Gordon is a Moron

Mr. Coleman thinks Mr. Brown is not as clever as he thinks

Mr. Coleman thinks that Mr. Brown is a moron

Mr. Brown thinks that selling off Britain's gold reserves at the bottom of the market was the act of a prudent man

Mr. Brown thinks that selling off Britain's gold reserves at the bottom of the market was the act of a prudent man

I’ve made the case before that Gordon Brown is arrogant and incompetent; an awful mixture and catastrophic in a political leader. It seems that a guy named Vernon Coleman agrees and has written a whole book on Brown’s mismanagement of the British economy.

Well done Vernon.

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Check out the book at http://www.vernoncoleman.com/gordonis.htm

Buy the book at: http://astore.amazon.co.uk/vernoncoleman-21/detail/189972608X

Leaders Love Power – Don’t give it to them

Myth or Reality?
Continuing on from my musings on narrative, identity and myth I often think that the British version of World War 2 is a beautiful myth. The myth is that brave little Britain fought off the vast might the evil Nazis. To some extent this may be true but on the other hand in 1939 Britain ran the largest Empire the world had ever seen and maintained this empire the way all empires are maintained: state sanctioned violence.

The United States also has a myth. Theirs is that they are a freedom loving nation keen to help foreign people defy their oppressors. Yet even at the height of the cultural rebellion of peace and love in 1967 the United States was propping up oppressive dictators all over the world.

I guess the lesson is that leaders have a tendency to arrogance and disconnection from the people over which they hold power and therefore strong democratic institutions are required and this brings me to another topic that has been in the news recently: The European Union.

Leaders Love Power

Leaders Love Power

I have been in two minds about the idea of greater integration of the states of the EU. I am quite attracted to the idea yet I can see that the EU is not democratic and is, to a great extent, corrupt. The fact that auditors have not been able to sign off the EU accounts should ring major alarms bells yet politicians such as Neil Kinnock have dismissed this as unimportant.

To my mind democratic rights and institutions are won from those in power by bitter struggle and it is far easier to give them up than it is to regain them. For this reason I am becoming more sceptical about the EU. The people’s of the EU were given the chance to vote on a constitution and they rejected it. This constitution was itself a nonsense as it was far too long and complicated. Citizens of the EU cannot be expected to understand this kind of bureaucratic waffle. A constitution should be more akin the The United States Bill of Rights. Short and simple. Something that the common people can understand and support.

The peoples of the EU rejected the constitution but this was not accepted by the leaders who rewrote the constitution as a treaty and tried to push again. This is corruption. This is the leaders of the EU forcing their views on the people. If they are willing to do this kind of thing then how can we trust them?

Were the EU to democratise then perhaps the EU could be trusted but the problems with making the EU more democratic is the vested interests of the existing governments. British Eurosceptic MPs may criticise the EU for it’s lack of democracy but they make no efforts to democratise the EU because this would mean a dilution of their own power.

We’re back to the same themes.

  • Leaders love power and cannot be trusted
  • The control for this is strong democratic institutions
  • Strong democratic institutions are difficult to build but easy to destroy
  • The EU does not have strong democratic institutions
  • Therefore the EU should not be given power
  • QED

Grendel, Narrative and Identity

Myth or History
I recently visited Rome for a couple of weeks for work but had a look around at the weekend. The relics of ancient Rome are truly amazing and one can quite understand why the Romans are given a special place in history. Whilst there I read a novel named Grendel by John Gardner. This is the story of Beowolf but from the monster’s perspective. Grendel watches the tribal human and sees that the tribes attack and kill each other. He sees the theft and the murder and thinks it appalling.

Then a new musicians and singer arrives amongst the biggest tribe and Grendel listens along with the people to the beautiful songs of courage and heroism. Grendel is confused. Grendel has seen the killing and the theft yet the way the singer tells the story it sounds beautiful and noble. The singer’s version seems to be true yet Grendel knows that it cannot be.

This chimed in with a thought I had. I was sitting in my hotel room after work one day watching an Italian TV channel. It appeared to be a film. People talked, people got into cars and drove and talked, people got out of cars and fired guns at each other. People went into a houses and talked.

