May 2006

The Euston Manifesto (critique #1)

I’ve recently been thinking about my time as a philosophy undergraduate. Mostly this has been inspired by the fact that I’m considering a return to academia in the not-too-distant future… becoming a fulltime philosopher again for a spell. It’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it. And frankly, I’m not sure I trust anyone else to do it properly.

The second reason for my undergraduate reminiscing was The Euston Manifesto. For those of you who are unaware of this document, it’s a recently published political manifesto (so recent it hasn’t happened yet… the official launch date is May 25th). It has as a preamble…

We are democrats and progressives. We propose here a fresh political alignment. Many of us belong to the Left, but the principles that we set out are not exclusive. We reach out, rather, beyond the socialist Left towards egalitarian liberals and others of unambiguous democratic commitment. Indeed, the reconfiguration of progressive opinion that we aim for involves drawing a line between the forces of the Left that remain true to its authentic values, and currents that have lately shown themselves rather too flexible about these values. It involves making common cause with genuine democrats, whether socialist or not.

Upon reading this, I was instantly transported back to first year political philosophy seminars. I had a lecturer who would have used the phrase “wet western wanker” when referring to the author of such a paragraph. In fact it’s precisely the sort of thing he’d have written himself as a parody of “wet western wank”. And I guarantee he would have met the first sentence, We are democrats and progressives, with a cynical, “well who the fuck isn’t?” I’m not condoning his attitude… I’m just saying…

I Won’t Be Signing Up

And not just because it’s full of wet western wank. In fact, what I find most objectionable about this document is the other stuff… the pro-globalisation stance that almost gets obscured by the meaningless platitudes. But before I get into the detail of the manifesto, I’d like to point out that the first time I visited its website, my PC informed me “The website bloggers4labour.org would like to set a cookie. Will you allow it?” Then, the very first name that caught my eye when glancing at the signatories was ‘Oliver Kamm’.

So it got off to a bad start. Though the actual content of the document merely compounds the badness.

The Euston Manifesto is comprised of a preamble, 15 statements of principle, a bunch of elaborations and a short conclusion. It can be read in full on this webpage. I’m not going to analyse it line by line, or even principle by principle. There’s much that’s bland and uninteresting but which I wouldn’t have a major problem signing if it featured in a manifesto alongside some genuinely good ideas. Instead I’m just going to highlight what I see as the serious problems with it… the inherent self-contradictions and the dodgy wrong-headedness.

Where better to start, then, than Principle 5? It’s the worst offender, and alone makes for a flawed and deeply objectionable manifesto, the signing of which puts a person on very much the wrong side of the barbed-wire fence.

5) Development for freedom.

We stand for global economic development-as-freedom and against structural economic oppression and environmental degradation. The current expansion of global markets and free trade must not be allowed to serve the narrow interests of a small corporate elite in the developed world and their associates in developing countries. The benefits of large-scale development through the expansion of global trade ought to be distributed as widely as possible in order to serve the social and economic interests of workers, farmers and consumers in all countries. Globalization must mean global social integration and a commitment to social justice. We support radical reform of the major institutions of global economic governance (World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, World Bank) to achieve these goals, and we support fair trade, more aid, debt cancellation and the campaign to Make Poverty History. Development can bring growth in life-expectancy and in the enjoyment of life, easing burdensome labour and shortening the working day. It can bring freedom to youth, possibilities of exploration to those of middle years, and security to old age. It enlarges horizons and the opportunities for travel, and helps make strangers into friends. Global development must be pursued in a manner consistent with environmentally sustainable growth.


OK. First off. If you talk about “environmentally sustainable growth” you are (knowingly or not) peddling a dangerous lie. There is a widely-held misconception that the findings of The Club of Rome and their famous report; The Limits to Growth (download an abstract in RTF format); have somehow been discredited. That there are in fact, no limits to growth and that growth can carry on “sustainably” (i.e. indefinitely). This is simply not the case.*

I’d go further and say that the philosophy of sustainable growth is a powerfully regressive one which ranks alongside fascism in its potential to generate human suffering. But it’s not just the last line of Principle 5 that’s problematic. I find the opening statement little short of mind-blowing. “We stand for global economic development-as-freedom…” Are they serious? And if they are, then it’s perhaps no accident that they decided to use the rhetoric of totalitarianism to express it.

