Aug 242013

Eisenhower warned us a while ago of the dangers of the military-industrial complex.  In fact, he even went so far as to request that “security and liberty […] prosper together”.

He was warning us of the dangers of a private industry so powerful that representative democracy would end up representing only the very private interests of such industry.

The people would no longer get a look-in under such a panorama of influence.

Today, however, I’ve read something quite different.  It comes from Julian Assange, who I am sure will need no introduction.  Where it’s most interesting is in its extrapolation of his personal experiences on a particular occasion with Google’s Eric Schmidt and “others”.  The composition of these “others” was what allows us to understand how Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex has subtly changed the way it operates.  No longer does it merely affect how the state functions where its interests demand that it does so; it’s now also impacting, through the state itself, on the behaviours, instincts and room for manoeuvre which the rest of private industry – nominally functioning in an environment of free-market capitalism – formerly exhibited.

The “others” who supposedly attended this meeting with Assange were as follows:

That visit from Google while I was under house arrest was, as it turns out, an unofficial visit from the State Department. Just consider the people who accompanied Schmidt on that visit: his girlfriend Lisa Shields, Vice President for Communications at the CFR; Scott Malcolmson, former senior State Department advisor; and Jared Cohen,  advisor to both Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice, a kind of Generation Y Kissinger figure — a noisy Quiet American as the author Graham Greene might have put it.

The wider process which Assange extrapolates from such an event – a meeting whose transcript (he informs us) has been published on WikiLeaks itself – describes the broader breaking of free-market capitalism thus:

Google started out as part of Californian graduate student culture around San Francisco’s Bay Area. But as Google grew it encountered the big bad world. It encountered barriers to its expansion in the form of complex political networks and foreign regulations. So it started doing what big bad American companies do, from Coca Cola to Northrop Grumman. It started leaning heavily on the State Department for support, and by doing so it entered into the Washington DC system. A recently released statistic shows that Google now spends even more money than Lockheed Martin on paid lobbyists in Washington.

And concludes:

That Google was taking NSA money in exchange for handing over people’s data comes as no surprise. When Google encountered the big bad world, Google itself got big and bad.

Either way, then, it would seem that security has broken the kind of capitalism many of us would prefer to subscribe to.  Whether it’s Eisenhower’s big bad wolves eating up the liberties – and more importantly the federal budgets – of the people or it’s Assange’s corporate-engulfing state security agencies, the short-term outlook for anything like economic justice is very very poor.

As a Twitter colleague of mine tweeted recently:

I’m not opposed to capitalism, I oppose it being used as an excuse to artificially inflate the basic cost of living for ordinary people.

And that, my dear readers, is exactly what the NSA, GCHQ and the half-truths of latterday politics seem – to me, at least – to represent more and more.

Security has broken, perhaps forever, free-market capitalism for us all.

And when Google promised it wouldn’t do evil, we all must’ve known – ultimately – it wouldn’t do much good at all.

Mar 032013

This post is about two tweets which came my way yesterday.  Both speak of the importance of personal responsibility.  The first describes its reach in private industry (in this case, I believe in relation to a recent story on the freemium app industry):

Companies are made of people, and people have a responsibility for their actions, inc. developing (potentially) exploitative freemium games

The second, which came my way hot on the heels of the first, said much the same thing – only, this time, in the context of the NHS (the Mid-Staffordshire scandal comes immediately to mind):

The best managers help clinical staff treat according to need and make patients healthier, not enforce NHS policy whatever the consequences

Meanwhile, in an oxymoron-like diatribe of the weakest kind against everything and anything New Labour ever did, David Cameron has this to say in today’s Sunday Telegraph:

That is what everything this Government does comes back to: the future. We are looking at the horizon, not tomorrow’s headlines; doing what’s right for the long-term. Thirty years ago, Margaret Thatcher said that we should be “in the business of planting trees, for our children and grandchildren, or we have no business to be in politics at all”.

I couldn’t agree more. In 30 years’ time, I want people to be able to look back at this government and see that we paid down our debts, helped create millions of jobs, sorted out welfare, made our schools world-beating and built homes for a generation.

Doing this kind of work might not earn you popularity points in by-elections, but it’s what I’m in politics for: making the country we love as great as it can be.

I haven’t heard that “planting trees” metaphor for really quite a while.  I suppose we’ll have Michael Gove telling us next that we should all write a novel before we die.

I’m also just a little puzzled – maybe out of technical ignorance – as to why he says “paid down our debts” instead of “paid off“.  Unless, of course, he means that it’s going to be the little people at the bottom of the pile who’ll always end up saving the Tories from their economic selves.

But perhaps this is all just a little too nitpicking on my part.

In truth, it’s always going to be the people who make a difference to any society.  Politicians of the kind who tend to rule us prefer to ignore this.  If they didn’t, they’d have to engage us in their processes – they’d have to get us involved and actively participating.  Far easier to blame an anonymous public-sector bureaucracy – and shift the responsibility stealthily onto equally anonymous private-sector equivalents – than to admit that the root of all our problems lies not in our systems but their application.

