:: Thursday, June 30, 2005 ::

Long Walk to a Roadblock

As SSP MSP's occupy the Scottish Parliament debating chamber demanding the right to march at Gleneagles on Wednesday, we get the Lothian and Borders constabulary viewpoint.

The Scotsman - G8 police plan web of summit roadblocks to halt protestors: "'Wednesday is an issue,' said a spokeswoman. 'There has been quite a lot of confusion because it is called the Long Walk to Justice and they may think they are going to walk somewhere when they get here, but they are not.'"

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:: Tuesday, June 28, 2005 ::

Our culture is turning to steam

Technorati Tag: g8
The use of metadata tags to aid searching and grouping information is great. With so much information available, means of filtering it to get the most important stuff is essential. Sites like del.icio.us, furl (which I use for the 'no time to talk about' sidebar) and the mighty flickr use it. Now you can search tags on a wide range of sites via technorati. The sample above is the G8 tag, oh look it turns up one of my photos. I don't think you can add tags to blogger, but you can to blogs using other blogging software.

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:: Monday, June 27, 2005 ::

And Stay Out!

And Stay Out!, originally uploaded by alister.

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I Said No Pictures

I Said No Pictures, originally uploaded by alister.

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No Pictures

No Pictures, originally uploaded by alister.

I was walking down the road the other day when a bloke came up and said, we're going to occupy the Royal Bank of Scotland, to expose the hypocrisy of child poverty when fatcats make obscene profits. So I said all right then I'll come and take foties, so I did and a nice man let them occupy it but wouldn't let me take foties and chucked me out.

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"If that was socialism I don't want socialism, I want something better"

Nice piece on Venezuela at znet that manages to be positive and optimistic without being naïve. It raises the big question about what socialism is in the 21st century, a globalised century with all the horrors of the 20th century still haunting it. Is it just nationalisation, just workers control? Venezuela doesn't really have all the answers, it is making it up as it goes to some extent. And it is asking the Venezuelan people themselves, setting up forums and even a website where citizens can describe their vision of socialism. Can't see Gordon Brown doing that one.

"Hugo Chavez has declared himself socialist, he has called for a renewed socialism, and reflections on what socialism in the 21st century might be. It is not obvious why Chavez wants to talk about socialism when he has already managed to irritate the US to the point that they have by now co-financed one coup. The people I speak to in Venezuela are of diverse opinions. Some are afraid that it will generate a more powerful coup, and that their experience will end as Chile -73. Others think it is important and brings clarity to the Bolivarian revolution.

What is unclear about the appeal from Chavez is what socialism is as we understand it? Venezuela is not a socialist country, the economy is an oil-based capitalism and the national bourgeoisie are making a lot of money while pretending they are unhappy. Talking to old and young left wingers in the barrio 23 de Enero in Caracas they are all worried about the speeches on socialism and talk about the great disappointment the real socialist countries became. A young man says: "Socialism in those countries failed, and if that was socialism I don't want socialism, I want something better". It is clear that socialism of the XXI century has to replace the socialism of the XX century with something better.

Let us pick one area: international solidarity. Venezuela is a country of parallels and international solidarity is part of that parallelism. There are certainly some characteristics from last centuries' socialism to be cautious of. The enemy of my enemy is my friend, to veiling facts about trade partners, to cheer every time empire bleeds without analysing how the wound got there, and to force people to choose between two sides - as if nothing else was possible - are examples of that.

The former socialist countries, and the situation of the cold war generated a situation where people were asked to choose, complexity was put aside and an over simplified we-or- them-thinking prevailed. Familiar to Bush's US and their demand to be either with them or against them. In Venezuela people are aware of the complexity and contradictions of the process. The young left-wing generation, brought up and politicised in a post cold war world where the choice between East and West is not imposed is less inclined to accept that something is "good" because it is not "evil". Asking for international solidarity by portraying Venezuela as a paradise on earth is not useful for anyone."

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:: Friday, June 24, 2005 ::

Coke Killer

Coke Killer, originally uploaded by alister.

Meeting in Edinburgh with the Colombia Solidarity Campaign. Juan Carlos Galvis from Colombian union Sinaltrainal spoke (2nd from left). They are calling for a boycott of Coke around the question of their complicity with the killings of union members by paramilitaries.

