Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Running for cover

I will not quit, says Prescott, despite more friendly fire

A headline link to the Times who report that labour supporters are abandoning John Prescott in droves. As deputy to Blair he's going to be hard to get rid of, but it should be noted he is also the deputy leader of the labour party itself. Taking that position away would trigger an election process within the party - clearly the last thing Blair wants with his own credentials torn to shreds.

"Croquet can be as cut-throat as politics, say aficionados, as players aim to slot their balls through hoops while smashing away opponents' balls."

Just thought you'd like to know that.

Tonight's Eveneing Standard in London also report that Prescott broke his own strict departmental rules by poking his secretary on the premises. A bit more fuel for the fire as combustion point approaches.

Some interesting UK overview at Blogtrack and a report on the Iraq War - On Drugs!


Monday, May 29, 2006

Twat's away - Bull will play!

Prescott in fight to save his career

His government inept and leaking from multiple punctures, our Prime Preacher runs off the hob-nob with his facist friends in the heart of Empire. Maybe its a last ditch attempt to look good on the world stage, but it seems even his speeches are now written by the White House. Back at home, his deputy is supposed to be running the country, but prefers to engage in some lazy gameplay, as discussed in the headline link above. Images of Prescott on the croquet lawn seems wholly out-of-character for a man renowned for "fisticuffs" and the composure of an elephant. Visions of a bull standing placidly in a field of chickens!

Whether this diversion is a neglect of duty is a moot point. One suspects he would no more be "running the country" in any other capacity than that suggested here either! The rest of the planet does not share Britain's holiday weekend but one could be forgiven for thinking otherwise. Despite major events in Indonesia and elsewhere, there is a sense of quiet in the media - calm before the storm perhaps? When Blair gets back I suspect he will find the minefields on his own turf as the war of disaffection begins.

In Amerika, the Pentagon aim to build some new missles that will be able to hit any target on the planet within one hour. Therein lies the threat of the kind of war we should really be concerned about. On a more optimnistic note, the phenomonel rise of "My Space" seems to have brought about an inspirational rise in political voices amongst a younger generation. Now if only the words and opinions become action ...

Support internet freedom. Take some time to read The Internet Freedom & Nondiscrimation Act. Even renegade Hillary Clinton has stuck her neck out on this one!


Saturday, May 27, 2006

The British elder statesman, MP Tony Benn, talks with "Cannabis Gran" at last Wednesday's lobby. See below.
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Lobby On

Paul Flynn MP

A quick link here to the site for British MP Paul Flynn - a supporter of last weeks Medical Pot Lobby. It offers a comprehensive report and opinion. Additional coverage from Chris Schmoo and The Guardian, with more expected in this weekend's Observer too.

The marijuana issues are of far more concern these days than just that of old hippies, but the latter group will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the original "Summer of Love" next year. The Beeb are getting in early with a programme on the era at around 9pm tonight on BBC2 in Britain. May be a good watch.

This is a second attempt at uploading today so I'm keeping it short to see what happens. It is a holiday weekend here anyway and pretty quiet.


The End of Euphoria

Writing yesterday morning I was reacting to watching the "farce" of the Bush-Blair summit. There was little humour in the event although Bush appeared to think otherwise. It was more like witnessing one of the closing acts in a dramatic tragedy. Since then, the media both here and in the elsewhere seem to have sensed that some kind of endgame is approaching and for that at least we can be more than thankful. If a shift in public perception is to come, it is their power that will accelarate it. For loads of analysis, see Latest Clicks at left.

An update the last week's medical pot lobby - the British member of parliament, Paul Flynn, has extensive coverage on his own website which is more than welcome. For an American clip on the benefits of taxing and regulating marijuana, click here.

The marijuana issue is wide ranging these days but certainly of interest to the generation of old hippies who will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the original "Summer Of Love" next year. Tonight, the beeb aim to get in on the act early with a special programme on BBC2 (TV) at just past 9pm here in Britain.

Without Desmond Dekker, the music world may never have witnessed Bob Marley and the influence of reggae in world music. He sadly died yesterday aged 64. Also in music, the weird as Cate Blanchett is to play Bob Dylan in a movie and the humble as Joan Baez finds a new protest song.


