Archive for November, 2005


It would be a surprise to most, if not all, the people who know me to hear me agree with George W. Bush but in one instance it is indeed true, however let me qualify that statement before you all pack up in disgust. Bush’s famous “You’re either with us or against us” was something of a defining moment of a president who attempts to make up in sound-bites what he lacks in intellect. Bush attempts with his use of the word ‘us’ to galvanise the Western World into an alliance against those ‘he’ defines as the enemy. The actuality of the ‘us’ he is using is the US corporate political establishment and when one realises this it becomes a lot easier to see how the polarisation that Bush almost prophesied has in fact come true. The Iraq war has had a practically unprecedented unifying effect on people across the world as normally disparate groups are united in their condemnation of US involvement in Iraq.

It has also unified the violent insurrection against the US aggressor in a way that was not the case when they invaded Iraq in the first place. More and more the US has put itself up as a target to be shot at, Blair as Bush’s faithful poodle has been happy to lead Britain down the same path and there are increasing signs in Basra that the attempts to project a harmonious relationship in the British sector are far from the truth.

According to former US diplomat Peter Galbraith – in Jan 2003 Bush invited 3 members of Iraqi resistance to watch Superbowl with him. During this meeting these 3 realised that Bush was not aware at this point that there was a difference between Shia and Sunni Muslims. Whilst this is unsurprising that Bush himself is so ill-informed it seems staggering that none of his advisors had sought to rectify the fact. Galbraith goes on that since most people do not consider themselves Iraqi before they consider themselves Sunni or Shia or Kurd the idea of forming a united Iraq is Mission Impossible. We must not forget that Iraq is a modern construct of territories in Mesopotamia and Kurdistan, their is no sense of long handed-down national identity like we know in Europe. Suffice to say it was a mess the British made last time they buggered about with it. Much the same can of course be said for Palestine and Ireland!

In March 2003 US war planners met to discuss the practicalities of the ousting of Saddam – Phase 4c for reconstruction of Iraq had not nearly as much depth as Phase 3 which was combat, which is curious when you think that the vastly superior US military should have had little problem overcoming the Iraqi resistance in the initial phases of a rebellion, and certainly if the propaganda was true and the Iraqis would be welcoming the US with open arms then there would be little insurgency thereafter.

However it would be wrong to assume that it was only in the US that such idiocy was going on. On the eve of the invasion Toby Dodge of London University gave a likely case scenario to the Labour government which in fact detailed almost exactly what did indeed happen based on the historical precedent as well as the prospected operations. George Joffe of Cambridge University had similar meeting, whilst Joffe tried to explain the potential problems of such an attempt to follow the Americans in their crusade against Saddam, Blair responded “…but he’s evil isn’t he?” And this appeared to be enough justification for him.

Whether simply ridiculous naivety or a calculated facade, US expectation was that they would be met by rejoicing in the streets of Baghdad and Basra according to Cheney. I have already documented a quote that was reported by journalists at the time the US forces moved into Iraq where one Iraqi man in response to the journalist’s question “Are you pleased to see the Americans come to liberate Iraq” stated “Americans, Saddam, we don’t care who as long as you bring peace.” This tempers the euphoria somewhat. It also goes some way to explain the situation now.

The reality in Iraq is not exactly what the US and UK administration flanked by their ’embedded’ media acolytes would have us believe. It is, even now still difficult for non-embedded Western reporters to get around in order to report what is genuinely going on in Iraq, embedded journalists whilst having a greater degree of security by virtue of their military escorts get a state department view of events from Washington and London and not Iraq. Journalists like Robert Fisk who are not embedded illustrate that this state department view is either hopelessly out of touch or criminally negligent to the point of being no better than right-wing state-sponsored agit-prop.

Elections and constitutions are “theatrical events staged for US media consumption disregarding everyday state of Iraq for Iraqis” in response to mass civilian casualties one US source stated “Such tragedies only happen because Zarkawi and his thugs are driving around using car bombs.” This staggeringly insensitive and ill-conceived notion serves only to elucidate the real feeling of US officials as to the state of Iraq.

The news mentions less the situation currently in Sadr City, as if it has all gone rather quiet. The reality is that the US have left Shia militia in charge, Iraqi police and the US army have “reached agreements” with the Mahdi army the group of Moqtada Al Sadr but they claim these are agreements with local representatives as civilians and not as a massed group. The British have done the same in Basra. The result of this has been to allow fundamentalist Shia leaders to create a political theocracy the like of which has not existed in the region in such a way before. The same situation exists with the Peshmurga in Kurdistan. The US is even trying to negotiate with the Ba’athist militia in areas that are still showing signs of resistance in Baghdad and Fallujah, the same insurgents who, according to US military sources in the media are, working with Al Queda. So much for helping bring democracy to Iraq the US is intent on a quick sell-out. The second part really of what has been a simple ram-raid operation for the oil in the shop window. .

For many Iraqi women the current era marks for the first time them being forced to wear veils etc. and be subjected to a fundamentalist interpretation of Sharia law the like of which in Iran has been the subject of much condemnation by the US and UK establishments. Women are being executed for “prostitution” when this could mean nothing more than suspected adultery. These executions are not of course the result of any recognised judicial proceedings but the rough justice that fundamentalists of any variant are likely to favour.

Peter Oborne, political editor of The Spectator, concluded in a problem for the Channel 4 series Dispatches that the invasion of Iraq has failed. I believe this is far from the case because one has to evaluate what the actual goal of the invasion was.

If one believed, like I suspect Oborne does, that the goal was to remove a dangerous dictator and bring about a Western style democracy in Iraq then yes, it is clear this will not be the end result for Iraq. This seems a rather simplistic and establishment viewpoint on the matter though. Contrastingly if one believed, as I do, that US has no desire to have full functioning democracy in Iraq as this would bring about a stable secular country which would unquestionably constitute far more of a threat to the access to oil for the US and its companies involved in Iraq and beyond. Interestingly the US army operatives in Iraq are not permitted to arrest Al-Sadr despite him being wanted for murder. Al-Sadr, is the perfect young pretender to Saddam, left in place just in case the US army should need a bad guy if the whole Al-Zarkawi story ever falls apart.

This sort of conflict is likely to become ever more likely and ever more desperate as it is clear that the US domestic and foreign policy would far rather cling to the old order based on their dominance and control of oil. This means any country that has oil production or is integral to the stability of an oil producing region is going to have to watch itself for a while lest they find Uncle Sam on the borders. However US power is not what it is and it has already over-reached itself by attempting to fight battles on too many simultaneous fronts hence the debacle in Iraq. It would certainly be foolish to attempt any operations against countries such as Venezuela.

Finally one must not forget that the US never signed up to the International War Times Tribunal nor the International Criminal Court. This gives US operatives whether open or covert carte blanche to commit any acts of atrocity necessary to achieve the military objective whilst undermining the legitimacy and efficacy of the 2 supra-national judicial institutions. That is not to say that the US will not use them to moot out its brand of victor’s justice of course as we have seen in the case of Slobodan Milosevic. The US is quite happy to manipulate all sorts of laws to its own ends, for example Rumsfeld was quick to condemn the footage of US captives in Iraq as being contrary to the Geneva Convention. Al Jazeera were quick to point out of course that Guantanamo Bay and the detention of prisoners of war without due process or rights of any kind, the abuses in Abu Gharaib and Baghram, the invasion of a country against the UN security council, if not all directly in contravention of the Geneva Convention they are certainly fundamentally against the very principle.