Sorry about the text weirdness, but blogger are messing with people's templates. Stop it blogger.

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You probably don't believe me, but I don't actually read much science-fiction. But I may make an exception for Accelerando! from Charles Stross. This is not only free to download from the link above, but well-written if the short introduction he posted is anything to go by.

I realise this has been a light-week blogging wise but life has left few spare moments and to top it all I have just spent the morning in casualty after bashing my hand, I can type but only slowly and painfully.

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:: Thursday, June 23, 2005 ::

Too much information?

For those of you who despaired after seeing the Hellblazer movie with walking splinter Keanu, some better news in the form of top weegie crime writer Denise Mina. Uh but JC is not a detective Mina.

NEWSARAMA - DENISE MINA ON HELLBLAZER: "NRAMA: At the Vertigo panel in WizardWorld LA, Vankin said that you will not shy away from the supernatural elements of the series and that your first story is in fact heavy in the supernatural department. You’ve also mentioned in an interview with the Evening Times that “It's set in Park Circus and it's about some characters who live in Glasgow and who entice detective John Constantine up here. It's such an interesting thing to do and it's so different to writing emotive stories.' Care to elaborate more on the story that you’re writing? How do you see John Constantine as a character?

DM: JC is a bit of broken man at the start of my run, but that’s all Carey’s doing so I can’t take any credit for that. JC comes to Glasgow with an amnesiac friend but when they get into the friend’s house they find a lot of scary stuff there that can’t be explained. It soon becomes clear that the friend is in a lot of danger and JC has to try and find out what he’s been up to. See? This is a blurb, the para you put on a book jacket which wriggles and giggles and tries not to give anything away. Obtuse enough for you? I hope I have told you something there."

I would have thought Glasgow was frightening enough without adding supernatural elements.

As Mr Constantine's creator says "I believe that our culture is turning to steam"

Don't you?

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:: Monday, June 20, 2005 ::

Oi, you kids get aff that sculpture

landform sign, originally uploaded by alister.

Actually saw the 'parkie' chuck some snogging goffs off this environmental artwork at the Museum of Modern Art. He blew his whistle, it was like something out of the Beano.

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:: Thursday, June 16, 2005 ::

I Wanna Be Your Dog

I Wanna Be Your Dog, originally uploaded by alister.

The G8 get ready to stuff attempts at climate change agreement.

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:: Wednesday, June 15, 2005 ::

Our World Our Future

Our World Our Future, originally uploaded by alister.

I have set up a G8 2005 group on flickr. This is a place where you can post your pictures of the G8 events, such as the Make Poverty History march, the protest at Gleneagles called by G8 Alternatives or even the live8 events. If you want to get involved you need register with flickr (free) and then you can join the group.

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:: Monday, June 13, 2005 ::


I've never been asked to do a meme before and don't intend to do many more I should say, but I did like this one sent to me by that fly-Fifer Darren.

Suped Up: The Post-Human Quiz

I would like to precede this with a quote from the great man.

"I think there's far too many new titles coming out... I think most of them, the creative teams, if you were to take them out and line them up against a wall and shoot them it wouldn't really make much of a ripple in the world of general culture and there'd probably be a lot of trees that would thank you for it. I mean, most of the major companies, ninety-nine per cent of what they put out is unreadable rubbish, not even children like it, it's not even aimed at children any more. The average comic fan I think these days is probably a guy about thirty? Which means that an awful lot of them are guys in their forties. And yet these are still guys who presumably are obsessed with the same characters in spandex. Nah, I'd like to see a lot less comics coming out but a lot more thought put into them. I think that one of the problems is that the industry is geared towards - it's better to put out fifty comics that don't really sell than five that do - this seems to be the philosophy in the industry."

If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why? (Assume you also get baseline superhero enhancements like moderately increased strength, endurance and agility.)

How about the ability to slow down time, then I might actually get things done.

Which, if any, 'existing' superhero(es) do you fancy, and why?

Well I would say Halo Jones, but if she doesn't count as a superhero(ine) then it has to be triplicate girl. I mean, come on, triplicate girl...

Which, if any, 'existing' superhero(es) do you hate?

