Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond

Entries Tagged as 'Rant – Politics, Spirituality, etc.'

GWB's room full of Elephants

September 29th, 2007 · 1 Comment

So soon-to-be-gone President Bush has called the Burmese Regime Brutal“Every civilised nation has a responsibility to stand up for people suffering under a brutal military regime like the one that has ruled Burma for too long.”

Now, did any of the journalists at the press call after this manage to fit into the White House, what with all the unmentioned elephants in the room? Guantanamo, Iraq, The death penalty for kids, and going further back the CIA involvement in supporting a who slew of unelected ‘brutal military regimes’ in Central America in the Reagan years.

Yes, as I mentioned the other day, I think the international community has to do something about Burma, but they also have to do something about Iraq!

The whole thing is such a mess – what do we do? You’ve got one prosectable war criminal (if Iraq ever makes it to the Hague, there’s no way Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld et al are going to get away with the clear trail of breadcrumbs leading up to a load of made-up BS about WMDs) calling on China, who are now fast approaching their 60th year of illegal occupation and brutal repression in Tibet to condemn the Burmese.

I’m torn. On the one hand, I’m inspired by the passion of Jyoti’s blog on the lunacy of Bush condemning Burma, and am stunned at the hypocrisy of Bush’s statement. But I’m also deeply concerned about the real possibility that without quick intervention of some kind, the Burmese thing could escalate into a massacre, and that requires the US and the Chinese to apply some pressure.

I guess we end up like one of those cowboy films where the good and bad guys get together to fight the momentarily-even-worse guys before getting back on with their own squabbles once the matter in hand has been taken care of. So right now, everyone tries to stop the killing in Burma, and then we turn it round and make a big ole flap about the hypocrisy of the ongoing killing, occupation and human rights desecration going on in Iraq.

Damn, this world is a mess!

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

The Burma situation

September 27th, 2007 · 1 Comment

The current escalation of the situation in Burma is horrible, but not really a surprise. The governments of the west of remained largely silent on the subject of the oppression of the Burmese people, sometimes making personal statements about the military occupation, or expressing support for Aung San Suu Kyi, but not using the weight of the international community to do much about it.

So the military have started shooting at protestors (just how fucked up do you to be to start shooting pacifists? Taking on a Buddhist Monk with a gun??) and the rest of us look on in powerless horror. But there are governmental options, and the tiny bit we can do right now is to pressure our governments to do something.

So there’s a petition on the Downing Street website, where those of you in the UK can give your voice to the call on Gordon Brown (texture like sun) to do something about it on our behalf. You cal also sign the petition at, as they have a track record of delivering such petitions in a way that gets thing done. They’re part of the human rights activist community, and worth supporting.

However it’s utterly depressing to read on the BBC article linked above “China and Russia have argued the situation in Burma is a purely internal matter. Both vetoed a UN resolution critical of Burma’s rulers in January.” WTF??? How can politicians be so utterly callous? Human nature contains within in such levels of bleak self-delusion, if they feel they can on any level justify such a statement in their heads. Is it because they rely on trade with the Burmese? Or just old school cold war petty rivalry with the rest of the security council? Either way they are condemning the Burmese people to further military brutality by vetoing involvement.

I pray for the shooting to stop, and that this will be a last ditch attempt of the regime to hold onto power, in the face of overwhelming support for Aung San Suu Kyi to be made leader.

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

genius short story

September 24th, 2007 · Comments Off on genius short story

Found this via a friend’s blog – it’s a short story – Prosaic Jesus, Or Brown Like Shit – and it’s beautiful.

I’ll post some commentary on it, in the comments section, once those of you who care have had a chance to read it…

Tags: cool links · Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Anita and Joe gone…

September 11th, 2007 · Comments Off on Anita and Joe gone…

Two hugely influential people have passed away in the last 24 hours – yesterday came the announcement that Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, has succumbed to the Hepatitis that had been unknowingly plaguing her body for 35 years after a blood transfusion when giving birth in the early 70s. And today, the news broke about Joe Zawinul – keyboard player with Miles Davis, Weather Report and then the Zawinul Syndicate – who died in hospital of an undisclosed illness.

