Friday, December 24, 2010

The Big Sham Of The Big Society

Bad news for the ConDems' chief apologist & self-appointed spokesman for Merseyside, "Professor" Phil Redmond today with the publication of a poll which suggests his faith in the Big Society isn't shared by many (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/dec/24/new-poll-britain-big-society ):
"Cameron has rejected the suggestion that his mission is a cover for spending cuts, pointing out his idea of a big society preceded the general election and the government's deficit reduction programme. The poll for the FT, conducted in the UK, France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the US, reveals that 77% of people in Britain surveyed said they had donated to charity in the past year -- a far higher figure than their European counterparts and above the 71% figure cited in the US.
"But when asked whether they agreed that they should be 'encouraged to give up some of their time to help support public services', the UK response lagged at the bottom, with just 25% endorsing this view. The US topped the chart, with 42% agreeing they had a role to play."
It's a far cry from the optimism of that July afternoon when "Professor" Redmond assured Cameron & Pickles that their crudely ideological policy would be met with open arms on Merseyside (http://condensedthoughts.blogspot.com/2010/07/tale-of-two-cities.html ).
Moreover, Redmond's attempt to justify his championing of Tory dogma (http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/views/liverpool-columnists/phil-redmond/2010/07/23/phil-redmond-give-the-big-society-a-chance-to-make-a-real-difference-92534-26913829 ) looks even more wretched & pathetic at year's end than it did last summer.

The Shape Of Things To Come

If you shut down young people's horizons, they'll shut down the streets (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qeEYedZHcQ ).
To be continued in 2011.

In The Bleak Merseyside Midwinter

Feeling trapped by the ice around your house? Can't start the car, let alone drive it safely on our ice rink roads? Frazzled by last-minute changes to Christmas Day? Well, you're not alone.
As we curse the elements, let's also consider the wintry treatment most of us are in for from the ConDems with their craving for "chaos" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/dec/18/coalition-local-planning-boles-chaos ), the puerile insistence that most of us are now middle-class (http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2010/dec/14/middle-britain-location-growth ) & the exponential acceleration of a two-tier society (http://blogs.channel4.com/snowblog/gulf-rich-poor/14273 ).
Against such a bleak, Dickensian backdrop, it's nice to know that Uncle Joe Anderson will offer handwringing sympathy for those most affected by the cuts while lacking the balls to offer any programme of resistance to Cameron & co. Instead, we'll get a continuation of half-arsed business as usual, largely indistinguishable from the reign of Warren "War Zones" Bradley, a "plan" which owes so much to PR & so little to substance (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/views/our-view/2010/12/16/it-s-good-to-have-a-plan-and-now-liverpool-has-one-one-plan-100252-27834255/ ) following on from 2008 when Liverpool "wowed the world during our year as European Capital of Culture" & a choice of business associates which bodes ill for the city (http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2010/11/joe-anderson-sitting-far-too-close-to.html ).
In these dark days it's heartening to see the return of the Professor with this seasonal offering: http://profchucklebuttychronic.blogspot.com/2010/12/pickles-at-christmas-away-from-politics.html .
Something for Uncle Joe to peruse once the mince pies & sherry have been consumed.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Calling In A Favour


A consequence of Cable-gate, as the media inevitably tagged it, or Cable v. Satellite, as one wag tweeted, was the transferral of government policy on media takeovers from the Business department to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The minister who will now decide on whether Murdoch should be allowed to proceed with majority ownership of BSkyB is Jeremy Hunt, he of the moneyed background & rhyming slang moniker (courtesy, James Naughtie).
Hunt's decision can be predicted on two grounds. Firstly, it should be recalled that Hunt repeated the libel about Hillsborough last summer (http://condensedthoughts.blogspot.com/2010/06/tory-repeats-hillsborough-libel.html ), a lie which originally surfaced in Murdoch's rag, the Sun. Secondly, Murdoch's business practices elicited this paean of praise from Hunt on this blogpost earlier this year (http://www.jeremyhunt.org/newsshow.aspx?ref=452 ):
" Rather than worry about Rupert Murdoch owning another TV channel, what we should recognise is that he has probably done more to create variety and choice in British TV than any other single person because of his huge investment in setting up Sky TV which, at one point, was losing several million pounds a day.
"We would be the poorer and wouldn't be saying that British TV is the envy of the world if it hadn't been for him being prepared to take that commercial risk. We need to encourage that kind of investment."
Given that Murdoch told his editors to ditch Brown & support Cameron in October last year, government approval for Murdoch's majority stake is a safer bet than icy roads on Christmas Day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sitting On A Scoop

What used to be called Fleet Street seldom misses an opportunity to take aim at the BBC for "left-wing bias". It's bollocks, of course. The real agenda behind the attacks is purely commercial; a neutered BBC would ease the way for the "journalism" practised by nearly all the national press to prevail & be taken as the standard. A chilling prospect, indeed.
The breaking news about Vince Cable's comments on Rupert Murdoch's empire (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2010/dec/21/vince-cable-rupert-murdoch ) follows on from revelations in today's Daily Telegraph about other remarks Cable made in their broadsheet sting. However, the scoop secured by the BBC's Business Editor Robert Peston (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/robertpeston/2010/12/what_vince_cable_said_about_ru.html ) also shows that the Telegraph deliberately sat on Cable's comments concerning Murdoch.
We all know the Beeb sometimes shoots itself in the foot, but its journalism stands head & shoulders over that of its so-called competitors. This is a spectacular case in point.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Yuletide Lament

Here's a seasonal offering for these austere times: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKdKzalMhXc .

Home From Home

Taking a $20 cab ride from Times Square to the Lower East Side, I arrived at the Liverpool Supporters' Bar (http://www.lfcny.org/11st.html ) on Wednesday afternoon to watch the Europa League home fixture against Utrecht. Friends had told me about the place & it did remind me of a few pubs I occasionally frequent (one work colleague bumped into Elvis Costello in the bar at 7.00 EST when Liverpool played Manchester United at a lunchtime kick-off some years back).
The less said about the game, the better.
I got talking to a guy from Southport who now lives on Manhattan's Upper East Side. He told me he was a househusband while his wife brought home the bacon. "So she's Yoko, you're John," I quipped. He grimaced.
He told me he used to work as a taxi driver for Delta Taxis & asked me if the Alexandra Pub on South Road, Waterloo, had been closed yet. I told him the clientele were working on it.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

An Unwanted Legacy



Visiting Manhattan this week (& staying half a mile north of the Dakota Building), I was struck by the different perception of John Lennon in what became his adopted city. Whereas the Lennon legacy in Liverpool is of a piece with the frankly nauseous nostalgia orgy over The Beatles, the take of many in New York seems to be a little more contemporary, placing him in the context of his influence on current acts.

Hoping that the city council, local media, etc. take a leaf out of New York's book is too much to ask. There's far too much money to be made from dwelling obsessively on The Fabs in their early incarnation for the benefit of the tourists & their credit cards.

During my stay in the city I read the previously unpublished interview Lennon gave to Rolling Stone a few days before his death (there isn't an online link yet, sadly). What came across clearly was Lennon's distaste for what, alas, he became in the eyes of many:

"These critics with the illusions they've created about artists -- it's like idol worship. Like those little kids in Liverpool who only liked us when we were in Liverpool -- a lot of them dropped us because we got big in Manchester, right? They thought we'd sold out. Then the English got upset because we got big in...what the hell is it? They only like people when they're on the way up, and when they're up there, they've got nothing else to do but shit on them. I cannot be on the way up again. What they want is dead heroes, like Sid Vicious and James Dean. I'm not interested in being a dead fucking hero...So forget 'em, forget 'em."

You won't find that quote republished in the Oldham Echo.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Reality Bites


Yes, yes, yes, it must have been a disturbing moment for Charles & Camilla (the cries of "off with their heads!" will have been grimly acknowledged by the heir to the throne). That said, neither they nor their children will have to worry about the cost of tuition fees. Millions of others will.
All in this together, are we?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Meldrew On The Mersey

Even though it's a comic caricature of Scouse grievance, replete with imprecations & lazy prejudice, there's a raw, unarguable honesty to some of the points made about today's Liverpool waterfront in this clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YUmqN-E0Kn8 .