I understood nothing. It occurred to me how much of our reality is speech to provide a narrative for events. Without the speech the film made very little sense. Perhaps this could be said of our lives in a similar way to the tribes that Grendel observed.
I get up, I go to work, I sit at a desk, I get into a car, I drive, I arrive home. But we humans seem to need a narrative to make sense of the world. We need a story to justify what we do. Each time we fight wars we are murdering people yet we over lay the reality of this with a story of great heroism.

Heroes

Heroes or Murderers?

And perhaps our identity is bound up with the narrative. The Catholics and Protestants of Northern Ireland are more or less identical in many ways. They are far more similar to each other than they are to Chinese or West Indians. Yet they feel themselves to be very different and it seems to me that this difference can only be understood by considering their history. Not necessarily the history of each individual but the history of the tribe with which they identify.

Poor Grendel had no tribe and had to make up his own narrative. “Poor Grednel had an accident, so may you all.”

MPs had their chance and they blew it

British MPs have started whingeing again about the audit carried out by Sir Thomas Legg into MPs expenses.

mother of all expense claims

mothers of parliament?

They complain that Sir Thomas has imposed limits on expenses retrospectively when no limits existed at the time the expenses were claimed. This argument is disingenuous.

While it is true that the old system had no preset limits to expenses it had a clear principle that expenses were only claimable if they had been incurred wholly, exclusively and necessarily in relation to parliamentary duties.

MPs were too greedy to abide by this principle and so Thomas Legg is quite correct to set criteria by which to assess their adherence to the principle. By claiming that this is a retrospective limit MPs merely show themselves yet again to be deceiving, seedy and self serving.

Ann Widdecombe was on the television news yesterday complaining that she had stuck rigidly to the rules yet she may have to pay money back. She appeared quite angry.

I also am angry. I am angry that MPs knew the system was being abused yet when given the chance to reform the system in July 2008 they voted 172 to 144 to reject reform. Since there are 645 MPs in The House of Commons this means that 330 MPs could not even be bothered to vote. They had their chance and they blew it. Since they were complacent about expenses in 2008 I suggest they blame themselves not Sir Thomas.

It’s interesting that despite many reports that MPs are angry about Sir Thomas’ letters not one of them saw fit to raise the subject in PMs questions. Also interesting is that Gordon brown chose to open PMQs by reciting the names of the British soldiers who died in Afghanistan during the summer while parliament was not sitting. Now, I am not saying that Brown was not sincere in his compassion for  the the fallen troopers but when you have a manipulative snake like Mandelson in your government, I think one can be forgiven for thinking that the reading of the names was a publicity stunt dreamed up in an attempt to distract attention from MPs expenses. If find this pretty bloody contemptible.

It was claimed by some Conservative MPs that in an argument between the Shadow Chancellor George Osborne and Gordon Brown’s aide Ian Austin, where Mr. Osborne argued for reform Mr Austin told Mr. Osbourne to “fuck off”.

Gordon Brown should call an immediate General Election and then perhaps they might all fuck off.

X-Ray scanners at airports – More big brother and a cancer risk too

There was an article on the BBC news web site today saying that a full body X-Ray machine is being trialledFull Body X-Rays. Photo: APat Manchester Airport. The idea is that security staff can identify hidden weapons without the time consuming searches which currently take place.

Efficiency, efficiency, we will sell our souls for efficiency.

There has been concern that the images produced are too revealing but according to the BBC “the airport has stressed that the images are not pornographic and will be destroyed straight away.” – Great! So we have the assurance of some nameless employee of a large public company. Which is to say we have no assurance at all. Recall that British Airport AUthority is a private company not a branch of government. They have no right to subject the general public to X-rays.

I knew a radiologist a few years ago who told me that each time we have an X-Ray we run two risks. The first is that the X-ray will directly cause a cancer. The risk is low but it is real and we can get cancer from a single visit to the dentist. The other risk is that X-ray impact is cumulative. Each time we have an X-ray we increase the impact to our bodies and run the risk that this will lead to cancer.

An article on the BUPA health care company web site from 2004 says that a study estimated that 0.6% of all cancers diagnosed in the UK are due to medical X-rays and this would account for roughly 700 of the 124,000 new cases of cancer in the UK each year. The BUPA article claims to reference a work published in the 31 January 2004 issue of The Lancet medical journal.