Friday, May 26, 2006

Axis Of The Feeble

Covering a Friend's Back: Leaders Reverse the Roles - New York Times

With apologies to the Economist for this entry's title, a quick link to an editorial at New York Times on the aforementioned summit between Preacher and Emporer.

Also, an interesting piece at AlterNet discusses whether Psychedelic Drugs could alter modern medicine - tying in nicely with previous entries here.

Plus, in music, The State of The Dylan report.


Banner at Wednesday's medical cannabis lobby in Parliament Square, London. The same placard adorned a van which toured the area all day. The event cumilated in the handing in of a petition at Downing Street, followed by a lively committee room meeting with various members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords - many of whom had more radical legislative proposals than medical availability of the product itself. See below for more.
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Lame Ducks - Squawking!

Independent Online Edition > World Politics

So far the only UK paper to catch last night's late performance by Bush and Blair is the Independent - link headline link above. It was not a sight for already sore eyes. Both the Ape Emporer and his Prime Preacher looked decidedly uncomfortable despite the melodramatic "chimpanzee-walk" entrance from the former. Both were unable to offer any real hope on progress in Iraq and both seemed eager to abdicate responsibility for the future in favour of the newly elected government. On specific questions, Bush constantly exclaimed "We're still waiting for them to appoint a defense minister!" whilst Blair prefered to replay his theme of optimism about the new regime.

By the end of the show, Bush was clearly struggling with improvisation to questions and resorted to making bad jokes. Few laughed, so he ended up sniggering to himself! Blair even looked on puzzled at times as missed cues suddenly became epidemic. Bush constantly looked at Blair to take over the dialogue whilst Blair, caught on the hop, found himself mute in several instances. Asked about mistakes, Bush rather astonishingly admitted regret about his "gung-ho" attitude whilst Blair wriggled out of the issue by resorting to abstracts on their lack of initial foresight.

Both men are clearly on their last legs and were putting their faith in the new Iraq government as a legacy. It is doubtful that faith will be rewarded, but whatever the final solution, the timescale is now such that it will be a job for the successors to resolve. The sooner these two disappear into obscurity the better. The memory will already take a long time to fade.

To return to the start of the nightmare, the maverick former MI5 officer, David Shayler, now has a new UK-based site at http://www.nineeleven.co.uk which seeks to dispel the myth. He also introduces a new second edition DVD version of the documentary "Loose Change" which is compelling and can be ordered via the site.

Shayler was also one of the participants in the committee room session at the Medical Marijuana Lobby at Parliament on Wednesday. It was a highly successful day, with other participants in the exchange including a number of MPs and Lords who joined the Cannabis Education Trust and their many allies for debate. A petition was also handed in at Downing Street whilst an all-day protest was officially mounted outside the Palace of Westminster. Despite some collision with the 3 metre space left remaining for anti-war protester Brian Haw, the presense was noticeable with a "Placard Van" circling the square from early morning to early evening and the continual honk of horns indicating support from passing traffic.

See News of The Weed for more and other links.

The above, together with the Adobe Live event at London's Olympia, means it's taking a while to catch up on all the news undercurrents. See "Latest Clicks" for the running record.


Monday, May 22, 2006

The medical pot lobby go to parliament on Wednesday, but is the health issue detracting from the legislative issue? There have been mixed feelings expressed, including some of my own below.
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On A "Tonic" Topic

Making up for a sparse blog of late, an epic rant!

As mentioned earlier, in Britain, a new Home Office drugs minister has admitted smoking cannabis. Vernon Coaker said he had indulged while a student at Warwick University. This as our new Home Secretary, John Reid, had cannabis found in his home a couple of weeks back. On Wednesday, a lobby for the medical use of marijuana will be attending parliament - whether they can make any mileage out of this is another matter.

