Thursday, June 30, 2005

25 years down the line - the shit flies!

CBS News | Hostage Claims Stir W.H. Interest | June 30, 2005�12:42:05

Okay. No real blog today but this link goes to the breaking lead story at CBS news and I don't like the sound of it. Digging up the past may be just the excuse Bush needs to open up a third front in his crusade. Let's hope not.


Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Sex, Drugs, And Congress , plus a letter from Africa

CBS News | Sex, Drugs, And Congress | June 29, 2005�12:00:05

An extra quickie today. This link goes to CBS news and is an article that covers US congressional attitudes to pharmaceuticals. Good read.

The rela reason I'm back is to give you this copy of a mail from Channel 4 newsman Jon Snow direct from Africa. Report will be on TV news tomorrow.


I'm standing on top of the Sheraton hotel in Kampala as the sun sets on
a bustling city beneath African skies.

There is none of the reek of tear gas that briefly and unusually
punctuated proceedings here yesterday. Of that, more tomorrow - but suffice
it to say parliament has been voting on letting President Museveni run
for a third term in contradiction to the two term limit set out in the

The protestors charge that he is going the way of so many other African
leaders - from freedom fighter to elected dictator. A point that I
shall be putting to him on Channel 4 News tomorrow night.

Two tonnes of satellite dish and 73 boxes arrived today to facilitate
our live transmission from Africa - value several hundred thousand
pounds, insurance on the customs bond a good few thousand pounds alone. Did
you ever wonder why Africa is so rarely reported on television? The
will may be one thing, but no-one ever discusses the cost.

In making poverty history someone should think of putting some
satellites above the African continent to enable Africa to talk with Africa and
to talk with the outside world. For whilst the internet and the mobile
have already made a profound difference to this continent bypassing a
generation of technology - television remains an essential medium, and
footage from here is all but absent from screens in the northern

Here in the south they are talking about democracy; they are talking
about governance and in a strange way they are looking north to
Gleneagles but with considerable diffidence.

"I mean who are they to tell us what to do?" some people say to me.
"What do they know? How about evening up the odds to let us compete?"

So it's all to play for here and tomorrow night we'll be coming live 73
boxes, 2 tonnes and God willing. We'll also be bringing you a truly
remarkable report out of Congo, a major interview with President Museveni
and much else.

And we shall continue right up to the moment the G8 kicks off and then
we'll transfer to the northern hemisphere and look back south again.

See you soon, best wishes as ever

Jon Snow

PS: We had another puncture on the way from Gulu and this time we
discovered the jack was too small. A wonderful truck driver stopped to fix
it all and an hour later refused to take a dime…


As for me ...


In pursuit of dangerous visions


When it comes to choice in reading entertainment, my choice of preference has always been science-fiction. Indeed, I am probably of the generation where the genre first gained respectable literary status. Although it's legacy includes classic authors like Jules Verne, John Wynham, HG Wells, Edgar Rice Burroughs and (of course) George Orwell, it is more aptly a late 20th century artform.

Although I admit to indulging in my fair share of space operas and futuristic military scenarios, it was the sub-genre of "Dangerous Visions" (a phrase initiated by Harlan Ellison) that really caught my attention. In the tradition of George Orwell, this was the kiind of fiction designed to warn us about possible futures and often remind us of the need to retain the ideaology and values that define our humanity. Whilst some of the authors undoubtably considered themselves visionaries, few of them at the time would have given much credibility to the "prophetic" nature of their work.

Yet as the 20th century progressed, the science-fiction genre became immersed in our consciousness, a pervading influence on comic books, cinema and eventually television. The creative tools offered by new technologies have further allowed us to forge a convincing artificial reality where none really exists. The warnings inherant in many an original written work are increasingly obscured by the all-consuming experience offered up by modern media., Ideaological intent is now obscured by escapism and the grand thrill-seeking illusions. It is in our subconcious, rather than our perceived awareness, that the messages of the genre can now be found - to all extents and purposes we neglect them as we use our ingenuity to mimic the dreams and nigtmares in 21st century reality itself.

The notion of "Big Brother" is a case in point - and I refer not to the packaged voyeurism of the TV programme of the same name (which has today ironically been cited as having a beneficial influence on the cause for racial harmony), but the totalitarian nightmare envisaged by George Orwell. The concept is now so embedded in our culture that it is an assumed methodology for governance in our lives - worshipped for offering security against the insecurity it has itself created. It is seen as an embodiment of civil infrastructure rather than a threat to our civil liberties. We no longer heed those "dangerous visions" - we actively pursue them!

Today's link simply points to a version of the news story we all heard about last night. The reverend Blair has gathered just enough support to further ensnare his flock in an evangelical quest to allow "big brother" absolute power of dictation of the future. It stinks! With luck Britain's revisionary chamber, the House of Lords, will have none of it!

The arguement for ID cards is not in itself wholly without merit when discussing the simplest method of social organisation. I have witnessed enough ineptitude on the part of beaurocrats that the notion of producing a single document to replace the endless traditional (and frequently missing) paperwork is actually very attractive. Everyone who has ever puchased a phonecard to use public call boxes will be familiar with the concept - a single card with an embedded microchip which contains necessary information (in that case, the amount of money left on it). Many of us also have so-called "loyalty" cards which we produce at the local supermarket. These allow us to save microscopic amounts of money as regular customers whilst the retail consortium gets to analyse our consumer habits via enourmous inter-linked databases. The former is useful because it contains finite information and allows use to manage a service ourselves. The latter is highly insidious in that we have no control of it - the reading of the information and it's use is dictated by the corporation not ourselves. "Big Brother" has long been with us.

