Tuesday, May 31, 2005

On the road (or wall, to be precise)

I know this will infuriate those like John Hemming who regards all graffiti as vandalism, but this site is dedicated to some of the more creative images from cities around the world... including this one from... Wolverhampton!

Making Pascal Lamy head of the WTO is as mad as making, say, Paul Wolfowitz... er, satire doesn't really seem to work any more. George Monbiot on how, beyond the rhetoric, the UK and the EU are keeping the poorer nations where they want them: beholden to their patrons.

Monday, May 30, 2005

For over 40 years Richard Gott has written high quality material on South America. He is currently working on an analysis of Chavez's Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela. There's a good article in The Guardian today. The chrysalis of the Venezuelan revolution led by Chavez, often attacked and derided as the incoherent vision of an authoritarian leader, has finally emerged as a resplendent butterfly whose image and example will radiate for decades to come.
The Tories will continue their descent into hell if they elect Malcolm Rifkind as their next leader.It does, though, raise the interesting prospect of all three major parties (and Respect) being led by Scots.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

The Political Hack leaps to the defence of John Hemming MP, and makes some really good points about blogging politicians.

If you've got an hour or two to spare... read The History of Rock 'n' Roll. Incredible does not do it justice. (via Poons)

Apparently Tony Blair is going to scrap plans for a referendum on the EU constitution if the French vote 'Non'. Blair, together with Euro Federalist fanatics the Lib Dems, doesn't want a referendum unless their result wins. Why? Should we not be given the chance to kick it into the long grass?

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Quite a lot of good stuff on a Scottish theme at FirstFoot.com. Some provocative reviews in Good Pop, Bad Pop... and their jokes aren't bad.

The Guardian's Book Review has a review of Johnny Rogan's new biography of the grumpiest man in popular music, which advises you to snap it up quick before Van's solicitors run their toothcombs over it. Also in the Review Mark Hayhurst's essay on Nye.

Friday, May 27, 2005

I wrote the other day about the difficulty of getting hold of anything other than mainsteam music. Well, if you live anywhere near a shop that stocks any sort of 'world' music (a fairly ridiculous title... all music is presumably world music) try and get to listen to Dimanche à Bamako (Sunday in Bamako)as remixed by Manu Chao. I was going to say, if you don't like it I'll give you your money back, but there are some unscrupulous people out there who might try to take advantage of me (and even some people with an appalling sense of taste). Of course, the difficulty is that these days you get little or no chance to hear this sort of music before you buy it, but if you listen to either Andy Kershaw or the magnificent Charlie Gillet (both shows available online for a week... and don't start me off about why those morons at the BBC don't network Gillet's programme) then you'll catch some of these gems on their programmes.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Letter in The Guardian

More social housing is the only answer

It is good to see that New Labour has at last recognised that there is a problem in the provision of housing, but it continues to stick rigidly to the private sector (Prescott plans to increase housing supply, May 23). In fact, they don't have an answer to the housing problems of the poorest, which were brought about by the destruction of the council house supply by Thatcher and which New Labour has continued with a fervour. They insist that all council housing be handed over to the private sector or the government will not give money for the refurbishment of them.
Shared accommodation and shared mortgages are not the answer - building more "social" housing for rent is.

Sid Hollands
Maidstone, Kent

I couldn't agree with you more Sid. All three main political parties over the last thirty years have used every ruse possible to get rid of council housing. Not just the high-rise nightmares that are being demolished, but also the solid, between-the-wars, bloody good housing which has either been flogged off or passed over to so-called non-profit making social housing companies. (They are non-profit making because the fat cat executives pay themselves vastly inflated salaries). Now, with expressioins of surprise, our leaders express dismay that housing shortage = rising property prices = housing crisis. God's teeth!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