Ignorance & Prejudice From Afar

Distance can lend perspective, it is said. It can also reinforce ignorance & calumny.
That was certainly the case in April last year when US "shock-jock" Steven Cohen repeated with some relish the myths & lies about Hillsborough. Once word spread about Cohen's antics, he was forced to retreat (http://condensedthoughts.blogspot.com/2009/05/shock-jock-subdued-as-sponsors-scram.html ).
There is now another ignoramus across the pond eager to display his own jaw-dropping ignorance of both Hillsborough and the city of Liverpool. Alex Beam, a sports writer, in the loosest possible term, on the Boston Globe newspaper, yesterday commented on the recent acquisition of Liverpool FC by John W. Henry & his New England Sports Ventures company (NESV). Beam compared it unfavourably to Henry's ownership of the Boston Red Sox baseball team. However, it didn't take long for Beam to put the boot in (http://www.boston.com/sports/soccer/articles/2010/12/07/alex_beam_hardball_in_liverpool/ ):
"So far, Henry's brief stewardship has been uneventful....For now the Red Sox PR machine is pumping out happy news about Henry's visits to grotty old Liverpool --Worcester without the glitz-- and about his wife's inane Twitter messages to the fans, e.g. 'Wow! Anfiel [the team's stadium] really is a special place!'
The few sane people I have talked to about Liverpool understand that these are early days for New England Sports Ventures and that meaningful changes probably won't come until Liverpool's season ends in May. None of those sane people are in Liverpool, however. Even by the deranged standards of European soccer, Red [sic] fans are totally bonkers. Their excitable Internet fan sites are still agonizing over a 21-year-old soccer stadium disaster that killed 96 people."
The original version of Beam's juvenile scrawl stated that the Hillsborough disaster was caused by a riot.
It's entirely reasonable to surmise that Beam has never been to "grotty old Liverpool". It's also entirely reasonable to surmise that Beam's own grasp of sanity is tenuous. Indeed, the consensus of opinion in the city would be that Beam's casual use of the term "bonkers" says everything that needs to be known about him.
Alas, Beam isn't finished with his lazy rant. He goes on to opine: "It's impossible to imagine a high-gloss player, a la David Beckham and his appalling wife, moving to doggy Liverpool."
Charming, wouldn't you say?
If you wish to let Beam know how impressed you are with his wisdom, sagacity & historical accuracy, he can be contacted at: beam@globe.com .
[Thanks to my mate & fellow Liverpool FC fan Tony Karon, at Time magazine in New York (http://tonykaron.com/ ), for alerting me to Beam's, erm, thoughts.]

Thursday, December 02, 2010

How Can You Cheapen An Eyesore?


Cold out there, isn't it? Still, if you happen to have a pad in One Parked Here Without Our Say-So, you can always enjoy the vista afforded by your eyrie; the slate-grey Mersey is truly a sight to behold at this time of year.
What's more, you're not likely to be bothered by tasteless tat for the masses, that's for the Church Street end of town.
Or is it?
Alas, the season of Yuletide brings with it the usual & predictable money-making scams, all with the imprimatur of the local council &, yes, Grosvenor-pool (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2010/12/02/residents-of-glamorous-liverpool-one-flats-hit-out-at-vulgar-winter-festivalsite-100252-27754016/ ).
In mitigation of Echo hack Marc Waddington (& there's a phrase I never thought I'd employ), he does, at least, use quotation marks around the description of Liverpool's biggest eyesore as "glamorous". It's about as "glamorous" as an X-Factor show.
Wayne pointed out the absurdity of the claim that a carbuncle could be made to look cheap by Joe Anderson's bread & circus stunt --anything to avoid the reality that you should make a stand against the ConDem cuts, eh, Joe?-- earlier today (http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2010/12/one-park-west-residents-complain-of.html ).
So what's got the individuals with more disposable income than aesthetic taste so hot under the collar? Well, all sorts of fun & games with an appropriately festive theme (an ice rink, a toboggan run, etc.). Just the thing for the kids when they get bored with Grosvenor-pool's regular stunning attractions.
Waddington's piece quotes Chris (Ignorance Is) Bliss, estate director of Grosvenor-pool: "Liverpool One strives to deliver high quality events and attractions to be enjoyed by the people of Liverpool and visitors to the city.
"Feedback about our events to date, including the summer beach, has been positive. It was with this in mind that the winter event, Alpine Style in the Park was developed."
Alpine Style in the Park? It must have taken a hell of a brain-storming session to produce that one, Chris.

Palm Oil & Palmed Off With PR Platitudes

Regular readers of this blog will know that my estimation of the "journalism" served up by Oldham Hall Street is subterranean. Evidence of this was provided by Wayne last week when he highlighted yet another PR piece, masquerading as information, on the palm oil trade (http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2010/11/ldp-business-week-are-they-pr-plants.html ).
The scale of environmental havoc wrought by the palm oil business is clear to anyone with even a cursory interest in the matter. However, by casually tossing around words like "traceable" & "sustainable", Oldham Hall Street expects its readers to suspend their critical faculties & accept the lie that this trade leaves a minimal environmental footprint in Indonesia & Malaysia.
One half suspects that had the Oldham Echo & Daily Ghost been around a few centuries back, they would have seen the "positives" from the slave trade, arguing that it brought business into the Port of Liverpool.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Preserving A Fab-Free Zone In Lennonpool

A post on Simon's No Rock & Roll Fun blog draws some much merited & necessary attention to the website for the Pure Musical Sensations alternative music programme on BBC Radio Merseyside (http://xrrf.blogspot.com/2010/11/please-mention-site.html ).
The programme's been hosted over the years by Roger Hill & has had different names along the way. It eschews the tiresome Fab Four nostalgia which is a staple part of Radio Merseyside's usual musical output, seeking to highlight current local acts, via live sessions & a gig guide. Those of us who point out that the city's addiction to Beatle nostalgia holds back the current music scene view it as the sort of thing for which you should pay your licence fee; it captures some of the spirit of John Peel's Radio 1 programme.
So if you're sick to the back teeth of the station's daytime presenters who combine puerile parochialism with lachrymose recollections of the Cavern, you could do worse than visit this website: http://www.pmsradio.co.uk/ .

Friday, November 12, 2010

Exposed


After much detective work, this blog can exclusively reveal the identities of the students behind Wednesday's riot in Westminster.
(Hat-tip to Gary Younge.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

By Your Friends Shall Ye Be Known


Priorities. It's important to remember them, isn't it? Indeed, it is almost always assumed that your average politician will be aware of them, if only for reasons of self-preservation. So it's nice to see that George Howarth, Labour MP for Knowsley North, realises what his priorities are....by grubbily raising cash among other Labour colleagues for the benefit of disgraced MP Phil Woolas (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/09/harriet-harman-phil-woolas-backbench-mutiny ).
Woolas, now ex-Labour MP for Oldham East & Saddleworth, was responsible for election leaflets last May which plumbed the depths of what is euphemistically termed the rough & tumble of local politics with a shameless appeal to bigotry & racism (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/gallery/2010/nov/05/phil-woolas-campaign-literature ).
Taking a leaf from the book of US attack ads, the leaflets "pushed all the buttons", as they say, in dredging up some nastily toxic mud (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/05/phil-woolas-immigration-leaflets-oldham-east-rerun ) for his Lib Dem opponent.
The Right Honourable Member for Knowsley North evidently sees nothing wrong with this. Moreover, his devotion to Woolas' ignoble cause extended to some shameless cheerleading the other night, making Harriet Harman look principled (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/nov/09/backbenchers-criticise-harman-over-woolas ). Some feat, when you think about it.
So when it comes to remembering what your priorities should be as an MP for a tribal, terminally deprived Labour seat, Howarth displays his true character. How else to account for his actions in support of a typically authoritan New Labour figure at a time when his local council has announced 400 job losses (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-11722635 )?
Live in Kirkby? Work for the local council? Worried about your job because of the ConDem cuts? Well don't bother hoping your local MP will take up your case as a priority. No, you see, George's real priority is defending a guy whose election leaflets pandered to base & venal motives.
Howarth may not be the only local MP to see Woolas as some sort of innocent party. It's rumoured that at least two or three other Merseyside MPs are passing the bowl around.
If you wish to let Howarth know just how pleased you are by his sense of priorities, he can be contacted at:
George Howarth,
House of Commons,
London, SW1 0AA.
Phone: 0151-546 9918 or 020 7219 6902.

All Together Now

John Harris recently penned a piece on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages about the dearth of protest songs against the ConDem cuts. He's returned to the subject today (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/nov/10/protest-music-pop-cultural-voices ) with a few early examples which gainsay his original argument that apathy characterises the state of music in the light of the cuts.
One of the songs sent Harris' way is this catchy piece for our times:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQFwxw57NBI .

