Monday, May 31, 2004

Reflections on the 60th Anniversary of D-Day

June 6th 2004 sees the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings - I doubt I'm the first one to point this out to you as most of the media has pretty extensive coverage of this event- in my opinion rightly so - as this was a huge event that has touched the lives of many people. My Grandad was one of those soldiers who made that short crossing over the channel to help end a long and brutal war. He married my Gran before embarking to war as he feared he may never come back; fortunately for our family he did - and they were together from then until when they both died.

The legacy of this event is also still with us in Bristol - Clifton College still has General Omar Bradley's three star general's banner. This banner was presented to the college as a mark of thanks for the use of the buildings as the HQ for the US 1st Army. General Bradley moved in to the college on 16th October 1943 and used it right though till June 1944. The school kids who would have been there had long since been evacuated out of the city.

World War II is seen as the 'good war' (indeed the BBC have dubbed it 'The People's War') and throughout the intervening period, politicians have sought to associate themselves and their actions with this most moral of wars. Most recently Tony Blair and George Bush has sought to swathe themselves in the cloth cut by so much suffering to hide the fact that their war is not only not a good one, but is totally stark naked. These two leaders, neither of whom has seen active service in any war, will be standing tall at a ceremony in Normandy to mark the event. With so many important leaders in one place, and with an ongoing War on Terror (TM) to worry about, the town hosting the event, Arromanches, has been totally sealed off. The Major of Arromanches obviously sees how ill fitting their cloth is, as he told reporters; "The sad thing for us here is that June 6 is almost more important than Bastille Day. Every year our British veterans come and every year we celebrate with them in a wonderful, intimate reunion. This year will be different. There'll be no party, no cocktails on the square. They've stolen our party."

In the run-up to the war there was much discussion of 'appeasement' and how it had failed with Hitler, and so it would fail with Saddam: Rupert Murdoch's New York Post shrieked: "Where are the French now, as Americans prepare to put their soldiers on the line to fight today's Hitler, Saddam Hussein?" I myself, as an opponent of the Iraq war, have been hit with the charge: what would you have done in WWII? Let Hitler take the whole world? My answer then is the same as now - I'd have tried to stop him obtaining power in the first place. The war against fascism did not begin when Hitler invaded Poland in 1939. It did not begin when the anarchists, communists and socialists were battling Franco, Hitler and Mussolini in Spain 1936. It began when corporate interests, fearful of the rise of social movements, sought a vanguard against the loss of profit. This battle has roots that go back beyond the 20th century. Without financial backing and sponsors in the corridors of power - men such as Hitler, Saddam and Osama would still be fanatics, but lacking the power to act would be snakes without venom.

When GW Bush stands before the world to mark the sacrifice of allied soldiers in D-Day I wonder if he'll spare a thought for Prescott Bush, his granddaddy who spent the 1930 and 40s helping Hitler to acquire this venom. Through various trading companies and banks Prescott Bush was part of the 48.5% rise in US corporate investment in German once Hitler came to power. He wasn't alone; Henry Ford was awarded Great Cross of the German Order of the Eagle by Hitler for services to German industry. In the words of John Loftus, a prosecutor with the US Justice Department’s Nazi-hunting unit, "..they [Prescott Bush and his cronies] should have been tried for treason, because they continued to support Hitler after the US entered the war...I could have made that case."

Instead of standing in a court accused of complicity in war crimes, the corporate villains of the 'good war' will have their figureheads presiding over the service to honor those who cleaned up their mess. Instead of being dismantled, the corporations who cashed-in from fascism, such as Ford, IBM and Nestle - now take pride of place in our consumer driven lifestyles. Instead of being run out of the country, the media who applauded Hitler are given free reign to continue his hateful ideology. In the words of Jose Arevalo, a member of the left-leaning cabinet of President Arbenz of Guatemala prior to its overthrown by a CIA orchestrated coup, who remarked; "The allies may have won the Second World War, but unfortunately the ideology that won was not that of Roosevelt, but that of Hitler."

While Nestle has a cafe in the heart of Bristol selling salve-labour coffee, while the BNP tread the streets of our city peddling the ideology that my grandfather fought against, while the warmongers are lauded and the peace makers slandered as appeasers or terrorists - while all this happens - the war against fascism is not over and it would be an insult to the freedoms that people like my grandfather fought for to do anything else than continue that struggle.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Flyposting for Freedom

I was reading Venue before xmas where they had a big article about local Tory politician, Richard Eddy and his war on flyposting. As part of the spin for this campaign, he posed for a photo surrounded by the objects of his displeasure - posters of evil! But is this issue as simple as one of litter and glue? Is there more to it than that? Well I think so....

We live in a democracy (apparently) and one of the privileges we are kindly granted (lol) is the freedom to speak out; to say what we like. Unlike those living in the axis of evil, we can choose write songs about Blair being a lying wanker, rather than be forced to endlessly drone the praises of Kim Il Jong. However, like many of the so-called freedoms we have, it doesn't mean as much in practice it does in theory - how do you use your freedom of speech when there is nowhere free to say anything? Having no platform to speak out from is as effective a form of censorship as a gun to the head. Indeed, you could argue it more effective because it renders a mass of the population unaware they are being censored, at least with the gun you know where you stand.

