What Has He Got In His Pocketses?

Mobile phones, electronic keys, credit cards, debits card. We were told that all these things would make our lives easier. Give us a sense of freedom. Yet I carry around more junk these days than I ever did. I remember around the year 1980 when I carried just one key, a wallet with only notes and some loose change.

But don’t complain. Keep smiling like everyone in The Twilight Zone episode It’s a Good Life. Pretend that all this stuff is helping us. Pretend that it’s vital to be able to talk to anyone immediately. Pretend that debt is good for us.

Freedom or encumbrance?

Freedom or encumbrance?

Freedom or encumbrance?

Freedom or encumbrance?

Labour plumb new depths of cynicism

Michael Kaminski

Michael Kaminski

On Thursday, 29 October 2009on BBC Radio 4’s Today program James Naughtie interviewed the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and the Conservative shadow Foreign secretary William Hague. Mr. Miliband accused the Conservatives of allying themselves with a far right party in Poland and based this on comments in the New Statesmen magazine by Polish MEP, Michal Kaminski from the Law and Justice party.

Mr. Miliband quoted The New Statesman and Mr. Hague quoted Poland’s Chief Rabbi, Michael Schudrich and cited the Israeli government as two sources who supported Mr Kaminski.

Mr. Milband would not back off and pushed home his accusation that the Tories were fraternising with Nazis.

The following day on the Today program James Naughtie interviewed Poland’s Chief Rabbi where he admitted that Mr. Kaminski had been a member of a far right party in his youth but had more recently rejected that path and was now “a strong friend of Israel”.

He went on to say that the “no one here in Poland would consider the Law and Justice party as a fringe far right party”

Mr. Naughtie asked whether the question over an apology for the massacre of hundreds or thousands of Jews was, for Poland, akin to the questions over whether Britain should apologise for the colonial era or the crusades and Mr. Schudrich agreed that this was the case although he obviously had reservations regarding “the way it was expressed”
Mr. Schudrich suggested that this attack on Mr. Kaminski played to the stereotype that all poles are anti-semitic which he claimed was false.

On Thursday the new Statesman had placed an article on it’s web site defending it’s report and suggested that Mr. Schudrich has been under pressure from the Polish authorities.

So what are we to make of this? Is Michal Kaminski a member of a far right party or did Rabbi Schudrich, shoot off an angry email and then regret it afterwords?

We should remember the context of this debate. The Labour government is trying desperately to defend itself from accusations that it’s reputation on the economy is in tatters and simultaneously Labour is finding it hard to score hits against the Tories.

We should remember that New Labour came to power on a wave of media manipulation and spin. Over ten years later, it is obvious that this is all they ever had. Their ideas and judgement has been proved worthless (No More Boom and Bust!).

When Gordon brown called upon his arch-enemy from the Blair years, the twice disgraced Peter Mandelson to rejoin the government he was signalling that he needed Mandy’s manipulation skills back in the government for, without that, they had nothing.

I suggest that this palaver over this Polish MP is more of Mandelson’s spin. With Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time fresh in the public consciousness  Mr. Mandelson decided to play the race card. He thought that he could smear the Tories. Remember that this is Mandelson’s profession. He was not brought in to government for his knowledge of business or economics; the only career he knows is the media. A basic rule of journalism is “simplify and emphasise” and this is what he has done in relation to this Polish politician.

The politics of all countries are complex and a country such as Poland, newly emerged from occupation and  which sees itself as conquered by the Germans and betrayed by the British and the Russians must be tortuous. To pick up on a one paragraph email to a pro-Labour magazine and use this for a public accusation of fraternising with Nazis shows to what levels new Labour will sink as they thrash around to stay afloat.

Blair for president? – Don’t look at his reputation says Brown

Don't look at his past says Brown

Don't look at his past says Brown

Gordon bloody Brown was on TV again last night banging on about having Tony Blair for president of the EU. When asked why we should have Blair considering his history Brown remarked that we should not be looking backward but forward.