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

I Hear You Bought The Beatles Soccer Team, Tom


Enchanting as it's been to read & hear of George W Bush's self-serving tome (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/08/george-bush-memoir-decision-points ), it is rather disappointing that the worst president in US history didn't congratulate his neighbour & buddy Tom Hicks for doing a "heck of a job" at Anfield.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Taxing Details

The scores of bemused shoppers passing Vodafone's two stores in the city centre on Saturday would have been largely unaware of the reason behind the presence of demonstrators & the company's decision to close both outlets. A brief piece in yesterday's Oldham Echo did mention the fact that Vodaphone owes £6bn to the exchequer in unpaid tax (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2010/11/01/protest-shuts-vodafone-stores-in-liverpool-100252-27577649/ ), yet described the evidence as "claims".
For good measure, the piece, typically lacking a byline, happily quoted a Vodafone spokesman who duly trotted out the company's spin on the matter: "We saw protests outside a small number of our UK stores.
"We temporarily closed some of them and diverted customers to other locations so they were not inconvenienced. Most have since reopened.
"We pay our taxes in the UK and all of the other countries in which we operate."
You'll be surprised to know that there were no quotes from any of the protestors.
The closure of the Grosvenor-pool & Church Street stores was part of a nationwide campaign to highlight Vodafone's tax-dodging scam (http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/11/02/why-the-vodafone-protests-have-already-been-successful/ ).
The beans were spilled on the company's tax dodge by Private Eye in September (http://www.private-eye.co.uk/sections.php?section_link=in_the_back&issue=1273 ), the magazine pointing out that the company has ploughed its profits into a Luxembourg-based firm. Private Eye's article noted that Luxembourg's tax rate is "less than 1 per cent."
It would have been nice if the Oldham Echo had mentioned all this. After all, it would be unfortunate if Oldham Hall Street's much-trumpeted "pro-business" stance were to be tarnished because of a puff-piece for a tax-dodging multinational. Wouldn't it?

Monday, November 01, 2010

Praise The Lord & Pass The Ammunition

It would be easy (all too easy) to satirise the characters in Gary Younge's video for the Guardian as they refer to themselves as "the old farts club" at their "breakfast and bull" meetings in Nevada (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/video/2010/nov/01/younge-america-old-farts-club-video ).
The talk from one man present of armed insurrection clearly alarms one of his cohorts who dissociates himself from such sentiments. However, the familiar litany of soundbites & mantras from the rabid Right in US politics (Obama's a socialist, Obama's not American, etc.) are wheeled out for another airing.
That said, as Gary notes, it's important to understand what drives the notions & motivations of such people on the eve of the US mid-term elections which will see some disturbing successes for the Tea Party crowd.

The Damage Wrought By Doreen Jones' Casting Vote

Recommended reading: Wayne highlights a letter in the Daily Ghost from committed & courageous civic campaigner Florence Gersten on the grotesque Botoxification of the city's waterfront (http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2010/11/letter-from-florence-gersten.html ).

Grosvenor-pool & A Garment-Led Renaissance

Life's full of contradictions, isn't it? You say one thing & do another. Quite often, it's unavoidable. The strains & stresses of everyday life mean that you have to compromise, or go back on what you may have promised. All messy stuff, but, hey, that's life.
It's with such a charitable & understanding view that we should look at the contradictory & dysfunctional state of affairs on Oldham Hall Street.
Alastair Houghton re-prints a press release, sorry, I mean writes a piece in today's Oldham Echo which celebrates Grosvenor-pool's "success" (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2010/11/01/liverpoolone-to-attract-more-than-25m-visitors-100252-27576589/ ).
Just what makes Grosvenor-pool & its cheerleaders on Oldham Hall Street so confident about its ability to attract so many visitors isn't explained. However, that doesn't stop Chris Bliss, Estates Director at the retail nirvana, from providing a classic example of corporate bollockese:
"We're creating a leisure experience that appeals to a wide range of visitors from across the country who realise they can enjoy a day or weekend out at Liverpool One and take in the wider city centre offer too."
Bliss by name, bliss, in all its ignorance, by nature.
Indeed, the Bliss-full take on the wider city centre should be appraised. So where better to get a supporting view on matters than The Oldham Echo's sickly sister, the Daily Ghost (http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2010/10/27/bid-carries-out-survey-on-effects-of-liverpool-one-92534-27549090/ ).
The author of the article? One Alastair Houghton.
Houghton's piece relates:
"Ged Gibbons, chief executive of Liverpool City Central's Business Improvement District, has commissioned property consultancy Drivers Jones Deloitte to discover whether the £1bn Grosvenor development has had a negative effect on other parts of the city......
"[Gibbons] believes Liverpool One has benefitted the city, but says the survey may show that other areas of the centre need to reinvent themselves to attract more shoppers."
It's an interesting concept, isn't it? You've established a retail outlet in, say, Bold Street, but now witness the deleterious effect Grosvenor-pool has on your business. So what do you do? Simple, "reinvent" your business. It's of a piece with the Bliss-full ignorance emanating from Grosvenor-pool.
Gibbons cautions that "this is a city designed for 750,000 people occupied by 500,000.
"With 40% of the working population employed by the public sector, the Government's cuts will have unavoidable consequences."
Ah yes, the cuts. The elephant in the room which puts all the bollockese in its proper perspective, & which will probably result in a further decline of the city's population. In fact, the Daily Ghost was forced to concede its presence last week (http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2010/10/26/liverpool-chamber-chief-warns-replacing-lost-jobs-will-be-a-slow-process-92534-27542055/ ) via a few hard-hitting remarks from Jack Stopforth, chief executive of the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce:
"The private sector in Liverpool is probably too small to absorb the likely short-term job losses.
"It might be able to do it over the next four or five years, but it will be a big challenge. And whether or not the jobs are of the same quality and paying the same as the current public sector jobs is debatable."
So where to turn? Well, Ged Gibbons has an observation which Chris Bliss-full Ignorance would be proud to claim as his own:
"On the other hand, Liverpool girls are famed for their fashion and will compromise on much, but not their clothes."
There we have it. Grosvenor-pool may be sucking the life out of other areas of the city centre & the ConDem cuts will leave an army of jobless people the city's private sector can't absorb, but the economic future of Liverpool is guaranteed by "Liverpool girls" who "are famed for their fashion".
Perhaps Oldham Hall Street should take up the call & start another of its campaigns, you know, something with a pithy headline to accompany it. How about, "Dress For Success: Liverpool Ladies Save Our City". Alastair, Mark, think it's got wheels?

A Passing Movement?

It was pleasing for those of us who did what we could to highlight the ruinous reign of Hicks & Gillett at Anfield to have its effect confirmed by Hicks himself when he made his "internet terrorists" comment. It certainly demonstated the level of influence the campaign had amassed.
Whether it's of any wider social significance, however, is open to question.
Doreen Massey, professor of geography at the Open University, took the view that it is for a piece she wrote on the Guardian's Comment is Free pages last Thursday (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/oct/28/liverpool-supporters-campaign ):
"A social movement has grown up around Liverpool FC. It began, of course, with opposition to Hicks and Gillett. Its activities are multifarious and imaginative: rallies, marches, email campaigns, lobbying, banners, songs, videos, fanzines and an attempt to take ownership of the club through establishing a credit union.
"One day in Manhattan, Hicks was spotted by a fan, a financial consultant. Guessing that Hicks was there seeking funds, the fan sent images to his partner, who put them on Twitter, where they were picked up by a cabby [sic] in Liverpool, who posted a form letter online. In an hour, emails were flowing into the financial institutions on that Manhattan street. It was all written up in the Wall Street Journal. A small example."
Professor Massey's contention that Spirit of Shankly (http://www.spiritofshankly.com/ ) & Share Liverpool (http://www.shareliverpoolfc.co.uk/ ) catalysed a wider social movement is open to question; how the Spirit of Shankly group responds to overtures from the club's new owners will be a key factor. The anecdote about Hicks in Manhattan, however, merits repeated mention.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Caught Out

Filling out an ESTA form (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is obligatory if you wish to visit the US. The Department of Homeland Security decrees so. Booking a city break in New York involved providing my details on the online Esta form. Bemused, as well as somewhat wryly amused, to be asked if I was planning to commit terrorist acts while in the US, I accepted it as part of the deal.
However, the thought then arose: I'm one of the "internet terrorists" that Tom Hicks referred to recently. Does this mean I'm on a no-fly list?