Well, the Punisher is a right-wing gun-nut psychopath and a bit of a dick. Although Rorschach was a right-wing psycho and he was cool. Why was that? Oh yeah, Rorschach was written by Alan Moore (see also The Question and Steve Ditko).

OK, here's the tough one. What would your superhero name be? (No prefab porn-name formulas here, you have to make up the name you think you'd be proud to mask under.)

Uh, the Red Mole! Well it beats the Black Dwarf.

For extra credit: Is there an 'existing' superhero with whom you identify/whom you would like to be?

Ultimate Thor...but is he really an anti-globalisation god of thunder, or does he have a mental health problem? Okay, then Billy the Cat.

Pass it on. Three people please, and why they're the wind beneath your wings.

This is the tricky part.

Martin Wisse. I've seen you lurking in the comments box of certain blogs Martin, you don't fool me. Damn, too late.

The Woolamaloo Gazette works at Forbidden Planet so he could ask all his colleagues to help.

Magnus the Stationmaster. He has just started blogging again, and it will make a change from Norwegian football.

Nick Barlow. He'll probably be more amusing than me.

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buzztracker is a cool web utility that tracks what the big news stories are and then displays them graphically by location. I realise that last sentence is hard to understand so just click on the link and have a look. You can also get an OS X.4 widget for it (yes more gibberish).

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:: Friday, June 10, 2005 ::

ambulance ltd

ambulance ltd bass dude, originally uploaded by alister.

New Yorkers Ambulance Ltd were in town on Wednesday 8th June, for a gig at the Venue. They are supporting REM on their upcoming tour and doing a tour themselves. It was a smallish crowd that turned out and they were fairly passive as well. The band surprised me a bit, from the couple of songs I had heard I expected fairly straightforward indie guitar stuff. However they often sounded a bit like the Stone Roses (second coming era). They started out with a 5 minute instrumental and included a few bluesy/led-zeppish numbers. All in all not a bad gig and I will look out for their album.

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No Alternative?

A few days ago the G8 Alternatives organisation received a letter from SNP leader Alex Salmond. In the letter Alex backed their demand for the right to demonstrate at Gleneagles.

How ironic now that an SNP controlled council have effectively banned the march by demanding up to £5million insurance cover before it can go ahead. They have also called for it to be limited to 4500 people.

And former front-bench MSP Roseanna Cunningham - supposedly on the left wing of the party - has backed them.

BBC News

SNP MSP for Perth Roseanna Cunningham said: "I would ask G8 Alternatives to accept the decision of the police and the council, however unhappy they might be about it.

"The council's request that the Scottish Executive pick up the cost of insurance is, in my view, a completely legitimate demand.

"It would be utterly inappropriate for the local people of Perth and Kinross to have to foot the bill for any damage caused, however inadvertently."

This is typical of the SNP. In Glasgow they claim the mantle of Red Clydeside, whilst in the suburbs they are neo-liberals. In the schemes of Edinburgh they are radicals whilst in rural Perthshire they are the same old tartan tories. Oh and guess what? They are now looking at ending their opposition to the House of Lords and donning the ermine, all in the interests of the Scottish people no doubt Lord Salmond of Buchan.

The Herald describe the outcome as a "a dangerous, as well as a depressing, development" and it's editorial lambasts the attack on free speech that the decision represents. It also makes some sensible points that G8 Alternatives have repeatedly made, that the safest thing to do is to allow the protest to go ahead with a march that goes past Gleneagles hotel, but not to the village of Auchterarder. "It is in the interests of the organisers, councillors and the people of Auchterarder for the rally to be well-managed and go off peacefully. If it cannot go ahead because of insurance costs, there is a risk that disparate groups, with perhaps a different agenda, could converge on the town. An unorganised, spontaneous event would serve only the interests of those intent on making mayhem."

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:: Thursday, June 09, 2005 ::

SNP Disgrace

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Insurance condition on G8 march: "Ian Miller, convener and SNP member for Alyth and Old Rattray said: 'This council does support the right of peaceful protest. I want to make that absolutely clear.'
They said that the number of protesters should be restricted to 4,500."