I'll be photographing the event but I won't be totally at ease in pursuit of an issue with such narrow focus. I would be loathe to be overly associated with what might be the "stigma" of urging legislation simply on medical grounds. I rather think that considering "the weed" as a traditional all-round theraputic herbal tonic (homeopathy) is one of the good arguments for removing it from the proscribed substances list and ending the criminality of its use. The real issue is one of freedom to choose and civil rights. It's availability on prescription for example, would be no solution to the greater issue - it might be cheaper or free for those who get it, but the decision would be at the whim of an inconsistant medical profession whose choices are frequently dictated by the pharmaceutical industry and its desire to market ever-increasing quantities of new synthetic chemicals without regard for long-term consequences of their products, let alone the rising problems associated with their "mix and match" (and "swap") approach. On the other hand, it is possible that were Sativex or similar available on prescription to a greater extent, attitudes might change to the extent it becomes available "over-the-counter" like Viagra and countless new purpose-driven drugs aimed at recreational users. Of course, they'd probably then start adulterating it to expand the product range away from its natural origins. A dilemma. Pharmaceutical empires, like other huge corporations, these days both service our needs and create those needs at the same time. Were they to see a market that did not conflict with or adversly effect existing activities they would probably jump on it. They may well have the economic might to force a change of legislation. My worry is that their core business is marketing symptom-specific drugs designed to suppress ailments one by one. They would rather compound our intake of more products rather than offer anything with general all-round curative properties. As a medicine in this system, cannabis may be its own worst enemy. As a recreational product, that would make it a non-starter.

Marijuana prohibition should have been repealed decades ago and one has to wonder about the real reasons it hasn't been. Could it be that for smokers, the 20th century Tobacco market offered easier and better profits that depended on a "inhaling" monopoly? Could it be that the booming pharmaceutical industry sought to suppress natural curative products in favour of it's own new synthetics? Could it be that governments or other power-brokers determined to outlaw anything that might bring about a looser state of mind where the divine authority of church and state might be questioned by a more free-thinking populace? After all, Marijuana has often been accredited for intellectual stimulation. If the latter, although we live in more spirited times, are we not continually seduced by a new breed of technological drugs designed to steer us firmly in a proscribed direction?

There is an irony too in that present day propaganda and contemporary entertainment frequently takes its cue from the media and artistic experiments of the 1960s - an age when "mind-expansion" was the edict of a counter culture, psychedelic art expressed concepts based on hallucinogenic experiences and "multi-media" was born, albeit within the confines of the technology then available. Thinkers saw through the mask of social norms and started to question interaction between both ourselves and the planet itself. Conceptually, creativity and progressive thought came from an optimistic sub-culture for whom use of both mild and more powerful drugs was a driving factor. Yet it was not about drugs that numb the senses - it was about drugs that did the exact opposite. As we passively consume the image and sound edits on television, engage with interactive channels and websites or simply immerse ourselves inside a videogame, we are subscribing to an escapism largely born of drug experiences and now insidiously thrust upon us as a virtual drug in itself.

During the late 1950s and early 1960s the synthetic drug LSD was all the rage. Psychiatrists in particular promclaimed it as the future of mental health treatment. The theory was that, in a state of heightened awareness, clients could clean their brains out, wash away any hang-ups and delusions, then return to normality - refreshed, invigorated and with a clear perspective of reality and their purpose. As with all such acolytes, they themselves failed to perceive that everyone is different and that for each success there would be another case of someone for whom the experience would be a nightmare - greater obsession on problems, the internalisation of thought, paranoia and an inability to cope with the return to reality. LSD suddenly shifted from the medical arena to one of military weapon development with soldiers force-fed it to acclimatise them to a battlefield of chemical bombs. When, later, the drug became illegal, it also became more popular than ever - an icon of the free-thinking culure yet at the mercy of an increasingly inpure "black market". The tales of "acid casualties" from those times bear witness to the greater folly of forcing users into an uncontrolled environment and underground market.

Marijuana cannot be compared with LSD, despite the fact that ironically it remained illegal when the latter was being promoted. It is wholly natural, essentially a herb and has been used for centuries as an all-round tonic. Medicinal, yes - but recreational too. Indeed, it's original prohibition was largely accidental - entangled as it was in the resolution of the opium wars of a century ago. Queen Victoria made frequent use of it - none derided her or suggested she was unfit to rule as a result. It can be taken in a variety of ways and, being non-synthetic and extremely mild, can be consumed in regulated "dosages" rather like (the far more dangerous) alcohol. It can be slightly habit-forming, but unlike alcohol it is not addictive. I have certainly never met a "pot casualty" although I have met some users for whom individually it may not be the best tonic available. The only parallels with LSD are the social disaster of its illegality, the commonality of classification as an illicit substance and the fact that both fall under the category of "mind expanding" drugs.

