Seven Billion Citizens (Editorial

I've been looking for ways to mark the official UN declaration of the arrival of the seventh billion citizen on our dear planet when along comes an unsolicited email presentation beautifully presented and stunningly bleak in content. It asks us to imagine that the world has been reduced to a mere one hundred people all living in a single village but significantly in the exact same socio-economic proportions that the real world is today. The statistics that emerge are sobering to say the least and most instructive in highlighting just what an inhumane disaster zone our planet really is. If it has one failing it is that it does not explicitly point to how we arrived at this appalling state of affairs but then anyone with half a brain will find the answer implicit in the statistics. It does finish on a slightly tacky note but the spirit of the thing is sound enough.

Read more...


Occupy Wall Street

Once again, Simon Jenkins has made a complete wally of himself. Not content to become an apologist for Imperial Britain, he now turns his bourgeois attention to belittling the anti-capitalist protesters springing up in over 900 cities across the globe. Jenkins may play a useful role in protecting endangered castles and aristocratic homes via his exalted position in the National Trust, but he really ought not to dabble in more contemporary matters. And by contemporary matters I refer to any of the political tussles between the two great competing socio-economic classes that have at once simmered and raged over the past five hundred years  that historic struggle between the capitalist bourgeoisie and the natural antithesis to that great class  the global proletariat. Leave it alone Mr Jenkins because clearly you just don't get it. 


This is what the learned Mr Jenkins has to say of the growing street vanguard against capitalist greed;

Read more...


School Wars, Melissa Benn, Verso, 2011, London

Here is a story long overdue for the telling. It is the story of the half hearted attempt to set up a comprehensive education system in Britain and the subsequent, never-ending endeavours to undermine and destabilise that which was achieved. The work by Melissa Benn is a meticulous but at the same time a very readable one, and she should be highly commended for her efforts. While we have all had our eyes and efforts focused on defending the National Health Service, our partially constructed national education service has been allowed to fall into disrepair. So bad have things become that one wonders whether it is already too late to save the half built crumbling ruin. Selection is now the order of the day, and masquerading under the fig leaf of choice, comes a tidal wave of privatisation and profit taking. Add to that, a nasty increase in religious schools and religious separatism and you have all the ingredients of a right wing, corporatist takeover of English schooling - all the better to facilitate the economic corporate takeover of the British economy.

Read more...


Palestinian Statehood (Editorial)

Some ten years ago, maybe more, an Israeli father and son table-tennising duet arrived at London Progress Table Tennis Club and proceeded to make a bit of a splash. They were both full of that notorious Israeli cockiness, bordering on outright arrogance, and both a little mad. But they were generally well liked and anyway, who would really notice two more, mad, cocky, ping pong players at the London Progress lunatic asylum. They could both handle themselves competently on the table; the father, I believed, was a former Israeli international and the son looked to be heading in the same direction.


Just as suddenly as they arrived they were off back to the homeland, probably because it was time for the son to carry out his compulsorily Israeli military service. During their years at the club I had many heated exchanges with the father over Israeli foreign policy and over the general nature of Zionism. Heated as those exchanges were, we always seemed to end on friendly terms, perhaps both recognising the seeming intractability of the questions under discussion. Neither father nor son could be described as religious fanatics both quite secular in their outlook, and both, in theory, could see the pressing need for a peaceful resolution of the 'Palestinian question'. The stumbling block between us was always their denial of the ethnic cleansing that took place in the original establishment of the Jewish state. They simple would not accept the undisputable facts that millions of Palestinians were forcibly removed from their villages and towns to make way for what is now the Jewish state of Israel.


I think it was a year after they had returned to Israel that I received a phone-call from the father wishing me seasons greeting and all the best for the New Year. He also offered an invitation for the club to send over a team for a match against the Israeli national side. Always up for a new adventure and seeing certain groundbreaking possibilities I immediately accepted but on the proviso that their team would be a mixed Israeli-Palestinian team. This was accepted in principle and he would get back to me with some more details. Then came the long silence. Clearly either he had had second thoughts or some person or peoples in high places had leaned on him. Some ten years later I'm still waiting for the follow-up call.

Read more...