Both were incredible pioneers in their respected fields, Anita raising issues of animal cruelty, fairtrade and sustainability long before they were fashionable, and campaigning vigorously on a whole host of human rights issues over the years. She proved it was financially viable to care about the planet, and managed to bring all those issues to the lips and eyelids of the brand-conscious masses in a way no-one before or since has managed.

Zawinul will definitely go down as one of the great pioneers of jazz in the last 50 years – from his work with Miles onwards, he was constantly setting standards and pushing back boundaries, developing ‘fusion’ before it had a name, and crucially before it became synonymous with overplayed wanky nonsense in the 80s. Weather Report, along with Return to Forever, took the innovations of the Miles band, and ran with them, forging a unique style, and began what became Zawinul’s main path over the next 30 years – fusing jazz with African rhythm and harmony, which lead to him bringing to public a near-endless stream of incredible hitherto unknown african musicians.

For bass players, he’s the man who brought us Jaco Pastorius, Richard Bona, Etienne Mbappe. He recorded with Gary Willis, Matthew Garrison… the man knew how to pick a great bassist.

Both Anita and Joe weren’t without the chinks in their armour – hagiography does no-one any favours. Anita was, in spite of her campaigning, insanely wealthy (she may have been giving loads of money away, but it does frustrate me when socially conscious millionaires don’t take the chance to use their wealth as a comment on the futility of it by conspicuously dispensing with large chunks of it… but that’s just me), and she sold the Body Shop to L’Oreal – now, I’ve no idea whether she had any choice in that, whether it was her decision, but she didn’t say what the rest of the animal rights world said – ‘L’Oreal?? and The Body Shop??? WTF??’ – given that L’Oreal have an APPALLING animal cruelty record. The Body Shop is still run as an independent entity within the cruel monolith of corporate filth that is the french cosmetics giant, but it’s a shame that the campaigning voice of the bodyshop is now at least partially muted thanks to it’s corporate ties. Individuals can criticise the corporate hand that feeds them, and just deal with the fall out, even if it means getting sacked, but for one company owned by another, it just gets silenced.

And Joe was, by most accounts, a misanthropic old bastard. Curmudgeonly to the core, and part of the extensive group of musicians whose cocaine usage led to the downfall of Jaco Pastorius (Jaco was completely straight-edge til he started working with Weather Report and Joni Mitchell – both seemingly blaming the other for getting him onto the ‘instant-wanker-just-add-white-powder’ substance).

However, with all these things, it’s a case of ‘there by for the grace of God’ – I’ve never been a multi-millionare, so I can’t say with any accuracy how I’d deal with it. I’ve never grown up as a jazz musician working with the king of horrible-geniuses Miles Davis, and I wasn’t a pro musician in the 70s and 80s when such an insane number of musicians were doing massive amounts of coke… I wasn’t there, I haven’t walking a yard in those shoes, let alone a mile, and the achievements of both these giants in their field of the late 20th century will be remembered not for their controversies but for their pioneering work, their progressive approach to the world, their iconoclastic status and by their fingerprints all over the landscape that the helped to shape.

Rest in peace, Anita and Joe.

Tags: obituaries · Random Catchup · Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Captive State II – the follow-up

September 4th, 2007 · Comments Off on Captive State II – the follow-up

George Monbiot’s 2001 book Captive State was a masterful work – a fantastic dissection of the fallacy of PFI – the ‘private finance initiative’ which this government copied from the last tory government as the way to fund public projects like hospitals and schools.

Even in 2001, Monbiot was able to show what an utter disaster the project has been in terms of the amount of government money squandered on projects that fail the end user and line the pockets of the directors of the corporations responsible for the projects – projects that were frequently late, over budget and woefully inadequate. The technical term for this in political and economic circles is a right royal fuckup. It’s been a disaster.

And how much of a disaster – in today’s Guardian, George posts this follow-up to the story of coventry hospital, or rather what was coventry hospitalS – plural – until the cost of refurbing them was deemed to low and the returns to slight to get any big money investors interested so they scrapped them both and built a new one out of town… initial budget – £174m. Cost of refurbing BOTH the existing hospitals? £30m. As George notes in his article – ” In March 2007, the Birmingham Post reported that the final cost was £410m.”