In the reactionary backlash of today's world, too many people are jumping on obscure and generally biased "studies" that claim cannabis users can suffer long-term mental health damage. For the most part these reports fail to consider that the damage done by alcohol and legal drugs is far greater and that people's mental health can decline naturally with age anyway. Such stories have become the propaganda of opposition with little hard science and none of it irrefutable. Human Beings have always sought escape and release from the daily grind and the race has survived and boomed for thousands of years relying on what nature offered. As creatures who should be living in harmony with the planet and its ecosystem this interaction seems obvious. Alarming then, that those who would presume to engineer modern society seek to do so by dis-connecting us with our natural environment.

The freedom to choose what we use to feed our minds and bodies is a human right. Provided our actions do not adversly affect others, there is no law that can fairly dictate the contrary. With free choice comes some responsibility - but that is for the individual to reconcile. The collective has a right to censure the anti-social where they are confronted with it but no group has the right to dictate to others on matters of no consequence to themselves. In doing so, they risk creating their own problem - one beyond their own power to solve. Such has been the case with the criminalisation of certain drug users. There is a social divide in greater society that goes well beyond rich and poor - it is legislation that creates polarisation. We can't turn back time, but we can tear up the redundant rulebooks and let future time take care of itself. As people, left to their own devices, ultimately will - for that is the way of progress.


Maximum force or enduring farce?

Iraqi Leader Vows 'Maximum Force'

So Iraq has a new official government and a new leader now in his second day. A general view above.

As I write, the Prime Preacher is in Iraq - a quick visit amid mega-security and secrecy in a bid the pally-up with the new government. As everyone who can afford to do so abandons the country and sectarian violence increases, it is a new government in name only - cabinet positions remain unfilled and their "anti-terror" declarations sound hollow amidst increased hostility to our occupying forces. Blair's proposed withdrawl in favour of this new government sounds more like a retreat in disguise.

Later in the week Blair goes on to Washington in an attempt to give some renewed support to the ailing Ape Emporer. This as Amerika announces plans to deploy anti-missile system in Europe and the British Post Office announces plans to tie up with a Euro-Amerikan mega-corporation. Not to mention a similar take-over of the London Stock Exchange in the offing. Sell out? The standards watchdog reckons Blair is "about to pay the price" for his subversion.

Drugs are an issue again in one form or other. Amerikan pharmaceutical giants are revealed as deliberately perpetuating a health crisis in order to sell more product whilst in the UK it seems our soldiers have become serious industral users of the illegal ones. For a bit of history we learn when 007 met LSD, whilst prescription painkillers are revealed to be increasing heart failure in the elderly. Maybe Big Pharma have their own agenda - rabid marketing to willing ignorant consumers followed by a death sentence when they run out of money to pay for more. The same tactic for which street "drug dealers" are reviled.

Britain's Home Office is in yet more trouble as we learn that 3000 odd innocents are on its list of criminals and the new drugs minister admits to smoking pot. More on the latter later.

The math of Bush troop deployments to the Mexico border is arousing interest. 6000 guardsmen to cover 2000 miles? Assuming there are three shifts in each day, that's just one person for each mile of the border. No wonder he's tendering out a high-tech solution to benefit his financial buddies, but even that is giving rise to skepticism.

On the music front, a piece on the newly invigorated Dixie Chicks and the Beatles era comes to Progressive Rock, Progressive Thought (the 13th in a great series at Op Ed News). I have absolutely no comment on whatever that was that won the Eurovision Song Combat, but will concede it did make for a change.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Liquid Replenishemnt with a vengence

Water company bosses plan to tow icebergs up Thames

It might sound like fantasy but the water company here in London has unvealed plans to go up to the rapidly-melting arctic, grab a few icebergs and tow them into town via the River Thames. The fresh water will then be siphoned off to cope with the forthcoming drought. As the above link explains, another bright idea involves "seeding" clouds.

