Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sounds Of The Sixties

(not for those who dislike jangly semi-accoustic guitars. If you right-click on the links you can open the music in a new window or tab).

Once upon a time there was an successful accoustic Australian pop group called the Seekers, who featured a sweet-faced, pure-voiced girl called Judith Durham, at the time every Dad's favourite. They played mainstream music - love songs and the like - the cultural revolution had yet to kick in.

When my all-time fave folkie Sandy Denny stopped doing solo spots in folk clubs and joined an obscure band called the Strawbs, they didn't half sound like the Seekers. Listen to "All I need Is You" or "On My Way". Those jangly guitars are so Sixties.

A little later and across the pond, a bunch of proto-hippies called Jefferson Airplane were doing drugs and singing stuff like "It's no secret", although their pretty female singer was no Judith Durham (in among the drug stuff and political posturing, they also produced one of the most beautiful love songs ever). Back in England, a thirteen year old Laban was inscribing their name on school desks.

The cultural revolution was kicking off, and by strange chance the next band that Sandy Denny joined (here doing 'Time Will Show The Wiser' with the lovely Judy Dyble singing) didn't half sound like Jefferson Airplane.

We're Not Having Kids Part 503 - Liz Forgan

Times interview with the current Arts Council chairman :
There are, she thinks, two reasons for her becoming such a successful woman. During her single-sex education it never crossed her mind that women could not run things. “And I don't have children. It is unquestionably much more difficult for women with children to have a long-term career. I am in awe of women with children juggling 18 balls but the superwoman myth went too far. In your life if you are a daughter, mate, parent and have a career you cannot give 100 per cent of time to all of them.”
Laban thinks single-sex education is a Good Thing, too - particularly for girls.

But it's funny. She doesn't seem in awe of this successful woman with kids :

I have been a card-carrying feminist for 40 years and this woman has found somewhere in me a little kernel of sexism. She causes me to make a failure of sisterhood. Sorry Charlie but I cannot stand her candy coated philistinism, I hate her crass creationism, I loath her parading of her family about the place, God forgive me I even hate her teenage hair ...

Hmmm ...

Not noticed this chap (parental advisory - foul language) before, but ...

"Griffin - I will not grace you with the honorific 'Mister', which applies to members of the human race - YOU, and your cabal of ***** are the ones who are not British. You have no concept of what the word means, no sense of responsibility to this country. Your deluded, vile, racist leaflets harken back to the awful days of the Reich's 'Nuremberg Laws'.

You and your ilk are the ones who don't deserve the right to exist in this country. One day, I fervently wish you get your own Nuremberg moment. I'll even pull the lever myself."

Er ... are you wishing that he actually carries out a genocide and starts a war that kills 50-odd million people ?

Or do you want the trial and punishment without the bother of finding any evidence ?

Just asking.

(and will people stop using the female pudendum as a term of abuse ? Just asking.)

Selfish, blind or both ?

I linked the other day to leftie blogger Dave Osler's remarkable post-budget post, in which he opined :

I’m not as gloomy as he appears to be about issues of demographics, if only because further mass immigration obviously has the potential to rejuvenate the population of this island once the politicians can get their head round the idea.
He was referring to Hamish McRae's Indie piece :
A second way of looking at these deficits is to see them in terms of intergenerational equity. To what extent should people now load the cost of our pensions and public services on to the next generation of taxpayers, our children? Demographic arithmetic makes this choice much starker. There will of course be fewer children relative to the number of workers and the workforce is already starting to shrink. Meanwhile the number of pensioners is correspondingly rising. The combination of fewer workers, more pensioners and a bigger national debt is a toxic one, all the more so since it is known and predictable, unlike the toxic debts accumulated by our banking system.

Whatever we do now, it is inevitable that our children will pay much more in tax than they receive in social benefits. For the present generation of retirees, thanks to favourable demography, the position is reversed. In the past, when governments ran up huge deficits it was to fight wars and I think most of us would accept that defending the country in the Second World War was worth the price. But now the deficits are to spend more on social benefits than people are prepared to pay in taxes and our children will have a right to feel cheated.