I was speaking to a friend at the weekend who had gone to Walsall to check out a couple of record shops, only to be surprised that they had both closed. I know they didn't sell 'records' in the shape of vinyl,(well actually, one of them did have a large second hand collection) but they were both independent from the big chains, Virgin, HMV, MVC, etc and if you wanted to buy something outside of the mainstream they were always worth a punt. The closure of these two shops started us thinking that record shops are really a thing of the past. If you go into Virgin or HMV the music now is almost hidden behind the racks of DVD's, and if you want anything special, jazz, blues or world music you have to start looking in the basement or hidden away in a corner somewhere. Mainstream cds are usually less than a tenner via the internet or in ASDA, Tesco or whatever, and anyway, people have got so used to downloading or copying on to blank cdr's that the medium itself must be seriously under threat. As we were ruminating on the death of the local record shop industry, a bloke walked in the pub and offered us a DVD of the new Star Wars movie for a fiver, ot three for £10 if we wanted more. Perhaps eventually the Branson empire will go the same way as Sundown and Bridge Records in Walsall.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Wow! BBC staff are on strike. This morning I woke up and instead of listening to the Today programme with Humphrys, Naughtie and co. winding up politicians over how many angels they can get on a pinhead, we were woken up to this! In a profile of Dizzy Gillespie, Former Chancellor Ken Clarke played 'A Night in Tunisia' from this fantastic concert where Gillespie, Parker, Mingus, Powell and Roach played out of their skins in front of a half full audience in Toronto. I almost always support striking workers and if this is the sort of substitute programming we can expect, more power to the unions, I say.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Thanks to Sonic for the link... but who wants a Georgeous George t-shirt?
Birmingham City Football Club boast that they have won a trophy that other 'big' clubs haven't. They won the Autoglass Trophy... a sort of 'Cup for Losers' played out by clubs from what used to be called the Third and Fourth Division in old money. Apart from that, these sleeping giants who have been snoozing for over 100 years, are the Newcastle United of the Midlands. They don't have a trophy room... but a glass cabinet with the 'Autoglass' in it, together with a pennant from the Anglo-Italian Trophy and a boot from a full back who died tragically from polio decades ago. So... it was difficult to suppress a snigger when their owner splashes out half a million quids worth of his earnings from his porno business to buy this.

I can empathise with Tony Blair over his back problem. Last year my back went into spasm and for a couple of weeks I was in mortal agony. “You know what you need” said my mate Reg, “You need a chiropractor. My wife swears by them.” So, I booked an appointment, had an examination and an x-ray, and, £120 lighter, I fixed an appointment for treatment. “Come in and lie down on your stomach on this bench,” said the Amazonian chiropractor. I did as I was told, and she started lightly manipulating my back muscles. “Ah yes”, she said, “your muscles have gone into spasm.” I should have been suspicious then… and asked for my money back. Suddenly, with an almighty fury, she punched me violently in the back with incredible force. “Did you hear that, well that popping sound was the sound of air coming out of your spine.” Well, actually, it was the sound of the air being forced out of every orifice in my body …. but it was also the sound of my rib cracking! So, for the next two months I went to my GP who repaired my back problem with a course of acupuncture, and I almost forgot the pain anyway because breathing, twisting, turning over in bed and virtually any sharp movement sent stabs of wracking pain through my rib cage. So, Tone, if you want the address of a chiropractor, give me a bell.

I have followed the fortunes of Hartlepool United Football Club for forty years... since a young Brian Clough was their manager. Next week they will be playing in Cardiff in the play-offs and today, in The Guardian letters column, their elected Mayor, Stuart Drummond (AKA H'Angus the Monkey) puts forward the case for Hartlepool. Good on ya... and best of luck in Cardiff!

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The splendid Warley Woods

One of the things Birmingham’s Labour controlled Council did before they lost control to the Tories and their allies, the little tories last year, was to hand over the running of a large expanse of park, woodland and a golf course in my Ward to a Community Trust. The Warley Woods Community Trust is comprised of a democratically elected Board from amongst members of the local community who pay a nominal sum to join. With the income from the Golf Club and some national lottery funding, we are at last beginning to see a reversal of the decades of decline.

However, a few hundred yards away there is a public park which is also in Sandwell, but administered by Birmingham City Council. Lightwoods Park has a fine bandstand (featured on this blog’s masthead) …. and…. errrm… that’s it. The children’s playground hasn’t had a penny spent on it since Anneka Rice helicoptered in for the day about 12 years ago, and the paths are a danger to cyclists, people with pushchairs or wheelchairs, and pedestrians who cannot cope with rough terrain. The tennis courts have long since disappeared and old men with misty-eyed memories stare out over what used to be a fine bowling green.

