Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Who’s anti Obama’s finance reform bill?

April 28, 2010

The Guardian’s Chris McGreal has identified one group of opponents:

 America’s major banks are pouring millions of dollars into an apparently successful attempt to weaken Barack Obama’s finance reform bill, currently stalled in Congress by Republican opposition.

In the face of deep public anger over the financial crisis and government bailouts, banks have flooded Congress with lobbyists seeking to curtail key parts of the sweeping regulatory bill – such as provisions to create an office for consumer protection and more strongly regulate the vast derivatives market.

Well, well, well. Wonders will never cease.

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A stern warning to union bashers.

March 18, 2010

Seumas Milne forcibly reminded readers of todays edition of  The Guardian that the country (and democracy) needs the unions as much , if not more than, it ever did.

Today David Cameron ditched compassionate conservatism for vintage Thatcherism, demanding that Gordon Brown call on BA workers to cross picket lines and back those “brave workers” who wanted to go to work. His sidekick, Michael Gove, insisted Labour had reverted to “1970s socialism”. Even the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, has been hailing Margaret Thatcher’s socially devastating assault on “a vested interest, the trade unions”.

There’s not much sign of the politics of the 1970s, but the Conservatives certainly seem keen to return to the industrial conflict of the 1980s. The idea that the government is in thrall to the unions doesn’t bear even the most cursory consideration. Not only have ministers, as in every other major national dispute of the past decade, backed the employer and condemned the strike – even if Brown yesterday reverted to a more even-handed call for a negotiated agreement. But during 13 years in office the government has steadfastly refused to repeal any significant part of the Thatcher anti-union legislation that has hamstrung employees from defending themselves and certainly prolonged the current BA dispute.

As anyone who has been paying the slightest attention to public life under New Labour is well aware, it is bankers and businessmen, not trade unionists, who have been calling the shots – with calamitous consequences for us all…………………

Milne’s conclusion is that:

……unions remain not just the only real mechanism for employee protection and a collective voice at work. They are also an essential vehicle to break the elite circle and open up representation in political life. The assault on them is an attack on democracy itself.

Clive James for Oxford professor of poetry?

February 18, 2010

Some time ago I wrote:

Clive James for Oxford professor of poetry?

By Kevin Cryan

Commenting, in today’s edition of The Observer,  on Ruth Padel’s decision to resign from the Oxford professorship of poetry, Robert McCrum, the paper’s literary editor, says who it’s supporting to replace her in the post.

Who will now step up to challenge for these slightly tarnished laurels? One thing is certain: the quiet campaign to persuade Clive James to step forward will have the support of the Observer, where he first made his name as a critic.

While James would not have been among my choices  of candidate the first time around, I can see that this time around he’s a very good one.

Clive James seems to have ruled himself out of the running forever, but after reading this article I’m not convinced that he could not be persuaded to throw his hat in the ring.  

Beware of the “domestic extremist”

October 28, 2009

According to a recent report in The Guardian the term “domestic extremism” is now very much in vogue with police forces the length and breadth  of this great land of ours. To control demonstrations, forces have decided that at least some demonstrators are “domestic extremists”. As part of their fight against these  “extremists”, the forces are keeping the personal details and photographs of a substantial number of people on secret police databases.

It appears that as there is no official or legal definition of the term, the police have a guess at what they think it means. Some senior officers describe domestic extremists as individuals or groups

“that carry out criminal acts of direct action in furtherance of a campaign. These people and activities usually seek to prevent something from happening or to change legislation or domestic policy, but attempt to do so outside of the normal democratic process.”

The police, although they will not, for security reasons no doubt, allow anybody access to their lists, claim that the majority of demonstrators are not considered extremists.

In today’s edition of The Guardian comment from Richard Hering, who with many others named in the paper’s report, whose activities were obviously considered to be “outside of the normal democratic process”

 Good to see my picture on the front page of the Guardian. Thanks for your excellent report on this. I think I was on the card because I was arrested at the previous year’s DSEi arms trade. It was what we call an accountable action: I made the argument in court that I was preventing a greater crime, in that they were selling illegal weapons at the site. I don’t know where they got the picture of me from but they were taking a lot of pictures at the protest.

