Bruce Springsteen’s new song Radio Nowhere features one of his old rallying cries – “Is there anybody alive out there?”
Yesterday, he turned up on the Today show in the United States to ask that question again.
Whereas ‘regular’ superstars write easy listening love songs and elegies to Princess Diana, Springsteen has cast his net wider than any other major artist. He wrote a whole album about the exploitation of migrant workers (The Ghost of Tom Joad), and has written songs about police brutality and the Iraq war.
He defended the Dixie Chicks against right-wing America and attacked President Bush over his failures in New Orleans.
During the Today appearance he listed many great things about America.
Then he added: “But over the past six years we’ve had to add to the American picture: rendition, illegal wiretapping, voter suppression, no habeus corpus, the neglect of our great city New Orleans and its people, an attack on the Constitution. And the loss of our young best men and women in a tragic war.
“This is a song about things that shouldn’t happen here—happening here.”
Two notes on Cardiff Council’s proposal to sell-off 40 per cent of Cardiff Bus.
Firstly, as I revealed in last week’s Big Issue Cymru, the plan actually goes against the Lib Dem national policy.
In only September 2006, the party voted to reverse bus privatisation.
Secondly, council leader Rodney Berman might want to look closely at Bournemouth where city Lib Dems sold off that city’s buses in 2005 and have seen continuing criticism of the private operator Transdev.
In August, in response to yet another passenger protest, Transdev told the Bournemouth Daily Echo a route was being changed because there were “insufficient people travelling to justify a commercial service.”
The sell-off proposal is part of a wider attempt to privatise council services and follows a report which Cardiff council commissioned from Price Waterhouse Coopers.
Unison has launched a campaign against the plan.
My God. I’ve been tagged by gwe. And on a Monday morning.
And asked for my earliest political memories.
Not easy for a man who can’t remember what he had for tea last night.
I’m pleased to say I’m younger than gwe and so was just a tiny babe in arms in the summer of 1969 when – as gwe recollects – Wales witnessed the investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales.
I was drooling on my bib and making gargling noises at the time. I suspect gwe, though older, might have reacted in a similar fashion for different reasons.
I always felt political, I assume, because my parents felt political.
In my school there was a surprising amount of nationalist feeling. Saundersfoot had a very high proportion of English families. Football at break time was always England against Wales and the English always outnumbered the Welsh by three or four to one.
I hope now I’ve left that schoolyard nationalism behind. But a pain remains.
Even though I was growing up in Pembrokeshire, the main political event of my young life was without doubt the miners’ strike.
There had been questions in my house about the flag-waving surrounding the Falklands war. And I remember being branded a Communist early in secondary school for questioning it.
The miners’ strike, though, seemed like a real cause. It is the first time I remember feeling angry about a political issue.
And I still do.
:: I’m tagging Respectable Citizen
What is the delay in the latest negotiations on the St Athan training academy development?
Earlier this year Derek Twigg (junior defence minister) explained: “Metrix Consortium have been declared the preferred bidder for package 1 of the Defence training review programme.
“For package 2 there is a significant affordability gap and work has been ongoing to develop a whole programme solution.
“The scale of the facility to be constructed at St. Athan will therefore depend on the outcome of this further work with Metrix.
“Our current forecast indicates that construction at the St. Athan site is planned to start after contract signature in late 2008, or early 2009, with the final phase of completion scheduled for 2013.”
It was always the second stage which was going to be the most difficult. But an article about Metrix chief executive Mike Hayle in the Cowbridge-based Gem in February estimated that “Metrix has around three months to convince the MoD that it offers the best option for that package”.
Those negotiations continue and two weeks ago (Hansard, September 3) Twigg updated Parliament on events since Metrix was chosen in January.
“Since then we have been exploring with the Bidder possible synergies and economies of scale across the whole programme,” he said. “Significant work has been completed, but has not yet been concluded. Once it is, I expect to make a statement later this year.”
Meanwhile, the campaign against the massive military project continues.
Vale of Glamorgan John Smith has asked local residents to contact him on 01446 743769 with questions about the academy ‘on many issues ranging from jobs to housing and schooling’.
“Let’s take him up on this,” says one campaigner.
It is only an aside, but it sums up why George Bush was so keen to make General David H Petraeus his messenger.
The New York Times reports
that the general’s Iraq “progress” report had been expected to provoke an epic confrontation between opponents of the war and its front-line leaders.
“But that conflict did not fully materialize Monday,” it stated. “In part because only a few Democrats on two House committees seemed inclined to dispute with much vigor the assessments provided by a commander with medals on his chest and four stars on his shoulders.”
Opposition politicians in the United States – and, in the UK, for that matter – let the people down before the invasion. We should not be surprised if they do it again, dazzled as they are by medals and stars.
Petraeus himself knows the importance of good presentation.
Believe it or not, his new publication, The US Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual,
is available on Amazon
I’m not encouraging you to buy it, you understand. But you can read a review in the Morning Star (August 24, 2007).
One of the key messages is that we stop calling places where people are shot at, maimed and killed “battlefields”. It’s not nice.
“In a conflict among the people, terms like ‘battlefield’ influence perceptions and confuse the critical nature of a synchronised approach,” says the general. “Refrain from referring to and considering the area of operations as a ‘battlefield’ or it may continue to be one.”
On Tuesday, Cardiff Council’s executive will consider plans to sell-off 40 per cent of the publicly-owed Cardiff Bus company.
Cardiff Bus is one of the last local authority-owned bus companies in Wales and struggled to survive the wide-scale sell-off that followed the last Tory government’s deregulation of bus services.
Now chief executive Byron Davies has drawn up a plan which would have the Lib Dem administration searching for a private partner.
According to Davies: “We have been looking at the possibility of a potential partner for Cardiff Bus but with the council retaining majority control. We would expect our partners to grow the existing business and provide an even better service for the people of Cardiff. It would be in their interests to do so.”
I doubt that’s how a private partner would see things. When it comes to making profit they won’t want to miss the bus. Less cost effective routes would certainly go and fares would rise.
As Cardiff Bus chairman Steve Pantak, says: “While I understand a minority shareholding would be involved, I believe this would be the thin edge of the wedge and will open the door to full privatisation of Cardiff Bus which will gradually reduce the service to customers.
“Any private company would expect a return of at least 15 per cent on turnover.
“The only way that can be met is through increased fares and/or a large reduction in marginal services which Cardiff Bus operates as a sort of dividend for the owners, the people of Cardiff.
“This looks like a fire sale to deal with a short-term financial position.”