What sort of nonsense is this?

When deciding on which individual should be trusted with the presidency of such as large and powerful organisation we necessarily need to understand if that person is fit for the job. How are we to do this if we cannot look at his past performance? Mr. Brown suggests that we should consider the future but, lacking precognitive powers and a crystal ball, I know nothing of Blair’s future.

We have too look at Blair history. We have to consider his reputation for spin, conniving and lies along with his appalling lack of judgement. Are these the attributes which we want in a president? I think not.

Another infuriating thing about this talk of Blair for president is that it all seems to be arranged behind closed doors. Nobody is arguing about whether he can gain a two third majority of the votes in North Rhine-Westphalia or whether he can rely on support from the Italian Constitutional Democratic Party because the presidency will not be decided democratically.

I don’t understand why is Blair’s name is even on the agenda. Who put it there? Is there even a list of nominees? I have not heard of one. There appears to be no formal process by which a president is appointed; a situation which would not be tolerated for a county cricket club, let alone a supra national organisation with tax raising powers and a budget running into the billions of Euros!

All this serves only to underline the inadequacy of EU institutions and the complacency of the national governments. Let us not forget this is not some ancient institution in need of updating. This is the presidency created in the latest fiasco of rule making now known as the Lisbon Treaty.

The political elite would have us believe that we can have the EU or we can have democracy but we can’t have both. They are talking bollocks. We can have both, we can have a democratic Europe. The obstacle for this is entrenched vested interests and until these are overcome and the EU is democratised we should keep it at arm’s length and definitely not put a power hungry incompetent in charge.

Bun Fight – Question Time with Nick Griffin

Ill Informed Ranting

Ill Informed Ranting

I listened to Any Questions last week with the BNP leader Nick Griffin. I’d previously blogged about this and a friend email me to say that she thought that, contrary to my opinion, some people were too stupid to be exposed to Griffin’s sort of talk.

I’d respond that, while it’s true that stupid people are more susceptible to the ill informed rantings of racists (IIROR) they ar also more susceptible to the ill informed rantings of non-racists.

And good grief there was a lot of ill informed ranting on both sides in last week’s Question Time. It was a bun fight as I had predicted. Nobody let Nick Griffin finish a sentence. Everyone condemned him before he had a chance to condemn himself. I thought it was a missed opportunity to let the bloke show himself for what he was.

Someone asked him why he visited a Ku Klux Klan leader in America and he started to explain and said that this particular group were “almost totally non-violent” which I thought was a little gem but nobody was able to pull him up on this as no sooner had he uttered the words than the other panellists were asking him other questions and deriding his smile and they never actually picked up on this “almost totally..”.

It frustrates me that the self riotous lefties cannot bare for anyone to hear their opponents opinions. It’s as if they have no confidence in their own argument or opinions.

Bonnie Greer is a black American cultural commentator who usually appears on Newsnight reviewing films or theatre. She sat to Griffin’s left and he seemed constantly to be turning to her for approval.

Griffin made the point that everyone dismisses the idea that Britain has an “indigenous” people but they would not dare deny that Australian Aboriginals or Soux Indians are indigenous. I usually find Ms. Greer intelligent but last Thursday night she seemed determined to talk as much bollocks as everyone else. Pursuant to this she claimed that Britain does not have an indigenous population because it had an ice age! – Amazing.

I think much of the world had an ice age and if you’re going to claim that ice killed everyone off and so people had to immigrate into Britain then you could argue that for everyone in the world. There is even a respectable theory that organic compounds arrived on earth via comet debris and so you could argue that there are no indigenous people on Earth – If you want to be talking bollocks.

