Thursday, September 23, 2010

Layer 354 . . . Bobby, Vince, Capitalism, Communism, Alexei, Leonard, Carlos, Clegg, New Labour's Record, Britain's Broken Economy and Blond on Blond

Dylan's Mystery Tramp is, of course, Capitalism - who is completely unfathomable and ultimately unknowable. He moves in mysterious ways, and is a God to many.

Once upon a time you dressed so fine
You threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?
People'd call, say, "Beware doll, you're bound to fall"
You thought they were all kiddin' you . . .

We educate our young people in our finest universities to believe they belong with, and belong to, the Masters of the Universe - the captains of big business, banking and finance, controlling their own destinies, living in Emerald Cities . . .

We fill them full of technocratic know-how, and pay them ridiculous sums in return for managing teams of 'traders' who sit at computer consoles shifting billions of dollars, euros amd pounds around the world in order to rob the less switched-on and the less well-informed, and the slightly less-able gamblers, of the money which they control . . .

What they don't learn is how to cope with themselves and with life when things don't work out, and when they do indeed . . . fall.

And there's a hard rain gonna fall . . .

You've been to the finest school all right,
But you know you only used to get juiced in it . . .
Nobody ever taught you how to live out on the street
But now you're gonna have to get used to it . . .
You said you'd never compromise
With the Mystery Tramp, but know you realize
He's not selling any alibis
As you stare into the vacuum of his eyes
And say - do you want to . . . make a deal?

How does it feel?


The Vince Cable Show and a New Capitalism

Vince's performance at the Lib Dem conference was very well advertised beforehand, and Vince managed to live up to expectations for his star turn. He's a good man.

So what were his thoughts on capitalism? Having started his speech with, "Good morning Conference; good morning 'comrades'," he said this:

We need successful business. But let me be quite clear. The Government's agenda is not one of laissez-faire. Markets are often irrational or rigged. Why should good companies be destroyed by short-term investors looking for a speculative killing, while their accomplices in the City make fat fees? Why do directors sometimes forget their wider duties when a cheque is waved before them?

Capitalism takes no prisoners and kills competition where it can, as Adam Smith explained over 200 years ago. I want to protect consumers and keep prices down and provide a level playing field for small business. Competition is central to my pro-market, pro-business, agenda.

But the big long-term question is: how does the country earn a living in future? Skilled and educated people. High tech manufacturing, of which we already have a great deal. Creative industries, IT and science-based industries and professional services. In my job I meet many outstanding, world class, British-based companies. But we need more companies and more jobs in the companies we have.

Businesses cannot grow because of a shortage of trained workers while our schools churn out young people regarded by companies as virtually unemployable. The pool of unemployed graduates is growing . . .

There are some unhelpful cultural prejudices and vested interests to overcome. The belief that only A-starred A levels count, not apprenticeships. Or the assumption that top Oxbridge maths brains should go to Goldman Sachs or hedge funds, not to Rolls Royce or into teaching. Wrong. Completely wrong.

I am doing everything I can to ensure that graduate contributions are linked to earnings. Why should low paid graduates - nurses, youth workers or science researchers - pay the same as corporate lawyers and investment bankers? We have to balance higher contributions with basic fairness.

On banks, I make no apology for attacking spivs and gamblers who did more harm to the British economy than Bob Crow could achieve in his wildest Trotskyite fantasies, while paying themselves outrageous bonuses underwritten by the taxpayer. There is much public anger about banks and it is well deserved.

But I am not seeking retribution. The Chancellor and I have set out a range of sticks and carrots to get banks to support the real economy. Tough interventions will be needed if capital which could be used to support business lending is frittered away in bonuses and dividends.

The Coalition Agreement was crystal clear, too, that the structure of banking must be reformed to prevent future disasters and promote competition. Our agenda can be summed in seven words: make them safe and make them lend. I agree with Mervyn. We just can't risk having banks that are too big to fail.



Alexei Sayle is a genius. His parents were Jewish Liverpudlian working class intellectuals and radicals who took him for holidays all over Eastern Europe, travelling for free on his dad's rail pass, which he was entitled to as a worker for British Railways. Yesterday Alexei was on Midweek, talking about his new autobiography, and he was brilliant. Thanks to his parents, and his travels, Alexei grew up speaking the language of communism but also seeing what communism had done to countries in the Eastern Bloc.

I have to pass on a friend's recommendation to enjoy this film of Alexei on YouTube -  a message to Leonard Cohen.

