Monday, September 29, 2008

Lee Holman - "Phonetics" (Ferox)

For fans of electronic music with soul, it's highly worth checking out the new Ferox 12" from Lee Holman. (Interest declaration - I'm on Ferox too)

I'm not apt to go in to bigging up people's music tooo much, but this is a really good 12" - great noises, great production, great grooves, and like the best Detroit style techno, manages to fuse the strange otherness of the electronics with layers of depth and emotion, all the while retaining the funk that will make it work over a big PA.

Great stuff!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Pakistan fires on NATO

The ongoing brinksmanship between Pakistan and the US over cross-border US raids versus Pakistani territorial control continues this week, as a NATO / US helicopter flew close to or in to Pakistan this week.

A Pakistan border post fired warning shots at the aircraft, a development which is not good, but has been brewing for some time after a series of US raids into Pakistan, against the wishes of the government in place. Any Pakistan government which wants to survive increasing support for extremism in the face of US raids into their country, needs to be seen to be doing something about the repeated violations of Pakistani territory.

It would seem that making diplomatic noises is no longer "doing enough" for the government of Pakistan, and they are prepared to warn off the US with actual live fire - a new and worrying development.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Blowback in Yemen?

The attack in the last week on the US embassy in Yemen is being widely blamed on al-Qaeda type terrorists operating in the territory.

But over at Obsidian Wings, the theory is floated that this could in fact be direct Al-Qaeda blowback from the Iraqi insurgency - a chilling but far from impossible thought.

Al-Qaeda was originally born in the pressure cooker of the guerrilla struggle to liberate Afghanistan from the might of the Russian army. One of the major concerns of the anti-war movement prior to the Iraq war, was that the US going in to Iraq and beginning an occupying power could create a new cauldron, where fighters would flock, youths would be radicalised, new networks would be forged, and people with good cause to hate the US would become highly trained in urban and asymmetric warfare.

In other words, the concern was that if the Afghanistan of the 1980s gave birth to al-Qaeda, then what will the Iraq of the 2000s bring us in the decades to follow?

Could this attack in Yemen be the first signal that the worst fears of the anti-war movement may not have been misplaced?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Closer and closer to the financial cliff

The “Western” financial system has been heading for crisis for quite some time, and this week the most serious developments (so far) have occurred.

On Monday, it was announced that the US investment bank, Lehman Brothers, had failed, and a buyer could not be found. The US taxpayer (who was not asked) had bankrolled Bear Stearns out of trouble, and then Fannie May and Freddie Mac, but the decision seems to have been that it was politically suicidal to use more taxpayers money to prop up a failing bank at this stage.
The immediate aftershocks of Lehman Brothers going down have been huge, with the US Fed putting $50 billion into the money markets today, the ECB contributing €70 billion, and the UK treasury pumping in £20 billion.

Next to go may be AIG, whose shares were depressed by up to 50% today. If AIG fails, the problems will multiply again. If AIG is rescued by the Fed, the debts end up on the books of every US taxpayer.

The ongoing problems illustrate a raft of difficulties with the way that western financial system (and to some extent, capitalist society as a whole) operates.

Firstly, there is the complexity of the system – the financial institutions are interlinked by a spiders web of vast loans, credits, debits, sales, and speculation – the problem being that should one major institution fail, there is a serious risk of the disaster spreading, as the outstanding loans to all the other institutions will not then be honoured. One major institution just has failed, and we’re about to find out how far the rot that this generates will spread.

Secondly, the banks and investment houses have been speculating on highly risky mortgage-backed products. An unknown number of these mortgages are going to default, and whichever institutions are holding the derivitave products when the music stops, are going to be saddled with the bad debts. Due to the leveraging, some, or many institutions, may not have enough capital available to cover the debts that they may be exposed to. If they can’t cover their debts, they either find a buyer who has enough money to deal with the debts, or they go under.

In other words, financial institutions the world over are sitting on bombs. None of them know who has the bombs, none of them know how big the bombs are, none of them know when they are going to go off, and none of them know if they are strong enough to survive what bombs may unfold underneath them. Every bomb that does go off, increases the likelyhood and size of all the others.

Thirdly, and most seriously, these financial institutions are considered essential to the functioning of modern society in the West, but are allowed to function completely for-profit and rake off the money for private benefit. Despite this, they are considered so essential that when they get in serious trouble, they are sometimes bailed out with our taxpayers money.

That being the case, why are these companies not completely nationalised, and run for-profit for the good of the revenue in that country?

If the public is to bail out these financial operations when the going is tough, is it not right that society at large should benefit from the profits flowing from the good times?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Left turn!

It always helps in rallying if you can study the track beforehand. Not in Finland!

Saturday, September 06, 2008

This is the one...

At 2PM today, Scotland embark on the qualification process for the 2010 World Cup -and I feel like I've only just gotten over the dissapointment of failing to reach Euro 2008. As a taster of the highs and lows to come, here's possibly the greatest football video clip I've seen put together.

Launched as a warm up video to the last qualification game for Scotland last time around (versus Italy), it's neither here nor there until about 1 min 34, where the review of the last campaign starts. I'm not usually a massive fan of Coldplay, but combined with Scotland doing this well, it puts the hairs up on the back of my neck.

Particularly great moments - at 3:03, Scotland 1, France 0. Scotland defeat one of the greatest teams in the world at home.

And then at 5:05, a not-realistically-fancied Scotland visit Paris for the return match, and James McFadden scores that goal. I still want to leap through the roof every time I see it.
So here we are, and here we go again. Come on now boys - this time...

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Riordan is coming home!

On the BBC site here. Oh yes!