“The society which has abolished every kind of adventure makes its own abolition the only possible adventure.” Paris, May 1968

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Al-Qaeda, and the Bloke In The Pub.

When it comes to al-Qaeda, global terror alerts and the like, my opinion is pretty much about as valuable as that of Bloke In The Pub. i.e., not all that. Add to this the fact that my sum knowledge of spooks and the security service is almost entirely derived from John Le Carre and you will get the general picture. Fair enough. But packages from Yemen with or without protruding wires? Packages from Yemen addressed to synagogues in Chicago? Cause for some concern surely. All these Islamic loonies with their exploding shoes and exploding underpants would be a huge source of entertainment were it not for the real horror being brought to light this week at the 7/7 inquest.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Lewes revisited.

I have just got back from a day trip to Lewes. Of course at this time of year the place is psyching itself up for the 5th of November when the town resembles a cross between the Wicker Man and the Gordon Riots. It's an odd little place and no mistake, but the couple of pints of Harveys in the pub next to the brewery went down rather well. Apart from the excellent beer Lewes also has a prison, a castle, lots of posh shops and a wonderful little printers called The Tom Paine Press. The town was also home to something called "Cloth Kits" that sold bits of material to the dimmer members of the 1970s chattering classes who would sew them together in order to make themselves and their kids look like nothing on earth. I am told that Lewes was also home to the very first Farmers Market. I can well believe it.
Returning home to the metropolis I stepped down from the train to discover that Boris Johnson has done the dirty on his Bullingdon Club chums and denounced Gideon's housing benefit proposals as something that might lead to a Kosovo type tragedy. Slightly over egged Boris, but we take your point. When it comes to our Mayor I tend to agree with Arthur Smith who said that he tried to dislike old Eton Boy as a mental exercise - but didn't always find it easy.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The ends and means of animal rights.

The argument about ends justifying means goes back at least as far as Machiavelli. What interests me more is not whether or not ends justify means but the thought that perhaps means can justify ends. I frequently come across actions, means, that are inspiring, exciting, or just good fun but that are aiming toward ends that may leave me completely cold. Nowhere is this more true than in the, to my mind, murky world of animal rights. Not that I approve of all the things that animal rightists do, far from it, there is after all nothing particularly good about random anonymous attacks on people who are unfortunate enough to work for companies who happen to be associated with some other company that the activists disapprove of, but the inventiveness and disregard for the law has to be admired. It's just a shame that all that effort is not aimed at fighting for human rights.
Don't get me wrong, I like animals. There have been individual animals that I have been really fond of. We are animal free now but over the years have had the usual dogs and cats and have kept poultry, pigs and goats. I won't even begin to go into the various bizarre pets I kept as a kid and today leaning on a fence and contemplating livestock remains a favourite pastime. I'm sure that you get my drift by now - I'm OK with animals. It's just that I don't confuse them with people, or think that they have rights in the same way that people do.
One of the many things about New Labour that had me spitting feathers was the fact that they moved heaven and earth to ban hunting but did nothing to repeal the anti- working class and anti- trade union legislation that was a legacy of Thatcher. More parliamentary time was devoted to debating foxhunting than was spent considering whether or not to invade Iraq for God's sake. Vivisection, that other great animal rights battleground, is no doubt unpleasant. We would all rather not know about it. But we all quite like the benefits of it none the less.
The reality is that like all creatures, we interact with and have a relationship with, other species, and I think that that relationship will always involve suffering. Animal welfare (as opposed to animal rights) is about keeping that suffering to a minimum and that seems to me thoroughlly laudable both for the benefit of animals and for our own happiness. Animal rights? Love the bottle and the balaclavas but the ends I fear are nothing but a pile of the proverbial.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Not so astute after all.

In a scene reminiscent of The Navy Lark, the inaptly named nuclear submarine HMS Astute ran aground in a clearly marked channel of the Isle of Skye. If nothing else this confirms once again the long held belief amongst seamen that the two most useless things you can have on a ship are a lawnmower and a naval officer.

Orwell Prize 2011.

This from Gavin Freeguard of the Orwell Prize:

The Orwell Prize for Blogs 2011 is now open for entries. All work with a clear relationship with the UK or Ireland, first published between 1st January 2010 and 31st December 2010, is eligible. Entries close on 19th January 2011.

Entry forms and full entry details can be found on our new website, www.theorwellprize.co.uk. The Prize is self-nominating. Each blogger should submit 10 blogposts.

This year’s Blog Prize judges are David Allen Green (‘Jack of Kent’, shortlisted for the Blog Prize 2010) and Gaby Hinsliff (former political editor of The Observer).