Bush popularity is now somewhere below that of Nixon but slightly higher than Venerial Disease and the "trust" factor nears zero. Some suggest Amerika needs to run for cover as the Ape Emperor attempts to escape accountability. All such issues are diverted today as Australia's PM John Howard goes to Washington and gets the full "pat-on-the-back" treatment from the Imperial Court.

In the UK, Blair gets ever more serious about copulating with nuclear power which means subsidies for wind, water and plant power will be eaten up by an expensive endeavour the disposal consquences of which will be left to generations after we are all dead and gone. Nor did I realise until last night that people running their car engines using vegetable oil are doing so aginst the law unless they register and pay the equivilent of fuel tax on their consumption. Evidence if needed that government's idea of a green agenda is a hoax except where potential added income is concerned. Less a banner for progress than a barrier to progress.

In a world of multi-national corporations and the greed of a military-industrial complex, I sometimes wonder whether it would be better to privatise governance itself. Could we elect representatives whose sole function would be to act as "watchdogs" over "appointees" who have some genuine management skills. Parliament could then sack these substitute "ministers" if they didn't perform or were found incompetant. It might mean an end to "career" politics, but that might not be a bad thing - after all, public service is supposed to be the name of the game!

Talking of incompetence, the Scotsman reveals that the Health Service may end up spending more by re-imbursing people who get treated abroad than they would if they got their own act together.

The plans of the telecom companies are said to be making the Bush/Blair surveillance state look petty by comparison. Beware the Information Highway Robbers.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rocks Off on Acid Rock for Condi?

Independent Online Edition > Features

As Eric Clapton opens his latest residency at the Albert Hall tonight, this curious link above reveals that the Cream version of "Sunsine of Your Love" is the number two choice in a "Desert Island Disc" styled listing from Condi Rice. Whether this is PR to suggest she has catholic tastes and is thus a human being or actually genuine we cannot know.

The link is a good opener for something more serious. U2's Bono has taken over the British "Independent" newspaper for the day. The "Red" edition contains a cornucopia of articles relating to AIDS, Africa and world affairs from slightly different perspectives and is well worth the read. I'm no real fan of Bono - his evangelical zeal reminds me too much of the equally missionary appraoch of Bush and Blair. Promoting this journalistic exercise, he claims that "motivation does not matter" and that it is results that count. I would argue that results usually remain tainted by the motivation that achieved them.

The special edition is accompanied by a campaign which includes a collective of mobile phone companies who will be raising money for AIDS relief worldwide. A worthy cause, but I suspect the telcos will witness profits from the publicity that far exceeds the money raised for the cause itself. As we saw with the Live Aid revival last year, Bono (like Geldof) has a talent for bringing issues to the stage, but all too often the agenda is hi-jacked by government and corporate interests.

News is coming in of a new broadcast by Dubya which has ended in complete farce. It seems it went on air whilst the Ape Emperor himself though it was still a rehersal. "Bushisms" are reaching new heights! A link to the video will follow later.

My own "Latest Clicks" and "The Daily Mal" have now been ported to my Geocities webspace and should be restored to their usual anti-glory. Do mail me if anything is not working properly.


Saturday, May 13, 2006

A rapidly wobbling web

OK. No headline link today and a bit of a moan to boot.

Around a decade ago I started publishing to the web. I registered a domain name and housed it with a server that promised permanent atomatic renewal. I began by creating a portal for my archives with the intention that autobiographical and other material would remain available in data form long after I'm dead and gone. After all, such an information matrix was the very idea of the internet itself. Over the years, my host server was bought up by one company after another until it became a tiny subsidiary of some mega-corps. Last year, the origoinal contract notwithstanding, a new rule book was posted without advising customers and I suddenly found the site was gone. I waited until the renewal date came up with Nominet and onlt then found I couldn't even transfer the name elsewhere because the original provider still had it "tagged".