Yet it is the difference between the phonecard and the storecard that best describes the ID card dilemma. What individuals in modern society need is simply their own portable electronic database - rather like a hard-coded version of our portable flash-drives. Initally the chip would be empty and we would simply add, or allow to be added, information to it as required. As with bank cards, we would individually hold our own PIN numbers which we would enter before the data can be accessed or added to. The technology to store and sort vast amounts of information on such a card already exists and is, especially on such a scale, dirt cheap. We could all manage (and backup) everything to do with our identity by using the PIN with a computer to organise it. Even the contentious eyeprints, fingerprints and dental records (not to mention our entire DNA itself in the near future) could be included if we ourselves wanted - but the process would be gradual, dictated only by need and under our own control.

Government, especially in the UK and Amerika, would have it differently. They want a way of controlling and manipulating your identity over which you have no personal control and will do whatever it takes to build a system to suit their requirements. Ironically, their obsession with the actual function of the technology reveals a very antiquated mindset - namely that such "tunnel vision" leaves them blind to parallel developments outide their beaurocratic infrastructure. The cost of implementation will grow as more obstacles need to be overcome, it will take far longer than anticipated and the result itself will probably be out-of-date by the time the project is completed. The fact that the proposed Amerikan contractor for the British system has already screwed-up the treasury's "tax credits" system has gone largely un-noticed in the furore over proposed charges. That the project has been promoted as a consumer-driven deployment rather than absorbed into the general taxation system also itself suggests an astonishing lack of foresight within the institutions at Whitehall.

One science-fiction novel I read many years ago has stayed with me. It was called "Squares of the City" and although I cannot recall the author it may have been John Brunner. The story began as we came to know the protagonist - a "traffic controller" in a future city. As the plot developed, we came to realise that the "traffic" in question was the human population itself. The protagonist started to question things in his environment and the story took off. In the endgame it was revealed that the entire management of this future world was being played out as a game of chess by two ultimate power-brokers. In an appendix, the author kindly provided as resume of the plot as a sequence of moves in a genuine chess game. Individual people were less than pawns in this scenario and the game was being played less to win than to pass the time. The fallacy of "big brother" is that there is no rationale that can present such a system in a light that offers benefits to the human race.

So a thought. If all the world is a stage, what exactly is the purpose of a set designer?


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Blessed by their presence, but what about their chequebooks?

Britain, UK news from The Times and The Sunday Times - Times Online

Today's link is from this morning's Times - stating the obvious if the rather overlooked as Live8 frenzy starts the final build up to next weekend's orgasm. I may be a cynic, but it's catching!

The police have requested 55,000 extra tickets be issued. This is so they can seal off Hyde Park completely with nobody let in to enjoy unoccupied areas. The PR machine thus annouces the event will have the biggest festival attendence ever. This is pure bullshit! We had 250,000 people attend a Rolling Stones gig at Knebworth in the 70s and the Royal Air Force took the ariel photo-count to prove it. The licence was only for 160,000 - but it is no small matter to turn away 90,000 extra visitors and better to turn a blind eye. Ring-fencing tactics are always the better option for policing - yet also for population welfare.

Freddie Bannister, the promoter of the Kebworth event, was one of the few promoters I've ever known who actually paid out large sums of money to "employ" the police as part of the operation - thus sparing the average tax-payer the expense of subsidising a commercial venture. The result was always a level of unprecendented co-operation by the authorities and a harmonious time all round. Every Londoner will be subsidising the Hype Park concert with money that will financing police administration and pay rather than world poverty. Your average copper will not be "donating" his or her services!

I wonder if his bobliness has actually considered these incidental overheads. His planned march in the aftermath of the concerts will no doubt cost even more to manage than the principal events - not to mention the additional security blanket around southern Scotland. It is an expensive business and, believe me, the monies involved would feed far more of the planet's impoverished than the comparitively petty "official" (and conditional) contributions from the G8 governments themselves.

The absence of a blog yesterday can be attributed to the immense amount of catching up I had to do after a weekend immersed in surround sound and multi-stage Glastonbury choices courtesy of digital BBC. I wonder if I caught more of the performances simply by virtue of not having to walk from one area to another in all that mud. Overall it was disappointing compared with other years. Too much "attitude-for-the-sake-of-it" rather than any real convictions. The exception were possibly Primal Scream who appeared to pay the price by being rather uncremoniously pulled off stage by the organisers. A far cry from the hippie dreams and punk expression that once pervaded.

Exactly what Hype Park and Glastonbury have in common I'm unsure - but it sure ain't rock 'n' roll!


PS: A closing note. Last night's news was dominated by Blair's ID card plans and new revelations about the cost. Yet there was no mention at all of my little item in Saturday's blog - that the proposed contractors for implementing the job are the same company (Amerikan) that completely screwed-up the tax credits scheme that caused a furore earlier last week. I guess our media researchers were at festival too.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

So whose freedom is it anyway?

Who Are Americans to Think That Freedom Is Theirs to Spread? - New York Times

This morning's link is for a nice meaty essay courtesy of the New York Times - a mix of history and current affairs discussing the export of the Amerikan Dream.