I’m sorry, but no matter how many empty platitudes you pad it with (against environmental degradation… once again; “well who the fuck isn’t?”) the decision to equate freedom and economic development proves that The Euston Manifesto is little more than an attempt to recast rapacious capitalism as “the friendly, cuddly” planet-despoiling philosophy.

6) Opposing anti-Americanism.

We reject without qualification the anti-Americanism now infecting so much left-liberal (and some conservative) thinking. This is not a case of seeing the US as a model society. We are aware of its problems and failings. But these are shared in some degree with all of the developed world. The United States of America is a great country and nation. It is the home of a strong democracy with a noble tradition behind it and lasting constitutional and social achievements to its name. Its peoples have produced a vibrant culture that is the pleasure, the source-book and the envy of millions. That US foreign policy has often opposed progressive movements and governments and supported regressive and authoritarian ones does not justify generalized prejudice against either the country or its people.


Can someone say “straw man”? Look, there are clearly people who have a “generalized prejudice” against American people or against America as a country. But that’s not anti-American in the political sense. Those people are bigots and are no different from the numerous English people who feel antipathy towards the French or the numerous French people who feel antipathy towards the non-French.

However, given that Principle 8 is entitled ‘Against Racism’, I would have thought that a specific principle attacking anti-American bigotry would be unnecessary. So obviously that’s not what Opposing anti-Americanism means in the context of The Euston Manifesto.

Instead, what we have here is yet another transparent and irritating attempt to conflate legitimate political anti-Americanism with bigotry. It’s a tactic beloved of dishonest rightwing newspaper columnists and mirrors the tactic of equating opposition to Israeli government policy with anti-semitism. I find it impossible to trust people who resort to this tactic. It’s a deep-seated dishonesty and it casts a dark shadow over their motivations.

I am – politically speaking – anti-American. I disagree profoundly not merely with the political aims and policies of the current United States government, but also with the aggressive global marketing of US culture and economic philosophy. And yet I have American friends and family (like many Irish families we have a branch in the States). I lived there for a year. New York is my favourite city. I adore American film, literature and music. There is no contradiction.

Principle 6 of The Euston Manifesto is not about being “against anti-Americanism”; it’s about being in favour of pro-Americanism. It is the active support of US foreign policy and the embrace of corporate capitalism. It stands hand-in-hand with Principle 5. A pledge of allegiance to the Land of The Free(dom-as-economic development). Why else the need to dishonestly paint those who consider themselves politically anti-American as bigots?

And there’s more

But not right now. You’ll have to wait for ‘critique #2’. I want to address the subject of “democracy” and that deserves an essay to itself… Principle 1 of The Euston Manifesto (the ‘We Heart Democracy’ bit) provides an interesting context in which to do that. Also I believe that there may even be a ‘critique #3’ as I’d like to highlight a particularly glaring self-contradiction in the manifesto (the “No apology for Tyranny” yet active “political pro-Americanism” paradox), elaborate a little on the implications of the pro-globalisation stance and analyse the language used when discussing terrorism, internationalism, heritage and freedom. So until then.

* I will gladly defend The Limits to Growth in the comments should anyone wish to challenge it – so long as they provide a reference. I’m sick of hearing lines like “Well The Limits to Growth said we’d run out of oil by the year 2000. So why should we believe anything else they say?” I feel like forcing them to sit down with a copy of the book and demanding, “Show me. Show me where it says that. Because it bloody well doesn’t!” See, what happened was this… the book was published and became a surprise bestseller. Sold millions of copies. And just like A Brief History of Time, roughly 1% of the people who bought it had either the requisite education to understand much of it, or the time / inclination to gain that education. But nobody liked to admit that of course. Having struggled in bafflement to the middle of chapter two, they gave up. As a result they end up confidentally repeating every misconception that gets passed around as though they’d read it themselves. I’m not claiming that the report is flawless in every detail (it isn’t); merely that the general conclusions, methodology and philosophy outlined within it are incontravertible.

33 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

May 2006

Some links

For those of you awaiting the publication of George Bush’s response to the Iranian letter, I can exclusively reveal that I’ll have it for you by the weekend. My sources in the Whitehouse and Reuters news agency failed to get hold of a copy, but my source in Ahmadinejad’s administration came up trumps. He’s forwarding it through secure channels even as I type.

In the meantime let me point you towards a couple of groovy thangs.