This isn’t a Labour-Tory rant. The park fell into decline years ago and has been getting worse under both administrations. I wrote to Labour Councillor Ian Ward about three years ago to complain, and he never even bothered to reply. My fellow Ward Councillor has tried to complain to the City Council and they said he couldn’t complain because “he didn’t live in Birmingham.” True… but the bloody park isn’t in Birmingham!

We’re not even demanding a lot. All we want is our local park to be under local democratic control, and our MP has now written to the Leader of Sandwell Council asking him to take up the matter with Birmingham’s Tory Leader, Mike Whitby. To make matters worse, Whitby lives within a hundred yards or so of Lightwoods Park, and directly opposite Warley Woods, but he doesn’t seem to care a toss. Well, the people of Bearwood do… and it’s time we raised our voices so loud that Cllr. Whitby will not be able to avoid us.
A cogent argument for abolishing the system of patronage and backscratching that currently comprises the House of Lords, and if favour of an elected second chamber.... by... errrm... the newly anointed Lord Adonis in 1998!

As many people have said, whatever you think about George Galloway (and there is a good deal to be suspicious about), his performance in carrying the anti-war argument into the heart of the US political machine, was pretty damn spectacular.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

You've got to hand it to Charlie Kennedy. Ok, he's not a political heavyweight, but the lad has got a sense of humour, and his decision to appoint Michael Moore as his Defence spokesperson should raise a laugh or two if he visits the US.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

We are always hearing that "young people are just not interested in politics." But then you find thousands of them getting wound up about corporatism, share trading on the stock exchange, and the power of US capitalists. Next Saturday tens of thousands of these anti-globalisation protesters will converging on Cardiff for a major demonstration. I wonder if the usual crowd of trot paper sellers will be out in force.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

When the cat's away...

For decades the US, through their school for terrorists in Fort Benning, has destabilised countries in Central, Latin and South America that have shown even the slightest inclination towards the 'democracy'that the neo-cons now hold so precious. Well... whilst the family Bush have been busy securing their stranglehold over Afghanistan and the Gulf, in their own backyard, something is beginning to rumble. No longer just the beard in Cuba, the Chavez revolution in Venezuela is offering a model of freedom and democracy that is starting to get people to ask questions. Equador is the latest country to start asking.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Some egomaiac twerp has decided to sue a blogger for saying the way their town is run is shambolic! Whatever happened to freedom of speech. “Liberty, fraternity, equality” my arse!. Contributions to the defence fund here.

I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.

Nostalgia time. Was it really 40 years ago? Bob Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone does stand out for me as not only a great rock song, but a real revolution in the head. And it is all set off by that single drum beat (repeated with less drama but equally stunning by Marvin Gaye on 'Grapevine') and then the band kick in. I saw Dylan a year later at The Odeon Liverpool, and as soon as the band started the electric second session the 'folkies' started heckling, booing and slow handclapping. Me... I was spellbound. The sound was incredibly loud in contrast to the acoustic first half, but the impact was something I only ever saw once again, in a small club in London when a young chap called Jimi Hendrix did things with a guitar that should never have been possible. Who knows where the time goes?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Following yesterday's post about Councillors' websites, I have just found out, courtesy of Paul of Never Trust a Hippy, that I can post pictures on my site. Unfortunately, it appears you can only see the photos if you are using Explorer... but for those of you who do... The Casino is back!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

We had a discussion at Committee tonight about Councillors' websites. Sandwell Council is considering whether or not to renew a contract with Councillor.info, a Poptel organisation who provide easy-to-produce websites for elected members. Although Sandwell has 60 councillors signed up to the project, it is doubtful if more than half a dozen ever bother to update their site even irregularly. One of the problems is that the sites have to be fairly anodyne politically because they are funded by council tax payers. I have tried to get round that restriction by putting a direct link to my blog site from my council site, but if you have a non political councillors' website, there is an argument to say: why bother? On balance though I do think they can be made to work, even if only to tell people what is happening locally in their area.

The ego has landed....

