Tuesday, September 18, 2012

From Megan Reif via AngryArab2

Monday, September 17, 2012

A couple of quotes, first from Hugh Grant:

"Their power is daunting. They have the front pages, editorials and opinion pieces, the hatchet jobs and the editorialised news reporting."
"They have people of influence who owe them favours or are paid by them, or might in the future (if they toe the line) be paid by them,"
"After the [Millie] Dowler revelations, these politicians all talked a good game, but last June, pre-Dowler, a lot of them were sipping champagne on Rupert Murdoch's lawn."

From Stewart Lee:

"My shelves creak with music, but I didn't know any Cage, beyond Sonic Youth's interpretation of his piece Six on their Goodbye 20th Century album. As ever, I access the Temple of Culture by the tradesmen's entrance."

I like Lee's idea of a sitcom starring Ant and Dec, Cat Deeley, and the works of John Cage. I don't think I'd be able to watch A&D for too long though. Come to think of it I've never watched them. And Sonic Youth? The word 'youth' puts me off, so I'm not likely to experience their product.

Somebody called George Entwistle is the new Director General of the BBC. He has the requisite bald pate, but what other qualifications?

I don't think I'll be far wrong in assuming that -
a) he is a paid up member of the Conservative Party
b) he is a fervent zionist, and
c) he thinks that the city of Derry is called Londonderry.

Friday, September 14, 2012

I love this story. Morris Sadek is a right-wing Copt, involved in the production of the film that kills.
According to Copts Today, an Arabic news outlet focusing on Coptic affairs, Sadek was seen taking a leisurely stroll down Washington's M Street on September 11, soaking in the sun on a perfect autumn day. All of a sudden, he found himself surrounded by four angry Coptic women. Berating Sadek for fueling the flames of sectarian violence, the women took off their heels and began beating him over the head.
"If anything happens to a Christian in Egypt," one of them shouted at him, "you'll be the reason!"

(Max Blumenthal, the Guardian)

Thursday, September 13, 2012

...Mr MacKenzie issued a statement explaining the paper's actions and apologising that the story was "so wrong".
But the famously abrasive journalist stopped short of taking personal responsibility for publishing false claims, saying he was "totally misled" by a "concerted plot" by police to deflect blame on to Liverpool fans.
Trevor Hicks, a campaigner who lost two daughters in the disaster, dismissed the former editor's words, saying they were "too little, too late" and describing him as "low life, clever low life, but low life".

Admirable restraint on the part of Mr. Hicks. After all he could have called our home-grown Julius Streicher "Right wing, racist scum, in bed with bent coppers; a complete stranger to the truth who got rich publishing mendacious hatchet jobs on the enemies of Rupert Murdoch and the Conservative Party."

We now know that Thatcher was made aware of the South Yorkshire Police Force's wholesale perversion of the course of justice, but the police were her stormtroopers. She had turned them loose on the miners and they had helped her to destroy whole communities, smash the unions, and wipe out an industry. They were well rewarded, and given free rein. Let's not forget the Police Federation official standing up at that organisation's annual conference and declaring that the police would never again cooperate with a Labour government.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Calgary Fancy Pigeon, as depicted at ... Oh-oh! Blog won't accept the link, but it's a site dedicated to the breed.
Identified by Chris H.
The lads were right, I was wrong. I really hate that!

A couple more pictures of our unidentified flying object. The majority opinion in the family is that it's a pigeon of some sort. I can't argue, but that stingy little beak bothers me.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

A strange visitor came to rest on our patch for a few hours yesterday. A bird the size of a pigeon, black and white with a tiny beak. Black face and bib - a sort of iridescent bluey-green sheen on close-up - and black tail feathers forming a broad tail. Covering the whole of the back of the head and neck was a white ruff which rose slightly above the top of the head. Red legs and feet.
The photographs aren't very clear, and the presence of a white piece of rock alongside the bird could be mistaken for a white tail. I did get fairly close, but too close and it made a noise like a growl and moved away, making no attempt at flight.I thought it was injured in some way and unable to fly. Realising that it would let me get closer, I went back inside for the camera, but when I returned there were two feral pigeons feeding alongside the stranger on the seeds we'd given it. As I approached the two pigeons took flight and panicked the stranger into taking off. So no close-up.
I'm hoping that, if it's still in the neighbourhood, it will return to a known food source, and I can renew our acquaintance, but no sign yet.
I've checked in a couple of bird recognition books I have but could see nothing like this fellow. I've tried a net search but, without knowing what family(?) it belongs to it's too big a field.