So the Scottish National Party are supporting the idea that protestors should be charged up to 5million quid to hold a static rally. A disgrace, the SNP leadership should intervene to put their councillors straight about what free speech really means in a democracy.

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Democracy, originally uploaded by alister.

Police in Aberdeen have been filming anti-G8 protestors saying they have been "gathering evidence", for crimes yet to come presumably. Meanwhile a protest was staged yesterday at the Scottish Parliament demanding the right to march at the summit venue of Gleneagles. It coincided with a debate on the issue in the Scottish Parliament where once again a vague commitment to the right to demonstrate was made, but nothing too specific. In other words the police and George Bush's marine corps bodyguards can do whatever they like. The attempts to intimidate activists and sideline protest anywhere near Gleneagles is an appalling attack on the democratic right to demonstrate.

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:: Wednesday, June 08, 2005 ::

Exec Scran Scam

When the SSP put forward its bill to the Scottish Parliament for free and nutritious school meals the Scottish Executive faced a problem. The policy was popular and it was backed by ample scientific evidence and studies of other countries that showed that it worked. Providing universal benefits always increases the uptake levels. So more kids would have been getting school meals and those meals would have been healthier. The policy was also remarkably cheap, a drop in the ocean of the Executive's budget.

The Scottish Executive had to defeat the bill but also had to try to incorporate some aspects of it into their programme. So they kept the healthy bit and dumped the free bit. Today we had a report on how this plan has gone. There is some good news, food standards have improved, the food is healthier and those kids who take it are more likely to enjoy it. But the bad news is that general uptake is down. "Figures show that the overall school meal uptake went down from 49% to 47%, compared to a study the previous year." It is clear that to get kids eating the healthy meals, to get them away from the chip shop, we need to make those meals free.

'Supersize Me' director Morgan Spurlock gives an interview in the Guardian today where he talks about the impact of Jamie Oliver's campaign to improve nutrition in schools. He says "I appreciate that in this country a national conversation has begun about the food you eat, but there's a big difference between having a conversation and action. There have obviously been steps here to change what is happening in schools, which is certainly a positive step, but this needs to continue. Jamie Oliver won't be there every day."

The next step is free, nutritious school meals.

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:: Tuesday, June 07, 2005 ::

Bland Aid

BBC NEWS | UK | Scotland | Ure unveils tartan Live 8 line-up: "Travis, Texas and Ronan Keating are among the acts who will perform at the Live 8 anti-poverty concert in Edinburgh next month.
The free Murrayfield concert has been timed to coincide with The Long Walk to Justice rally in the city on 6 July. The other artists include Daniel and Natasha Bedingfield, The Thrills, The Zutons, Damon Albarn, Embrace, Snow Patrol, Dido and Wet Wet Wet.
The Proclaimers ,Jamie Cullum, Youssou N'Dour and Annie Lennox will also play"

Jesus what a bland, insipid, anaemic line-up. I will have to try to make the mysterious 'long walk to justice' rally (of which details seem to be secret) just to avoid accidentally hearing any of this mob. Sadly I live within earshot of Murrayfield. Apologies to the Proclaimers, I like you guys.

You can hear some African music here. Yes I know Youssou N'Dour is African.

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Bolivian Marching Orders

Things are hotting up in La Paz.

The NarcoSphere || Mesa Offers Resignation: "It comes as no surprise that Mesa made his speech tonight. The volume and intensity of protest and police response today demonstrated that this lucha (struggle) was reaching a breaking point in which something needed to happen. Whether that was a military coup, a resignation from Mesa or the initiation of a military/civil government, we didn't know. Now, we have the first concrete action taken by the government. What remains to be seen is what the people do in response... Stay tuned, (as my esteemed colleague Luis Gomez likes to say), kind readers. It's about to get interesting..."

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:: Monday, June 06, 2005 ::

Down Under Debates

There is an interesting discussion in the Green Left Weekly this week about the way forward for the Socialist Alliance in Australia, a party that has sought to pursue a left-unity strategy similar to that of the SSP in Scotland.

It has been a genuine attempt to move away from the political culture of a plethora of sectarian left groups competing against each other. Some, specifically the split-beset affiliate of the British SWP, the ISO are calling for a new orientation. They want to see, instead of a united party, an electoral front of the groups of the left. In other words a political culture of a plethora of sectarian left groups not competing against each other. Others, led by the largest group, Democratic Socialist Perspectives, see the SSP as more of a model.

