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And over in the UK… August 31, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, European Politics.
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Is this editorial from the Guardian on Tory defector Douglas Carswell just a little too gushing…

Unlike some Eurosceptic Tories, Mr Carswell is not a one-trick pony. He is an independent libertarian-minded MP who argues the need for radical political reform in the digital age and who has championed banking reform too. But it is his implacable Euroscepticism that made him switch to Ukip and which he highlighted in his resignation statement.


Well, libertarian-minded, yes, perhaps… he’s no end of enthusiasm for ‘direct democracy’, ‘recall of MPs’ and stuff like that.

And while it’s heartening to hear about his appetite for ‘radical political reform’ and indeed ‘action to clean up Westminster politics’… could it be that this paragon of virtue also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Douglas_Carswell#Parliamentary_expenses_scandal Sure could!

Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week August 31, 2014

Posted by Garibaldy in Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week.
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Don’t have time to go through everything in the Sindo today, but I’ll be surprised if someone has topped Ruth Dudley Edwards, which starts as follows

Next month, a memorial to Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President and despot who died last year

Good to see her grasp of democracy is as strong as ever.

The Sandbaggers August 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture.
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Am watching the Sandbaggers, a Yorkshire Television espionage series from the late 1970s about the SIS. I have no memory of it from the time but I’m finding it oddly fascinating, not least because of extended exterior shots of London, but also because of the odd mixture of banality and violence that characterises its take on spying.

So there’s a lot of talk and office life, but also cynicism, betrayal and so on. Wait, that is office life! It’s reminiscent of Len Deighton in a way. Fair to say that its approach is that they’re pretty much all, including the protagonists, bastards, every last one of them.

It’s also, perhaps unknowingly, a real insight into social attitudes at the time. It’s not just the everyday and pervasive sexism, but the lack (initially) of lead women characters, though that does change. In a way it suggests that the attitudes the 1960s were meant to have pushed aside, at least in part, continued to exist in many many areas (not that that’s a surprise, but one would have thought there might be some slight improvement).

II’m also watching the near peerless Sapphire and Steel at much the same time (and for a take on that consider this from An Sionnach Fionn), it’s an interesting compare and contrast.

Here’s an overview from the Guardian from last year, which perhaps slightly exaggerates the violence. Interesting too to read the names of other series from the same era or slightly later – Cold Warrior, The Ratcatchers and Spyship. Got to be honest, never heard of any of them.

F-16’s over Dublin. August 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
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I’m not massively exercised by military aircraft or vehicles as such. Anything but, I tend to gravitate to aerospace museums when on holiday. And that’s because of a general interest in aviation, and certain aspects of military aviation in particular. And yet, I’ve got to admit a degree of unease at the sight (and sound) of F-16s over Dublin at the American Football game in Croke Park.

It’s not even as such an issue of neutrality, because in its place I think visiting military aircraft at air shows in Ireland aren’t necessarily problematic – though context is all. It’s more a sense that the appearance at Croke Park blurred certain lines between what are weapons of war – and weapons that have a particular contemporary currency, not least in Israel and Palestine where F-16s are used by the IAF – and cultural/sporting/other events.

I know that’s a fine distinction, but it kind of troubles me. Anyone else have similar issues?

Alistair Cooke’s Letter from America – 1969 to 1980. August 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, US Politics.
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Fascinating podcast now available of Alistair Cooke of the BBC’s ‘Letter from America’. It’s remarkable to listen to Cooke explaining the US political system and the events of the time. One wonders if people are better informed today – I suspect they might be a little bit.

They’ve been pulled together from the tapes of two listeners, which is remarkable really. Pretty good quality too, not too much cleaning up in evidence in respect of the sound.

The one’s from 1980 are of particular interest with an insight into domestic and international events during that period, from the Presidential nomination process of the year – and how Ted Kennedy did in the primary – or rather did not, to the invasion of Afghanistan. Cooke was pretty cynical, in a gentle sort of a way. Well worth a listen.