It’s not so much a new education system we need – it’s more a system teachers and students know how to work with.

It’s not so much a new legal system we need – it’s more a system whose costs victims and other participants don’t have to fear.

It’s not so much a new health system we need – it’s more a system which provides support as and when a person becomes a patient in need.

The Welfare State is the way to make our society less inhumane.  It’s in our grasp – but it is a choice.  We can spend considerable resource on allowing the fortunate to further concentrate their good fortune – or we can deliberately decide to give the less fortunate the consideration, charity and kindness most belief systems have tended to argue should be made forthcoming.

But what we have to accept is that, either way, it’s a choice.  If we choose to fashion a world where we must walk on the other side of the road from that homeless man who dies at the doorstep of a bungalow, we can.  We will do so, I am sure, in order that ambitious alpha men and women can – amongst the disasters they also commit – achieve what they undoubtedly do.  And this is clearly an act of socioeconomic decision-making at the highest level, committed by coherent men and women.  It is a freely-taken decision. It is an unforced decision to let some people live better at the expense of others.  It is a statistical calculation of risks that approves of achievement at the very top, even as it judges society will not rise up in arms and disintegrate as a result of the anonymous homeless dying distastefully in the streets.

If, on the other hand, we opt to help such homeless people – if our goal is to create a socioeconomic environment where this kind of action is prioritised over other, more aggressively innovative, behaviours – we may create, again entirely consciously and deliberately, a society where survival is ameliorated for a far greater number of our souls here on earth, even as achievement measured objectively loses its bleeding edges.

And either way, to come back to the original set of choices, and whether politicians like it or not, if anything turns out right, it’ll come down not to systems they proudly and powerfully announce but, rather, to their humane application – or otherwise – by people who look and act and feel like you and me.

That personal responsibility.

That core humanity.

That attachment to caring at an individual level for each and every relationship.

That love, even.

That kindness, generously imparted.

Far more important for a classroom than this textbook or that is the mind that plans the lesson around a book and the hands that clutch its spine.

For the funny thing about Cameron’s oxymoron of a weak diatribe is that there was very little in it I found myself fiercely disagreeing with.  Oh, yes.  Those silly sentences on immigration.  The daftness around welfare.  But in reality, the poor man knows exactly what we need to do.  Like when he says, almost pleadingly (the bold is mine):

These are not claims or promises: they are facts. We are turning the tide on years of decline — and building a Britain for those who work hard and want to get on. And we need to go further. We need to get more houses built. We need to build new roads and railways and energy connections. Some reading this may not like that; but as I have made clear, this is not a popularity contest but a battle for Britain’s future.

The problem isn’t the words, David.  The problem is the people.

In fact, the problem – more widely expressed – is your, and your professional class’s, attitude to people in general.  The fact is that systems, for high-flying politicians, are like electromagnets of recent generation: when you have the opportunity to choose between getting people voluntarily onside or creating a foolproof system designed to cage them into a certain set of behaviours, you can guarantee any minister worth their caviar will be pulled inexorably in the direction of implementing a brand-new system over convincing ordinary people to work better with an existing one.

I really do sometimes get the feeling that Cameron and some of his cohort are locked painfully into the wrong party of UKIP-incubating MPs and hangers-on.  If only he, and perhaps they, had chosen Labour, we could right now be facing another decade of government.

Maybe I should now spoil this post for you (or, alternatively, not) by saying how very much that idea makes me shudder.

Then again, maybe I shouldn’t.


They say familiarity may breed contempt.

I’m inclined, however, to believe that being a politician (of empire-building instincts, at least) makes one contemptuous of the familiar.

In this, both One Nation Labour and the more traditional Conservative impulses, which Cameron has appealed to in his text today, have aimed to reassure potential voters in a time of utter uncertainty that being British, in itself, is quite enough to be getting on with.

But in the end, they are all just words – both Cameron’s and Miliband’s, I’m afraid.

In a sense, I get the feeling that our politicians are likely to be as lost here as the rest of us.  And in this realisation (as Poirot might suggest!), I find the future most terrifying.

Where ordinary people would be the real solution, our leaders are now only able to work with systems.

The systems have taken over to such an extent that these ordinary people I mention truly have no impact whatsoever on the results – even as they end up shouldering all the blood-spattered blame.

The personal responsibility which I started this post with is impossible to properly engineer or encourage.  We spend our time terrified of the juggernaut-like mechanisms that threaten to bury our professional futures in a careering disgrace.  We hide, like frightened rabbits, from the oncoming lights which should illuminate – but which, in the end, serve only to make the shadows evermore powerful.

Yes.  It’s the people, stupid.

And our leaders are too stupid to realise it.

Feb 152013

We live in a world of gadgets galore.  But when those liberal sorts advise us, in full economic misery, that the market must be left to its own devices, it’s really time to call a halt to our obsessing with these objects – whether literally or figuratively.