Chris Huhne, Sayeeda Warsi, Jack Straw, David Dimbleby, Nick Griffin and Bonnie Greer

Chris Huhne, Sayeeda Warsi, Jack Straw, David Dimbleby, Nick Griffin and Bonnie Greer

Jack Straw sat to Dimbleby’s right. I quite respect Mr Straw and he normally talks sense but he too joined in with the spirit of the evening. He said that he came from a line of immigrants of Jewish origin and during World War 2 all ethnic groups in Britain had pulled together and fought off the Hun. This is the sort of thing we British like, a mongrel breed that’s pulls together in a pinch.

However, Griffin popped his balloon quite quickly by pointing out that Straw’s dad had been a conscientious objector during the war whereas Griffin’s dad had been in the Royal Airforce.

Straw bemoaned Griffin’s anti-semitism but later, when Griffin was trying to say that he wanted to support the “indigenous” people of Britain and that colour was not important, Straw kept shouting “you mean white, you mean white”. Straw is as white as Griffin on my TV so he can’t claim to be discriminated against by Griffin just because he’s a Jew and then accuse Griffin of limiting indigenous people of Britain to whites.

People become idiots when it comes to racism and think it means hating black people. The point is that Griffin was telling the truth when he said that colour is not important. Griffin hates Poles as well as Indians. Czechs as well as Nigerians. But he was not given time to say so as the angry mob just kept yelling that he hated blacks.

One black guy from the audience said that he was born in England, it was the only country he knew and he loved this country. He then asked Griffin where he should go and Griffin said that he was quite happy for the guy to stay in England. This answer seemed to disappoint everyone present.

It was interesting that after spending 90% of the program on baiting Griffin they then turned to other questions and some black guy from the audience complained that New Labour had lost control of immigration. Straw then spouted some platitudes about implementing a points system before  Conservative MP  Sayeeda Warsi joined in the criticism of New Labour on immigration.

I guess this was encouraging in a way. That, though there was real concern about the numbers of people immigrating to the UK, nobody was drawn to be sympathetic to Griffin or to blame the immigrants themselves.

The next question was about a gay pop singer who had died in Spain and how a newspaper had written something..not sure what….I think it was supposed to be insulting to gay people. The question was about free speech in the news papers.

After not letting Griffen finnish a single sentence the hypocrites then pontificated in favour of the freedom of the press to print whatever they like.

The evening was spent trying to put words in Griffin’s mouth and then getting angry when he refused to agree with them. The whole thing was a farce.

A more evenly argued review of the program than this one was published in The Independent the next day.

Jumping robot

There was a great vid on the BBC web site today of a little Japanese robot that walks and jumps. It moves very organically and  the blurb says it can balance but I don’t know whether it’s just executing a routine or whether it is adjusting for it’s environemnt.

 

Jumping Robot

Jumping Robot

 

 

 

 

George Shaw

I have been trying to get to see work by an artist named George Shaw. It seems I missed him again as he had an exhibition in London in the spring this year. He is an artist who paints scenes from his childhood on a housing estate in Coventry. I’ve never seen the paintings but, apparently he uses Humbrol paint which is more commonly used to paint plastic model kits.

I find his work sort of haunting and reminiscent of my youth. The images are devoid of humanity or very much evidence that humanity has been present except for the buildings themselves.

The pictures below are from the series Scenes from the Passion.

George Shaw

George Shaw

George Shaw

George Shaw

.

George Shaw at the South London Gallery

Rose

Green Rose by Nigel Chaloner

Visions of the future

At least it doesnt tell me what to do

At least it doesn’t tell me what to do

I was listening to a program on Radio 4 today at around 5pm. The program was discussing building robots that learn and had a boffin from The University of Ulster. They discussed a lot of scientific mumbo jumbo and the boffin was asked what the potential benefits of all this nonsense was.
He replied that in the future we could have shopping trolleys which lead us directly to the shelf where we can find our desired items. He went on to say that we would be able to get our own personal genome information downloaded to our phones and the phones would then advise us on the health aspects of the food items we choose. Information on the food we chose would then affect our health insurance premiums.