Dude, Where's My Country, Michael Moore


Michael Moore, bet noir of right wing, Christian fundamentalist, quasi fascist, nutcase America, has a new book coming out. It's called, 'Here Comes Trouble: Stories From My Life' and make no mistake, Michael Moore has had more than his fair share of troubles over the years. You don't take on the National Rifle Association, the US Health Insurance Industry, the entire Bush Administration and the associated US military-industrial complex, Fox News and their religious fundamentalist lunatics constituency, to name but a few, without making a few enemies. It is a fair bet to suggest that Michael Moore has received more death threats than Fidel Castro. He must be doing something right. Years of round-the-clock security from ex US Seals suggest that these threats are more than just fanatical hot air. The right-wing in America want Michael Moore dead and they probably won't rest until they achieve their goal. That's the nature of US politics today. For all these reasons, Michael Moore has zoomed right to the top of my short list for World President. This man is on the front line and leading the counter-attack against corporate, war-mongering, gun-totting America, oblivious to the bullets flying all around him.

Read more...


Jamie Oliver for World President


If we had an elected post of President of the World, Jamie Oliver wouldn't be the worst candidate. In fact he would be quite high on my short list, if for no other reason than his tireless campaigning for decent food. This campaigning is now taking him directly to the UN, where there is to be a major medical debate on non-communicable diseases, with the world-wide obesity epidemic high on the agenda. Oliver has called for a global movement to make obesity a human rights issue, and he is attempting to generate a global debate on the subject. In a hard hitting, no nonsense language that he has become famous for, Jamie tells us,

Read more...


Simon Jenkins; Bourgeois Historian

Simon Jenkins has entered the debate about exactly what should be taught in the teaching of history and his contribution is a contradictory one. On the one hand he argues, correctly in my view, against the hotchpotch approach to history teaching, whereby no discernable connection is made between each taught unit, so in the end students have no understanding as to how it all fits together and what actually is the driving motor of history. A dollop of Roman history followed by some maraudering Vikings and some nasty Normans and lo and behold its time for the Tudors, who apparently had lots of wives. If that eclectic mish-mash hasn't got our students sufficiently switched off, a predictable dose of twentieth century wars with jack-booted Nazis stomping around will soon be coming their way, but of course, any possible connections between all this historical blood and thunder is never made. Jenkins professes to be, an unashamed chronologist, arguing that history cannot be told spasmodically. On this I 100% agree. Jenkins adds, I cannot see how any narrative can avoid starting at the beginning and running to the end, however hard it seems to tell it that way.Three cheers for historical chronologists!

Read more...


Why Marx Was Right: Terry Eagleton

Eagleton does his magnificent little text a small disfavour by choosing a rather didactic sounding title. Something a little more open-ended might have been more appropriate, something along the lines of, why we should study Marx or Marx's critical relevance for today. Maybe the author felt his title would catch the reader's attention, which it does, but it also plays into the tradition of turning Marx, and the school of thought that followed, into something akin to a religion, the very opposite of what Marx would have wished for. In fact, so concerned was Marx that many of his adherents were treating his ideas dogmatically that he once reputed to have declared, whatever I am, I know I am not a marxist.


For me, when Eagleton is at his least didactic he is at his most effective. When he debates and explores and hypothesises Eagleton provides his readers with a timely gem, but when he lapses into uncritical mode he does his own cleverly constructed project a disservice.


With these few preliminary observations out of the way, I can say unreservedly that this is a compulsorily text for those trying to make sense of the unfolding global chaos; from urban riots on the streets of London and Athens, the ill-defined bloody revolutionary upheavals in the Arab states, the ebbing and flowing of the world financial meltdown, the huge swathes of humanity still subject to the most degrading regimes of poverty, hunger and outright famine, the ecological disasters looming at every corner of our planet, and dare I omit to add, the never-ending revelations of corporate corruption, avarice and outright criminality. Marx was no god and never saw himself as one, but he was certainly as groundbreaking in his world view as Charles Darwin or Sigmund Freud, and in terms of real politics and actual lives lived, surely he must be considered the most influential thinker of the modern era who had something definite and coherent to say about all of the above. If for no other reason, Eagleton's eminently readable text is worthy of our immediate attention.

Read more...