UPDATE, 9.9.12 The stranger returned today. More photographs tomorrow.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Reminds one of South Africa.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Today I had a hunt among my souvenirs for an old document obtained back in the early 1960s. It's a copy of the Freedom Charter of the African National Congress. It dates back to 1955, long before globalisation had achieved complete control of national economies.
Here are a few extracts -

The People Shall Share in the Country`s Wealth!
The national wealth of our country, the heritage of South Africans, shall be restored to the people;
The mineral wealth beneath the soil, the Banks and monopoly industry shall be transferred to the ownership of the people as a whole;
All other industry and trade shall be controlled to assist the wellbeing of the people;
All people shall have equal rights to trade where they choose, to manufacture and to enter all trades, crafts and professions.

Unused housing space to be made available to the people;
Rent and prices shall be lowered, food plentiful and no-one shall go hungry;
A preventive health scheme shall be run by the state;
Free medical care and hospitalisation shall be provided for all, with special care for mothers and young children;
Slums shall be demolished, and new suburbs built where all have transport, roads, lighting, playing fields, creches and social centres;
The aged, the orphans, the disabled and the sick shall be cared for by the state;
Rest, leisure and recreation shall be the right of all:
Fenced locations and ghettoes shall be abolished, and laws which break up families shall be repealed.

The police force and army shall be open to all on an equal basis and shall be the helpers and protectors of the people;

There shall be a forty-hour working week, a national minimum wage, paid annual leave, and sick leave for all workers, and maternity leave on full pay for all working mothers;

All people shall have the right to live where they choose, be decently housed, and to bring up their families in comfort and security.

Here is an open letter from Jay Naidoo to the Congress of South African Trade Unions:

(Jay Naidoo is founding General Secretary of Cosatu, former Minister in Mandela Government and Chair of a GAIN a Global Foundation Fighting malnutrition in the World. You can also visit his Facebook Page or www.jaynaidoo.org)

4 September 2012 01:42 (South Africa)
“Government violence can only breed counter-violence. Ultimately, if there is no dawning of sanity on the part of the government, the dispute between the government and my people will be settled by force,” said Nelson Mandela. And his words still apply today.

To my colleagues at Cosatu,

I have no authority to tell you what you must do, I know. But my conscience as one of your founding leaders begs me to reflect on the state of our country and nation.

The Marikana massacre is a deadly body blow to the democratic social fabric, and it leaves my heart heavy with sadness. The weight of the disappointment is staggering as I think back to my political initiation as a teenager, listening to the powerful political narrative of Steve Biko. “We have nothing to lose but our chains.” He presented a bold, courageous and impossible vision of a free South Africa. We were inspired as a generation to stand up and be counted irrespective of the cost.

So where are the courageous leaders of today?

The 1976, the Soweto student uprisings were our Tahrir Square. We were smashed, but we came back and kept building on the foundations of the sacrifices of Nelson Mandela and his generation. We painstakingly nurtured a mass movement. The eighties saw the flourishing of internal mass struggles led by COSATU and the UDF that pitched us into battle with a brutal Apartheid state. It took us 18 years to make our liberation movement, the ANC, the majority party in our Parliament and place Nelson Mandela as South Africa’s first democratically elected president.

Now, 18 years later, we commemorate a new massacre under the watch of the supposedly democratic government we elected. I, like many South Africans, am devastated.

Yet it can’t be denied that the writing has been on the wall for some time. Why did we choose to ignore the facts staring us in the face?

I was part of the leadership that led COSATU into an alliance with the ANC and SACP. It had a clear objective. We were making a commitment to a profound transformation that struck at the heart of Apartheid – the cheap labour system and its attendant diseases of joblessness, poverty, gender violence and inequality.

But those same diseases remain, and we desperately need a frank, no-holds-barred clinical analysis of our condition. It goes something like this: inequality has grown. Formal employment has shrunk. A single breadwinner supports up to eight dependants. The content of migrant labour remains as deeply entrenched as ever, as subcontracted labour and casualisation continue to marginalise the workers' families.

The education system hopelessly fails the poorest in our townships as half of our children, mainly of the working poor, are left with almost no skills to speak of even after 12 years of school. They can’t get jobs and many of them are unlikely to do so at all in their lifetime. Our schools have become havens to sexual predators: perverted teachers or male pupils robbing our girl children of their innocence. The growing majority of this dispossessed youth cannot see anyone representing their interests.

That’s what I’ve gathered from conversations I’ve held with young people throughout South Africa. All they see is the arrogance of a ‘blue light brigade’ that believes it has some divine right to rule. They see a criminal ‘Breitling brigade’ that grows fat on looting the public coffers, stealing tenders and licences, and pocketing public funds budgeted for textbooks, toilets and libraries.