US operations since the declaration of war on terror have become increasingly more worrying and outside the law. One only needs think of the aforementioned incarceration in Guantanamo Bay, the systematic abuse of prisoners of war in American custody both in Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond and I will be covering the strategy of ‘extraordinary rendition’ later. The CIA operations across the world and the failure of the US to hold any of its active personnel responsible for any conduct is an international scandal. I’m afraid as the US’s grip on power rescinds proportional to the oil reserves left in the world we can expect to see more of the US’s failure to conform to any standards of decency and humanity. The question only remains, which country will be next on their list?

Song Of The Day ~ Editors – Bullets

Original Comments:


Cancergiggles made this comment,
Yes Dom. I’ve been watching extraordinary rendition for many months. George and Tony are war criminals!
comment added :: 1st December 2005, 22:38 GMT+01

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Fulham Vs Bolton

Craven Cottage SW6

Date: 27/11/2005   —   Free   —   Other

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I had been looking forward to this game for a long time. A couple of months ago I was given the inside track on a competition to win 2 tickets to see Fulham play Bolton which I then went and won! What’s more it was for full corporate hospitality, lunch in the lounge and seats for the game in the directors box.

The last football match I attended was in 1988 when I watched Wimbledon defeat Liverpool in the FA Cup Final at Wembley along with another 93,000 people. It was always going to be a little tricky to live up to that and after Wimbledon’s demise I wondered if I’d ever go to a game again. Fittingly the man who lifted the FA Cup that day was the Wimbledon goalkeeper Dave Beasant who is now a Fulham coach and was evident on the touchline for much of the match.

I was actually born in SW6 (on the Fulham/Chelsea border) so this was something of a homecoming, I went to school just across the river from Craven Cottage and frequently rowed past the ground. But supporting Fulham was something I came to later in life, tho’ it seems I made the right choice.

After my usual forgetting something incident I was forced to drive a little quicker to the ground but made it in good time, parked in the director’s parking area in a local school near the ground and got in the minibus which drove us to the ground along with some of the other guests and old pros. All locals tho’, you could tell by the accents, it’s an accent I haven’t heard in a long time.

I was expecting a cold buffet lunch, cucumber sandwiches and all that, and fairly bog standard hospitality but I was very pleasantly surprised, we received a glass of champagne on arrival and lunch was Lancashire Hot Pot with potato gratin and carrot and swede mash, it was bloody top, washed down with a glass of cabernet sauvignon and followed by bread pudding.

At 2pm we went out to watch the game, perfect position just by the half way line at a good height to see but near enough to be close to the game. I had forgotten how much I enjoy the atmosphere. The only problem was the weather which was bitter and because the ground is right next to the river you get a chill breeze.

We were all buoyed by a Brian McBride goal in the 4th minute, perfect start, gets the crowd going and everybody’s happy, except the away fans but we don’t really care about them! Fulham were in fluid mood and the game was exciting and all one way traffic. It wasn’t a surprise when McBride doubled the lead and his tally on 19 minutes. A second goal is always a relaxer, you feel you have a buffer and with this and Fulham playing well the crowd were in good voice and everything seemed right with the world, at least for most of the near 20,000 crowd.

With Bolton you always expect a pretty physical game and that proved to be the case, it was at times very scrappy in midfield but by and large they didn’t cause us any problems in the first half and their only attacking opportunities came from dubious free kicks. We could have had more goals and played well enough to deserve them but none were coming and we went in 2-up at half-time.

Whilst many went to find burgers and hot dogs at half time, we got to go back into the warm at the lounge and were served with tea and coffee. The second half was a rather different game, Bolton played aerial and we were just seemingly content to break up their attacks, there was little panache to much of the half and that seemed to suit them far more than us. There were a lot of stoppages and Bolton players seemed to go over very easily whilst Fulham players scrapped for balls, this could be my subjective view from the halfway line!

Our keeper whilst a good shot stopper didn’t seem to have a decent strategy for goal kicks, constantly hoofing up to Brian McBride and making it all seem predictable. Fulham do not have the height up front to merit such a strategy and we lost the chance for a lot of attacks this way.
You could kind of see a goal coming, although on the few occasions we attacked we looked far more dangerous than Bolton did. But it just felt like one of those game where we would concede. The fact that it was an own goal was irritating, that it came in the 90th minute at least made only for 4 agonising minutes before we were put out of our misery.

All in all I enjoyed the game, I have been long used to defending my side for playing scrappy but effective football and grinding out the results against sides that were far better on paper. In Fulham there is more flair when they use it and they can be genuinely skilful and entertaining to watch. But the infuriating aspect of letting leads slip and a shaky defence is no stranger to my football memories and I do feel that this is a club where I can feel at home.

Mark Crossley – 6 – Solid enough in shot-stopping but kicks were often wayward and punts downfield were usually a hiding to nothing.
Moritz Volz – 7 – Pressed forward and looked like a good old-fashioned wing-back, possible question marks about his ability to track back in defence though.
Carlos Bocanegra – 7 – Didn’t have an awful lot to do but looked reliable and secure.
Alain Goma – 6 – At times looked a little slow but due to a lack of Bolton attack not troubled much.
Liam Rosenior – 6 – Quiet and never put under much pressure.
Papa Bouba Diop – 7 – No booming long shots but physically strong and towering in the air.
Tomasz Radzinski – 7 – Set up the first goal and always tried hard, had a very quiet seond half
Steed Malbranque – 9 -Returning to proper form this season Steed ran everything at the midfield, tries for every ball, dogged, skillful, Fulham’s talisman and best player on the pitch.
Luis Boa Morte – 6 – The captain looked a little flat, did nothing wrong but not his usual powerful self, subbed due to injury after an hour
Collins John – 7 – Tried hard, lots of pace made a lot of runs and space that sadly Crossley didn’t pick up.
Brian McBride – 9 – Scored both goals and caused the Bolton defence all sorts of problems, linked up with Collins John and Steed Malbranque well.
Sylvain Legwinski – 5 – Came on for Boa Morte, looked slow and indecisive, would be harsh to blame him too much for the own goal but typified his day really.
Heider Helgusson – 6 – Only had about 5 minutes and I’m not sure he touched the ball.

Yes, another of these thorny issues that we have had under constant scrutiny in the media and government is that of healthcare provision. Whether it be the current Labour government seeking to make Messers Atlee and Bevan turn in their grave by the slow dismantling of the National Health Service the 1946 Labour Government established, or the Conservatives who would in their dreams do away with the NHS entirely and seek an insurance system to ensure that their supporters got the best provision available and those that didn’t support them were slowly killed off, a sort of Tory political darwinism!