I think one of the problems in their debate is the attempt to look for models, usually in Europe. I visited Australia a couple of years ago and spoke at Socialist Alliance meetings. But what was clear to me was that there was a different political context in Australia. A Green Party with a strong electoral support was one problem.

Read the GLW debate:
David Glanz (ISO)
Peter Boyle (DSP)
Louise Walker
Alex Miller

So also the Socialist Alliance Unity Network blogspot.

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:: Thursday, June 02, 2005 ::

"Our Finest Victory in 25 Years"

French workers reject the dictatorship of the free market: "This is our finest victory in 25 years and a tremendous wave of hope is spreading among Left activists in France, while the ringleaders of European capital are crying in their soup."

A new article from French socialist John Mullen on the frontline website.

And now the Dutch have followed suit, with that useless bureaucrat Kinnock appearing on TV this morning saying that there will be no referendum in Britain on the constitution, because the constitution is dead...the French and Dutch have to veto it.

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:: Wednesday, June 01, 2005 ::

G8 Spooks and Spin

G8 alternatives, originally uploaded by alister.

How to Spin the G8 is an interesting article by David Miller on the new UKWatch website. He points out the increasingly obvious strategy of the government, first co-opt the protests as much as possible and then try to paint some protestors as good and others as bad. We have already seen Tony try to portray the G8 as a meeting to help Africa out of poverty and address climate change. What won't be addressed is the neo-liberal economics that are central to both issues.

The article goes on to point out some of the shadowy figures whose pr companies have been spinning about the likelihood of trouble and then selling advice to those they have frightened.

"The spiral of panic suits some very well, since they can make money out of it. Here is how the scam works. The press have repeatedly quoted ‘Security consultants’ about the risk of trouble around the summit. Two such are Clive Fairweather and Stuart Crawford, who regularly warn about a ‘greater degree of organisation than had previously been recognised’ amongst protestors which ‘fuelled fears that violent… protests would erupt’(Crawford, Scotland on Sunday 12 December 2004) or that the protestors ‘will be most interested in publicity’ and so will focus their efforts on the ‘temptation’ of Edinburgh, Glasgow or Stirling’ (Fairweather, Scotland on Sunday, 3 April 2005) or that ‘I think it is far more likely there will be protests in cities like Edinburgh than at the summit itself’ (Fairweather, Scotland on Sunday, 8 May 2005)

In fact both men work for Stuart Crawford Associates which describes itself as ‘specialising in Scottish public affairs, security issues and media communications’ – in other words public relations. The worse the warnings, the better the business. At present they are engaged in advising the Gleneagles Estates (bordering the Gleneagles hotel and owned by seriously old money) and possibly other business interests8. Their background is in the British Army, Crawford is a former Lt Colonel and Fairweather a Colonel. He was second in command of the SAS when it raided the Iranian embassy in London in 19809, killing all but one of the hostage takers and, according to eye witnesses, executing two of them after they had surrendered10. Amongst their former clients are the ‘Scottish People’s Alliance’ a political party linked to the ‘New party’, which was condemned by the Scottish Conservative leader David McLetchie as ‘fascist and undemocratic11.’ Both parties are run by Robert Durward, the Scottish business man who also runs the British Aggregates Association (also listed as a former client of Stuart Crawford Associates).

In other words trained killers with dubious connections to far right politics are posing as security experts and briefing the media on the dangers faced from protests. The more the dangers are hyped the more likely it is that they might be hired. At best this is a conflict of interest, at worst a conspiracy against democratic protest for pecuniary interest. Certainly the media do not yet seem to see a story in the fact that trained killers are advising on the security response to protests at Gleneagles. They prefer to refer to ‘military style’ training given to ‘anarchists’ whose total tally of killing of civilians or military personnel in the last decade is zero. This compares very favourably with the tally attributed to US and UK forces in Iraq in the year 2003-4 alone (over 100,000)."

We should not forget that the Scottish parliament guaranteed the right to protest at Gleneagles when the issue was debated earlier this year. They should stick to their promise.

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