Monday, 23 March 2009

Jobs not bombs

Report from the protest against the army recruiting centre in Hackney.

'When we heard that the Army was opening a show room in a local shopping centre Hackney Stop the War rapidly moved into action. We called for a protest last Saturday 21 March. About 80 people came. These included people from the Green Party, the Labour Party, three Turkish community organisations, Hackney College (staff and students), London Catholic Workers, CND and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
The protest itself was brilliant. We forced the closure of one of the entries to the shopping centre and forced the army to shut the show room briefly because it was occupied by protestors chanting jobs not bombs. We got lots of signatures for our petition and dished out publicity for the G20 protests. We aim to have another protest at 1.30pm on Saturday 4 April.'

Friday, 20 March 2009

The river squatters: a tale for our times

This week I paid a visit to some environmental squatters occupying Raven’s Ait, a little known island on the Thames. Predictably the local press has been full of stories about wild raves and lazy work-shy hippies sponging off the state.

But the truth is much more mundane. They have health and safety log books and wear fluorescent bibs. There is not a cider bottle in sight and they seem to survive on nothing more exiting than strong tea.

Eventually they plan to turn it into the world’s first eco-parliament by giving space to green groups and charities.

One of group, Pano Kroko, an environmental scientist, told me: ‘We want to turn this place into an eco-parliament so the green movement can discuss what we need to do to tackle climate change. Over 40 organisations have been in touch including Green Peace and Earth First saying they want to use the venue.’

But Lib Dem run Kingston Council, which owns the island, is not impressed. It wants to sell Raven’s Ait off or lease it to a private company.

And the courts agree. This week Kingston County Court ruled in the council’s favour and granted it the power to repossess Ravens Ait.

A council spokesperson told me: ‘Kingston Council is keen to regain full possession of Ravens Ait so that the island can be used to benefit local taxpayers. The court has given the occupiers until Monday 23 March to vacate the island.’

So there you have it. In power the Lib Dem's are just as bad as the Tories. And the free market may be in crisis but the ideology of private good public bad is still alive and well.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Steve Hilton Eat Your Heart Out

Thanks to Guido Fawkes for pointing out the opportunity for some childish japes. I could spend hours on it. Have a go yourselves, it's ace!

Army targets poor Londoners

Imagine you are a General in the British Army. Recruitment is difficult because those ungrateful Iraqis and Afghanis keep killing your troops. And opinion polls keep showing that the British people want you home and the Iraqi and Afghani population want you out. So what do you do?

The answer is simple and brilliant. Open a recruitment centre in Hackney - one of poorest boroughs in London, where unemployment, particularly among the young, is high and is getting worse because of the economic crisis. Hackney has 37 claimants for every new job.

The army press release for the centre or 'show room' as it puts it declares:

The Army is targeting people eligible to join the Army in the boroughs of Enfield, Newham, Lewisham, Brent, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Hillingdon, Camden, Hackney, Wandsworth, Islington and Bromley. The London target boroughs were identified by looking at those areas with the highest proportion of people eligible to join the Army.
The centre, which will be located in Dalston shopping centre on Kingsland Road, promises all sorts of entertainment for the bored and the desperate. Visitors will be able to test-drive a virtual tank, explore a computer generated battlefield and beat up virtual Iraqi civilians (okay I made that last bit up).

As the local Stop the War group, which is planning a protest this Saturday, points out this is an obscene attempt to ‘sanitize the reality of war’.

In Iraq hundreds of thousands of civilians have lost their lives and nearly two hundred British soldiers have been killed - all for a lie about weapons of mass destruction.

And civilians and soldiers continue to die on an almost daily basis in Afghanistan - all to protect a deeply corrupt and unpopular administration.

Just think how many peaceful, useful, civilian jobs the government could create if it diverted money from the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. So far it has spent close to £10 billion.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Graphic of the Month

An occasional category which probably won't even be remotely monthly but whose temporal boundaries were arbitrarily decided by yours truly on the basis of it sounding (marginally) catchier than "occasional graphic i like and want to put on here so people who read this blog (and from what i can tell there is, at most, one of you) can laugh along with me" category.

Never let it be said that we lefties lack a sense of humour...

Enough about me. This, my friends, is the business:

Hat-tip: B3ta

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Dinga Dinga Dee - Bang!

This is a Bollywood-style music video made by Israeli arms manufacturer Rafael for a Bangalore arms fair. The singers have clearly never seen a Bollywood film before, the "lyrics" are ridiculously direct and, to cap it all (if you'll excuse the pun), they are dancing between two missiles.

