Category Archives: Economics

➤ The four catastrophes Martin Luther King foresaw

Martin Luther King Jr, Memorial,Washington

The Martin Luther King Jr National Memorial was to have been dedicated on Sunday, the 48th anniversary of Dr King’s “I Have a Dream” speech. Photograph by Philip Scott Andrews/The New York Times

Martin Luther King Jr is weeping from his grave, writes the philosopher and Princeton professor, Cornel West, in today’s New York Times …

❚ THE MARTIN LUTHER KING JR MEMORIAL was to be dedicated on the National Mall on Sunday — exactly 56 years after the murder of Emmett Till in Mississippi and 48 years after the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (Because of Hurricane Irene, the ceremony has been postponed.)

On the Sunday after his assassination, in 1968, Dr King was to have preached a sermon titled “Why America May Go to Hell.”

King did not think that America ought to go to hell, but rather that it might go to hell owing to its economic injustice, cultural decay and political paralysis. He was not an American Gibbon, chronicling the decline and fall of the American empire, but a courageous and visionary Christian blues man, fighting with style and love in the face of the four catastrophes he identified…

Martin Luther King Jr, sermon,Why America May Go to Hell,

Martin Luther King: an unpreached sermon titled “Why America May Go to Hell”

1 Militarism is an imperial catastrophe that has produced a military-industrial complex and national security state and warped the country’s priorities and stature (as with the immoral drones, dropping bombs on innocent civilians).

2 Materialism is a spiritual catastrophe, promoted by a corporate media multiplex and a culture industry that have hardened the hearts of hard-core consumers and coarsened the consciences of would-be citizens. Clever gimmicks of mass distraction yield a cheap soulcraft of addicted and self-medicated narcissists.

3 Racism is a moral catastrophe, most graphically seen in the prison industrial complex and targeted police surveillance in black and brown ghettos rendered invisible in public discourse. Arbitrary uses of the law — in the name of the “war” on drugs — have produced, in the legal scholar Michelle Alexander’s apt phrase, a new Jim Crow of mass incarceration.

4 And poverty is an economic catastrophe, inseparable from the power of greedy oligarchs and avaricious plutocrats indifferent to the misery of poor children, elderly citizens and working people.

➢ Sounds familiar? Continue reading Martin Luther King Jr weeps from his grave, at the NYT


➤ 30 years ago today: “The Day the Middle Class Died”

filmmaker, Michael Moore,blogger,

Fighting America’s downward slide: Moore blames President Reagan

❚ PROVOCATEUR EXTRAORDINAIRE and Oscar-winning filmmaker, Michael Moore, argues today on his OpenMike blog that President Ronald Reagan (1981–1989) kick-started the decline of the American economy on this day in August, 30 years ago. As the USA’s international credit rating is tomorrow set to lose its triple-A status and China proposes a new global reserve currency for the 21st century, Moore claims that in 1981 “Big Business and the Right Wing decided to ‘go for it’ — to see if they could actually destroy the middle class so that they could become richer themselves” . . .

➢ Read his full rant “The Day the Middle Class Died”


2011 ➤ EPIC forecasts for the 2015 media landscape loom closer than we think

Robin Sloan , Matt Thompson, Poynter Institute, EPIC 2014, EPIC 2015, new media

A decade from now, it has never been easier for people to make their lives part of the media landscape . . . The press, as you know it, has ceased to exist. After the News Wars of 2010, The New York Times loses a supreme-court battle with Google and eventually goes offline as a print-only newsletter for the elite . . . 20th-century news organisations are a remnant of a not too distant past.
— EPIC predictions made in 2004

❚ SUCH UNWELCOME FORECASTS of global media convergence were made in 2004 by two young Americans, Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson, alumni of the Poynter Institute. EPIC 2014 was the title of a flash slideshow made by Sloan and Thompson for the fictitious Museum of Media History. Set in 2014, it charted the history of the internet from 1989, and envisaged an evolving mediascape and the impact of online technologies on print and on daily life. It coined the word “Googlezon” from a putative merger of Google and Amazon to form the “Google Grid”, and predicted “news wars” after which the online New York Times reverted to being a print-only paper for a literate, elderly elite.

EPIC 2015, GooglezonThe emergent media mechanism was dubbed EPIC — the Evolving Personalised Information Construct — which spookily anticipated Google Maps and GPS matched to personalised data capture, all too familiar to us today through Google, Facebook and mobile phone apps.