One way we can see that governments completely misunderstand what the public want has been graphically illustrated by Tony Blair responding to questions at the House of Commons liaison committee, (which is made up of the chairmen of all its select committees – rather like the Politburo!) Blair recognises that principle voter concern is that there has been systematic under-investment in public services spanning countless administrations, however he makes a serious misjudgement when he continues, “At the same time, the public is saying: ‘If you put more money into these services, we want them to be more responsive to us as consumers’. We should respond to that as a government and do it fairly.” This is not people’s primary concern about public services, responsiveness and accountabilty are all very important but the most important is that public services provide functioning services and that these should be of the highest calibre only after they have suceeded in that endeavour does it become important for the behind the scenes operations to run smoothly. Blair thinks otherwise, his emphasis is made clear by the statement “The idea is to get to the situation where people see that the money we have put into public services is matched by change and reform,” Again this is not the most critical thing in most people’s lives. The fact that there is still a postcode lottery and their hospital does not have an A&E department or the specialists it needs will not be assauged for most people even if the Customer Complaints department is second to none. The same is true of services such as libraries, public transport and the like, it is no consolation if you have a shit bus service if the company running it is accountable and responsive.

Now I’ll grant you what Blair may be referring to is responsiveness etc. to deal with the provision of a service etc. etc. at least I hope that’s what he means beneath that mountain of spin, one can’t really know for sure. But herein lies the problem, what the public want more than anything else is not to have to put up with the political bullshit anymore.

I have never quite understood why the focus for healthcare appears to be with far greater weighting on cure rather than prevention. For all the negative aspects of what people perceive as a nanny state one of the areas that could be most easily justified would be a strong attitude on prevention of disease and malaise. If we take the various notions of drug abuse as a prime example one has to be very careful to draw a line between an individual’s right to choose how they live their life and the potential drain on the resources of healthcare that this person may be. This line is already drawn in society with the outlawing of certain narcotics and the licensing and taxation of others. At the moment though the individual’s right to choose seems more like a euphemism for an abdication of responsibility by the state.

For example, in the case of smoking the government would stand to lose a substantial amount of money were they to genuinely wage war on smoking and treat smokers as proper drug addicts who need to be given rehabilitation. Thus they play a game of cat and mouse whereby tobacco is readily available whilst the areas in which it is permissable to smoke it are whittled down. This is simply unacceptable as it hands initiative to the freedom of choice lobby whilst not offering any defence as to the government acting in the population’s best interests.

Rather like the pensions, education and energy issues we are told that there are tough choices to be made and yet it always seems outlined that there is no actual choice and it wouldn’t be for us to make it if there were. Hospitals and their departments are still being closed and/or moved. Despite huge opposition there appears to be no way of halting the steady progress to foundation hospitals and an even greater postcode lottery than there is now. Foundation hospitals appear to be a way for governments again to avoid the big issue which is that all the NHS needs funding, not just the shiny fashionable parts of it. Whether or not this is intentionally the precursor to the privatisation of the NHS is not important because the end result is likely to be this anyway especially if after the end of this or the next Parliament the Tories were to get in. The Tories are only of the opinion that the NHS should remain free for as long as they feel they cannot get away with dismantling it. Ideologically they do not stand for free public utilities and therefore to make an exception for the NHS is nothing more than temporary political expediency.

What appears no longer to be en vogue is for every person in the country to have local access to all essential healthcare free at the point of use and this should encompass all everyday forms such as access to General Practice Doctors, Dentists, medicines, homecare for the elderly, paedeatric care for children and accident and emergency services. More specialist care should be provided within at least a regional level, it is perhaps optimistic initially to assume that every hospital in the country would have the specialist cardiac units and orthapedics and the like though this should without question be the goal of a state healthcare system. This is most certainly not the case at present. Access to good general practice is often sketchy with patients having to ring up at a particular time of day along with everyone else that wants to book an appointment with their doctor on that day, it is a first come first served basis there is no dispensation for the type of patient or the seriousness of the complaint. Dental care is so prohibitively expensive that it is impossible for most people to even consider all but the very basic of checkups. Prescription charges are such that I have on many occasions decided that I’ll whether the storm of an infection or such like reather than pay £12.50 for 2 sets of tablets. How a parent on low income may cope if more than one child over age 16 comes down with something I don’t know.

Again, though what I have just outlined as a ‘blue sky’ scenario is very much all tailored around a strategy of curing ills rather than stopping them occuring in the first place. Therefore these measures should be in place as a final safety net when all else fails and not an everyday occurance to mop up for the failures in other areas of general health and well-being. It is well known that poverty is a major cause of many very curable diseases, furthermore poor dental hygiene leads to many other problems and general malaise. If poverty is too great a cause for the government to tackle (though heaven knows if the government won’t who’s job is it?) then why not look at some of the other root causes of problems in order to try to stop them before they start. Smoking, obesity, TB, sexually transmitted diseases, heart disease, addiction-related illnesses and some forms of cancer are far better treated by addressing the causes than having to try to address the symptoms.

So why is this not being done? Tobacco companies make large amounts of money and cigarette sales account for a lot of tax revenue. Fast food companies are also creaming large profits at the expense of the taxpayer as the demands of modern life force people to concentrate less on good food and more on the time it takes for them to eat meals before getting back to work. Big business has a knack of being able to ensure they have enough lobbying pressure not to be legislated against so that sorts out why the first two remain a problem. STDs, heart disease and addiction-related illnesses all require effort to ensure that lifestyles are conducive to health rather than problems and this is clearly not being done. Furthermore the sort of screening programs and equipment that would be required to catch many of these diseases in their infacy are high-cost in the initial stages without yielding profit or often tangible results in the short-term. This is exactly why it is paramount that such things stay in public hands without the introduction of the nature of profit which cannnot have any positive bearing on increasing the likelihood of the prevention of disease.

If the nature of the prevention of disease is taken seriously and invested accordingly over time more and more of the budget will be available into medical and scientific research into diseases for which we currently have no cure. At the moment people are dying all over the world both developed and developing of diseases that are perfectly curable and indeed preventable if only the medication and environment existed to do so. Whilst this travesty persists we will be doomed to be fighting the battle from 3 steps behind and never even making it to the front line.

Song Of The Day ~ Good Charlotte – Boys & Girls

Original Comments:


The Fat Boy made this comment,
RB, I love Good Charlotte, too. glad we can agree on something : )
comment added :: 29th November 2005, 09:36 GMT+01 :: http://spongeblog.blog-city.com

baracuda made this comment,
http://ia300836.eu.archive.org/1/items/grapple-in- the-big-apple/grapple-in-the-big-apple_64kb.mp3
Don’t know if you’ve heard this, it’s an mp3 of Hitchins v Galloway in New York.

comment added :: 29th November 2005, 23:07 GMT+01 :: http://blog-chorus.blogspot.com/

No looking to the future series would be complete without a look at the real future, namely the generations to come, our children and their children. The perils that are facing them across the world are magnified by virtue of the fact that even before they have to clean up our mess they must first navigate the education system, and this is for those that have that as an option let alone the millions without adequate food and water.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation has just published a report saying that the 1996 targets of halving the number of the starving by 2015 will not be met. At present 6 million children die every year from malnutrition or starvation, many deaths are actually caused by diseases like diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia, but victims would survive if they were not already weakened by a lack of food. At the present rate of development only South America and the Caribbean are on course to meet Millennium Development Goal targets. The FAO reports estimate that 852 million people were undernourished during 2000-2002. In fact the proportion of those in sub-saharan Africa has risen from 170.4 million around 1990 to 203.5 million, which makes something of a mockery of the gesturing of the G8 leaders at the summit in Edinburgh last summer.

