blame for this. It is not the out of date food in your fridge that is the real problem; it's the crops left rotting in the field because some suit from Tesco thinks that it is not the right size or shape. It's the whole stranglehold that the supermarkets have on food production and the fact that growers are producing to satisfy not the need for food but the needs of retail marketing strategies and the production of profit. That is the real inefficiency, but you probably won't hear this from Hilary Benn, or Dave Prentice.
Friday, 7 August 2009
Andrew Simms of the New Economic Foundation argues for a maximum as well as a minimum wage in today's Guardian. Not a recommendation likely to go down well in The City I would have thought nor one likely to be implemented any time soon but certainly one of a number of ideas that need to be given a public airing. Personally I am in favour of complete financial transparency. Every aspect of everyone's finances should be out there in the public domain. When I worked for the Environment Agency we had a Performance Related Pay system. Needless to say I spent some time arguing against what was nothing more than a device to enable management to divide the workforce and the secrecy surrounding individuals salaries helped to foster this division. I always made a point of openly discussing what I was paid. Management hated it. Wages, expenses, profit on the sale of houses, make it all public knowledge. Not just for MPs but for all of us.
In this country we have developed a culture of privacy about money and about politics as well. An "it's my business" attitude that is at odds with any suggestion that politics and earnings are not just personal concerns but social concerns as well. Get it out in the open I say. It's nothing to be ashamed of; or is it?
Thursday, 6 August 2009
Whatever happens at the Vestas occupation tomorrow the workers concerned have been a beacon to us all. The decision on how to play it tomorrow is theirs alone and they can hold their heads high in any event. One thing I am sure about is that they will remember these past days for the rest of their lives. Nothing will ever be the same again.
Tuesday, 4 August 2009
Immigration minister and philosophy graduate Phil Woolas is keen to introduce a points system for aspiring UK citizens. According to Philosophy Phil points will be awarded for positive action such as voluntary work, campaigning for a political party ( any particular party in mind Phil?) and trade union activity. Points will be lost for negative action like attending demos and generally causing trouble. The rest of you philosophers out there will have spotted the problem straight away but I'll run it past you just in case. When out potential citizens have finished cleaning Phil's hotel room for the minimum wage and start using all that spare time for political and union activity they may find that this activity gets them into trouble. Can you see what I'm getting at here Phil? Phil Woolas. He ain't no fucking Wittgenstein.