Born in 1860, Ignacy Paderewski was a pianist, composer and politician who went on to become the first prime minister of Poland. He was also a noted linguist and spoke seven languages fluently. Paderewski became the music superstar of his day and performed all over the world to adoring audiences. He crossed the Atlantic more than thirty times (this in the days of sailing ships) and gave 1500 concerts in the United States, performing in every state and drawing the largest crowds in history, this at a time when the solo recital was still in its infancy. Here’s the man himself, in 1937, playing Chopin’s Polonaise in A Flat. Paderewski is about 77 years old in this clip and you can no longer see his earlier distinctive trademark: his long red hair…
Paderewski was born to Polish parents in the village of Kuryłówka, in what is now the Ukraine. His father managed large land estates. His mother died several months after Paderewski was born and he was brought up by distant relatives. Paderewski had an interest in music from early childhood. In 1872, at the age of 12, he went to the Warsaw Conservatorium. After graduating, in 1881 he went to Berlin to study music composition and then later he moved to Vienna, where he was a pupil of Theodor Leschetizky. It was in Vienna that he made his musical debut in 1887. He soon gained great popularity and his subsequent appearances in Paris in 1889 and in London in 1890 were major successes. Paderewski was also a noted composer. Here he is playing one of his own pieces, Caprice…
When Paderewski toured in the USA he used his own private railroad cars and travelled with several pianos and his pet parrot, whose name has been lost to history. Entire towns would go out to meet Paderewski and escort him to the concert hall, or would just come to see his train pass by. Hoardes of people would come in from outlying towns to hear him play. Perhaps his most popular composition was Minuet in G, which at the time became required practice for all children learning the piano… Continue reading →
In June, Dana Durnford arrived home after spending 160 days on the ocean, an epic voyage which he calls the ‘Expedition for Life’. Dana lives on the Sunshine Coast, the mainland and chain of islands that stretches for a hundred miles or so north of Vancouver, in western Canada. The Expedition for Life has been entirely crowd funded and the story behind it all is quite amazing (you can find my previous post about it here). Dana describes himself as an ‘elderly cripple’. He used to work as a commercial diver and a bad accident left him invalided. During this latest stage of the Exhibition for Life, Dana has been on his own, except for his dog Zoey, up in the far north coastal waters of British Columbia. This included the winter months, which meant that he had to face subzero temperatures and frequent storms. Dana is documenting the damage that the Fukushima nuclear disaster has caused to the tidal zone (the west coast of North America is directly downwind and downstream from Japan). You can find the photos and videos on his web site, The Nuclear Proctologist.
Next week Dana is going on the third and final leg of the Expedition for Life, and he’s trying to crowd source the money for it. So far he’s got 800 bucks, which is enough for the fuel to get him out there, but not enough to get him back again. He’s going anyway. Here’s an excerpt from a video he put out yesterday…
In recent posts I’ve talked about how the media have become a complete joke (here), in fact the media are corporate controlled, and corporations put money/profit above everything else, which means that the agenda with respect to politics is firmly right wing. I called the 2015 UK general election a corporate coup d’etat, because the electorate were not offered any real choice and almost the entire mainstream media were screaming for David Cameron and the Conservative party, who are firmly in the pockets of the corporates. Despite the barrage of spin and propaganda the Tories were only able to muster 25% of the eligible vote on a turnout of 66%. On the UK’s first past the post voting system this was enough to give the Conservatives a slim majority in Parliament.
After the election, Ed Miliband, the Labour Party leader, resigned and Harriet Harman took over as temporary leader pending a leadership election. The Parliamentary Labour Party then nominated three candidates for the leadership: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, all politically to the right of center and all firmly inside the Westminster bubble; ie, totally out of touch with the mood on the streets of Britain. The nominees were the same old same old that lost Labour the election. In an effort to counter this image some Labour MPs then nominated a fourth candidate, Jeremy Corbyn, whom I’m sure won’t mind me describing him as a ‘left wing dinosaur’ (amongst other things, Corbyn wants to renationalise the railways and set-up a public bank for the citizens – you can find Corbyn’s economic policy here).