In Uganda in 1997 primary education was made free and the primary school population rose from just under 3 million to over 7 million almost overnight. However secondary school is not free and costs around 60,000 Shillings (around £20) per term. This is around 6 weeks wages for the average Ugandan, which is more than enough for earning parents let alone parents who are ill with HIV/AIDS or TB and that doesn’t begin to cover the orphans. The fees cannot be waived because if they are the schools do not have the money to pay the teachers who generally are paid months in arrears.

Children not educated in secondary school are likely to become domestic servants. Female “housegirls” are like as not to be used for sex. Ugandan schools therefore witness a sight alien to those of us in the west, where students are trying to break into school rather than out. Hardly surprising when it is considered that school fees not only comprise the access to education and a future but also include a meal at lunchtime, in a country where 23% of the population are malnourished.

To see some of these children talk about how important school and education is for them one cannot help but feel that for every one who is unable to go a spark of hope is snuffed out. It’s not as if children in Uganda don’t have enough to worry about 100,000 children in Uganda alone die of malaria every year. In Africa as a whole a child dies of malaria every 30 seconds. Malaria has killed more people throughout history than all the other causes of human death put together. There may not be a quick fix for such a disease because simple antibiotics and the like will only be effective for a certain period of time before the disease mutates and develops resistance.

It is easy to think that it is just in the developing world where this burgeoning education system requires investment to allow it to benefit the whole population in time and over the generations. This would be a false assumption and either a naive or an arrogant one were one to properly examine our education system in the West. Here the social and financial apartheid of the state and private school systems creates division almost as soon as it is possible to do so. Some local authorities have good nursery education but free nurseries do not start in Britain until age 3. Well-off parents of course have the option of sending children to often facility-rich private nurseries which are often the only institutions pre-secondary school to offer a modern language. At primary school level the postcode lottery comes to the fore again. Offsted reports are scrutinised for every primary school in an area and the good ones affect house prices of the catchment area drastically, once again favouring the more affluent.

Of course results in primary school are seen as the best indication of progress and potential for future direction. Britain’s schools do not respond well to non-conformity of any kind, most of the state schools do not have the resources to, and the private schools can choose children that don’t exhibit it in order to keep the results high and overhead costs low. Of course the better the school the greater the likelihood of a broader range of subjects and sporting facilities etc. The broader the range of subjects on offer the increase in chances that a pupil be given the opportunity to find ones that s/he excels in. Aptitude generally leads easily to success in schools whilst students offered a narrow selection are far more likely to respond with ambivalence.

I have raised the question many times before of who benefits if all children get the best quality of education? It is not just the child nor even the parents but the whole of society, the more children whose aptitude can be assessed the greater the possibilities that they can find a direction that is of interest and benfit to them in later life and this will invariably lead to them feeling more part of society and society gaining the more for such. The inequitous state of education in this country and others like it is a national and international disgrace. That in the 21st century we are unable to adequately guarantee a good and consistent level of education to every child in the land should be something that shames every government that leaves office with the situation unresolved.

In the West currently there is ever more disenfranchisement from society as the education system fails more and more people within it. If one is not of academic normality and this can mean too compentent as not gifted in this area, the education system has little option. To add insult to injury we have been taught over many generations to prize academic excellence above all other and thus for those who fulfill it the possibilities are far greater than for those who do not. One could be the best mechanic in the country but would receive less plaudits from most than a mediocre Dr. On account of the postcode lottery even the academically gifted have no guarantee of receiving the education that will bring out their talents if their parents are not wealthy. The well-off have rather more options, the academic children can be sent to good private or “public” schools to receive a far better level of education than most state schools can offer, whilst the less academically-able child of rich parents can be sent to the sort of institution thaat will look after its own in order that alumnii can rely on a degree of old school tie support to see them right in later years. Private schools are not bounded by the same curriculum restrictions as state schools and therefore have a far greater degree of autonomy to be able to offer that broader range of subjects that can mean so much. Thus even the less well-able can prosper if they are born of the well-off and hedge their bets so as not to come across as ‘unacademic’.

So, as we have seen in both Africa and Britain the differences are not so great, if you are schooled academically you are perceived as being of greater value than if you are not. This must change across the world, there can be no real progress without it. The weighting of the bookish above the dextrous is holding back the progress of human society. Every child without exception must be provided with the best education possible to provide and the broadest range of experiences, only this way can we tackle ignorance and apathy and create people with both social awareness and social responsibility.

In the light of this, to see hundreds of billions chucked on warfare is tantamount to seeing governments dismantle schools that haven’t been built yet. it is our responsibility to reverse that trend.

Song Of The Day ~ Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls

Original Comments:


The Fat Boy made this comment,
NYC has an excellent public education system, except for the violence.
-Redbaron responds – Cuba has an excellent healthcare system except for Guantanamo!-

comment added :: 29th November 2005, 09:42 GMT+01 :: http://spongeblog.blog-city.com

lily.jpg Praktica BC1 35mm SLR Camera

VEB Pentacon

Date: 1984-5   —   £15   —   Electronics

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This was the first one I got. The whole idea came to me kind of as a result of this camera. I was due to leave for Edinburgh in a couple of days for the G8 protests and it occurred to me firstly that there may be places I might not want to take my Minolta Dim7 and secondly that if I used up all the space on the CF cards I might not have the ability to download the pics and therefore be stuffed. I decided that buying a cheap and cheerful 35mm camera would at least give me the option of snapping away and if I did end up in any scrapes with the Plod and the like then I wouldn’t have wasted too much money.

I had kind of wanted to try a Praktica since the experience of my Zenit had made me ammenable to Ost Bloc optical equipment and I knew that Praktica had an excellent reputation along with Carl Zeiss. I’ve always had a soft spot for DDR stuff anyway. The Praktica BC1 was on ebay and bought by me for £15 with a Pentacon 50mm lens. I thought for that money you couldn’t really complain and as long as the thing worked I’d be pretty chuffed. You have to bear in mind here that in the mid 80s these were serious bits of kit, in fact at photo dealerships one will still set you back £80 if it’s in decent nick.
garden.jpg

I know this isn’t a stunning shot as such but I was impressed by the clarity and detail of this shot, it showed the colour and hue very well which is why I’ve used it. On the close-up lily shot the Praktica did much better than the Minolta, although I am still testing the Minolta to ensure it was not the weird lens letting it down.

