Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Will fans of Asian and Afro-Caribbean descent be safe at Euro 2012?

You can hear me discussing the issues of racism in football and the safety of fans at Euro 2012,
on the Tony Livesey show on BBC Radio Five live here.

The discussion kicks off at about 1hr 20 minutes into the programme.

Monday, May 28, 2012

"This man (Tony Blair) should be arrested for war crimes"

Bravo to anti-war film maker David Lawley-Wakelin for his intervention at the Leveson Inquiry today.

Lawley-Wakelin was putting into words what millions of people, not just here in Britain, but all over the world feel about the disgraced former British Prime Minister.

As I wrote in The First Post/The Week here:

There is widespread contempt for a man who has made millions while Iraqis die in their hundreds of thousands due to the havoc unleashed by the illegal invasion, and who, with breathtaking arrogance, seems to regard himself as above the rules of international law.

On the subject of holding Blair to account, don't forget there’s a reward going to "people attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest of the former British prime minister, Tony Blair, for crimes against peace".

Saturday, May 26, 2012

It's Eurovision time..!


Yes, it's that time of the year again. I may be a EU-sceptic, and a Euro-sceptic (who isn’t nowadays?), but I’m no Eurovision sceptic.

Above you can watch a classic from the ‘Golden Age’ of Eurovision: Gigliola Cinquetti singing ‘Si’ from the 1974 contest. Surely the best song never to win the contest?

While here you can read my 2006 Guardian article on how we can improve Eurovision.

May the best contestant(s) win in Baku tonight (so long as its Engelbert Humperdinck !)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Eastern Europe's neoliberal disaster provides a warning for the Arab spring

This article of mine appears on The Guardian's Comment is Free website.

Neil Clark: Rather than help enhance democracy and reduce corruption, following western advice on privatisation does the exact opposite.

I wonder if David Cameron spent any time in eastern Europe in the 1990s.

Judging from his recent remarks about the Arab spring and international aid, the British prime minister seems to believe that having a more "open" and "free", ie privately owned, economy is the key to both economic development and a successful transition from one-party rule.

The evidence from the former communist countries gives lie to that neoliberal viewpoint.

You can read the whole article here

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Former News International CEO Rebekah Brooks charged with perverting the cause of justice

The Week reports:

FORMER News International CEO Rebekah Brooks and her racehorse trainer husband Charlie have been charged along with four other people of perverting the course of justice in relation to the phone hacking scandal.

That's right. The former CEO of what, not so very long ago, was the UK's most powerful newspaper group charged with a crime which can carry a sentence of life imprisonment.

But as The Mole reports here, NI's problems are only just beginning.

Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Wrong Munro

As a huge fan of the Edwardian comic writer Hector Hugh Munro aka Saki  (I wrote an appreciation piece on him for the Daily Telegraph a few years back), I was very pleased to see the great man’s photograph in the new edition of the Radio Times- page 106, above the caption:

Munro: Mountain Man 8.00pm . Profile of Victorian adventurer Hugh Munro.

....Nicholas Crane visits some of Scotland's most spectacular peaks as he explores the legacy of Victorian adventurer Hugh Munro, whose lofty ambition it was to climb and list all of Scotland's mountains that stand over 3,000 ft. '

I've read nearly all of Saki's work and also a biography of him and so it was a huge surprise to read that he was, in addition to his other talents, a mountaineer whose ‘lofty ambition it was to climb and list all of Scotland’s mountains that stand over 3,000 ft’.

I think perhaps the man whose photo the Radio Times should have used was this other Hugh Munro.

I'm sure Saki, with his wonderful sense of humour, would have seen the funny side of it!


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Man City win the title for the first time since 1968 with two injury-time goals

Well, it didn’t look too likely when they were trailing 2-1 at home to QPR after 90 minutes today, did it?

What an incredible end to a football season.

UPDATE: You can hear me discussing Sunday's dramatic events, and whether or not Man City's title win is good for football, on BBC Radio 5 Live here (starts around 6 minutes into the programme), and on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback show here (start about 14 minutes in).