The use of X-rays at airports is a symptom of the “nanny knows best” attitude that is prevalent in The UK. Yes it would speed things up and yes it would detect hidden weapons but it would be one more step in the subjugation of the individual to the state. One more mechanism to increase the power of the state and reduce the power of the individual.

The government will insist that machines like this are “progress” but progress toward what? What vision of The UK are we are progressing toward that includes X-ray machines at airports, government buildings and shopping malls? What vision includes more or less 100% CCTV coverage and gadgets in every car to monitor where we travel? I suggest that the vision of the future which the current New Labour government has in mind more closely resembles a dystopia than a utopia. More Minority Report than Star Trek.

Unlike the movies real life nightmare states such as Nazi Germany or Stalinist Russia do not come about over night. They creep up on societies slowly as individuals seed power to a self riotous political apparatus in the name of security. (See the Hermann Goering quote on my Quotation page)

I travel for work fairly frequently and have already been confronted with one of these X-ray machines at Heathrow or Gatwick. I can’t recall which. I refused to enter and the apparatchik in charge told me that the level of radiation was safe but had no reply when I asked what a safe level was. Perhaps too many people refused in London so they thought they’d do the usual trick and inflict it on Scotland or the North first.

My advice is to refuse to enter these machines.

I don’t know what Gatwick Airport’s policy on protecting the information stored on your passport chips is but they examine it in full view of the general public.

Man watches personal information displayed on screen

Man watches personal information displayed on screen

  • Have you been through Manchester Airport?
  • Did you get X-Rayed?
  • Did you ask about safety?
  • What’s your opinion?

Related article:

CT scans equivalent to about 100 chest X-rays
The Ghastliness of British airports
Diabetic teen upset with TSA screeners at Salt Lake City Airport

Star House

Star House

Cage fighters

This is an excellent bit of film of two morons attacking a couple of  blokes who were dressed in drag but who turned out to b “cage fighters”. The cage fighters rapidly disable their attackers.

Cage Fighting appears to be a form of mixed martial arts fighting which is growing in popularity in The UK. The term “Cage Fighting” probably came from fights run by U.S. based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) which take place in octagonally shaped enclosures which resemble cages.

Teenagers Turn Tables On The Men In Suits

Recently I retuned my digital radio and discovered a station named Amazing Radio. Amazing is a test station with music consisting of unsigned artists chosen and uploaded by the audience. This got me thinking.

Golden Age?

Golden Age?

Recently four Danish men were accused of helping Internet users download music illegally. They ran a file sharing web site named Pirate Bay and have now been found guilty and sentenced to a year in jail.

This is not the first time the music industry has prosecuted file sharing sites and the case for the music industry seems to be that the music files are copyright and should be paid for. Pirate Bay claim that they are only allowing people to search for files and the legality of the downloads are not it’s problem. Let’s take a step back and consider what’s happening here.

The music industries case rests on the copyright laws which originated in Britain in 1710 as an act “for the encouragement of learning” and “for the encouragement of learned men to compose and write useful books”. In 1787 a copyright clause was incorporated into the United States Constitution.

Copyright allowed the authors to receive payment for their work which was deemed useful by the population at large. The printing press had been introduced into England in the 15th century but for over two hundred years it was not possible for authors to receive payment based on the popularity of their work. With the introduction of copyright it became possible for an author to receive payment for each copy of the original work he produced.

The copyright principle was later extended to sound recordings and specifically music but before this could happen various technology had to be invented to allow the recording and copying of sound.

The history of sound recording might be said to have begun in 1877 with the invention of the mechanical phonograph cylinder by Thomas Edison. Around 1889 gramophone discs replaced cylinders. Originally made from a resin derivative these discs were dramatically improved in the 1940s with the introduction of vinyl. It was these vinyl records which became the standard for the following decades and the music industry as we know it was born.

Prior to copyright a musician made money by performing. The same person may also have written the song but that made no difference. The song had to be performed for anyone to receive payment.

The invention of the vinyl record meant that a performance could be recorded and this recording then transformed into something saleable. Copies of the record could be sold a million times over with minimal production costs. The music industry liked the maths and many people became extremely wealthy.