Epic 2014 was prescient and unnerving in 2004. As superfast broadband was rolled out many of its prophecies came into existence, and a year later MySpace was being bought by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation. Epic 2015 was an updated sequel in 2005 only marginally less dystopian than the original. Its vision will certainly rattle the confidence of all affected by the latest concerns at Guardian News Media (GNM) in the UK.

➢ View Epic 2015 — an eight-minute vision of a media landscape that is almost upon us


➢ Guardian News and Media is to axe dozens of staff after it lost £33m in the last financial year — Daily Telegraph report June 17

Alan Rusbridger, Guardian News Media, GMG,

Alan Rusbridger: only the tenth Guardian editor in the newspaper’s 190-year history

“Andrew Miller, chief executive of GNM’s parent company, Guardian Media Group (GMG), told staff in a series of briefings yesterday that the group could run out of cash in three to five years unless it underwent a ‘major transformation’ . . . The Guardian will continue to publish in the morning, but will focus on analysis and opinion instead of reporting widely available news.”

➢ The Guardian faces going out of print after warning of a cash crisis — Daily Telegraph report June 18

“Alan Rusbridger, the editor of The Guardian, has repeatedly had to dispel rumours that the title might stop producing printed papers altogether and become an internet-only business . . . Andrew Miller’s commitment to a ‘digital first’ strategy relies partly on launching an online-only New York office later this year, which he hopes will help take The Guardian’s website into the top 10 most read in the US, where advertisers would automatically include it in major national campaigns.”

➢ Update June 27 from Media Guardian: Media guru Jeff Jarvis on what Digital First means for journalism

“News mimics the architecture of the internet: end-to-end, witness-to-world, without a central gatekeeper… Reporting is our highest journalistic priority. Telling stories will always have a role. But journalists have more roles to play today. When working in collaboration with the public — which can help news become at once more expansive and less expensive — it may be useful to help collaborators improve what they do: journalist as community organiser, journalism teacher, support system. At every turn, the question must be where can I add the greatest value? Is that necessarily in writing articles?”

➢ “We’ll all have voices in our heads by 2040” — View video of Ray Hammond, the futurologist who coined the term “online” back in 1984, discussing eight key drivers of the future as seen from June 2011. Download his latest book free


➤ Smartphones become UK shoppers’ essentials

online dating, smartphones, apps, digital economy❚ “SMART PHONES, APPS AND DATING AGENCY FEES have been added to the basket of goods the government uses to calculate the cost of living. The new additions show the importance of the burgeoning digital economy. The basket is designed to reflect what Britons really spend their money on, enabling the government to calculate how rises in prices are affecting living standards… Television prices are being collected differently to separate out TVs larger than 32 inches — reflecting the rise of home cinema systems.”

➢ UK’s shopping basket updated: apps in, fleeces are out
— Full report at Guardian online


1980s ➤ So many shapers shaped the decade that people think was all down to Margaret Thatcher

A handful of key books this year have added to our estimations of that much demonised decade, the 1980s, and to our understanding of its cultural shifts. Shapersofthe80s has of course always drawn a distinction between the youthful creativity of the earlier Swinging 80s, and the ethos that finally took hold in Britain and earned the name of “Thatcherism”

Loadsamoney, Harry Enfield, Thatcherism1980s

Emblem of the 80s: Harry Enfield’s yob character, Loadsamoney. © Rex features

➢ Rejoice, Rejoice!: Britain in the 1980s,
by Alwyn W Turner (Aurum Press, 426 pages)

Alwyn Taylor, Rejoice!,1980s,book❏ A SHARP AND WITTY ANALYSIS of the 80s came this year from cultural historian, Alwyn Turner. Its savage title Rejoice! Rejoice! echoes the triumphal cry that burst from the lips of prime-minister-turned-warrior-queen Margaret Thatcher in 1982 when victory was declared over Argentina in the Falklands War (910 dead, 1,965 casualties). Reviewing the book in The Sunday Times, Dominic Sandbrook wrote: “One of the pleasures of Alwyn Turner’s breathless romp through the 1980s is that it overflows with unusual juxtapositions and surprising insights. Who knew, for example, that not only Alan McGee’s Creation Records but the bawdy magazine Viz were set up with money from Thatcher’s Enterprise Allowance Scheme, dismissed at the time as a feeble attempt to disguise the horrors of mass unemployment?

