Archive for February, 2009

Tony Blair & the Dan David Prize.

February 17, 2009

In today’s edition of The Guardian we get the news that Tony Blair has one of this year’s three Dan David prizes.

Tony Blair has won a prestigious million-dollar (£697,000) prize for his leadership on the world stage, it was announced today.

The former prime minister, now a Middle East peace envoy, will receive the Dan David prize for “his exceptional leadership and steadfast determination in helping to engineer agreements and forge lasting solutions to areas in conflict”.

The award is presented by the Dan David Foundation, based at Tel Aviv University, and a spokesman for Blair said the money would be donated to the former Labour leader’s charity for religious understanding, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

Blair is an envoy of the international Quartet on the Middle East peace process, which comprises the US, EU, UN and Russia.

His entry as a Dan David laureate on the prize’s website hails him as “one of the most outstanding statesmen of our era”.

It praises his role in the Northern Ireland peace process and his “steadfast determination and morally courageous leadership” over Kosovo.

But there is no mention of the divisive decision to support the US-led invasion of Iraq……

Where was that “steadfast determination and morally courageous leadership” when it was needed to stand up to Bush?

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Conventional management – central planning in disguise?

February 15, 2009

Simon Caulkin has an excellent piece in today’s Business Observer in which he reminds us of what is wrong with the notion that capitalist orthodoxy had triumphed over central planning with the fall of the Soviet Union.

 

With exquisite irony, while central planning had been largely discredited at macroeconomic level, at microeconomic level it remained alive and kicking – in their own organisations. Veteran systems thinker Russ Ackoff is not alone in noting that while at the macro level the west is vehemently committed to a market economy, at the micro level almost everyone works in “non-market, centrally planned, hierarchically managed” ones.

 

The truth is that much conventional management is central planning in western disguise. This is why most companies are zombie-like in their structural and strategic similarity. This is why, too, they are unable to learn. With their faces toward the CEO and their arses towards the customer – in the immortal words of GE’s former CEO, Jack Welch – what would they learn from? No wonder warnings of disaster were suppressed or auto-censored at the banks, or that the only messages heard were those that fitted with the earnings targets that managers managed by. In turn, the learning failure explains why so many companies adhere to the Zimbabwe school of change management – altering course only after ruin, by coup d’état.

Clive James raps the rappers.

February 15, 2009

In his interview with this month’s issue of The Observer Music Monthly, promoting the reissue  of the six Pete Atkin albums for which he wrote most of the lyrics, Clive James, while admitting that some of the opinions he used to hold about pop music in the past have now been revised, says that he still cannot summon up a great deal of enthusiasm for rap music or its practitioners. 

I can rhyme ‘nation’ with ‘station’ and ‘situation’ and ‘consternation’ forever. I just have.” Content, he takes a celebratory puff on his cigar and, chuckling, initiates a nasty coughing fit. “It’s writing for people who can’t write, to be listened to by people who can’t read. ……………..

Come on Clive, have you actually missed out on the “verbal energy” that 1995 Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney detected in the likes of “this guy Eminem”?

Stuff no longer posted to the Pete Atkin Web Form

 

Tim Garland: Libra

February 9, 2009

Tim Garland is one those musicians whose work I so admire that I’d go a long way to listen to it.  Any new project that he’s involved in has got to be of some interest.

Tim Garland: Libra

(Global Mix)

Tim Garland

Libra

(Global Mix)

 

Libra.

Libra.

 

£12.72

2009

Buy Libra at the Guardian shop

 

This is the kind of music that you need to sink into. Spacious, rhapsodic and packed with gorgeous textures, it overflows any category you try to fit round it. Garland is well known as a virtuoso saxophonist, and his playing here is phenomenal, but it’s his talent for creating something unique out of diverse musical idioms that makes him such an adventurous and impressive composer. Along with his long-time partners, pianist Gwilym Simcock and percussionist Asaf Sirkis, this two-CD set features guitarist Paul Bollenback, an all-star wind section and the entire Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Note to those who have not heard him, or of him: he has a website, www.timgarland.com , which is as good a place as any to start.