“I think the spotter card is an issue for civil liberties because, clearly, you have people who have committed no crime who are on lists of ‘troublemakers’. One of the problems with policing is that is its highly political nature, in that there is a lot of collision with the targets of peaceful protest. We now have police advising companies like nPower on how to take out injunctions to stop protesters. Should they really be doing that?

“The problem with this kind of policing is that it makes it look like a battle between protesters and the police, rather than protesters and their target – in this case the DSEi arms fair.”

This is a page form one so-called “spotter cards” that are issued by police to identify individuals they consider to be “domestic extremists” because they have appeared at a number of demonstrations.

spoter-card-002

Tony Blair on trial.

October 27, 2009

In today’s edition of The Guardian the columnist Gary Monbiot puts forward the  crazy plan of backing Tony Blair for the EU presidency in the hope that somebody who can prosecute him for “the crime of aggression”

 Blair has the distinction, which is a source of national pride in some quarters, of being one of the two greatest living mass murderers on earth. That he commissioned a crime of aggression – waging an unprovoked war, described by the Nuremberg tribunal as “the supreme international crime” – looks incontestable. ….. This crime has caused the death – depending on whose estimate you believe – of between 100,000 and one million people. As there was no legal justification, these people were murdered. But no one has been brought to justice.

If Blair were elected president, he would, argues Monbiot, would have little control over his appointments, and everyone would know when he was coming.” This would mean that he could leave himself open to prosecution by countries which have incorporated into their laws the “crime of aggression”

It’s just possible that an investigating magistrate, like Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge who issued a warrant for the arrest of General Pinochet, would set the police on him. But our best chance of putting pressure on reluctant authorities lies in a citizen’s arrest. To stimulate this process, I will put up the first £100 of a bounty (to which, if he gets the job, I will ask readers to subscribe), payable to the first person to attempt a non-violent arrest of President Blair. It shouldn’t be hard to raise several thousand pounds. I will help set up a network of national arrest committees, exchanging information and preparing for the great man’s visits. President Blair would have no hiding place: we will be with him wherever he goes.

Sorry Gary, this is one dream I can’t see coming true.

Guardian gagged by Commons.

October 13, 2009

A most worrying report appears in today’s edition of The Guardian

The Guardian has been prevented from reporting parliamentary proceedings on legal grounds which appear to call into question privileges guaranteeing free speech established under the 1688 Bill of Rights.

Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.

I imagine that we are supposed to take it on trust that this unprecedented step has been taken for good reasons. I’m far from certain that I do, but then that’s me.

Let newspapers die if they must.

September 29, 2009

Here is a terrifically good reason for keeping an eye on what John Naughton has been posting to his online diary.

Don’t Bail Out Newspapers

Nice rant by Daniel Lyons.

The only beneficiaries of a bailout would be a handful of big newspaper companies that used to be profitable and powerful and now, well, aren’t. Those companies saw the Internet charging toward them like a freight train, and they just stood there on the tracks. They didn’t adapt. Why? Because for decades these companies enjoyed virtual monopolies, and as often happens to monopolists, they got lazy. They invested their resources in protecting their monopolies, using bully tactics to keep new competitors from entering their markets. They dished up an inferior product and failed to believe that anything or anyone could ever take their little gold mines away from them.

It’s hilarious to hear these folks puff themselves up with talk about being the Fourth Estate, performing some valuable public service for readers—when in fact the real customer has always been the advertiser, not the reader. That truth has been laid bare in recent years. As soon as papers got desperate for cash, they dropped their ’sacred principles’ as readily as a call girl sheds her clothes. Ads on the front page? Reporters assigned to write sponsored content? No problem.

And moreover,

Meanwhile, all of us need to get over this pious notion about the sanctity of the newspaper. I’ve been a journalist for 27 years, and I love that romantic old notion of the newsroom as much as the next guy. But I recently canceled my two morning papers — The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal — because I got tired of carrying them from the front porch to the recycling bin, sometimes without even looking at them. Fact is, I only care about a tiny percentage of what those papers publish, and I can read them on my computer or my iPhone. And I can rely on blogs and Twitter to steer me to articles worth reading.

