Category Archives: History & Current Affairs

Handel’s Theodora directed by Peter Sellars

I noticed that Channel 4 had an opera by Handel scheduled one Saturday night in 1996. I like opera so I thought I would tape it.  This being the nineties taping it literally meant making a physical copy on electromagnetic media.  I plonked the tape in the video recorder and rather than wrestle with the elaborate procedure of setting the timer I just made a point of being by the telly when it was due to start and pressing the red button.  I started watching it to see what it was like and to make sure the temperamental machine was actually doing its job.   Within minutes I was hooked, and in the end sat through the whole three and a half hours.  I wasn’t alone – my wife and small kids joined me and were similarly captivated. Continue reading

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Why No Media Coverage Was Good For the Greens

Why No Media Coverage Was Good For the Greens

Green in Bristol, winning seats with little media attention

I finally gave in to biology and went to bed at 1.00am last night, after 2 hours of political coverage on the telly which did not mention the Green Party even once.  You wouldn’t know they even existed.  Meanwhile the effect of the large swing of votes to UKIP was looked at from every imaginable angle.  I imagine that Green activists were probably getting a bit frustrated.  But as an interested but not particularly engaged observer I concluded that the Greens were probably better off without it.   The Greens have never really attracted much attention in the media, but have managed to win a Westminster seat and to control a local council.  These are significant achievements.  UKIP haven’t managed either yet.  Solid achievements like that don’t just happen.  They must have assembled a team of committed people to do it and to have won over a lot of people who don’t have much time for politics. Continue reading

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Greens Push Lib Dems Into 5th Place

greens-push-lib-dems-into-5th-place

An intriguing poll was published just before the European Election.  In it the Greens had overtaken the Liberal Democrats leaving them in fifth place.   At time of writing I don’t know what the real results will be.  Polls are just polls and what happens on the ground can be very different.  I’d be surprised if the Greens were actually to outpoll the Lib Dems in the real world.   A lot of the MEPs defending their seats will have a strong incumbency advantage.  And even in these online days organisation on the ground counts for something, and the Lib Dems are better organised and better funded. Continue reading

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Ukraine – It’s What Empires Do

what-empires-do

French Troops in Algeria

Ulster, Texas, Algeria, Crimea are all examples of one of the things that empires do.  A good way of expanding your authority is to move populations around.  Ideally you move people who are reliably on your side and get them to live where people who don’t recognise your authority are currently living.   It’s just how empires operate.  I imagine that they have done it since empires have started.  It is good to have this historical perspective on the current crisis in the Ukraine. Continue reading

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Should You Vote?

Some time ago I decided to stop following the news on the grounds that I would be better informed if I didn’t.  This has worked very well and now even though I have only the vaguest notion of what is going on I feel I have a better grip on current affairs than I did when I was a news junkie. Continue reading

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Obamacare – A Myth is Created

2009 Armed Forces Inaugural Committee

Napoleon famously always asked if someone was lucky when considering promoting them.  It is certainly the case that luck plays a big part in what historical figures achieve and an even bigger part in determining their future reputations.  President Obama for instance was extremely lucky to be black at just the time this was no longer something that barred his political progress but was still enough of an obstacle for his successes to be enhanced by it.  Nobody else will ever be the first black president, and being the second black president won’t pull in much kudos.  In the future I predict the rise of Obama will be treated as some sort of defining historical event, and his own part in it will be exaggerated – a myth will be created. Continue reading

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Advice to Young Men by William Cobbett

William Cobbett

Advice to Young Men is one of the less well known of Cobbett’s books. It was published in paperback in the eighties when there was a bit of a Cobbett revival, but aside from that it has rarely troubled the shelves of bookshops. It would be a stretch to say it is a forgotten classic, and other works by Cobbett deserve the greater attention that they receive. But Advice to Young Men does have the distinction of being maybe the first self help book, beating the better known examples by Samuel Smiles and Napoleon Hill into print by many decades. It was also originally published by Cobbett himself who was the very definition of a self made man. So maybe there is some undeserved credit available there. Continue reading

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Five All Time Greatest Bail Outs

5-greatest-bank-bailouts

I love banking bail outs, and so should you.  What would life be like without them?  Without bail outs bankers would have to behave like the rest of us, and where is the fun in that?  Of course, banking could be a pretty straight forward job.  You look after people’s savings by investing them in profitable enterprises.  The savers get a return on their money, the enterprises thrive and a little way down the road society as a whole is richer.  It is not very different to laying bricks or running a shop really.  A bit of common sense and some hard work; you make a nice living and do your bit to improve life for everyone else.

But be honest, wouldn’t that just be so dull!  It is a lot more fun to lend out more money than you actually have to lots of very risky projects which pay a good return.  Continue reading

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I predict not so much a riot as a small war

When it comes to arguments over the ownership of small islands, I think most Britons can legitimately claim some kind of special perspective.  Particularly if you are old enough to remember the Falklands War, it is easy to imagine how a group of islands can overnight be transformed from somewhere you have never heard of to a vital national obsession  if someone else lays a claim to them in a violent way. Continue reading

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Pussy Riot – the background

Pussy Riot (Thanks to Wikipedia for the image)

 

Pussy Riot are the only Russian punk group I have heard of.  I think I am in good company on that, as they seem to be a lot more interested in getting publicity for their political protests than their art. On the whole I don’t approve of either religion or authoritarian tendencies in nominally democratic governments.  So I am sympathetic in a general sort of way to what Pussy Riot seem to be doing.  On the other hand, religious people are entitled to hold whatever beliefs they have and to practice those beliefs.  And those rights ought to include not having a punk band set up without permission in a cathedral.  So I am not sure that Pussy Riot have got their tactics quite right. Continue reading

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