Monday, October 25, 2010

Liverpool -- A Recession-Free Zone

Welcome to the world of parallel universes. There is, of course, the real world, one where most people now accept that the ConDem cuts will leave a grisly trail of bleeding stumps. Locally, the ramifications of Dave's Do It Yerself Society were addressed in a piece for Saturday's Guardian by Caroline Davies (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/22/spending-cuts-liverpool ):
"The city already has 50,552 on jobseeker's allowance and 28,330 receiving incapacity benefit, with another 43,960 such claimants throughout the region. A large proportion are in wards such as Toxteth, where Paul Brant, the deputy leader of Liverpool city council, fears dole queues can only swell, and social problems get worse."
And then there is the world inhabited by Oldham Hall Street, one where Grosvenor-pool has been the city's salvation, bread & circus stunts involving Lennon's wives & sons are sold to a credulous & dwindling readership as evidence of a bright future for the city & the global recession has somehow passed Merseyside by.
On the eve of Osborne's slash & burn exercise last week, the Oldham Echo pathetically bleated (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/views/our-view/2010/10/18/george-osborne-don-t-derail-our-recovery-100252-27490566/ ):
"Jobs are undoubtedly going to be lost and services are undoubtedly going to be cut. The review, we already know from leaks, is set to be brutal, but we ask that local authorities be able to retain a sharp focus on frontline services -- at the expense of less vital functions."
You can just imagine the cynical cackles of laughter from No 11 Downing Street in response to such an asinine & deluded request. Indeed, the Echo's leader writer, thought to be Paddy Shennan (hello, Paddy!), might as well put in a call to "Professor" Redmond, self-appointed representative for the ConDem cuts on Merseyside, to see if he can deliver another of his rambling, "stream-of-consciousness", incoherent missives, you know, the sort of thing, aren't-we-all-great-in-Scouseland, wasn't-culture-year-such-a-success, etc.
It would certainly be interesting to see how Redmond reconciles his faith in the Big Society with Ian Duncan Smith's resurrection of the Tebbit philosophy (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/25/job-vacancy-duncan-smith-bus ).
There's a postscript to the Guardian piece by Caroline Davies & it's one which saddens me to note. Tony Nelson, an ex-docker active in the 1995 dispute & who now helps to run the Casa on Hope Street, was quoted:
"We had a march against the cuts and got about 500 to 1,000 [ ]. Two days later there was a march by Liverpool FC supporters against their owners. There were thousands and thousands. Says it all.
"The young just aren't politicised anymore. And they are the very ones that are going to be affected most."
I have the utmost respect for Tony & his fellow dockers for the struggle they waged a decade-and-a-half ago. However, what he fails to realise is that a wider consciousness of the cuts & their consequences is still very much in its infancy. The campaign by Liverpool fans over Hicks & Gillett's reign shouldn't be seen as, to use an old-fashioned Marxist term, false consciousness. If anything, previously apolitical fans were made aware of wider issues (http://www.spiritofshankly.com/community-development.html ).
Moreover, the young won't be politicised in the old ways, a steepling fall in trade union membership & New Labour have largely seen to that. Instead, many younger working-class people will turn to the web as a recruiting & organising tool. Someone of Tony's generation may not be familiar with Twitter & Facebook, but social networks can play the role once performed by union branches.
Think that's naive & unrealistic? Wait & see.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Grotesque Addition To Grosvenor-pool


A middle-aged lady viewed it with suspicion.
"What do you think?" she asked me.
"Honestly?" I replied.
"Yes, honestly."
"I think Lennon would've said, 'What's that, for Christ's sake!' "
"So do I," she grinned.
"Avant-garde is French for bullshit."
John Lennon, 1971.

Happy Viewing

From the Guardian's live blog on events at the High Court an observation by Steve Busfield:
"My colleague Gregg Roughley (yes, a Liverpool fan) says: 'Liverpool fans might enjoy knowing that on Margaret Thatcher's 85th birthday she'll be watching nothing but celebrating scousers and miners all day on TV.' " (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2010/oct/13/liverpool-sale-high-court-verdict-live ).

Out


The High Court has told the liars to sling their hook. For good measure, they've been refused the right to appeal (http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/teams/l/liverpool/9080946.stm ).

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Question

"Liverpool, like ancient Athens, certainly has a rich spiritual and intellectual culture, and its inhabitants are known for their love of conversation and debate. But is Liverpool really a philosophical city?"
Clare Carlisle, writer & academic (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2010/oct/08/philosophy-city-liverpool-urban-persuit ).
Discuss.

Friday, October 08, 2010

A Statement From Lennonpool City Council

When it comes to feeding & sustaining Liverpool's chronic addiction to the Beatles, Joe Anderson has shown that he's just as reliable a dealer as Warren "War Zones" Bradley. How else to account for the decision to rename the newly renovated Neptune Theatre the Epstein Theatre (http://www.liverpool.gov.uk/news/Newsdetail_2222.asp )?
I suspect that most people on Merseyside would see no valid reason to change the theatre's name; the venue was given the name Neptune to reflect the city's maritime past.
It is true that, as the council press release states, Brian Epstein "began his career in music at the landmark venue when Crane's Music Store sat below what was then Crane's Music Hall."
That said, there's a dispiriting predictability to the council's mania for gratuitously linking the Neptune with John, Paul, George &, ooh, whatisname, you know, the one who did the voice on Thomas the Tank Engine.
In this latest bout of civic onanism, Cllr Anderson refers to the Beatles' manager as "the 5th Beatle", a tag which, if merited by anyone, should surely go to the band's producer, George Martin.
Still let's not bother with the fact that there's a healthy & vibrant music scene in the city, shall we? As long as it's another lucrative stopping-off point for the tourists in the Hard Day's Night Hotel that's all that matters. Anderson admits this:
"For our Beatles industry this development means Liverpool has a new attraction and a new story to tell and for the city we will soon have a new theatre with a world famous name which will hopefully make it a commercially more attractive business to market and operate."
Both the council & Oldham Hall Street normally shudder with distaste when they're accused of seeing the Beatle legacy as nothing more than a tired & tawdry cash cow. Here, however, Anderson commits the Freudian slip once considered the preserve of his predecessor on Dale Street & blurts out the reality we've long known.
Oh yes, there's another aspect of that quote which should be shot down in flames. The Neptune is not "a new theatre". It has been renovated, not reinvented. To many of its former patrons & performers, it will still be known as the Neptune.
Got that, Joe?

Slapdash, Lazy & Misleading -- Journalism At Its Best With The Oldham Echo

You don't need me to tell you about the anxieties caused by the ConDem cuts. Times are bleak for many & the outlook looks foreboding. However, hope is not yet extinguished, not when the Oldham Echo claims that, according to Cameron's speech at the Tory conference this week, Liverpool can lead the UK through the storm & arrive at a glorious national renaissance. Certainly, that's the gist of Ian Hernon's piece in the paper (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2010/10/07/david-cameron-says-cities-like-liverpool-can-get-uk-back-in-the-black-100252-27419465/ ).
Hernon declares:
"David Cameron claimed it is great port cities like Liverpool which can get the UK back in the black."
Setting aside the risible notion that one city can lead some sort of national economic resurgence (needless to say it's a theory that Hernon doesn't even bother to question), it is, nevertheless, an eye-catching claim. So what exactly did Cameron say about Liverpool, Ian?
"A senior aide said: 'It is places like Bristol and Liverpool and other great ports where the entrepreneurial spirit built great cities -- and can do so again.' "
Sorry, Ian, I asked you what Cameron himself said, not one of his minions. Did he mention Liverpool in his speech? Hear that sound? Yes, it's tumbleweed. Cameron made no mention of Liverpool in his address to the Tory faithful, as the transcript reveals (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/oct/06/david-cameron-speech-tory-conference ).
Hernon was, of course, the sage who reported that David Miliband would serve in a shadow cabinet led by his brother Ed.
The Oldham Echo: redefining journalism...in the same way that Tom Hicks redefined integrity.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

Bell End

Recommended reading: SevenStreets' look at Peter Tierney's offensive antics in the city centre last weekend (http://www.sevenstreets.com/blog/quiggins-peter-tierney-bnp-demonstration/ ).
It's pleasing to note that Tierney & his fellow morons received short shrift from onlookers:
"What is heartening is that the BNP demo on Saturday met with the distaste of Liverpool's general population."
Many have pondered the paradox of the bell-ringing, convicted criminal that is Tierney & his past as owner of the very much alternative Quiggins store, described by SevenStreets as "a wonderfully left-field emporium".

Guess Who's Crawled Out Of His Hole?

Roy Greenslade mentions on his blog the latest dig at Liverpool supporters by Kelvin Mackenzie (http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/greenslade/2010/oct/07/sun-kelvin-mackenzie ).
Yes, the man who sent a Valentine card to his wrist last February has thought up another Wildean witticism for his column in The Sun (funny how the rag which wants us to forgive & forget continues to employ this creature, isn't it?).
It wouldn't be stretching the bounds of decency too far to suggest that MacKenzie's positive health check won't be greeted as good news by many.