Brilliant. If slightly disturbing.

Hat-tip: Popbitch

Thursday, 5 March 2009

A Day in the Life - Iraq Video

A rare insight into the relationship between the US army and the Iraqi police. I don't want to comment too much on what my thoughts are, I'll let you make up your own minds.

Hat-tip: Leninology

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Comic Disbelief

January 2007: Danielle Lloyd's remarks regarding Shilpa Shetty on "Celebrity Big Brother":

1) Refers to her as a "dog".
2) Says Shetty should "Fuck off home".
3) Is complicit in numerous recorded conversations in which Jade Goody, Jo O'Meara and Jack Tweed spout similarly prejudiced views, the "highlight" of which was a pathetic attempt to rhyme the word "tacky" with a well-known racist slur.

March 2009: Danielle Lloyd fronts programme on domestic violence on behalf of Comic Relief.

Conclusion: Publicly televised expressions of racism will be rewarded with high profile presenting roles on behalf of one of the most popular and recognisable charitable events in the country.

That's right folks, those sensitive and caring Comic Relief organisers have obviously reasoned that getting C-list Lloyd to host the programme would be a draw, regardless of her previous actions; that glamour girls and footballers' wives are latterday idols that can be used to disseminate a worthwhile message irrespective of their individual beliefs. That the ends justify the means.

"What, you kill puppies for fun? In the microwave? No sweat, just go on Celebrity Apprentice and we'll forget about it. "

"Believe in forced euthanasia? Just do this fun-run and we'll turn a blind eye."

God knows what paradoxical message that sends out to young women, or anyone else for that matter, but i'm sure CR would argue that this is the modern orthodoxy and they're just working within it.

Yet Jade Goody went on Indian Big Brother to try and salvage what little remained of her reputation. By this token, wouldn't it have been better if Lloyd was sent to Africa? Perhaps they're sending Ron Atkinson instead.

Let's be fair though, Lloyd is rightly regarded as one of the country's foremost: a) authorities on domestic violence; b) accomplished television presenters; c) dater of footballers. (Delete as appropriate.)

And, after all, a programme that is designed (as surely it must be if Comic Relief are at the helm) to provide comfort and support to women who are perhaps suffering abuse is an appropriate vehicle for Lloyd's rehabilitation into the TV community, isn't it?

Well, let's take a look shall we? According to the Home Office: "there is little variation in the prevalence of domestic violence by ethnicity. However, survivors from Black and other ethnic minority communities are less likely to access statutory services."

Will women from those communities be more inclined to watch a programme hosted by a woman proven to have serious prejudices against people of colour? Will they have forgotten her words?

Why should they be forced to sit through a programme fronted by someone they know holds them in contempt in order to find out information that could potentially save their lives?

Before anyone jumps down my throat, I realise she has been the
victim of domestic violence, and I feel very sorry for her because such acts are abhorrent and unforgiveable.

Just like racism.

Even if she regrets what she did, it can hardly be argued that she's the best person for the job, that there is no-one in the entire country better suited to presenting a serious programme about a serious issue; that with this appointment Comic Relief aren't telling the biggest, and sickest, joke of all.

You know, the one where our society is so stupid, so puerile and so superficial that it forgets even recent history and where even those who supposedly "do good" are prepared to sacrifice their principles at the altar of (minor) celebrity.

Let her get her clothes off for readers of Nuts and Zoo by all means, but let's not pretend she is a suitable rolemodel for British womankind, or for Comic Relief.

Next thing you know, people will be changing their opinion of Jade Goody just because she's become unwe... oh...

Man Looks Through Trees - Sees Woods

If anyone wants to know how, why and when this whole economic mess began (you'll be surprised) and some of the profound - yet oft unwritten - truths about it then you could do a shedload worse than read this analysis by Dan Hind at his ThreatToReason blog.

Clear enough for even the uninitiated to understand, pieces like this really should be more widely available.

I've never heard Peston say anything as insightful... or write anything as legible...

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Newsflash: Satire Resurrected - Then Killed

"NO2ID is a campaigning organisation. We are a single-issue group focussed on the threat to liberty and privacy posed by the rapid growth of the database state, of which "ID cards" are the most visible part." - NO2ID statement of purpose

So there I am, on the NO2ID website, getting myself all in a lather about the database state and the CCTV-monitored open-prison we call Britain when I decide to sign up for the email newsletter, so as to keep myself abreast of local and national developments.