This Weekend I’ll Mostly Be Listening to… Helen Love – the Radio Hits August 30, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, This Weekend I'll Mostly Be Listening to....
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Long live the UK music scene Long live the UK music scene Long live the UK music scene
Each night I get down on my knees And say, hey God, I can’t believe We’re losing the UK music scene
Hey, all you kids, there’s a fab new sound So put your Nintendos and PlayStations down ‘Cos Chris Evans and Shed Seven will save the UK music scene
Hey, Johnny Cigarettes and Steven Wells Don’t get upset, your paper will still sell
Chris Evans and Shed Seven will save the UK music scene.

Cynical, humorous, clever… yep, that’ll be Helen Love, the almost all woman group from Wales (founder members being Helen, Sheena, Roxy and Mark), formed in the early 1990s, who seamlessly melded Ramones inflected punk and bubblegum pop into indie pop. And it is pop, speeding by in two and three minute increments, with great hook laden arrangements.

Conveniently, their first three albums were essentially compilations of EPs and so on, the Radio Hits Compilations. The title, is, as is the way with such things, a humorous reflection on the small fact that many of these never came near being radio hits, no, not one, though they should have in an ideal world. But that hasn’t stopped them having a long and fruitful and continuing career. Favourites of John Peel, they also played with Joey Ramone – subject of their early song (Sheena’s in Love With) Joey Ramone. He also sang on one of their records and Helen Love sang backing vocals on one track on his solo album.

Radio 1 pulls together their early EPs and singles. Check out Rollercoasting which is a love letter to music. Radio Hits 2 and 3 are no less brilliant, the latter including “Beat Him Up” which is feminist, ironic, deeply serious and utterly to the point about violence against women perpetrated by men. When they sing ‘Girl Power’ as a refrain in the opening bars of “Formula One Racing Girls” … it’s knowing and cynical, but it’s also somehow genuine. And if the instrumentation (and composition) is nowhere near as crude as some reviewers make out, well, that’s all for the good because however much they love the Ramones they aren’t the Ramones, but something different again – those tinny keyboards and choppy guitars notwithstanding.

Did they improve across the albums? Well, the production certainly toughened up, and so did the guitars, and there was an increasing dance/electronic tinge to keyboards (Jump Up and Down, Atomic Bea Boy, Big Pink Candyfloss Haircut and so on), but in essence it wasn’t so much an improvement – or that much of a real change – as a redefinition (and some, like myself, will find the dance remixes entertaining).

You might think that if you have Radio Hits, 1, 2 and 3 you have as much Helen Love as you might ever need. This though would be a mistake for they have released subsequent albums right up to the present day, all of which are well worth a listen. Indeed, I’m always struck by how many tunes they have managed to wrest from what seems like an incredibly constrained format. There’s the intro to Girl About Town, or listen to “Greatest Fan” and there’s a chunk of the Go! Club’s joyous melancholy, the tinny keyboards, the summery vocals, the muted guitars, the… well, it’s all there.

Cool.

Beat Him Up

Punk Boy (with Joey Ramone – natch!)

Formula One Racing Girls

Girl About Town

Diet Coke Girl

Rockaway Beach For Me, Heartbreak Hotel For You

Jump and Down

Shifty Disco Girl

We Love You

Message from Locked Out Greyhound Workers August 29, 2014

Posted by guestposter in Uncategorized.
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Greyhound Workers Support Group

March to City Hall for the September meeting of Dublin City Council.
Monday coming, 1st September, assemble Liberty Hall, 5pm.

If you support us, please attend our march on Monday and share our facebook event page to spread the word.

About William Thompson August 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish History, The Left.
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Interesting piece by Fintan Lane in Irish Historical Studies, no.154 entitled William Thompson, bankruptcy and the west Cork estate, 1808–34. The first paragraph – quoted below – outlines William Thomson’s legacy. Well worth a read if you can get it…

Historians of socialist thought have rated the Irish political philosopher and radical economist William Thompson (1778–1833) as the most influential theorist to emerge from the Owenite movement in early nineteenth-century Britain.1 Indeed, Gregory Claeys has judged him to be that movement’s ‘most analytical and original thinker … and a writer whose subsequent influence upon the history of socialist economic thought has been long established’.2 Furthermore, stressing Thompson’s democratic values, Claeys insists that the Irishman ‘may rightfully be considered the founder of a more traditionally republican form of British democratic socialism’.3 While Robert Owen is remembered for his ambitious co-operative experiments, he was not a theoretical or deeply reflective writer and his intellectual legacy was minimal. The Cork born Thompson, on the other hand, wrote assiduously on the theory and practice of early socialism, reputedly influenced Karl Marx and became a key figure in the history of feminism; nonetheless, our knowledge of this important Irish intellectual remains deficient.