Hamish will keep going on about "our" children, and whether they will feel cheated or not. As I've been pointing out for what feels like forever, there just aren't enough of 'our' children to go round - thanks in no small way to the cultural revolution of which Dave would no doubt heartily approve. But Osler's hope is in 'their' children - the children of those who have yet to come here. In a couple of comments aimed at sceptical posters he says :

"they better embrace it (further mass immigration - LT) if they want to have anybody to wipe their ****s for them by the time they end up in the nursing home. Or if they want an economy that supports pension payments."
"Either immigrants keep this country going, or it folds."
He's presumably actually read the McRae piece, as he's posting on it. McRae says that those supporting geriatric baby-boomers are likely (en masse) to pay more in tax than they receive. Even supposing they're 'our' children, that's a big ask which would raise questions of intergenerational solidarity - questions McRae passes by. What if the youth don't want to be taxed to pay for their parents and grandparents - indeed, given the coming numbers of childless geriatrics, to pay for people who are nobody's parents or grandparents ? Another leftie (and presumably childless) blogger says, when asked what he worries about :

"Loneliness in old age"
But the poor chap doesn't seem to realise that there's more to being old than 'just' having your friends die off or becoming too immobile to see you. There is, as Mr Osler so delicately puts it, the potential question of wiping the bottom.

Do I digress ? I think not, but - intergenerational solidarity is a phrase being bandied about quite a bit in the economic press at present. Here's a little excerpt from Sam Jones' FT Alphaville post on the UK's triple-A rating - or why financial markets are willing to lend money to the UK more than they are to many other countries.

Pierre Cailleteau, Team MD of Moody’s sovereign risk group, and Mares’ boss, says, safe havens’ triple-A status, “depends on two potentially unstable notions: continued public trust in government institutions, including the currency, and sustained inter-generational solidarity mechanisms.” It is the latter of these that gives the US, Germany, Japan and the UK such huge room for manoeuvre (my emboldening - LT). Sovereign credit risks are predicated on a whole series of qualitative as well as quantitative judgements about the strength, age, and “institutionalisation” of a country’s financial practices. That we have an age-old central banking system, a set of (mostly) sound checks and balances and a very secure financial infrastructure means that, in the top rating agencies’ views, the UK, like Germany or Japan, is well positioned relative to more politically and economically fragile peers. As Moody’s says in its overview of sovereign ratings:

"The probability of default for a government depends on both the ability and willingness to pay".
What they're talking about in the end is a stable political culture plus intergenerational solidarity, which means the UK can run up debts now and be confident that future taxpayers will pay them off.

But think about it. "Continued public trust in government institutions". How's that going, eh ? While I don't want to get too apocalyptic, I think it's reasonable to say that trust is falling, and indeed I'd be hard put to think of when it was lower - Peterloo ? 1926 ?

As for "sustained inter-generational solidarity mechanisms" - well that phrase tends to imply that we're talking different generations of the same group of people. This will be less and less the case. On the one hand, you'll have a rapidly rising number of oldies who won't have any descendants, and a rapidly rising number of ethnic minority youngies who'll be heavily taxed to pay for a load of hideous old whities, who they'll have been taught at school are responsible for all the ills of the world.

Right now 23% of the children in primary schools (England and Wales figures) are 'ethnic minority' and the proportion rises every year, with natives forecast to be a minority by 2073. How will these 'sustained mechanisms' pan out in such a scenario ?

Isn't there a possibility that the overtaxed young, even those whose parents he so kindly invited in, will decide that they'd rather kick Old Father Osler's butt than wipe it ?

Or a possibility that they should mete out a bit of righteous justice for the sins of Mr Osler's racist forebears, obtaining reparation by beatings, racist abuse or force-feeding talcum powder ?

These are only a couple of many competing possibilities, of course. It may be that Dave will live out his declining years tended by happy rainbow people, in a lovely building with pretty garden views - something rather like the images of God's kingdom you see on the cover of the Watchtower. But it is rational to look at and evaluate all the possible outcomes of any course of action. Not at all sure he's done this.

Mr Osler's big mistake IMHO is that he doesn't see these incomers as rational actors on their own account, but as tax-generating units on his account. He doesn't seem so very distant from the capitalists he affects to despise - where they see profits and cheap labour, he sees taxes and cheap labour. Mass immigration also has the happy side-effect of annoying those he considers his political enemies. What's not to like ?

"Hi. Welcome to England. Your numbers give you considerable political clout. Please use that clout on my behalf, not yours. Pay your taxes - to pay people to wipe my backside".

Let's hope he doesn't have to get too much talc up his nose before he discovers that immigrants are people like him, with good and bad, a culture and their own ideas of right, wrong, and what should be done. Which may not be what Mr Osler wants or expects.