First up is Netvibes. This is an AJAX / Web 2.0 (think Gmail stylee interface) application. It’s essentially a feed aggregator, but it’s the first one I’ve encountered that does everything I want it to. It works inside the browser (important) and can integrate webmail and POP accounts (groovy). It has multiple tabs in the page to allow easy segregation by topic (blogs page, news page, tech page, etc.) and if you keep the page open on one tab of a tabbed browser (Firefox, say) then notification of a new item on any of the netvibes tabs gets flagged on the browser tab. If all that sounds a bit confused, don’t worry, it works very well indeed.

Staying with the tech-toy-theme, check out this entry over at The Sharpener from John Band all about the newfangled Google Trends. A potentially useful tool (Google Trends that is, not John) for those of us tracking public awareness. See this chart for peak oil as an example.

Speaking of google, I was pleased to note that I come top of the search results for ‘torture John Reid‘. Well, top result for google.com and google.ie, but The Independent beat me into second place on co.uk. Hell, if they want first crack at him, that’s fine. I’m a patient man.

While I’m here let me point you towards a couple of gems from the most recent issue of The Onion. You’ve got to love any story that begins with the line… “Pro-life advocates celebrated approval of the new anti-abortion drug UR-86 by the Food and Drug Administration Tuesday, calling it a “safe and effective method” for terminating pregnant women while leaving their unborn children unharmed.” [Read more]

And then check out Mr. Special Foreign Man Won’t Read Anything Not Written In His Own Language. Wonderful.

Nice to see the London Borough of Hackney are taking the issue of sustainability seriously (thanks to Jarndyce for pointing that page out – via the newfangled google chat system).

Oh and read David Byrne’s latest journal entry. There is Chemistry Between Them. Interesting stuff.

Now, I’m off to the secret location for the Bush letter “drop off”. If you don’t hear from me by the weekend you can assume the CIA have silenced me.

10 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

May 2006

Technology to the rescue

A pernicious white fungus has spread “like snow” in the caves of Lascaux in France, where the fabulous rock art has been described as the Sistine Chapel of prehistory. The fungus is believed to have been introduced after contractors began to install a new air-conditioning system that was meant to preserve the precious 17,000-year-old cave paintings from heat and humidity.
Irish Independent

It’s possible that the above link may require (free) registration to the Indo, so I’ll give you the jist of the story…

An artist, or group of artists, produced a series of paintings on the walls of a cave system in Lascaux, France. Seventeen thousand years later, authorities decided that the paintings needed to be protected from heat and humidity and installed an air conditioning system.

The air-conditioning system altered the environment of the caves – which had remained fairly stable for 17 millennia – and within weeks the ground was infested with a white fungus. The authorities who installed the air conditioning claimed that the fungus wouldn’t spread to the paintings. They claimed that it would remain on the ground.

It didn’t.

Now the fungus has begun to encroach upon the paintings and the authorities who installed the new technology are employing people to very carefully remove strands of the fungus from the paintings by hand in order to protect them from their first serious threat in 17,000 years.

A news story and a parable.

4 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

May 2006

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "Letters From Iran"

I’m fascinated by the news that the Iranian president (religious mentalist, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad) has sent an 18-page letter to the American president (religious mentalist, George Bush). As yet the letter hasn’t been published publicly, but the leaks make it sound just as weird as I could have imagined. Of course all the leaks are coming from the US end of things, but in these days of internets and whatnot, it’ll be easy enough for the Iranians to disseminate an accurate copy should fabrications begin to appear…

I got hold of what Reuters are calling “an abridged version”. Make of it what you will:

Dear George (or may I call you “Dubya”),

America has been a force for evil in the world. For years you have blundered about the globe meddling in the affairs of everyone else. In 1979 we decided to have nothing more to do with you and have had no official contact since then. Sadly that is no longer possible now that you have flattened and invaded half our neighbours, called us part of “the axis of evil” and your administration has begun pointedly denying that an invasion is planned every time they’re asked about bombing Iran. This has us all a bit worried here in Tehran.

Frankly we think it’s about time you pissed off out of the middle east and central asia. No seriously. You’ve no business being here, and we think it’s about time you left. Your unwavering support for unelected dictatorships and royal families in the name of democracy whilst you napalm villages in the name of peace was embarrassing to watch while you were doing it to other countries. Now that you seem to be looking at us with those war-room eyes, I felt it was time to contact you directly and ask whether you’ve completely taken leave of your senses?