Go and read it, and be outraged. It’s sick. It’s even more sick that it’s a so-called labour government that did it. At a time when our American cousins are becoming increasingly aware of how having nationalised health care doesn’t mean you become Stalinist Russia, any more than not paying a policeman every time he arrests a crim on your behalf would, we’re letting the government dismantle public services on behalf of big business by not holding them to account for their false duality in presenting us with the options – we were told that we could either have old beaurocratic crumbling NHS (which wasn’t really all that crumbling after all) or new shiny PFI one run by shitheads in board-rooms. It’s a lie, of gargantuan proportions, when a proper publicly funded and transparently consulted and reported overhaul of the NHS would have been both cheaper AND better.

Read George’s article about the balls-up in Coventry, then multiply that up by the number of hospitals, schools, bridges, road-schemes, that have been funded, scale it up over the next 30 years of GUARANTEED revenue, and then throw in British Rail and the BBC as more projects that were sold off under the same false assumption that the options were business-as-usual or sell it off… the cost, both in financial terms and the degradation of public services is astronomical… ‘ever feel like you’ve been cheated?’

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Monbiot on Eco-comsumerism…

July 24th, 2007 · Comments Off on Monbiot on Eco-comsumerism…

Once again, the wonderful George Monbiot has hit the nail on the head in this article for the Guardian, in which he addresses the false notion that the future of the planet can be assured by doing business as usual with a coat of green paint – keep buying all the same old shit, just make sure it’s the ‘green’ version. Keep flying all over the place, just ‘carbon off-set’, keep driving the huge car, just get the bio-diesel version. At least then you won’t have to mix with the plebs on public transport.

The three Rs of the eco-movement, as told to us by Jack Johnson are Reduce Reuse Recycle. there’s a reason why Reduce is the first. Cutting our consumption is by the far the most important of these. It’d be great if we didn’t need to recycle stuff because we could reuse, and even better if we weren’t using it in the first place.

The biggest fallacy in all of this is the carbon-offsetting thing – what started out as a well-meaning and vaguely scientific way of introducing some balance into our carbon producing actions has now become a cheap way to assuage the guilt of the middle classes, so that instead of flying less or driving less or using less, they can just buy themselves a licence to pollute. Plant a few trees, keep the hummer, fly to Manchester instead of taking the train? no problem, just sprout a conifer or two and all is forgiven. Bollocks. Utter bollocks. Carbon-offsetting is a great idea to help to minimise the impact of UNAVOIDABLE carbon-useage. it’s a great reminder of our need to consume less. It doesn’t, never can and never will repair the damage we’re doing. If we are still fostering a culture of cheap domestic flights and allowing politicians to get away with airport expansion, we’re screwed. That all needs to change, both on a political level and a personal one.

And as always, I say this as someone who uses planes, who hates it every time I HAVE to and will avoid them wherever possible.

There are loads of great things you can do, lots of the stuff that the style mags write about – using shopping bags instead of plastic ones, eating organic, shopping local, buying at farmers markets, driving hybrids, catching trains instead of driving, recycling, but the bottom line is that we need to CONSUME LESS. The seemingly sad news is that there isn’t a way to maintain the level of consumption and waste that we’re currently at in the UK and even more so the US. There isn’t a ‘green version’ of that. It’s going to affect our lifestyles.

The good news, however, is that cutting back will give us that which we can’t buy. Time. Time for people, for hobbies, for reading, for music, art, cooking – stuff that doesn’t require endless stuff being fed into it to keep it going (OK, musicians need strings, plectrums, reeds etc. and artists need paint/clay etc but it hardly compares with helicopter rides or Branson’s domestic space program in terms of the consumption…) I’m pretty confident that the world can be a much better place AND a place of drastically reduced consumption in time to save it all. It just won’t be the same, and it certainly won’t be normal, thank God. After all, we all know that the trouble with normal is it always gets worse.

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Live Earth – not crossing my radar..

July 7th, 2007 · Comments Off on Live Earth – not crossing my radar..