Education and elitism… August 29, 2014

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Politics, Culture, Economy, The Left.
9 comments

Useful research in the UK (headed up by Alan Milburn no less) from the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission which notes some fairly astounding facts about how embedded elitism is in that state:

Looking at the background of more than 4,000 people filling jobs at the top of government, the civil service, the judiciary, the media, business and the creative industries, the commission investigated where they went to school, on the grounds that going to a private school is reasonably indicative of a wealthy background.

It sure is:

Only 7% of members of the public attended a private school. But 71% of senior judges, 62% of senior officers in the armed forces, 55% of permanent secretaries in Whitehall, 53% of senior diplomats, 50% of members of the House of Lords and 45% of public body chairs did so.

But it’s not just those areas that are overwhelmingly dominated by a certain social group (or class, let’s call them a class). For…

So too did 44% of people on the Sunday Times Rich List, 43% of newspaper columnists, 36% of cabinet ministers, 33% of MPs, 26% of BBC executives and 22% of shadow cabinet ministers.
It gets worse:

Oxbridge graduates also have a stranglehold on top jobs. They comprise less than 1% of the public as a whole, but 75% of senior judges, 59% of cabinet ministers, 57% of permanent secretaries, 50% of diplomats, 47% of newspaper columnists, 44% of public body chairs, 38% of members of the House of Lords, 33% of BBC executives, 33% of shadow cabinet ministers, 24% of MPs and 12% of those on the Sunday Times Rich List.
The report says the judiciary is the most privileged professional group. About 14% of judges attended one of just five independent schools (Eton, Westminster, Radley, Charterhouse and St Paul’s Boys).

And what about this?

And senior armed forces officers are the second most exclusive group, the report says. Some 62% of them went to a private school, and only 7% attended a comprehensive.

The report makes the point that this was ‘so embedded in Britain that it could be called ‘social engineering’’. Could be? Only could be?

And before people become complacent on this side of the water it’s important to understand that these are the very outcomes that so many seek through private education, access (or continued access) to high status and high salaried positions as well as the broader support structures that they provide.

Lets also note that this is going to get worse. In a society where a former Taoiseach can lightly talk of removing social supports and provision such as pensions and welfare it is clear that the opportunities to those without recourse to financial supports are going to be much lesser. That’s most of us.

Owen Jones makes an excellent point here:

The flaw with the report is an implicit assumption that inequality is not the problem, but rather that our current inequality is not a fair distribution of talents. “If only a few bright sparks from humble backgrounds could be scraped into the higher echelons,” seems to be the plea.

As ever it requires a genuinely left wing approach to alter this situation. Though where that comes from…

By the way, I’m a little conflicted about the Scottish referendum, not because I’m against independence – because I’m not against it – so much as regards the effects on those left behind by a Scottish exit. But… when one sees, as here, even if we had a good idea it was bad, just how rotten the set-up is in Britain. Well, after so much time and effort and with clearly so little reward in terms of ameliorating this, perhaps it is indeed time for Scotland to go it alone (not that it too doesn’t have its own embedded internal elite. But… still).

An interview with Paul Cleary from issue 2 of the Shamrock Rovers fanzine “And If I Should Falter” August 29, 2014

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Culture.
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An interesting interview with Rovers fan Paul Cleary from issue 2 of the wonderful Shamrock Rovers fanzine “And If I Should Falter”.
The Fanzine is excellent with some very good articles and it is available to buy here
It should also be available in Offside, formerly Casa Rebelde, in Temple Bar.

cleary1

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