Look, so long as you’re willing to pay the market price (in euros), we here in the middle east don’t mind sending shipfuls of our oil across the oceans to be burnt in American cars. We’ll sell as long as you can afford to buy. We just don’t like the idea of you stealing the stuff by setting up client governments all over the place.

So in the interests of stability – something you seem to value so much – we feel it’d be a good idea to get rid of the majority of the weapons and bombs currently in the region. We’ve done a lot of consultation, focus groups and research and discovered that everyone would feel a lot less twitchy around here if you, therefore, took all your soldiers and tanks and guns and planes home to America. Or go save the Sudanese maybe? We honestly don’t care just as long as you’re moving in a direction that is “away” from us. And they do seem to genuinely need assistance.

Oh another thing… and I know this is a bit of a touchy subject, but this being our first chance to chat in 27 years, I’d be a fool if I didn’t take the opportunity… would you mind taking Israel back home with you? Yes, yes, I know all that stuff about them being the chosen people and God giving them that piece of land. But here’s the thing… we don’t actually believe that, and there’s no hard evidence to support it. So from where we stand, it looks like – far from being God-given – the modern state of Israel was actually created by a bunch of colonial powers stealing Palestinian land under pressure from Zionist terrorism in order to assuage their feelings of guilt about the holocaust.

Frankly – despite the bad press I get over in the West – I don’t have a problem with a homeland for the jewish people. But we in Iran do have to wonder why the Palestinians should pay for the atrocities of the Germans. Would it not make more sense to give, say, Bavaria to the jewish people? Or if you Americans are really that concerned, well you’ve got plenty of land. Give them North Dakota. Who’d notice?

I know, that’s probably a bit much to expect. But honestly, it’s difficult to see how better to improve stability than by removing US and Israeli influence from the region.

Oh and listen up George. You going around calling yourself a “Man of God” is starting to give us genuine “Men of God” a bad name. Either shape up, or ship out. Hear what I’m saying? America’s “separation of church and state” tells us all we need to know about how much a Man of God you are. Right? And let that be a warning to you by the way. Saddam Hussein was a secular dictator. Of course God chose your side in that war. But if you try to take us on, well… you’ll be cruisin’ for a bruisin’ and no mistake.

This is a religious state for crying out loud! We’ve got clerics who can kick me out of office if they want. That’s proper “Man of God” stuff let me tell you. Whose side do you think God would be on if it came to a straight choice between you and me? Eh? Seriously George, I’d think twice before pissing off Allah The Most Merciful. He can be a right ruthless bastid when He gets going.

Anyways, I’ve got more to say but I’ve just noticed the time and Buffy is on in 10 minutes and I want to catch the last post before it comes on (they’re repeating Season 5 on satellite. Glory is a fantastic ‘Big Bad’, but I still think I like The Mayor best). I hope I hear back from you soon; particularly re: the whole pulling your military out of the region thing that I mentioned. Love to Laura and the kids.


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

PS: That whole nuke issue? We’ve decided to continue enrichment. Bye now.

7 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

May 2006

A round up

I have a long and tedious post in the works about The Euston Manifesto and just why it’s a dangerous pro-capitalist tract dressed up as a harmless load of wet western wank (to borrow a phrase from my erstwhile lecturer in political philosophy). While I’m finishing it, you should head on over to Larry’s site and take part in the Tampon Teabag: Which Wing Are You? quiz. Work out where you stand politically prior to reading my piece so you’ll know whether to nod sagely – mostly (a) – or harumph in annoyance – mostly (b) – while doing so.

David Byrne discusses the CIA, Camp X-Ray and Michael Winterbottom’s new film, The Road to Guantanemo Bay.

Over at Bristling Badger, Merrick gives details of the The Camp For Climate Action being organised in England this August / September. Also check out his article on the subject at Head Heritage.

This post at The Curmudgeon had me grinning from ear to ear. Though I suspect many would find it offensive.

I’d also like to point you towards this Flash animation from the US Union of Concerned Scientists regarding current attempts to develop tactical nuclear “bunker buster” weaponry.

Meanwhile in Venezuela, Chavez continues to confound me… I love his anti-capitalist policies, but am rather sceptical about his “changing the constitution to allow him to remain president for a term of 25 years” initiative. On balance though, I still think he’s a positive force. Viva Chavez!

And finally, in entertainment news, this story of Werner Herzog being shot in the leg with an air-rifle by a deranged fan during a BBC interview caught my eye. As did the outcome of this copyright dispute over silence.