Is this Obama’s “team of rivals”?

February 8, 2009

If  David Sirota, writing in Salon newsletter on the 7th Feb, 2009, is to be believed the arrival of Obama I the White House has made very little difference to the way business is being conducted in Washington:

 

Washington is the same one-party town it always has been — controlled not by Democrats or Republicans, but by Kleptocrats (i.e., thieves). Their ties to money make them the undead zombies in the slash-and-burn horror flick that is American politics: No matter how many times their discredited theologies are stabbed, torched and shot down by verifiable failure, their careers cannot be killed. Somehow, these political immortals are allowed to mindlessly lunge forward, never answering to rivals — even if that rival is the president himself.

 

He points out that Obama’s national security team has not got  a single Iraq war opponent in it:

 

The president has not only retained George W. Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, but also 150 other Bush Pentagon appointees. The only “rivalry” is between those who back increasing the already bloated defense budget by an absurd amount and those who aim to boost it by a ludicrous amount.

 

The economic team, as he sees it, is “a squad of corporate lackeys disguised as public servants.”

 

That’s not an oversight. From former federal officials like Robert Reich and Brooksley Born, to Nobel Prize-winning economists like Joseph Stiglitz and Paul Krugman, to business leaders like Leo Hindery, there’s no shortage of qualified experts who have challenged market fundamentalism. But they have been barred from an administration focused on ideological purity.

I think that it’s all too predictable that Obama was going to disappoint us in some way or other, but I doubt whether many of us predicted that the disappointment would come so soon.

Buddy Holly, fifty years on.

February 3, 2009

On this day 50 years ago Buddy Holly perished in a plane crash. Whether that was as some say “the day the music died” depends on point of view, but it was, as  The Guardian leader today suggests, defining moment in rock’n’roll  history.

 

…Buddy Holly’s career was incredibly short. His first hit single, That’ll be the Day, was released in May 1957. Twenty months later, aged 22, he was dead, after a string of classics that shaped the music of the Beatles era and still enjoy iconic status. Today the music industry is an archipelago of specialist styles. In Holly’s day, there was still something close to a unified tradition. He became a rock singer after seeing Elvis Presley perform in Lubbock, Texas, where Holly was born and is buried. When Holly toured Britain in 1958, the schoolboy Keith Richards was in the audience for one of his London gigs. Two nights before Holly died, the 17-year-old Bob Dylan saw him perform in Duluth, Minnesota. Holly was a trailblazer in his own right, though: one of the first stars to write a lot of his own material – including Peggy Sue, Maybe Baby and Words of Love. When he played in New York he played, unusually for a white rock star, at the Apollo in Harlem. His early death set a grim sort of trend too. But it is hard to think of anyone in rock music who packed such quality, influence and immortality into such a short life.

 Here is a songwriter I greatly admire talking about the effect a Holly song had on his musical education

 Think It Over – Buddy Holly
 
For a lot of people music takes on special significance because of the events it’s associated with. For me it’s the other way around: moments of uniquely musical revelation have always created vivid snapshots of where I was at that often otherwise insignificant instant. For instance, in the 1950s, I was hardly aware of gramophone records at all; songs were seeping into my brain via the BBC, mostly in studio performances. Gramophone records then commanded roughly the same proportion of airtime as is occupied nowadays by poetry or angling programmes. But then one shiny Cambridge afternoon I was cycling home from school past a terrace of small grey-brick houses near the railway, and I heard what had to have been a record being played through an open window. I had no idea who or what it was, and I didn’t even stop to listen, but the sound of it lodged in my brain – I’d never heard anything like that odd style of singing and that jangling kind of guitar or that tune that didn’t end ‘properly’. It instantly activated my musical taste buds and moved all of my listening up a gear – for ever. I didn’t find out what it was until much later, when my friend Colin (who had a record player) bought an LP called The Buddy Holly Story. The instant this track began, I knew that it was the song I’d been waiting to hear again. I can still point out the window.
 
