Saturday, October 23, 2010

Layer 366 . . . Pink Floyd, David Gilmour, Sheer Genius, More Rooney, Zen, Spiritual Intelligence, Stupid Bankers, Regressive Cuts and Hitting the Poorest

Michael Mansfield was on Desert Island Discs this week, and chose a Pink Floyd track as his number one record. Someone's like or dislike for the Floyd is a very good indicator of musical taste and intelligence.

This week on Sky Arts there was another showing of "David Gilmour: Remember That Night - Live at the Royal Albert Hall." I've seen this 90 minute programme several times now, but what struck me this time was the sheer joy that his fellow musicians get from playing alongside the genius of Dave Gilmour. There's a quality to his playing, and a quality to his guitar tones and sounds, as well as the quality of the melodies and his singing, that brings smiles to the faces of the other band members when Dave's in the middle of one of his long solos. And they're not just smiles of enjoyment - there's a kind of disbelief and a delight that someone can be so brilliant, so expressive, so able to command your whole attention and send your soul & spirit soaring into another dimension. Comfortably Numb has arguably the best guitar solo of all time.

From Layer 138 -

Having just listened to an hour and a half of David Gilmour and Rick Wright and co on Sky Arts 1, Remember That Night, performing Pink Floyd classics such as High Hopes and Comfortably Numb, cranked up loud through the hi fi, I’m Zenned and blissed out . . .
See also Layer 45.


Rooney's still in the news. His biographer, Hunter Davies, said on the radio yesterday that he clearly needs "therapy". Not quite, Hunter. As Oxzen was saying a few days ago, he needs to take time out to start working on his soul and his spirit through relaxation, contemplation and meditation. He needs to find his Tao, and a Zen approach to life.

Back in 1961 Alan Watts published a book called 'Psychotherapy East and West'. In it he describes two different approaches to achieving beneficial changes to consciousness and attitudes to self and society.

"The disciplines of Buddhism and Taoism are concerned with changing the consciousness of normal, socially adjusted people. It is increasingly apparent to [Western] psychotherapists that the normal state of consciousness in our culture is both the context and the breeding ground of mental disease. A complex of societies of vast material wealth bent on mutual destruction is anything but a condition of social health.

Buddhism, in common with Taoism in China, is not a culture but a critique of culture, and an enduring non-violent revolution or 'loyal opposition' to the culture with which it is involved. [The aim is] to help the individual to be himself and to go it alone without giving unneccessary offence to his community; to be in the world (of social convention) but not of the world. A Chinese Buddhist text describes the sage in words that strongly suggest Riesman's 'inner-directed' or Maslow's 'self-actualising' personality:

He walks always by himself, goes about always by himself;
Every perfect one saunters along one and the same passage of Nirvana;
His tone is classical, his spirit is transparent, his airs are naturally elevated,
His features are rather gaunt, his bones are firm, he pays no attention to others.

Maybe this is the special magic of Dave Gilmour - 'His tone is classical, his spirit is transparent, his airs are naturally elevated'. To the Nth degree.


There was a discussion about bankers and banking, and about imposing some new special taxes on them, on an R4 Today programme this week in which someone said, "We shouldn't penalise an industry in which we excel". Penalise! Excel!

It's incredible, really. Our 'excellence' in banking has brought this country to the dire state it's in. Our entire banking system was only saved from bankrupting itself and from crashing and smashing our entire financial system thanks to the injection of billions of OUR money into the coffers of the very people whose "excellence" caused the crisis. These people now expect to carry on paying themselves even more billions in bonuses, and they regard any attempt on our part to recoup our 'investment', as it were, as an outrageous interference and an unjustified 'penalty'!

They clearly don't give a shit about any aspect of our society other than what they can get out of it for themselves, and they also have the nerve to threaten to fuck off to Switzerland and take their businesses with them if we even attempt to get them to contribute towards the national wellbeing. Can anybody say why we didn't nationalise the lot of them - at the point where their shares were worth next to nothing? We could have done it so easily.

Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse did a brilliant sketch on their BBC programme this week in which two stupid bankers sell to one another several times over a single worthless piece of paper - eventually raising it's 'value' to several million pounds - before finally finding some other sucker (banker) who can be conned into thinking it's worth what they say it is and who then agrees to buy it. That's the way to do it! Sheer excellence. Investment banking at its very best.

Spending review: banks appear to have wriggled off the hook

Government accused of 'going soft' on banks with a charge that would raise no more than £2.5bn from the industry

The day after George Osborne announced swingeing cuts to public services and welfare benefits, the government was expected to announce payback time for Britain's banks – blamed by many for the country's parlous economic state.

But despite unveiling details of a levy on bank balance sheets, the government was yesterday accused of "going soft" on the banks with a charge that would raise no more than £2.5bn from the industry.

Unions were swift to attack the plans, dismissing it as "a pathetically small amount" to demand from the banks.

Labour MP Chuka Umunna, who sits on the Treasury select committee, criticised the government for "going soft" on the banks and having a lack of ambition on the bank levy. "In the spending review, there were no new measures to ensure that those who caused the crisis pay their fair share towards paying down the deficit and the draft bank levy legislation published today falls far short of the decisive action we need and is an insult to those losing benefits and local services", he said.


As for the coalition's claim that they have spread the misery 'fairly' and 'progressively', and that the wealthy will pay more than the less well off - anyone with half a brain can see that this is complete crap.

It's true that the wealthy will pay more - both in total and as a percentage of income - but so what? Someone who's already extremely well off will feel no pain whatsoever from a slightly higher tax bill and a loss of child benefit. We're talking here about people who already have extremely comfortable lives, who own their own homes, have a couple of nice cars, plenty of holidays, possibly own more than one property, etc.

Whereas someone who has no money and no assets, who's possibly trying to live on £65 a week, will feel plenty of pain if they lose even £10 of benefits or tax credits.

It's one thing for the coalition to implement policies which favour the already wealthy - but it's outrageous for them to claim that they've spread the pain of the cutbacks fairly and that everyone is having to share in the pain and the hardships.

Spending review cuts hit poor hardest, says Institute of Fiscal Studies
Britain's leading tax and spending experts today flatly contradicted the key claims made by George Osborne and the coalition over the fairness of its £81bn austerity programme.

In a move that forced the government on to the defensive, the highly respected Institute for Fiscal Studies challenged the chancellor's contention that his plans for four years of belt-tightening would be progressive, safeguard frontline school spending, and require smaller savings for departments than Alistair Darling would have demanded.

Angela Eagle, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said: "George Osborne's smoke and mirrors have well and truly unravelled. On any measure his plans hit the poorest hardest. And the IFS have all but called him a liar for his ridiculous claim that he is cutting less than Labour planned."

In its detailed analysis of Wednesday's comprehensive spending review, the IFS said the £7bn of fresh welfare cuts, together with public spending reductions, reinforced the regressive nature of the changes introduced by the coalition since it came to power. Families with children would be the hardest hit by the changes and only by including the increase in the top rate of income tax introduced by Labour could the coalition justify the claim that the better-off were being hit more than the poor.

"The tax and benefit changes are regressive rather than progressive across most of the income distribution. And when we add in the new measures announced yesterday this is, unsurprisingly, reinforced," said the acting director of the IFS, Carl Emmerson.

"Our analysis continues to show that, with the notable exception of the richest 2%, the tax and benefit components of the fiscal consolidation are, overall, being implemented in a regressive way."

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