Yea, A Daniel Come To Jugement

There may still be some on Merseyside who feel that Heseltine's visit to the region after the Toxteth riots in 1981 had a long-term beneficial effect. Save for the Albert Dock renovation & an International Garden Festival site which soon fell into neglect & decay, there is no evidence to support that view. Last night's debate between Heseltine & Ken Loach on Newsnight (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J6OLguh7_P8 ) made for priceless viewing. Paxo looked on benignly as Loach skewered Heseltine's philosophy & record in government, a record which left a legacy still here today.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Don't Forget The Role Played By This Man


Once bitten twice shy, as they say. That being the case, the caution & scepticism with which Liverpool supporters greeted this morning's news of the club's sale (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/oct/06/liverpool-sold-new-england-sports-ventures ) are entirely justified. Hicks & Gillett's objections to the sale only serve to cement their truly toxic legacy at the club; Tom Hicks has pulled off a significant achievement, he's managed to make himself more reviled than Kelvin MacKenzie in the eyes of most supporters.
While it's appropriate to bid good riddance to the two liars, it's also necessary to remember the role played by the club's former chairman David Moores in facilitating their arrival. It certainly hasn't escaped the attention of the Guardian's Richard Williams (http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/blog/2010/oct/06/liverpool-david-moores-sale ):
"The real malaise inside Anfield, however, is off the pitch, and goes back at least to the moment at which David Moores, the former chairman, decided to cash in his shares and walk away with £89m, having sold the club to a couple of American gamblers whose promises turned out to be highly misleading, although it was certainly bad luck for Hicks and Gillett that their acquisition was followed so closely by a worldwide recession."
The liars' "bad luck" may well be viewed by supporters as a dose of schadenfreude to savour.
Throughout their ruinous reign Moores has attempted (often with the tacit endorsement of Oldham Hall Street) to portray himself as just another innocent fan duped by a couple of snake-oil salesmen. Bullshit. Moores pocketed his millions, refusing to even engage with the Spirit of Shankly group when it became clear that the club was in the wrong hands.
Moores is an accomplice to the liars' mismanagement.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A Message To Tom & George

An unmistakable message from the fans to the two lying conmen who have dragged Liverpool FC's name & traditions through the mud:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RO55BazkiZ4 .

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Tractor Production Figures Also Up

Guest blogging from Labour's Manchester conference has been Wirral South's Alison McGovern for the Dale Street Blues blog (http://blogs.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/dalestreetblues/2010/09/guest-blog-alison-mcgoverns-la-4.html ).
She began yesterday's entry in breathless, fawning & adulatory terms:
"There was another chance to see our great new leader on the platform today".
Someone should remind Alison that she was in Manchester, not Pyongyang.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Hicks & Gillett To Get The Hollywood Treatment


Kudos to Scott Murray, normally of the Guardian, for penning a perceptive piece on one of the football blogs regarding Sky Sports' real agenda in their coverage of the fans' sit-in protest after the match at Anfield on Saturday (http://football.fanhouse.co.uk/2010/09/27/skys-jeff-stelling-comes-out-on-the-wrong-side-in-liverpools-u/ ).
The Murdoch-owned station is only too happy to patronise supporters who pose for their cameras in team colours or reminisce about their club's history. However, Sky becomes embarrassed & jittery when the fans begin to question the ownership of their club. It's much too close to home for Murdoch & his acolytes.
Meanwhile, there's a chance for Liverpool supporters to voice their feelings about the liars' ruinous reign at Anfield on film at the Hope Street Hotel this weekend. As Jim Boardman puts it in a post on the Anfield Road blog (http://www.anfieldroad.com/news/201009294038/get-in-the-movies-and-send-a-message-to-lfc-owners.html/ ):
"Liverpool fans the world over have helped to push the story under the noses of bank executives across the globe. Last week the story was placed firmly into the faces of literally thousands of US media contacts.
"Email has been an important tool. Twitter and Facebook have helped push it that little bit further. Next up -- YouTube.
"Casting Director Dan Hubbard (King Kong, The Damned United, The Bourne Ultimatum and more) and Hollywood Producer and Director Mike Jefferies are both massive Liverpool supporters. And that means they've also had just about enough of the situation too. And they're going to do something about it.
"But, as with every part of this campaign, they need your help.
"Are you in Liverpool this weekend? Can you be in Liverpool this weekend?
"They're making a film, they want it to go viral, they want you to star in it.
"It's not just about the famous faces they've approached to join in, it's about all fans -- all fans who want an end to this nightmare.
"Get yourself down to the Hope Street Hotel in town this weekend.
"Saturday: 10am-6pm.
"Sunday: 9am-Noon."
So, if you consider yourself a Liverpool supporter, or even if your footballing allegiance lies on the other side of Stanley Park but you still view the saga as symptomatic of football club ownership generally, here's an excellent way of sustaining the campaign.
See you there.

Accurate Journalism

Looks like the Oldham Echo's Ian Hernon was spot-on in reporting that David Miliband would make a nonsense of all those reports that he wouldn't work under his brother (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/sep/29/david-miliband-quits-frontline-politics ).
No doubt Big Al Machray will be commending Hernon for his scoop.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Prediction Paradox

With the world & its wife expecting David Miliband to step back from frontline politics following brother Ed's victory in the Labour leadership, it's worth noting the confident & unequivical tone of counterintuitive commentary by the Oldham Echo's Ian Hernon (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2010/09/28/david-miliband-signals-he-will-work-under-his-younger-brother-100252-27353885/ ).
Hernon proclaims:
"[David Miliband] scotched speculation that he might walk away from the Shadow Cabinet elections after losing the leadership by a wafer thin margin to Ed."
Of course, it is possible that all the pundits are wrong & that the elder Miliband brother will stand in the Shadow Cabinet elections. However, given his departure for London immediately after Ed's speech in Manchester, during which he visibly smarted at criticism of the decision to support Bush's Iraq war (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/sep/28/david-miliband-harriet-harman ), that doesn't seem likely.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Reign Of Ruin Revisited

Recommended reading: David Conn, whose articles in the Guardian on the situation at Liverpool Football Club have been exemplary, delivers a damning resume on Hicks & Gillett's reign of ruin (http://fourfourtwo.com/blogs/fourfourtwoview/archive/2010/09/24/could-liverpool-do-a-leeds.aspx ).
The first clips have appeared on YouTube of yesterday's sit-in protest on the Kop following the game against Sunderland (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6OJQzKKrpo ).
Warning: contains "industrial" language; this is, after all, the Anfield Kop, not the Oxford Debating Union.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Middle East Gets New Peace Envoy

David Bartlett noted the departure of Jason Harborow for sunnier climes earlier this week, commenting that the man who played his part in the farce that was the Liverpool Culture Company & helped ensure 2008's legacy of waste & squandered chances will take up an educational post in the Middle East, a job which Harborow enthuses is "a life-changing, career-changing opportunity" (http://blogs.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/dalestreetblues/2010/09/jason-harborow-is-off-to-the-m.html ).
If he does for the Middle East what he did for Liverpool, the peace process is doomed.

Recommended Reading

Aside from an uncharacteristically naive profession of faith in Vince Cable, Marina Hyde was spot-on in a piece on Rupert Murdoch's baleful influence in US & UK politics in today's Guardian (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/24/rupert-murdoch-bskyb-fox-news ).
When you consider the sort of candidates Murdoch is openly supporting in the US mid-term elections (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/plum-line/2010/09/video_of_christine_odonnell_im.html ) you realise that the Land of the Free has morphed grotesquely into the land of the free to be bigoted & stupefyingly ignorant.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pot, Kettle, Black

This blog doesn't normally draw attention to the way people look. In fact, it's a trait I usually deprecate. However, the words, glasshouses & stones really do spring to mind when perusing the latest example of Joe Riley's sagacity & wisdom (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/views/liverpool-columnists/joe-riley/2010/09/23/joe-riley-tony-mcguirk-learns-the-difficult-and-dangerous-business-of-telling-the-truth-100252-27325495/ ) in the Oldham Echo.
Riley opines:
"Merseyside fire chief Tony McGuirk notes there are some bone idle workers in the public sector. He then apologises.
"Then a Dutch director of Stena Line ferries describes British workers wanting jobs as unsuitably fat and covered in tattoos. He, too, apologises.
"Despite the evidence of our eyes and ears, telling the truth is obviously a difficult and dangerous business nowadays."
Yes, not content with scrawling ignorant & crass bilge about the proposed community centre in Manhattan, incorporating an area of religious worship for muslims (http://condensedthoughts.blogspot.com/2010/08/rileys-reckless-rant.html ), Riley now wades into the bone-headed "bone idle" comments of Merseyside fire chief Tony McGuirk (http://condensedthoughts.blogspot.com/2010/09/mcguirk-should-be-fired.html ), asserting, without any supporting evidence, that McGuirk's scattergun libel on public sector workers is somehow indisputable.
For good measure, Riley concurs with a businessman who feels that it is valid & permissible to call people (not "some" people, you'll note) "unsuitably fat".
However, it would seem that "the evidence of our eyes" draws us to "a difficult and dangerous" truth concerning Riley's qualification to pontificate on the subject.