Following last week's tax credits disaster in Britain, how interesting that the same US firm responsible for it is now to be given the contract for our new ID cards. Is there no end to UK government incomptence?


Saturday, June 25, 2005

Some of the now and some of the then

The Future this week

Twice in one day - are you not lucky?

This link is for Richard Neville's latest missive at his main site. It was updated a few days back but the link came through late. You can't beat Richard for a good read and this time we've got Hitler and Bush in one place - not too mention a picture of Laura Bush in her shower.

Richard, like most of the other original OZ magazine editors, never has much of a soft spot for the British monarchy, so his last paragraph must have been written with a certain irony. However, it is a piece of fine news that had somehow passed me by completely despite my interest in the person concerned.

Martin Sharp, one of the original psychedelic artists from the sixties London scene has been awarded the Order of Australia for services to Pop Art. The honour was made as part of the queen's birthday honours list, so arise Sir Martin!

His work can currently been seen in Britain at the Tate Gallery in Liverpool as part of a "Summer of Love" exhibition and there's a small tribute at my archive site too.


Mobility is an unfortunate's dream

Class Consciousness Matters: What's missing from the New York Times and Wall Street Journal -- In These Times

In my "latest clicks" listing there have been a number of links to the "Class Matters" series currently running in the New York Times. That genuine social mobility is the missing component of the Amerikan Dream is further examined with today's link. That the situation is worse under the Bush administration will be no surprise, but my concern is that a similar pattern can be witnessed here in Britain too.

Cosmetic changes to the welfare system and public services by the Blair government are little more than a political marketing tactic. Reform needs to be an on-going, permanent, revisional process driven by a well-considered long-term ideaology, not a quick-fix to try and cover up previous neglect. Purpose is everything - even sweeping the poor from a nation's cities and leaving them to rot in isolated areas could be considered "reform", albeit virtual genocide at the same time!

Someone starving, without resources to change their situation, is undoubtably living in poverty. If they have been deliberately put in that position by another's design it is a political issue. If their predicament has come about through accident or natural disaster then the issue is simply a humanitarian one. Yet in most other cases, "poverty" is relative - the disenfrachisement of an individual or group by the society in which they have strived to exist. Any social system which focuses solely on the "average" or the "norm" will be, intentionally or otherwise, be promoting poverty in the relative sense.

There are some extraordinary contradictions in Bush's Amerika. In its imperial pursuits and own internal hierarchy it seems in every way to embody the Darwinian perspective of "survival of the fittest" - yet it also seems intent on promoting the concept of creationism as a doctrine for the masses. It allows consumerism and corporate interests to manage its infrastructure, but now lets arch-rivals like China to take ownership of those same institutions. (Click here) In an indivudual, this behaviour would be considered psychotic.

So pervasive is capitalism as a world model for social control that its worst attribute, greed, has now become the dominating force in social mobility. In this scenario, poverty becomes more acute as a simple mathematical consequence. The degrees of poverty range from enslavement to ostracisation, but can be seen in various forms in every country on the planet. It is, as I said, a matter of relativity. Amerika has championed this cause around the globe for decades to the extent that it pervades our lives and consciousness everywhere. The current British government, whose party once represented an ideaology that included the abolition of class divide, is now the most devoted subscriber to the idealogical opposite.

The new de-stablisation in Europe shows the fragility of this sham. Countries with a residue of socially-aware policy are struggling to redefine themselves against the onslaught of the new world order. New democracies are still too innocent to realise the folly of the Amerikan dream. Former imperial powers like Britain and France are stubbornly entrenched in their own historical status and won't give it up willingly. The remainder feel increasingly impotent in the face of those more dominent. In a time where a continental accord is more needed than ever to counter Amerika's arrogance, there is no longer either confidence or consensus. If there was any truth to Blair's rumoured presidential ambitions, they must surely now be scuppered - his legacy as temporary president for the next six months will most likely be a short-term public relations fix with about as much credibilty as his reforms in Britain itself.

Poverty in the modern world may best be now described as the inability to partake as a consumer in a commodity-powered machine. The wherefores and the whys of that inability cannot be addressed by continued dependence on it. The desendants of the impoverished and dispossessed, if they survive, may have the last laugh. Seismic shifts in the planet's eco-system are simply being accelerated by this blind pursuit of greed and the illusion of wealth will be rendered meaningless in a world where the resources to feed it no longer exist. It will be "back to the planet" for us all.


Friday, June 24, 2005

All Spin Zone & Wet Fields Ahoy

The All Spin Zone

A late one today - this leads to a grand blog site called the "All Spin Zone" and with the latest headline reading "Premature Ejaculation - A Republican Condition" I couldn't resist giving it an overdue plug.

It's Glastonbury time again this weekend. I often wish I was there but not this time. The British weather has changed and they've been drowned out by thunderstorms and flooding. They do have my every sympathy. I was at the very first Glastobury festival, (actually called the Glastonbury Fayre in those days) under pretty much indentical conditions. It was eventually a wonderful few days but I remember arriving in a deluge of rain and rivers of mud that rendered travelling speed around the entrance to less than a mile per hour. Nor was settling in and pitching camp much of a thrill. A great youthful adventure in retrospect but not something I would care to do now.