This is not the programme of transformation for which our leaders – beacons such as Elijah Barayi and Emma Mashinini – sacrificed so much. This is not the future for which Neil Aggett was murdered by Apartheid police. This is not the future for which Phineas Sibiya, an outstanding shop steward, died a fiery death in a burning car at the hands of Inkatha vigilantes in Howick.

Now is the time for fearless debate. Power has to be confronted with the truth. The Marikana massacre shows all the hallmarks of our Apartheid past. Violence from any side is inexcusable, but deadly force from a democratic state is a cardinal sin. It strikes at the heart of democracy.

The COSATU Congress is important for many reasons, but mainly because it will draw a line in the sand between justice and injustice. But it needs leaders with the courage to hold up the mirror. And it needs to ask the critical question: whether leaders have lost touch with the membership and the poorest in our country.

I am reminded of our visit to the Soviet Union in 1990. We wanted to understand how a powerful state claiming to represent the working class could fall prey to the crass corruption that represented the worst excesses of crony capitalism.

It was obvious to us. There was no democratic participation. The nationalised economy and state enterprises were simply the feeding troughs of the voracious elite. The past symbols of socialist solidarity and social justice were a sham, appropriated by a rapacious class of party apparatchiks. The labour movement was emasculated. It had been reduced to a conveyor belt of the political and predatory party elite. They were the 'yellow unions'.

I realised then that, had I been a militant unionist in the Soviet Union, I would have died a miserable death in a Siberian labour camp. There were no real unions in the Soviet Union. There were just obedient lieutenants who enforced the orders of their political masters and enjoyed the minor perks of financial hand-outs. It’s a slippery slope, and one we can’t afford to send South Africa down.

So today, let us ask ourselves if splinter unions are just the work of opportunists. Are we saying that seasoned trade unionists are so weak, pliant and intellectually inferior that they will risk losing their jobs and their lives – and for what?

I cannot believe that. Of course there is the Breitling Brigade, who will use workers and the poor as cannon fodder, given half a choice. But the fact is that there is a deep and growing mistrust of leaders in our country, and the expanding underclass feels it has no voice through legitimate formal structures. Violence becomes the only viable language.

So yes, there has to be trust. I remember more than 30 years ago when, as a na├»ve student activist entering the labour movement as a volunteer, I spent a day handing out pamphlets. That is, I spent the day trying to hand out pamphlets. I was outside the factory gates for the whole day and nobody took a pamphlet until an old SACTU activist took me aside and said, “Sonny boy. You look very committed. But no-one understands all your rhetoric. Workers cannot eat promises and political slogans. And if they talk to you here they will be photographed and victimised. So come home and I will arrange for some of the leaders to meet you.”

I understood then that the co-creation of a vision and ownership lies in winning the trust of the workers, especially the poor. Their trust has to be won every day. I am comforted that COSATU has done a labour force survey of its members’ perceptions of their union leaders, but it is a striking finding that many of the grassroots members are alienated from their leadership. This should be the core of the debates at the upcoming Congress. These perceptions need to be answered.

COSATU has a proud history. You stood firm when our government, in its insane denialism, condemned to death so many people living with HIV and AIDS, or remained silent on the human rights abuses of Zimbabwean and Swaziland workers. You mobilised amazing organisations such as the Treatment Action Campaign to make government accountable.

But where has the social activism gone to in our country? Has it also submerged below the morass of that the bureaucratic development industry breeds? You cannot escape your responsibility any longer – our society is fragmenting and our state becoming increasingly dysfunctional.

Our Constitution demands an effective government that is transparent and accountable. Our Constitution has laid the proud traditions of social justice, human dignity and social solidarity as the foundation of our democracy. Public institutions are there to serve the interests of the citizenry and not the narrow often corrupt interests of a predatory elite.

That is what we fought for. We need to stop being subjects and become active citizens. It is now incumbent on us all to stand up and bring our country back to the path of reconstruction and development. We promised a better life in 1994, and we need to deliver it.

As our founding father, Nelson Mandela, said, “Poverty, like Apartheid, is not an accident. Like slavery, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.”

The key, now, is for those human beings to take the appropriate action.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

From my son -

Why did 80,000 people boo George Osborne?
Because 80,000 was all the stadium would hold.

Martha Kearney of the BBC - shameless liar and unprincipled defender of ethnic cleansers. Fox News beckons.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Saturday, September 01, 2012

The Self-Attribution Fallacy

Intelligence? Talent? No, the ultra-rich got to where they are through luck and brutality.

