" Madam Miaow Says: April 2010

Monday, 26 April 2010

What A Carve Up! review: ‘a point where greed and madness can no longer be told apart’


I don’t know which induces nausea in me the most: whether it’s Tony Blair’s Joker Jack grin as he trousers £20 million thus far for services rendered, or Stephen Byers’ ‘gorblimey, I’m only a cabbie, mate, at five grand a shot’ routine.

Who makes me reach fastest for the sick bag? Could it be Geoff Hoon, Iraq War dogsbody, who was prepared to do whatever it took to make his bones and get the Iraq war going and will do the same to join the ranks of the Croesus Class as revealed in the recent Channel 4 sting?

Or, on the other side: Eton posh boy David Cameron taking de-elocution lessons to mispronounce words like “probbly” instead of “probably”, who voted for the Iraq war, who flipped his house and who now distances himself from the expenses scandal like he and his party had nothing to do with it? Or the other posh boy, Nick Clegg, who is even wealthier than Cameron and, like him, descended from royalty but who constantly implies his roots are Sheffield salt-of-the-earth?

Welcome to the three wings of the one-party state: the Business Party.

As Fabrice Tourre, the accused Goldman Sachs trader, wrote before he unloaded worthless investments to ‘widows and orphans’: ‘ … the entire system is about to crumble at any moment.’

Fabrice was specifically referring to the banking system, but we can hear the creaks and the groans of the whole edifice before it goes down.

Career politicians are like the canaries down the mine. They know what’s coming, which is why they’ve ditched any pretence at social concern or ‘stakeholding’ and are leaping desperately like salmon in spawning season to join the super-rich as they shear off from the rest of us. For three deregulated decades, the powerful have been psychotically pillaging us and our poor little planet and now, ‘at the point where greed and madness can no longer be told apart’, it just can’t take it any more.

It’s this lunacy that drives the plot engine of Jonathan Coe’s What A Carve Up!, and about which he is so viscerally angry. In his 1994 novel, Coe compresses the criminal class running the country — and the world — into one sociopathic, homicidal, fratricidal family: the Winshaws.

They have already carved up the key industries between them. The family seat , Winshaw Towers in Yorkshire, has spawned Henry, a backstabbing Tory minister; Thomas, a voyeuristic banker who creates nothing tangible and yet, as one of Thatcher’s beloved ‘wealth creators’ pockets a fortune in ‘commissions, interest, fees, swaps, futures, options … no longer even paper money. It could be scarcely said to exist’; and Hilary, a media mogul who doesn’t believe a toxic word she writes in her populist columns. Dorothy, the battery farmer who wouldn’t touch the cruelly-reared unhealthy muck she feeds the masses, carries shades of Margaret Thatcher whose chief contribution to the world in her former career as a food scientist was to devise ever more effective methods of pumping air into ice-cream, so making even bigger profits from thin air. What a brilliantly untoppable metaphor that was. Roderick, the lascivious art dealer, creates the market of mediocre crap from which he profits. And Mark, the little shit who sells arms to Saddam even as the West is gearing up for the first Gulf War, is a portrait of homicidal malice, organising William Tell-style shooting competitions for his arms-dealing buddies aiming at apples balanced on the heads of hapless Filipino prostitutes.

Minor author Michael Owen is commissoned by mad Aunt Tabitha Winshaw to write a family history which she hopes will expose them in all their rottenness and maybe exact a revenge for the murderous betrayal of her beloved brother, Godfrey, the only good person in their grotesque number, by his own kith and kin. In delving into the family mystery, Michael comes to learn who he is and suffers at first hand from the predations of the dreadful clan.

Coe’s satire might have been overtaken by grim reality, but it still gives us a searing perspective from which to make sense of the current crop of horrors: of Blair; Iraq Mk II; of Tourre’s revelation of how bankers run the economy with mad pointlessness, their sole aim to move money into their own pockets: ‘What if we created a ‘thing’ which has no purpose, which is absolutely conceptual and highly theoretical and which nobody knows how to price?’

The banks took our money and, like all good monsters, bounced back more profitable than ever. And yet there is still practically no public control or accountability. Frigsample, they refuse to lend for mortgages although the Tories sold off the public stock and Labour refuses to build anywhere near realistic levels of new housing. How’s that for being caught between a rock and a hard place?

You’d think this was the time for the party we voted for to take charge and protect us from the predations of the corporations. New laws, perhaps. But, no. The governent bleats that its hands are tied. The blackmailing swine might take off to where regulations are even slacker, where taxes for those who can most afford it remain at rock bottom.

Yet miraculously, one holiday aboard music industrialist David Geffen’s yacht and Lord Mandelson criminalises British children who want to share the little pleasure left to them with anti-downloading laws. The government also rushed through legislation to bang up youth who imaginatively find new legal ways to get high while Ken Clarke who, as boss of British American Tobacco, brought the cancerous joys of smoking to a new generation of young Chinese, runs for political office. Again.

Talking left before an election as ever, promises are whispered by Labour of a Robin Hood tax of 0.0000000001 per cent on deals done throught the City, the same City that’s supposed to yield riches for ‘Britain’ which never trickles down to us. I think they mean ‘trickle down’ in the sense that we are the sparrows stitting by the horse’s arse to see if any nourishment gets pooed out. Will that legislation see the light of day? Will it, fuck!

Don’t wait for the politicians to protect you. I watched the videos of last year’s Orwell Prize debate. If you sit through Nick Cohen’s headline-grabbing indictment of the liberal press and giggle at Peter Hitchens’s retort that Nick was pissed (yeah, yeah), you get to the really telling stuff. Labour right-winger (at least he was pre-Bair when everything shifted tectonically to the right) Frank Field warns us ominously of something nasty coming down the pipeline. At first, I thought, yay! Someone’s warning us that the looting of society by Milton Freidman fans at the top has gone too far and unless we rein it back we are in for an Apocalypse. But, no. As we leave the Age Of so-called Enlightenment behind, what is Frank’s concern? Not that life for ‘Brits’ (meaning the middle and working classes) is turning into a living hell, but that the ‘mob’ is getting out of hand and has already, shock horror, targeted the home of a banker. When you deduce that the banker in question is the questionable Fred The Shred it makes you realise where these politicians’ misplaced priorities have been leading us.

Frank wouldn't like What A Carve Up! one little bit, themed as it is around the 1964 movie of the same same starring Kenneth Connor, Sid James and Shirley Eaton in the low-brow comedy thriller about a revolting family who get bumped off one by one at the reading of a dead patriarch's will. One man's revenge fantasy is another man's nightmare.

Now I understand why Frank’s lot have been building prisons and training up riot police to do their worst.

Coe not only made me laugh darkly in recognition of the state we’re in, but he also made me cry and rage at the same time. His unfolding of the personal tragedy of his protagonist through the grinding destruction of the NHS and how it affects real lives is one of the most moving things I’ve read. These are the people who’ll be in the ‘mob’ protesting when they realise that none of the political parties will defend them. These are the people for whom the issues are of life and death while the fiddlers burn down the town in their insatiable hunger for more, more, even more moolah.

And what happened to the far left forces who were supposed to have built a powerful alternative by now? An honest movement that would have trounced the Business Party at the polls and maybe led us into a world where we produce for need not greed? Well, during my sojourn in their ranks organising the press for the Socialist Alliance and Stop The War Coalition, I watched them creaming themselves at the first sight of fame in the public eye. As one prominent SWP member told me when I objected to the destructive swathe left by one crass opportunistic, nepotistic and exploitative leader, now trying to kick-start his media career via his breakaway RCP-style sect, ‘Self-interest and ego will always play a part. So what?’

Clegg, Cameron and Brown, differentiated only by the colour of their ties, declare in an anti-Spartacus trope, “I am Tony Blair!” “No, I am Tony Blair!” “No, I am Tony Blair… and so is my best friend!”

A carve up indeed. More gravy?

What A Carve Up! review: ‘a point where greed and madness can no longer be told apart’


I don’t know which induces nausea in me the most: whether it’s Tony Blair’s Joker Jack grin as he trousers £20 million thus far for services rendered, or Stephen Byers’ ‘gorblimey, I’m only a cabbie, mate, at five grand a shot’ routine.