These days of course it is a very commercial and streamlined event, but unlike many similar gatherings the money at least always goes to good causes. The irony is that such a streamlined operation (and I speak as a former site manager at such events) will probably hinder the improvisation required to cope with such adverse conditions so let's hope the spirit of the place endures. It is after all, the one music-based festival that remains so attractive that it can sell-out tickets before anyone even knows what artistes have been booked.

I'll be immersed in the atmosphere courtesy of the BBC and the comfort that provides.


Thursday, June 23, 2005

Comment - You Can You Know

Times Online - Comment

The Times newspaper is not what it was - now part of the Murdock empire it retains most of it's distinct editorial flavour but at the end of the day will tend to reflect its owner's wishes on major issues. An institution in itself, the bias is subtle and possibly the worst for that. Nonetheless, Times Newspapers were responsible for a lot of the innovation that brought Fleet Street to the web and today they have expanded the online version to include comment - a move which can hardly be faulted. One wonders whether Murdock himself will read whatever comment there is, let alone take note of it - but that's not the point. This is the link.

While we're at it, a reminder that you can post comments on this blog too. Just click on the envelope icon and procrastinate for me! Or take advantage of the banner up top and get your free mouthpiece here with Google.

A blog a day helps me work rest and play - even if it sometimes ends up as trivia. Only if you live in Britain and have an interest in current affairs will last night's comment have made sense. To encapsulate, two of Britain's most respected TV news reporters on different channels ended their programmes last night by stripping off! Stripping off their "ties" to be precise!

This follows the announcement yesterday that male employees of Britain's civil services will no longer be obliged to wear ties at work - as usual an extremely belated reflection of trends within society at large. Ironically, both presenters seem to prefer wearing ties. Jon Snow likes a lot of variety and views them as a statement of individuality to the extent that he even wears matching socks. Jeremey Paxman's preference is simply for the tie itself and the respect it conveys. Snow seemed to thoroughly enjoy exposing his adams apple to all and sundry whilst Paxman appeared distinctly uncomfortable doing so. Trivia, but fun to watch.

As an old hippie I never thought I'd be seen dead in a tie. Forced to endure them back in my schooldays, as an adult I doubt I even possessed one for many years. Even floating around the world of corporate professionals until a few years ago, it was a form of decoration I refused to adopt - preferring, in my arrogance I guess, a media director's style of baseball cap to express myself. I doubt if this stubborness will ever change - and why the hell should it?

Yet I have to confess that I do actually own a few ties these days - most of them bought simply because I liked the pattern or fabric. I've even been known to wear them now and again - in courtrooms, at funerals and for odd functions. To me these days, the act is almost a little thrill - dressing up flamoyantly for that special occaision. The strangeness of such a habit itself becoming its attraction. If I'm still around a decade or so from now, maybe I'll be adopting the decoration as a mark of eccentricity in opposition to the norm. Who knows? Turn-on, tie-up, drop-out!


Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Feeling The Heat - A Double Dosage - news - - climate change - feeling the heat

Today's link is for part of Channel 4 News - the website to accompany the British TV station. They are running a season of climate change features in the run-up to G8 and this is a listing of good reads. Presenter Jon Snow writes an email every evening in advance of the programme and it's always interesting. Today's was late due to an invasion by a certain Jeremy Paxman who's more usually found at rivals, the BBC. The heat is obviously getting to everybody.

I have no inspired thoughts for today - put that down to temperature too. What we do know from Jon's newsletter is that we are in for an evening of apologies from Tony Blair! Spomehow I doubt an apology for the Iraq War is unlikely to be one of them.

For more click here too.


Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Well done Congo

CBS News | Dead Chimp's Art Sells Big | June 21, 2005�00:25:55

A little extra for tonight. I guess this comes under art. Congo is an unsual artist, being a chimpanzee and trained in his craft by Desmond Morris. It seems he is now celebrated with the likes of Renoir and Wharhol - commanding similar prices at yesterday's Bonham austion.


Legal Pot - for export only News - Drugs policy - UK cannabis firm launches MS treatment

Oh - the hypocrisy of it! Barely a week goes by and there's another farce to report on the cannabis issue. The pharmaceutical version of marijuana, known as Sativex, is manufactured under government license in Britain but not allowed for prescription to its residents. It is however now available for export to Canada as this link reports. Talk about double standards!

Last night's news also once again raised the thorny issue of the government's propsed ban on all smoking in public places. There was a suggestion that office workers would not even be allowed to indulge by popping outdoors. I consume an appalling amount of tobacco product and wish I didn't. Although I actually approve of discouraging the habit, I can't subscribe to draconian measures that go way beyond protection for "passive smokers". Far more harm is done to the lungs of non-smokers by the exhaust fumes of motor vehicles and other 21st Century air pollution than from cigarette emissions except in highly enclosed spaces.

The irony is that the treasury relies on both forms of pollution to impose duties which bring in additional revenue. Many pot smokers aslo end up with a tobacco habit simply because its use is intertwined with the culture of smoking. If the government had any sense at all it would allow Sativex to be sold over the counter as a healthy alternative to the variety currently burned and inhaled. Then again, foresight and intelligence are not attributes commonly associated with beaurocracies.