Freedom, Jonathan Franzen, Forth Estate, London, 2010

'Freedom', Jonathan Franzens big follow up novel, arriving some ten years after his widely acclaimed 'Corrections, is trumpeted as a great American novel for our time, and worthy of a Tolstoy. This may be pushing things a bit far, but like Corrections, there is plenty to enthuse about this latest offering. Set against the backdrop of some very contemporary American preoccupations, Franzen delivers a web of moral dilemmas that do serve to challenge some of our more routine assumptions about ourselves. The characters and plot may be a little contrived in places, and our own Zadie Smith seems rather superior in this department, but that doesn't overly detract from us enjoying all those moral conundrums that Franzen conjures up, conundrums that we all create for ourselves in our daily neurotic lives.


And underlying the usual family dramas complete with their guilt's, resentments and absurd expectations and ambitions, lay the ever present existential void. Try as we might to fill that void with family, religion, politics and projects of every conceivable description, that void keeps on gnawing away- keeps on beckoning. Rich or poor, young or old, no one is totally immune. Franzen seems to grasp this as well as any modern novelist. It is this unsettling sense of an all pervading absurdity lurching behind our lives, more than all the busy comings and goings of his main protagonists, which makes this an intriguing book as well as a damn good read. 

Read more...


London's Burning: Olympic Notes

The chickens have come home to roost. How I love that saying. It first lodged itself in my brain when Malcolm X controversially used it immediately after the assassination of JFK. He was pilloried by both middle-America and his own Nation of Islam for daring to state the obvious. Violent, aggressive, imperialist America was now turning on itself. It was the self same expression that first came to mind after the multiple 9/11 attacks. Yes they were truly horrific but not more so than America's bloody foreign policies that had left countless millions dead and crippled in their wake. And more recently, I again turned to those succinct few words to sum up the News International hacking scandal and the web of high level criminality that surrounded it. After decades of courting this corporate media monster, the chickens had truly come home to roost. And that story is not over yet, not by a long shot.


And so we come to this week's urban rioting and again I can find few better words to sum up the situation. For three decades, since the last major urban riots, successive governments have ignored a growing under-class that has been allowed to fester on decaying housing estates across the country. They don't vote so why worry. Well this week they did vote but they voted with bricks and bottles and a total disregard for polite parliamentary norms.

Read more...


The Damned United, Film Review, 2009

I would imagine that most sports fanatics, and especially football fans of all descriptions, would have clocked this film many months ago. I, for some inexplicable reason had not, so I had the immense pleasure of viewing this cleverly constructed documentary/drama without the surrounding hype and without any preconceived expectations. If there are any of you out there in the blogesphere who have not yet seen this little gem, I can say without the slightest reservation that in all departments; acting, production and direction, this is a must see film classic.

Personal ambition, ego and psychosis are cleverly woven into the broader themes of 1970's English football, complete with its violence on and off the field, its decrepit and decaying stadia and the emerging clash between outside money and local traditions. To look at some of the real life footage of the football stadiums in that decade you would be forgiven for thinking this story was situated in some impoverished third world nation. The streets surrounding the stadiums were no better. When the film depicted the household lights going out as a routine part of the electricity power cuts so common in those industrially charged times, it felt that the 1970s had returned for real.

Read more...


Felicity Lawrence, The Guardian 29/7/11

I'd not heard of Felicity Lawrence prior to catching her resoundingly sharp article in The Guardian last month. (A mere state can't restrain a corporation like Murdoch's). It transpires that she has already written two excellent books outlining the power and corruption of the international food corporations. (Not on the Label and Eat Your Heart Out) Although I have recently blogged on this topic, (see End of Over Eating by David Kessler) I am now tempted to start reading Lawrence's work, based on her clear headed summation of the unregulated, unelected power of the transnational corporations. Hear is a hard hitting example of Lawrence's well constructed thesis a thesis that is becoming increasingly difficult to refute, even for the most ardent neo-liberal free-marketeers, as each new day passes.

Read more...


Everything You Know is Pong: How Mighty Table Tennis Shapes Our World.