Who makes me reach fastest for the sick bag? Could it be Geoff Hoon, Iraq War dogsbody, who was prepared to do whatever it took to make his bones and get the Iraq war going and will do the same to join the ranks of the Croesus Class as revealed in the recent Channel 4 sting?

Or, on the other side: Eton posh boy David Cameron taking de-elocution lessons to mispronounce words like “probbly” instead of “probably”, who voted for the Iraq war, who flipped his house and who now distances himself from the expenses scandal like he and his party had nothing to do with it? Or the other posh boy, Nick Clegg, who is even wealthier than Cameron and, like him, descended from royalty but who constantly implies his roots are Sheffield salt-of-the-earth?

Welcome to the three wings of the one-party state: the Business Party.

As Fabrice Tourre, the accused Goldman Sachs trader, wrote before he unloaded worthless investments to ‘widows and orphans’: ‘ … the entire system is about to crumble at any moment.’

Fabrice was specifically referring to the banking system, but we can hear the creaks and the groans of the whole edifice before it goes down.

Career politicians are like the canaries down the mine. They know what’s coming, which is why they’ve ditched any pretence at social concern or ‘stakeholding’ and are leaping desperately like salmon in spawning season to join the super-rich as they shear off from the rest of us. For three deregulated decades, the powerful have been psychotically pillaging us and our poor little planet and now, ‘at the point where greed and madness can no longer be told apart’, it just can’t take it any more.

It’s this lunacy that drives the plot engine of Jonathan Coe’s What A Carve Up!, and about which he is so viscerally angry. In his 1994 novel, Coe compresses the criminal class running the country — and the world — into one sociopathic, homicidal, fratricidal family: the Winshaws.

They have already carved up the key industries between them. The family seat , Winshaw Towers in Yorkshire, has spawned Henry, a backstabbing Tory minister; Thomas, a voyeuristic banker who creates nothing tangible and yet, as one of Thatcher’s beloved ‘wealth creators’ pockets a fortune in ‘commissions, interest, fees, swaps, futures, options … no longer even paper money. It could be scarcely said to exist’; and Hilary, a media mogul who doesn’t believe a toxic word she writes in her populist columns. Dorothy, the battery farmer who wouldn’t touch the cruelly-reared unhealthy muck she feeds the masses, carries shades of Margaret Thatcher whose chief contribution to the world in her former career as a food scientist was to devise ever more effective methods of pumping air into ice-cream, so making even bigger profits from thin air. What a brilliantly untoppable metaphor that was. Roderick, the lascivious art dealer, creates the market of mediocre crap from which he profits. And Mark, the little shit who sells arms to Saddam even as the West is gearing up for the first Gulf War, is a portrait of homicidal malice, organising William Tell-style shooting competitions for his arms-dealing buddies aiming at apples balanced on the heads of hapless Filipino prostitutes.

Minor author Michael Owen is commissoned by mad Aunt Tabitha Winshaw to write a family history which she hopes will expose them in all their rottenness and maybe exact a revenge for the murderous betrayal of her beloved brother, Godfrey, the only good person in their grotesque number, by his own kith and kin. In delving into the family mystery, Michael comes to learn who he is and suffers at first hand from the predations of the dreadful clan.

Coe’s satire might have been overtaken by grim reality, but it still gives us a searing perspective from which to make sense of the current crop of horrors: of Blair; Iraq Mk II; of Tourre’s revelation of how bankers run the economy with mad pointlessness, their sole aim to move money into their own pockets: ‘What if we created a ‘thing’ which has no purpose, which is absolutely conceptual and highly theoretical and which nobody knows how to price?’

The banks took our money and, like all good monsters, bounced back more profitable than ever. And yet there is still practically no public control or accountability. Frigsample, they refuse to lend for mortgages although the Tories sold off the public stock and Labour refuses to build anywhere near realistic levels of new housing. How’s that for being caught between a rock and a hard place?

You’d think this was the time for the party we voted for to take charge and protect us from the predations of the corporations. New laws, perhaps. But, no. The governent bleats that its hands are tied. The blackmailing swine might take off to where regulations are even slacker, where taxes for those who can most afford it remain at rock bottom.

Yet miraculously, one holiday aboard music industrialist David Geffen’s yacht and Lord Mandelson criminalises British children who want to share the little pleasure left to them with anti-downloading laws. The government also rushed through legislation to bang up youth who imaginatively find new legal ways to get high while Ken Clarke who, as boss of British American Tobacco, brought the cancerous joys of smoking to a new generation of young Chinese, runs for political office. Again.

Talking left before an election as ever, promises are whispered by Labour of a Robin Hood tax of 0.0000000001 per cent on deals done throught the City, the same City that’s supposed to yield riches for ‘Britain’ which never trickles down to us. I think they mean ‘trickle down’ in the sense that we are the sparrows stitting by the horse’s arse to see if any nourishment gets pooed out. Will that legislation see the light of day? Will it, fuck!

Don’t wait for the politicians to protect you. I watched the videos of last year’s Orwell Prize debate. If you sit through Nick Cohen’s headline-grabbing indictment of the liberal press and giggle at Peter Hitchens’s retort that Nick was pissed (yeah, yeah), you get to the really telling stuff. Labour right-winger (at least he was pre-Bair when everything shifted tectonically to the right) Frank Field warns us ominously of something nasty coming down the pipeline. At first, I thought, yay! Someone’s warning us that the looting of society by Milton Freidman fans at the top has gone too far and unless we rein it back we are in for an Apocalypse. But, no. As we leave the Age Of so-called Enlightenment behind, what is Frank’s concern? Not that life for ‘Brits’ (meaning the middle and working classes) is turning into a living hell, but that the ‘mob’ is getting out of hand and has already, shock horror, targeted the home of a banker. When you deduce that the banker in question is the questionable Fred The Shred it makes you realise where these politicians’ misplaced priorities have been leading us.

Frank wouldn't like What A Carve Up! one little bit, themed as it is around the 1964 movie of the same same starring Kenneth Connor, Sid James and Shirley Eaton in the low-brow comedy thriller about a revolting family who get bumped off one by one at the reading of a dead patriarch's will. One man's revenge fantasy is another man's nightmare.

Now I understand why Frank’s lot have been building prisons and training up riot police to do their worst.

Coe not only made me laugh darkly in recognition of the state we’re in, but he also made me cry and rage at the same time. His unfolding of the personal tragedy of his protagonist through the grinding destruction of the NHS and how it affects real lives is one of the most moving things I’ve read. These are the people who’ll be in the ‘mob’ protesting when they realise that none of the political parties will defend them. These are the people for whom the issues are of life and death while the fiddlers burn down the town in their insatiable hunger for more, more, even more moolah.

And what happened to the far left forces who were supposed to have built a powerful alternative by now? An honest movement that would have trounced the Business Party at the polls and maybe led us into a world where we produce for need not greed? Well, during my sojourn in their ranks organising the press for the Socialist Alliance and Stop The War Coalition, I watched them creaming themselves at the first sight of fame in the public eye. As one prominent SWP member told me when I objected to the destructive swathe left by one crass opportunistic, nepotistic and exploitative leader, now trying to kick-start his media career via his breakaway RCP-style sect, ‘Self-interest and ego will always play a part. So what?’

Clegg, Cameron and Brown, differentiated only by the colour of their ties, declare in an anti-Spartacus trope, “I am Tony Blair!” “No, I am Tony Blair!” “No, I am Tony Blair… and so is my best friend!”

A carve up indeed. More gravy?

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Katia eruption "10 times easier to pronounce than Eyjafjallajokull"



A bigger eruption from the easier-to-pronounce Katia volcano promises to bring relief to media announcers world-wide. The chaos of the past week, where TV and radio announcers struggled to say, "Eyjafjallajokull", reduced some to tears, although they insisted it was the microscopic shards of airborne glass ripping up their corneas and not professional shame that made them cry.