As with any new industry the original owners and managers were music enthusiasts but as the profits grew the middlemen were drawn in. Managers, agents, public relations executives and a plethora of other hangers on.

The middlemen were businessmen. They didn’t care about the music they cared about profit and as any businessman knows the way to make profit is to buy cheap and sell dear. Keep your overheads low and your prices high. The businessmen fine tuned the industry by maintaining a small stable of musicians and maximising sales using large scale marketing.

Middlemen

Middlemen

So there were two enablers for the music business as it grew, copyright laws and technology both of which are artificial. The original purpose of copyright may have been “for the encouragement of learning” but it is fair that the definition now encompasses entertainment. But copyright laws is not the same type of law as Thou shalt not kill or thou shalt not steal.

Copyright law was introduced long before digital media and globalisation and its intention was to provide a living for writers and artists not to bestow super star status on a selected few.
The maintenance of copyright laws is valid not because it benefits the music industry but because it benefits the population as a whole. If it does not do that then its existence, or at least its implementation, should be questioned.

It is fair to say that the music industry during the period of vinyl and CDs did not fulfil the purpose originally intended for the copyright laws. The middlemen had so manipulated the industry that it was they who selected the musicians to be famous through massive promotional campaigns. Pink Floyd even made their careers by criticising the industry.

The music was not cheap. At the age of 16 in 1975 I started my first job and earned £15 per week. At that time the average price of an album was £3 or £4. This means that Robert Plant considered that a teenage kid should spend a fifth to a quarter of his wages keeping Led Zeppelin in luxury hotels and private jets!

The Rolling Stones did not earn massively more than similar artists because of their undoubted talent but because of the massive promotional budget. We, the punters, fell for this marketing and revered musicians as spiritual leaders rather than craftsmen capable of banging out a good tune. We worshiped Elvis like a God and listened to tax exiles such as Bono on subjects such as world poverty.
Just last week the front page of British newspaper The Sun proclaimed that Lilly Alan had condemned the BNP! Sorry Lilly, you sing a nice song, but I do not need your advice when appraising the fascistic tendencies of political parties.

A pertinent question to ask is: has the music industry benefited music?

As advertising executives always argue when defending alcohol or tobacco advertising: marketing does not make you consume more it just makes you consume a specific brand. Do we need someone else to spend our money telling us which music to listen to?

The enablers to the music industry are not hard work and talent but technology, copyright laws and marketing. Without these man made artefacts the music industry would not exist as it is today.

So let us return to the situation today. If copying went into overdrive in the 1960s then the digital revolution and The Internet has put copying into hyperdrive. Digital technology has allowed not copying but cloning of music recordings. This means that there is no deterioration in quality if the copy is from an original or from another copy. In addition the production costs of making extra copies are so close to zero as to be unimportant and the technology required can be found in any teenager’s bedroom. Further, The Internet means that these clones can be distributed globally at minimal cost effectively bypassing the music industry and making policing of the old copyright laws almost impossible.

The record companies now squeal that organisations like Pirate Bay are not only illegal but immoral but are Pirate Bay any more immoral than EMI? It could be argued that Pirate Bay have merely leveraged the new technology in the same way that the record company did in the 1960s.

The music industry is not fighting to protect artists and their music, it is fighting to protect the armies of middlemen plus the stable of supposed talent which they have spent millions of dollars hyping. Remember The Bay City Rollers? Was this really the best music Britain could produce in the 1970s?

Of course musicians should receive payment for their work but the bloated music business no longer provides any useful contribution to music. We do not need music companies to pay DJs to play their music. We do not need promoters to ensure that their artist is plugged simultaneously on every TV channel and that promotional plastic toys are included in cereal packets. Remember that these costs are always passed on to the punter.

The world has changed and the music industry cannot insist that the paradigm be frozen as it was when the technology gave them their best advantage. Technology gave and technology has taken away. The industry has exploited teenagers for decades but technology has now swung in favour of the teenagers. About time too!

Amazing Radio works by allowing artists to upload their music via a web site named Amazing Tunes. The music may be tagged as free but if not then anyone downloading the music gets charged 79p per download. The public are free to make play lists and this feeds the content on Amazing Radio.