Where does flyposting fit into this?

Say you wanted to take advantage of the democratic rights you've been offered and stand for election. You need to let voters know that you exist and what you stand for. Assuming you are just an ordinary person like me - what budget promotional options have you got available? You can hope that the local media take an interest, but say your party was the 'End the Evening Post Media Monopoly Party' do you think they would? Your options are pretty much down to leafleting and flyposting and you are now in Richard Eddie's crosshairs. This situation is the same with music - you're trying to build a scene or band that's outside the mainstream or controversial (say Thrash-Folk or Speed-Country) - you have only a few options for publicity. And the most effective and cheapest is gonna get you busted.

Money, Money, Money

All these difficulties of exercising free speech or promoting your unique sound vanish if you are rich. You can buy a flyposting licence, pay for adverts in the papers and so on. So what we're looking at is a system where the freedom of your speech is related to how much cash you've got - and that's where this comes full circle - in the picture of Richard Eddie I mentioned at the start, all the posters he is posing with are local club ones. Eh? Where's the corporate flyposters? I don't know about you, but that's what I see most of when I'm walking around; 'Men Only' soft-porn adverts and international crappy pop tunes. They've got the cash to pay somebody to put us huge A1 glossy posters everywhere and Eddie is helping remove their competition. He is ensuring that is that poorer local bands and groups be at a huge disadvantage while the multinational are let loose to smear their insipid shit all over another media form. Here's a couple of examples of the companies who Eddie has not highlighted in his Venue photo-op; Pink - has lots of posters for a new single on the Laface label (who are owned by Arista, who are owned by BMG, who are owned by Bertelsmann, who are one of the largest media corporations in the world) and there are still a few Kill Bill posters flapping in the wind (a film by Miramax, owned by Disney, another mega-corporation who donated $1.25 million to the Bush campaign.)

The Devil's Wallpaper Paste

I know that flyposting produces litter and mess, and the glue can be toxic and damages buildings - I'm not saying we ignore this - but by licensing it; all that is happening is that big business gets near exclusive access to another promotional method and the local scene is, again, shut out. Which I suppose does fit the overall Tory world-view, but it is not Pink or Disney that makes Bristol a vibrant music and cultural scene, its the many underground scenes with their energy, creativity and enthusiasm and a bucket of wallpaper paste.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

This is an article written for Bristle magazine no.16...
(while on the subject - check out this interesting plan for the development -

Welcome to the Plunder-dome: The Broadmead Development

The city centre of Bristol is about to get a new development - whether you like it or not - grandiose £500 million scheme providing all the things that Bristol does not need. This masterplan has been bulldozed (metaphorically) though local groups, the democratic process and will shortly (August 2004) begin bulldozing though the affected communities themselves. What is most shocking about this whole affair, is the manner in which the very institutions - the council and the local press - who are supposed to be there to protect us from such destruction, have rolled over and offer Bristol's heart on a platter for the London moneymen to enjoy at their leisure.

The Developers
The consortiumwho are running the show is composed of Land Securities, Hammerson and Henderson Global Investors (all London based) along with Morley Fund Management (based in Basildon, Essex). Together they go under the misleading title of 'Bristol Alliance'. Once writer on Bristol Indymedia joked, "It is nothing to do with Bristol allying to anyone...This is not development, its plunder. Its the Imperial Alliance." All developers claim to come with good intentions, but it is not surprising that people are sceptical of their real aims. Such scepticism is not unjustified when the property director of another developer working in Bristol, Quintain Estates and Development Plc, writes to the government- sponsored Barker Review of Housing Supply stating why they wish to limit affordable housing; "large numbers of affordable housing tenants, particularly social renters who are predominantly on housing benefit, would not help the economic performance of the restaurants, bars, cafés [and] cinemas in the area....We believe that high levels of affordable housing on mixed- use development are to be avoided and, wherever possible, affordable housing should be targeted at economically active households." Such statements make developers sound more like a profit hungry behemoths, than the selfless architects of community prosperity they like to appear as.

The Fixers are Called In
The developers need to ensure that the PR process of such a major development goes without the potential hitch of, say, the local people not wanting their benign assistance. For this they have turned to London based Opinion Leader Research, who proudly proclaim what they do; "helping to turn audiences into advocates" Officially, Opinion Leader Research are there to consult the communities about what they want. If you read their blurb, you will soon discover that consultation is only one service on offer. Another is persuasion and persuasion is an art they claim to excel at. Opinion Leader Research have detailed methods which involve the use of 'protagonists'. These are, "persuasive people; skilled at encouraging others to adopt their point of view."