5 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

May 2006

Same as it ever was

Irish politics have yet to really capture my interest. After a decade of closely following British politics, I still find myself automatically checking The Guardian and the BBC for general news. It’s far less often that I’ll visit The Irish Independent or The Examiner, and when I do it’s to read “the Irish news”, never just to get “the news”. Partly this is out of habit, but also partly because I still feel more involved with British politics.

This will change over time of course. I lived for fifteen years in the UK and I’ve only been in Ireland for a couple of months. Also, even though the general elections aren’t until next year, the campaign machinery is already beginning to rumble slowly into gear, and discussions about potential manifesto promises are beginning to surface in the media. No doubt I’ll become more engaged as this process starts to accelerate.

Thus far we’ve had the question of whether Fine Gael are really flirting with sensible drug policy? (Answer: No. They’ve just got a maverick candidate… for British readers; think Paul Flynn). The ubiquitous “who can be toughest on crime” contest has begun. Will the winner be Fine Gael, who claim not only to be tough on crime but also “tough on punishment”. Or will it be Fianna Fáil, who are not merely “tough on crime” but also “tough on the causes of crime”. Hmmm… haven’t I heard that somewhere before? And what’s all this about ASBOs? Surely you jest.

In fact, it seems like whole swathes of current government activity involves importing Blairite policies and desperately hoping they’ll work better for us than they did for Blair. I’m half-expecting Bertie to announce he’s ordered a pre-emptive strike against Iran. This view of Irish politics was compounded last week when the Tanaiste Mary Harney (deputy prime-minister and health secretary) failed to address the annual conference of the Irish Nurses Organisation. “There was no way she was going to let them do a Patricia Hewitt on her” was the quote that stuck in my mind.

It all seems a bit… well… derivative. It’s as though the current Irish government is a bad tribute band; Toni Blare and The Ugly Rumours; financing endless tours off the back of their one hit single, The Celtic Tiger.

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May 2006

British local elections and the aftermath

I watched the BBC’s British local election coverage live online until well into the morning. What a complete bunch of arse. No really. A complete bunch of arse. I mean, there was no Paxman! What’s up with that? David Dimbleby’s dry, cynical asides were all very well, but I wanted to see Paxman pull out a beer bottle, smash the end off the side of the desk and threaten “Dr. John” Reid with it.

Oh, and what is it with Labour and their obsession with “headlines”? Apparently public perception of the party is so negative because of “two weeks of bad headlines”. Nothing to do with the deputy PMs philandering, nor the Health Secretary being resoundly booed by the nurses unions, and certainly not the shambles at the Home Office. No, it’s the fact that these things are being reported that’s the real problem. We are witnessing the arrogance of entrenched power reaching absurd extremes when a government begins to blame the media for reporting its failings. It implies a government philosophy based around the “It’s not a crime if you’re not caught” principle.

Which may or may not speak volumes about Tony Blair’s attitude towards ‘CIA rendition flights’ and the export of suspects for torture abroad.

Needless to say, the government were given a damn good kicking in the local elections. I suspect “headlines” had less to do with it than the fact that most people in Britain see their government as a bunch of arrogant corporate apologists wanking themselves senseless at the thought of an invite to Camp David or a photoshoot with Condi. At the last count, 306 nuLabor councillors lost their jobs last night. Good riddance.

The only problem is that most of them were replaced by Tory councillors. Turns out the British people said “We don’t want you arrogant tossers in charge any more. We’ve decided to vote for the only mainstream party who have a trackrecord of being more arrogant and bigger tossers”. You gotta love democracy… people are morons but at least they get accurate representation in office. More people voted for a party which describes itself both as environmentally responsible and “The Party of The Motorist” than for any other party. That’s not Orwellian doublethink, it’s just plain thick.

And it turns out that people simply aren’t willing to vote for a party run by someone called Ming. Who can blame them? I don’t know much about the guy (except he’s firmly pro-capitalist. Hiss!) but I do know that name is a serious liability. It’s no surprise to me that he was once an Olympic athlete… with a name like that at school you learn how to run fast.

Some elements of the media are focussing on the fact that the British National Party gained some ground. That they gained more councillors than The Greens despite fielding quarter the number of candidates is indeed a bit unsettling. But frankly the Far Right don’t scare me nearly as much as unsustainable capitalism. Not because one is worse than the other, but because one threatens to destroy the planet I live on, while the other is currently a small bunch a moronic thugs whose greatest power is the power to worry the media. I’m not saying “It couldn’t happen here”. I’m saying “it isn’t happening here at the moment, but something else bloody well is”.