Obviously since the demise of my late lamented Zenit 12XP I hadn’t used a film camera in a while and therefore the first film I ran off I found it hadn’t taken because I hadn’t loaded the film in properly. Ah yes the memories of how irritating film photography could be came back to me as easily as how enjoyable it could be! This was of course my fault rather than the cameras.

edinb.jpg

Whilst in some ways the biggest problem with film photography is the lack of instant playback, this can also be a good thing in terms of the anticipation of the wait for pictures. The pictures I got out of the initial batch in Edinburgh were surprising in their quality. I didn’t know the camera, and I had therefore expected nothing more than half decent snaps but to be honest they were really good quality shots and I don’t mean through any talent of the photographer because God knows I don’t have much but the picture I had wanted to capture had come out pretty much how I would have wanted it to.
Filth

The Praktica BC1 is very easy to use, it’s a bit of a doddle really, if you want the shutter speed automatic you can set it as such and simply adjust the aperture, or if you want full manual control you can set the wheel from Brief to 1000. The light metre is easy to read and understand and the camera is small by comparison with many but with a metal casing it is durable. The focusing may take people a little getting used to as it focuses on a diagonal rather than a horizontal like most cameras, I actually find this quite good because it is easier to see when you have not got something exactly focused with a diagonal once you get used to it.

All in all I have decided to keep the Praktica BC1, were I to sell it on I would be unlikely to make more than £20-£25 and I feel I will gain more than that from using it in the circumstances in which it excels.

It is November and the weather is getting colder much quicker than anticipated after a fairly mild October by comparison. The cold winter has been forcast for some time so it is not a sudden freak snap.

In spite of this the price of gas per unit has nearly doubled in the last week from 43p to 80p per therm. This is having an obvious knock-on effect to energy companies who will of course pass on these rises to consumers, it is also a potential problem for businesses that rely on gas for production. The chemical industry have already spoken about the possible ramifications of a cold winter meaning jobs will be threatened as production costs rise. Perfect for workers in that industry in the run up to the festive season, there will doubtless be a few parents hoping that their children’s wishes for a white Christmas do not come true, at least not this year.

The reason that this is a particular problem here is that where once Britain had a degree of energy self-sufficiency from the North Sea gas an oil pipelines the reserves have been nearly exhausted enforcing the importation of gas from continental Europe. Britain is now considered a net importer of gas. This situation is not one that is likely to recede it is to increase more and more and prolonged periods of cold weather will only serve to exacerbate the problem. We only need look at the US to see what happens in the case of a country with an energy deficit, were there to be any interruptions in the gas pipeline from Europe for any reason it is difficult to see what course Britain would attempt to take in order to preserve the current energy consumption.

There are of course alternatives to gas as a fuel medium, one set of methods has been on the agenda for some time but it would take time, effort and a lot of research money with initially low chance of return and this is why the cause of renewable energy has been lagging behind for decades. There has been far too much pussy-footing around when it comes to the construction of wind farms and the like due to allegedly “aethesthetic considerations”. This argument I’m afraid is a non-starter, to be honest the same people complaining about the proposed effects of a wind farm on their environment should be given the option of either having said wind farm or being responsible for generating their own power. New homes should all have modern solar panel fitted as standard and that should be a statutory requirement the same way the type of glass in windows is enshrined in legislation. Modern solar panels work best in bright sunshine but not exclusively they also generate energy from light in general.

We are told that there isn’t time to put all the necessary research and development into renewable energies and it has been reinforced by reports this week that in the mind of Tony Blair only nuclear power can best fit the bill in terms of both reducing reliance on fossil fuels and reducing carbon emmissions as per the Kyoto treaty, this is not a very good run-in to the announced review of policy by the government to be completed next year. (The last review was only concluded 2 years ago and had reported that renewable energy and improving efficiency were the best ways to ensure future energy provision was met.) The option of nuclear power seems ridiculous if being discussed for a short-term measure because the costs of building the power stations and obtaining the raw materials are high, it would cost £9 billion to upgrade to retain the current 20% power coming from nuclear rather than ramping down and obviously far more if the percentage is to be increased to lessen the impact of Britain being a net importer of gas. One cannot debate nuclear power without mentioning that the costs both financially and environmentally of the disposal of nuclear waste are astronomical. However the nuclear option does not make sense in the long term either because it too is a power based on the use of a certain material of finite global quantity. Have we learnt nothing from the fossil fuel situation? For us to change from one non-renewable source to another would be a serious policy based on the principle of fingers in the ears and la-la-la I can’t hear you!

According to Labour’s Minister for Energy Malcolm Wicks who claims to be ‘Nuclear Neutral’, renewable energy also has a role to play in New Labour’s vision, in 2020 20% of energy could be provided by renewable sources. This means that in light of the gradual, becoming ever increasingly steeper, decline of fossil fuels we are, like as not, to end up in the situation of France where nuclear makes up 80% of the electricity production.

Why the change of heart from the Labour party? Let’s have a look at some figures and see if we might be able to fathom it: power stations account for 29.7% of the UKs carbon emission (a quarter of this is nuclear) This is only 1/3 of the country’s total emission and whilst it is the biggest single contributor there are others that provide cause for concern such as transport at 22% and there hasn’t been such a furore about reducing the emissions from this source as there is from power stations. Which is interesting because you cannot break the link between transport and fuel. Whilst we may not have oil power stations and coal buses, I cannot see even this ostrich-like government suggesting we embark on nuclear buses. Government carbon emissions targets for 2010 and 2020 will not be met by renewable alone, so purely in order to meet these targets, which are above those required for Kyoto and not for long-term environmental considerations is nuclear being considered. In fact doubling nuclear power provision would only reduce carbon emissions by 8% and so clearly it’s long-term consideration.

Of course Sir Digby Jones and the CBI and Business community support nuclear, let’s bear it very much in the forefront of any study that it is a commodity based form of power production, money can be made in all the forms of the process, the supply and distribution of the raw materials to the disposal of the waste. You cannot sell the wind or the sea or the sun and perhaps this is the true reason why renewables have never really been at the top of the political or economical agenda.

It is all very well to chide and look on the fact that we should have acted decades ago to prevent this from becoming the crisis that it unquestionably now will but that does not remove the responsibility to pressurise those in control to change now to lessen the impact of such a catastrophe. It is also important to tackle the issue of targets. Some may say how could I be against targets that are in excess of those required under the Kyoto treaty? To be honest it is all very well to set targets but this has to be based on sustainable solutions, to be using a form of power that is still heavy on emissions albeit slightly less so than the ones we are currently using but where the flip side is that the half-life of the waste has to be safeguarded for generations to come seems not to be a panacea to me. I would far rather an integrated system where we look at the way we live our lives and acknowledge that regardless of how we might like to dress it up we are going to have to radically alter the way we do things. Yes there may be a country like Iraq to be invaded for the oil reserves, even perhaps Kazakhstan or Uzbekistan for the same, or Russia for the gas reserves but at the end of the day IT IS GOING TO RUN OUT IN THE END. That is irrefutable, I haven’t even heard the trained chimp disputing that one. Surely then the best solution is the one whereby we generate our electricity by renewable sources and run our transportation systems accordingly to bring them into line. This way we drastically reduce both carbon footprint and dependence on finite resource fuel.

As for nuclear, well, I have to leave that debate with the words of Roger Higman of Friends Of The Earth “Until we’re happy to see Iran doing it, we shouldn’t be doing it.”