(By George Monbiot. Published in the Guardian 8th November 2011)

If wealth was the inevitable result of hard work and enterprise, every woman in Africa would be a millionaire. The claims that the ultra-rich 1% make for themselves – that they are possessed of unique intelligence or creativity or drive – are examples of the self-attribution fallacy. This means crediting yourself with outcomes for which you weren’t responsible. Many of those who are rich today got there because they were able to capture certain jobs. This capture owes less to talent and intelligence than to a combination of the ruthless exploitation of others and accidents of birth, as such jobs are taken disproportionately by people born in certain places and into certain classes.
The findings of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of a Nobel economics prize, are devastating to the beliefs that financial high-fliers entertain about themselves. He discovered that their apparent success is a cognitive illusion. For example, he studied the results achieved by 25 wealth advisers, across eight years. He found that the consistency of their performance was zero. “The results resembled what you would expect from a dice-rolling contest, not a game of skill.” Those who received the biggest bonuses had simply got lucky.
Such results have been widely replicated. They show that traders and fund managers across Wall Street receive their massive remuneration for doing no better than would a chimpanzee flipping a coin. When Kahneman tried to point this out they blanked him. “The illusion of skill … is deeply ingrained in their culture.”
So much for the financial sector and its super-educated analysts. As for other kinds of business, you tell me. Is your boss possessed of judgement, vision and management skills superior to those of anyone else in the firm, or did he or she get there through bluff, bullshit and bullying?
In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading British businesses. They compared the results to the same tests on patients at Broadmoor special hospital, where people who have been convicted of serious crimes are incarcerated. On certain indicators of psychopathy, the bosses’s scores either matched or exceeded those of the patients. In fact on these criteria they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders.
The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly, Board and Fritzon point out, closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong sense of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.
In their book Snakes in Suits, Paul Babiak and Robert Hare point out that as the old corporate bureaucracies have been replaced by flexible, ever-changing structures, and as team players are deemed less valuable than competitive risk-takers, psychopathic traits are more likely to be selected and rewarded. Reading their work, it seems to me that if you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a poor family you’re likely to go to prison. If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a rich family you’re likely to go to business school.
This is not to suggest that all executives are psychopaths. It is to suggest that the economy has been rewarding the wrong skills. As the bosses have shaken off the trade unions and captured both regulators and tax authorities, the distinction between the productive and rentier upper classes has broken down. CEOs now behave like dukes, extracting from their financial estates sums out of all proportion to the work they do or the value they generate, sums that sometimes exhaust the businesses they parasitise. They are no more deserving of the share of wealth they’ve captured than oil sheikhs.
The rest of us are invited, by governments and by fawning interviews in the press, to subscribe to their myth of election: the belief that they are the chosen ones, possessed of superhuman talents. The very rich are often described as wealth creators. But they have preyed upon the earth’s natural wealth and their workers’ labour and creativity, impoverishing both people and planet. Now they have almost bankrupted us. The wealth creators of neoliberal mythology are some of the most effective wealth destroyers the world has ever seen.
What has happened over the past 30 years is the capture of the world’s common treasury by a handful of people, assisted by neoliberal policies which were first imposed on rich nations by Thatcher and Reagan. I am now going to bombard you with figures. I’m sorry about that, but these numbers need to be tattoed on our minds. Between 1947 and 1979, productivity in the US rose by 119%, while the income of the bottom fifth of the population rose by 122%. But between 1979 and 2009, productivity rose by 80% , while the income of the bottom fifth fell by 4%. In roughly the same period, the income of the top 1% rose by 270%.
In the UK, the money earned by the poorest tenth fell by 12% between 1999 and 2009, while the money made by the richest 10th rose by 37%. The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, climbed in this country from 26 in 1979 to 40 in 2009.
In his book The Haves and the Have Nots, Branko Milanovic tries to discover who was the richest person who has ever lived. Beginning with the loaded Roman triumvir Marcus Crassus, he measures wealth according to the quantity of his compatriots’ labour a rich man could buy. It appears that the richest man to have lived in the past 2000 years is alive today. Carlos Slim could buy the labour of 440,000 average Mexicans. This makes him 14 times as rich as Crassus, nine times as rich as Carnegie and four times as rich as Rockefeller.
Until recently, we were mesmerised by the bosses’ self-attribution. Their acolytes, in academia, the media, think tanks and government, created an extensive infrastructure of junk economics and flattery to justify their seizure of other people’s wealth. So immersed in this nonsense did we become that we seldom challenged its veracity.

(References in full article, linked)