Monday, June 20, 2005

End of the Couch Potato News - UK - Tattie-bye to the 'couch potato'

My website has three parallel interfaces. One is for standard browsing and another is for a more an interactive experience. The third however is a link library for audio-visual material which is designed to emulate and provide future compatibility with the medium of television. Of times, I have advertised the latter as "a web for couch potatos". Although I don't strictly adhere to the official English dictionary it is preferable to the Amerikan bastardisation of the same that infests our computer systems and in this case is a wholly "acceptable" expression. So what's the link? Well, if this lot of timewasters have their way it won't be long before I'm prosecuted for discrimination against vegetables! Ain't life absurd?

After yesterday's plug for the Panorama programme I managed to miss most of it myself - using the ad breaks on another channel to glimpse what I could. If anyone saw the whole thing and fancies adding some comments, why not click on "post comment" below and provide some annotations for this column? Meanwhile, congratulations to Strathclyde police for advising shopkeepers on the sale of smoking paraphanalia by pointing them to the UK Cannabis Internet Activists site - an eminently sensible move. Meanwhile, Blunkett and Clarke are bickering with each other over the former's recent law changes and the latter's desire to reverse them. Let the battle commence and long may it last!

With Bono and other celebrities now personally heading the G8 march in Edinburgh I think we can assume even greater attendence. They won't all be autograph hunters of course - but the culture of association is a formidable force in itself. My favourite placard? "Make Poverty History - Make Government Prehistory!"


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Introducing "Blair Force One" News - UK - 'Blair Force One' ready for take-off

So I'm back - struggling to concentrate under the glaring light and intense heat that has finally settled on London town. This link just popped up and reveals Blair and queenie's plans to spend British tax-payers money on some slick new transport facilities. Keeping up the trans-Atlantic credentials no doubt - but with the mess being made in Europe right now, any other presidential ambitions of Blair's must be looking very distant indeed. Of course, post-G8 he could sidestep the local issues and world environmental problems by making a flamboyant descent on Africa for a patronising tour of nations needing his "help". Hard to imagine that continent getting more fucked-up that it already is, but an evangelical crusade to establish new market economies might just do it.

I said the heat was getting to me! British readers may be better off tuning in to tonight's Panorama on BBC1 where we will discover the effects of cannabis on today's teenagers. After all - the future is in their hands!


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Hyde Park goes wireless but not for the penniless


This link will take you to the site for the big music events over the next couple of weeks here in London. Great line-ups, cheaper than Glastonbury, but a far cry from the old Hyde Park events of yesteryear. It has also made the preparations for Live8 (which comes bang-smack in the middle of the season) somewhat easier. Frankly, I am pissed off!

I live on the south-western edge of London's Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens space. A good friend lives in Marble Arch - on the north-eastern corner of that same area. At this time of the year, the walk between the two is usually pleasant, but in any event allows me to bypass the awful traffic pollution in this city. The same route is also a shortcut to the city centre. Every summer in recent years there have been music events in the park, which usually mean taking a slight detour but otherwise still enjoying the green space. It's even possible to sit and listen to events if you're happy to be a bit more distant from the performances than those in the paid enclosures. It is a compromise that suits the promoters and keeps the locals equally happy.

No such luck this year. With multiple stages and a constant relay of events, our park has effectively been hi-jacked. So much for public space - but then again it is owned by the queen and she simply gives us license to use it. I am now deprived of even the illusion of a pollution-free environment.

In days which now feel very long past indeed, we were entertained by major bands like the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd in this same park. Those events were free to all and still served a commercial purpose by giving the musicians exposure and community credibility. In a slightly more innocent way, it was the same motive that is now drawing the rock 'n' roll (?) elite to the Live8 call.

The one star missing from all this will of course be Micheal Jackson. He's obviously too exhausted to take advantage of what would be some positive publicity for a change. You don't need me to tell you about yesterday's aquittal, but given the degree of persecution he's been subjected to, I was astonished by the "not guilty" verdict on all ten counts. That a jury of "middle american" citizens came to this decision in the new moral climate of the Bush regime is significant. No wonder the government prefers to keep less fortunate individuals locked up without trial at all.

Also in London, the three-day "Internet World" show starts today at Earls Court. Strictly speaking it's a trade event, but I gather theres public admission available too.


Monday, June 13, 2005

Legal Drugs will cut crime

If you want to cut gun crime, first you have to license drugs - Sunday Times - Times Online

Todays link is to a feature by Simon Jenkins in yesterday's Sunday Times (UK) and a truer word has never been said. Going beyond the issue of whether mild herbal intoxicants like Cannabis should be removed from Britain's proscribed drug classification, this article reminds us that a huge underground economy exists purely because the matter is part of the legal system rather than considered as a social issue. Removing all drugs policy from the criminal realm would free up vast amounts of tax-payers money currently being spent on housing so-called "criminals" in prisons and also generate additional tax income from many people who are otherwise caught in a grey area outside the mainstream economy. Such a move would disenfranchise the real criminals behind the trafficing and product tampering, not to mention demystifying the culture surrounding drug use in a way that would allow more effective access to the social and medical problems underlying what has wrongly been preceived as a law and order issue. It would of course help too if the government stopped engaging in foreign policy that is actually encouraging the dependency of countries like Afghanistan on this present "black market" itself.

