Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Easter Rising: violence begets violence

I had intended post a long entry on the 90th anniversary of the Easter Rising in Dublin, but the best laid plans and all that.

Perhaps it is no bad thing, since I suspect that those who read this blog don’t share my interest in the subject. But I do recommend this article by Ruth Dudley Edwards from the Irish Independent. For me it raises wider issues about the way in which we (ie people with progressive liberal views) are inclined to look at ethnic and national conflicts, not just in Ireland, but in the Middle East or former Yugoslavia etc. One side is labelled good and progressive, the other reactionary and anachronistic.

Yet there are usually shades of grey, right and wrong on both sides. For what it’s worth, I’m inclined to take a less negative view of the Easter Rising. Irish Catholics, an overwhelming majority on the island, had voted solidly for a separate Irish Parliament over 25 years and seven consecutive general elections. Although home rule was on the statute book by 1914, its implementation was suspended for the duration of the first world war. So it was understandable if many felt that constitutional nationalism had failed. But it is certainly the case that the Easter Rising has left a malign legacy in appearing to give precedence to physical force over democratic mandates.

Terrorism and the chattering classes

There doesn’t seem to be much comment in Liberal Democrat blogging circles on the so-called Euston Manifesto (rotten title), which was the subject of an article by Nick Cohen in last week’s New Statesman and is described as ‘a new democratic progressive alliance’. I suppose this could be crudely described as a cri de coeur from the pro-war left, although signatories apparently include some supporters of the war. A formal launch is promised in May.

Perhaps more fairly, it might be described as an attempt to define a middle position between crude anti-Americanism and uncritical support for Bush and is aimed as a counterpoint to the John Pilgers and George Galloways, who appear to give succour to the Iraqi insurgents, rather than championing democracy in Iraq and the wider Middle East. The manifesto itself seems carefully worded that only the most extreme and impossible could oppose it.

Although it is supposedly a non-party affair, I don’t detect many Lib Dems among the list of signatories. I suppose some will dismiss it as just the agonising of London chattering classes. And it's hard not to chuckle at a document signed by Nick Cohen, Oliver Kamm, Francis Wheen and John Lloyd, which complains at the lack of a public platform for the signatories' views. However, it raises issues that we need to engage with. We are happy for those who were against it to vote for us, and to repeat a set mantra about protecting civil liberties. But there also needs to be a wider discussion about terrorism, the nature of the threat it poses to the west and how we contain it without compromising our liberal democratic principles.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Shameless plug

My dear wife has an article in a new publication by the New Local Government Network, Elected Mayors - making a difference?.

Meanwhile I welcome Oxford Lib Dem blogger Stephen Tall A Liberal Goes A Long Way: No to ‘superbosses’ (Yes to elected mayors) as a convert to the cause of elected mayors.

Music from hell

As expected, the endless round of writing and delivering leaflets, knocking on doors etc. during election time is making it difficult to think of topics to post about.

By way of a diversion from politics I did notice that Q magazine this month includes its selection of the 50 worst albums of all time and came up with a pretty good list.

This prompts me to offer my own briefer list – five of the worst ‘classic’ albums. You’ll often find these in the CD collections of people over 35, but whatever you do don't suggest listening to them.

Crosby, Stills and Nash (self-titled)

The received wisdom is that while CSN became rather coke-addled, overweight and anachronistic from the 80s onwards, their debut album is still a masterpiece. But it isn’t! Nash wrote pretty tunes, but banal, half-witted lyrics. Crosby produced tuneless, ‘experimental’ songs with pretentious lyrics. And Stills is competent but workmanlike as a songwriter. Soaring harmonies mean nothing if the songs are no good.

Pink Floyd – Dark side of the moon
After the Live8 reunion their reputation is high right now, but Roger Waters is a clunking and obvious lyricist, lacking subtlety or grace:

New car, caviar, four star daydream,
Think I’ll buy me a football team.

The music overblown and pompous. All in all, lacks redeeming features.

Carly Simon – No secrets
Carly Simon doubtless saw herself somewhere in the Carole King/Joni Mitchell singer-songwriter mould. But although ‘You’re so vain’ is one of the great put-down songs, there is little else here to move, inspire or amuse. Lacks King’s crisp turn of phrase and strong tunes or Mitchell’s powerful insights into the human condition.

Bruce Springsteen – Born in the USA
The album that made Springsteen a household name, but achieved at the price of dumbing down and sacrificing all the things that made him an interesting songwriter. The title track might have been a powerful tale of mixed emotions, but the bombastic production turned it into a cynical attempt to have it both ways. Designer misery!

Queen – Greatest Hits
OK, a compilation, not an album proper, but it would be wrong not to include the worst band of all time. Their enduring popularity diminishes us all. Bohemian Rhapsody is often praised because of its ground-breaking structure and extreme length for a hit single, but it’s seven minutes of pure nonsense. The ironic, knowing, tone of all their work means it lacks any emotional power. The lyrics are cliche upon cliche - 'Friends will be friends' etc. Their uplifting ‘anthems’, ‘We will rock you’ et al. would have been the ideal accompaniment to Nuremberg rallies. And they played Sun City during the apartheid era.

The best we could have hoped was that they were so strongly identified with Freddie Mercury that his death meant the end of Queen. However, the recent reunion shows that even that was wishful thinking.