I fill in my email address on the "stay informed" section of their homepage, but as I just want the email letter I don't want (or need) to give them my firstname, lastname, number, road, town or postcode.

Like them, I have a natural aversion to giving too much information out and believe sincerely in the rights and privacies of the individual.

So i just fill in my email address, copy the "magic word" and submit my request. This is what I got:

- "Input error

This form is designed for you to give contact details to enable NO2ID to get in touch with you. We will not pass your details to any third party. We will not send you irrelevant material.

But we do need to be able to ask for your active support when it matters. If you just want to read our newsletter and not hear from us otherwise, then we suggest that you read it as it is published on the website.

Supplying us with incomplete or misleading details will damage the campaign, since it costs us postage or takes up the time of volunteer workers

Please enter your forename in the 'forename' field" -

Ok, i think to myself, if they really want my first name i have no problem giving it to them. So I fill it in and repeat the process.

- "Please enter your surname in the 'surname' field" -

Now i'm beginning to get a little bit suss. Can it be? Surely not? Not them of all people? I try again.

- "Please enter your postal address in the 'address' field" -

It was at this point that I suffered from irony-overload. As I involuntarily sprayed my tea across the screen, the wall and the cat it dawned on me that, basically, the very people campaigning against the "database state" demand mandatory completion of personal information... for their DATABASE!

What. The. Fuck.

I appreciate it says that if I just want the newsletter I should check back to the site but what kind of stupid, wrong-headed, counterproductive methodology is that? What if I forget? What if I miss something important? Surely it is in their interest to maximise participation and surely it is one of their basic principles that people should give out only as much detail as they wish?!

Truly, I was staggered, and I emailed them, as "Mr X", to let them know exactly what I thought of their hypocrisy.

In response, I got a one-sentence email saying they would be most happy to put me on the list, as Mr-sodding-X, WITHOUT further details, which is even worse because it means they COULD do it for everyone but choose not to.

If you stop everything you're doing - just for a moment - and listen very carefully, you can hear our beloved Mr Orwell turning in his grave.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Baby, it's Coal-ed Outside

I was casually strolling back to Marylebone tube station last Thursday after football when I noticed what seemed to be half the Met police surrounding the Landmark Hotel - the grand old building that sits opposite the station.

With at least 10 police vans parked outside and more than 60-70 police officers on one side of the building alone, what, i wondered could require such costly police commitment? Had there been some new terrorist attack? Or worse, was Tom Cruise in town?

Nope. It was 50 boho, well-to-do, Chelsea-dwelling, Chateauneuf du Pape-supping luvvies dressed in 1920's eveningwear, who were protesting against The National Coal Awards through the media of dance and crap slogans.

Why is it the police ALWAYS arrive in disproportionately large numbers and generally behave like sneering bullyboys? They seem to have two distinct roles: one good (serving the needs of the community), one bad (serving the needs of the ruling elite) and switching heads - Wurzel Gummidge-Stylee - depending on the occasion. Talk about indoctrination.

Anyway, I digress. The very notion of a National Coal Awards tickles me. I mean, how boring would your life have to be for that to count as a good night out? What, for chrissakes, were the categories?

  • Black as coal Award (Positive Discrimination)

  • Coals to Newcastle Award (Selling it back to the miners at a huge mark-up)

  • Old King Coal Award (Best exploitation of a Third World country)

  • Coal-ition of the Willing Award (Pit with least Trades Union membership)
Now I salute anyone who actively participates in the political process by getting off their lazy fat arse and demonstrating, but these guys just looked bored .

They were clearly the kind of people who think "a night in the cells" is a reference to late night shopping at Harrods (think about it), yet, wonderfully, one of the organisers was handing out "arrest crib sheets".
And how do i know that this was a more refined class of protestor? One of the chichi throng was recognised by yours truly as being a Sunday Times "Style Magazine" hackette, who is probably doing some sort of piece on "Protest Chic". Hardly a direct action type of gal, hardly a revolutionary crowd.

As for the slogans, organisers Climate Rush really pushed the boat out with modern classics "No new coal", "No more death factories" and what sounded very much like "Meals on wheels" but was actually, i think, "Deeds not words".

Jesus, no wonder they were bored.

Best of all, rumour abounded that the Coal Awards people had changed venue at the last minute and weren't even there. We British sure give good protest.

I didn't stay long. Nor, I imagine, did they.