After less than a week in office, the people of Yardley appear to have found a way to resolve the problem of their 'rent-a-quote' MP John Hemming.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

An article in today's Guardian has been drawn to my attention by a constituent. It's about a secret Tory slush fund of over £2 million used to fund their election campaign. The interesting thing from my point of view is that the money appears to have been channeled through a company called Bearwood Corporate Services. So, that's what goes on behind the lace curtains of the Bearwood Conservative and Unionist Club.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Another broken Labour promise?

I saw Tom Watson at the AGM of our Labour Group this evening and he explained the reason his blog is down is due to problems with the server... but he has pledged to return. However, I don't know whether we can believe him because he also pledged a free pint to every member of the Group, but then mysteriously disappeared when we arrived at the pub.
Anyone for realignment? It would appear the Tories, as predicted by Meaders' mole on Saturday, are going to engage their brains before putting their leadership (s)election into action. That could mean that instead of trying to wallow deeper into the slime occupied by the BNP and banging on about immigration and asylum in the hope of dredging up an extra one or two percentage points, they will challenge the Lib Dems and New Labour for the centre ground of British politics. Should Yeo, Soames and co. succeed, perhaps the interesting thing will be seeing how Labour and the Lib Dems respond. Vince Cable and his free marketeer 'orange book' crowd already want to ditch Chat-Show Charlie, and the rumblings on the Labour backbenches for a more radical direction, indicate they may travel in slightly different directions to meet the challenge. It would be refreshing (although I'm sure David Blunkett would say 'self indulgent') if the debate within Labour was about policies and principles, instead of how best to exploit the half a million or so floating voters. The flip side of Kinnock's dismissal of Militant, (You can have all the principles in the world, but they count for nothing without power) is that you can have all the power in the world, but without principles..... it also counts for nowt.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

John Prescott was apparently not too enamoured with Tony Blair's proposal to make David Blunkett Minister for Yobs within Prescott's portfolio.

What a shock. No wonder Tone finds the need to do some more listening. He could perhaps try a spot of reading too!

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The Monster Raving Loonies waiting for the Sedgefield announcement....
.... and in Bethnel Green & Bow!

Friday, May 06, 2005

Perhaps one of the first acts of the new Labour Government should be to get rid of this stupid piece of legislation introduced by the Tories.
I don't mind the challenging or aggressive nature of media punditry. I certainly prefer it to the obsequious David Frost style... but the increasingly sneering manner of Paxman brings his profession into (even further) disrepute. Last night's interview with George Galloway plumbed new depths.

I remember Maggie Jones as UNISON's political officer. She sat on the Labour Party NEC and pursued a New Labour agenda as opposed to UNISON policy. Perhaps if she now has time on her hands I could suggest a new career in music. She could give us her version of 'I fought the Law, and the Law won'.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Shame for the Lib Dems that their policy of giving convicted prisoners the vote hasn't been implemented... they might have picked up the ginger-minger's anti-war vote.
Just one of the stunning images from a Russian site on the theme of stripes.

(via Never Trust a Hippy)

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

You get to read and listen to a whole pile of crap during a General Election campaign, some of which is incredibly pompous. For a spot of light relief I would suggest a read of the Monster Raving Loony Party Manifesto. They promise smaller school class sizes (by making pupils sit closer together) and they will issue a 99p coin "to save on change".

Prison works! Lock up this lawbreaker.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Apparently watching TV boosts your intelligence, according to this report. Sound's OK to me. Bugger the canvassing, I think I'll go back to bed and watch the footie!

If this is true, it would appear it is not just the voters Georgie has been wooing. Having said that, it wouldn't be the first time 'the spooks' have used this sort of tactic.
Interesting (or should I say depressing) to see Tony Banks, one time Livingstone ally, who shortly after being elected to Parliament in 1983 offered to resign to allow Tony Benn an opportunity to get back into Parliament, is apparently going to the House of Lords. Quite staggering from a man who said he was quitting the Commons "intellectually numbing". Still, with Chat Show Charlie nominating Jenny Tonge, the Lib Dem MP who said she "empathised with terrorist suicide bombers" to be one of the new Lib Dem Peers, the second chamber may liven up a bit.