Most of the MPs who nominated Corbyn thought that he didn’t have a hope in hell of winning the leadership, but then a poll came out which put Corbyn way ahead of the other contenders, and now the British Establishment are bricking themselves. The corporate controlled media have put out a tidal wave of propaganda (including the ersatz left wing Guardian and Mirror) prophesying all sorts of doom and gloom if Corbyn becomes leader of the Labour Party. It’s been a sort of re-run of the fear campaign during last year’s Scottish referendum. Perhaps most disgraceful of all, people in the Labour Party, including Tony Blair, are attacking Corbyn, saying that in no circumstances can he be allowed to become leader; but the fact is that Corbyn’s policies are very popular with the public (here) and there’s been a wave of support for him on the aforementioned streets of Britain. Here’s Chunky Mark, the ‘artist taxi driver’, getting excited about it all:
In my previous post I was banging on about a tv programme that was broadcast in Australia at the weekend. It was called Spies, Lords and Predators and was an expose of the Westminster child sex abuse scandal. The programme was made with the help of Exaro News who have been at the forefront of the investigation into the scandal. Amongst the revelations, the now deceased Lord Mountbatten, a cousin of the Queen, was named as being involved in the cover-up. Also, an unnamed high ranking member of the Labour party, who lost his seat in the May election, was said to be involved in child sex abuse very recently. Now, you’d think this would be all over the UK front pages, but there’s been barely a peep.
I use this as an example of just how tightly controlled the media are (if you believe that you live in a free and open society you’ve got another think coming). Of course another big thing that’s never discussed is the ongoing horror story that is Fukushima, which amongst other things is causing the death of the Pacific Ocean (here). A lot of people who are aware of what’s going on say that Fukushima is an ELE, an Extinction Level Event, which will eventually wipe out the human race. I suppose the reality is that no one really knows, because we’ve never been here before. For more than 4 years now there’s been three reactors in complete meltdown, pouring radiation into the environment (mostly the Pacific) 24/7, and it will continue indefinitely because we don’t have the technology to clean it up. Also, during the early days of the disaster at least two spent fuel pools went sky high. These pools contained massive radioactive inventories. To give some idea of the dose, within three years children in Japan started showing thyroid cancer (here). In most nuclear incidents the cancer doesn’t usually start kicking in until you reach the five year mark. We will be there next year, and when large numbers of people start getting ill, particularly in North America (which is downstream and downwind of Fukushima), I can’t see how the authorities will be able to continue the cover-up; and when the general public realise the sheer scale of Fukushima, and the fact that they’ve been lied to big time, it seems likely that there’ll be massive civil unrest.
Arnie Gundersen has had quite a high profile with regard to the Fukushima disaster. Gundersen is a nuclear engineer turned whistleblower, who, along with this wife Maggie, runs a non-profit organisation called Fairewinds Energy Education, the main purpose of which is to explain what’s going on at Fukushima. A lot of people in the anti-nuke movement call him Arnie ‘Gundershill’, saying that he often downplays the Fukushima disaster and thus must be secretely working for the nuke industry. I’ve always believed that Arnie is genuine (and he’s one of the few high profile people who actually is a nuclear engineer). When you’re talking about Fukushima, the difficult thing is to try and avoid making people panic. Well, Arnie has surprised a lot of people with a recent video in which he is brutally honest about the ramifications of Fukushima; although notice that he doesn’t mention the massive wildlife die-offs in the Pacific, or the human health effects which will start showing up on a wide scale in a year or so (I’ve never seen Arnie looking so haggard). Don’t panic…
Yesterday the Sun published 80-year-old home movie footage from the grounds of Balmoral Castle, in which a laughing Elizabeth, her mother, Prince Edward (later Edward VIII) and Princess Margaret, were shown making Nazi salutes. The media have been full of it over the weekend (here), as would be expected. Today, one day after the nazi salute stuff first hit the headlines, ABC Australia’s 60 Minutes programme put out a piece called Spies, Lords and Predators, a detailed expose of the Westminster child sex abuse scandal. For those who have been following this scandal the 60 Minutes programme didn’t contain many surprises, although it still remains rather shocking stuff (Spies, Lords and Predators Pt 1, Pt 2, Pt3).
Exaro News have been at the forefront of the investigation into the scandal, and they helped in the making of the 60 Minutes programme. Richard Kerr, who is featured in the programme, was abused at the notorious Kincora Boys’ Home in East Belfast (MI5 used the Kincora Boys’ Home as a kind of honeytrap for high profile paedos, including leading members of Irish para-military groups – you can find my post about it here). Today Exaro have published a piece in which Kerr names more people. One of those people is a long deceased royal (here).
On related matters, this coming week Ben Fellows, a former child actor, is due to go on trial at the Old Bailey, charged with perverting the course of justice. For a long time now, Fellows has claimed that during the 1990s he was molested by Kenneth Clarke, who was then the chancellor in the John Major government. Previously, those following the Fellows case had to be careful about naming Clarke, for legal reasons. However, earlier this year Exaro News successfully blocked a bid to keep Clarke’s name out of reports of the Ben Fellows trial (here).