In 1980, Michael Jackson secured the highest royalty rate in the music industry but even this was only 37% of wholesale album profit. Artists who upload their music to Amazing receive 70% of profits from downloads.

Good or Bad?

Good or Bad?

It might be argued that Amazing is similar to service such as iTunes but there is a crucial difference. Services like iTunes still adhere to the old paradigm because they restrict choice. They sell only music by artists who have signed contracts with the music industry.

In the 60s an artist gained tangible benefits from signing with a big label as this gave them access to the complex expertise required for music recording, distribution and marketing.
Since recording and distribution can now be done by the artists themselves the music companies provide little more than marketing and even this is being challenged with artists such as Groove Armada signing directly with Bacardi.

The music industry is a cartel system which restricts choice and has created price distortion for decades. It is a legacy system long overdue for decommissioning.

The Amazing paradigm is a revitalisation of the original intent of the copyright laws, based firmly on current technology and a more realistic valuation of music. It allows greater variety while dispersing more of the profits amongst a greater number of artists. Less musicians will be millionaires but more will make a fair living.

Most importantly it will be good for music.

See article on Slashdot: Should a new technology change the patent system?

See article on Ars Technica: 100 years of Big Content fearing technology

Will the New Labour nightmare never end?

I’ve been away for two weeks in Rome. Working. Yes it was nice but it was nice to get home and on Saturday afternoon I ate breakfast at a café in Trafalgar street. While I waited I read a Daily Mirror and on page 4 I was flabbergasted to see that two of the headlines implied that the New Labour nightmare may continue for some time to come. The first said “Blair Up for President of Europe.” And the second “Mandy for PM?”

Has the world gone mad?

blair to be president

blair to be president

Perhaps while I was away the whole country has been brain washed and we have forgotten that the the three stooges of Blair, Brown and Mandelson ran down British industry in favour of a speculative bubble while Brown promised “an end to boom and bust”.

As there had been so much publicity over Brown’s disastrous interview with Sky TV I watched it on Youtube. Amazing. He seemed to think that he had avoided global financial meltdown single headedly yet completely ignored his own part in causing the crisis. And let’s get this straight, the crisis may have been world wide but the ideological underpinning behind the speculative bubble can be traced to the disconnect between UK/US spin and the real economy. Blair and Brown believed that if they just spent money and told lies then the lies would come true.

In the interview Brown whinges that the interviewer wants to talk about personalities while Brown wants to talk about policies. This is rich. Just last week Brown had to get his wife to speak up for him at The Labour Conference in Brighton telling us what a good man he is. For God’s sake! Why not get his mum there too?  The problem is that the wife’s opinion is merely that Brown’s heart is in the right place. Well great, so he meant well while he made a cock up of the British economy. That’s nice.

The point is not whether he meant well, the point is that he is arrogant and incompetent. A mixture that I personally find particularly unforgivable.

And Blair as president of Europe! Well, I guess the Europeans have not had to suffer the smug, grinning, amoral, imbecile the way the British have. Recall that this man was the peace envoy to the Middle East that couldn’t even bring himself to call for a ceasefire while the Israelis bombed the crap out of Lebanon. Then he went silent when the Israelis bombed the crap out of Gaza. If the only requirement for becoming the peace envoy to the Middle East is keeping your mouth shut then Blair is obviously the man for the job.

Mandy for PM

Mandy for PM

And Mandelson for PM? Has nobody noticed the reinjection of deception which has accompanied the return of Mandelson?

I guess we should not really be surprised that New Labour care more for media manipulation than they do for action. It’s all they understand. It seems that most of them have a background in public relations or the media. Just today I heard that Brown’s wife worked for a “brand consultancy”.

There seems to be a school of thought that, as bad as New Labour have been, people must vote Labour to stop the Tories getting in.

Why?

In what way have New Labour been better than the Tories? Firstly I suggest that New Labour have got away with more market orientated, hyper capitalist idiocy than the Tories ever could and secondly I ask what is the point of voting for a party whose policies are at odds with your wishes merely because it used to be left wing in the old days?

If Labour were kicked out at the next election and the Tories elected then at least Labour would be forced into a rethink of their media centric approach to politics and might start spending less time on presentation and more time on achievement.

Let us hope that The Daily Mirror is Talking Bollocks.