LD MTH Lily Allen Makes A Fool Of Herself

September 24, 2009

Well-known struggling artist Lily Allen, who spent years living hand-to-mouth in rat-infested digs on her no doubt long and arduous route to the top, has spoken out against copyright-infringement by file-sharing.  Rich enough from someone who has probably never had problems finding the readies to buy CDs and DVDs, this outburst has the delicious added touch of Allen herself committing these cardinal sins by reproducing copyrighted content on her own website.

So hypocrite she may be, but is she right?  A group of leading musicians called the ‘Featured Artists’ Coalition‘ thinks not.  They realise that file-sharing has changed everything, and seek to ensure that artists get a fair income, while opposing any efforts to victimise music fans for downloading music.

I made the case in an early post for radical changes to the way music is disseminated, and while this new group doesn’t share all my views, it does seem to be a genuine attempt at a new way of doing things.  They contend that “[f]or those of us who don’t get played on the radio or mentioned in the music media – artists established and emerging – peer-to-peer recommendation is an important form of promotion.”  Anyone familiar with the sterile and homogenous output of most music-oriented media will sympathise with this argument.

The FAC are opposed to those who “reap commercial benefit” from their music by operating file-sharing sites, demanding that “the industry and Government to come down on those thieving rascals with all the weight of the law.”  Now, these “thieving rascals” are clearly as bad as the recording industry themselves, who have turned living off the talent of others into an art form.  But I think this is largely a red-herring.  Most file-sharing sites only raise enough money to cover their costs, and those who run them seem to do it out of a sense of service or even moral obligation.  Cheeky members of Fagin’s gang rather than Bill Sykes, who is either the recording industry or Lily Allen.  M’Lord Mandelson is the drunken judge or the Beadle in this example.  I don’t know who Nancy Sykes is in all this, but Oliver Twist gave some sperm to Michael Jackson apparently.

Dickension diversions aside, although the FAC’s prescriptions are far from perfect, and are based on some straw-man assertions, their hearts appear to be in the right place, particularly in their opposition to the record industry and harsh penalties for music fans who download illegally.  They have some interesting ideas and a strange coalition of members (from Billy Bragg to Robbie Williams and Annie Lennox), and are worth keeping an eye on in the debates ahead.


Privatise this!

July 3, 2009

It’s not been a good week for fans of privatisation.  First Lord Mandy announced, presumably through veils of agonised tears, that the part-privatisation of Royal Mail would not be going ahead as planned, and then the East Coast Mainline had to be taken into public ownership.

Both actions were forced on the Government, but they betray the abject weaknesses of private ownership and control of public services.  With the Royal Mail, the Government claimed that it couldn’t guarantee a decent price for the stake on offer in the current circumstances, but it is doubtful that it will ever be able to sell it for the amount that it is hoping for.  Why?  Because most of the previously money-making operations that Royal Mail performed have been ‘liberalised’ – in other words private companies have been able to cherrypick the best bits.  What remains is the loss-making, unglamorous universal service that we rely on.

Examples abound of privatisations earning the Government very little.  This is either due to the almost corrupt nature of many of them, with senior civil servants involved making an absolute mint (Qinetiq being a prime example of this), or the fact that so many sweeteners need to be offered companies in order for them to bite.

The East Coast Mainline is a failure of a different nature.  The idea of splitting the rail network into franchises was a spurious means of introducing ‘competition’ into what was an efficient, integrated system.  It is spurious because on most routes only one franchise operates, and because the free competition consists of which companies have the better franchise negotiators and ability to lobby Government for fare increases.

Virgin managed to continue to receive subsidies despite their dreadful performance on the West Coast Mainline.  National Express were not so fortunate, having been pressed into committing to pay billions to the Government.

The Government was demanding billions because the cost of the railways has got out of control.  Companies cream off profits, the inefficiencies of fragmentation and the soaring costs of ensuring safety in an industry dominated by organisations putting shareholders before the welfare of the public, have all combined to reach this sorry outcome.

It is an indictment of the pathetic faith that New Labour has in private sector, neoliberal solutions tied to suffocating central control, that they can’t do the obvious and popular – nationalise the railways.  I would prefer that to be under worker-passenger control, but I would settle for BR2.0 at this point.

All of which begs the question, how are we to soothe New Labour’s privatising conscience?  These poor souls have had to nationalise vast swathes of the banking sector, as well as another train franchise.  How can they get back in the game, just to stop them getting rusty?

Believe it or not, I think I have a solution that even socialists can support – privatise the swans.  That’s right.  The entire British swan population is currently owned by the Queen.  Presumably, as with all property and powers of the Queen, these are effectively owned and ran by the Government.

At the moment, swans do nothing but swim around all day, and inflexibly mate with the first pretty long-necked beast they see.  Why not flog them off, perhaps sparking a bidding war between the RSPCA and Bernard Matthews.  There could even be franchises, with the black swans of Dawlish becoming a Kingston Communications style oddity, with the company sponsoring Dawlish Town’s new stadium when they march inexorably towards the Premier League?  I can’t promise to have all the practical details, but I just float the ideas.

If you’re reading this Mandy, get in touch.   I have others.  Privatise the Queen. Think of the MPs pay rise you can fund when a rich Texan stumps up for Her Maj.  Just think about it Mandy.  You know where to get hold of me.

Disturbed individuals

May 20, 2009

One of the advantages of using WordPress for blogging is the information it gives you about where readers came from, such as links from other websites.  Some have happened upon this fledgling blog by finding it on a search engine.  Some of the search terms seem fairly reasonable.  This website is clearly relevant for anyone wanting to find out about ‘oxford hope not hate leafleting’ or ‘iwca-independent working class association’.  Perhaps surprisingly, I’ve had no searches that relate to the reference that the title of the blog makes.

But some of the searches are just plain bizarre, and whichever strange type entered them must have been disappointed when they clicked on ‘Vengeance and Fashion’ only to be confronted with my ramblings.

For instance, who would want to look for ‘blears smith harmon fashion’?  Now, the New Labour matriarchs may be role models in terms of sanctimony, hypocrisy, and plain weirdness in the case of our Hazel, but fashion?  Maybe it was Hazel herself searching for ‘fashion for short people’, presumably to be claimed on expenses, which was deemed ‘unacceptable behaviour’ from Brown who then allowed her to stay in position.

I’m not sure what half cocked undergraduate thesis ‘effect of capitalism on social vengeance’ was used to find supporting evidence or ideas for, but no doubt there will be a lucky lecturer finding out soon.

The data provided by WordPress is presumably there to aid blogmasters (for that is what we call ourselves, or maybe that’s just me) boost traffic to their sites.  In the case of Vengeance and Fashion it seems to be mentioning ‘hope not hate’ and ‘short people’.  Among the other bizarre height-challenged searches that have led unsuspecting shorties to this site have been ‘short people are worthless’ , ‘jobs for short people’ and ‘league of short people’.

I suspect a link between the three.  Someone who needs a cushion to reach the table in a Japanese home has been clearly finding out who is bashing short people, and is planning a coalition of superheroes – the League of Short People.  They probably need a height specific job to fund it.

If the League of Short People want a guest post, I’d be happy to oblige.  I’m kind of average height, so I’ll be talking about the tallies next week from the comfort of anonymity in a crowd.  In conclusion though, the short people are welcome at Vengeance and Fashion.   Except Hazel Blears, she’s banned.