Song Of The Day ~ The Bluetones – Serenity Now

Original Comments:


Kristie made this comment,
You know, Baron, I have to say, I admire your devotion to the cause, and all its subsidiaries. Just the energy I see you put out to inform on myriad topics makes me tired. But I’m sure as hell glad you do it. Thanks.
-Redbaron responds – And it is the comments of people like yourself that make the effort worthwhile. I hope sometimes to inform, and to provoke, to ferment a little thought in anyone reading would be a decent reward and any response is an added bonus. There will be an unusual breadth of topics covered over the next few entries as the ‘look to the future’ series expanded from 4 to 9 parts in draft!-

comment added :: 23rd November 2005, 07:40 GMT+01

Haddock made this comment,
I definitely agree that all new housing should be fitted with solar (both PV and for pre-heating water). I also think new houses should incorporate rain water harvesting systems for supplying water to toilets and washing machines. This would help eleviate the water shortages every summer and slow the runoff into rivers/flood plains in times of heavy rain. I have such a system and I reckon we save about 40 – 50% on our useage of mains water (sorry to digress from the energy theme).
-Redbaron responds – No, no, you are quite right to bring this up now it is exactly in line with the energy theme and the examples you cite are precisely the shorts of things that we should be implemented.-

comment added :: 25th November 2005, 23:48 GMT+01 :: http://greenhaddock2.blogspot.com/

So there is a pensions crisis over here, there probably is where you are too that is if you are in a country that still has such socially-progressive things and has not some Dickensian workhouse ethic.

It has been reported for some time that things could not continue the way they have been and the options given were simply a) either raise the retirement age, or b) save more money over a longer period of time. Both companies and people are being blamed for not saving enough money, and additionally at fault is the fact that we are supposedly living comparitively longer (as if this is somehow a bad thing) and therefore are more of a drain on the financial resources. Companies are being told to contribute more or the government will be forced to bring in legislation and individuals are being told that they must start saving much more of their income much sooner. It is interesting that the legislative process will clearly be brought into place over the individual before it will be considered for the companies.

OK when it comes to money I have always been kind of short-termist, but then I have never really had the sort of money that would allow me to be otherwise. At the moment I earn what would be classified as a reasonable sum of money for the first time in my life, I am in a job that would be classified as graduate and white collar, it isn’t in a higher tax bracket or anything close but most people would think you’d be alright with that as your salary. Now whilst my situation is a little out of the ordinary in so far as I have both children and ostensibly 2 houses to support accordingly not to mention large debts as a result of tertiary education, it is not so unheard of that I am somehow a special case, in fact as time goes on and the cost of University education increses my position will be seen evermore as moderate. And yet paying 6% of my monthly salary into a pension is almost more money than I can afford to be without. So what about those who have similar outgoings to me and only fractionally less money, it must tip them over the edge. And those who have similar outgoings but substantially less income how the hell are they going to manage to be without more of their money?

As for business, well to my mind not agreeing with private industry myself I can to an extent hold my hands up and say well that is always going to be what happens, companies will siphon off what they can to keep the board of directors and investors happy before employees get anything However clearly in the short-term one must look at provision for those who are going to be retiring from such positions within such companies. Of course there are some who’s pensions are more than ample. Take the former bosses of the MG Rover group who managed to award themselves pension plans in the multi-millions shortly before the company went bust due to lack of funds. John Towers, the Phoenix chairman, deputy chairman Nick Stephenson, Kevin Howe, its chief executive and directors John Edwards and Peter Beale received salaries totalling £9.7m since they bought Rover. They also set up a pension fund for themselves and their families estimated at between £16.5 and £40 million whilst they controlled the company. It hardly takes an economist to work out why the company didn’t have any funds when you look at the salaries of the directors and their pension plans. The workers at MG Rover are in a slightly different state – instead of being offered a share of the assets of £50 million (the pension plan ended £470 million in deficit) they have been offered an ex gratia settlement by the former directors of £5000, however this is not £5000 each which would be precious little enough it is £5000 between them, working out to 82p each. To be honest such a derisory sum is an absolute insult and taken in comparison with the relief package by the taxpayers which is expected to be around £50m one cannot help but think there is something very rotten in the system that this should be allowed to happen.

As I have mentioned in my last post the top 400 company directors in the UK paid themselves £1 billion in pensions last year alone, which illustrates that the Rover example is by no means the exception but the rule. It seems staggering that as the gap between the richest and the poorest continues to grow in the “developed” world the issue of the redressing of the balance by taxation means is not tackled. The same solution exists for the pensions crisis if only the political will did. Ultimately the problem can be broken up as follows: You have a population most of whom will require some form of state pension once they get to retirement age. If as a hypothetical figure we say that of the 75 million in the country 10 million are past the retirement age. If we take as a fair sum to live off in the modern world as £20,000 this would mean one would need £200 thousand million to pay for it. It’s a lot of money and yet this is not money that would have to be found instantly if it were planned for properly. A contribution system which most countries in the West employ would be able to cope with this sort of requirement with some ease. Furthermore it is not as if this sort of money isn’t pissed down the drain into wars and newer nuclear deterrents and yes, religious institutions if you press me. There’s no question the money IS available because if you were to take a simple figure of a working population of 40 million earning an average wage of £10,000 and taxed at 30% this brings in well over £1 billion and therefore more than 5 times the amount needed for pension provision which naturally is just as well for the provision of healthcare and welfare benefits. It is true this is very basic economics using simplified figures for my own understanding rather than any desire to patronise my readership who, I am sure have a greater comprehension of economics than I.

Working longer should not be necessary, even this is an area which fundamentally favours the well-off. Firstly the rich are more likely to have been to university and thus not starting work until their early 20s whilst their life expenctancy is approximately 18 years after the age of retirement whilst in stark contrast the less well-off are more likely to have left school at 16 or 18 and their life expectancy is only approximately 13 years of age after the age of retirement. This means a disparity of anything up to 11 years between the classes. Are we saying in the 21st century that if you are more or not of academic bent that you must work for 50 years until you can rest?

This is not to say that there should not be provision for those that would like to work beyond the age of retirement, it has always struck me as a little ludicrous that I know of many forced to retire against their will whilst the government and financial institutions bash on about us having to work longer in the future. But, sadly in this society we do not see the old as the wizened, experienced mages, holders of our history and what we are indeed to become, instead they are a drain on resources such as the NHS and council housing and national insurance.

It is time now to face up to stark choices. Those in power currently represent the old order, funding fossil fuels, wars to prop up the dominance of the capitalist economic cycle, big businesses and the industrial era. This era will soon be the past the question is will we be ready for it or plunged into chaos due to the inactivity in this area from governments. Whether it be our pensions or energy policy the Western governments have made an error of catacylismic proportions not making any funding or research to safeguard the future. What they seem incapable of grasping is that this is not simply a problem that can be circumvented, the future is going to happen, the question is will we have any idea how to cope with it?