A few days ago I made a link between the horsemeat and banking scandals.  I also suggested that criminal and business behaviours had become so indistinguishable that anyone on the outside looking in would have serious problems perceiving a morality in either.

Meanwhile, published in the Independent this Wednesday, we get these choice words from the headliner of an Andreas Whittam Smith article – an article you really should read in full:

Trusting businesses to do the right thing is naive. From banking to the meat industry, without strong regulation, it’s inevitably the consumer who loses out

Not the customer, you understand.  The customer is always king.  Only don’t go thinking that you and I will automatically occupy such a treasurable role.  Most of the current malaise affecting our latterday societies can be placed at the leaden feet of this idol.  We, of course, truly do believe we are that personage: we believe that these massive corporate entities will be kept in check by the daily vote and pitter-patter of feet through this (virtual) door or that.  We believe this because they tell us so.  We believe it, perhaps, because they choose to obfuscate the wider picture.

And it happens in all sorts of fields too.  Not only horsemeat or sub-prime loans – social networking too.  If you’re not the paying customer (for example, if you’re not an advertiser), you’re most definitely the product.  Any attempt to impose your will on these behemoths will almost certainly lead to utter despair.  The product is to be pushed, not caressed.  Don’t imagine they even imagine your needs.

And as the product which you are, they’ll inject you with any necessary painkillers to contaminate and make as addictive as possible the processes you have become involved with.  “Bute” for Twitter and Facebook is probably far more prevalent than we imagined.

The managerialism that pollutes our economies – that takes us on this merry dance where the real customers are top-flight nest-feathering executives, who occasionally “do good” for all-too-passive shareholders but more often are seen to ignore the pressing needs of powerless external customers – is what has brought us to this very dark place.  And I say “dark place” because of another Independent report – one which as a frequent Amazon “customer” I cannot let pass without comment.  According to an investigation by German media, neo-Nazi-connected security guards have been “monitoring” immigrant workers in Germany who work for the online giant.  This process of “monitoring” involves rifling through their rooms and possessions on a regular basis.  There is currently no suggestion that Amazon contracted the security guards themselves, or indeed knew anything about the process itself beforehand, but – in this very pattern of behaviours – it does suggest that left to its own devices, the market continues to contaminate and prejudice such generally hidden B2B transactions – transactions which deeply affect the unknowing consumers, and serve to hide what is apparently a multitude of real and considerable sins.

And if the market truly worked when left to its own devices, it would be the Amazons and Apples of this world which would proactively announce, without the requirement of constant media prodding, the abuses in their supply lines they would systematically discover through the capable checks and balances of their own processes and procedures.

As it is, such stories about fascist abuse in factories, accommodation and other work-related places the world over just lead me to feel dirty and complicit in my enjoyment of gadgets and content.

I’m beginning to feel I can’t even read a book without participating in oppressive activities.

When the terms “consumer” and “customer” get as divided and differentiated as the above would now seem to indicate is the case is, really, when we find ourselves moving into totally uncharted waters of a globalised trade.  A globalised trade where the only daily vote truly deposited is that which determines how to screw the end-user and workforces in better and more ingenious ways.

If only they spent as much time, energy and brain capacity on trying to do things right.

One thing is absolutely clear: unleashed, unregulated, uncontrolled and unacceptable – the adjectives which describe our experiences with these organisations are beginning to take on an unreasonably unhappy life all of their own.

Dec 022012

I Facebooked and tweeted the following thought a few minutes ago: “I’m afraid our free press is about as free as our free markets are free markets.”  On Facebook, in response to the argument that this means freer than state-controlled Pravda (or these days, I suppose, TV’s “Russia Today”), I then argued this:

No. I don’t mean that. I mean that elected governments are no longer the primary source of power over our lives.  I also mean, as Dan Hind observed recently, that any limited liability organisation is obliged to accept regulation.  If you don’t want to be regulated, don’t limited liability yourself.  Regulation is part and parcel of the corporate contract.  Prefer to be unregulated?  Then do what the rest of us citizens have to do when proclaiming our opinions to the rest of the public domain.  Accept unlimited liability as the downside of a greater freedom.

The truth of the matter is that our free press is no more nor less free than our markets.  As modern communications currently require industry on a massive scale to operate usefully – that is to say, to provide us with a broad understanding of what’s going on in the world – concentrations of wealth inevitably intervene.  If media ownership is reasonably distributed, and if the sources our journalists use to construct their tales are reasonably widespread, we may get a reasonably free implementation of what a democratic press should really be.  But if our free markets tend towards the monopolies of corporate capitalism, which they do, our press, supposedly free, open and honest, will tend towards exactly the same.

So if we cannot guarantee that in the future we will not begin to slide into Roosevelt’s definition of the fascist state, we must conceptualise our free press so that it does not depend on the state of our markets.  Yes.  It is true.  It is dangerous for government to control our media.  We’ve seen how the current Coalition has already seemed to have managed it, covertly and cleverly it must be admitted, in relation to our public broadcaster’s coverage of the changes being engineered in our NHS.  So to actually make it possible for governments to engage in legislation creep in the future, and acquire every right to participate in the making of the news, is clearly a foolhardy step to propose taking.

