Saturday, October 25, 2008

"A Nation Of Immigrants"

Edwardian London. The diversity just pours off the screen.

Telegraph :

The film was shot in 1904 as a 'travelogue' for Australians curious about life in what was "one of the most exciting cities anywhere", according to Professor Ian Christie. He discovered the 12 minute reel while trawling through archives in Canberra. Prof Christie said: "It's a rather clever mixture of what we would expect to see - such as the Embankment, Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square - but it also has these wonderful close ups of individuals. "There's an old lady sleeping rough on a bench, children encouraging a dog to swim in the Thames, children paddling in one of the ponds in St James's Park."

But some things never change.

"There's a wonderful shot of roadworks on the Strand," he said. "The catalogue says, 'Street up as usual'. Road works were obviously a common feature of London in 1904 too." Other scenes show roads packed with horse-drawn traffic, the city "absolutely teeming with people", fish traders at Billingsgate Market and shoe-shiners in the West End. The footage, shot of 35mm film, also shows subtle insights into life such as the way people walked, he added. The academic, professor of film and media history at Birkbeck College in London, said the film, called Living London, was shot by pioneering Anglo-American film-maker Charles Urban.

How well dressed everyone is, and how much care they take over their appearance - in an age with no washing machines. The hats, ties, gloves. Respectability high, crime and bastardy low - although there were plenty of negative points - especially for the poor. Robert Roberts' "The Classic Slum" and (my favourite) "A Ragged Schooling" are brilliant portraits of Salford working class life in this period and also a great read. I read them 30 year back and I see they're back in print. If anyone's read any London equivalents I'd love to know about them.

I love that train going backwards over the bridge.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Two Posts ...

On the BBC's reporting of crime and racism, at Biased BBC.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Antique Reggae

Many moons ago I mentioned a musical favourite, the 60s ska track "Congo War" by Lord Brynner and the Sheiks.

It's now on Youtube.

And while we're at it ... memories of the Silver Star club in Bradford ... 1976 ? ... the seats were bus seats bolted to the floor (same at Birmingham Trades Club) and the music ... Matumbi's Dylan cover "The Man In Me" - still sounds pretty good today - and Big Youth's "Natty Dread She A Want" were favourites.

One of the first reggae records I liked - they used to play it at the Albion along with "the Liquidator" - was Boris Gardner's Elizabethan Reggae. I just loved the tune, and always assumed it was by someone like Purcell. In fact twas written by the same guy who did "Sailing By", the Radio Four "go to bed it's late" theme - Ronald Binge. There are some pretty strange versions about - 'twas a smash in the land of madchens and lederhosen, for some reason - but this Ron Goodwin version is pretty straight.

Four tracks, one great rhythm.

The original - "Train to Skaville" by the Ethiopians

"54-46 was my number" and the intrumental "version"- Toots and the Maytals

"Street Tuff" - the Rebel MC and Double Trouble. Got no soul, alas.

Thank you for your patience.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Too Many Books ...

Laban is reading ...

Toynbee's A Study of History, in DC Somervell's two-volume abridgement.

Trouble is I'm reading several other books at the same time, all shorter and more digestible than this magnum opus. I think I'll need to read it end to end at least twice before a verdict emerges. Expect one about Christmas.

You have to be impressed with Somervell though. Do English schools stil have such teachers ? It's WWII, and for your own amusement you devote the evenings to condensing the first six volumes of Toynbee's 12 volume work. After the war you send the great man a copy - and he loves it, and asks you to do the rest.

Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate - pretty digestible - although like Toynbee, his whirlwind, one-chapter tours round some subjects - like sociology and philosophy - leave you taking a lot on trust. Nonetheless, terrific stuff with highly political implications - as well as a valuable update on what current science tells us about the nature-nurture debate.

"Why is the author's name bigger than the book title ?" said my 11-year old daughter - and yes, he is a bit of a clever-clogs and a good mate of Richard Dorkins. Read it regardless.

His juxtaposition of two opposed views of humanity in his chapter on politics, the Tragic Vision to which Laban is now signed up after years of subscription to its opposite, the Utopian vision, sent me to the source of this idea (to which Pinker gives full credit), Thomas Sowell's The Vision of the Anointed. The most readable of the three and absolutely cracking stuff. Get it from Amazon.

"The crucial role of vision," Sowell argues, "is that it enables a vast range of beliefs to be regarded as presumptively true until definitively disproved by unchallengeable evidence." Liberals --or, to use Sowell's disparaging label, "the anointed" -- view the world as "a very tidy place," where "prescient politicians can 'invest' tax dollars in 'the industries of the future,' where criminals can be 'rehabilitated,' irresponsible mothers taught 'parenting skills,' and where all sorts of other social problems can be 'solved."' All this is possible, as liberals see things, because human nature, as a "social construct," is far more malleable than most people imagine. Thus, in the vision of the anointed, "there is obviously a very expansive role for government and for the anointed in prescribing what government should do."