The Green vote – being the vote that comes closest to saying “ummm… unrestrained consumer-capitalism might not be the best idea” (albeit in a fairly quiet voice a long way from any microphones) – is clearly the only ethical one. The fact that they won a number of council seats is good news.

And don’t come to this blog with a load of “nothing unethical about consumer-capitalism” nonsense. You’re wrong. Deal with it.

Tony shuffles a deck full of jokers

The fact that Tony Blair had decided to reshuffle his cabinet was telegraphed well in advance of the local elections. Everyone knew that nuLabor would get a kicking at the polls, so what better to occupy the political press the following day than a change in personnel up in Whitehall? We wouldn’t want them expending all their energy analysing the election results now, would we? Teflon Tony… Transparent Tony… Tosser Tone.

And what a reshuffle it turned out to be. There is perhaps one man in the nuLabor inner-circle who is guaranteed to take more delight in shitting on civil liberties than The Safety Elephant. So guess who got the Home Office job? Yup. Dr. John. No doubt he’ll be quick to reschedule cannabis as Class B and enforce the immediate arrest of anyone suspected of being in possession.

So long as they’re not him.

Dr. John; the man who so recently gave a speech dedicated to undermining the validity of the Geneva Conventions; has been put in charge of law enforcement and anti-terrorist duties. You couldn’t make it up. And I love the fact that the man he replaced – Charles “Safety Elephant” Clarke – couldn’t even step down with good grace. He actually made a speech about how Tony might have had “the right” to sack him, but was wrong to do so. These people are such unholy pricks, they really are.

Once again though, you have to wonder about the people who voted for them. Almost 16,000 people in Norwich put their ‘X’ next to the name “Charles Clarke” in 2005. Sixteen thousand. That’s 4,000 more than would fit into Wembley Arena. Imagine the amount of drool that would be produced if you got them all together!

The appointment of Margaret Beckett as Foreign Secretary is mystifying. She’s a political lightweight and now poor old Jack Straw no longer has a legitimate reason to cuddle up to Condi. He’ll be distraught and she’ll be overwhelmed. And Jeff Hoon as Europe minister? If nothing else, it allows nuLabor to regain some of the eurosceptic ground from the tories. Next time someone claims the government is ‘caving in to Brussels’, Tosser Tone can point out that giving the European portfolio to a blithering idiot is surely evidence enough of his contempt for the cheese-eaters across the water.

A few weeks ago I was struck by the news that Condi’s visit to Greece had also been met with demonstrations. The difference between the Greeks and the British, however, was that as well as bringing anti-Condi banners to the demo, in Athens they also brought petrol-bombs. When you look at the current UK government, it makes you wonder whether the British people shouldn’t take a more Greek approach to politics.

3 comments  |  Posted in: Opinion

May 2006

Unlikely bedfellows

Throughout the 20th Century, the United States has been a profligate energy consumer. The rapid and expansive growth of the economy was based on cheap and abundant energy. Little thought and planning have been given to how to transition to the realities of the 21st Century when petroleum and natural gas resources will become depleted. The U.S. economy uses 50 percent more energy per unit of GDP than the other developed nations of the world. The fossil fuel-based, automobile-centered, throw-away economy is not a viable model for the United States or the rest of the world over the long term. It is not sustainable.

But listen, you don’t have to take my word for it. Here’s what a recent United States Army strategic planning document had to say…

Throughout the 20th Century, the United States has been a profligate energy consumer. The rapid and expansive growth of the economy was based on cheap and abundant energy. Little thought and planning have been given to how to transition to the realities of the 21st Century when petroleum and natural gas resources will become depleted. The U.S. economy uses 50 percent more energy per unit of GDP than the other developed nations of the world. The fossil fuel-based, automobile-centered, throw-away economy is not a viable model for the United States or the rest of the world over the long term. It is not sustainable.

Energy Trends and Their Implications for U.S. Army Installations | Download PDF

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May 2006

Return: The Music

I decided to go hunting for a musical blog meme. See, for reasons which are too dull to explain, I’ve had no music on my PC hard-drive for a couple of months. Now however I’ve finally restored my collection from back-up in my first-generation Creative BigBrick mp3 player (once in while a piece of technology comes along that may as well have been custom-designed for me… the first 40GB hard-drive mp3 player; the Creative Jukebox; was one such item. Four years on it’s still doing the business).