But it is equally foolhardy – and rankly naive to boot – to suggest that leaving our press in the hands of transnational corporations is the very best way to guarantee our nation’s freedoms.

There must, therefore, be a third way out of this nightmare.

Neither government legislation nor corporate whim?  Sounds good to me.  The question is: what?

Oct 202012

My Twitter moniker is “eiohel”.  It underlies everything I believe in.  Lower case corporate behemoths?  Are there such things?  Well.  If there aren’t, there damn well should be.

And I’m here to prove it.

My question tonight is whether anyone is really happy with how this world is turning out.  I intend to evidence that – in general – most people and organisations can’t be; that – even as we lob missiles at each other – we are more on the same side than on the opposing; and that there are plenty of solutions out there which could turn this world constructively upside down.

First, however, some history.


I first used the name “eiohel” on the website, back in 2002.  I chose one of the biggest online corporations of its time and made it little – and used that to explain what I was about.  At the time, was riven by battles between open-source developers and Sun, the American computer corporation.  I was yet to work in a large corporation but could appreciate both what Sun were trying to achieve – massify the open source experience and undermine Microsoft’s own unhealthy grip on the desktop market – as well as what the developers felt to be of prime importance: the creation of a self-sustaining community where in exchange for the prize of creating a software utility everyone could use, collaboration would be freely and generously provided.

I only stayed as a volunteer on for about six months – and whilst it wasn’t altogether a happy experience, it was certainly formative; certainly something I would not have missed for anything.

So it was that “eiohel” reappeared on the Internet a couple of years ago when I decided to make it my Twitter name.  That constant thread in my life of simultaneously admiring the ambition of grand corporations to organise people towards common goals and yet finding most resistible their general corruption of such goals has pursued me to this very day.  I’ve written about it quite often, as those of you who read these pages will know.  I’ve even compared some structures employed by the various Occupy movements, especially Los Indignados in Spain, to such corporate edifices – as I contemplate the dangers of becoming like your competition.

My ambivalence to corporate behaviours manifested itself most recently in this post from a couple of days ago.  In it, I suggest that HMRC might want to participate in and promote the distribution of a Corporate Boycott app.  It would work along the following lines:

  1. The objective of the app would be to allow consumers to compare and contrast the percentage of corporation tax paid annually in relation to turnover by a shop or company or other institution before a decision to purchase was made.
  2. The app would piggyback off public domain data already in the possession of HMRC which would allow such a comparison to be made.  A website could be set up which would allow web users to access the same data.
  3. Instead of consumers having to manually keep track of every company the media continues to reveal as the latest tax-avoider we knew nothing about, the app would do this automatically on our behalf according to criteria which could be set.
  4. Options could include sorting via sector; nationality of head office; philanthropic activities; community engagement; ratio between highest-paid and lowest-paid workers; salaries of executives; bonus arrangements; environmental awareness; and the percentage of internationally outsourced jobs.

In the truest spirit of the “eiohel” concept, however, and as per the title of this post, I’m inclined to recast somewhat the original proposal.  For it’s my strong belief that most people who work in large corporations – perhaps 99 percent of them – do try and do the best they can, whatever their level of responsibility.  We could, equally, say the same of political players and voters; of writers and artists; of singers and songwriters; of professionals and artisans; and of mothers, fathers, siblings and children in all strata of society.  No one is ever – generally – looking to mess the world up and make stuff in it more dysfunctional.

Human beings are really not that stupid.

So there must be another reason.

And I think that reason is this: we are all – generally – at the mercy of systems.  We don’t deliberately forget the customer and focus on the targets.  The system, badly constructed, makes us do so.  Most of those bankers didn’t deliberately decide to fuck up all those economies either.  The system, badly constructed, made them do so.  Nor are most of our current crop of political leaders deliberately choosing to shift our civilisations into reverse gear.  The system, badly constructed, makes them do so.

If our complex societies are such interdependent mechanisms of clockwork-like intricacy, any attempt to change absolutely anything which looks to use a full-frontal assault is bound to create a disastrous dislocation.  Here in Britain, our own Coalition government is evidencing this.  In other parts of the world, I am sure you can say the same.

In modern and inevitably complex civilisations like our own, change of any kind should not revert to the utter stupidity of trench warfare.  This will simply repeat, on the political killing-grounds of the 21st century, the foolishness of the early 20th.

We need to learn from history.

We need to understand that no one – but no one – can really be happy with how this world is turning out.

And we need to change the world by engaging as many people as possible.