Sowell contrasts the vision of the anointed with "the tragic vision" of conservatives. What is "tragic" about this vision is that it assumes that problems such as crime, poverty, and irresponsibility cannot finally be "solved." Conservatives, recognizing that "there are no solutions, only trade-offs," do not go in for grand schemes to put an end to poverty, for example, or make health care a fundamental right, or pursue what Sowell derisively calls "cosmic justice." It is not that conservatives are happy that some people are poor, or without health insurance, or whatever. Nor, for that matter, are they complacent about it. Rather, they realize that liberal schemes to eradicate these evils a) never work, and b) inevitably impose huge social costs of their own.

Which is why, after thirty years of ever increasing sex education in British schools, and thirty years of increasing sexual activity and sexually transmitted disease among schoolchildren, sex education will soon be compulsory in English schools. It's already compulsory in the Land of My Absent Fathers.

"Whatever you did before that didn't work, do more of it"

This should be fun ...

Bendy-buses with the slogan "There's probably no God" could soon be running on the streets of London. The atheist posters are the idea of the British Humanist Association (BHA) and have been supported by prominent atheist Professor Richard Dorkins.

The BHA planned only to raise £5,500, which was to be matched by Professor Dorkins, but it has now raised more than £36,000 of its own accord. It aims to have two sets of 30 buses carrying the signs for four weeks.

The complete slogan reads: "There's probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life."

As the campaign has raised more than anticipated, it will also have posters on the inside of buses as well.

I must say I am looking forward to this one. The BHA, Dorkins and all the liberal bloggers jumping up and down with unholy glee (all of whom, as far as I can see, are white and middle class - nothing wrong with that, mind you) might still have a vision of Swinging London somewhere in their wee noddles.

In fact, thanks to mass immigration, it's the most Godly place in Britain.

The growth in the numbers of black (mostly African) and Eastern European churchgoers has given London levels of Christian observance second only to Ulster.

There are rather a lot of Muslims in London, whose devotion is increasing rather than declining :

“Being religious is a way that you show you are different, that you are proud of your heritage. One of the ways young Muslims assert their identity is by being more observant than their parents.”
There are also a fair few Godly Sikhs, and even more polytheistic Hindus.

And the social result of this is that Swinging London has the lowest bastardy rate in England and Wales.

I wonder which bus routes these posters are going to run on ? I wouldn't give much for the chances of a bus with such a message on its side, stuck in heavy traffic in the East End when the mosques are chucking out on a Friday. I'd imagine Muslims and Christians alike would see it - as I do - as a direct provocation.

Cry havoc and release Mr Unintended Consequence !

There's another thought. Those Lib Dem and Labour politicians who are cheering the initiative will have to face elections - in the case of the ghastly Mary Honeyball, next year. She's MEP for London and presumably "on the ticket". At which point she's rather neatly contaminated the whole brand. I hope Tory strategists are

a) copying all the relevant web pages as I type
b) telling their candidates and activists not to touch the initiative with mint surgical tweezers.
c) thinking how best this can be used to prise minority voters away from Labour.

Mary Honeyball
I love the idea of the Atheist Bus Campaign. It's good to see those of us who are rationalists and humanists taking positive action.

I hope as many of you who can will donate to this excellent campaign.

I don't think we've heard the last of this.

PS - I presume Ms Honeyball, former probation officer and prime example of a polytechnocrat, is single and childless. Can anyone confirm/deny ?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Coming Here Soon

"Theirs was the generational dream: do well in school, get a degree, get a good job, buy a home, do better than their parents. But, now, for the first time in the history of our State, the Government has ensured they will have a lower standard of living than their parents."

Enda Kenny, Fine Gael (i.e. opposition) leader in Ireland, on the Government budget - a government which includes the Green Party - which will among other things introduce means-tested healthcare for the over-70s.

I'd say it's already the case in the UK that the dream is gone. House prices on their own would have seen to that, even without deindustrialisation and the education disaster.

Quote of the day

"If you commit an act that compromises the security of a nation, they call you a traitor; if you commit an act that compromises its culture, they call you a progressive."

Come To Britain !

It's A Land of Immigrants !

Monday, October 20, 2008

Whatever Happened In Llanbydder ?

'Twas two years ago that a number of people were arrested after allegations of what was believed to have been a sexual assault on a mother and daughter in Llanbydder, on the Carmarthen/Cardiganshire border. A pub which had become a hostel for Polish workers, the High Mead Arms Hotel, was cordoned off.

Then it all went terribly quiet. Anyone know what happened ?

"from Kilburn, north London"

... according to the BBC.

Otherwise from Algeria - and he's allegedly over here to decapitate the Algerians the locals just don't want to decapitate.

Ed Balls Launches Charitable Scheme ...

To send used furniture (bought by the taxpayer) from the schools and council offices of Pendle and Burnley ...