The Orwell Prize is free to enter, and there is no charge at any point in the process. To promote as much political writing as possible, a full list of entries will be published on our website after the closing date. Entries are also open for the Book Prize and Journalism Prize.

In 2010 I think that Paul Stott and myself were the only two anarchist bloggers to enter. Let's improve on that this year and get a wider audience for our ideas. Blogging is not the most important political activity, it's not even the most important on the "not very important" list, but if we are going to do it we might as well try to get as much publicity as possible. Forward to an anarchist victory in the Orwell Prize.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

May and Rifkind in cyber attack.

I'm grateful to Theresa May and Malcolm Rifkind for giving us a heads up regarding the threat of cyber attack. This probably means very little to most of you but to someone such as myself who is at the cutting edge of information technology it is a real concern. At any moment the forces of darkness could take over this blog for example and just fill it up with irrelevant rubbish thus totally shafting both myself and my loyal and discerning readership. Fortunately the government have earmarked £500m for a cyber attack defence strategy. The savings made by shaving 50% of the social housing bill will be more than enough to cover this you will be pleased to hear. Of course I suppose it's just possible that the bodies of May and Rifind have actually been taken over by these cybers. How would we tell? We could be in a world of shit here comrades. Doctor! Doctor! Has anyone seen The Doctor?

The Long View is on the money.

I have just been listening to Radio 4's The Long View ( repeated tonight at 21:30) that this week centered around cricket's recent betting scandals and the parallels with old time prize fighting. The program broadened out to look at the relationship between sport and gambling in general and how the Victorian distaste for betting led to the establishment of amateur sport. It's unusual for the media to be so well informed about the Prize Ring but in one time Olympic athlete and now sports academic Peter Radford they found someone who is a genuine expert. One interesting comment from Radford was that the introduction of the Marquess Of Queensbury Rules had less to do with reducing the level of brutality in the ring and everything to do with ensuring that the punter could wager with confidence. Sport, class, and the relationship with gambling is a fascinating subject and one that needs to be given a bit more of an airing if our opinions on straight and crooked sport are to get beyond tabloid journo level.

Monday, 18 October 2010

A taste of France required.

Apart from their total inability to make proper gravy, you have to admire the French. I mean they don't muck about do they? When in 1968 the Paris students called everything into question and almost toppled the government, us Brits shuffled along behind Tariq Ali calling for the end of a war that we absolutely had no control over and even less understanding of. On the other side of The Channel people seem to have an inbuilt determination to take matters into their own hands. In the past we have looked on with admiration as French fishermen blockade ports, farmers threaten to plough up the Champs Elysees and workers and students kick off at the drop of a hat. A proposed two year increase in the retirement age is enough to bring millions out. What Central London will look like on Wednesday afternoon I don't know but I just hope that we can be a bit more lively than the usual "what do we want?" bollocks. For once perhaps we can show the Frogs that there is more to us than a full understanding of Bisto.

Friday, 15 October 2010

The True Levellers and a Modernist Masterpiece.

Just outside Esher on the Portsmouth Road is an area of woodland known as The Ledges. This fairly unremarkable site is a favourite with local dog walkers but most people probably don't give it a second glance as they drive past. If you wander into the woods for a couple of hundred yards you come to a steep drop down to the valley of the River Mole. That high ground that you can see away to the west and on the other side of the valley is St Georges Hill where the Diggers, the True Levellers, played out that iconic act of propaganda by deed and declared the earth a common treasury for all. St Georges Hill is now, I'm told, the site of as unpleasant, uptight and tasteless a gated development as you could ever stumble across. Turn your back on this scene, it's all in the past, and walk in a southeasterly direction for a few minutes and you will be cheered up immediately for there, hidden in the woods, is a 1930's Modernist classic. We tend to think of Stalinist Brutalism and high rise horrors when Modernism is mentioned but there were very many projects built on a far more human scale. Built as a family home The Homewood is a Modernist masterpiece. There is something about the sight of a piece of Modernist architecture surrounded by trees, the juxtoposition of nature and the clean lines and modern materials, that just lifts my spirits. In an area blighted by both faux Arts And Crafts and the worst of Barratt Homes, The Homewood is a wonder to behold.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Chile mine rescue no miracle.

After sixty nine days trapped underground the Chilean miners are finally rescued and returned to their families and we can but heave a sigh of relief and wish them well. Hours of TV coverage and acres of newsprint have reported the drama in detail but one word keeps cropping up again and again, "miracle". The rescue was fantastic and thrilling and heartening and much more, but it was not a miracle. Instead it was a triumph of scientific knowledge and engineering skill. It was a triumph as well for that part of human nature that cares about the welfare of others. It's a pity of course that all that knowledge,skill and empathy was not used to prevent the accident in the first place. Now that would have been a miracle.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Andrew Marr comes down hard on bloggers.