Song Of The Day ~ Sparks – This Town Ain’t Big Enough For The Both Of Us

Original Comments:


The Fat Boy made this comment,
http://spongeblog.blog-city.com/neighborhood/ ur there, check it out. where’s ur link 2 me?
-Redbaron responds – Geezer you’re obsessed, calm down, you’ll find yourself in the Blog Diving section, untill I make a Tories section!-

comment added :: 21st November 2005, 06:54 GMT+01 :: http://spongeblog.blog-city.com/

The Fat Boy made this comment,
“Geezer you’re obsessed, calm down, you’ll find yourself in the Blog Diving section, untill I make a Tories section!-” I’m not a geezer, and I’m sorry for asking. I’m a torie? Tell me more, or make an entry sbout Soviet Russia. i love the subject. i don’t know why you love Comunism if u lived through it. Take Animal Farm, for instance. You have to know about Communism to understand its applications; otherwise, it’s a story book. Love ur site. There’s still a link 2 u on my site : )
-Redbaron responds – Geezer is English slang for bloke, mate or in your parlance dude! Yes I think you are a tory, tory is English political slang for a Conservative. We’ll certainly do the Sov U in due course but don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m a revisionist. Be very careful what you believe about Orwell from what people have told you rather than what you have read. Animal Farm is about totalitarianism using allegory to highlight how it has become in Russia. Don’t forget Orwell was a socialist and his greatest argument with Russia was how it did not represent what it claimed to.-

comment added :: 22nd November 2005, 11:32 GMT+01

john made this comment,
So the government now intends that in a few years time people will have to work until they are sixtyseven before they will receive the state pension.
As one who has already retired I have to ask the question….Who will employ all these older people ?… as very few employers want to employ people in their fifties let alone their sixties.

A few years ago the policies of ‘The Wicked Witch of Downing Street’ ensured that I spent a few months ‘on the dole’ after being fully employed for more than thirty years. I wrote to around seventy companies and applied for many jobs in the ‘situations vacant’ columns and despite being highly qualified and experienced at all levels in my particular industry no one wanted to employ someone who was approaching their half century.

-Redbaron responds – Yes, indeed John this is a fundamentally important point, there’s going to have to be a serious change in working culture for any solution and I don’t see that curently being instigated. Perhaps the government think there are enough vacancies for trolley collectors at Tesco’s for all the qualified, experienced 50-60 somethings.-

comment added :: 22nd November 2005, 16:42 GMT+01 :: http://bigjohn.blog-city.com/

It was no surprise that there have been no WMDs found in Iraq despite all the protestations to the contrary by Bliar and Bush on the intelligence they allegedly had. One could be a little surprised at the time of the invasion that there appeared no plans on what to actually do once the Iraqi army was defeated. As time went on the protestations grew weaker and the evidence that this was a war founded on economics became almost irrefutable.

What has been most perturbing is the, at best astonishing ineptitude and at worst systematic repression of civilians that has taken place during the US occupation of Iraq. The treatment of prisoners at Iraqi jails was brought to light after the discoveries of Abu Gharaib and one might have thought that this problem had been stamped out since there has been no reporting of a continuation of the problem. You would not think this were the case though if you were in Iraq where it is well-known that the Shia-dominated and US-trained security forces. “I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating, one or two detainees were paralysed and some had their skin peeled off various parts of their bodies” Hussein Kamal (Deputy interior minister). The case in question involves 170 detainees but is believed to be only the tip of the iceberg. Most or very likely all, of the 170 heldwere Sunnis and were found to be in a state of both malnutrition as well as showing clear signs of having been subjected to torture.

Anne Clywd, Tony Blair’s envoy in Iraq claims to have known about such problems since May when she received reports from the Sunni community that such actions were going on. What Ms Clywd, who was strongly in favour of military action to depose Saddam Hussain, did regarding these reports she did not make clear, in a BBC Newsnight interview, they were certainly not heavily publicised at the time and the cynical amongst you might summise that this would have been too close to the whole Abu Gharaib incidents thus causing further embarrassment at a time when it would have been even more politically disastrous. Outside the blinkered government circles, a report by Human Rights Watch earlier in the year had said that methods used by Iraqi police included beating detainees with cables, hanging them from their wrists for long periods and giving electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body.

As if the torture of prisoners angle wasn’t enough the Pentagon has confirmed after many previous denials that they used white phosphorus in the attacks on Fallujah, this type of weapon is a dangerous incendiary and causes horrific burns on contact with skin, there are serious questions over whether or not this constitues a chemical weapon. Unsurprisingly the military does not consider this a chemical weapon although of course the military’s assessment of chemical weapons at the moment is something of a moot point. I’m sure no-one who reads this blog by now will be shocked to know that he US is not a signatory to the International treaty restricting the use of white phosphorus as a weapon (Protocol III of Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons).

In the case of Fallujah the US army claim that 1,600 people killed all of whom were allegedly insurgents. This would be the most staggeringly accurate war in all history were it to have any chance in hell of being even remotely true. Initially we were told that resistance in Fallujah was a small group of extremists and not a widespread popular revolt against US occupying forces. Now we are expected to believe that the US indescriminately bombed the city and wiped out all of the resistance without any innocent lives being lost. Usually if something smells like bullshit, that’s probably because it is bullshit, this is no exception.

Song Of The Day ~ Alabama 3 – Mansion On The Hill

Live At Derby Assembly Rooms

Rob Newman & Mark Thomas

Date: 14/11/05   —   £14.50   —   Other

product page

Rating:

There isn’t really anything better than laughing a lot and learning at the same time. Besides when 2 boys come up to the frozen North from my part of London it’s only fair to give them some support!

I haven’t seen Rob Newman for a long time, he used to do a double act with David Baddiel who went on to worse things with Frank Skinner. In those days Newman had long hair like mine and wore the clothes of something of a dandy including a rather fine long crimson velvet jacket. These days his hair is shorter and his attire looks as if he is to be appearing in ‘Waiting For Godot’ soon. I hadn’t expected his act to be quite as sharp and satirical and politically to the left as it was. Funny, yes, Newman was always funny, there is a gravitas that comes from the product of a fervent mind for the good and bad things this entails. The modern day Rob Newman is a very astute political activist. A comedic campaigner who is all too aware of the contradictions of the modern world and the ignorance under which we are expected to live. He describes the First World War as being caused by an invasion of Iraq (then Mesopotamia) and not as we are led to believe in the history books the assasination of Archduke Ferdinand.

The historical context is this. Prussia, (most of what constitues modern day Germany) the great emerging military and economic power did not have the oil reserves for the mechanisation it required. It therefore needed the Berlin to Baghdad railway link. Since the Orient Express route already covered the route as far as Istanbul it was only necessary to complete the remaining section. This was of course not the sort of thing the British could allow since there was no way the British could compete with a Prussia running at full tilt. Thus the British mobilised, ironically in Basra, in order to stop German plans. To bring across this sort of information is usually the domain of such investigative heavyweights as Pilger and Chomsky, to make it funny and bring in such gems as the Samarian version of Rock Around The Clock as part of a way to avoid harm when kidnapped in Iraq is first rate.