Katia erupts every 80 years, or whenever she's sufficiently disgusted with the human race to let them know how she feels. Unable to articulate the words, "You make me sick", she belches out her message in Geologese: in this instance her herald Eyjafjallajokul grounding politicians from all three main parties in her attempt to stop them polluting the atmosphere with the standard output of untruths.

A perfect storm of political betrayal of the electorate, corporate trashing of society, and the brutish crushing of the BA workforce is thought to be stoking up Katia to settle our hash with her ash.

Moves to offer BA boss Willie Walsh as a sacrifice to the goddess of the first, smaller and more tongue-tying volcano were thwarted by Walsh's pre-emptive ash-cloud offering of 26 flights packed with British passengers today.

Willie Walsh is a wanker. Alliteratively.

Katia eruption "10 times easier to pronounce than Eyjafjallajokull"



A bigger eruption from the easier-to-pronounce Katia volcano promises to bring relief to media announcers world-wide. The chaos of the past week, where TV and radio announcers struggled to say, "Eyjafjallajokull", reduced some to tears, although they insisted it was the microscopic shards of airborne glass ripping up their corneas and not professional shame that made them cry.

Katia erupts every 80 years, or whenever she's sufficiently disgusted with the human race to let them know how she feels. Unable to articulate the words, "You make me sick", she belches out her message in Geologese: in this instance her herald Eyjafjallajokul grounding politicians from all three main parties in her attempt to stop them polluting the atmosphere with the standard output of untruths.

A perfect storm of political betrayal of the electorate, corporate trashing of society, and the brutish crushing of the BA workforce is thought to be stoking up Katia to settle our hash with her ash.

Moves to offer BA boss Willie Walsh as a sacrifice to the goddess of the first, smaller and more tongue-tying volcano were thwarted by Walsh's pre-emptive ash-cloud offering of 26 flights packed with British passengers today.

Willie Walsh is a wanker. Alliteratively.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Brave New World: lady robot makes women redundant



O brave new world that has such people, innit?

Looks like we are indeed superfluous to requirements. Soon, the super-rich won't need us for anything any more; not work, our minds, and not even for sex. They have science and technology servicing the onanistic requirements of the Masters of the Universe. Who needs real people when you can have a simulacrum of the real thing?

Human relations break down. Love is lost to us as a species. The weak kill it off in themselves or succumb to illusions of strength through seclusion. And so humanity bites the dust.

The new heroic quest of the Age of Alienation — keeping your capacity for love alive. That's humanity at its most highly evolved.

Everything else is a Schwarzenegger movie.

Via One Inch Punch

More at ieee spectrum

Brave New World: lady robot makes women redundant



O brave new world that has such people, innit?

Looks like we are indeed superfluous to requirements. Soon, the super-rich won't need us for anything any more; not work, our minds, and not even for sex. They have science and technology servicing the onanistic requirements of the Masters of the Universe. Who needs real people when you can have a simulacrum of the real thing?

Human relations break down. Love is lost to us as a species. The weak kill it off in themselves or succumb to illusions of strength through seclusion. And so humanity bites the dust.

The new heroic quest of the Age of Alienation — keeping your capacity for love alive. That's humanity at its most highly evolved.

Everything else is a Schwarzenegger movie.

Via One Inch Punch

More at ieee spectrum

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Political Elite's God-Given Right To Rip You Off: Orwell Prize debate


OK, hangover gone.

For a great account of the Orwell Prize debate, 'Have the political classes been fatally weakened?', at Thursday's shortlist event, see Laurie at Penny Red.

It was a truly flesh-crawling example of how skewed and corrupt is the mentality of these people who are running and ruining our lives.

I will just add to Laurie's report that Meg Russell (Deputy Director, UCL Constitution Unit, whatever the hell Oxbridge bootboy/girl club that is) also told us that, regarding the expenses scandal, the public was wrong to call the MPs' – ahem – misdemeanours "crimes", because only a few of them technically broke the law. Well, who made those laws in the first place? Like a true bureaucrat, she was nit-picking over the definition of "crime", rather than addressing what they actually did. As long as it's in triplicate it must be true.

She flapped so pathetically over the witty "Wanted" posters portraying greedy MPs as felons on the run that I feared the poor thing might need smelling salts. To her delicate sensibilities, this mockery of the powerful was worse than the original rip-off. As Helena Kennedy observed, she had no sense of humour. Which authoritarians do? To mangle a quote from Russell Brand, the lack of nuance is the hallmark of the despot.

Meg also insulted the audience, saying that it had been proved that we'd have all done the same if we were in the politicians' position. What utter fuckry is this? Why is the not-so-intelligent intelligentsia trying to naturalise such warping of human relations? I hope you never get the chance to put that thieving mentality into practice, Meg, There should be special cells in Holloway and Pentonville reserved for those who abuse high office to pillage the public purse.

In Meg's world, though, no-one should be accountable. Power should be given full rein to feed us shit-sandwiches and we'd have to say, "Yummy!". The words, "Thank you, baas," after each kicking — such sweet music to their ears — would be made mandatory.

I did like Helena Kennedy, though. She said that poor Meg had gone native. Mixing with the movers and shakers who flattered her and made her feel important, of course she made excuses for them. Helena finished by saying that Labour should get back in and start acting like a left party. And at that I whooped. Even though I know they won't.

Debate: Has the political class been fatally weakened?
Panel: David Halpern, Helena Kennedy, Cristina Odone, Meg Russell, Jodie Ginsberg (chair)


Watch the debate here

The Political Elite's God-Given Right To Rip You Off: Orwell Prize debate


OK, hangover gone.

For a great account of the Orwell Prize debate, 'Have the political classes been fatally weakened?', at Thursday's shortlist event, see Laurie at Penny Red.

It was a truly flesh-crawling example of how skewed and corrupt is the mentality of these people who are running and ruining our lives.

I will just add to Laurie's report that Meg Russell (Deputy Director, UCL Constitution Unit, whatever the hell Oxbridge bootboy/girl club that is) also told us that, regarding the expenses scandal, the public was wrong to call the MPs' – ahem – misdemeanours "crimes", because only a few of them technically broke the law. Well, who made those laws in the first place? Like a true bureaucrat, she was nit-picking over the definition of "crime", rather than addressing what they actually did. As long as it's in triplicate it must be true.

She flapped so pathetically over the witty "Wanted" posters portraying greedy MPs as felons on the run that I feared the poor thing might need smelling salts. To her delicate sensibilities, this mockery of the powerful was worse than the original rip-off. As Helena Kennedy observed, she had no sense of humour. Which authoritarians do? To mangle a quote from Russell Brand, the lack of nuance is the hallmark of the despot.

Meg also insulted the audience, saying that it had been proved that we'd have all done the same if we were in the politicians' position. What utter fuckry is this? Why is the not-so-intelligent intelligentsia trying to naturalise such warping of human relations? I hope you never get the chance to put that thieving mentality into practice, Meg, There should be special cells in Holloway and Pentonville reserved for those who abuse high office to pillage the public purse.

In Meg's world, though, no-one should be accountable. Power should be given full rein to feed us shit-sandwiches and we'd have to say, "Yummy!". The words, "Thank you, baas," after each kicking — such sweet music to their ears — would be made mandatory.

I did like Helena Kennedy, though. She said that poor Meg had gone native. Mixing with the movers and shakers who flattered her and made her feel important, of course she made excuses for them. Helena finished by saying that Labour should get back in and start acting like a left party. And at that I whooped. Even though I know they won't.

Debate: Has the political class been fatally weakened?
Panel: David Halpern, Helena Kennedy, Cristina Odone, Meg Russell, Jodie Ginsberg (chair)


Watch the debate here

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Microsoft Xbox using teenage "slave labour"

Xbox game Halo 2

I really want an XBox. As one of the gamers who finally reached the end of the wonderful dark Doom II a decade ago, I know the thrill of the kill, the adrenalin high, the emergence into daylight after a solid night's combat and seeing the cityscape changed to a Doom scenario. I, too, have felt the compulsion to walk up to Camden Town Hall's forbidding architecture and hit the spacebar, BFG at the ready.