Paying The Penalty


Amid the growing number of reports about the parlous financial situation at Liverpool Football Club, not to mention the team's dreadful form, one observation which stands out comes from the unlikely source that is the BBC's Robert Peston (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/thereporters/robertpeston/2010/09/why_rbs_looks_set_to_own_liver.html ).
Being the BBC's business editor, Peston is loath to criticise the ruinous reign of the two lying owners Tom Hicks & George Gillett. That said, Peston highlights the hard-headed business logic which the club's main creditor, the Royal Bank of Scotland will apply over the next month or so.
*Acknowledgements to fellow Liverpool fan Tony Karon (http://tonykaron.com/ ) for the link.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How The Cuts Will Affect Warren's War Zones

The Guardian's John Harris has been filing video shorts from the Fib Dem conference at the waterfront. Here he has a quick word with Chris Huhne, environment secretary, who airily dismisses the defection of local councillor Ian Jobling to Labour because of the cuts. Harris also visits Picton Ward in Wavertree for a rudimentary vox pop from local residents; in truth, Harris' attempts to generate some debate & reaction to the impending cuts don't quite succeed.
However, the video is notable for an exchange between Harris & Warren "War Zones" Bradley. The former leader of the city council repeats that risible phrase about "the golden vein of social justice" from the ConDems, though he says it more in (desperate) hope than expectation:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/video/2010/sep/22/liberal-democrat-conference-john-harris .

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Cuts A Community Can't Take

Wayne relates a telling encounter with a Fib Dem delegate in his shop last Friday (http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2010/09/trevor-jones-and-hole-in-ground.html ).
The delegate, presumably steeled for any uncomfortable questions concerning his party, was both bullish & ignorant about the history of the Fib Dems in Liverpool, making the obvious barb about Hatton (yawn), yet offering no words of comfort for Warren "War Zones" Bradley --wonder if he's had a word on that hotline to Clegg, you know, the one he claimed to have last May when he claimed social justice would run through the ConDem government like a "golden vein" (http://condensedthoughts.blogspot.com/2010/05/hes-still-there-you-know.html )-- but instead asked Wayne in all seriousness: "So was Trevor Jones Liverpool's T.Dan Smith?"
Those who remember the period may well maintain that comparisons between "Jones the Vote" & the 70s Newcastle Labour councillor could be made.
The Fib Dem conference at the Oldham Echo Arena (hope no one tries to take any pictures there) provided the backdrop for a piece by the BBC's Robert Peston last week as he looked at the city's economy, particularly in the city centre, in the context of the impending cuts (http://news.bbc.co.uk/local/liverpool/hi/front_page/newsid_9001000/9001187.stm ).
It was an informative package. However, had Peston ventured little more than a mile north of town, he would have arrived in Everton. That's what Paul Vallely did in a piece for today's Independent (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/paul-vallely-if-nick-clegg-wants-to-see-how-cuts-can-really-damage-lives-hes-in-the-right-place-2083849.html ).
Vallely, Liverpool-born & bred, visited the West Everton Community Centre ("The Wecc") & penned an eloquent dispatch from the frontline, quoting those whose plight is already dire. After the cuts have really taken effect it may well be terminal. He detailed with controlled anger the "reforms" that have already affected the local community:
"Already being axed are funds for a project to help unemployed people in the most deprived areas of the city set up their own businesses. A project to speed the rehousing of people made homeless by mortgage repossessions will go. Free sports and recreational facilities for young people have already gone. Free fruit and vegetables for primary school children have been reduced. A keep-fit programme to help the elderly stay active has been cut, which will almost certainly send some of them into residential care earlier than need be the case.
"Quit Smoking and Cut Down on Booze projects have been cut. So have handyman services available to help the old and frail cope. Grants available for families with children with Special Educational Needs have been cut. So has a scheme to provide free smoke alarms for the old and vulnerable."
You can imagine the short, damning & colourful verdict the people in Everton have for the Fib Dems, particularly the local ones, as they face a bleak future. Warren "War Zones" Bradley may have used that much vaunted hotline to Nick Clegg to get his partner off the hook over her Facebook "joke", but it's grotesquely apparent that it will be the only reason for its use by one of the heirs of "Liverpool's T.Dan Smith".

Thursday, September 16, 2010

McGuirk Should Be Fired

So you work in the public sector. You're anxious, to put it mildly, about what the ConDem cuts will mean for you. Kids at (or hoping to attend) university, with all the costs to think about, mortgage not yet paid off, partner worried about his/her own job, there's a lot to consider. And then along comes someone who enjoys an annual salary of £200,000 per annum, having received a 25% pay increase just a year or so back, to tell you that you're "bone idle" (http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2010/09/16/merseyside-fire-chief-tony-mcguirk-urged-to-quit-after-branding-public-sector-staff-bone-idle-92534-27278640/ & http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-merseyside-11310942 ).
Tony McGuirk, chief fire officer for the Merseyside Fire Brigade, made the remark at a meeting organised by the right-wing thinktank Reform earlier this year. It has only just come to prominence after they were highlighted at the TUC conference in Manchester on Tuesday.
Evidently thinking himself qualified to opine on the entire public sector workforce, McGuirk opined: "We've got some bone idle people in the public sector. There, I said it -- bone idle people."
Yes, this character who clearly feels he's an authority on all things beyond his remit did say it &, well, it certainly speaks volumes about the intellectual capacity of the man.
Another indication of McGuirk's managerial foresight & sagacity came a few years back in a Q&A for the Guardian. The latter half of the piece is, by turns, ironic & revelatory (http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2007/sep/12/guardiansocietysupplement2 ):
"Describe your own management style.
Hopefully transformational. I'm trying to move the organisation forward in a way that brings people with me.
What's the secret of effective teamwork?
Recognising that teams shouldn't be clones of their leaders, that you need difference and diversity to do an effective job.
What's the best piece of management advice you've been given?
An old divisional officer of mine said the secret of leadership is knowing when to be invisible. It's easy to hog the limelight and overshadow other people's achievements. Yopu have to step back.
Who is your management guru?
I don't really have one but I do admire Willy Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways, for doing a tough job with good humour and a lot of charm."
It's a pity that McGuirk didn't recall the advice to be "invisible" & not "hog the limelight" simply in order to make crass, inaccurate & risible claims.
There is, of course, a wider political context to this sad case of a jumped-up middle manager putting the world to rights. McGuirk made his comments at a Reform meeting. Far from being "independent", as some of today's media have reported, it is, in fact, very much to the right of centre, as it acknowledges on its website (http://www.reform.co.uk/About/Ourvision/tabid/63/Default.aspx ):
"We believe that by liberalising the public sector, breaking monopoly and extending choice, high quality services can be made available for everyone. Reform would remove public services from the escalator of ever-rising costs. It would enable policy makers to aim for a lower level of taxation and public spending which would better suit the UK's current and future economic challenges."
As Merseyside's firefighters put their lives on the line, they can take comfort in the knowledge that their boss gives support to those who wish to "liberalise" the public services, with everything that entails for their jobs, whilst playing the shirkers card.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tea & Sympathy (But Bring Your Own Teabags)

Hugh Muir mused in today's Guardian Diary column about the whereabouts of Richard Balfe, the former Labour MEP turned Tory, who has been appointed as David Cameron's "envoy" to the trade unions (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/sep/14/hugh-muirs-diary-richard-balfe ). Hugh rightly thought it odd that Balfe should be conspicuous by his absence from any sort of political prominence, particularly during the week of the TUC conference in Manchester.
Well, as if on cue, Balfe has surfaced with a few welcome words for those who may feel a little uncertain about their jobs at the moment. If you happen to lose your job as a result of the ConDem cuts, the Tories & their Lib Dem lap dogs will "sympathise" with your predicament; they really will, you know (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/sep/14/conservatives-public-sector-job-cuts ).
They'll feel your pain. You know that, don't you?

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Cretin Calls

The story's been told before but it's worth recounting in order to remind ourselves what a loathsome cretin Kelvin MacKenzie is:
http://blogs.pressgazette.co.uk/wire/6973 .
MacKenzie's saloon bar rants have their natural home in the Murdoch media. However, it remains a mystery why the BBC periodically feels the need to give him a platform for his prejudice & ignorance.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Who Says There's No Passion In Politics?

It's such a shame that this US Republican politician didn't get the nomination he sought despite this memorable address: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IMgyi57s-A4 .