As for all the hand-wringing about the great “in-depth” information that only a newspaper can provide, let’s be honest: the typical daily newspaper does a lousy job. It tries to provide a little bit of everything — politics, sports, business, celebrity stuff — and as a result it doesn’t do anything particularly well. Ask anyone who’s an expert in anything — whether it’s bicycle racing or brain surgery — what they think when they read a newspaper article about their field. Chances are they cringe, because the material is so dumbed-down, and because it’s so clear that whoever wrote the article has no real expertise on this topic.

He’s right. Alas.

I myself have not quite got round to carrying newspapers from the front porch to the recycling bin, but I have to say that I am beginning to lose my patience with some of the papers I’ve regularly bought for many years. I can actually forsee, for example, the day when I’ll be cancelling my order for The Observer, even though it’s been in place for the last 45 years.

Paul Graham’s rule of thumb.

September 25, 2009

Paul Graham in a new blog-piece called  Post-Medium Publishing, in which he deals interestingly about what is happening to publishing as a business now that new technology means  “consumers won’t pay for content anymore”, comes up with a way of judging who will be winners and losers here that is, I think,  a good one and one whch, with not too much tweaking,  could be applied elsewhere.

 I don’t know exactly what the future will look like, but I’m not too worried about it. This sort of change tends to create as many good things as it kills. Indeed, the really interesting question is not what will happen to existing forms, but what new forms will appear.

The reason I’ve been writing about existing forms is that I don’t know what new forms will appear. But though I can’t predict specific winners, I can offer a recipe for recognizing them. When you see something that’s taking advantage of new technology to give people something they want that they couldn’t have before, you’re probably looking at a winner. And when you see something that’s merely reacting to new technology in an attempt to preserve some existing source of revenue, you’re probably looking at a loser.

New journalism.

September 14, 2009

In a fascinating piece for today’s edition of The Guardian, the always thought-provoling  Jeff Jarvis suggests that those who wish to continue in paid journalism should consider a “future no longer controlled by a single newspaper but instead by an ecosystem made up of many players with varying motives, means and models, working collaboratively in networks”

We see the faint beginnings of this ecosystem today in the 10,000 hyperlocal bloggers who operate in the US, according to the hyperlocal network outside.in. They are being joined, almost daily it seems, by unemployed professional journalists intent on continuing to report and eating while doing so – for example the New Jersey Newsroom, the Ann Arbor Chronicle, and My Football Writer in Norwich. At CUNY, we surveyed more than 100 of these local-site proprietors and some are becoming profitable.

Keep in mind that few, if any, of these bloggers and journalists have experience in business, advertising or sales. So in our project, we suggest that there are many ways to optimise their businesses. Start by improving the products and services they offer to local traders. Then add the potential of regional advertising that will need outlets when the metro paper dies, as well as smaller networks made up of a few towns or built around interests such as parenting or sports. We even see potential for e-commerce revenue, following the example of the Telegraph, which sells hangers and hats, and now Utah’s Salt Lake Tribune, which has begun selling homes………………..[link]

 • Jeff Jarvis blogs at buzzmachine.com

Tobin’s tour of Ireland

September 2, 2009

After a lengthy and partly intentional hiatus, I return to maintaining this online diary with a reminder  – thanks to the online Jazzwise Magazine – that one of my favourite jazz singers, the award-wining Christine Tobin, is to begin her Irish tour in October. 

Christine Tobin is to embark on a major autumn Irish tour beginning next month. From Dublin originally but long since resident in England in London and more recently Kent, Christine Tobin says: “I’m delighted to have a tour in Ireland – back in the home country. It’s very important to me because although I have done the odd gig in Dublin this is my first tour there since the late-1990s and significantly it’s my first tour there since I was awarded best vocalist at the BBC Jazz Awards. I say significantly because I’m the only Irish person ever to receive a BBC Jazz Award and I’m very proud to return with such an accolade.”

 Tour dates

 Cleeres, Kilkenny (1 October);

Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford (2 October),

Siamsa Tire Theatre Tralee (3 October),

Carnegie Arts Centre, Kenmare (4 October),

Triiskel Jazz at Jurys Hotel, Cork (6 October),

De Burgos, Galway (7 October)

Mermaid Arts Centre., Bray (8 October),

 Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge (9 October),

Regional Cultural Centre, Letterkenny (10 October)

JJ Smyths, Dublin (11 October).