Consolation or Social Engendering?
You might reasonably ask, who's point of view are they seeking to really represent? Joe and Jane Public? The effected communities? The answer lies in a section of a report entitled 'Benefits to Business', "We utilise protagonists to provide public and private organisations with research that informs them on the public mood. Protagonists evaluate information and are integral agents in passing on the opinions that spread throughout communities." All these plans and strategies provide a very different perspective from the developers spin that the consolation as a benign and unbiased; "The proposals have been developed following extensive consultation over the past three years involving members of the public from Bristol, the City Council and a robust, representative sample of local people, business and special interest groups." They do not mention that St.Pauls Unlimited, on 25th June 2003 dissolved their sub-group working with the developers, unhappy about the process and where it was going.

The Failure of Local Democracy
All these advanced techniques for engineering opinion would come to nothing if the people, though their elected councillors, said 'no' There was certainly a significant group of local people who opposed the current development plan. One local resident, participating in the democratic process, emailed the local councillors to request a delay the decision, but found a wall of silence, "I'd emailed to ask them to delay the development - I'm not saying I am 100% against it, but I felt this huge scheme was being pushed to fast - we just didn't have time to take it all in." Out of the 4 councillors he emailed only 1 bothered to reply. The vote in favour was almost unanimous with the local Ashley councillor, abstaining (but not having the guts to voting against it!). The Bristolain, the local muckraking news-sheet takes up the story; "Despite some truly excellent and well researched and passionate contributions from St.Pauls residents at tonight's planning meeting the council ignored them all in favour of Land Securities scheme which will bring pollution and traffic chaos to St.Pauls. A packed public gallery listened as opponents of the scheme won all the arguments and Land Securities suited executives could only squirm as the total inadequacy of their much vaunted 'consultation' was revealed for all to see. One Land Securities hot and bothered executive said' the scheme is intended to increase the hierarchy in Bristol' to widespread laughter. It was revealed that only 5% of the housing will be affordable and 95% apartments for yuppies - contrary to all guidelines which recommend 30% affordable housing." Next time politicians are scratching their heads and asking why so many people don't bother to vote - I suggest looking at this pathetic example of democracy in action.

Enter the Plunder-dome
There has been much debate as to, if this development is a good thing - some locals support it in the hope that it will alleviate the crime and drugs problems that afflict the area. However there are also real fears that it will do more damage than good; traffic problems, the new corporate retail giants smashing the lively hood of the local independent shops and the destruction of the local community. Any compensation paid by the developers to the area also runs the real risk of being swallowed by quangos such as the South West Regional Development Agency or squandered on poverty professionals, as has happened with the Community at Heart scheme.

No Future
It is a sad reflection of both the bankrupt council policy and the greed of developers that the only solution being offered to St.Pauls is gentrification. Nobody want to live in a crack infested area, but then the strong community that has weathered the storms and upheavals of Bristol's history stands in danger of being swallowed by property speculators as they attempt to cash in on the latest 'evolving' city centre. This type of development, all to often makes the rich, richer. In 2002 the property consultants Frank Knight stated that those who took advantage of Bristol's 'lower' prices (when compared to other 'evolved' cities) were going to be doing very nicely - further proof that those fuelling the yuppie flat bubble are speculators, doing nothing to solve Bristol's housing problems and everything to exacerbate them.

Discerning Occupiers
One of the Imperial Alliance, Hammerson, is no stranger to accusations of putting profit over people. They are part of another consortium which has been locked in a 14 year struggle over the development/destruction of Spitalfields Market, London. Opponents of this scheme call it, "..plans of grotesque imagining.." and claim it will destroy a historic and vibrant community. The opposition comes from not just local activists, but church and mosque groups as well as local businesses. On the other hand, the developers claim, "master-planned to accommodate the workplace and lifestyles of the world's most discerning occupiers.." Which begs the question - are you a discerning occupier - can you afford the hundreds of thousands of pounds needed for a roof over your head - or are you just a potential obstacle to the London moneymen and their plans for profit.

Saturday, May 08, 2004

A Communiqué From 606
Been a bit too busy to write new stuff, but I've read lots of good stuff on the net of late:

A rant about the war and wars:

In fact, hearing W's smoke and mirrors act makes me strangely long for a day when a U.S. President would proclaim with no shame: 'Yes, that's right, we invaded Canada. We killed millions. We did it because we want their timber and their beaver pelts and we want to make slaves of all their nubile Canuck women.' I don't know about you, but I'd almost be relieved to hear Dick Cheney erupt into the full-on evil laugh you know he's been holding back for the last four years and tell us straight up that he's been planning the Iraq invasion since he was in diapers, he doesn't give a shit about the Iraqi people, and even while the blood of young dead Americans in the streets of Baghdad is still warm his goon friends are busy milking the country dry. At least then it would all be straightforward and clear. At least then we would know who the bad guys are and wouldn't have to endure this schlock about 'liberation'. At least then we would know once and for all that our leader is a deranged warmongering psychopath who needs to be ousted. And then, of course, we could set about planning the revolution accordingly.

Derrick Jensen (author of 'The Culture of Make Believe' and 'A Language Older than Words') gives a speech which is funny, passionate and brutal. His analysis is like a hot knife though the butter of a bloated and decaying culture. I cannot recommend this talk highly enough.

Have a good one.

Peace, out.