I have regularly ranted against modern society and particularly against the submissiveness of western governments to corporate capital. In my view this has reduced too much human interaction to that of corporation vs consumer.

I turned 50 this year and of course it is possible that my dissatisfaction is merely the ravings of an old git but Jesus Christ! When I was a teenager the vision of the future was of colonising the galaxy, space craft and artificial intelligence. Now we have some cutting edge scientist expounding his vision of the future and it turns out to be nothing more than a talking shopping trolley and men in suits penalising us for eating donuts!

If this is progress then I ask: progress toward what?

Since the collapse of socialism in the Soviet Union and the rise of free market capitalism throughout the world humanity appears to have given up on envisioning a positive future. Instead of promulgating a collective vision that we can all work toward our leaders emphasise that we are all competing with each other and that the only choice we have is between Coke and Pepsi.

The vision of the future which emerges from such hopeless thinking is that all political power will move from elected governments to corporate capital. Corporations will become so powerful that democratically elected national governments will be powerless and our leaders appear to have no wish to avoid this this future presumably because they all have large stakes in the corporations.

Show courage, trust our ideals, people and democracy – Let Nick Griffin speak

He doesn't smoke the same cigarettes as me

He doesn't smoke the same cigarettes as me

Tonight the leader of the racist British National Party is to appear on the BBC TV program Question Time. This is a program which has run for many years and involves a group of the great and the good sitting on a panel, currently chaired by David Dimbleby and answering questions from a studio audience.

Having followed Question Time for many years I can attest that the subject to get the British people most riled was not Iraq or the credit crunch but fox hunting.

The news media have been full of controversy regarding whether the leader of the BNP, Nick Griffin, should appear on Question time and the response from the majority of political pundits is that he should not.

From what I can gather The British National Party believe in stopping immigration to the UK and “encouraging” (my emphasis) people of non-Celtic or Anglo-Saxon origin to emigrate to where their ancestors came from immediately before they came to the UK. I hear that their manifesto specifically prohibits people not of these “races” from joining the party.

I’ll state my position clearly up front. I believe that there is only one race of people, the human race. Individuals should not be picked off because of their supposed membership of some fictional race or indeed because of their religion or sexual orientation. I’m a bog standard ant-racist.

Having said that I am against further immigration to The United Kingdom for a couple of reasons: Firstly it’s too bloody crowded here already – Just look up the population density stats for the UK and compare them against other countries.

Secondly I believe that Tory and New Labour politicians in collusion with the controllers of large capitalist corporations are using immigration for cheap labour which, while it may make Gordon Brown’s spreadsheet glow with tax from profits, degrades the living environment of each individual in The United Kingdom. Bigger airports, more buildings, greater living density; all this contributes to making The UK a worse place to live.

By now, any of the people who regularly boast about their anti-racism will be condemning me as a closet racist.

But to the subject in hand. Should Nick Griffin be allowed to speak on Question Time?

I’m a liberal and I believe that free speech is fundamental to a free society and therefore I believe that anyone should be allowed to speak on Question Time. Over the past few days I have watched and listen as Mr. Griffin has appeared on many news programs alongside “regular” politicians to try to make his point. From memory, without exception, the regular politicians and interviewers have shouted him down and shouted abuse at him. These are the people who are supposed to represent the main stream of our free society.

It is easy to believe in freedom of speech when everyone is saying things that your either agree with or do not see as threatening but then we need no laws to allow this. The point of freedom of speech in a democracy is that you allow people to speak who hold opinions with which you strongly disagree and so Mr. Griffin is the test of our tradition of free speech. If we shut him down merely because we hate what he says then we are no better than the racists dictatorial regimes from the past.

Ken Livingstone was on BBC Radio 4 this morning arguing that Mr. Griffin should not be allowed on Question Time firstly because there is a court case which may find against the BNP and secondly because Mr. Livingstone claims that each time Mr. Griffin appears on TV there is a rise in racist violence.

