The horror of the Iranian earthquakes are hard to comprehend. Maybe as many as 50,000 have died in the ancient city and 100,000 grief stricken survivors are homeless.
The BBC notes "Questions have also been asked about sub-standard housing, with one member of parliament calling for the Minister of Housing to be prosecuted for his inability to ensure Iran's buildings are safe."
See for example this report from 1990 which highlights inappropriate construction techniques. The report ends with the chilling phrase "Application of the information gained from the study of this event will result in the saving of lives when the next earthquake strikes in this highly seismic region."
(Thanks to Andy in New York.)
You can give a donation online via the International Red Crescent/Red Cross.
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:: Tuesday, December 23, 2003 ::
Edinburgh Mayday 2004
Edinburgh Mayday 2004 website has now been rebooted for Mayday 2004. Will be adding to it over the next few weeks.
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:: Monday, December 22, 2003 ::
Stick your empire
Scotsman.com News - Scotland - The Scots who didn't want to be honoured A heartwarming tale of those prominent Scots who refused honours from her maj'. Names include Sorley MacLean, Hamish Henderson and ealing comedy great Alistair Sim. But which bureaucrat ever had the idea that Hamish Henderson would bow the knee for a gong. This is the man who wrote 'freedom come all ye' and the 'John Maclean March' and who dedicated himself to socialism and Scots culture. And someone thought to award him the 'order of the british empire'!?
Nae mair will our bonnie callants
Merch tae war whan our braggarts crousely craw
Nor wee weans frae pitheid an clachan
Murn the ships sailin doun the Broomielaw
Broken faimilies in launs we've hairriet
Will curse 'Scotlan the Brave' nae mair, nae mair
Black an white ane-til-ither mairriet
Mak the vile barracks o thair maisters bare
Freedom Come All Ye
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:: Friday, December 19, 2003 ::
Rock 'n' Roll Neds
Von Bondies singer Jason Stollsteimer after a fight with White Stripes singer Jack White. The pair have very different versions of events.
You can get the inside scoop at Velvet Rope. Rival fans duke it out in cyberspace here and probably elsewhere too.
Anti-Social Behaviour Orders all round.
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:: Thursday, December 18, 2003 ::
Birth Rate Blues
BBC NEWS | Scotland | Population to fall below five million: " Scotland's population is expected to fall below five million by 2027, according to new figures. The Registrar General for Scotland, Duncan Macniven, said that the biggest impact was the falling number of births. He said the country's population of 5.5 million in 2002 could fall to 4.84 million by 2027."
And still we're locking up asylum seekers and their children in Dungavel.
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Grauniad Weblog Awards
I was a little surprised at some of the winners in the Guardian weblog awards. But I did like best specialist runner-up London Underground Tube Diary - Going Underground, which is a highly amusing look at a world familiar to most in Britain, even if we don't live in London. It does need to archive more regularly though, as loading several months worth of posts and pics takes ages.
In Best Design category, the bunker, with its excellent typography and use of colour (and css) is much better than winner The Smoker, which is nice but I've seen it before even if the judges haven't.
Best written winner is Belle du Jour which claims to be the blog of a prostitute - she does say "A bored journaliste could probably fake this blog but I'm not that clever".
Judges award winner LinkMachineGo used to be my homepage, thats how cool I am. Truly it does contain many great links such as Golden Age Uncensored
And no political blogs were among the winners. Yes we do need a separate category.
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:: Wednesday, December 17, 2003 ::
Just Say No
Submit Response: Burberry A look at the spread of the burberry contagion with a rather amusing audio file.
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:: Tuesday, December 16, 2003 ::
Things I Missed
BBC Scotland had a 'blog day' on December 5th. Completely missed that one. Apparently it included readings from 16 Scottish bloggers including Times New Roman. On past experience they probably wouldn't have had me on anyway. Too 'political'. And the Sunday Herald (for my money the best Scottish newspaper) has come out with a blog. Not convinced its really a blog though. SundayBlog: an independent weblog from Scotland's award-winning Sunday Herald newspaper
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:: Monday, December 15, 2003 ::
Belle and Sebastian Live
Belle and Sebastian Live, Edinburgh Usher Hall 14.12.03
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An Historic Day
I shed no tears for the arrest of Saddam, a brutal dictator who slaughtered Iraqi socialists and trade unionists, and anyone else who opposed him. Let's hope he is brought to account for his crimes in a just and transparent manner. It won't end the problems of the region although it makes the problems of Tony Blair and George Bush less heavy for a while.