(a much shortened version of this post was dropped in Mr Osler's comments, which he hastily switched to moderation having received traffic from here. He hasn't published it. I brand him poltroon. UPDATE - see below. He's not a poltroon after all. )

UPDATE - to be fair to him, Dave Osler looks like a hard-headed realist compared to one Edmund Conway, Telegraph scribbler. I do hope he's no relation to David Conway of Civitas. His solution to the crisis ? We need more people like Karen Matthews.

UPDATE 2 - Mr Osler drops in to say that he doesn't censor comments, and that the non-published and much-truncated version of this post which I dropped on his site may have been snaffled by his anti-spamming system. Fair do's. I hereby drop all charges of poltroonery against said blogger and apologise for branding him such.

UPDATE 3 - Of course, given increasingly crumbly social cohesion and the need to borrow billions for years to come, it may well be that triple-A status vanishes long before Dave Osler gets that first taste of talc. Willem Buiter :

Under the best possible scenario, taxes will have to be raised and/or public spending cut on a permanent basis by between 5 and 6 per cent of GDP to regain fiscal sustainability. The necessary permanent fiscal tightening could easily be larger. The pain will be widely felt. The ambition to bring British infrastructure back up to the level it achieved at the end of the 19th century has been postponed by another quarter-century. Education and health will suffer.

The long-term pain of higher taxes and lower public spending is not the result of public debt and deficits incurred because of a war fought by a united nation against a hated external enemy. It is the result of an economic civil war, a massive systemic peacetime economic failure, with a large domestic component. It is therefore not clear that the necessary social and political cohesion - readiness to accept joint fiscal burden-sharing - will be present. If the necessary fiscal tightening is not forthcoming because different groups and vested interests are engaged in a war of attrition aimed at shifting the fiscal burden to the other guy, markets could easily panic and Britain could face an emerging market-style “sudden stop”, with the rest of the world withholding financing from its public and private sectors.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Well done indeed ...

Police blogger Nightjack has won the first Orwell blog prize. I'm impressed - I thought the traditional lefty panellists might get the vapours reading posts like this. Fair play to 'em.

I hope you've read some of his stuff - if not, get over there and do so.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

"I have seen the rest of my life"

It's deja vu all over again for Peter Briffa.

England Arise

England, arise! The long long night is over,
Faint in the east behold the dawn appear;
Out of your evil dream of toil and sorrow
Arise, O England, for the day is here.
From your fields and hills
Hark! the answer swells:
Arise, O England, for the day is here.
Long, long have been the anguish and the labour,
Dark, dark the clouds of unbelief unrolled,
Dreadful the night when no man trusted neighbour,
Shameful the nightmare-greed of gain and gold;
Yet from fields and hills
Hark! the song now swells:
Arise, O England, for the day is here.
By your young children's eyes so red with weeping,
By their white faces aged with want and fear,
By the dark cities where your babes are creeping
Naked of joy and all that makes life dear;
From your wretched slums
A voice of pity comes:
Arise, O England, for the day is here.
By all your workshops where men sweat and sicken,
Foredone to death, in toil and hope deferred,
Where cheeks are flushed and pulses start and quicken,
Not with glad life but by dark hatred stirred;
From each bench and forge
A sound comes like a surge:
Arise, O England, for the day is here.
By your high homes of wealth and wasteful living,
By your rich tables piled, without good cheer,
By the ennui, ill-health, and sickly striving --
Not great to be, but only to appear;
O'er the weary throng
Strangely floats the song:
Arise, O England, for the day is here.
By your rich orchards, lands of corn and pasture,
Where all day long the voice of joy should ring,
Now mute and desert, by land-grabbers wasted,
Robbed of the love the peasant longs to bring;
From the stricken land
Hark! the words ascend:
Arise, O England, for the day is here.
People of England, all your valleys call you,
High in the rising sun the lark sings clear;
Will you dream on, let shameful slumber thrall you?
Will you disown your native land so dear?
Shall it die unheard --
That sweet pleading word?
Arise, O England, for the day is here.
Over your face a web of lies is woven,
Law that are falsehoods pin you to the ground;
Labour is mocked, its just reward is stolen,
On its bent back sits Idleness encrowned;
How long, while you sleep,
Your harvest shall it reap?
Arise, O England, for the day is here.
Out of your ruin rich men thrive and fatten,
Your merchants rub their hands when food is dear,
Capital says your claims are not forgotten
If wages keep you just starvation-clear;
People of England, when
Will ye rise like men?
Rise and be freemen, for the day is here!
Hear, England, hear! Deliverance is within you;
Though like a man whom death is very near,
Though sick the head, the whole heart faint within you,
Dare to be true! -- and even from the bier
Where your body lies
A new life shall arise,
England shall rise again to life sincere.
Yet thus I warn you: long shall be the struggle,
Not one but many men in it shall die;
This cancerous disease and devil's juggle
Shall not pass in the twinkling of an eye;
To undo their wrong
The people shall strive long:
O that they fail not! for the day is here.
Forth then, ye heroes, patriots and lovers!
Comrades of danger, poverty and scorn!
Mighty in faith of Freedom, your great Mother,
Giants refreshed in joy's new-rising morn!
Come and swell the song
Silent now so long --
England is risen and the Day is here!