The Fellows affair is a strange one. Many people doubt his veracity, yet Fellows has always said that if he was lying then Clarke would have sued him for libel. Clarke has never done so, and instead the crown prosecution service are doing Ben Fellows for false allegations. Those allegations also state that prime minister David Cameron, who at the time was working for Carlton Television, was involved in covering up the alleged abuse (my post about it here).
It’s going to be very interesting to see how the Ben Fellows trial pans out during this coming week.
Mhairi Black is the new MP for Paisley and Renfrewshire South. Under the banner of the Scottish National Party (SNP), she won the seat from Douglas Alexander, shadow Foreign Secretary, with a comfortable majority. At 20 years old, Mhairi is one of the youngest MPs for hundreds of years. Last month she graduated with a first class honours degree in politics from Glasgow University (here). On an anti-austerity ticket, the SNP won an astonishing 56 of the 59 seats in Scotland in the May general election. Of the 56 SNP MPs now in Parliament, 26 of them will sit on House of Commons select committees. Mhairi Black will be on the Work and Pensions Committee (here), and will be rubbing shoulders with Iain Duncan Smith, the work and pensions secretary, who in last week’s budget announced that just about all social security benefits are to be removed for those under the age of 25 (my post about it here).
Yesterday, Mhairi Black gave a cracking maiden speech in the House of Commons (even the Daily Mail raved about it). A lot of people say that Mhairi Black is too young and inexperienced to be an MP. Make up your own mind…
You can find out a bit more about Mhairi Black from Wikipedia.
When I left school in 1980, at the age of 16, there were two million people out of work in the UK. Margaret Thatcher had come to power the previous year and the UK economy was in turmoil. In 1980, Thatcher halved social security benefit to people who were on strike (the largest group of strikers at the time were the steelworkers). Also in 1980, there was the siege at the Iranian Embassy in London, it was announced that US nuclear cruise missiles would be located at RAF Greenham Common in Berkshire, a poll published by the Evening Standard showed that the majority of Brits were dissatisfied with Thatcher and her policies, the right to buy scheme for council tenants was introduced, Michael Foot was elected Leader of the Labour Party, Foot’s hopes of becoming prime minister in the next general election were given a boost by a MORI poll which showed Labour on 56% with a 24-point lead over the Conservatives (Maggies popularity over the 1982 Falklands war put the kybosh on that), and at the end of the year John Lennon was shot dead in New York city. Yup, it all happened in 1980.
Now, 35 years later, with the recent Tory election victory, and last week’s budget, it all seems to have come full circle. As someone who came on to the job market during the birth of neo-liberalism, and witnessed its devastating effects on society, it all has a surreal quality for me. In my previous post I was banging on about last week’s budget, and in particular how it attacks young people. In this respect, Osborne’s budget is an almost duplicate of those during the Thatcher years; ie, huge numbers of young adults were, effectively, thrown on the scrapheap. The same is happening now.
For a short while I was one of those people. Back in the 1980s, to sign on the dole you had to fill in a form called a UB40. Due to the huge number of people out of work this form became infamous, and it was reflected in popular culture. A band from Birmingham called themselves UB40, and in 1981 they released a single called ‘One in Ten’. The single’s title comes from the fact that at the time of its release 1 in 10 people were out of work in the West Midlands. This might bring back a few memories for those, who like me, were around at the time… Continue reading →
Yesterday an upper class twit, who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth and doesn’t have any real qualifications in economics, stood-up in the UK Parliament and announced the first Tory budget for almost 20 years. The twit in question, chancellor George Osborne, was unable to travel by car the short distance from Downing Street to Parliament (which is a tradition on budget day), not because he doesn’t know how to climb into a car, but because of a noisy demonstration outside Downing Street. The demo was held by DPAC (Disabled People Against Cuts)…
It’s perhaps a measure of the reality of ‘austerity’ that a group like DPAC have come into being, and DPAC are very active. A few weeks ago they tried to storm PMQs. DPAC very cleverly labelled yesterday’s demonstration ‘Balls to the Budget’, and during it they threw colouful balls at the gates of Downing Street. The demo was widely known about beforehand, but you’ll notice the lack of mainstream media at the event, and as far as I’m aware there was no reporting of it on the news bulletins… Continue reading →
The USA has a quite shameful history of meddling in the affairs of countries in Latin America. Primarily this has involved overthrowing democratically elected governments. For instance, the USA was behind the 1954 Guatemalan coup d’état, the 1964 Brazilian coup d’état, the 1973 Chilean coup d’état and the support of the Contra rebels in Nicaragua in the 1980s (here), to name just some examples. In more recent times there was the 2002 coup attempt against Venezuelan elected president Hugo Chávez, which briefly installed right-wing opposition leader Pedro Carmona as president. The United States, under George W. Bush, was the only country in the Americas to diplomatically recognize, and therefore support the illegitimate one-day coup government (here). The US attack on Venezuela continues to this day, and in March President Obama made a declaration which stated that Venezuela was an “unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States” (here).