But I can't have one. Not just because this is one displacement activity too many in what should be a busy and creative life, but because Microsoft have followed in the footsteps of other infamous toy-manufacturers and are facing allegations of teenage "slave labour" exploitation.

One group of teenagers in China is being paid 37 pence per hour in 15-hour shifts to ensure that other groups of teenagers in the West can have their fun. Sucking the life out of their 16- and 17-year old workers making mice and XBox controllers, conditions in Microsoft's KYE Systems factory in Dongguan sound atrocious.

The Telegraph reports the US National Labour Committee's findings:
"The factory is very crowded. In one workshop measuring around 105ft by 105ft, there were nearly 1,000 workers. In the summer, temperatures can exceed 86 degrees and workers leave their shifts dripping in sweat. It is only when the foreign clients show up that management turns on the air conditioning," the report's authors alleged, citing testimony from workers.

China has been trying to clean up its manufacturing act, with only 3,000 toy factories surviving out of 8,000 due to rising standards. But the news that a giant corporation like as Microsoft is still using such antedeluvian facilities is disturbing. It was due to pressure from the American Chamber of Commerce, backed up by the Europeans, that China did not push through its planned relaxation of the state stranglehold on trade unions. But China has to stand up to its powerful Western customers and restore some credibility, not to mention pride, by ensuring its workers enjoy the very best conditions.

So many companies seem to be slipping backwards after paying initial lip-service to decent working conditions. It's a lesson that we have to keep the pressure up. I used to love shopping at Primark, that cornucopia of up-to-date fashion beloved by working-class women on low incomes, but the company lost its Ethical Trademark Initiative mark when it was caught using underpaid illegal labour.

When I look at their frocks, I see the scrawny undernourished whey-faced souls who have to slave long hours in cramped, badly-lit, under-ventilated conditions to make me look good. It's like Soylent Green, feeding us the lives of other workers and we aren't even supposed to care. Whatever way the corporations are treating other workforces is the way one day that they might be treating us. That's what I see staring back when I look into Primark's shop windows.

And THAT's when I want to hit the spacebar and let loose with my BFG.

UPDATE: Apple not much better. Staff in China on suicide watch.

Microsoft Xbox using teenage "slave labour"

Xbox game Halo 2

I really want an XBox. As one of the gamers who finally reached the end of the wonderful dark Doom II a decade ago, I know the thrill of the kill, the adrenalin high, the emergence into daylight after a solid night's combat and seeing the cityscape changed to a Doom scenario. I, too, have felt the compulsion to walk up to Camden Town Hall's forbidding architecture and hit the spacebar, BFG at the ready.

But I can't have one. Not just because this is one displacement activity too many in what should be a busy and creative life, but because Microsoft have followed in the footsteps of other infamous toy-manufacturers and are facing allegations of teenage "slave labour" exploitation.

One group of teenagers in China is being paid 37 pence per hour in 15-hour shifts to ensure that other groups of teenagers in the West can have their fun. Sucking the life out of their 16- and 17-year old workers making mice and XBox controllers, conditions in Microsoft's KYE Systems factory in Dongguan sound atrocious.

The Telegraph reports the US National Labour Committee's findings:
"The factory is very crowded. In one workshop measuring around 105ft by 105ft, there were nearly 1,000 workers. In the summer, temperatures can exceed 86 degrees and workers leave their shifts dripping in sweat. It is only when the foreign clients show up that management turns on the air conditioning," the report's authors alleged, citing testimony from workers.

China has been trying to clean up its manufacturing act, with only 3,000 toy factories surviving out of 8,000 due to rising standards. But the news that a giant corporation like as Microsoft is still using such antedeluvian facilities is disturbing. It was due to pressure from the American Chamber of Commerce, backed up by the Europeans, that China did not push through its planned relaxation of the state stranglehold on trade unions. But China has to stand up to its powerful Western customers and restore some credibility, not to mention pride, by ensuring its workers enjoy the very best conditions.

So many companies seem to be slipping backwards after paying initial lip-service to decent working conditions. It's a lesson that we have to keep the pressure up. I used to love shopping at Primark, that cornucopia of up-to-date fashion beloved by working-class women on low incomes, but the company lost its Ethical Trademark Initiative mark when it was caught using underpaid illegal labour.

When I look at their frocks, I see the scrawny undernourished whey-faced souls who have to slave long hours in cramped, badly-lit, under-ventilated conditions to make me look good. It's like Soylent Green, feeding us the lives of other workers and we aren't even supposed to care. Whatever way the corporations are treating other workforces is the way one day that they might be treating us. That's what I see staring back when I look into Primark's shop windows.

And THAT's when I want to hit the spacebar and let loose with my BFG.

UPDATE: Apple not much better. Staff in China on suicide watch.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Cameron's wet dream of nuking China



Completely from left field ( uh, right field...) and out of the blue skies in David Cameron's air-brushed head, Oceania is now at war with Eastasia.

I've walked fresh from my shortlist triumph at last night's Orwell Prize event and into life as the Conservatives would have it — a posh boy's fantasy about plucky little Britain taking on Big Bad China. What is this? "C'mon, guys, if you think you're hard enough"? Tony Blair, you only took on Iraq. Cameron's going for the Big One: he wants to square up to China. Is he prawn crackers? We'd end up as sesame toast.

In last night's snoreathon debate between the pink tie, the blue tie and the yellow tie, the blue tie stated:
I think the most important duty of any Government, anyone who wants to be Prime Minister of this country, is to protect and defend our United Kingdom. And are we really happy to say that we’d give up our independent nuclear deterrent when we don’t know what is going to happen with Iran, we can’t be certain of the future in China, we don’t know exactly what our world will look like? I say we should always have the ultimate protection of our independent nuclear deterrent.

Is Cameron seriously equating China with "rogue state" Iran? May I ask you in your saner moments, David (assuming you have any): with all the money they're pouring into saving our sorry skint skins, why would China want to nuke its own investment? Who has the bigger arms industry, and who has damn near started World War Three?

How many Tories have arms investments in their bulging share portfolios?

Any Chinese who vote for the Tories are turkeys voting for Christmas. Or ducks voting for the spring festival. With hoi sin sauce if not relish.

Republished at Labour Left List

James Denselow on Cameron's grandiose China ilusion

Cameron's wet dream of nuking China



Completely from left field ( uh, right field...) and out of the blue skies in David Cameron's air-brushed head, Oceania is now at war with Eastasia.

I've walked fresh from my shortlist triumph at last night's Orwell Prize event and into life as the Conservatives would have it — a posh boy's fantasy about plucky little Britain taking on Big Bad China. What is this? "C'mon, guys, if you think you're hard enough"? Tony Blair, you only took on Iraq. Cameron's going for the Big One: he wants to square up to China. Is he prawn crackers? We'd end up as sesame toast.

In last night's snoreathon debate between the pink tie, the blue tie and the yellow tie, the blue tie stated:
I think the most important duty of any Government, anyone who wants to be Prime Minister of this country, is to protect and defend our United Kingdom. And are we really happy to say that we’d give up our independent nuclear deterrent when we don’t know what is going to happen with Iran, we can’t be certain of the future in China, we don’t know exactly what our world will look like? I say we should always have the ultimate protection of our independent nuclear deterrent.

Is Cameron seriously equating China with "rogue state" Iran? May I ask you in your saner moments, David (assuming you have any): with all the money they're pouring into saving our sorry skint skins, why would China want to nuke its own investment? Who has the bigger arms industry, and who has damn near started World War Three?

How many Tories have arms investments in their bulging share portfolios?

Any Chinese who vote for the Tories are turkeys voting for Christmas. Or ducks voting for the spring festival. With hoi sin sauce if not relish.

Republished at Labour Left List

James Denselow on Cameron's grandiose China ilusion

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Madam Miaow makes Orwell Prize shortlist

Anna (Madam Miaow) and Laurie (Penny Red)

I'm celebrating, so I can't be long. Hic!