Thus one Edward Carpenter, writing at a time when the condition of the English poor was improving as fast as at any time in its history. Carpenter, another public-school socialist, was the archetype sandalista (he introduced them to the UK) and pointy-head, criticised by Hyndman (home tutor, Cambridge, MCC and Sussex) for attempting to turn the Social Democratic Federation into "depository of old cranks, humanitarians, vegetarians, anti-vivisectionists, and anti-vaccinationists" and by George Orwell (Eton) who attacked "every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal wearer [and] sex maniac" in the socialist movement. Sometimes (often ?) debate in the workers movement seemed awfully short on input from actual workers. Carpenter was one of those 'back to the land' drippy hopouts who could only live the dream with Daddy's dosh :

"When his father Charles Carpenter died in 1882, he left his son a considerable fortune. This enabled Carpenter to quit his lectureship to start a simpler life of market gardening."
Well, long indeed has been the anguish and the Labour - nearly 12 years now. But I don't see quite as many white faces among the young children these days - certainly not in the dark cities. Obviously Sure Start has removed want and fear from the young. More excellent news is that the sweated workshops - indeed pretty much any workshops - appear to be a thing of the past. We are all free to wear sandals, start our own little market gardens, and sleep with whom we wish. Enough. The seminal work 'The Breaking of the English Working Class' remains to be written - and Mr Carpenter's spiritual descendants will have played their parts in that breaking.

Remember today - and remember the great English genius - perhaps the greatest - whose birthday it is.

"Naught shall make us rue,
If England to itself do rest but true"

A big 'if'. There lies the task. Not a small one, is it ?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Norm Has Been To Venice ...

and he writes about it here.

But don't forget I've been there too.

I've also been to Amsterdam.

"Mit der Dummheit kämpfen die Götter selbst vergebens"

Dave Osler pronounces on the budget :

I’m not as gloomy as he appears to be about issues of demographics, if only because further mass immigration obviously has the potential to rejuvenate the population of this island once the politicians can get their head round the idea.

There's enough material there for a whole conference.

Where's Jack Jones When We Need Him ?

Alice Cook

Back in the 1970s, workers had a voice and it served as a bulwark against the more virulent forms of rapacious capitalism. When industrial unions were destroyed, that voice was gone and our democracy suffered enormously.

With the unions weakened, this country was comprehensively deindustrialized. Finance became the only industry that mattered. Today, trade unions only represent the public sector. Private sector workers have been disenfranchised and silenced by anti trade union legislation...

I would happy put up with a few extra days of industrial action to regain a degree of balance in our political discourse.


Tuesday, April 21, 2009

It's Still All About Me

Seventies feminist icon Rosie Boycott is developing a nice little sideline in mea culpas for the Daily Mail. Only a few months back she was telling us that biology is destiny, now she's telling their readers yet again what a bad girl she's been.

Well, not quite. She's got a confessional to publicise - first issued in 1985, now to be republished - and the DM do like a good 'middle-class girl gone wrong' story. They don't come any more middle-class or go any wronger than our Rosie. Bring them together and let toxic synergy do the rest.

I suppose it's possible that the DM have tweaked the interview to make her seem like a self-centred airhead. What can you make of this, describing her father, an upright military type who didn't speak to her for a couple of years after the original washing of the dirty linen in public :

"His rejection of my book was very painful to me. I think now it was partly his British stiff upper lip, but he probably also thought: "Gosh, maybe I didn't take care of her enough,"' she says.

'My life got very out of control and maybe he felt there was more he could have done. He probably felt, as a parent, that he had failed me.' "

But enough of him, let's talk more about me, eh ? The poor chap was probably regretting all those times he left the belt on the back of the bedroom door.