Now I'm not in the business of being a commercial site and of course spend most of my online presense on and around this blog. Putting links to other servers here was all I really needed and there was no actual urgency in re-establishing a domain name. For some time I have been using a broadband content server to feed the real content into my domain anyway. That provider has been remarkably good. It was very rare to find any downtime and there has never been a problem uploading new content two or three times a day. Then - a weeik or so ago - it disappeared! Totally! Comments at our users group ranged from speculation about a "Bush invasion" to a simple server "crash" that required someone to go in and reboot it. We waited. Then as of two days ago, every attempt to contact the server resulted in an advert saying it was for sale. Now, the user group itself (housed elsewhere) has vanished too. All this without notification from anyone.

It seems to me that the commercialisation of almost everything on the web (and even the greater internet) has become so pervasive that the original intention of the medium is becoming lost. The system that we wanted to accumilate global knowledge and dispense it to future generations has been hi-jacked by capitalist terrorists who want to possess it merely to service the greed of the here and now. Nor is the commercial abuse in itself enough - communications giants want to more and more layers into the structure so they can turn it into a corporate battlefield where you only get the content the individual provider dictates. As countries like China slowly get a greater degree of freedom, here in market-hub we call the "west", freedom is being ever more eroded. There is no altruism left as even the pioneers and innovators are enslaved by a planetary machine whose sole purpose seems to be the promotion of fiscal and material greed. It may be "hi-tech", but we are increasing reverting to a "medieval" culture. The difference between now and history is that the power-brokers are no longer playing on their national stages - the new platform is the world itself.

This column has continually been concerned about the imperial dreams of self-centred leaders and corrupt economics. Increasingly there are no sides to be taken in current local, national or international governance. It is time we considered an entire new civil and social infrastructure there services the needs of the world's citizens rather than an elite or have either "bought" power or fooled innocent electorates with false promises or the propaganda of mind-diversion.

So, back to the web and protecting the idealogy on which it was built. Check out the campaign to save it now.

Normal service will be resumed ...


Thursday, May 11, 2006


Pushing Brother

The perpetuation of Bushville? The above link suggests Dubya would like to see younger brother Jeb take over the presidency. Help! Meanwhile, his private presidential papers have popped up in the public wastebin.

This has been something of a "techie" week in the real world with the Internet World show in London clashing with a preview of Microsoft's new design platform. As a result, there has been no time for any in-depth news-reading and updates to this blog. Be not alarmed - I'm still here and will endeavour to catch up by the weekend.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Did Bush Force British Minister Out?, London Papers: Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's Iran Stance Prompted Angry Bush Call To Blair - CBS News

Did Bush Force British Minister Out?

Well, it seems like the hyperactive Condi-Jack affair is over, so no more fun and games there. The weekend saw speculation that the Ape Emporer himself may have order Straw's removal from office - seemingly proving once again that the Prime Preacher effectively squats at heel beside the Amerikan dictator. "He's the decider!" and Whitehall be damned! The full US perspective from CBS at the link above.

Talking of links, "latest clicks" and a bunch of other stuff have not been able to upload since Friday and the sever for my own sites (listed left) has been down. It's not just me - it's everyone on the server - so fingers crossed the mess gets cleared up quick. I may switch servers for "!The Daily Mal" later this week.

Some of the more interesting links not uploaded...

Apple computer have won their long battle with the Beatles' company of the same name, C-Span are trying to suppress all the copies of Colbert's attack on Bush from the web and there's new new live illustred version of Pink's "Dear Mr President" up.

Some hard evidence has finally emerged on Bush's illegal domestic spying and against other advice he has appointed a military man to head up the civilian CIA. Russia has accused the United Nations of war-mongering on Bush's behalf on Iran, whiulst the leader of that country has actually written a unprecendented letter with proposed solutions to the White (wash) House. Palestine's health and social service infrastructure is suffering from the financial blockade, but the EU is trying to open a channel for basic service funds to get in.

British troops are suffering the impact of Blair's terrible legacy. Already on the defensive against the Taliban in Afghanistan, they are now digging in to protect themselves from an uprising in Iraq's south.

On the home front, please read the "Legislative & Regulatory Reform Bill" and be scared - very scared! Then act by visited the Save Parliament website. As the Balirite ediface crumbles, there is no better time to makes voices heard. For a bit of history, the Independent looks at the Forgotten Suffragettes.

