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

Saturday, 28 June 2014

If you don't laugh you will surely cry.

Victims of psychopath dictators, the worst excesses of religious maniacs or the inept interventions of over armed and under informed western powers, there seems no end to the misery endured by the the people of the Middle East. One incident that would have been laughable had the consequences not been so tragic, was the massive scam pulled off by multi-millionaire con-man James McCormack. This so called "British businessman" sold £40 million of completely useless bogus "bomb detectors" to the Iraqi authorities and thousands of innocent people lost their lives as the result of undetected explosives being waved through checkpoints. When McCormack was exposed and sent down for  ten years we might have thought that we had heard the last of a piece of kit that had been the rounds of the murky world of pseudo science for some time and had been sold as a golf ball finder prior to being a bomb detector. Unfortunately the very same piece of junk has resurfaced once again, this time being marketed by the ever entrepreneurial Egyptian Army as, of all things, a cure for AIDS and hepatitis C. Interesting but disturbing article here.  First as tragedy - then as farce.

Friday, 27 June 2014

Chairman Mao and the great property bubble.

Will the Chinese property bubble burst before London's? That is the question exercising the minds of developers both here and in the Far East. Of course, just like their British counterparts, Chinese estate agents are convinced that they are on a roll that will last into the foreseeable future, but this breed probably have no more credibility there than they have here. It seems almost beyond belief that any of us in the west can have ever thought that the Chinese Communist Party was the instrument of genuine social change or that the thoughts of Chairman Mao had anything much to offer to the Britain of the sixties. The truth is that although UK Maoist groups were tiny Chinese propaganda was received with interest and even enthusiasm by some on the revolutionary left. Why, even a few anarchists had to admit to a grudging respect for all of that Maoist activism. It was all part of the sort of "pick and mix" anti-establishment thinking of the time where Marxism, astrology, free-love and progressive rock were all spoken of in the same breath. It would be less than honest if I gave the impression that I was immune to this kind of thinking myself and I was indeed the owner of one of the good chairman's Little Red Books at one stage. At that time visiting Chinese ships would be covered with huge portraits of Mao and banners proclaiming the inevitable victory of the workers struggle. I happened to be loading a barge in one of the Royal Group of docks when one such Chinese ship arrived and being suitably impressed toddled off round to avail myself of anything that was going. I climbed the gangway and asked the first seaman that I came across if I could have a Little Red Book. Turning to his mate he said what I imagine would have translated as something like, "Go below and get this shit for brains hippy one of those fucking books. It will be worth a few brownie points from that bastard political commissar."  Anyway, I departed clutching this beautifully produced little volume that was chock full of useful advice about reaching the masses. I seem to remember that the dockers loading my barge thought that it was all a load of old wank. I wish that I had hung onto it now. Been interesting to check out Mao's take on the housing market.

Thursday, 26 June 2014

The real WW 1 .

 I don't want to speak too soon, but so far the centenary of the start of the First World War has been nowhere near as jingoistic as I feared it would be.  Certainly we have had plenty of newspaper articles, books and TV/radio programmes about the war but it has not all been in the "ultimate sacrifice for country" vain. There has even been some coverage of those who resisted the war and I recently came across The Real WW 1. An interesting antidote to both nationalism and the Great Men view of history.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Fat coppers rough up pensioner.

This is what happens to pensioners in Sheffield who use their Travel Pass before the allowed time!                    
                                                            Up with this we will not put. Not in London anyway. We will not go gently into that good night.

Monday, 23 June 2014

The real Rainbow Nation.

  There are many ways of celebrating the Summer Solstice.
                                   Class War at the Peoples Assembly anti-austerity march.
                                  Stonehenge. Never forget the Battle of the Beanfield.
                                                             A nice day out at Ascot.

Friday, 20 June 2014

A hard day on the South Downs.

I feel sure that Her Indoors is trying to finish me off. Yesterday, having first watered the allotment, we set of by train to Brighton and caught a bus to Cuckmere Haven. Leaving behind the dozen or so geography field trips, who all looked less than impressed with their teachers explanation of incised meanders etc, we strode out along the South Down Way. Well, Her Indoors strode out, I limped along behind whining piteously about my sore knees. Up and down over the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head before the long decent into Eastbourne. A well deserved couple of pints in The Buccaneer followed by a plate of fish and chips set us up for the long journey home. We arrived indoors just in time to see the final minutes of another England humiliation in the World Cup. A cracking day out. I doubt if tomorrows little stroll on the anti-austerity march will be half as much fun.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Normal for Norfolk again.