MC Jean Seaton, Orwell Prize Director, said of Madam Miaow: "... independence and spirit." And that we bloggers were "representing reporting from places that aren't getting reported."

A lovely event tonight at Reuters over drinks and canapes (hunks of chicken they called "goujons", mini cheeseburgers and fishcakes — so much nicer than Ritz crackers and processed cheese).

I got the chance to meet the wonderful Jack of Kent and hang out with Laurie Penny and others including Dave Osler. The Miaow Massive included Harpy Marx who I hope to see nominated next year, plus Denis, Irene and Loved One.

The Guardian announces the Orwell prize shortlist but their link for Madam Miaow takes you to Laurie's page. Anything to do with this?

Too celebracious to make sense. Here's the organisers' press release instead:

PRESS RELEASE: ORWELL PRIZE 2010 SHORTLISTS ANNOUNCED

Books on Turkey, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Alzheimer’s, free speech and liberty make shortlist
Two Guardian journalists and Cambridge don among those on elongated journalism list
Pseudonymous social worker Winston Smith, named after 1984 character, makes Blog Prize shortlist

The shortlists for the Orwell Prize 2010, Britain’s most prestigious prize for political writing, were announced at the annual shortlist debate at Thomson Reuters, Canary Wharf, this evening, Thursday 15th April at 7pm.

Director of the Prize, Jean Seaton, revealed the 6 books, 7 journalists (instead of the usual 6) and 6 bloggers still in contention for the £3000 prizes ahead of a debate on the question, ‘has the political class been fatally weakened?’ and a screening of the First Election Debate.

The Book Prize shortlist comprises:

De Bellaigue, Christopher Rebel Land: Among Turkey's Forgotten Peoples Bloomsbury
Gappah, Petina An Elegy for Easterly Faber; Farrar, Straus & Giroux
Gillies, Andrea Keeper Short Books
Kampfner, John Freedom For Sale: How We Made Money and Lost Our Liberty Simon & Schuster
Malik, Kenan From Fatwa to Jihad: The Rushdie Affair and Its Legacy Atlantic Books
Wrong, Michela It’s Our Turn to Eat: The Story of a Kenyan Whistle Blower Fourth Estate

This year’s shortlist has a strong international flavour, with Rebel Land on Turkey, Elegy for Easterly on Zimbabwe, and It’s Our Turn to Eat on Kenya, and Freedom for Sale and From Fatwa to Jihad both having a strong international dimension. But Britain is represented too, Andrea Gillies’ Keeper having already won the Wellcome Prize for medicine in literature for its account of living with Alzheimer’s.

Director of the Prize, Jean Seaton, said: ‘The Orwell injunction to go and see and report, whether at home or abroad, marks all these books. They are beautifully written pieces that translate important contemporary experiences into vivid quandaries – all of these books ask us to make our minds up, and do something.’

This year’s Book Prize judges are Jonathan Heawood (Director, English PEN), Andrew Holgate (Literary Editor, Sunday Times) and Francine Stock (writer and broadcaster). 212 books were entered, and 18 were longlisted.

The Journalism Prize shortlist consists of 7 journalists, rather than the traditional 6:

John Arlidge Sunday Times (Magazine, News Review)
Amelia Gentleman The Guardian (G2)
Peter Hitchens Mail on Sunday
Paul Lewis The Guardian
Anthony Loyd The Times; Standpoint
Hamish McRae The Independent
David Reynolds BBC (Radio 4, News online)

The Guardian has two journalists on this year’s shortlist: Amelia Gentleman for her social affairs work and Paul Lewis for his coverage of the G20 protests. Peter Hitchens is shortlisted for the third time in four years for his foreign reporting, alongside John Arlidge (for financial stories including ‘God’s work’ and Goldman Sachs), Anthony Loyd (on Afghanistan), Hamish McRae (for economic commentary) and David Reynolds, Professor of International History at Cambridge University, for work related to BBC Radio 4’s America: Empire of Liberty.

Director of the Prize, Jean Seaton, said: ‘Although moaning about the decline of journalism has become something of a national and international cliché, these acutely written, well-evidenced, careful bits of contemporary journalism show, in fact, it is in fine form.’

This year’s Journalism Prize judges are Roger Graef (writer, filmmaker, criminologist) and Peter Kellner (journalist, President of YouGov). 85 journalism entries were received, with 14 (rather than the usual 12) being longlisted. The pieces for which each journalist was shortlisted can be found on the Orwell Prize website.

The Blog Prize judges shortlisted 6 bloggers:

Hopi Sen Hopi Sen
Jack of Kent Jack of Kent
Laurie Penny Penny Red and others
Madam Miaow Madam Miaow Says
Tim Marshall Foreign Matters
Winston Smith Working with the Underclass

Named after the central character of 1984, social worker Winston Smith is the second pseudonymous public servant to be shortlisted for the Blog Prize, after last year’s winner Jack Night. He is joined by Labour-supporting blogger Hopi Sen (longlisted for last year’s Blog Prize), legal blogger Jack of Kent (freelance legal and policy writer, Allen Green), Laurie Penny (‘socialist, feminist... freelance copywriter and sometime blogger’), Madam Miaow (poet, writer and broadcaster, Anna Chen) and Tim Marshall (foreign affairs editor of Sky News).

Director of the Prize, Jean Seaton, said: ‘Blogging is coming of age. It really does have the capacity to take us to the unreported, shadow inside story of many important institutions, from law to social work as well as Westminster.’

This year’s Blog Prize judges are Richard Horton ('Jack Night', winner of the Orwell Prize for Blogs 2009) and Oona King (head of diversity for Channel 4, former MP for Bethnal Green and Bow). 164 bloggers entered, with 14 (rather than the usual 12) being longlisted. The shortlisted blogposts are all linked to from the Orwell Prize website.

Shortlist debate and winners

Those taking part in the shortlist debate on ‘has the political class been fatally weakened?, chaired by Jodie Ginsberg (UK and Ireland Bureau Chief, Thomson Reuters), were David Halpern (research director of the Institute for Government, former chief analyst at the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit), Helena Kennedy QC (lawyer, broadcaster and writer), Cristina Odone (journalist, novelist and broadcaster) and Meg Russell (deputy director of the UCL Constitution Unit, adviser to the Wright Committee on parliamentary reform).

And so to bed (eventually ...)

UPDATE: Video of the Shortlist announcement here. Orwell Prize Director Jean Seaton said of Madam Miaow Says:
An extraordinary account of things going on and blogged about with real views, with independence and spirit. A very distinct voice, very funny, and taking you to places that only blogging has discovered. Blogging has its own terrain and Madam Miaow takes you there.

Mother Nature grounds main parties: if pigs could fly



Even Mother Nature hates them. Today's spectacular eruption in Iceland has sent giant plumes of ash headed for Old Blighty, shutting down airports and preventing the three main parties hitting Scotland for the general election campaign. Those Scots must have some powerful mojo. Respek!

The Guardian reports:
After the severe winter weather and the BA strikes, the UK is becoming fairly accustomed to flights being cancelled. However not even the most cynical of travellers could have predicted that planes would be grounded today due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland. Having lain dormant for almost 200 years until last month, the volcano beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, 120 km east of Reykjavik, erupted spectacularly yesterday. ... Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories, with all the main parties hurriedly trying to rearrange high profile visits from senior figures flying up from London. After the Lib Dems confirmed that a visit by Treasury spokesman Vince Cable to Edinburgh and Dunfermline had been scrapped, the defence secretary Bob Ainsworth had to cancel a visit to Rosyth dockyard to campaign for Labour's candidate and the Tories abandoned Ken Clarke's trip to the Borders.

May I ask how Ken Clarke still has a political career? This was the man who, as deputy chairman of British American Tobacco, aggressively promoted smoking to a new generation of Third World markets, including Chinese youth. Hey, Ken: smoking kills!

Come, Mother Nature. Do your stuff.

Read Harpy Marx on the Labour Manifesto: a fair kicking for the poor.

Mother Nature grounds main parties: if pigs could fly



Even Mother Nature hates them. Today's spectacular eruption in Iceland has sent giant plumes of ash headed for Old Blighty, shutting down airports and preventing the three main parties hitting Scotland for the general election campaign. Those Scots must have some powerful mojo. Respek!