So the Live Earth Gig is going on, on TV, on radio, everywhere. And the only time it’s registered on my radar was talking to Oroh last night who’s playing at it with Corinne Bailey Rae, arranging to meet up afterwards…

Why hasn’t it? I’m HUGELY concerned about climate change, a qualified but largely enthusiastic supporter of what Al Gore’s taken up as his cause (An Inconvenient Truthx is definitely required viewing), but the notion of a bunch of largely ill-informed rock stars flying in in private jets to ‘lend their support’ (and prop up their often-ailing careers) is just plain hideous. Claiming to ‘carbon offset’ your private jet useage, and putting low energy lightbulbs in on your yacht does not make you a shining example of planet-saving eco-warrior-ness. It means you’re trying to party as the ship goes down, pretending that planting a few trees excuses your King Kong-sized carbon footprint. And that, my dear bloglings it’s what’s known in scientific terms as complete bollocks.

The organisers are claiming that they are trying to make the whole event carbon neutral and have booked bands in the cities they live in. But they don’t seem to have asked the bands to sign up to any kind of rock star eco-charter that curtails their use of private jets, and commits them to running their tour buses on bio-fuels and selling fair-trade bleach-free merchandise etc. Surely the concert would have smacked less of being a giant photo op for some of the worst abusers of aviation in the world if there’d been some kind of commitment to change, to reducing their own load on the planet – if you will, ‘putting their own house in order’, rather than looking like the bunch of fucking hypocrites they are. And I say this as someone who so far this year has made two return flights over the atlantic, and one return flight to Edinburgh, but who has also done two month-long tours round Europe in the last year on trains, and is committed to continuing that trend, and to not flying domestically (someone else booked and paid for the Edinburgh trip, and I was too slow to change it to a train ticket..)

So there you go, Live Earth – great cause, dreadful way of making the point. Please don’t be fooled by the myth of carbon offsetting – we all need to radically REDUCE our carbon footprint, rather than thinking we can carry on as normal but just plant some trees to make it all go away. It’s not going to work.

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

randomly found bit of promising news…

June 28th, 2007 · Comments Off on randomly found bit of promising news…

Was just looking at L’s igoogle homepage, and saw this news item linked Egypt forbids female circumcision – for those that don’t know, female circumcision, or female genital mutilation is a barbaric assault on the bodies of women across large tracts of Northern Africa and throughout the middle east. It’s hideous and for decades western governments have been tip-toeing round the subject for fear of upsetting fragile relations with the countries that practice it.

So whenever one of those countries decides to drag it’s arse out of the stone-age and ban it, it’s cause for celebration. The full celebration is on ice til the last country bans it, but Egypt is a bit of a trend-setter in terms of Muslim nations moving forward (still got a hell of a long way to go, but they’re generally way more progressive than, say, Saudi Arabia). Aparently they banned it years ago, but never enforced it, but following the death of a young girl undergoing the ‘surgery’, the pressure mounted for a total enforced ban, and they’ve gone for it. Well done Egypt. Now, how about sorting out your security forces and supporting those investigating other human rights abuses

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Two types of church

June 23rd, 2007 · Comments Off on Two types of church

It used to feel really strange coming to a country so full of seemingly Christian language and yet feeling so utterly alien to it all. It was on about my second or third visit to California that I noticed that I felt considerably more affinity with the honest searching and questioning of the hippies, new agers and agnostics that I met than I did with much of the overly-confident, divisive nonsense that I heard coming from a lot of the christians I met. More often that not, the reasons that people had for disregarding all-things-Jesus-esque were reasons that I wholeheartedly agreed with – the sanctimoniousness of so many of the Christians they’d met, the hideousness of how God’s name is invoked to back up all kinds of horseshit in US governmental circles (‘God told me to go to war‘ etc.), and the gross circus-like game show that passes for so many church services here, and all the televised acts of Christian worship I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness…

I mentioned in one of the tour blogs that Downtown Pres in Nashville is one of the very few churches I’ve been to in the US that I could go to again. I’m just trying to remember where the others were – I quite enjoyed the Presbyterian church I went to in Hollywood, and the Catholic church I visited in Orange county, but I’m not sure I’d go regularly to them if I lived there… But neither of them actually left me feeling alienated in the way that some of the others I’ve visited have done.