We will be viewing England's debut World Cup Game in the north Norfolk seaside town of Sheringham.  Nothing fancy. A couple of  nights at the Two Lifeboats Inn, crab sandwiches, a pint or three of Woodford's excellent Wherry Bitter, long walk on the coastal path. The first time that I received the hospitality of the Two Lifeboats was during a film job that was on in the locality but we returned a couple of years ago and I was pleased to see that the same cheerful scruffiness had endured. No breakfast but there was a good cafe up the road. I fear that times, and the Two Lifeboats, have changed. Now they offer  "Boutique Bed and Breakfast", whatever that is. I just hope that the lady who runs the shellfish stall across the road hasn't decided to go upmarket as well.
Some of the regulars in the Two Lifeboats pre - boutique B&B.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Hague misses opportunity on sex education.

The Global Summit To End Sexual Violence In Conflict being co-hosted by Angelina Jolie and William Hague has as one of it's major aims the breaking of the taboo about discussing rape in time of war. So far we have mainly heard about rape as a weapon of war and little about the far more widespread incidence of rape as a spoil of war but a recent Amnesty International report would suggest that the summit has the balance right. In the two decades following the end of WW 2 there was considerable exposure of widespread Soviet violation of German women in the final weeks of the war. It takes nothing away from the suffering of those women to say that the issue became another stick with which to beat the Russians during the Cold War years. Much less was made of the rapes inflicted by British and American troops as they advanced across France and Germany. Last weekend we heard a great deal about the heroes of D Day and quite rightly so. The men who stormed the beaches of Normandy were heroes all right and we owe them a great deal. But some of those heroes went on to rape French and German women. The hard truth is that armies, and especially victorious armies, commit rape and sometimes on a frightening scale. It seems to me that nothing will change until we arrive at a very much better understanding of male/female power relations and part of that has to be the education of boys about what a wholesome, even handed relationship with girls is all about. For this reason, and this must be the first time in my life when I want to be generous to the man, I was disappointed when William Hague during a Channel 4 interview last night, refused to be drawn on the subject of compulsory sex education with specific reference to consent. Sex education is far too important an issue to be sidelined by the internal squabbles of the Tory Party and Hague missed an opportunity to nail his colours to the mast.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Chickens come home to roost in Brum.

The philosopher of science Paul Feyerbend, a man much admired by the libertarian left at one time, argued for creationism being taught in schools alongside evolution so that children develop an immunity to all propaganda. I don't know what Feyerbend would make of the the "Trojan Horse" fiasco going on  in Birmingham schools, government and the media. Chickens coming home to roost perhaps. I will be 72 this year and I cannot remember a time when this country's state education system  was not being made the subject of yet another huge overhaul.  Private schools are exempt from both government interference and income tax so don't enter the debate at all. Provided that they don't actually break the law that ostentatiously, the private sector can do whatever they choose. But in state schools, where 90% of our kids are educated, there is a constant readjustment, questioning of values, hand wringing doubt and struggle for power. It's a wonder, and a credit to the teachers, that any education happens at all. Will we ever get it right I wonder?
Tony Blair, like his mad wife, was always motivated by an unfortunate mix of religious fervour and a love of money. Guided by various god botherers and "business" people Blair's views on education resulted in an increase in the influence of faith schools and the birth of the academies. It was to be a policy heartily endorsed by both Brown and the coalition that followed. Now almost any bunch of religious loonies, ex-military discipline nuts or wealthy entrepreneurs can become responsible for the education of thousands of children. And really, all of this came about in an effort to undermine left leaning local authorities and Trotskyist teachers. Well, the mess in Birmingham is the result. I can't begin to imagine the way forward but I'm sure about one thing - both as individuals and as a society we have to find a way of being open minded and generous spirited while at the same time standing up to religious conservatism and anti-progressive thinking at every turn. If we don't do that our grandchildren may never forgive us.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Katie Hopkins. What a little charmer.

Scum columnist and all round hate figure Katie Hopkins has come out in favour of these spikes embedded in a doorway to deter rough sleepers."Would you want vermin sleeping in your doorway? ", demands Hopkins. Probably not but it could be worse. Imagine waking up to this foul woman.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

The mystery of online abuse.