Meanwhile, Slate are discussing the best way to take medical marijuana and Rolling Stone looks at its early years in a 1000th issue celebration.

The "London Informer" made us "Blog of the Week" at the weekend, reproducing some political comment and plugs for both Neil Young and the Medical Pot Day on May 24th. My thanks.


Friday, May 05, 2006

A Long Night's Aftermath

UK Politics

The UK local elections are over and Blair's party has suffered with many seats and council control going to other parties. As expected, Blair has reshuffled his cabinet.

Full election analysis is at the Independent link above. As I write, Jack Straw has been ousted as Foreign Secretary and Charles Clarke has gone as Home Secretary. Its a change for the two top jobs after Blair and Brown themselves. Margaret Beckett is the new Foriegn Secretary and John Reid is the new Home Secretary. The latter was recently the one found with Pot in his house, so its appropriate he will be the one to deal with the Medical Cannabis issue in a confrontation set for a week on Wednesday. (See previous blogs, or News Of Weed link at left)

Blair himself remains in place - unwelcome, but hardly surprising. Oddly, his loose-trousered deputy, John Prescott, has not been shifted - maybe it was simply a too weighty task for an inept administration. Although most election gains have been to the benefit of the Conservative Party, most analyists see it as a welcome trend towards health, public health and environmental issues. A shade of blue going very green, whilst Labour's red as becoming an ugly purple.

Here in London, the shift away from Labour is even more marked than elsewhere in the country. Several major inner-area councils have fallen. Sadly, some troubled areas have seen gains by the right-wing BMP who have capitalised on the discontent with draconian race and immigration policies that out-do Blair's own. Fortunately, these seats come nowhere close to being a majority required to implement any really unwelcome changes.

A long night with a good wake-up call. An equally long morning with government changes that seem very cosmetic. We'll see.


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

New tune - Same old song

When Bill Clinton chose Fleetwood Mac's "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)" as his election anthem it seemed appropriate. The song was a classic, optimistic and evoked strong associations for what amounted to a generational shift in the White House. Later, in 1997, Blair tried the same trick with "Things Can Only Get Better" by a then contempory band whose name, as far as this author is concerned, is long forgotten. The line was optimistic, but the refrain was more a statement than a call to participation. As we now know, participation and public input into what was then only a vague agenda was the last thing on the preacher's mind.

Tomorrow's elections here in Britain are only for choosing our local governments and people tend to choose councils that serve their own interests rather than the nation as a whole. The national government's record however, goes a long way toward persuading voters about competence and intent. The now obvious hypocrisy of New Labour, combined with the betrayal of its roots and the scandals affecting half the cabinet would suggest democratic process is about to hit them hard. The "listening" promises of the last National Election are now buried in a sea of greed, corruption and sheer mis-management.

So back to the songs. Last night's election broadcast by the government was yet another excercise in psy-ops masquerading as a music video. Apart from a few Blair photo-calls, the images were a montage of contemporary landmarks and favourable social scenarios from around the country. By and large, none of them had anything to do with the government itself or it's failed projects. The music was another shallow pop song with a whimisical optimistic refrain I've already managed to forget overnight. In terms of association, the song wasn't even familiar (to me at any rate) and sounded far too youthful to have any serious voters above a certain age. It was, to put it frankly, cringe-making to watch.

It has never been more evident that this administrationhas completely lost the plot. Were this a general election, that broadcast alone would probably ensure their loss of power. Sadly, all they will lose tomorrow will be the swing towards alternatives in local governance and that is something of lesser consequence in an era when control of the nation's communities is largely dictated by central government itself. It will be some time yet before the voice of the people comes home to roost in Whitehall itself. Expect cosmetic changes at the end of the week as Blair changes the wardrobe he calls a cabinet. Expect little else.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Strangely quiet of late, America's legendary protester singer Bob Dylan re-erged this weekend to support the New Orleans renaissance concert. More below.
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A Come-What-May Day

Blair in four-day fight for career

The first day of month five and a traditional time for party and protest. It is of course a Bank Holiday here, but the word is a misnomer these days - retail frenzy is the order of the day and the financial institutions are readily available with the necessary credit facilities for those who join the fray. I don't know about market confidence though - it seems the chief of Barclays Bank prefers to take out his own mortgage with a rival.