Now, because I have pretty much all my music on CD, I’ve not been listening to less music lately, but I have been listening in a subtly different way. When I’m listening to CDs, I’ll usually decide what I want to hear before I wander over to the CD collection. And I’ll tend to listen to the entire album; often several times; before putting on something else.

With almost a thousand albums digitised on my hard-drive, though, the selection process is very different. Some mornings I’ll just hit “shuffle” and wait until something catches my mood. Sometimes I’ll be in the middle of an album and I’ll notice another one close by due to an accident of alphabetisation and get the urge to hear it. Obviously, there’s still plenty of times when I’m in the mood for something specific… afternoons when – quite frankly – only Sign ‘O’ The Times will do. Nonetheless, like is so often the case, the medium influences the experience.

And so – in celebration of the restoration of my music – I struck out across the frozen datascape of the worldwide internet in search of a music meme that would take advantage of that fact. With my own blogroll as the starting point, I took the quickest route I could find to a livejournal site (the primordial ooze from whence all blog memes emerge). Glancing down the page I discovered this post. Paydirt.

If the meme fits…

Step 1: Put your media-player on random play.
Step 2: Write down the first line from the first 20 songs that play.
Step 3: Let everyone guess what song the lines come from.
Step 4: Cross out the songs when someone guesses correctly.

What could be easier? Guesses can be left in the comments.

  1. It’s hard when folks can’t get their work where they’ve been bred and born.Christy Moore: Dalesman’s LitanyRob
  2. I was nothing. It didn’t matter to me.
  3. Ya know one day the indigenous people of the Earth are gonna reclaim what’s righfully theirs.Spearhead: Of Course You CanGyrus
  4. Jesus will you pity this insomniac, it’s almost dawn, there’s nothing on TVThe Legendary Pink Dots: Chainsurfing – Lucas
  5. Lord knows we’ve become scientific
  6. Procession moves on, the shouting is overJoy Division: The EternalPisces Iscariot
  7. I see the clouds that move across the skyTalking Heads: Don’t Worry About The GovernmentPhil
  8. While riding on a train going west, I fell asleep for to take my restBob Dylan: Bob Dylan’s Dream – Nick
  9. He moves efficiently, beyond securityR.E.M.: AirportmanGyrus
  10. Don’t talk of dust and rosesDavid Bowie: Big BrotherPisces Iscariot
  11. Everyday you must say, “so how do I feel about my life?”The Smiths: Accept YourselfPhil
  12. Couldn’t sleep a wink last night, Oh how I’d love to hold you tightRoxy Music: PyjamaramaPhil
  13. No shit Sherlock, the gun is loaded and primedJulian Cope: Don’t Call Me Mark ChapmanJustin
  14. I didn’t die for my country, I didn’t die for my roast beefPhilip Jeays: The SoldierMerrick
  15. When I get to the bottom I go back to the top of the slideThe Beatles: Helter SkelterJustin
  16. Don’t want to be free of hope
  17. Pardon me, I wanna talk 2 UPrince: Do It All NightJez
  18. Fell into a sea of grass, and disappeared among the shady bladesJane’s Addiction: Summertime RollsGyrus
  19. The Sunday morning gospel goes good with a songThe Beach Boys: Add Some Music To Your Day – Nick
  20. As soon as I wake up every day, I look at the papers to see what they say

Wow… it really brought home how many instrumental tracks I have (skipped). Oh, and also just how many tracks contain the title in the first line (skipped). I also skipped multiple tracks from the same artist (the “random” function on media-player seemed to have a bit of a thing for Bowie tonight). Anyways, some are easy, some are very obscure. Any ideas?

Oh, and we can all use google. Obviously look up the answers if you’re curious, but if you want to post a response, try to be honest.

20 comments  |  Posted in: Blog meme

May 2006

NuLabor Meltdown

I’ve had a pretty shit couple of weeks. Nothing in particular worthy of remark; just general shitness. The kind of lumpen malaise that inspires deep disillusionment with the world. And which, in turn, generates a “why bother” attitude towards writing. So, I’m sorry it’s been rather slow here, but whatchagonnado?

Mind you, I did spend a couple of evenings listening to Hounds of Love and fleshing out an idea for a novel I’m thinking of writing (with the provisional title; “The Stockhausen Manuscript”). I envision it as inhabiting that rarely-visited netherworld between James Joyce and Tom Clancy. More about that should anything come of it. (Incidentally, the always reliable Onion recently published one of their funniest pieces in a long time. Check it out. And while you’re at it, there’s a new Get Your War On.)