I suppose that we all have the capacity for acts of true kindness while at the same time being capable of the worst kind of bullying. We bask in the reflected glory of the kindness of strangers and pretend that the nasty stuff is nothing to do with us. Social media however seems to bring out the very worst in us and everyday we hear stories of angst ridden teenagers who are unable to cope with online bullying and  end up taking their own lives to escape. I just don't understand why anyone would bother to be unpleasant to someone that they have never met and who has little impact on their own lives. Apparently Olympic swimmer Rebecca Adlington has been victim of all kinds of online abuse for "only" getting Bronze in 2012. I find none of this easy to understand but as to why anyone could have a life so empty that they would feel the need to pick on obscure academics who occasional appear on TV. I mean who on earth would want to bully Mary Beard? Takes all kinds I suppose.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Secret terror trial. Secret for how long?

Civil rights campaigners are right to be horrified at the prospect of the secret trial of two men accused of plotting some form of terrorism. The right to be tried by jury in open court is one of bulwarks of any society that can make any claim to be "free". It it difficult to see how the security and well being of the nation can be all that threatened by knowing the truth but a court case might easily be embarrassing to any number of government departments. But what I find most difficult to believe is that what happens behind the locked door of this secret court will remain secret for very long. The internet will combine with the human propensity for a nice bit of gossip to ensure that freedom of information will triumph. All that the State's determination to keep this case under wraps will do is make thousands of people more determined to find out what's going on.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Home Sweet Home.

Hardly a day goes by without hearing that the housing crisis, especially in London and the South East, can only be solved by a massive house building program. Sure, the likes of Danny Dorling have been saying for some time that we have plenty of housing stock but that it all tends to be in the wrong place or that far too many dwellings are under occupied. The mainstream opinion however is that, partly in order to house all those immigrants, we just have to build more homes. Most politicians agree. Lack of investment, bureaucratic planning restrictions, selfish NIMBYs, Green Belt loving tree huggers, all conspire to prevent the huge building program that is our only hope. WE MUST BUILD MORE HOMES. But hang on a minute. Do any of these proponents of more building ever actually look up from their smartphones and have a look at the skyline? London is a forest of cranes with the city being virtually one big building site. Of course none of this building has anything to do with solving the housing shortage and many of the luxury flats being built will remain empty. This is all about international financial speculation and much of it is dirty money. Not content with being an offshore tax haven, UK is set to become the money laundering centre of the universe. Even retired City Of London chief planner Peter Wynne Rees, said in a recent interview that dirty Russian money and Chinese gamblers have priced Londoners out of the housing market. Miliband's threat to double the council tax of these foreign investors must have them quaking in their boots. Not all of the building industry however, is focused on the construction of mile high blocks of luxury apartments. For the small building firm, and there are a great many of them, the current craze for "extensions" is proving to be a gold mine. There was a time when the average homeowner might have considered adding an extra room or a loft conversion in order to meet the needs of a family that was growing. Today it's all about growing the value of your investment. Everyone, the shady foreign businessman stashing a few million away in the London property market, the buy to let landlord who knows that it beats working any day, the couple down the road gambling on a loan to have a third added to the size of their house paying off in a couple of years, everyone is behaving perfectly logically. It's the logic of the market place and unfortunately all the time that it prevails no amount of house building will halt the housing crisis. To do that we need to build in order to meet peoples needs rather than simply create profit. Oh! One more thing. These immigrants who are causing the housing shortage. Who do you think is actually building all this stuff anyway?

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Boxing is back!

Professional boxing in this country doesn't have anything like the appeal and interest to the general public that it used to have. There was a time when the names of British and World champions were known to just about everyone but not anymore. It was easy to keep track when there were eight or ten weight divisions and a universally recognised world champion in each. Now, with seventeens weights and half a dozen governing bodies, you have to be very committed to the sport to keep up. The long time absence of boxing from terrestrial TV must have resulted in some loss of interest as well. Not that there is a lack of quality fighters, or for that matter quality promotions, but for whatever reasons boxing is no longer a mainstream interest. Well the trend was reversed last night and no mistake. Eighty thousand fans packed into the Wembley Arena to see Carl Froch defend his IBF and WBA super-middleweight titles against George Groves. Their first match had resulted in a controversial stoppage and a win for the champion. Froch left no room for doubt last night bringing matters to a close in the eighth round with as good a right hand as anyone can remember. The fight showcased the physical chess, conditioning, courage and mental will that make boxing a unique sport. For one night only - boxing was back.