The media are obsessing opn virtually the same stories that began the weekend - new variations on ministerial troubles and a couple of celebrity injuries in the form of Keith Richards and some footballer or other. Telling though - in the headline link above the Scotsman reckon Blair is facing an uphill 4-day fight to save his skin. More a case of "Mayday" as a distress call, methinks! Even Washington has detected his troubles.

For his deputy, one must hope it is also a "Bonk" holiday as more women surface with allegations of affairs and sexual molestation. Home secretary Clarke is now revealed to have hidden his scandals from the boss for 3 weeks and only a hastily convened excercise in carbon-dating has rescued the Defense Secretary from a dope bust.

May, I'm amazed to see, is also the first anniversary for this blog. It seems like a lot longer. I'm told it's going to be a "Blog Of The Week" in a London newspaper this week so we get a present too.

A friend sent me the following in the mail, although I gather it originated in an AOL forum. It offers some light relief for the political break ...

A message to the citizens of the United States of America:
In light of your repetitive failure to elect a competent President of the USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the revocation of your independence, effective immediately.

Her Sovereign Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all states, commonwealths, and territories (excepting Kansas, which she does not fancy). Your new prime minister, Tony Blair, will appoint a governor for America without the need for further elections. Congress and the Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire may be circulated next year to determine whether any of you actually noticed. To aid in the transition to a British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with immediate effect:

You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium", and check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it all along. The letter "U" will be reinstated in words such as "favour", "colour" and "neighbour." Likewise, you will learn to spell "doughnut" without skipping half the letters, and the suffix "ize" will be replaced by the suffix "ise".

Generally, you will be expected to raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary", if necessary.

Using the same twenty-seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication.

There is no such thing as US English. We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take into account the reinstated letter "u" and the elimination of "ize".
You will re-learn your original national anthem, God Save The Queen.

July 4th will no longer be celebrated as a holiday.

You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers, or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not mature enough to handle firearms. Therefore, you will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous than a vegetable peeler. A permit will be required if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and this is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you'll understand what we mean.

All intersections will be replaced with roundabouts, and you will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Both roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

The former USA will adopt UK prices on petrol (the previously-used term "gasoline" will henceforth be taboo) - at roughly $6/US gallon. Get used to it.

You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French fries are not real chips, and those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called crisps. Real chips are thick-cut, fried in animal fat, and dressed not with catsup but with vinegar.

The cold, tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all. Henceforth, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as beer, and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as Lager. The substances formerly known as "American Beer" will henceforth be referred to as "Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine", with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as "Weak Near-Frozen Gnat's Urine". This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen, Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.

Hollywood will be required to occasionally cast English actors as good guys. Hollywood will also be required to cast English actors to play English roles. Watching Andie MacDowell attempt English dialogue in "Four Weddings and a Funeral" was an experience akin to having one's ears removed with a cheese grater.
You will cease playing American football. There is only one kind of football; you call it soccer. Those of you brave enough will, in time, be allowed to play rugby (which has some similarities to American football, but does not involve stopping for a rest every twenty seconds or wearing full kevlar body armour like a bunch of nancies).

Further, you will stop playing baseball. It is not reasonable to host an event called the "World Series" for a game which is not played outside of America. However, since only 2.1% of you are aware that there is a world beyond your borders, your error is understandable.
You must tell us who killed JFK. It's been driving us mad.

An internal revenue agent (i.e. tax collector) from Her Majesty's Government will be with you shortly to ensure the acquisition of all monies due (backdated to 1776).

Thank you for your co-operation.

In Amerika, Katrina-hit New Orleans has been trying to celebrate it's rebirth with "JazzFest" - a weekend of music with the likes of Springsteen and Dyla, besides their more traditonal fare. Meanwhile, former secretary of state Colin Powowell reveals that there were not enough troops for the job of invading and rebuilding Iraq from the start. All this as Bush tried to give everyone a heart attack by coming onstage with a double. Thankfully it was an illusion and he was clearly "given the finger" in a weekend of massive protests in New York.

Finally for now, a plug for Jane Stillwater's Blog.