Tuesday, December 30, 2003

First we take Manhattan, then we take Bristol
Here comes 2004. The 21st century. What does the next year hold for the people living in the Imperial fiefdom of Bristol? I'm posting a few suggestions for New Year resolutions because there is a group of people who have very definite plans for Bristol's wealth - the American right wing, who are running US foreign policy following Bush's coup d'├ętat. You might think that this does not have much to do with us here in the West Country, but make no mistake - in 2004 they will be pushing for more of the wealth we generate to be put to use not for us, but to ensure their agenda is met.

First up, their plans consist of keeping us in Iraq. The US right wing think-tank, the Heritage Foundation's British expert Nile Gardiner had this to say; "The President should encourage Prime Minister Blair to continue his long-term military commitment to the future of Iraq."

OK. So far (till October 2003) that commitment has cost Bristol over £8 million (figure from total cost of war divided by UK population, multiplied by Bristol population).

That's £8 million not going into hospitals, schools or housing. So what is it going for? Well the same people who want us in Iraq are pretty clear on their aims for our money, "Heritage research focuses on building constructive partnerships with our European allies while keeping America's interests foremost."

It's all about keeping the US as number one. You see, in all the debate on the war, the mainstream media did a great job of ignoring what it was really about - keeping the US as the world's number one superpower; "America's grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible." That £8 million is going towards the US neoconservative grand strategy.

That £8 million is wealth we Bristolians have worked hard for. I, for one, am pissed off that we should be footing the bill for the expansion of the US empire and that our politicians are supporting this wealth transfer from Bristol to the US imperial plan. For example, those in Bristol South have been represented in parliament by Dawn Primarolo who has voted for the war that is costing us money. In 1990 Dawn's views were very different, "I feel horrified about the way in which we are being dragged towards the inevitability of war and that the world community, with all its resources, cannot find ways to make Saddam Hussein get out of Kuwait without war."

Now she's Paymaster General, all that 'red' sentiment has been forgotten in favour of power. The power to collude in spending our money so as to allow the US to dominate the world financially and militarily. I do wonder if Dawn has read the plans of those she has colluded with? Is she supporting the US imperial plan out of ignorance or with full knowledge of what they aim to do, and is so gung-ho herself, that she is totally on board? "It is a coalition between conservative thinkers and their pro-war, pro-intervention counterparts who hailed from the left. This new breed of militarist Blairites believes it is in the vanguard of a progressive new foreign policy.....They see the future as theirs."

They also seem to see our wealth as theirs. If this makes you angry. If all the lies and bullshit over WDMs piss you off. If you're tired of politicians who say one thing then do the opposite. If you are sick of the privatisation, privatisation, privatisation being offered by all the political elite from local council level to number 10, then make your new years resolution this: "Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine."

If you're already doing stuff, then rock on! All power to you! If you're standing on the side lines then here's a few possible routes to start:

-Support Independent Media
Over the last year lots of you already have, and that's cool. It's important to remember that indy media is the lifeblood of grassroots ideals. So take this support up a level: Get involved in Bristol Indymedia (open meeting on 14th Jan), buy the latest copy of Bristle, subscribe to Freedom or Schnews and so on. Make an active contribution!

-Boycott Bush
I know that boycotting alone will not change the world, but that doesn't mean you can't limit the supply of cash that the bastards have to use in their Dr.Evil-like plans. Bristol is full of businesses who given money directly to Bush and his henchmen. Avoid them like the plague on our city that they are! Starbucks gave them cash. Also boycott ASDA (aka Walmart), AOL, Esso (aka Exxon Mobil) and there are more. Fortunately the top BoycottBush.net website will help you hone your anti-bush shopping skills.

-Localise, localise, localise
So as you're not going to go to Asda, why not go to the farmers market in town on a Wed? That's just one example of the non-corporate small ventures you can support. Supporting local trade is a valuable buffer against global economic recession and is a far more long term investment than the 'quick-fix' that corporate investment offers regions (especially as they will go on to suck wealth from an area until economic conditions change when they'll get the fuck out with the loot.)

-Get Active
While where you spend your cash is important - it is nothing without action. Think about being more than an informed consumer. Get active - there are loads of groups from anti-war to pro-ecology. Make a resolution to do something about the shit we're in. If there is no group who share your ideas - form one. If you don't want to do direct action (like Earth First!) then support those who do (like Bristol ABC). Things are only going to progress when we force them too.

< Rant over > I hope you all have a good new year. I’ll raise a glass of local cider to Bristol in 2004. I’ve had fun here in 2003 and looking forward to 2004.

"Let your life be a counter friction to stop the machine." (Henry David Thoreau)

"We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth. There is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world, here in our hearts. That world is growing this minute." (Durutti)

Sunday, December 28, 2003

Here comes the Yuppie House Implosion
I'd already outlined in an earlier article about why the housing market in Bristol is heading for an implosion. I think you'll start to the beginning phase of the implosion in 2004. I'm no economist, so there is a pretty healthy margin for error in my interpretation of what is going on, but the signs are here.

The big housing companies are shying away from the higher-end of the luxury market. Witness the words of a Wimpey spokesman (UK biggest housebuilder): "The UK housing market continues to be underpinned by a shortage of supply, caused by continuing planning delays, and good affordability. We will continue to focus on operating margins by managing costs and buying land on better terms, and limiting our exposure to higher priced markets." (Before you think they are going for lower values markets in your price range, they're not. They are looking to move away from £500,000+ and more towards the group average selling price of £160,000.) This statement does show that the bottom is starting to slip from the uber-luxury house, of the kind that The Point has a few showcase apartments.

The Financial Times reported on 22nd December, "Asking prices for houses in London slipped this month, speeding up the length of time it took to sell a property..." which is bad news for those seeking to sell Bristol's surplus luxury housing stock off in London. In 2002 the property consultants Frank Knight said of Bristol; "...consumers are really appreciating just how affordable it is to own their own home, or to trade up. In Bristol’s case and especially in the city centre, this has been the case, with comparative values for well specified apartments and town houses lagging some way behind that of other centres across the UK, which are further along their evolutionary paths." Which is saying that they are seeing yuppies trading up in London to relocate in Bristol, with cash to spare. However, you can't rely on that happening if the prices in London 'aint trading up as expected. (NB. For 'affordable' read 1 bedroom flat starting a £100,000, houses starting at £300,000) It is also interesting that Frank Knight stated in this same report, that those who took advantage of the lower (when compared to other 'evolved' cities) prices were going to be doing very nicely – further proof that those fueling the yuppie flat bubble are speculators, doing nothing to solve Bristol's housing problems and everything to exacerbate them.

While cry of 'From Each According To Their Ability, To Each According to Their Needs' has been shouted in the streets for over a hundred years from Paris to Bristol, now, more than ever do we need to re-examine the roots of a system that rewards those who exacerbate housing problems with exploding profits and punishes those who, while performing the essential services that keep the city moving, are not deemed valuable enough to have a stable roof over their head.