... to the 'home village' in Gujrat, Pakistan of a Pendle Labour councillor !

(via Lib Dem councillor Irfan Ahmed)

One Step Forward, One Step Back

UK immigration minister Phil Woolas, after a few preliminary throat-clearings, comes out with a remarkable Times piece in which he outlines a radical departure from previous Labour Party policy on immigration.
"Employers should, he believes, put British people first"

"We need a tougher immigration policy and we need to stop seeing it as a dilemma. It's not. It's easy. I'm going to do my best to help the British back to work"

"It's been too easy to get into this country in the past and it's going to get harder"

"We have to have a population policy and that means at some point we will be able to set a limit on migration. This Government isn't going to allow the population of this country to go up to 70 million. There has to be a balance between the number of people coming in and the number of people leaving."

Only a few years back Labour Party policy was "no limit" to either immigration or population. So an apparent right-about-turn.

The BBC gives the story top billing on radio news, it leads the Today Programme at 7 am on Saturday - pretty much the same time the story hits the website.

By the afternoon bulletins the coverage emphasises the criticism from pro-immigration lobbyists - which does no harm at all to a government wanting to appear tough and decisive. Naturally there's a storm of outrage from left bloggers horrified at Woolas' words.

The government must really be grateful to them - not them per se, but the horrified reaction they represent. Such reaction is vital to their brand positioning.

You have to presume that by now even Labour has noticed that the core demographic is crumbling pretty damn fast - has been really since at least 2005, but probably before that. (By core demographic I don’t mean the activist core but the voter core - very different people).

They listen to the focus groups. They see the polls. They know

a) immigration consistently comes at or near the top of voter concerns
b) the BNP vote increased something like 4 times between the 1999 Euro elections and the 2004 elections. In 2004 they got 4.8% of the vote - pretty near to electing MEPs with all that lovely Brussels gravy. They’d get nailed in one-member constituencies - but PR and the list system give them a chance of representation.
c) demographic change has accelerated even since 2004. We’ve had the odd incident like 7/7 as well.
d) UKIP took more than 16% of the vote in 2004. That implies a lot of discontented people using the PR system to send a message - and not one about the war in Iraq. Are there likely to be more discontented people now, or fewer ?
e) if you wanted to put together a checklist of conditions favouring the rise of a far-right party, you’d find this govt have ticked most of the boxes.

Labour do not want to see the BNP gaining seats and cash any more than the lefty bloggers do. They're worried about the core vote as well - and IMHO rightly so. Hence Mr Woolas.

Mr Woolas is the MP for Oldham - an exceptional place. Of the three towns where Asians - don't be mealy-mouthed, Laban - where Muslim youths rioted in summer 2001, Oldham, Burnley and Bradford, Oldham is the only place which did not see the riots followed by BNP representation on the local council. At the very least I’d expect that he’d get a respectful hearing from the left on matters of race and immigration. Maybe Jon Cruddas could pick up a few ideas from him. (I don't know Mr Woolas' secret anti-BNP weapon - for all I know it may simply be massive vote fraud, but I'm assuming not. This commenter seems to think he's a pretty straight guy.).

But from a marketing perspective it’s a good job he doesn’t get that respectful hearing. Because Labour aren’t sending signals to the horrified lefty bloggers (who, gullible souls, take him seriously) or to me (who doesn't believe a word), but to the neglected vote - those ordinary white working class joes (aka lumpen racists) who used to vote Labour as a matter of tribal course, but who have slowly grasped the fact that Labour is no longer the party of people like them.

To get their attention you need a bit of controversy. I note the horrified reactions all over the BBC. That’s just what Labour need if they’re trying to get the ‘we care’ message across to joe.

It’s not new. Blunkett was the past master at coming up with punitive quotes which horrified Guardianistas while delighting Joe Public - who then ignored him letting all the burglars out and the asylum seekers in. And it's an old tactic to announce some crowd-pleasing measure, which the BBC will obligingly make headline news - then quietly backtrack later, having got the right soundbites across.

As has now, predictably, happened here :

Two days after he appeared to sign up to a cap on the number of overseas workers welcomed into the UK, Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister, admitted that no fresh measures were planned, and said he had been referring to existing schemes.

The Chick Yogs of this world still won't be pleased. After all, Woolas is pandering to tabloid hysteria with his nasty little soundbites. Why can't Labour robustly defend the case for immigration ?

Last summer the Labour blogger Chris Paul attended a meetup with Hilary Benn and Hazel Blears. He asked why they didn’t take a ‘more progressive line’ on immigration.

“Hazel recounted a rendezvous with twenty decent people relaxing in their gardens in her constituency whose number one concern was and is immigration. She feels Labour cannot win unless we are tough on immigration.”
Presumably the strategists think ‘the progressive line’ will go down like a lead balloon. I think they're right. Tough rhetoric will continue to be the order of the day.