Friday, May 11, 2012

Terrorism in Syria: at least 55 killed in bomb attacks

Some people really don’t want a peaceful solution do they? Or for the democratic reforms, endorsed by 89% of the Syrian people in a referendum, to succeed.

More on this shocking story on the RT website here.

Meanwhile, what does the oh-so democratic EU do in the week that Syria holds multiparty elections? Yes, that’s right, announce that it is to impose even tougher sanctions on the Arab Republic.

 As I commented here, a democratic Syria where the Syrian people- and the Syrian people alone-  decide their future, is the very last thing the western powers want.


The radical Sunni Islamist group the al-Nusra Front has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s terrorist attacks, and other such outrages which have occurred in Syria in recent months.

Will those who peddled the conspiracy theory that the Syrian government was behind the terrorist attacks be coming forward now to issue an apology? I don’t think we should hold our breath, do you?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Are NYPD using sexual assault to defend their Wall Street paymasters?

LET'S SUPPOSE that the blind Chinese dissident, Chen Guangcheng, remains spunky and rebellious once he's settled in at New York University, and decides some time during the summer to join an Occupy demonstration, along with his wife.

Here's what they might reasonably expect by way of treatment from the NYPD, if we are to believe – which I do – a report on new police strategies against protestors by David Graeber, anthropologist and creative force in the Occupy movement.

You can read the whole of Alexander Cockburn's article on how the NYPD are protecting their Wall Street paymasters,  here.  Imagine if the police acted in this way in Belarus- what the reaction from the neoliberal/neoconservative commentariat would be! Yet in the 'great' neoliberal/neocon media organs, there's very little, if any, coverage about how democratic protestors are being dealt with by the authorities in New York. I wonder why that is?

Also in The Week/The First Post, don't miss this great piece by our good friend David Lindsay on the House of Lords- and why if the second chamber is to be reformed, the main parties should be banned from it.


Tuesday, May 08, 2012

The Politics of Nostalgia- and why it's nothing to be ashamed of (2)

Here's Part Two of my essay on the Politics of Nostalgia, from the anti-war and anti-neocon magazine The American Conservative. You can read Part One here.

Look at the statistics which measure the mental health of society and you get the picture. In the U.S., a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that the use of antidepressant drugs has rocketed by nearly 400 per cent since 1988. In Britain, according to National Health Service figures, prescriptions for antidepressants rose by 43 per cent in the period 2006-2010 to nearly 23 million a year. In the US more than one in four teenagers and young adults have owned up to being binge drinkers- overall 15 percent of Americans binge drink. In the UK meanwhile, health experts say that one in four Britons drinks excessively- with alcohol-related deaths more than doubling in the past decade. The crisis is affecting children too: a recent UNICEF report found that British and American children are the unhappiest in the economically developed nations.

All around us there are the increasingly common displays of aggression in public places. “There is an element of devil-may-care to the way we treat each other“, writes Hugh Muir in The Guardian. “ You see it on the streets, in supermarkets, on public transport, hear it on the talk shows, read it on the internet threads. Go on to YouTube: three instances now of apparently ratty women berating fellow passengers on the public transport network.”

It certainly seems that the more we‘ve advanced technologically, the more we’ve regressed as societies.

Unease about the modern, globalised world is growing- and I don’t think we’re guilty of what Paul, the unbearingly pompous, pseudo-intellectual pedant in Midnight in Paris, sneeringly calls "golden age thinking."

As this dissatisfaction grows, so what I call the Politics of Nostalgia is becoming stronger and stronger. The divide today is not so much between left and right, but between those who want us carrying on hurtling forward down the road marked ‘modernization’ and those who believe that the clock needs turning back, not further forward.

In one corner we have Tony Blair, David Cameron, Nick Clegg, Barack Obama,
George Soros, Richard Branson, and most of the western world’s political and financial elite. In the other we have Ron Paul and Ralph Nader, Dennis Kucinich and Patrick Buchanan, Pete Seeger and Burt Bacharach, and- I‘d wager, a sizable chunk of the world’s population.