Len has a new album out, which is available on Spotify - Songs from the Road. This is an album of live tracks recorded from his gigs over the past 2 - 3 years.

The first track is Lover, Lover, Lover. This is a track he rarely performs. It's from an album released in the early 70's - New Skin for the Old Ceremony.

The man is unbelievable. He sang this in Tel Aviv in September 2009:

I asked my father,
I said, "Father change my name."
The one I'm using now it's covered up
with fear and filth and cowardice and shame.

I love Len. He's not only a great artist - he's a brave and principled man, and a totally spiritual being.


Carlos in Guitar Heaven

Carlos Santana, another genius, has a new album - Guitar Heaven. Available on Spotify. - samples - While My Guitar Gently Weeps (with Yo-Yo Ma doing what people should be doing with cellos - not tiddling around with 'classical' crap.)



Is this an example of Nick Clegg doing his job well, or just a statement of the bleeding obvious that anyone with half a brain could have made?

He listed Labour's record as "civil liberties destroyed on an industrial scale. A widening gap between rich and poor. Failure to act on the environment. Locking up more children than anywhere else in the western world. Kowtowing to the banks. A foreign policy forged in George Bush's White House. The invasion of Iraq. And then on top of that they brought the country to the brink of bankruptcy. Imprisoned by timidity they squandered a golden age".

Whatever. I'm just glad he's saying it, and I hope the TV companies keep on broadcasting it. I want New Labour castigated and exposed as often as possible.


Britain's economy is broken. This is how to start fixing it

As homes and jobs turn into sources of insecurity, Labour has to develop a distinct alternative vision of the good, fair society

A knackered economic model is revealed for all to see as eminently fit for replacement.

And yet Labour hasn't debated what that alternative should be – not just during this summer's leadership campaign but for the best part of two decades. It's not too much of an exaggeration to say that since 1994, the party's mainstream outsourced its economic thinking to Gordon Brown, who in turn took his cues from straightlaced economists and the City. The result was neoliberalism-lite, and some of the most unsightly political contortions ever pulled by a prime minister. Who would ever have thought a Labour leader could go softer on the banks than his Conservative opposite number? Yet Cameron has consistently talked tougher on the City.

Holding that debate on what an alternative economic policy should look like will be one of the biggest challenges for whoever takes over the party leadership this weekend. He or she will not have much time to do it, nor much wiggle room, given the pressure they will be under to respond to Cameron's cuts. It was in order to try to provide such a space that a year ago we set up the New Political Economy Network. A group of economists, other academics, professional politicians and party activists, it was generously supported from the off by the MP Jon Cruddas, and by the Guardian, and has held a series of seminars and public meetings. Today we publish an e-book, laying out ideas for what a new political economy for Labour should look like.

It may have been written collectively, but a common theme runs through the book: Labour can't go on with Thatcherism with a Presbyterian brow. The old defensiveness about the role of the state in the economy is part and parcel of an old politics. In the short term, that means reducing the deficit only as jobs are created and the economy grows. Alistair Darling's election pledge of a four-year deficit-reduction plan is too rigid. The principal concern of any government in a slump should be to restore capital investment and ensure sufficient demand to restore business confidence.

But there is a role for the state over the longer term. Relying solely on financial markets to encourage new industries and create jobs hasn't worked, because financiers do not have the patience. Rebuilding and rebalancing the economy must start with a radical reform of the banking sector. We need a new system for directing credit to promising industries and to all those areas (pick pretty much anywhere north of Watford Gap) denuded of private business.

As even bankers now admit, Brown and Blair went too far with light-touch regulation. But the new regulation should not just be about capital ratios and other technicalities, however important. Labour has to take a greater interest in how corporations are run, in devolving real power and decision-making to employees and – in the case of public services, their users. That will mean radical reform of the state, with power decentralised to the nations, to local government and to civil society organisations, including unions. In other words, if Cameron (and Phillip Blond, on this page) wants to bang on about the "big society", Labour should offer a vision of the "big economy" – where wealth is not just transferred to the top but shared round.

The main sources of security in our lives are our jobs, our homes, our pensions and access to finance and credit. But for many these are now sources of insecurity. Labour has to develop an economy that delivers decent jobs, good homes, proper pensions and fair finance. The basis of this moral economy is a common prosperity. Its principles are environmentally sustainable wealth creation, equality, and human flourishing.


I'm still not sure what to make of erstwhile Tory political guru Phillip Blond, and his Red Toryism:

Reclaiming a Liberal legacy

The party's great postwar leader Jo Grimond would have approved of David Cameron's 'big society'

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please leave a comment