Many of these so-called "drugs" are actually natural medicines that would have traditionally fallen within the homeopathic arsenal of treatment. What is needed most is a return to quality control of the substances the planet gives us and a curb on the practices of the giant multi-national pharmaceutical companies who dabble, modify and imitate them in an endless quest to provide us with more and more ineffectual consumer products - many of which are turning out to be far more dangerous for us in themselves. Moreover, those who are daunted by the idea of chemical-fueled people running amok in the street should consider that the most common cause of such behaviour is that most sanctioned of dangerous "drugs" - alcohol.


Sunday, June 12, 2005

Live Ate? Feeding Egos & The Publicity Machine

Let the backlash begin from Guardian Unlimited: Newsblog#more

Today's link leads to part of the Guardian newspaper blogs dealing with the forthcoming Live8 concerts and there's also a link there that will allow you to hear what Blur's Damon Alban has to say about his non-participation.

I've touched on this before, but a radio announcement in the last hour declared that the original Pink Floyd line-up will be reforming to take part has brought it back to mind. It's an event I want to see regardless of where and when it occurs (anyone familiar with my archives will know my focus on Floyd musicians) yet the ease with which this rollercoaster of an event is almost mindlessly pulling in the rock 'n' roll elite is increasingly symptomatic of its function as a marketing machine for the participants. Forget the feeding of the world - this is increasingly becoming a matter of feeding the egos and bank balances of musicians and entertainers desperate to maintain their position in the limelight. They won't get paid with money of course, but they'll see increased record sales from the publicity and they'll join the roll of honour that may someday see them awarded a knighthood or some such establishment credibility. Charity and social conscience has become big business in the 21st century.

The government will love this. The noise will focus attention on the one outcome of the G8 summit that has now been established in advance - debts write-offs and a little bit more aid for Africa. In reality, it is beginning to look both patronising and condescending to a continent which has both proud traditions and a vast wealth of natural resources. They don't want handouts designed to slightly elevate their position in the new world pecking order, they want empowerment as shareholders in their own countries and cultures The help they really need is for the international community to stop supporting the corruption and dictatorships that are siphoning way the wealth and resources of the native peoples. They don't want western "do-gooders" meddling with their destiny. If we want to offer help we should consult the populace about fair trade and distribution of wealth rather than by imposing a false "charity" facade on our own agendas.

With so many other issues, not least the environment of the planet itself, on the G8 agenda, the distraction of Live8 will serve the leaders well. The stalemate on the future of Europe, steps to combat climate change and the expansion of the Amerikan Empire will be conveniently obscured by the drama of this relatively inconsequential performance and its associated aftermaths.

For those who've mentioned it - I have done a spellcheck on this today, but cancelled most of the changes because I do not use American-English. I use English-English and most of the mistakes are quite deliberate anyway.


Saturday, June 11, 2005

Gravity's Raindow Illustrated

Title Page

Today's link is for an artistic epic. Check it out or CLICK HERE to read a great review.

A quick plug for another artist, Caroline Coon, who together with barrister Amber Lane, has produced a new booklet under the "Cunst Art" imprint. Entitled "Calling Women Whores Lets Rapists Go Free" it is feminist examination of the degree to which the 'image' of the self-determined woman is still persistantly exploited to male advantage by the British legal system, especially in the cases of sexual offences. A recommended read, it isn't available online yet but copies can be ordered from for £5 (UK) a time.

London today has seen an invasion of naked cyclists. Sadly, the weather is doing them no favours. The exhibition however, is. No doubt the media will give them the coverage they want, but what's the betting the camera close-ups will focus on female anatomy. The usual indictment of those selfsame sexist attitudes the booklet describes. It doesn't help that the overlords of the legal system are probably just as influenced by the propaganda machine as the people at large. A change in attitude from the press and television is long overdue.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

On the nature of Electronic Highwaymen


Today's link concerns a British citizen currently accused for breaking into US security systems whilst doing his best to research an obscure subject using all the software at his disposal. If the Bush adminstration request for his extradition goes ahead, he could face 70 years in prison under the increasinbgly callous US "justice" (?) system. Yet even if he remains in Britain, he stands to face trial under very nebulous charges.

The internet was built as a global information exchange and, to the degree that information is power in itself, represented what many of us thought would be an ultimate force for true democracy. When Tim Berners-Lee wrote the language that brought us the Worldwide Web, easy public access was assurred and the movement seemingly enhanced. That the system would ultimately be hi-jacked for commercial use was probably inevitable - less forseen was the way an Orwellian "big brother" society would seek to manipulate it for very undemocratic purposes of their own.

The web is now taken for granted and only a small number of modern users have any real idea of its history and purpose. It's ease of use has in some ways become a limitation in that it is seen as a threat by the political elite desparate to tame it for their own purposes. The commercialisation of the electronic highway has run parallel with the development of other digital technologies to the extent that every stop on the highway can be a gateway to any number of services.

These portals can often be art galleries, museums or other information archives that reflect the original open-access philosophy of the internet. They can also be banks, shops and other commercial services where open-access is seen as the best way to interface with modern-day customers. A third group could be said to be the traditional media - newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations, etc. These too are primarily concerned with enhancing existing services. To a greater or lesser extent, all three groups are reliant on a 4th group - the advertising industry. In the 21st century consumer-driven society it is they who hold the power - dictating the functions of the search engines so we receive the information they want us to find rather than vast amount of academic knowledge increasingly buried deep inside the internet itself.