“Where this book really shines is on the intersections between politics and popular culture… For Turner, the defining characteristic of the 1980s was its obsession with size: big money, big hair, big issues, big politics. But what also emerges from his account is the sheer, unashamed nastiness of public life during the Thatcher years. This was a time, after all, when Thatcher’s cheerleader [disc-jockey] Kenny Everett publicly joked about kicking [the elderly opposition leader] ‘Michael Foot’s stick away’, while thousands chanted ‘Ditch the bitch’ at anti-government demonstrations.

“It is a refreshing surprise, however, to read a book on the 1980s in which Thatcher, while naturally dominant, does not entirely drive out all other voices. As Turner admits, the Iron Lady cast a larger shadow over national life than any other prime minister since Churchill: the style magazine i-D, a quintessential product of the decade, called her ‘almost a fact of nature’. But the results of her revolution were mixed at best, and the irony is that in many ways her policies had the opposite effect from what she hoped.”

Turner is not alone in presenting Harry Enfield’s comic character Loadsamoney as the emblematic figurehead for Thatcherism, a swaggering slob waving a fistful of banknotes while yelling, “Look at my wad!”. In the Financial Times Francis Wheen follows through: “Even if many Britons eventually accepted [Thatcher’s] economic remedies, Turner infers in his history of the 1980s, Rejoice! Rejoice!, ‘culturally the country was unconvinced’. Ideals of enterprise were all very well but winning at all costs, with no thought for the loser and no care for the way one played the game, ‘seemed somehow wrong’. The British still sided with heroic failures and doomed underdogs such as the hopeless ski-jumper Eddie (the Eagle) Edwards.”


➢ Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues: The First 30 Years,
by Gaz Mayall (direct from Trolley, 280pp)

Gaz Mayall, Jarvis Cocker, Radio 2,

Gaz Mayall on 6Music: celebrating his 30th clubbing anniversary talking with Jarvis Cocker on The Sunday Service in October. © BBC

❏ GAZ MAYALL IS one of UK clubbing’s national treasures, and the paperback Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues is a nostalgic first-person collection of great club photos and comic-strip flyers that tell their own tale of London’s oldest continuous club-night, where Tracey Emin was once the cloakroom girl. The lad in the hat, who has kept his tiny nightspot jumping since July 3, 1980, supplies a brief but breathless string of anecdotes about live guests such as Prince Buster, Desmond Dekker and Joe Strummer. Gaz was one of the pathfinders who perfected the then brilliant notion of throwing a party every Thursday and playing his favourite rebel dance-tunes. As the 22-year-old Gaz told Shapersofthe80s that year: “People come here for good music”, which essentially meant his own heritage as a kid raised amid rock royalty and steeped in ska, reggae, rockabilly, rock and R’n’B.

Gaz's Rockin Blues, book, 1980sOn his club’s 30th anniversary, Kate Hutchinson wrote in Time Out: “It’s still going strong: you’ll find throngs of people swinging to guest live bands and DJs every Thursday night at the Soho basement dive St Moritz. It’s also the kind of hangout that keeps new generations coming, so the crowd always stays fresh. Those who aren’t old enough to go yet can mingle with everyone else at Gaz’s sound-system at Notting Hill Carnival, where he’s been causing a roadblock since 1982, or at his stage at Glastonbury, which he has run for the past three years.”


➢ The Music Instinct : How Music Works and Why We Can’t Do Without It, by Philip Ball (Bodley Head, 464pp)
➢ Listen to This, by Alex Ross (Fourth Estate, 400pp)

The Music Instinct, Philip Ball, books❏ TWO IMPRESSIVE BOOKS THIS YEAR have dissected how music works its magic. They are not posited on the 80s at all, though they may well be emergent phenomena of our era of musical diversity. Critics heaped praise on Philip Ball’s The Music Instinct, an engaging survey by a popular science writer. Bee Wilson in The Sunday Times called it a “wonderful account of why music matters, why it wrenches our souls and satisfies our minds and sometimes drives us crazy”. In The Guardian Steven Poole praised Ball’s “deft analyses of the limitations of attributing ‘emotion’ to music, or considering it as a ‘language’ (Lévi-Strauss: if music is a language, it is an ‘untranslatable’ one)”. And the Amazon reviewer Steve Mansfield liked the author’s scope “by drawing his examples from across the spectrum of music, equally comfortable discussing and occasionally comparing music as diverse as J.S. Bach, John Coltrane, Eliza Carthy, gamelan orchestras, ragas, Schoenberg, and the Sex Pistols”.