The Guardian reports:
After the severe winter weather and the BA strikes, the UK is becoming fairly accustomed to flights being cancelled. However not even the most cynical of travellers could have predicted that planes would be grounded today due to a volcanic eruption in Iceland. Having lain dormant for almost 200 years until last month, the volcano beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, 120 km east of Reykjavik, erupted spectacularly yesterday. ... Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories, with all the main parties hurriedly trying to rearrange high profile visits from senior figures flying up from London. After the Lib Dems confirmed that a visit by Treasury spokesman Vince Cable to Edinburgh and Dunfermline had been scrapped, the defence secretary Bob Ainsworth had to cancel a visit to Rosyth dockyard to campaign for Labour's candidate and the Tories abandoned Ken Clarke's trip to the Borders.

May I ask how Ken Clarke still has a political career? This was the man who, as deputy chairman of British American Tobacco, aggressively promoted smoking to a new generation of Third World markets, including Chinese youth. Hey, Ken: smoking kills!

Come, Mother Nature. Do your stuff.

Read Harpy Marx on the Labour Manifesto: a fair kicking for the poor.

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Chinese dissident allowed limited media access: Madam Miaow back on Guardian CiF


Yep, I checked yesterday and posted on Gary Younge's powerful indictment of US Republican "Frat Boys" and discovered that my ban is at an end and I am now allowed to comment at the Guardian but under (heavy) moderation — so says the vivid red message in the comment window when I posted.

This goes back to last year when I tried to post on the Guardian's hysterical attack on the Chinese at Copenhagen following the exposé that America and other rich nations were hijacking the climate change summit as revealed in the leaked Danish Text. During this period of obfuscation, diversion and a lot of smoke and mirrors, journos at the Guardian accused CiF posters with Chinese sounding names who attempted to inject a few facts into the debate (such as it was) of being five-yuan a time tarts for the Chinese government. Because it's well known that we have no integrity or political conviction. And in the Independent, Tony Juniper of Friends Of The Earth felt emboldened enough to call the Chinese "inscrutable", a hoary colonialist term I'd thought disappeared with the Empire and Sax Rohmer.

How satisfying, then, to see today's Guardian reporting the Indian Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh's statement that Copenhagen was destroyed by the Danish draft leak.
Dismissing Britain's attempt to blame China for the disappointment of Copenhagen, the Indian minister said the outcome was determined by a failed "ambush", targeted at the leaders of emerging economies, by the host nation Denmark. This attempted to switch a new negotiating text for the existing UN texts.

"The Danish draft was circulated at the beginning of the conference, which got mysteriously leaked to the Guardian. That completely destroyed trust. It was the leak of the Danish draft that destroyed Copenhagen from day one," said Ramesh, at a sustainable growth forum in Hainan.

This isn't to say that China is incapable of pulling stunts when it needs to, but that it still has a lot to learn from the British Foreign Office and its friends when it comes to manipulation.

One question remaining to be answered: considering Britain invented low-carbon coal burning technology and we're signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, why is China able to build 80 percent carbon-capture power stations at the rate of one a month, and we don't even have a single one? [EDIT: New York Times says current highest efficiency is 44 percent.]

UPDATE: China announces world's largest solar plant. Hat -tip James Mackenzie

UPDATE 2: Almost a month later (7th May), the Guardian comes up with a carefully constructed rebuttal. Very interesting watching the spinning on this subject.

India's Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh

Guardian admits China's green plans leave US red-faced.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

UK Chinese parliamentary candidates' general election hustings


Yesterday's first ever UK Chinese hustings, featuring five of the eight Chinese parliamentary candidates running in the general election and attended by an almost entirely Chinese audience, was an interesting if disappointing affair. Organised by bbcchina.com and bbcchinese.com, this was a much-needed initiative considering that Chinese are the third-biggest minority in the UK, but you were left with the impression that the candidates represented solely the business class and that there was barely a cigarette paper's width of difference between them.

Your faithful reporter nearly fell at the first hurdle. After the first round of introductions in which most of them extolled "hard work", business and the family, I thought I'd wandered into meeting of the Women's Institute circa 1935. In Germany. It made me want to dial Nein, Nein, Nein!

Only the fabulous Anna Lo, Alliance member of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the UK's first Chinese politician, stood out. She's my hero, having done socially conscious work in Northern Ireland for twenty-five years, courageously defended persecuted Romanians, and earned herself death threats for her pains. How'd you feel if Loyalists planned to march past YOUR house?

Sonny Leong, Chair of Chinese For Labour, manfully represented the Labour party. They have yet to produce any Chinese candidates, but he assured us that a few are being groomed for the next general election. He is an intelligent, stylish chap with a big heart but sometimes I do feel sorry for him having to defend the indefensible, which — actually possessing personal integrity and considerable communication skills — he manages to avoid, preferring to promote Labour's ideals.

Former Metropolitan Police Officer George Lee is the Conservative standing against Frank Dobson in Holborn and St Pancras where he, like the others on the panel (aside from Anna), stands not a snowball's chance. With a bouncer's build adorned by a smart black suit and crisp white shirt with what my mate said was one button too many undone, and hair side-parted in a thick black wave you could surf on, I was unsurprised to hear a voice not unlike Del-boy Trotter emanating from him. He Trottered out the Tory line and was quite the little terrier when nipping at his opponents' heels. Expect to see more of him in the media.

The other Tory, Kagang Wu, standing in Liverpool Riverside, was a speak-your-weight-machine.

Lib Dems Merlene Emerson (Hammersmith and Fulham) and Philip Ling (Birmingham Bromsgrove) were sweet but not terribly effective. Oddly, Philip came to life in the bar afterwards and is a very likeable guy. He almost won me over with the Lib Dems' pledge of a 50p rate of tax, a £10,000 allowance before tax kicks in, scrapping the council tax and bringing in a fairer method of taxation closer to the old rating system, and their initial opposition to the Iraq war. But, oh, Philip, your party's record on race in councils where you've had power has been most unimpressive. Not that the others have been Martin Luther Kingy about such matters.

Hosts Britt Yip and Paul Crook, who had perfect Mandarin being born and raised in Beijing, did a fair job in keeping the rather dull question coming. It was all business, Chinese ethnicity, Chinese business. Fer cryin' out loud, we can do more than this!!!

Unfortunately, my question (the third or so to be asked early in the webcast show) was the only one they quickly moved on from, neglecting to elicit an answer from the panel.

The opening comments from the producer had contained the throwaway remark that we were all relieved that the expected train strike had been stopped by the courts, allowing the event to take place. Implying a universal class view that placed workers who were fighting for their survival somewhere Over There, and the "norm" here in this room, he did make me bristle somewhat. The assumption that the general public consensus is opposition to trade union action was something I thought should be challenged by anyone serious about the democratic process.

This attitude does remind me of the Morlocks and Eloi of HG Wells's science fiction social satire, The Time Machine. Whenever I hear the term "the work ethic" springing from captains of industries and their mini-mes, it makes me think of the troglodyte Morlocks dining off the flesh of the cattle-like Eloi: we work hard for poor pay and worsening conditions so you can live off the fat off the land.

So, after pointing out to George that his accusation that Gordon Brown started the recession due to his raid on pensions was a bit rich considering it was his own Margaret Thatcher who had started the practice with such sickening relish, I asked them: where do you stand in relation to ordinary workers defending their rights?

You'd think, given that this was the first of only two class-based questions in a quagmire of ethnicity and business, that this deserved to be addressed. But noooooooo. They moved on, later pleading time constraints which was, given how long some of the other got for their dull, dull, DULL comments, an utter crock.

George blamed the recession on Labour's housing policy. When some of them, including Lib Dem Merlene, claimed our current situation was due not only to bankers but to a "bloated public sector", some in the audience saw red. Long-time Labour councillor Mee Ling, speaking from the floor, pointed out the folly in this argument, reminding George that Thatcher's council property sell-off infamously deformed Britain's housing market, finale-ing with the observation that a healthy public sector is the mark of a civilised society.