Any researcher worth his or her salt will seek to bypass the consumer-driven portals to find the information they seek and it is this attitude itself that most scares governments and other power-brokers. This is because, whilst there is still a residue of idealogy in the political establishment, the electoral process is governed by the presentation of selected information with the best advertising campaign. The resources to engineer this are, as a rule, not available to those who do not already subscribe to the status quo.

This is not the time to debate whether UFOs and aliens exist, but the fact that someone with an abiding interest in the subject has sought to find information from the logical sources hardly seems like a crime. In a cyberspace whose architecture increasingly mirrors our real world experiences, he seems guilty of little more than kicking open a stiff door. That he was able to gain access so easily is an indictment of those maintaining the portals themselves and their failure to lock the gate adequately. In the real world, this would be a farce and they should consider themselves lucky nothing was stolen. If they don't want visitors, why the hell are they connected to the network anyway?

If there is a final irony to this sad tale, it is in the forgotten history of the internet itself. Based broadly of the notion of "hypertext" developed by the British Post Office during World War II, it was supressed after the war amongst other things by Winston Churchill as being too dangerous for further development. This meant little to British scientists emigrating the the USA during the following "brain-drain" era and the system was rapidly deployed by American academia and the military. It would probably not have become public domain at all were it required for defense purposes.

The internet today co-exists with powerful closed networks operated individually by governments, military and corporations. Whilst I would always argue for freedom of information anyway, it has to be said that those networks only have themselves to blame if they build gateways that can easily be opened from elsewhere. I suppose it is still a redeaming feature of the technology that of they can spy on you - you can spy on them too! Information is power.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005

The emperor is dancing on his own grave


This link leads to the top story in today's "Independent" here in Britain and comes hot on the heels of yesterday's vain attempt by Blair to prove he has any real influence in the emperor's court. In the face of a future that apparantly does not extend beyond the next presidental nap, we are served platitudes that simply amount to a re-allocation of existing aid funds for Africa and the formal cancellation of some third world debt that could never be recovered anyway.

Bush and Blair agree that the ending of world poverty is a good idea. They also agree that climate change is becoming a serious problem. Beyond that, the only thing they seem to have in common is the belief that divine intervention will somehow provide the technological changes that will enable the progress of human life to take care of itself. It is complacency of the worst kind.

Despite the loud, well-meaning and influential voice of Bob Geldof and friends, the G8 leaders will be gathering in private for some communal masturbation before emerging with a further consensus on trivialities and the details of process. There will be enough snippets to keep the media happy and the onus on tackling world poverty (for such is the pre-ordained focus) will to used to mask the fact that nothing much more is being done to tackle climate change itself.

In reality, the G8 countries are the biggest culprits in and of themeslves. Their insatiable drive for more energy resources to drive the core of their market-led consumer economies is itself responsible for the rape of the planet. Eliminating world poverty is now seen as a device for opening new markets to service the out-of-control capitalism that cannot actuallly survive without the divide between rich and poor. The poverty will continue - it will simply be, as always, a relative factor in the materialistic hierarchy.

Most symptomatic of all in this hypocritical idealogy is the rise of corporatism as the engine used to maintain globalisation. It is not so much a "beast", as a broken mindless machine that will simply cease functioning when its power fails. It's drivers have become something less than human - they are part of the machine and have no concept of a time when the engine will fail. All that remains is blind faith!

Behind all the phony wars and crusades of modern times, there is a groundswell of world humanity that wants this machine to be retired as soon as possible. Some would simply destroy it and hope for the best! Others seek to dismantle it in stages while alternative systems are created. Yet, for both, it is a matter of extreme urgency. The convention of its drivers will ultimately offer people nothing and continue to be a charade.

Heck - that's a long one! Makes up for nothing yesterday I guess.


Monday, June 06, 2005

Craigslist Goes Green

AlterNet: EnviroHealth: Craigslist Goes Green

Craig list are a major player online and their decision to launch an eco-friendly portal on their primarily US audience is significant. This link tells you more.

The following piece is not mine - it's a newsletter editorial from Info Economy and say it all really. The link in my latest clicks only gives you the news, so this comment is welcome. Macintosh diehards are not going to like this, but it was inevitable. A little less variety on one level, but more compatibility and choice on another.


Apple and Intel: Just a chip change.

For as long as most of us can remember, the personal computer world has been split into two very different, and often opposing, camps: the vast majority use PCs with Intel processors and the Microsoft Windows operating system.

The rest - between 4% to 8% - use the Apple Macintosh, a peculiar but loved system that uses IBM chips, its own operating system, and often, peripherals that won't plug into anything else. These Macs cost more, but users get a system that is more stable, is able to handle graphics better, and is virtually virus free.

If reports are to be believed, this is all about to change today, when Apple's CEO and founder, Steve Jobs, announces that for the first time in its history, Apple will start to use Intel chips in its desktop and laptop computers.

There are two ways to look at this development and the press can be expected to be full of speculation over the next several months.

The first view is the one that Apple is likely to put forward this week. That is, that Intel processors are both cheaper than the current chips (designed partly by Apple but supplied by IBM and Freescale Semiconductor, formerly Motorola Semiconductor) and are much more effective in laptops. In this analysis, a chip change made sense, and won't affect the customer in any way except in terms of better prices, improved performance and some possible minor software incompatibilities.