“When I was a young boy/Twelve Years old/Growing up in New York City/I could
ride the subway by myself/And never, ever be afraid/Where did it go?
And tell me what happened to that world I knew/Is it really gone?/ How did
we wind up in this place instead?” asked Bacharach in his 2005 composition
Where did it go?

Where did it go? How on earth did we wind up in this place? The right and the left offer different explanations. The former tend to blame family breakdown, the growth of secularism, and diminishing respect for authority. The latter hold the shift to a more heartless form of capitalism in the late 1970s/early 1980s to be responsible.

But the encouraging thing now is that the more thoughtful commentators- and some politicians too- are seeing that far from being contradictory, the positions of the nostalgic left and the nostalgic right are both correct.

Economic liberalism begets social liberalism and vice versa. And if you want a "me first" society where greed, selfishness and cruelty come to the fore, where people regard each other not as potential friends but as threats, and where rates of alcohol and drug abuse and depression shoot up, all you have to do is overdose on economic and social liberalism.

On the British right, the ‘Red Tory’ academic Philip Blond has challenged the Conservative Party’s commitment to neo-liberalism and advocated a return to more traditional conservatism, one in which the interests of communities come before corporate profits. “A vision of the good life cannot come from liberal principles. Unlimited liberalism produces atomised relativism and state absolutism”, Blond argues.

Sadly, the Conservative party, dominated by uber-modernisers and still in thrall to ‘market forces’ hasn’t followed Blond’s recommendations since its return to power in 2010. Instead, the nostalgist's best hopes could lie with Labour. And what a turnaround that would be.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Oh Dear. How Sad. Never Mind. Sarkozy loses in France

So the neocons' favourite French President of all time has been booted out by the French people.
Oh Dear. How Sad. Never Mind.

As Ian Birrell writes in the Daily Mail:

So the French have got their wish: they have evicted the brash, egotistical and hyperactive President Bling-Bling from the Elysee Palace after just one term, along with his disliked Italian supermodel spouse.

Few will mourn the departure of a man who promised so much but delivered so little with his strutting cockiness and super-rich friends…………..

Then there were pictures of the president checking his Blackberry during an audience with the Pope, which infuriated Roman Catholics, or the notorious occasion he swore at someone who disagreed with him at an agricultural fair. 

‘His behaviour is vulgar, I’m afraid,’ said former defence minister Alain Richard. 
‘He has lost millions of older and conservative voters with his bad manners. They just do not think it is presidential behaviour.’

Not just good news in France, but in Greece too, with the strong performance of the socialist, anti-bailout party Syriza.

As David Lindsay writes:

What with that in Greece and this in France, a new age is beginning. The tragedy is that Britain, having signalled on Thursday her strong desire to participate in it, will not be able to do so until 2015....

It is already happening in America. But we can't have any of it for another three years, despite having a Prime Minister whose party got only 32 per cent of the vote.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Chris Dillow on the 1970s 'crisis' that wasn't

video: nyrainbow2

Over at Stumbling and Mumbling, there's a great blog post comparing the much over-hyped economic  ‘crisis’ of the 1970s, to the very real economic crisis of today, by the excellent Chris Dillow.

The BBC’s rediscovery of the 1970s poses a question: why has this recession not produced the sense of crisis we had in the 70s?

I ask because the numbers tell us that the economy is doing worse than it did in the 70s.......

From the point of view of the capitalist class, the answer is simple. The 70s crisis was not so much a crisis of GDP growth as a crisis of profits. By contrast, profit rates in this recession have held up much better than they did in the 70s. When people asked in the 1970s “is Britain governable?” what they really meant was: “is the working class controllable?”

You can read the whole of Chris's post here.

As I wrote here, it's very important to challenge the dominant neo-liberal myths about the 1970s- the progressive decade when ordinary working people had never had it so good- and when capital had never had it so bad.

Talking of the 1970s, above you can watch a great clip from a recent edition of Top of the Pops 1977, of O.C. Smith singing ‘Together’. Enjoy.