I don't think the book quite lives up to its grandiose title, but aspiring as it does, to be part of the genre of New York satire, I don't suppose it ever intended to. It does however provide some useful ammunition to my half-baked thesis that it is ping pong and not football that has the real claim to be the peoples sport. By this I mean not simply that some 300 million citizens in the Peoples Republic of China are said to be registered players, a statistic I suspect is somewhat inflated. What I'be been hinting at is that in both East and West, North and South, while football has ingratiated itself, courtesy of News Corporation and other global media conglomerates, into the popular imagination, for countless millions, it is the humble game of ping, far more than football in all its varieties, that is likely to play an actual part in peoples weekly sporting and leisure routines.

To give just one example, the army of school dinner ladies, cleaners and caretakers, not to mention the teachers, assistants and clerical staff are a thousand times more likely to pick up a ping pong paddle and have a go, much like they used to do as kids, than kick a football around in the windswept muddy fields that pass as school football pitches. No real fanfare is made of their efforts but play they do. They do it for fun, they do it to prove a point, they simply do it to prove that they are still youthful and alive. And when they play they laugh  even when they are deadly serious.

Read more...


Fast Food Olympics (Olympic Notes No 9)

It is as depressing as it is predictable. McDonalds have just announced that they are going to construct their largest ever restaurant in the Olympic village, one of four McDonalds outlets serving the Olympic Games underlining their official monopoly on the distribution of fast food at the London Olympics. It will be a two storey, three thousand square metre factory pumping out some 1.75 million burgers throughout the Games. Oh what joy. The subliminal message to the general populous  the obesity epidemic is all a left-wing myth, just stuff down another burger and chips and stop worrying. If you are feeling a tad unhealthy just watch all those super fit athletes and you will feel a whole lot better.

Having all just witnessed what a criminal mess total subservience to the corporate media conglomerates leads to, you might have thought that our political masters might have been just a little more wary of getting into bed with the global fast food corporations. Not a bit of it! With the Murdoch scandal safely tucked away for the summer in a maze of official enquiries, it's business as usual. It's the same old narrative  global corporations coalescing into a sort of shadowy global government, unaccountable, unregulated and totally out of control. And our democratically elected representatives? Complicit, compliant and totally compromised.

Read more...


Channel 4 Dispatches: How to buy a Football Club 18/7/11

A few months ago Matthew Syed was waxing lyrical in The Times about football being the beautiful game. I wasn't convinced then and I'm even less convinced now having watched Channel 4's Dispatches which outlined the shadowy world of shady businessmen buying and selling English football clubs in order to make a quick buck, often asset stripping the club in the process. One of the key protagonists in this sordid tale was a certain Mr Bryan Robson of Man United fame, who at least was honest enough to admit that football was no longer a game but purely a business. And what a dirty business at that. Coming close on the heals of the FIFA corruption exposures, how Mr Syed can still romanticise about the beautiful game beggars belief. Still he is employed by a certain Mr Murdoch, sponsor of Sky TV's English Premier League, so I guess it pays to keep up the pretence if you want to keep in with the boss.

Read more...


George Monbiot: Hold Power TO Account

Unsurprisingly the sharpest journalistic account so far of the unfolding Murdoch saga has come from George Monbiot writing in his weekly Guardian column 12/7/11. Precisely exposing the myth that the tabloid press somehow represents the voice of the much put upon working class, Monbiot reveals the real corporate interests that the News of the World, The Sun and other tabloids represent. Britain, like most countries has become little more than a play thing of global corporate interests and most of our press has a singular task to represent those corporate interests. In order to camouflage those corporate interests an elaborate charade is created whereby the language and concerns of the working class is used to cynically hide the real agenda. No one unravels this charade sharper or more eloquently than Monbiot;


The papers cannot announce that their purpose is to ventriloquise the concerns of multimillionaires; they must present themselves as the voice of the people. The Sun, The Mail and The Express claim to represent the interests of the working man and woman. These interests turn out to be identical to those of the men who own the papers. So the right wing papers run endless exposures of benefit cheats, yet say scarcely a word about the corporate tax cheats. They savage the Trade Unions and excoriate the BBC. They lambaste the regulations that restrain corporate power. They school us in the extrinsic values the worship of power, money, image and fame which advertisers love but which makes this a shallower, more selfish country. These are not the obsessions of working people. They are the obsessions thrust upon them by the millionaires who own these papers. The corporate media is a gigantic astroturfing operation: a fake grassroots crusade serving elite interests.'

Read more...


<< Start < Prev 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 Next > End >>

Page 21 of 30