The second view, unlikely to be discussed openly by Apple, is that the move will enable Windows software to run on Apple computers much more easily - and for the Mac operating systems and associated software to run on non-Apple systems more easily.

This second scenario is, theoretically, the most dramatic. Apple's highly regarded software stack now runs on a Linux base, and, if it were to become available, many business and home users worldwide, and no doubt many PC makers, would adopt the Apple operating system as an alternative to Windows.

While the great majority would most likely stick with Windows, this move could break open the desktop software market and finally undo Microsoft's monopoly.

Would it happen? In an industry where arch enemies Microsoft and Sun are now partners, and where Intel and Apple are about to share a stage, anything is possible.

But Apple, while a bold company, is unlikely to take the risk and open up its operating system, as it once might have done two decades ago. It could risk losing hardware sales to cheaper rivals, and falling out of favour with its biggest application software provider - Microsoft. What value would the Apple operating system have if it could no longer run Word, Excel or PowerPoint?

While all this may happen in the future, there is probably no cunning plan here - at least for today: Intel simply makes cheaper, better chips - especially for the all important laptop market.


That's it for now - Monday's always busy. Later.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

The House That Bush Bombed


This latest satire from Richard Neville is a photo-poem. As ever, a picture speaks a thousand words.

I was born in the new year, but it is a time I celebrate less as a birthday (being now of a certain age) than as the day Britain gets to hear of all the official secrets hitherto suppressed under a "thirty year rule". In recent times, these revelations have increasingly connected on my own actual memories and are the more fascinating as a result. When secrets slip out ahead of this schedule it is usually a momentous event in itself.

Amerika's new darling is now the self-confessed Watergate whistle-blower. Known as "deep throat" (presumably influenced by the oral indulgences of Linda Lovelace in a contemporary movie of the same name), his revelation is now of minor consequence in itself but rather a timely reminder that the president of the united states can indeed be brought to account for the abuse of power if need be. Nixon's downfall was ultimately messing with his legitimate demomocratic opposition rather than war in Vietman or other major issues.

Had Nixon had the foresight to abuse his position further by engineering a climate of fear amongst the populace, he might have managed to escape accountability - his "high crimes" could have been re-packaged under the auspices of strong leadership and the detail of the facts obscured by the "needs" of national security. Fortunately, in the 1970s, things didn't happen that way.

So history has become a new bit of fun for the media and a generation of old men congegrate around the airwaves like flies - all desparate to reminisce on matters barely remembered in today's world. The real sadness in all this self-indulgance is that none of the protagonists have seen fit to draw parallels between the events of their own heyday and those we face now.

Bush and Rumsfeld must be laughing at the culpability of their predecessors.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Web porn to get its own suffix - how times change!

Web porn rated .xxx - Technology - International Herald Tribune

As someone who grew up in a time when sight of a single pubic hair would have had the law enforcement authorities up in arms, one sometimes stands back aghast to see how far the sexual revolution changed the world. Unfortunately, it didn't take care of "sexism" to the same extent and the profusion of sex-orientated websites is more symptomatic of woefully regressive attitudes than any great exploration of formerly taboo subjects. Today's news is that these sites will be getting their own suffix ie:"" so we can more clearly avoid them. How many sites actually choose to adopt it is another matter - too many of them already make the most of it by promoting themselves with very nondescript names indeed.

Also announced today is that Microsoft will be adopting the XML format for the next version of their office software suite. Open Office and Sun Microsystems have been doing this for years, making our files truely multifunctional and portable - I wonder if the new alliance between these formerly bitter rivals has anything to do with the decision. Still - anything to see the end of those monstrous Word and Powerpoint documents that plaque the web and a few trillion offices elsewhere.

Plans are for "Live8" to run some kind of text-based lottery for people to get some kind of official tickets to cover costs for the event in Hyde Park - even though the concerts themselves are said to be free. The motive of course is consciousness-raising rather than fund-raising this time round, but already there's a row about the treasury levying VAT on whatever financial transactions there are.

In an interview the other night, Bob Geldof told us how friendly he was with Blair and Brown, describing them as "decent guys". (That he also recalled Blair in Live Aid days as "a terrible musician in a terrible band" is beside the point!) Yet now he's battling Brown for a tax rebate that Blair thinks he should get, whilst getting ready to battle Blair (on his return from holidays in warm climes) over his rousing the masses to descend on Edinburgh for the G8 summit itself. Brown, of course, is a scot. The public may love it, but the Scottish police are in a complete panic and almost every political heavyweight is shuddering at the thought of what could well be an unprecedended protest rally.

One wonders just how much Bob's so-called friends will be stretched to accomodate him in the coming weeks. We'll see!


Wednesday, June 01, 2005

The March of the First Ladies

CBS News | 2008: Laura Vs. Hillary? | May 31, 2005�12:00:04

Okay! Time's pressing today so it's another short one. This link is for CBS's morning show and ponders the question as to whether 2008 could see Hillary Clinton battling it out with, no - not Condi Rice, as speculated a week or two back, but Laura Bush!

As I said before, whoever wins it'll be a woman in the White House!

According to Peter Mandelson, another trade war is looming between the EU and the USA - this time concerning the aircraft industry. See my links page. It seems Europe is willing to stand up to Amerika now and again so more the shame on the French decision. I'm still waiting on Dutch news, but all accounts show another rejection of the proposed constitution will be annouved shortly.