Firstly nobody, including Mr. Griffin, is guilty until they are found guilty and secondly if we prevented all speech (other than incitement to violence) which might lead random individuals to commit violence then we would do better starting with football matches and New Labour Prime Ministers.

The interviewer asked Mr. Livingstone to explain how his view accorded with his views on Jerry Adams being allowed to speak when the last Conservative government had a ban on him appearing on TV. Without a qualm, Mr. Livingstone then amended his rule about banning anyone who may cause an increase in violence and instated a clause allowing them to speak if this would assist in helping the Northern Ireland peace process.

This off the cuff invention of rules was most instructive as it revealed the unprincipled and fascistic tendency of many Labour politicians. They like to draw up rules which people must adhere to even though the rules have not been passed into law but when they want to contravene their own rules they will change them in a moment.

Having said that freedom of speech should be available top everyone this is not the same as saying that every lunatic should be given space on Question Time. The BBC claim that they give space to all UK political parties who have elected representatives and site the Greens and Plaid Cymru. This seems like a reasonable policy.

The British National Party have two European MPs and therefore the support of a small percentage of the UK population. In a democracy their voice should be heard and I think the question time audience are educated enough to see through Mr. Griffin’s fallacious views on race and dismiss them as they deserve.

Did you see what I did there?

I used the standard attack the messenger tactic beloved of the Tories. I refrained from speaking against the idea while denigrating the messenger. I encouraged everyone to feel very pompously that we are all much more intelligent than Mr. Griffin and need not stop him from talking because of that. I was TALKING BOLLOCKS. I have seen no evidence that Mr. Griffin is any stupider than the bunch of incompetents who currently control number 10. His intelligence is not the point, his policies are.

To be fair there is an argument for why we should deny certain individuals from promulgating their views even when they have broken no laws and are not inciting violence. BBC Radio 4 carried a report this morning with a university boffin who had tracked the rise of the French right wing. He claimed that this gained considerable support after it’s leader, Jean-Marie Le Pen, appeared on television.

And here we come to the nub of the matter. How strongly do we believe in freedom of speech and democracy? It could be argued that M. Le Pen appearing on television and the consequent rise in support was a natural part of the democratic process. However unedifying the conclusion is that a proportion of the electorate are racists – and they are, we know this.

So the question is: do we argue against racism; do we allow freedom of speech and democracy to work, or do we shut down the BNP and betray our principles?

I tend to feel that the majority of supporters of parties like the BNP are not all out fascists or even racists. They are people who have the shitty end of the stick and whose concerns have not been addressed by the main parties. I believe that the mistake of most supposed anti-racists is to release their own pent up venom on these people rather than trying to understand their perspective. By ignoring their issues and condemning them all as fascists we merely alienate them from conventional politics. You don’t have to be a fascist to be a racist. The soviets were institutionally ant-Semitic yet are rarely condemned as fascists.

There is a subtext in banning Mr. Griffin which is the idea that other people are not quite as sharp as us and might actually believe him and this subtext is condescending to the general population.

We should show courage and trust our ideals and people. We should trust freedom and trust democracy. Let Nick Griffin speak. The case against racism is obvious and his arguments are not difficult to refute.

If Mr. Griffin has any legitimate concerns then let him air them and keep the regular politicians on their toes.

Sadly, though I have faith in people I have very little faith in politicians of all hues and I doubt that many “regular” politicians will contain their hypocritical self riotousness long enough to espouse many coherent arguments. But that’s nothing new.

Tonight I fully expect all the regular politicians to talk absolute bollocks in a desperate effort to distance themselves from the BNP and I expect that a lone member of the audience will get out of hand and need to be removed by officials.

I shall be watching because I expect a bloody good bun fight that, if we’re lucky, will be more fun than the fox hunting debate.