Recommended Reading

Kudos to Michael Moore on his recently-started blog (what took him so long?), Open Mike, for injecting a much-needed note of sanity & common sense into the debate around the so-called mosque (it's actually a cultural centre containing a mosque) in Manhattan (http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/mike-friends-blog/if-mosque-isnt-built-no-longer-america ).
The anniversary of the 9/11 attacks has witnessed an intensification of the rabid rantings from the US hard Right (Fox, Glen Beck, Sarah Palin, all the usual suspects) with their apocalyptic pronouncements about The Clash Of Civilisations & an unspoken wish to resurrect & resume the medieval Crusades. Into this truly toxic stew pours the malicious bile & ignorance of Florida Pastor Terry Jones --neatly described in a Guardian editorial today as "a low-rent bigot with a gun" (http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/11/quran-burning-intolerance ) --with his now-withdrawn threat to burn 20 copies of the Qur'an today.
There's nothing new about scapegoating particular groups of people in order to distract attention from the flaws in your own policies & that's precisely what we're seeing in Manhattan & the US generally today.

Green Gets Away With Facebook "Joke"

Given the flak they'll warrant at their Liverpool conference next week, the local Lib Dems have decided to get the relatively minor stuff out of the way in advance. The North West Lib Dems have finally decided to administer a slap on the wrist to Cllr Sharon Green for her Facebook "joke" (http://condensedthoughts.blogspot.com/2010/05/sick-twisted.html ) & told her not to do it again (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2010/09/11/disabled-row-liverpool-liberal-democrat-rapped-after-party-investigation-100252-27246088/ ).
However, it would seem that the local party is either in a state of total ignorance about the workings of Facebook, or expects the rest of us to suspend all our intellectual faculties:
"An investigation into newly-elected councillor Sharon Green said it was 'not possible to say beyond reasonable doubt' whether she had created the offensive content."
The North West Lib Dems merely "reprimanded" Green for mismanaging her Facebook account.
Mismanaging, eh? Well I suppose that's one way of putting it. Another way of putting it is to say the local party is trying, not very successfully, to cover up for Green's gesture & is prepared, if necessary, to lie about it.
David Bartlett notes in his piece:
"It is understood the Lib Dems had been keen to conclude the investigation ahead of the party's high-profile conference in Liverpool next Saturday."
I bet they were.
Nice to see that Warren "War Zones" Bradley's much-vaunted hotline to Nick Clegg has been put to use...even if it is only to get his partner off the hook.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

The Liverpool Blitz

This week's media coverage of the 70th anniversary of the Blitz has, inevitably, focused on the events held in London. As my parents & grandparents always maintained, it could be argued that the Port of Liverpool was an even greater target for Hitler's Luftwaffe because of its strategic position in relation to the North Atlantic convoys.
Peter Sissons, Liverpool-born & bred (he attended the same school as Lennon), looked at the largely unreported effects of the Blitz on Merseyside during 1940/41 for a BBC Radio 4 piece on Monday (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00tkz4d ).

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Less Mea Culpa, More Je Ne Regrette Rien

Reaction to Tony Blair's self-justifying tome has been wearily predictable; what was always suspected, & sometimes expressed sotto voce, is largely confirmed in the book, particularly the working relationship with Gordon Brown.
Be that as it may, it's amusing to see at least one senior reporter, the BBC's Nick Robinson, deliver a terse mea culpa on his blog (http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/nickrobinson/2010/09/blair_and_brown.html ).
It confirms my own suspicions about the pointlessness of having senior political reporters who can boast of having "access" to "sources" around Downing Street & Westminster when what they're fed simply doesn't tally with the reality.
Far more candid & refreshingly acerbic is Channel 4 News' Jon Snow who remarks (http://blogs.channel4.com/snowblog/blair-bares-all-in-memoirs/13532 ):
" 'Maddening' Gordon made him drink more than he should have. So if there are no extracts on his website (for me at least), at least there are his somewhat gaunt features to prove that this at least may have been true. He was 'right' to go to war. No apology for Iraq, but he writes that he will try to remedy the 'consequences' until the end of his days. Buy the book and you, too, can contribute to his efforts.
"All 'maddening' Gordon seems to have done, in Blair's book, is to have lost Labour a British general election. Even A Journey [the title of Blair's book] doesn't blame him for Iraq. Although if Gordon had been a bit more 'maddening', he might have done many tens of thousands who died, and millions who fled (and have still not returned) a great service."
Indeed, it's grotesquely ironic that the man Snow mischievously refers to as "our former dear leader" feels the need to apologise for the ban on fox-hunting, but not the carnage in Iraq (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/aug/31/tony-blair-iraq-nightmare ).
Blair merely bleats that he didn't envisage the horrendous fall-out of riding on Bush's coat-tails.
Now that is "maddening".

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Deja-Vu

As the rubbish is swept away from the city's streets & the bars reduce their prices to normal levels, it's worth noting the selective verdict on the Mathew Street festival by the Oldham Echo. In an editorial which might as well have been unearthed from last year (perhaps it was) the Echo triumphantly declared the entire weekend to be an unqualified success (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/views/our-view/2010/08/31/voice-of-the-echo-mathew-street-festival-comes-of-age-and-what-a-party-100252-27167647/ ).
Quite how a festival which unapologetically panders to nostalgia can "come of age" is something to ponder, as is the Echo's inane claim that the city somehow still doesn't make the most of its Beatle connections.
Pricking the bubble of self-congratulation & denial are some of the comments posted by readers in response to a pathetic PR piece (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2010/08/31/mathew-street-the-sun-shines-for-a-festival-to-remember-100252-27169178/ ).
It seems that for the second year in a row, there were numerous incidents of missile-throwing at the Mersey Tunnel stage. Despite repeated appeals from the stage for the drunken dregs of Merseyside society to stop their idiocy, the day was marred for those at the Tunnel Stage. I witnessed just some of the lunacy there last year; clearly the authorities learned nothing from it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Away From The "Tribute" Bands

The guys over at the Tinned Goods blog deliver an offbeat look at yesterday's events in the city centre (http://tinnedgoods.com/2010/08/30/live-feed-mathew-street-festival/ ).
Makes a pleasant change from the breaththlessly sychophantic "coverage" of the Matthew Street Festival by Oldham Hall Street. What odds on tomorrow's Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo trotting out the oft-used line, "biggest and best yet"?

In His Arms

Kudos to the My Six Be Four Universe blog for this inspired piece of photoshoppery (http://dvfmliv.blogspot.com/2010/08/baby.html ).
I suspect there's a couple of images out there which present Phil Redmond in a similarly unflattering light.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Riley's Reckless Rant

It's always one of those awful, yet compelling car-crash moments when anyone on Oldham Hall Street attempts to comment on topics other than the latest football gossip, more interminable Beatle nostalgia, "Scottie Road in the good old days", z-list celebrities seen putting one foot in front of the other anywhere around Grosvenor-pool, or complaining about the "critics" (I think that means the likes of Wayne & me) who spell out the truth about the waterfront's desecration.
Give any one of them an international story to opine on & the result is akin to Basil Fawlty's "don't mention the war" sketch.
Yes, when not suppressing stories which reflect badly on the Oldham Echo Arena, or sitting on David Fleming's charming observations, their columnists (& I use that appellation advisedly) occasionally venture forth their, erm, thoughts on weighty issues normally the preserve of Newsnight or The World Tonight.
Take Joe Riley (Alastair Machray almost did, to the nearest Job Centre after Jimmy McGovern saw him asleep in the Empire Theatre at a performance of his play about the slave trade a couple of years' ago & demanded his head). It seems that Riley considers himself an expert on the current controversy in New York over the proposed mosque two blocks from Ground Zero. He penned a piece yesterday which would delight your average Daily Mail reader; lazy, crude, simplistic, all the attributes you'd find in a Mail hate piece were impressively served up by Riley (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/views/liverpool-columnists/joe-riley/2010/08/19/joe-riley-obama-s-lack-of-political-judgement-over-new-york-mosque-100252-27091746/ ).
Consider this puerile passage from Riley's pen:
"There has been rightful international condemnation of the New York mosque plan, part of a £100m dollar [SIC] Islamic community project, near to Ground Zero.
"For the world at large has yet to be convinced that the Islamic faith is wholly divorced from the atrocities committed by its fundamentalists, in the same way as the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches originally faced suspicion in Northern Ireland.
"Eradicating those connections has taken time: more than 30 years.
"But in ignoring all this, and barely a decade on, Barack Obama is putting political correctness ahead of any sort of human sensitivity."
Aside from Riley's less than reliable reading of Irish history, the piece displays a cavernous hole where you would normally expect to find research, context, reason &, yes, tolerance. In playing the guilt by association card with regard to Muslims generally, Riley is allying himself with the fanatical far-Right in the US. Think that's over the top? Think again, as you peruse the New York Times editorial on the subject earlier this month (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/04/opinion/04/wed1.html ):
"It was not surprising that Republican ideologues like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin came out against the mosque. A Congressional candidate in North Carolina has found it to be a good way to get attention and, yes, stoke prejudice against Muslims. We expect this sortof behavior from these kinds of Republicans. They have been shamelessly playing the politics of fear since 9/11."
Alas, given the generally craven state of reporting in the US media (something the Oldham Echo could well emulate, actually), it's been left to the likes of Jon Stewart to provide some much-needed context & balance (http://www.channel4.com/programmes/the-daily-show-with-jon-stewart/4od#3111606 ).
I presume Riley subscribes to the argument advanced by the Fox News claque that the site of the attacks (never mind the fact that the proposed mosque is two blocks away) is "hallowed ground". That being so, Riley may care to acquaint himself with Manhattan's history. During the slave trade the Port of New York, like Liverpool, witnessed the arrival of countless slaves from West Africa. Once their enforced labours & deprivations were of no further use to the slave owners, they were left to their own devices &, eventually, were buried in mass, unmarked graves around the island of Manhattan. Hailing from West Africa (modern-day Senegal, Ivory Coast, Mali, etc.), their religion was, yes, Muslim. Moreover, one such grave was on the site of, again, yes, the World Trade Center. Hallowed ground, indeed.
I make no apology for quoting at some length the comments of that infamous Al-Qaeda supporter, Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York, a few weeks' ago:
"The World Trade Center Site will forever hold a special place in our City, in our hearts. But we would be untrue to the best part of ourselves --and who are we as New Yorkers and Americans-- if we said 'no' to a mosque in Lower Manhattan.
"Let us not forget that Muslims were among the murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbours grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values --and play into our enemies' hands-- if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists--and we should not stand for that.
"For that reason, I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetime --as important a test-- and it is critically important that we get it right.
"On September 11, 2001, thousands of first responders defended not only our City but also our country and our Constitution. We do not honor their lives by denying the very Constitutional rights they died protecting. We honor their lives by defending their rights--and the freedoms that the terrorists attacked."
Compare & contrast Mayor Bloomberg's measured & thoughtful words with Riley's subterranean political-correctness-gone-mad scrawl; it's like the difference between principle & puerility. In fact, come to think of it, it is.