She received a round of applause.

So be warned. Whatever horrors Labour would inflict in sucking up to the City, the Tories and Lib Dems will be even worse.

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Katie Price and Alex Reid: Diana, car crashes and cavemen


Sneer if you like, but Katie and Alex don't half make me laugh.

In sore need of a lighter note after yesterday's grim reminder that war is hell, I'm turning to my bestest meeja show-off and her "lovable pratt" spouse, Alex Reid.

One thing I like about Alex is that, even though the tabloid favourites are constantly photographed on one long shopping trip, laden with posh-looking bags and dressed in attire usually involving the colour pink, he's still wearing the same coat he wore on Celebrity Big Brother when he surprised everyone and emerged the winner. Maybe it's his lucky coat. Or maybe Katie won't spring for anything sensible not in girlie hues.

Safeguarding his charmed streak, Alex has taken recent delivery of a Bible from fellow housemate Stephen Baldwin, who mind-frakked the cagefighter so entertainingly on TV. It'll look great in their library alongside the fruits of Katie Price's prolific authorship.

While I know quite a few chaps suffering from Jesus and Lenin/Trotsky complexes, when women succumb to grandiose identification syndrome, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc and Nadezhda Krupskaya have been back-burnered in favour of the sainted Diana.

According to the ever-reliable Daily Mail:
Katie says one of the reasons she is happy for her whirlwind romance with cage fighter Alex Reid to so quickly lead to marriage is because she always has a feeling that she might not be alive for long. She added: 'It wouldn't surprise me if it's (her death) a car crash, I always say that. Sometimes I think it might be a Diana moment because of the way the press chase me outside my house and try and run me off the road.'

Alex has been offered a role as a caveman in a new BBC drama, 200 BC. Yes, that's right. Two hundred years BC. I can't imagine why they want to cast him as a caveman. Everyone else will be in woad and living in wattle huts but Alex will be in a cave. Somehow it seems so right.

He said: 'I’m quite excited to play a Homo sapien. It’s like a different take – that cavemen weren’t actually stupid, they were quite intellectual.'

Ah, bless. How can you not love these two?

Katie Price and Alex Reid: Diana, car crashes and cavemen


Sneer if you like, but Katie and Alex don't half make me laugh.

In sore need of a lighter note after yesterday's grim reminder that war is hell, I'm turning to my bestest meeja show-off and her "lovable pratt" spouse, Alex Reid.

One thing I like about Alex is that, even though the tabloid favourites are constantly photographed on one long shopping trip, laden with posh-looking bags and dressed in attire usually involving the colour pink, he's still wearing the same coat he wore on Celebrity Big Brother when he surprised everyone and emerged the winner. Maybe it's his lucky coat. Or maybe Katie won't spring for anything sensible not in girlie hues.

Safeguarding his charmed streak, Alex has taken recent delivery of a Bible from fellow housemate Stephen Baldwin, who mind-frakked the cagefighter so entertainingly on TV. It'll look great in their library alongside the fruits of Katie Price's prolific authorship.

While I know quite a few chaps suffering from Jesus and Lenin/Trotsky complexes, when women succumb to grandiose identification syndrome, Cleopatra, Joan of Arc and Nadezhda Krupskaya have been back-burnered in favour of the sainted Diana.

According to the ever-reliable Daily Mail:
Katie says one of the reasons she is happy for her whirlwind romance with cage fighter Alex Reid to so quickly lead to marriage is because she always has a feeling that she might not be alive for long. She added: 'It wouldn't surprise me if it's (her death) a car crash, I always say that. Sometimes I think it might be a Diana moment because of the way the press chase me outside my house and try and run me off the road.'

Alex has been offered a role as a caveman in a new BBC drama, 200 BC. Yes, that's right. Two hundred years BC. I can't imagine why they want to cast him as a caveman. Everyone else will be in woad and living in wattle huts but Alex will be in a cave. Somehow it seems so right.

He said: 'I’m quite excited to play a Homo sapien. It’s like a different take – that cavemen weren’t actually stupid, they were quite intellectual.'

Ah, bless. How can you not love these two?

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Secret video of Iraq massacre released by Wikileaks



Welcome to the true face of war.

When you start something as nightmarish as war, you open up the inevitability of atrocities, dead on all sides, the murder of innocents and the death of the souls of the perpetrators.

Wikileaks has just released video of the massacre of a dozen Iraqi civilians that shows the US military shooting civilians as sport. It is truly horrific. What sort of people can carry out such an insane cowardly act from the safety of their little cockpit screens?

The murdered men in this case include two men working for Reuters: a talented young war photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40. Two children were injured when rescuers tried to help the victims.

The Apache pilot's excuse is that the group were carrying weapons and were shooting. Yet Namir's bag, identified as weaponry, was actually his camera kit. Besides, possessing weapons is legal in Iraq. If you shot up all Americans with weapons in their home country you'd decimate the population.

The Pentagon fought to suppress the video but Wikileaks have now spread this far and wide.

The real criminals, of course, are the politicians, the arms industry and the banks that set this illegal war in motion and have made their money. It's no wonder that former Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to keep secret the fact that he's taken Iraqi oil money, and that's on top of the £2 million a year he's been given by the bank organising the pillaging of Iraq, J P Morgan. For me, this far exceeds the expenses scandal. Look on your handiwork and despair, Tony and Dubya.

For the media cheerleaders who supported the Iraq war, I'll let George Orwell have the last word:
Bullets hurt, corpses stink, men under fire are often so frightened that they wet their trousers ... A louse is a louse and a bomb is a bomb, even though the cause you are fighting for happens to be just ... If there was one thing that the British intelligentsia were committed to, it was the debunking version of war; the theory that war is all corpses and latrines and never leads to any good result. Well, the same people who in 1933 sniggered pityingly if you said that in certain circumstances you would fight for your country, in 1937 were denouncing you as a Trotsky-Fascist if you suggested that the stories in New Masses about freshly wounded men clamouring to get hack into the fighting might he exaggerated. And the Left intelligentsia made their swing over from "War is hell" to "War is glorious" not only with no sense of incongruity but almost without any intervening stage.

More at the Guardian and Independent. Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com (hat tip Nevin for the Greenwald link).

Secret video of Iraq massacre released by Wikileaks



Welcome to the true face of war.

When you start something as nightmarish as war, you open up the inevitability of atrocities, dead on all sides, the murder of innocents and the death of the souls of the perpetrators.

Wikileaks has just released video of the massacre of a dozen Iraqi civilians that shows the US military shooting civilians as sport. It is truly horrific. What sort of people can carry out such an insane cowardly act from the safety of their little cockpit screens?

The murdered men in this case include two men working for Reuters: a talented young war photographer, Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40. Two children were injured when rescuers tried to help the victims.

The Apache pilot's excuse is that the group were carrying weapons and were shooting. Yet Namir's bag, identified as weaponry, was actually his camera kit. Besides, possessing weapons is legal in Iraq. If you shot up all Americans with weapons in their home country you'd decimate the population.

The Pentagon fought to suppress the video but Wikileaks have now spread this far and wide.

The real criminals, of course, are the politicians, the arms industry and the banks that set this illegal war in motion and have made their money. It's no wonder that former Prime Minister Tony Blair tried to keep secret the fact that he's taken Iraqi oil money, and that's on top of the £2 million a year he's been given by the bank organising the pillaging of Iraq, J P Morgan. For me, this far exceeds the expenses scandal. Look on your handiwork and despair, Tony and Dubya.

For the media cheerleaders who supported the Iraq war, I'll let George Orwell have the last word:
Bullets hurt, corpses stink, men under fire are often so frightened that they wet their trousers ... A louse is a louse and a bomb is a bomb, even though the cause you are fighting for happens to be just ... If there was one thing that the British intelligentsia were committed to, it was the debunking version of war; the theory that war is all corpses and latrines and never leads to any good result. Well, the same people who in 1933 sniggered pityingly if you said that in certain circumstances you would fight for your country, in 1937 were denouncing you as a Trotsky-Fascist if you suggested that the stories in New Masses about freshly wounded men clamouring to get hack into the fighting might he exaggerated. And the Left intelligentsia made their swing over from "War is hell" to "War is glorious" not only with no sense of incongruity but almost without any intervening stage.