But it was an historic day for another reason as the official Dunfermline Athletic site reports:
Dunfermline Athletic 2 Glasgow Rangers 0
The 14th December 2003 will go down in history for sure. Jimmy Calderwood's team defeated Rangers at East End Park for the first time in 31 years and ,, oh yes, Saddam Hussein was captured. The great man, Calderwood that is, hinted in his Programme notes that this might be a day to remember and how right he was.
Dancing in the streets of the Auld Grey Toun didn't quite come up to Baghdad standards but there was great joy. Having taken an early lead it always looked like quite a prophecy. Rangers travelled to East End Park unbeaten away from home in this season’s SPL. The Pars made one change from the side that defeated Hearts last time out with Lee Bullen being preferred to David Grondin as they tried yet again to find the find the win that has been as elusive as the Iraqi leader...
..The pitch might get the blame but really it was nothing to do with the pitch. The Pars weather a storm of a second half in which the back four of Skerla, Wilson, Tod and Bullen were immense. First league victory over the Ibrox side since March 1970. Victory at last for Jimmy Calderwood, sweet and well deserved success for the Eastenders.
Greatest OG of all time.
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:: Friday, December 12, 2003 ::
Georgia on my mind
From the Indian Another World is Possible! blog an interesting summary of recent events in Georgia.
"Only so long as Shevardnadze was capable of manufacturing consent of the Georgian people, by hook or by crook, he was useful to Western political powers and other forces of foreign capital In recent years, when Shevardnadze was perceived as having completely isolated himself from the people of Georgia; and Georgia had become one of the ten most corrupt countries on the planet, Shevardnadze was no longer their ‘blue-eyed’ boy. Shevardnadze was charged with surrounding himself almost exclusively with old Party "Yes Men" and marginalizing younger generations; as the US began looking for alternatives, and groomed a successor for Shevardnadze. Richard Miles, the American Ambassador to Georgia, stated quite recently that Shevardnadze was no longer the ideal person to hold the Georgian Presidency."
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:: Thursday, December 11, 2003 ::
next step into my office baby
More on the RCP from Blood and Treasure which has a nice way of describing the cult "surreptitious hankering after nihilism" and "vanguardism for its own sake". And Nick Barlow joins the reminiscing. In their defence (!) I would say that their old paper 'the next step' was always very nicely designed with the front cover regularly being landscape with luminous pink or orange ink, lovely - it really took Smash Hits graphics to the 'next step'. No examples seem to exist online, wonder if anyone could provide a jpeg? And there are some providing apologies at the marxism list.
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:: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 ::
The Ex, live
The Ex | Deerhoof | Alleschwindel | Giant Tank
Edinburgh Studio 24, 9.12.03
Last night we had a visit from The Ex, the legendary Dutch band who formed in 1979 and emerged from the punk scene to take on a variety of styles and projects from documenting the Spanish Civil War to touring Ethiopia. They were playing as part of a night of left-field music from label/promoters MRW44.
Above: Alleschwindel, click for a larger image
Other bands included Giant Tank, imagine a 20 minute version of 3 blind mice played to a backing of white noise and you get the idea. Alleschwindel "Nacht Musik, macaronic verbiage and stand-up tragedy" gave us Brecht and Weill Embra style.
Above: Deerhoff, click on the thumbs to see a larger image.
Deerhoff, from California had a kind of bubblegum avant-garde sound which kept pushing us towards sweet melodies and then savagely wrenching us back.
Above: The Ex, click for a larger image
Finally The Ex had to play a somewhat truncated set as time was running out. They used a double bass instead of a bass guitar, which complemented the staccato guitars and megaphone vocals. Unfortunately the sound system drowned the vocals out. But they played a great and highly original set which went down well and had the audience dancing.
Above: The Ex, click for a larger image
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:: Tuesday, December 09, 2003 ::
The Next Step
An interesting piece on the obnoxious group previously known as the Revolutionary Communist Party of Living Marxism notoriety by George Monbiot. We all have our favourite stories about this cult. I remember them at NUS conferences in the 80's managing to oppose abortion rights and defend the right of fascists to organise, from the left.