This is why I suggest, in the spirit of the “eiohel” concept, that my Corporate Boycott app be rechristened the Freedom app.  As described above, it would provide corporations the world over with a transparent, consumer- and market-driven framework to fashion behaviours everywhere.  Instead of an eternal driving-down of costs at the expense of worker dignity, it would give those who run and operate large companies the security and certainty that the playing fields and paradigms would be common to every player in the market – as well as truly customer-controlled for the benefit of everyone.  Instead of an eternal searching-for-the-lowest-common-denominator, we could program the app to optimise humanity.  Instead of monetary profit being the one and only aim of all business, we could introduce a whole host of other factors clients would be able to vote on.

Instead of a terrible drive to compete out of fear, the Freedom app would give us all the liberty to fearlessly cooperate.

How would we collect the data?  Open data initiatives are already flourishing across the world.  Tax offices and departments already collate publicly available information on corporations.  Agreement that this is really what we want – a level playing-field to save us all from the misery of this current dysfunctionality – is surely all we would need.

How would we fund the app?  Maybe advertising from the corporations themselves.  They could show how they had improved their ratings from month-to-month; from quarter-to-quarter; from year-to-year. In the meantime, millions of consumer decisions would help the already-more-ethical organisations to steam ahead, confident in the certainty that the others would have no option but to follow.

In the end, using such methods, we could prove that it was possible to use technology, corporate skills at mass organisation and human-made systems of all kinds in order to improve society and the environment – as well as protect, defend and expand our loved ones’ futures.

Is that really too much ask?  Is that really too much to expect?  Is that really too much to hope for?

So what am I looking for from all of you then?

People prepared to invest time, energy and money in such a set of objectives, tools and technologies. Maybe we can #opensource it; maybe we can #opengov and #opendata it; maybe we can – even – #HMRC it!

Yes.  The goal I set is huge, I know.  But human beings, when they choose to work together, can achieve magnificent things.

On the eve of the #Oct20 march in London, organised by the British Trades Union Congress against the foolish austerity policies of our present trench-warfare politicians, isn’t it time that those of us who would prefer to imagine other worlds to the one we seem to be entering choose, instead, to stand up for what we believe in?

Isn’t it time to demonstrate human beings are far more when they work together?

Isn’t it time to evidence the fact that we are all on the same side?


Three final questions then, before I finish this impassioned – and perhaps foolish – appeal for sense and sensibility.

The first, to reiterate the title of this post.  The second, essentially asking for some feedback to try and understand whether I am entirely alone.  The third, looking to progress the matter beyond the immobility of our current political and business classes:

  1. Can anyone point to anyone out there who’s honestly happy with how this world is currently turning out?
  2. Does anything of what I’ve said above resonate with anyone at all?
  3. And if the answer to the latter is a “yes” of any sorts, what can reasonably be done next to improve matters?

One final thought.  If you think the ideas contained in this post, written late on a Friday night when I should’ve been working in an otherwise gainfully employed manner, are worth spreading, sharing and generally drawing to the attention of others … well, please do so.  We can’t do anything as individuals, that is true.  But individuals who respect other individuals, and learn to share common and dignified objectives whilst they do so, can move those metaphorical mountains that – right now – impede a proper and civilised progress.

A Freedom app to liberate us from the trench warfare of early 21st century business and politics?  Why not?

Aug 222012

Those of you who regularly read these pages will know I’m not a fan of what I’ve termed Darwinian capitalism.  The idea that humans in their economic environments should aim to reproduce the conditions that make us most similar to the beasts that populate this earth – instead of amplifying the socialising aspects which differentiate us most from such tooth-and-claw dynamics – is not something that immediately attracts me.

But today, this morning, as I awoke from sleepy unconscious contemplation, and found myself making churros and croquetas for breakfast, I realised that sadly enough we don’t even have Darwinian capitalism.  This is not survival of the fittest but survival of the sneakiest.

The ground rules run as follows: we set up governing structures where the state pays for roads, schools, hospitals and other communications structures; for inspection and oversight systems and procedures; for the writing and implementation of laws; and for security services which help guarantee social order.  In exchange, we are obliged to contribute taxes to make it all work.  This includes future services such as pensions and health and social welfare support for the elderly, who always require more support than the young in society.

You then spend your whole life participating in such an unspoken social contract – only for an economic crisis like the one which currently assails us to pull the rug from under the feet of the poor and middle classes, and thus change the ground rules forever.

Only the ground rules haven’t been changed.  Rather, we were led to misunderstand them.  Life, the economy and everything isn’t structured to provide everyone with opportunities: life, the economy and everything is structured to allow the sneaky to win over the honest and open; to allow the cunning to beat the sharingly creative; to allow the foxily brazen to undermine the sincere; to allow the selfishly individual to overcome the gently social.

This isn’t even Darwinian capitalism.  The playing-field is mined – and battle only commences once we, the poor and middle classes, have struggled across its entire expanse.  The powerful, meanwhile, sit on the sidelines, appearing to spectate more than participate.  And when they do finally enjoin battle, it is with a society so sodden by the mud of unjustly opaque ground rules that the final result will never be in doubt.