More at the Guardian and Independent. Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com (hat tip Nevin for the Greenwald link).

Friday, 2 April 2010

Mayor Boris Johnson seeks Madam Miaow's approval for London erection


Crikey! Well, Boris. It's big. And it's red. It certainly gets my attention. No more TV reception worries for you.

Were you trying for Tatlin's Tower, that revolutionary celebration of modernism? Only ninety-odd years too late. And I'm not sure the Bolsheviks, whose 1917 victory it was conceived to commemorate, are your cup of cha. Unless there's something you haven't told us and you were the young Philby, Burgess or Maclean of the Bullingdon Set.

You called it what? ArcelorMittal Orbit? (I wouldn't include anything that sounds like "arse", in there, Boris. That's just gagging for trouble.) Hmm, doesn't quite make the political statement or possess the street authenticity of, say, Watts Towers. But get that groovy capped M. How modern. Oh, hang on. Mittal. Surely not Lakshmi Mittal, the steel baron mysteriously promoted to billionaire status in 2002 by Tony Blair? Not a vanity project for you boys, then. Getting all that steel as a job lot, are you?

My lovely readers may be wondering why I should feel qualified to advise the Mayor so intimately on the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the 112 metre high "new artwork" built in London’s Olympic Park for the 2012 games, designed by Anish Kapoor, and unveiled on Wednesday 31st March (to be completed December 2011).

Today, London Mayor Boris Johnson asked me via a Tweet to "share my thoughts". Incredible considering Boris thinks the Chinese are incapable of original thought.

MayorOfLondon @MadamMiaow We just unveiled: http://bit.ly/d03oav What do you think? Pls RT and share your thoughts 3:44 PM Mar 31st via txt

I assumed this was a mass mail-out but, no, he really was addressing li'l ol' me. Oh, and nine others. According to a decidedly unimpressed Boriswatch:
... Boris’s newly interactive twitter account sought RTs and opinions on the contraption from the following accounts:
@creativereview
@tate
@designmuseum
@barbicancentre
@southbankcentre
@ICALondon
@RSAEvents
@royalacademy
@MadamMiaow
@culturelabel

Boriswatch then sniffily asks, " ... one left wing blogger and broadcaster (why was she singled out, anyway?)."

Search me, luv.

But gently, mind. Don't take it out on me that you weren't consulted.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner, cockles and whelks, jellied eels, trouble and strife. Dunno me Arup from me Ova but I know what I like and I don't think it's the inelegant red tangle designed by computer and not even Kapoor's clever hand. Stick a track on it and turn it into a fairground ride to rival the London Eye and I might be a tad more impressed. Right now I'm hoping a band of scrap merchants cart it off in the night to suffer the same fate as the disappeared Henry Moores.

PS: It appears we'll be able to climb it for spectacular views and there will be a restaurant. If it wasn't for the fact that I'll be seeing environmental damage, Blair's Cash For Influence, slave labour allegations and an obscene level of personal wealth every time I look at the tower, I might even be tempted. As it is, look on my works, ye Mighty, and go somewhere else.

Mayor Boris Johnson seeks Madam Miaow's approval for London erection


Crikey! Well, Boris. It's big. And it's red. It certainly gets my attention. No more TV reception worries for you.

Were you trying for Tatlin's Tower, that revolutionary celebration of modernism? Only ninety-odd years too late. And I'm not sure the Bolsheviks, whose 1917 victory it was conceived to commemorate, are your cup of cha. Unless there's something you haven't told us and you were the young Philby, Burgess or Maclean of the Bullingdon Set.

You called it what? ArcelorMittal Orbit? (I wouldn't include anything that sounds like "arse", in there, Boris. That's just gagging for trouble.) Hmm, doesn't quite make the political statement or possess the street authenticity of, say, Watts Towers. But get that groovy capped M. How modern. Oh, hang on. Mittal. Surely not Lakshmi Mittal, the steel baron mysteriously promoted to billionaire status in 2002 by Tony Blair? Not a vanity project for you boys, then. Getting all that steel as a job lot, are you?

My lovely readers may be wondering why I should feel qualified to advise the Mayor so intimately on the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the 112 metre high "new artwork" built in London’s Olympic Park for the 2012 games, designed by Anish Kapoor, and unveiled on Wednesday 31st March (to be completed December 2011).

Today, London Mayor Boris Johnson asked me via a Tweet to "share my thoughts". Incredible considering Boris thinks the Chinese are incapable of original thought.

MayorOfLondon @MadamMiaow We just unveiled: http://bit.ly/d03oav What do you think? Pls RT and share your thoughts 3:44 PM Mar 31st via txt

I assumed this was a mass mail-out but, no, he really was addressing li'l ol' me. Oh, and nine others. According to a decidedly unimpressed Boriswatch:
... Boris’s newly interactive twitter account sought RTs and opinions on the contraption from the following accounts:
@creativereview
@tate
@designmuseum
@barbicancentre
@southbankcentre
@ICALondon
@RSAEvents
@royalacademy
@MadamMiaow
@culturelabel

Boriswatch then sniffily asks, " ... one left wing blogger and broadcaster (why was she singled out, anyway?)."

Search me, luv.

But gently, mind. Don't take it out on me that you weren't consulted.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner, cockles and whelks, jellied eels, trouble and strife. Dunno me Arup from me Ova but I know what I like and I don't think it's the inelegant red tangle designed by computer and not even Kapoor's clever hand. Stick a track on it and turn it into a fairground ride to rival the London Eye and I might be a tad more impressed. Right now I'm hoping a band of scrap merchants cart it off in the night to suffer the same fate as the disappeared Henry Moores.

PS: It appears we'll be able to climb it for spectacular views and there will be a restaurant. If it wasn't for the fact that I'll be seeing environmental damage, Blair's Cash For Influence, slave labour allegations and an obscene level of personal wealth every time I look at the tower, I might even be tempted. As it is, look on my works, ye Mighty, and go somewhere else.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Ricky Martin helps Chinese pirates meet their death


This made me very sad.

Livin' La Vida Loca
Even Chinese pirates fall for Ricky

In honour of Ricky Martin's big announcement this week, we thought we should celebrate with our first three stories on him. This was from February 2000:

"Thirteen Chinese pirates staggered drunkenly to their deaths this week, singing a Ricky Martin song. The gang - convicted of murdering 23 crew members, were taken to the firing squad from a court in Shanwei, China. Before they left for the execution grounds, the prisoners were locked in the court room with relatives, some food and a large amount of rice wine. Half an hour later, they emerged unsteadily into the bright sunlight, red in the face and singing Ricky's 1998 World Cup theme song La Copa De La Vida ("The Cup Of Life"). Yang Jingtao, 25, led the singing, jumping up and down in his chains and singing "Go, go, go! Ole, ole, ole!"

A short time later they were all shot, in the head and the heart, by a firing squad."

From Popbitch

Ricky Martin helps Chinese pirates meet their death


This made me very sad.

Livin' La Vida Loca
Even Chinese pirates fall for Ricky

In honour of Ricky Martin's big announcement this week, we thought we should celebrate with our first three stories on him. This was from February 2000:

"Thirteen Chinese pirates staggered drunkenly to their deaths this week, singing a Ricky Martin song. The gang - convicted of murdering 23 crew members, were taken to the firing squad from a court in Shanwei, China. Before they left for the execution grounds, the prisoners were locked in the court room with relatives, some food and a large amount of rice wine. Half an hour later, they emerged unsteadily into the bright sunlight, red in the face and singing Ricky's 1998 World Cup theme song La Copa De La Vida ("The Cup Of Life"). Yang Jingtao, 25, led the singing, jumping up and down in his chains and singing "Go, go, go! Ole, ole, ole!"

A short time later they were all shot, in the head and the heart, by a firing squad."

From Popbitch

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