Saturday, December 17, 2011

Layer 499 . . . The Protestor, The Bank of Ideas, Occupy, Secrets, The European Union and Dave

The first real frost of the season last night - a perfect winter's day today: blue sky, bright sunshine and no wind.

Where does time go? Christmas is only a week away, yet autumn's hardly over. So what's been occurin'?

It seems Time magazine has chosen "The Protestor" as its "Person of the Year" -,28804,2101745_2102134_2102355,00.html,28804,2101745_2102132,00.html
Once upon a time . . . protesters were prime makers of history. Back then, when citizen multitudes took to the streets without weapons to declare themselves opposed, it was the very definition of news — vivid, important, often consequential. In the 1960s in America they marched for civil rights and against the Vietnam War; in the '70s, they rose up in Iran and Portugal; in the '80s, they spoke out against nuclear weapons in the U.S. and Europe, against Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, against communist tyranny in Tiananmen Square and Eastern Europe. Protest was the natural continuation of politics by other means.
And then came the End of History . . . globally triumphant "Western liberalism." The two decades beginning in 1991 witnessed the greatest rise in living standards that the world has ever known. Credit was easy, complacency and apathy were rife, and street protests looked like pointless emotional sideshows — obsolete, quaint, the equivalent of cavalry to mid-20th-century war. The rare large demonstrations in the rich world seemed ineffectual and irrelevant. (See the Battle of Seattle, 1999.)
"Massive and effective street protest" was a global oxymoron until — suddenly, shockingly — starting exactly a year ago, it became the defining trope of our times. And the protester once again became a maker of history.
Prelude to the Revolutions
It began in Tunisia, where the dictator's power grabbing and high living crossed a line of shamelessness, and a commonplace bit of government callousness against an ordinary citizen — a 26-year-old street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi — became the final straw.
The protesters in the Middle East and North Africa are literally dying to get political systems that roughly resemble the ones that seem intolerably undemocratic to protesters in Madrid, Athens, London and New York City. "I think other parts of the world," says Frank Castro, 53, a Teamster who drives a cement mixer for a living and helped occupy Oakland, Calif., "have more balls than we do."
In Egypt and Tunisia, I talked with revolutionaries who were M.B.A.s, physicians and filmmakers as well as the young daughters of a provincial olive picker and a supergeeky 29-year-old Muslim Brotherhood member carrying a Tigger notebook. 
The Occupy movement in the U.S. was set in motion by a couple of magazine editors — a 69-year-old Canadian, a 29-year-old African American — and a 50-year-old anthropologist, but airline pilots and grandmas and shop clerks and dishwashers have been part of the throngs.
Read more:,28804,2101745_2102132_2102373,00.html


It's been interesting spending some time in and around the camp at St Paul's and also the occupied Bank of Ideas.
The Bank of Ideas is situated on Sun Street, Hackney in an abandoned office block purchased several years ago by the bank UBS. It is an enormous space complete with a 500-seater lecture hall. We’re open to visitors and guests from 12 noon to 11 pm from Tuesday to Friday an from 10 am to 11 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
It has been opened to the public for the non-monetary trade of ideas to help solve the pressing economic, social and environmental problems of our time.

There is also room for community groups and other public services that have lost their space due to Government spending cuts to come and adopt a space for free.
Artists, performers and creatives are welcome to come entertain and to help transform the space. We also encourage games, workshops and skillshares on anything from yoga to yahtzee.
The only prerequisite is that this space is not for financial transactions. Trade in ideas or skills, but no one should need to pay to take part in the Bank’s activities.

Room 101 at the Bank of Ideas contains just three tents. And within those three tents . . .

Meanwhile down stairs in the main meeting room Caroline Lucas MP addressed an audience that eventually grew to about 60 mainly young people who sat together on the carpet. Like all good politicians she's impressively confident and articulate . . . And like all bad politicians she underestimates her audience, who nevertheless sit and listen patiently & politely to the usual stuff - standard critiques of the government and its policies.

What's odd is that there's no mention in her 20 minute spiel specifically about banks, bankers and financiers. Yet there we all were - sitting and squatting in an abandoned building owned by UBS bank, for the specific purpose of discussing ideas about the financial crisis brought about by reckless and irresponsible banks. Caroline's answer to a question about the role of banks was so bland and uninspiring I can't even remember what she said. So much for fhe Bank of Ideas. Caroline may be the leader of the Green Party but I don't see her leading this movement for a counterculture and a better way of running societies.


Occupy movement plays it smart

The London protesters' wholesome, inclusive approach is sensible because it leaves little room for ranters – who are waiting in the wings on both left and right


Secret Shopping and Profit Sharing

Tell no-one. Keep this to yourself. There's now a way to shop with ease in London. No hassle and no queueing to get in . . . and no queueing to get out. As long as not too many people know about it.

We all need to shop occasionally - even those of us who hate the whole business. The commute to a major shopping centre is usually a nightmare on its own. What happens when you get there is often even worse.

So now . . . you simply drive to Car Park B at Westfield Stratford. You park for free for two hours. You leave your car right next to the entrance to John Lewis. You buy stuff and you go home. Excellent!

Other shops are available, obviously. But I really like the whole operating principle of the John Lewis Partnership.
The John Lewis Partnership's 76,500 Partners own the leading UK retail businesses - John Lewis and Waitrose. Our founder's vision of a successful business powered by its people and its principles defines our unique company today. The profits and benefits created by our success are shared by all our Partners.
What's more, they sell good stuff.
The business was founded in 1864 when John Lewis set up a draper's shop in Oxford Street, London, which developed into a department store. In 1905 he bought the Peter Jones store in Sloane Square. In 1920 his son, John Spedan Lewis, expanded earlier power-sharing policies by sharing the profits the business made among the employees. The democratic nature and profit-sharing basis of the business were developed into a formal partnership structure and Spedan Lewis bequeathed the company to his employees. As of 2011, there are 76,500 partners – the majority full-time – working for the John Lewis Partnership.
Warning - do not go to Westfield East when groups of noisy teenagers are on the loose. Do not go at weekends or on school holidays. Otherwise - it's very good. Lots of natural light, wide walkways, decent toilets, 300 shops and plenty of places to hang out for coffee and free wi-fi.

For a brilliant view of the Olympics site go to the 2012 shop in John Lewis and walk through to the special observation room. Sunset is a good time to go, as the room faces west.


Secret Cinema

This is a very interesting phenomenon. More to follow.


The European Union

It's showtime! Finally . . . . positions are clear, and our Conservative-led government is exposed. The Europeans want to regulate the financial sector, and the Cameroons don't. Ergo - we're not really European and the rest of the EU will move forward on that basis. Europeans (including right-wingers like Sarkozy and Merkel) want to introduce better regulation of capitalism, plus a Tobin tax, and Cameron doesn't. Probably, in due course, the USA will want to introduce better regulation of capitalism. Probably the rest of the entire sane world will want to introduce better regulation of capitalism. If they have any sense they'll then treat the UK like the stinking, putrid bankers' toerags that we appear to be. That will be interesting. Well done Dave. What a true statesman our forty-something PM is turning out to be, now that he's showing his true colours, and the true colours of his entire government, including the toerags' toerags - the LibDems.


Christopher Hitchens has died at the age of 62.
"A pugnacious, eloquent, brilliant asshole."

And still unforgiven for his support for Bush and the invasion of Iraq, as far as Oxzen is concerned.


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