More recently one of those mentioned in the article below Claire Fox, showed up at the Edinburgh People's Festival debate on access to culture to argue that people living in Wester Hailes are not excluded from the Edinburgh Festival but choose not to attend. A particularly poorly thought out kneejerk right-wing libertarian position in other words and that basically sums up where the cult are now.
You can read the doublethink online at the Spiked blog. I'm not publishing the url, you have to choose to find it.
Guardian Unlimited | Guardian daily comment | Invasion of the entryists
One of strangest aspects of modern politics is the dominance of former left-wingers who have swung to the right. The 'neo-cons' pretty well run the White House and the Pentagon, the Labour party and key departments of the British government. But there is a group which has travelled even further, from the most distant fringes of the left to the extremities of the pro-corporate libertarian right. While its politics have swung around 180 degrees, its tactics - entering organisations and taking them over - appear unchanged. Research published for the first time today suggests that the members of this group have colonised a crucial section of the British establishment. "
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:: Saturday, December 06, 2003 ::
Election 2003: Fully Inclusive?
This report looks at how accessible election manifestos on the web were for disabled users. I designed the SSP site with accessibility in mind, and the fact that it validates as transitional XHTML is noted by the authors of the report as a significant aid to accessibility. The SSP site is not perfect but comes out top amongst Scottish political parties in this respect.
Election 2003: Fully Inclusive?
The picture is not, however, completely bleak. The Manifesto of the Scottish Socialist Party was relatively straightforward to access, even when using Home Page Reader and Lynx, and the SSP's web site was particularly commendable in that it validated to an accepted HTML standard: XHTML 1.0 Transitional. The simple layout and design of the SSP site helped to ensure improved access to the Manifesto. This greatly increases the chance that the site will be readable in the widest range of browsers and assistive technologies
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:: Friday, December 05, 2003 ::
The JD Salinger of pop
Guardian Unlimited | Arts Friday Review | The JD Salinger of pop: "Macefield claims he found Mavers to be 'a warm, sensitive man, who simply wants to follow his muse without compromise'. The singer also seems charmingly aware of his own mythology, insisting that There She Goes is 'the only record in the last 10 years' and that he will 'never do anything again' unless a tuning problem with a favourite guitar can be fixed."
New book on seminal band The La's out on Monday. When they played Dundee they opened and closed with There She Goes, and had a backdrop with the slogan "skin up la" on it.
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Great to see that Dutch punk legends the EX are playing Edinburgh on Tuesday. Check out their site for a fascinating history and audio samples.
The Ex + Deerhoof + Alleschwindel + Giant Tank
Tuesday 9th December 2003 at Studio 24, Calton Road, Edinburgh
doors 7pm (gig finished by 11pm), age 14+
Tickets £8 in advance (stbf) (or £9 on the door) available from Ripping Records and Avalanche on West Nicolson Street in Edinburgh, Monorail Music in Glasgow, and Tickets-Scotland in both Edinburgh and Glasgow.
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Escaping the geek ghetto?
Guardian Unlimited Politics | Special Reports | Escaping the geek ghetto? Harry 'Steel' Hatchet writes in the Grauniad: "in terms of the left it is interesting that two major blocs - Blairites and the anti-war movement - are barely represented in blogland. Paul Richards (www.thethinker.net/) of the Fabian Society is a proud Blairite blogger, but Stop the War Coalition activists are mostly limited to scurrying around in comment boxes. While the lack of New Labour bloggers isn't much of a shock - being pro-government has never been much of a motivating factor for activists of any kind - it is surely a surprise that a movement which has organised some of Britain's biggest demonstrations hasn't been engaged at a serious level in online debates involving hundreds of politically conscious people, especially when so much of the discussion has been about Iraq."
While there is some truth in the statement that the anti-war left are not blogging in great numbers there are a few of us out there. Have a quick look through the blogroll on this site and the likes of 4glengate, Ken McLeod's 'Early Days of A Better Nation' and myself.
There is more to the left than talking about the war. Bloggers seem fixated on the question of Iraq. It is important and I often comment on it, but it seems that British bloggers often follow a blogging agenda that is set by their US counterparts. I think some in blogville UK needs to find its own voice. There are a lot of issues to discuss. Here at perspective I have tried to take up questions of culture and the future of the left among others. 4glengate has tended to focus on the trade-unions. Ken McLeod has had interesting points to make about history and literature, Kevin Williamson about drugs issues.