Newman’s anthropomorphic illustration of the US as the backyard bullyboy with baseball bats mooting out a punishment beating on Iraq for daring to consider changing their oil currency from $ to €, whilst looking up to China saying “I got dis under control, Sur” at the same time Venezuela looks on saying “ey gringo, I think you losin’ your to’ch, years ago you bury this alone, now you got to do it with yo’ beetch” and North Korea drives by in their Hyundai giving the finger out the window and “Fuck you ‘Mericaaaaaaaa” is both very funny and a startlingly good analogy. The dependence on the universal oil currency being $ is rapidly becoming a fragile one for the US and shows all too graphically just how short-term the US’s dominance will be. When Iraq switched to € the value of the € went up by 25% over the following 6 months. Other countries, Iran, North Korea etc. have attempted to follow suit. Miraculously the list of the countries that have sought to make this change is remarkably similar to the ‘Axis of Evil’

Newman is very well-versed on environmental issues and his meticulously researched presentation on the oil situation is tantamount to apocalyptic. Sadly it is all too true if only people can be bothered to research the facts. Someone has done some of the work for you here Figures exist that show we have passed peak production

If I had to some up Rob Newman’s message using his own words it would be that in the light of the impending crisis there is “No Way Out.” The conclusion is clear they might say there is nuclear but the cost and fallout and cycle is not a solution merely another problem. There is hydrogen, but there are no hydrogen reservoirs, hydrogen has to be made and to make almost anything in the mechanised world you require oil.

To be fair Rob Newman was an added bonus, I’d have been happy to see him but I paid my money predominantly being a huge Mark Thomas fan. I have been so for many many years now and every series he does on Channel 4 seems to go from strength to strength and is a far cry from the old Friday Night Live days, when he took to the stage along with another of the then new men of the alternative new left comedy scene Ben Elton. Whilst Elton has gone off to write bestselling novels and musicals with Andrew Lloyd-Weber Thomas has stuck to what he does best and has both retained integrity and developed hugely as a performer into a man approaching the influence and genius of the late great Bill Hicks and that is not an accolade I confer lightly.

Thomas starts his set recounting his gig in Belfast, his opening joke “What’s the difference between Saddam Hussein and the IRA? -Saddam hasn’t got any weapons!” he says went down well after a pause before someone shouted now “we’ll have a joke now about the Unionists for parity so we will!” He duly obliges launching one at Ian Paisley “Preacher of Hate” and how he finds it strange that whilst he refuses to believe that the IRA have given up their weapons he is happy to believe that Jesus was the son of God and the pope is the devil! Paisley, Thomas says, is a scary man who could make anything sound sinister, he proceeds to recount Paisley’s shopping list in barking Belfast tones “2 tins of tomatoes…a packet of oven-ready smily faces.” There is also the fact that Paisley does not believe the IRA has given up its weapons “the man who think Jesus Christ is the son of God and the pope is the devil, we’re only now asking you to believe one little tiny thing here!” Not stopping just with the leader Thomas lambasts the Orange order, a group he describes as “paramilitary homepride men” for marching to almost anything and yet not prepared to fight on the issue of the public right to roam.

Thomas is one of the great do-ers, he researches things and then enacts them much to the chagrin of the establishment. There is without question a lot of serious substance in Mark Thomas’ material, his particular bete-noir at the moment is the arms dealing, Britain is the 2nd biggest arms dealer in the world. There is now a law banning the involvement of any British citizen from any dealings involving stun batons, called the “torturer’s weapon of choice” by Amnesty International. Thomas not only sets up a deal involving British citizens but brokers it in the name of the Minister in charge of arms sales!

Thomas says he likes heckling, (though it would be a foolish person that were to heckle either of the men on this bill) he says how sometimes even if you haven’t thought it through it can be powerful. He regales us of the story of a friend from Newcastle who was supposed to be group heckling the former Secretary for Work and Pensions whilst he was still in office. Upon finding that she was alone on arrival when the Minister arrived she was gripped with passion and bellowed in strong Geordie tones “Blunket, you cunt”. The effect, apparently was that the driver of Blunket’s car was so surprised he reversed into a wall!

Thomas does an encore and then both he and Newman ad lib in a musical poetry slam. This is Newman’s territory and he soon has the audience and Mark Thomas in fits. Not to be overlooked entirely, Thomas shows he is a really quite accomplished harmonica player!

OK, I’ll grant you this was always going to be the ideal comedy gig for me, it has everything I need, it’s very funny, very politically charged and they talk proper like! That being said it will be the yardstick by which all other comedy nights are measured.

You can find the remaining dates on the tour here and because I enjoyed it so much, if you happen to be at one of the Warwick gigs you might just run into me.

Song Of The Day ~ Sky Parade – Losin Control

Live At The Rescue Rooms (3)

The Bluetones

Date: 13/11/05   —   £14.50   —   Music

Rating:

The Bluetones have been around for a little while, you may not have heard of them, they’re the sort of band that had a couple of hits some time ago and then would have appeared to vanish if you weren’t a fairly dedicated fan, however they continued to release records and as a result would have had a fanbase until a couple of years ago when they did seem to disappear. The last album I have is 1998 and their last tour was I believe 2001. So it was a bit of a comeback special. To my mind if you like The Thrills and bands of that genre, you’ll see where a lot of their music came from when you hear The Bluetones.

First of all came Sky Parade who are American and had to apologise for not being able to find the venue and thus the resulting 15 minute delay. Sky Parade are proof that good things can come out of the US, they are a classic rock 4 piece, their set beginning with the excellent rasping semi-psychadelic ‘Losing Control’. I really like this group, they are unsigned but they could well go far. The whole band is pretty tidy, the bassist looked baked throughout and the drummer was so in the zone it was almost like having a young John Bonham on stage. You don’t get so much of that on the album, partially because the band have used 2 drummers but I guess also because it’s a more polished performance that they’ve recorded than the more high-octane live act. I hope they spend more time over here, they have a sense of the indie movement of the early 1990s with a bit of the neo-punk that’s so pravalent at the moment, and a dash of Lou Reed thrown in for good measure. I would not consider them typical of West Coast American music it’s more gritty, more grey city New York style for that. There’s elements of The Stone Roses and the Mock Turtles in there which is why I reckon they’d have success here. Well worth seeing in their own right if they do any pub gigs. I met the lead singer after the gig and shook his hand and wished the band well. I even bought their album, as, it seems, did a lot of others at the gig.

The second support act were The Conway Story, they drew the short straw because people seemed to have widely enjoyed Sky Parade and The Conway Story were a different type of band. They were decent without being spectacular but their set was marred by a couple of idiots in the crowd giving them stick. I find this somewhat ridiculous because they are not going to be on stage for long and they do their bit and they are after all merely a support act so why would anyone want to give them a load of shite…? They played on regardless and fair play to them for that, it can’t be easy in that situation.

It had felt like quite a long wait for The Bluetones, not as long as it had been for The Paddingtons though, and if one had expected the heckling to stop when the main event started we were disappointed. It was quiet and respectful at first but there were signs that the rowdiness was returning early on. Midway thru’ the second song Mark, the lead singer of the band made a foray into the crowd returning with a hat. At the end of the song he made it clear that he had seen a bloke pushing a lady around and had gone in to break it up and returned with the offenders hat.

During the third song on one of Mark’s forays around the stage he came over to the far left where I was (ain’t that always the way!) and asked if I thought we were penned in, I replied that we were ok. I was certainly happy to be at the edge than in the middle where it did seem very crushed.