I also notice that the most influential of Ms Boycotts years - the feminist, Spare Rib years - seem to be airbrushed out. Ms Boycott has one child.

Another Seventies alternative icon with one child and a past of drug abuse and sexual liberation wasn't quite as middle class as Ms Boycott, and never found peace on a Somerset chicken farm. Her parents didn't speak to her for a couple of years, either.

If you were casting a pornographic blockbuster now I'm not sure you'd cast a Karen Carpenter lookalike as your star, but Marylin Chambers, who was found dead in her California trailer last week, was a Seventies hit in Behind The Green Door, which cost less than a hundred thousand but reportedly grossed 25 million dollars. Along with the late Linda Lovelace, she - or more accurately the men who filmed her - helped make pornography more mainstream - almost chic - in fashionable America, a trend which ain't stopped yet.

She leaves one child.

The People Have Spoken

Harrow Times

A Harrow MP who claimed public money for a house his parents live in has fallen victim to a graffiti vandal.

The door of Tony McNulty's office, in Byron Road, was daubed with the words “that's £60,000 you owe me Tony” last week.

The vandal is apparently angry at the conduct of the Harrow East MP, who claimed £60,000 from the public purse in allowances for a second home in Harrow, which turned out to be his parents' home.

Perhaps he can claim compensation as a victim of crime ?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Euro Election Campaigning Starts In Earnest

Sack them.

Vote for anyone but them.

Residents' fury at them
(aka one Lib Dem councillor. Do they do fury, the Lib Dems ?)

"peddling their own brand of snake-oil"

Don't ignore them - confront them.

"the last thing Cumbria needs"

"outcasts in the north" - oops, sorry - that appears to be the Tories.

Listen to the BBC next Thursday where will be revealed their campaigning secrets.

Which include "dress smartly" and "do not express extreme views or advocate violence of any description. Your e-mails are probably less secure than you think". I wonder what gave them that idea ?

I think the last - re expressing extreme views - is a bit of a forlorn hope from a BNP perspective. If we cross the Atlantic to Canada, we find "anti-racist activists" who specialise in joining nasty websites, posting nasty stuff on said websites, waiting for an equally nasty response, then suing under hate-crime legislation. I'm sure there'll be a few such lurking under some dank BNP stone - and they're all pretty dank, aren't they, children ?

Take the interesting debate at Conservative Home, which I linked to above and which features a number of commenters addressing what IMHO is and has been for the last seven or eight years the key driver behind increasing BNP support - namely the demographic changes which are likely to see my children members of the British ethnic minority in their old age*. They point out the poor old elephant in the drawing room that dare not speak its name.

"If things are allowed to continue, within about 30 years the indigenous population will be a minority"

"In real life, people want a strict immigration policy. Both major parties have failed to do what Britons want."

"Cultural existence is whether you like it or not - a very important matter to most Brits."

"do you want to become an ethnic minority?" - this issue has to be addressed, if we ignore it the BNP will score yet another propaganda victory.

"Creating a firm, common sense immigration policy that British people really want is the way forward. The fact that that would smash the BNP to bits is just a bonus"

On the whole a reasonable debate with points being scored on several sides. Lots of people (Tories, mind) pointing out neo-Nazi BNP roots, lots of obviously non-Nazi reponses. Then towards the end, in comes commenter 'Jack' ...

"There's absolutely nothing wrote with advocating an all-white Britain ... I would not feel the slightest bit guilty about loading them all onto boats and shipping them back ... I have not met a single decent non-white yet! ... As for the BNP been Nazis (sic), while he had his faults, Hitler did have some good ideas regarding the fact that a nation is based on its race, and that the white race should be put first in Europe. I for one would rather someone like Hitler was in power ... Hitler would look after the interests of white people ..."

followed by this delightful touch :

"I'm not saying the man was a saint- his attitude towards our fellow white Slavic people was insanity."

Obviously a chap who can see both sides of an argument. While I know there are some nutters in the world, he seems too good to be true, doesn't he ?

* yes, I know my father was an immigrant, but he walked out when I was three so didn't have a major impact on my cultural upbringing - which was Welsh Baptist ... the children are rooted enough that they support England against Wales at rugby, to my eternal sorrow. There's zero cultural input from my father's native land, "an accursed place which God will one day hold to the reckoning", as the worthy Zahar put it.