If only we did have a real Darwinian capitalism.  In a world where brains can frequently beat brawn, it’s possible that those with considerable support needs might – even so – still win out.  But Darwin has nothing to do with the travesty of justice we are now witnessing.  Pensions which collapse in value; social security systems which are cut so tax rebates and exemptions can benefit grand corporate institutions; banking systems which continue to feed off and profit from the carrion their inefficient managements have converted our economies into … this is not the survival of the fittest; nor the evolution of the most intelligent; nor the development and progress of the species.  This is, rather, the institutionalisation of a casual corruption: so casual we are unable to properly see it for what it is.  A corruption of the virtues and tools of all that humanity is best at: a contamination of goodness and professionalism; of a desire to be efficient and honest; of an instinct to treat others as one might prefer to be treated oneself.

No wonder those who legally rob and steal from our societies – those who set up the rules and regulations with sufficient leeway to allow for their every whim – then fiercely proceed to criticise and condemn those who will inevitably remain far weaker than themselves.

The former know they’re evil in what they do – even if only at a subconscious level.

Meanwhile, the latter are only just beginning to realise the truth.

Perhaps too late to make any difference.

So that’s where we find ourselves: stupid wool-pulled-over-the-eyes broadly educated voting populaces who generally play by rules which the rich and powerful have designed to their own perfection.

Not in the intellectually coherent belief that a libertarian approach to life is simply better for humanity and its social health but, instead, out of a truly hubris-laden comprehension that their deep pockets deserve far more wealth than ours – and just because they say so.

Meanwhile we – who have allowed them to get exactly where they are – deserve everything which now makes our life a misery.

Not because we’re less fit.  Just because we’re not sneaky.

Simply because we’re unhappy to dish out the shit the rich and powerful have come to revel in.

Aug 112012

A couple of days ago I posted on the subject of money and how those who use it to define everything appear now to want to impose their criteria on everyone else.  Today, I am minded to recall the thesis of that post as I finish an afternoon stint reading a good Kindle book on my wife’s sunbed out in the garden.

This gentle hour or so in a much improved Spanish afternoon – yesterday was unbearably bochornoso and hit 37 degrees – created in my being such an utter sense of wellbeing that I really couldn’t help feeling: “Why isn’t this kind of experience available to all?”

Can it really be beyond our sophisticated and technologically analytical age to develop the kind of society where such simple freedoms are – realistically – available to all?

Why shouldn’t more of us be able to enjoy such wellbeing?

Why can’t we use money to maximise humanity’s happiness – instead of concentrating it in wells of pitiful limitation?

Why are those in power pushing us towards competing with each other more and more – instead of encouraging us to work together to common interests?

Why in a world where competition is the name of the game – and, thus, where plurality should be a guiding factor – does difference become a potential indicator of shame and suspicious behaviour, and homogeneity the only globalisingly accepted virtue?

Why have we allowed the concept of the free market to become distorted by those who use their monetary wealth to corrupt for their own benefit the appreciable tenets of competition and diversity?

And when will all the above finally cease?


Footnote to this piece: sadly, Dave Semple, over at Though Cowards Flinch, has formerly announced he will no longer be blogging. I’m inclined to believe that many of the questions I ask above have their answers in his considerable writings over the years.  He feels that blogging has had little effect.  I think his kind of blogging will continue to resonate for a long time.

I posted a comment at the foot of his piece and republish it below as a kind of manifesto in favour of keeping faith with the blogosphere – or, at least, as thinking people might wish to continue to conceptualise it:

I think your best blogging was as you described it: agitational propaganda. I wouldn’t be so harsh on the wider activity though. I think it has many similarities to being a teacher. Not because it is didactic but – rather – because you never know the impact you’ve had (or will have) when someone stumbles across your writings. Intellectually coherent bloggers are more common than you might presume and just because some notable use blogging as a lever to greater power doesn’t mean we all do.

We’re not all the blogging equivalents of churnalists, though there *is* a lot of that – where people coattail the main news to spike their hits.

Myself, I’m very occasionally read and I may be spitting in the well of insignficance but in order to feel at peace with the awfulness of this world I do have to bear witness.

Bearing witness means more to myself than my readers? Yes, perhaps it does. But, in the worst case scenario, it’s better than being locked up in a hospital because one can’t deal with what’s out there.

And in the best case scenario, it fills that well just a little so that one day someone may be able to climb out of it.

We’re small. I am, anyway. I have to take small steps. Blogging is one of those steps.

And just so you know, the only reason I now blog on the open Internet – instead of burrowing away inside Members Net and trying to reason from my mindset of relative privilege with your determined class anger – was because of the things you wrote.

You didn’t intend to teach me, Dave. But I did learn from both your behaviours and your content.

I don’t, after all, think I could have written the stuff I’ve posted in the last couple of days if I hadn’t escaped from the self-serving cosiness of the aforementioned environment.

So you see. You saved at least one soul – can’t that sometimes be enough?


Good luck with all your endeavours, anyhow. Even when you’re wrong, as I think in part you are in what you say above, you’re engaging. And I’ve never got the feeling I’m wasting my precious life on this earth whilst I’ve chosen to read something you’ve written.