Some irresponsible blogger seems to have upset Andrew Marr. Well in any area of life there are always a minority who spoil it for the rest of us and I suppose blogging is no different. The New Labour Windmill announced at Cheltenham Literary Festival that most bloggers were spotty inadequates living with their Mum and that they should get a girlfriend. Bit strong Andrew don't you think? However I do take his point about "citizen journalists" not being as good as the real thing and I certainly realize that people like me are not fit to sharpen the pencils of proper public school educated scribblers like Marr. Anyway, as far as the bit about getting a girlfriend is concerned, I ran it past her indoors and truth be told she was not all that taken with the idea.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Top catering policy in Hackney pub.

I was whining on to my son about my current major gripe, the turning of pubs into restaurants in all but name, when he informed me that his favourite Hackney pub had started to do food. "Well", he said, "they don't mind if you bring a kebab in and eat it". Top catering policy or what?

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Where am I? Who am I for that matter?

Fortunately I don't have that many moments when I am gripped with an overwhelming desire to slam a side kick into the telly or hurl books across the room. Probably just as well really. Certainly a lot more enjoyable are the moments when a book or a TV prog makes you sit up and say, "that just how I feel!" I have been reading Map Addict by Mike Parker and have been pleased to find that not only do we share a lifelong fascination with maps but also a barely disguised contempt for those people who seem unable to venture further than the end of their street without the aid of GPS or "Pratnav" as Parker refers to it. Chuck the Tomtom and learn to map read. If you get lost you probably won't die.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

A real result.

Well there you go. A Commonwealth Games wrestling Gold Medal for England as Ukrainian born Miroslav Dykun stormed through the opposition in the Greco-Roman 66kg division. That will go nicely with Terence Bosson's Silver in the 65kg.
I was also delighted to see that 16 year old Zoe Smith took Bronze in the weightlifting. It's not so long ago that women's boxing, wrestling and weightlifting were considered mere sideshow diversions, even another branch of soft porn. Now the women are getting the respect that they deserve in these tough disciplines. I think that that's a real result.

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Health and Safety. Be careful what you wish for.

Two subjects are bound to get the bloke in the pub going. One is political correctness (gone mad) and the other is 'elf 'n safety (also gone mad). Yet irritating though both these much derided institutions can be, and I grant that they can be irritating, they both have their roots in something that is basically decent. One comes out of a not unreasonable idea that everyone deserves a fair crack of the whip regardless of their race, gender or sexual preferences and that it's not that clever to be constantly slagging people off for aspects of their being that they have absolutely no control over. The other has it's roots in workers in construction, mining, shipping etc. insisting that employers provide as safe a working environment as was practical in what were always going to be dangerous occupations. I find it quite sad that two genuinely progressive ideas have been so debased that they are now seen as offering nothing but further state interference in our already over policed lives.
I mention all this because Lord Young's recent attack on health and safety while certainly on target when it come to litigation culture, kids not being allowed to play conkers and all the rest of the nonsense, may be preparing the ground for something else. Is His Lordship softening us up for some huge cuts to the Health and Safety Executive I wonder? The HSE can be the last line of defence for some workers forced into dangerous working environments and is even more important in a time of rising unemployment and job insecurity. Next time you slag off health and safety - be careful what you wish for.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Commonwealth Games.

After a slightly shambolic start the Commonwealth Games have got underway and we can now all concentrate on the really important bit - moaning about the TV coverage of the games. You can bet a pound to a pinch of shit that if you are interested in any of the more marginal sports you will have to be content with a fleeting glimpse of your favourites in action. Well it has to be admitted that small bore shooting just can't pack the crowds in like say athletics can. I will be looking out for a bit of wrestling coverage and I suppose that a lot will depend on how well the English wrestlers do. England has actually sent a fairly strong team over and if nothing else it will be an experience for them to compete in one of the major wrestling nations in the world. It has always come as a surprise to me that the Indian community in this country has not had a far greater influence on British amateur wrestling than it has. To be honest I was expecting every weight division to be dominated by someone called Singh by now.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Another Saturday Night........

Tomorrow night you could:

a) Go and see Made In Dagenham at your local flea pit.
b) Attend a last minute planning meeting for Sunday in Brum.
c) Crack open a bottle and curl up on the sofa with the comrade of your choice.
Or if you are really desperate have a listen to A Working Class Tory Is Something To Be on Radio 4.