Thankfully though, the grim mood is passing for now. This could have something to do with the weather which has a distinct hint of summer about it. Or perhaps it’s astrological, or neurochemical, or biorhythmical. Who knows?

Another result of the deep blue funk (on top of turning this place into a ghost-town) was the fact that – by and large – I avoided the news media during the past 14 days or so. I was getting grimmed-out by everything, and current affairs programming was guaranteed to make things worse. Janet Daly (obnoxious rightwing columnist) on Question Time a couple of weeks ago was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I vaguely considered taking out a civil lawsuit against her for incitement to violence (it only took a minute of her capitalist cheerleading before I was in the mood to kick puppies and kittens). But in the end I decided to boycott politics for a wee while.

I can’t say I feel any different because of my news-avoidance, but the fact that the British government spontaneously went into meltdown as soon as I turned my back suggests that I may be boycotting more things more often. Seriously, what’s up with that? The last thing I saw before my break – politically speaking – was Charles Clarke nodding sagely at Daly’s buffoonery. Then upon my return, less than a fortnight later, the Safety Elephant has handed in his resignation (but had it refused) and stands accused of smuggling a thousand convicted murderers and rapists and drug-dealers into the country while nobody was looking.

Leastways that’s how the tories are painting it.

At the same time, the deputy prime minister John “Two Jags” Prescott is being hounded out of office because he shagged somebody. I’m utterly opposed, on principle, to the idea that politicians should be held to account for their sex-lives. But at the same time I have to admit, after nine years of nuLabor there’s a temptation to take any shot you’re offered. So in that context…

Certainly there’s a view that politicians; because they choose the job of representing tens of thousands of people at a national level; should be expected to have some level of personal integrity.

Who Prescott has sex with doesn’t affect his personal integrity in my view (I’m not a puritan in any sense). But the fact that he had affair(s) behind the back of his wife, does. Sorry, but that’s the way I see it. If you claim you’re being faithful, and are aware that your fidelity is important to the person you claim to love, then having affairs is a stain on your integrity. I know, I know, these situations are complicated and emotions often rule our decisions in this area… but cheating is still cheating whatever way you look at it. Prescott had an affair in the full knowledge that the revelation would hurt his wife dreadfully. And he did it knowing that the affairs of politicians (a job he chose, not one he was forced into) are far more likely to be exposed than those of most other people. On top of “cheat” you can add “stupid”.

So ultimately the question becomes whether or not it’s a good idea to give power to someone willing to lie to, and cheat on, the person he claimed to love most in the world. It begs the question; if he cared so little about her feelings (or was too fricking dumb to realise that his affair would eventually hit the tabloids) then how much less does he care about the feelings of those he represents?

Yes, yes, yes. It’s a cheap shot… and one I make with little enthusiasm. But so long as he’s deputy prime minister of a government with nuLabor’s track-record, then I humbly submit; he’s fair game.

And while both the Safety Elephant and Two Jags are being savaged in the press, up pops “Doctor John” Reid (Phd in Apologism and Revisionism) and The Mysterious Case of the Guest’s Cannabis. Turns out folks, you simply have to hide your stash in “a guestroom”. Then if you get busted, there’s no illegality involved. If the police question you about it, you must reply (and I quote) “I have no idea where it came from, or when”. Amazing the things you can learn from the news.

The police statement was also revealing… Dr. John was said to have “co-operated fully with police and is not suspected of having committed any crime or offence”. Apparently there’s a whole other set of laws for politicians. Because he clearly isn’t covered by the 1971 Misuse of Drugs Act which makes it an offence to allow your premises to be used for the consumption of cannabis. It’s a curious piece of legislation which also applies to the smoking of opium, but not the injecting of heroin (yes, yes, I know. It makes as much sense as the rest of drug policy).

So whether or not Dr. John owned the stuff, the fact that it was found in his house clearly puts him under suspicion of committing a crime. Class C or not.

Of course, in an ideal world, nobody would have to be paranoid about the discovery of some plant matter in their home. It makes me rather irate, though, that the very people who insist that a draconian law like the Misuse of Drugs Act should be enforced, are apparently the only people to whom it doesn’t apply.

1 comment  |  Posted in: Opinion