Jun 282012

I’m wondering this evening, as European ministers and politicians various meet somewhere abroad to agree once more that they do not agree about the euro – and, especially, that they do not agree on how to make it just that little bit more palatable to the markets – whether the markets have any right to determine the future of anything.

The news about Barclays, for example, just gets worse and worse.  Whilst in the US, the Justice Department agreed not to prosecute individuals at Barclays when it slapped on its hefty fines (more here with what appears to be original documentation in .pdf format), this evening I discover, as I watch Nick Robinson on the BBC, that there is actually no specific British law at the UK end of things under which the interbank rate-fixing scam could end up being prosecuted.  It is apparently hoped in police circles – and presumably in the rest of the country – that general anti-fraud legislation could be used instead.  If, that is, the FSA or the police don’t decide to go down the route of the US Justice Department’s unhappy let-off.

I’m afraid on that issue, words are beginning to fail me.  There is only a certain number of expletives one can toss in the general direction of computer and TV screens.  That maximum number, at least for me, was reached this morning.

Meanwhile, on a slightly separate matter, Norman argues that because universities are populated by Marxist researchers doing their level best to undermine capitalist society, it’s not fair to describe such institutions as “unabashed instruments of capital”.  In the light of the Barclays scandal – and what I presume to be the heavy involvement of similar banking institutions in the administration of the latterday student loans system – and whilst there might have been a time I might have been more sympathetic to the position he holds, I don’t think it’s fair to deny the assertion any more.  It seems pretty evident now that ever since New Labour introduced tuition fees and extended the requirement to take on student loans, universities have been working hand-in-glove with corrupt organisations to fleece and – whether intentionally or not – socially engineer our youth so that they become accustomed to the idea of acquiring an indebted state for what is often an educationally poor provision of learning resources.  As the NUS have recently suggested:

Liam Burns, the president of the National Union of Students, is calling for university lecturers to be forced to acquire teaching qualifications to ensure that students paying tuition fees are getting the most out of their degrees.

With three-year courses now costing up to £27,000 in fees, Burns says universities should recognise that they need to improve the standards of teaching in seminars and lectures, including those delivered by postgraduate students, who are increasingly used as a cheap alternative to professional academics by cash-starved institutions.

So there we have it.  On the one hand, a complex price-fixing scam in the banking sector for which no relevant law exists in order to prosecute; on the other, an absence of recognised qualifications for services provided by the universities on the back of a tripling of tuition fees generated to make even more money for both themselves and the Barclays of this world.

As well as serving to prepare their future clients for that slippery slope down to an onerously unending – and long ago socially accepted – indebtedness.

You remember when they used to talk about the military-industrial complex?  You know the sort of thing:

Military–industrial complex, or Military–industrial-congressional complex[1], is a concept commonly used to refer to policy and monetary relationships between legislators, national armed forces, and the defense industrial base that supports them. These relationships include political contributions, political approval for defense spending, lobbying to support bureaucracies, and oversight of the industry. It is a type of iron triangle.

Well how about we start talking about the banking-industrial complex?  I really think it’s time we did, you know.

And time we had a Leveson-style inquiry to lay it bare.

This is not just a few rogue traders; a few rotten apples; a few corked bottles of champagne.  People have committed individual crimes against society – but the biggest crime committed is systematically against the very concept of the free market.

Our trust in the free market is becoming non-existent – and quite rightly so.

And it’s the banking-industrial complex, and all those who have their snouts in the troughs they fabricate, and here I include the universities and educational institutions which expand on the back of debilitating financial misery, which is finally destroying – where Communism and socialism failed to – any vestiges of confidence in the system it supposedly supported all these years.

“Unabashed instruments of capital”?  The phrase is spot-on.  Instruments of capital – not instruments of the free market.  And their reach and their tentacles and their sad ability to corrupt everyone and everything they touch is what is destroying a civilisation which – in hindsight – only ever achieved a superficiality of apparently radical and thoughtful education.

Jan 302012

I’ve just received this email from – it’s well worth a read as it highlights how large corporations and wealthy interests continue to try and game the free markets and our wider economies in their favour:

Dear friends,

A new global treaty could allow corporations to police everything that we do on the Internet. Last week 3 million of us successfully pushed back the US censorship bills — if we act now, we can get the EU Parliament to bury this new threat to all of us: 

Last week, 3 million of us beat back America’s attack on our Internet! — but there is an even bigger threat out there, and our global movement for freedom online is perfectly poised to kill it for good.

ACTA — a global treaty — could allow corporations to censor the Internet. Negotiated in secret by a small number of rich countries and corporate powers, it would set up a shadowy new anti-counterfeiting body to allow private interests to police everything that we do online and impose massive penalties — even prison sentences — against people they say have harmed their business.