23.00 UPDATE: The link for the New York Times editorial doesn't appear to be working. If you Google: New York Times editorial: A Monument to Tolerance, the correct link should be at the top of the links page.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Breaking News: The Beatles Came From Liverpool

Never let it be said that the Oldham Echo is behind the curve, or that it doesn't bring you the stories that are relevant to the people of Merseyside. Occupying the top link spot on its website at the time of writing is a video taken by Paul McCartney when he met President Obama..... two months ago (http://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/liverpool-news/local-news/2010/08/17/ex-beatle-sir-paul-mccartney-releases-video-footage-of-meeting-president-obama-at-the-white-house-video-100252-27077744/ ).
Footage of Macca's big night in Washington DC has been on YouTube since the event in early June (just type "Paul McCartney & Barack Obama") & the official video is still available to view on the White House website (http://www.whitehouse.gov/photos-and-video/video/president-obama-honors-paul-mccartney ).
So what's different about the video that the Echo website is so excited about? Erm, just that Sir Thumbs-Up comments how excited he is as he's driven to the White House.
Once again, Oldham Hall Street brings you the stories that really matter.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fleming Should Explain Himself

The comment allegedly made by David Fleming, director of Mational Museums Merseyside (NML) which Wayne highlighted last week (http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2010/08/i-want-all-young-black-men-to-feel-shit.html ) demands some sort of statement from him. It beggars belief that he has decided to remain silent rather than confirm or deny that he said the words attributed to him & explain himself at the very least.
It is unclear when or where Fleming made the alleged remark. However, a podcast was made of a discussion at Liverpool Museum last April (the day of which was the anniversary of Hillsborough, as it happens) on the struggle for civil rights, with particular regard to the US, "From Lincoln to Obama: a look at the progress of civil rights" (http://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/podcasts/lincoln_obama.aspx ).
It should be stated that Fleming certainly doesn't make the comment attributed to him on the podcast. However, that should not serve as the final word on the matter.
Fleming is currently on holiday, but must surely be aware of the furore caused by the alleged quote. That being the case, he could simply pick up his mobile phone & tell the appropriate outlets the real situation; there can be all sorts of extenuating circumstances in which a repugnant sentiment is aired (taken out of context, directly quoting a bigot, etc.). Whatever the truth of the matter is, Fleming, as a public servant, owes it to the people of Merseyside to make a full & formal statement on the alleged remark.
Fleming, of course, has form when it comes to uttering crass & offensive comments. He proposed exhibitions of Hillsborough & the Bulger case at the Museum of Liverpool (http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2010/03/museum-of-liverpool-citadel-of-disaster.html ).
He has also spoken in the most disparaging terms of his fellow colleagues & staff (http://liverpoolpreservationtrust.blogspot.com/2009/03/watching-detectives.html ): "Why is it that most curators and museum staff are completely dysfunctional in normal society? Most of them you would not want to take out for a drink. They're weird! And why is it that our sector thinks it's appropriate to put weird people at the head of it?"
Given his track record for producing cringeworthy, tactless & downright callous quotes, Fleming needs to make a statement fast. Remaining silent is not an option.

Cannibalism, Not Craft

Keeping schtum about ignorant, heavy-handed goons at the Arena which displays its name & being disingenuous about the damage done to the waterfront by the Three Graces' new anti-social neighbours, the "journalism" at the Daily Ghost & Oldham Echo can be put into context by a piece which appeared on the How-Do website the other day (http://www.how-do.co.uk/north-west-media-news/north-west-publishing/regional-journalists-increasingly-resorting-to-%E2%80%98cut-and-paste%92-journalism%2c-local-news-in-crisis--201008128822/ ).
The article, quoting a report by Professor Natalie Fenton of Goldsmiths Media Research Centre for the Media Trust (http://www.mediatrust.org/get-support/community-newswire-1/research-report-3/ ), refers to the acquisition of the Guardian Media Group's regional media titles by Trinity Smoking Mirrors.
Professor Felton notes that such takeovers result in supposedly local papers having "less and less relevance for local people".
Most damningly of all, however, is Professor Felton's observation:
"There is evidence of journalists being thrust into news production more akin to creative cannibalisation than the craft of journalism.
"As they need to fill more space and to work at greater speed while also having improved access to stories and sources online, they talk less to their sources, are captured in desk-bound, cut-and-paste, administrative journalism."
Mark Thomas & Alastair Machray would do well to acknowledge that "creative cannibalisation" has become the hallmark of Oldham Hall Street's output.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Not Trending

Robin Brown over at the Liverpool Culture Blog notes that the creatures at Murdoch's rag, The Sun have set up a twitter channel about Liverpool FC (http://www.liverpoolcultureblog.co.uk/2010/08/the-sun-opens-liverpool-twitter-channel/ ).
He puts this pathetic attempt to curry favour with a generation on Merseyside too young to remember Hillsborough in perspective:
"Not such a big deal? Maybe to the people of a city accused of the most hideous lies imaginable by the paper after Hillsborough.
"There are some things I think Liverpool needs to get over, but Hillsborough is a taboo. Emotion is still high and raw, and understandably as far as I'm concerned."
The reptiles at Wapping have to be told in no uncertain terms that they'll never be accepted by the people of Merseyside, not just Liverpool fans. That they've resorted to Twitter in the vain hope that memories have faded shows their rank callousness.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Re-Writing History

What are you doing four weeks today? In London, you say? Great! You can take your place outside Waterstone's bookstore in Picadilly, central London, to buy Tony Blair's self-justifying tome, My Journey (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2010/aug/11/tony-blair-security-book-signing ).
It's been reported that the war criminal agonised somewhat over the title for his self-proclaimed magnum opus. You can imagine the mooted titles that were kicked around among his coterie (The Chosen One, Sucking Up To Dubya, Be Grateful, You Bastards, The Gospel According To St Tony, etc.).
I would have suggested Blair steal the title of Emile Zola's classic, J'accuse, with a picture of Bush's lap-dog looking shifty & defensive. However, as you'd expect, security will be high, as Paul Owen points out in the Guardian piece. Blair won't be signing any personal dedications ("Best wishes to Osama", that sort of thing). Nor will it be permitted to have your photograph taken with him (all cameras & mobile phones must be given up prior to shaking the hand which has the blood of thousands on it; besides, under Section 44 of Tony's Terrorism Act, & as the security goons at the Oldham Echo Arena will readily attest, cameras are weapons of mass destruction).
There are more conditions attached, designed to make the supplicants who take their place in the queue ( & Blair wants you to know your place) feel that it's an audience they won't forget.
Blair's advance for the book is £4.6m. I'm sure he earned it, what with all those pens to replace & A4 sheets to buy, not to mention the odd attack of writer's cramp.
So if you're in the capital on September 8th, why not pop along & let Tony know just how grateful you are that his actions have made the world a safer place.