However it is nice to see the Grauniad continuing to give coverage to the residents of the blogging barrio.
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:: Thursday, December 04, 2003 ::
Probably many of us heard the story of the firefight in Samarra, Iraq between a US convoy and Iraqi resistance. The US reported 40 Iraqi fighters killed, and that some of the dead were wearing "Fedayeen uniform". But now a different picture is emerging of US forces blindly hitting out at Iraqi civilians and ordering bombing of civilian areas. Channel 4 News reports "But angry local people said the American forces had opened fire at random and several civilians had been killed and injured."
Al Jazeera reports "American troops said on Monday that 54 resistance fighters had been killed in clashes on Sunday. But our correspondent and other news agencies quoted hospital sources and Samarra residents as saying that the US fire killed eight people, all civilians. Samarra hospital accident and emergency department anaesthetist Bassam Ibrahim said “we received the bodies of eight civilians, including a woman and a child”. It was not immediately clear whether the dead civilians included two Iranians who were found dead in their bus when on a visit to holy sites. Hospital director Abd Tawfiq said “more than 60 people wounded by gunfire and shrapnel from US rounds are being treated at the hospital”. Colonel Fredrick Rudesheim said the toll was 46, repeating an earlier number. He added it was not a firm toll, based on a body count, but an estimate based on interviews with all the soldiers involved."
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:: Tuesday, December 02, 2003 ::
Straight To Hell : A Hellblazer Site Alan Moore created character John Constantine is getting his own film. He'll be turned into an American, and played by Keanu Reeves. Surprisingly they are still letting him be a chain smoker. Actually whilst Reeves can't act (Matrix Revolutions anyone?) the nationality of Constantine is not that important as long as they keep the manipulative cynicism. The good news is that the plot will be based on Garth Ennis' 'Dangerous Habits' arc.
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Political Graffiti . net
Political Graffiti.net has an orwell fixation and lots of political graffiti. Looking forward to the 'how to make graffiti stencils' tutorial.
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:: Monday, December 01, 2003 ::
Culture for All?
BBC: McConnell's 'arts for all' vision | Herald: Guarded welcome for promise of culture for all
The debate over access to the arts is on again. It seems pretty clear to me that the arguments made by the Edinburgh People's Festival have hit home with politicians. The BBC reports:
"Mr McConnell said that in the last century the concepts of education and health for all became "pillars of modern society".
"I do not think it is impractical or romantic to introduce the idea that our next major enterprise will be arts for all,"
Of course New Labour are now abandoning the idea of universal health and education, indeed the whole concept of universality has been chucked on the tip by Blair and co. So you will forgive my scepticism about the promise of "arts for all" from the party currently engaged in establishing 'foundation hospitals' and tuition fees.
There seems to be much scepticism amongst the arts community too, they've heard it all before.
A L Kennedy says in the Herald: "It sounds good, but he's lying. It's bread and circuses to get you to toe the party line. No politician wants such a policy to go in to arts groups and actually be applied."
What I think needs to be encouraged is genuine grassroots art. There are kids who have never been given a break and who end up engaging in anti-social behaviour, but who have lots of talent. Let's try to encourage that, then our communities will feel more ownership of the arts, and the arts will be putting something back in.
Meanwhile the Edinburgh People's Festival will be having an Xmas special - 'live in Saughton Prison'. A very exclusive affair, you might just catch it if your case comes up in the next few weeks.
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Land of the Free
If this were an isolated event, it would be a disturbing footnote in history. But the repression in Miami reflects a growing trend toward criminalizing non-violent dissent in the United States. That trend is right in line with the words of George W. “You’re either with us or against us” Bush. Just this week the New York Times reported that the FBI is returning to Hoover-like policies by investigating, bugging and harassing antiwar protestors. Similarly, the New York Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against New York police for their tactics during a February antiwar demonstration.
It’s hard to pick out the most disturbing aspect of this growing trend: Is it the ease with which many Americans are willing to give up their hard fought liberties in the name of security? Is it the fact that while martial law existed in an American city, the biggest news stories were Michael Jackson's arrest and the 40-year anniversary of the Kennedy assassination? Or is it simply that so few seem to have noticed that this country’s hardest fought liberties are floundering on life support?
Peaceful demonstrators tear-gassed, shot with rubber bullets and arrested in Miami.
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