Europe is deciding right now whether to ratify ACTA — and without them, this global attack on Internet freedom will collapse. We know they have opposed ACTA before, but some members of Parliament are wavering — let’s give them the push they need to reject the treaty. Sign the petition — we’ll do a spectacular delivery in Brussels when we reach 500,000 signatures:

It’s outrageous — governments of four-fifths of the world’s people were excluded from the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) negotiations and unelected bureaucrats have worked closely with corporate lobbyists to craft new rules and a dangerously powerful enforcement regime. ACTA would initially cover the US, EU and 9 other countries, then be rolled out across the world. But if we can get the EU to say no now, the treaty will lose momentum and could stall for good.

The oppressively strict regulations could mean people everywhere are punished for simple acts such as sharing a newspaper article or uploading a video of a party where copyrighted music is played. Sold as a trade agreement to protect copyrights, ACTA could also ban lifesaving generic drugs and threaten local farmers’ access to the seeds they need. And, amazingly, the ACTA committee will have carte blanche to change its own rules and sanctions with no democratic scrutiny.

Big corporate interests are pushing hard for this, but the EU Parliament stands in the way. Let’s send a loud call to Parliamentarians to face down the lobbies and stand firm for Internet freedom. Sign now and send to everyone you know:

Last week, we saw the strength of our collective power when millions of us joined forces to stop the US from passing an Internet censorship law that would have struck at the heart of the Internet. We also showed the world how powerful our voices can be. Let’s raise them again to tackle this new threat.

With hope and determination,

Dalia, Alice, Pascal, Emma, Ricken, Maria Paz and the rest of the Avaaz team

More information:

European Parliament member resigns in ACTA protest

If You Thought SOPA Was Bad, Just Wait Until You Meet ACTA

ACTA vs. SOPA: Five Reasons ACTA is Scarier Threat to Internet Freedom

What’s Wrong With ACTA

The secret treaty: Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) and Its Impact on Access to Medicines

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Jan 032011

It seems that our local politicos want us to be more like the US in so very many things these days.  Brian has documented quite plainly the connections that tie our Bullingdon boys to the bully boys of the GOP.  I imagine that when they go on their speech-making circuits and sing the praises of monopolistic capitalism (they call it free-market capitalism – but as ever in modern politics this is yet another dishonest euphemism), they’re not exactly thinking of what such a capitalism has done to Detroit.

As Dave Winer most usefully concludes, whether we like it or not the planet is clearly socialist:

Here’s the truth, and no matter how hard you argue, I’m not likely to sway in my belief of this. Ayn Rand’s philosophy might have worked in an agrarian society when people lived far apart, and couldn’t pool their resources. When there wasn’t much technology, so there wasn’t much point in trying to fight disease or keep the trains running, because there was no medicine or trains. But with almost seven billion people on the planet, and a complex financial system that no one understands and therefore can be manipulated by looters who look like captains of industry, how do you find the Great Ones, and if you do, what exactly can they do to differentiate themselves from the rest of us poor slobs?

And I don’t really think there are any of those great people, btw. I’ve traveled in some pretty high circles, I’ve met Bill Gates and a couple of Nobel laureates. I’ve been to Davos, and been part of an IPO. I’m on John Brockman’s Edge list. Big fucking deal. All these people who are so great aren’t really that much greater than the average schmuck on the subway. There really isn’t that much range in the smartness or fitness of human beings. We all have about the same lifespan, have the same experiences, birth, childhood, puberty, etc. To think there are some people that are so much better than the rest of us, well, I wouldn’t trust that so much.

The truth is we’re way out on a limb. If you want to go back to the point where we decided to be socialist and try to undo it, you’re going to have to kill most of the people on the planet who depend on the current system for sustenance. And like it or not, that probably includes you. It certainly includes most of the idiots running around preaching Ayn Rand these days.

Please read the whole of Winer’s article because it hits the nail entirely on the head.  Illness does hit us all equally and in equally unbidden ways.  And it doesn’t matter if you’re a millionaire in the British Cabinet or a “benefit scrounger” on the poorest of social housing estates, snowstorms may hit us both and the need to clear the streets as quickly as possible is shared and community-riven.

(Incidentally, I do wonder if the focus on “benefit scroungers” which has characterised so fully the early months of the Conservative-led Coalition isn’t something rather more strategic than has been argued up to now.  We are, I think, as a species, inclined to turn in on ourselves when outside forces threaten.  The likelihood that a Mediterraneanisation of the economy takes hold as the welfare state is allowed to collapse and the big society idea fails to kick into gear is pretty considerable.  Just think how much more money the Exchequer might lose out on in VAT receipts and declared income if we as a nation decide that the interests of family and friends far outweigh the interests of a wider society that, in any case, our government is clearly intent on destroying.)

Yes, my dearest right-wing readers.  The planet Earth is already socialist.

Everything else that takes place is simply a positioning of egos at the expense of ordinary people’s lives.

GPS for politicians and other hangers-on.

A misleading sat-nav of a conceptual compass which serves only to distract us from the real matter to hand: how to make a complex society work efficiently and to the benefit of the very widest majority despite the fact that its very worst eggs continue so unsustainably to float to the top.