Alex Ross, Listen to This, books❏ IN 2008 ALEX ROSS, music critic for The New Yorker, landed an unlikely bestseller with his gripping survey of 20th-century music, The Rest is Noise, plus a torrent of highbrow praise. This year he packages some choice essays under the title Listen To This, which David Smyth in the London Evening Standard said “ranges even more widely, making century-spanning, triple-jumping connections in the same way his shuffling iPod leaps from Stravinsky to Louis Armstrong. Coming from a background of listening to nothing but classical music in his teens and discovering rock’n’roll in adulthood, Ross can explain the brute appeal of, say, Radiohead’s Creep in a way that makes you feel your mind enlarging as you read”.


➢ I Know This Much: From Soho to Spandau,
by Gary Kemp (Fourth Estate, 320pp)

➢ If I Was, by Midge Ure with Robin Eggar
(Virgin Books, 288pp)

Gary Kemp, I Know This Much❏ FOR A MUSICIAN, the music really tells the life story. It’s rare for many of them to try to flesh out the story in prose, let alone as autobiography. Two who starred centre stage in 1980 were Ultravox’s Midge Ure and Spandau Ballet’s Gary Kemp, and though their accounts of the early transformative years of the decade weren’t actually first published this year, their paperback reprints continue to act as intelligent correctives to the hyperbole that accompanies some of the 30th-anniversary air-punching.

Songwriter Gary Kemp surprised many when last year’s autobiography, I Know This Much, proved so eloquent, encouraging rock writer Paul Du Noyer
to claim that it “sets a new standard for rock memoirs”. One of Amazon’s top reviewers, Mr Steve Jansen, believed that Kemp’s perceptive memories of a London now transformed make a “a touching testament to spiritual growth”. He wrote: “Kemp is able to reflect with great poignancy on a young man’s journey into, and through the shining city of dreams. In Kemp’s case that city, metaphorically, but more often literally — and literary in its evocation — is unmistakably London, and the metropolis is ever present like a ghost, framing his actions and attitude.”

The prominent journalist Robert Sandall of The Sunday Times, who died in July, had made Kemp’s his book of the year: “A sharply observed account by a quintessential London musician. Kemp exudes confidence, candour and a keen appreciation of the capital’s club culture.” This year’s paperback edition brought the story up to date with a postscript on his band’s reunion.

Midge Ure, If I Was❏ MIDGE URE IS THE OTHER eye-witness to the birth of Blitz culture, and his memoir, If I Was, hasn’t been out of print since published in 2004, and a revised edition is slated for next summer. Here, the musician tells with exceptional vigour a no-holds-barred story of his own journey from impoverished Glasgow childhood to new-wave superstar .

Amazon reviewer Lisby writes: “Ure writes fluidly and conversationally, imparting the kind of tactile detail that takes readers to the place and time of which he speaks. Ure is astonishingly honest, yet never vindictive. He is, in his prose, much as he is in his lyrics, a good person trying to be a better one while hoping the same for us all.” Another Amazon regular called thedouses adds: “Midge’s autobiography is a very well written, frank and honest book, which offers a fascinating insight into his own career and life but also other notable musical figures of the 80s and 90s music scenes in Britain, as well as providing background to the Band Aid and Live Aid events. He doesn’t use the opportunity to settle scores as so many of his contemporaries have done.”

Apart from being a busy wizard stirring the magic cauldron from which emerged many musical innovations in the 80s, Ure here establishes his central role in the production of Band Aid’s charity single, Do They Know It’s Christmas?, which led to Live Aid, the globally televised rock concert in 1985 which raised millions for famine relief.


David Bowie, 1975 ➢ Any Day Now: David Bowie The London Years (1947-1974), by Kevin Cann (Adelita, 336 pages) was reviewed here on Dec 11. “Being a Bowie fan for almost 40 years I am flabbergasted. Many, many never before seen pictures” — Amazon reviewer Peter Gooren