It could be said that in response to all this US meddling, and decades of right wing dictatorships, during which huge numbers of people were killed, much of Latin America has now swung to the left of politics. This huge shift is sometimes referred to as the ‘pink tide’. In 2005, the BBC reported that out of 350 million people in South America, three out of four of them lived in countries ruled by “left-leaning presidents” (here). The pink tide hasn’t abated over the last decade, and there are now socialist governments in Venezuela, Chile, Brazil, Argentina, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, Guatemala, Paraguay, El Salvador, Honduras, Peru and Costa Rica.
Naturally enough, this hasn’t pleased Uncle Sam. The bastion of ‘freedom and democracy’ has continued to attempt to overthrow left-wing populist governments and replace them with right-wing regimes compliant to the USA. In 2010, Rafael Correa, the populist President of Ecuador, was almost killed in a failed coup. Yup, this is the same President Correa who in August 2012 granted Julian Assange political asylum in the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Three years later, Assange is still there (and Wikileaks is still publishing on a regular basis), and last month things started kicking-off in Ecuador again:
Since early June right-wing opposition demonstrators have been holding regular protests, mainly in the country’s two largest cities, Quito and Guayaquil.
The protests were originally called in response to two bills presented by President Rafael Correa aimed at addressing inequality in the country. The bills would see the wealthy and upper middle classes paying higher taxes on inheritances and capital gains.
In an effort to promote dialogue, President Correa opted to temporarily withdraw the bills and lead a conversation in the country around equity, wealth redistribution, and other mechanisms to address inequality.
However, the right-wing protests have taken a distinctly political tone with major opposition politicians making a deliberate attempt to be the face of these protests.
In a worrisome turn, many protestors are also openly calling for the ousting of the democratically-elected government of President Correa, who was elected in a landslide victory in 2013 with 57 percent of the vote.
Ecuadorean Interior Minister Jose Serrano revealed in July that intelligence had uncovered a plot to overthrow the government during protests, including a schemes to storm the presidential palace, block airports, and attack security forces.
Rafael Correa was recently in Brussels to take part in an EU summit. EuroNews interviewed him. Correa talks about the Greek crisis, debt in Latin America and Julian Assange, but he was not asked about the unrest in Ecuador…
Rafael Correa also famously offered Edward Snowden a temporary travel document after Snowden fled Hong Kong in June 2013 and his US passport was revoked. Correa later withdrew the offer, saying “Ecuador offers the United States economic aid of US$23 million annually, similar to what we received with the trade benefits, with the intention of providing education about human rights” (here). Snowden flew to Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, where he remained for over a month. Shortly after Snowden’s arrival in Moscow, Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane was forced to land in Austria for 14 hours after Spain, France, Portugal and Italy closed their airspace under pressure from the United States over false rumors Snowden was on board. Here’s Julian Assange, in a recent interview he gave to Democracy Now, talking about the background to it all. Continue reading →
As the Greek debt crisis continues apace (here) we are reminded that the western world hinges entirely around debt; or to be more precise, interest on debt, and interest on interest on debt, and interest on interest on interest on debt, ad infinitum. Interest, of course, is Alice In Wonderland stuff, and is all about screwing as much out of the debtor as possible. Most people in the western world are chained by debt. It’s how the system works. In the case of Greece, though, Stavros Public has actually been quite prudent with their money and there’s far less personal debt than countries like the UK and US (here). It’s the Greek government that borrowed recklessly on the open markets. In fact, Greece has been effectively another bank bail-out, because the ECB and IMF lent the Greek government enough money to pay-off the banks, and thus the ECB and IMF transferred the debt upon themselves.
Which brings me to an Oxford Union debate back in November 2013. The motion was ‘This House Believes Socialism Does Not Work’. There were eight speakers, and here are the last four of them: Daniel Hannan, British journalist, author and a member of the European Parliament; Robert Griffiths, leader of the British Communist Party; John Redwood, a leading figure of the New Right wing of the Conservative Party; and Jeremy Corbyn, one of the most left wing and rebellious Labour MPs who’s now running for leadership of the party. After the debate the motion was voted down by the House.