Extract from Pete Atkin‘s late summer of 1998 contribution to  Bath & West Life

 

Think it Over Buddy Holly and The Crickets

Direct marketers and the Irish.

February 3, 2009

The Irish Times yesterday reported on that direct marketing firms have now been banned from phoning more than 61 percent of landline customers. Telecoms regulator ComReg  said that 982,238 people had contacted their phone providers to tell them that they did not want to receive direct marketing calls. There are 1.6 million fixed telephone lines in the State. More than 82,000 people have requested the ban on ‘cold calls’ in the past year. Since mid-2005, all telephone subscribers have the right to opt out of receiving unsolicited calls.

 

Hooray!!

Clinton in Davos – Bill, that is.

February 2, 2009

You just have to hand it to Bill Clinton. When it comes to making America look good on the world stage once again, he may very well be the man who gets the job done faster than anyone else could.

America did not send any of its big guns to this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos. The great and the good from other parts of the world who were gathered there were, it appears, only too ready to lay the blame for the current economic crisis at America’s doorstep. Some, like the Russians and Chinese for example, were gleefully rubbing their hands that this gave them an opportunity to lecture the Americans about their folly.  It was America’s banking fraternity, most had agreed, who had precipitated all the crises the world now faced.

 

Here Joe Conason of Salon.com takes up the story:

 

Into this hostile territory rode Bill Clinton, the lone American to whom anyone at Davos might actually listen as he attempted to uphold the name of his country. (Presumably too busy for international confabs as they try to organize their administration and save the country, the Obama White House sent nobody except presidential aide Valerie Jarrett, who didn’t make much of an impression.)

Featured at a special plenary session with Klaus Schwab, WEF’s slightly menacing supreme impresario, the former president didn’t try to evade the responsibility attributed to the U.S. by speaker after speaker. Referring to sharp words from Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, he admitted: “The Chinese premier was right: It all started in the United States.” But he then went on to insist that China must continue subsidizing the U.S. budget and trade deficits in order to preserve its own vital export industries. “Global interdependence is more important than anything else in the world today,” he said. “We cannot escape each other. Divorce is not an option.”

 He spoke out forcefully in defense of the Obama administration’s economic policies, notably including the economic stimulus package and the proposed “bad bank” to nationalize distressed mortgage assets. He lifted the spirits of the conference at least momentarily when he demanded that world leaders act in the great American tradition of Franklin D. Roosevelt, although he didn’t mention FDR by name.

 “This is not a time for denial or delay. Do something. Give people confidence by showing confidence,” he urged. “Don’t give up. Don’t bet against yourself. Don’t bet against your country. This is still a good time to be alive.” If that was not sufficient to motivate the Davos audience, he later pointed out at a forum on the “philanthrocrisis” that the responsibilities of the fortunate had in no way been lessened by declining portfolios. “We’re all still doing pretty well or we wouldn’t be here,” he declared. Now is the time, he said, to redouble efforts to provide better healthcare and more robust economic development in poor countries — and to work together to forestall climate change.”

 Clinton wasted not a minute of the day he spent in Davos. There were, by Conason’s account, “ stream of private meetings with foreign dignitaries”, and there was even a neatly engineered “casua”l 90 minute discussion between himself and the Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.

If Clinton is an unofficial ambassador for the White House, and there is probably little doubt that he is, then, in his first major test, he proved a good choice..

The Mom Song.

February 1, 2009

My daughter recently sent me a link to the Patti Harshey version of  the Mom Song , originally composed by Anita Renfroe. I like it so much that I thought it worth posting to this site. Harshey is from the Northland Church in Longwood Florida. Her version, it seems to me, is just that little better than Renfroe’s because whe is not trying to make people laugh. Mind you, Renfroe has said that if she’d known the YouTube video was going to that much of a success, she’d have tried harder to make it better.

Patti Harshey sings The Mom Song (Music Gioachino Rossini and lyrics by Anita Renfroe). Harshey is from the Northland Church in Longwood Florida.

Lyricist Anita Renfroe hersrlf sings The Mom Song (Music Gioachino Rossini and lyrics by Anita Renfroe).