There seem to be two very different understandings of what church is at work here – the kind of church I want to go to is one that challenges me to love, to care for the poor, to seek justice, to hold the powerful accountable for how their actions affect the powerless. Church should be a place where I’m encouraged to live a life that’s different in as much as I’m focusing my time on what I can do for other people, rather than obsessing about expanding my piece of the pie. A place where I can be honest, where I can be open about my failings, but also not be able to escape the consequences of my actions, where prayer is about aligning myself with the kind of things that God is concerned about, rather than about some screwed-up spell-casting bullshit where I try and twist God’s arm into giving me a good parking space and sorting out my shit life when I’m not willing to make any changes myself. It should also be a place that encourages me NOT to surround myself all the time with people who believe the same things I do – that, my dear friends, is a cult, and having ‘unsaved’ friends just so you can ‘witness’ to them doesn’t count. That’s the kind of freaky double standard that we find so creepy in people who turn up at our front doors telling us how to live (full disclosure – I once did a ‘door to door’ thing when I was in my teens, with the church I was at – at the time I thought the discomfort I felt doing it was just my resisting God’s call. Now I understand I really should have listened to the voice that told me that a 17 year old turning up at your door trying to tell you ‘the Good News’ is just about the stupidest thing that can happen – it would have made much more sense to go round and ask for advice and listen to people’s stories, but anyway…)

Instead, so often the church is full of people who spend no time with people outside of their church circle, who are all implicity encouraged to dress the same (there are few things that annoy me more than the idea of Sunday best – not that I mind people wanting to dress up for church; each to their own – but the idea that you ‘should’ is pure bollocks), it’s a place where misogyny and homophobia are encouraged and entrenched, where nationalistic pride is fostered (I can’t even begin to imagine what kind of crap gets preached in so many US churches around Memorial day and Independence Day, in a ‘US = God’s chosen nation’ kind of way). Church should be a place that challenges our prejudices, our pride and our complacency in speaking out in favour of any oppressed group, whether that oppression is on gender, sexual orientation, race or class lines. Instead all those prejudices are confirmed

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

A rare moment of god-botheringness on the blog…

June 15th, 2007 · Comments Off on A rare moment of god-botheringness on the blog…

I don’t often post God bothering things on the blog, but today’s ‘verse of the day’ on the Sojourner’s blog really caught my eye –

“You shall not withhold the wages of poor and needy laborers, whether other Israelites or aliens who reside in your land in one of your towns. You shall pay them their wages daily before sunset, because they are poor and their livelihood depends on them; otherwise they might cry to the Lord against you, and you would incur guilt.”
– Deuteronomy 24:14-15

Back in the 80s people used to talk about believing in a ‘social gospel’ or some other euphemism that suggested there was any other way of reading what it means to be inspired by jesus… with the wealth of stuff in the Bible that relates looking after the poor, looking after immigrants, not pursuing wealth, the dangers of greed etc. etc. it’s a wonder that some people claiming to be Christians can sleep at night…

There’s a magical bit in Amos that says (in The Message) –

” 21-24″I can’t stand your religious meetings.
I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions.
I want nothing to do with your religion projects,
your pretentious slogans and goals.
I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes,
your public relations and image making.
I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music.
When was the last time you sang to me?
Do you know what I want?
I want justice—oceans of it.
I want fairness—rivers of it.
That’s what I want. That’s all I want.”

No wonder so many people are turned off from anything Jesus-related, following Gandhi’s route of being inspired by the sermon on the mount but seeing the church as an agent of the hideous status quo rather than a radical organisation with a deep concern for the poor, for justice… it’s there in the book, just not there in the behaviour of the Bushes and Blairs of this world, making a total bollocks-up of anything remotely justice-oriented, talking a load of shit about their concern for poverty reduction and ‘fairness’ whilst waging illegal wars and backing the IMF and World Bank in their schemes to trap yet more third world countries into privatisation schemes and debt cycles…


Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.