 

Read Review of the program in The Independent

Defying intelligence

So, I have the TV on and it’s showing some new American series about astronauts named Defying Gravity. It looks like it is going to be the usual appalling reliance on technique, pretty people and a life or death scene once every ten minutes but is this enough to overcome the truly ghastly script?

Lines such as:
“You feel like your destiny has been ripped from your body by a fierce wind…”
“You know I want babies with you don’t you”
“We got a problem” – ( Ooh nearly like Apollo 13, how authentic! )

Then throw in 20% more techno-babble padding than ER and we have the makings of a massive hit.

I’d seen trailers for this and expected the worst but what I did not expect was that the actor who was fantastic in the 1999 film Office Space was going to destroy his career on this.

Yes, Ron Livingston is to play Maddux Donner.

But hey ho, my taste rarely chimes in with that of the majority so I’m sure Ron’s career is in safe hands.

Your brain knows better

I had a dream recently. I dreamed I was walking down a road. When I woke up I did not remember it immediately but little later as I was having a cup of tea it came to me.

I recognised the thought as the memory of a dream but something occurred to me: How did I recognise it as a dream? Why did I not consider that it might be a real memory? And then I thought: What is the difference between the memory of a dream and the memory of something that really happened?

A few days ago I stayed up a bit late, drank a bottle of wine and watched a film. The film was The Last King of Scotland about Idi Amin in Uganda. A good film that contained a bit of shooting.

Later I dreamed about some soldiers and one soldier went out to rescue an injured man. He walked straight out into the firing. The essence of the memory was that this guy walked into the gun fire without a qualm.

The next day I recalled this memory but was a little unsure whether ti had been in the film about Uganda. So why was that? Why did I not recognise the memory as the memory of a dream? Could it have been the alcohol? Or perhaps the fact that the memory was recalled so soon after watching a film with similar content?

Again, the question: What is the difference between the memory of a dream and the memory of a real event? Perhaps there is none. Perhaps we recognise memories of dreams to be memories of dreams because of their lack of context in our current reality. Perhaps when we have particularly coherent dreams the memory of the dream may, over time, become confused with memories of reality. Or did I dream that?

I was researching dreams on the web recently and read a theory that the unconscious is like a sea of thoughts and it only becomes evident when we are asleep and our conscious minds are shut down. This idea appeals to me as it would help explain day dreams and artistic bouts of creativity.

Serendipitously yesterday evening there was a program on telly about the brain and how it works. The program was Your brain knows betterHorizon – The Secret You on BBC2 and they had a couple of scientists who use Magnetic Resonant Imaging to examine the brain. One guy had done some work to try to discover if patients who were in a persistent vegetative state were in fact conscious but paralysed. First he examined the bairn activity of people who were well. He got them to imagine that they were playing tennis and he found that this caused certain areas of the brain to “light up” on his MRI scans.

Then he stuck the veggies in an MRI scanner and asked them to imagine that they were playing tennis and according to him some had the same reaction as the well people.

Interested? I was. The program went on to perform an experiment where they give a bloke two buttons, one in each hand. They stick him in an MRI scanner and tell him to press either the left or the right button. The scientist said that he could tell which button the guy was going to press 6 second in advance.
Now presumably they had told the guy to press the button once every ten seconds, or some such plan, to give the scientists some time to analyse his brain. The point was that the guy thought he was making the decision at the last moment but in fact his mind had already made the decision it was just his intellect which had found out about the decision at the last moment.
This is not so strange. When we drive a car we make decision in split seconds without the decision rising up to a conscious level. It cannot be uncommon for us to drive home from work with some problem on our minds. We are so absorbed with our work worries that we sometimes don’t realise that we have driven miles without even thinking about it.

And it is this that resonated with the idea about dreaming. Our sub-conscious can drive a car! Think about that. It’s amazing. Could this be the same sub-conscious that is active during sleep?

If so then why do we crash when we fall asleep?