Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Alexander McQueen Cuts Up A Dress

There was a retrospective about Alexander McQueen on television about year ago.

A garment cutter at one of the Paris fashion houses recounted how McQueen came in, took a pair of scissors and cut up a dress that he described as boring.

The cutter was appalled until he saw the results and saw McQueen's genius in creating a new dress in a few minutes with a pair of scissors and all by hand.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Running On Empty Money

Talking about his new book, James Altucher says at one point,

Wealthy people own valuable assets. The middle class and poor simply rely on salaries.

That's strange. One of the hallmarks of being middle class is that you have cash. You have this ability to take advantage of situations because you have cash to invest.

in my mind, if you don't have cash you are a worker.

Maybe it's a USA thing, but in the UK it's clear. Of course we have a pseudo-middle class living on borrowed money - but with average debt to available income running at 132%, that can't go on forever.

And if the average is 132%, think how high it must be for some people.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Turkey And The EU

When Britain was going through its tug of war over the EU referendum, one of the hot topics was immigration from Turkey when that country joins the EU.

In 2013 I wrote about how the EU had made Turkey's accession to the EU conditional upon Turkey improving its human rights record. I said how pathetic it was that the country might improve its human rights in order to get into a club rather than that it would improve its human rights record to better improve itself as a nation.

In 2014 I wrote about how the EU executive was pushing for Turkey's accession to the EU. I suggested it was because of a fear that the country would be pulled into the vortex that is Syria and Iraq.

Now in conversation with Andrew Marr on television in March of this year, the German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, said with a knowing look that it will be a long time before Turkey is accepted into the EU.

No sooner said than the news is full of the new deal that is being hammered out. Turkey will do its part to stop the influx of refugees from Syria in return for financial aid and a speeding up of its accession to the EU. Meanwhile, the newspaper Zaman has been subverted and taken over by State officials and the regime is becoming more and more repressive.

And now Britain doesn't have to worry about immigration from Turkey - at least if it can negotiate a deal with the EU that doesn't take it back exactly where it was when it was a member.

But still for me the big question is not about immigration but about allowing Turkey - a country that has a dreadful human rights record - to accede to the the EU.

Can't See The Wood For The Trees

Can't see the wood for the trees
In the darting movement of things
Can't see the whole of it
The soughing of the wind in the boughs.

This poem was inspired by a mindfulness class that I took. At the break, we went outside and I felt quite trippy and watched the wind move the branches in the trees. For a little while I could see all the movement rather than bits of it.

Keep The Aspidistra Flying

My notes tell me I finished George Orwell's Keep The Aspidistra Flying in March of this year.

Orwell wrote it in the 1930s, so in the dark years before World War II.

The central character is a would-be poet hell-bent on self-destruction who works in an advertising agency. He hates life always kowtowing to money and he describes London in the evening as a vision of hell.

He quits his job and works in a second-hand book store on lower wages. He reviles the customers and he sinks into poverty. He wants to sink to be with the people who have no hope of rising or desire to rise.

He wants to get comfortable in poverty as the only way not to give in against the money that controls everything respectable and aspiring.

His long-time girlfriend gets pregnant and he gets back his job at the ad agency. He tells himself he always knew he wouldn't go the whole way and sink completely.

He learns to listen to the music of time and join in the human race.

The Buddha said something along those lines - of how he had starved himself in an effort to find enlightenment, but all he had got was thin and unhealthy.

Thinking about this idea of self-denial, I wrote in 2010

He said, “I cut up the cushion of my dreams.”
The other replied, “Yes, but why do you sit in such a hard place? This also is an illusion.”

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Iraq - Discussion On Channel 4 News last night 7 July 2016

Discussion led by Matt Frei - with Emma Sky, who governed the Iraqi province of Kirkuk and served as a political adviser to the US military, Colonel Tim Collins, British Army Commander in Iraq 2003-4, the Iraqi journalist Nermeen al-Mufti, from Kirkuk, and Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, a Kurdish diplomat.

Matt Frei putting to Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman, Kurdistan Regional Government Representative to the United States, that she saw the Iraq War as a liberation.

Bayan Sami Abdul Rahman
We did see it as a liberation because Saddam was a warmonger. He created wars in the region. He was a destabilising factor. Eight-hundred thousand, maybe a million people died in the Iran-Iraq war. He invaded Kuwait. He killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, many of them Kurds. He used chemical weapons. Even today we discover mass graves going back to the 70s and 80s.So we see it as a liberation from a dictator.

Iraq as a whole could have been a winner. I don’t want to get into internal British politics and the debate over who said what in the UK context. But what hasn’t been part of the debate from what I have heard - and obviously I am in Washington - but I have been following events on the internet and on television - what I haven’t seen is that the Iraqi leadership needs to take a great deal of responsibility for what has happened.

Also, many of the Regional players in the Middle East did their utmost to make sure Britain and United States failed. Perhaps that is in the Chilcot report, but I haven’t seen that being reported by the Media.

Colonel Tim Collins
We had advisers who were targeted by Baathist militias and we dealt with them.
In the end the failures came down to disbanding the army and not listening to Iraqis who knew what we should have been doing.

Emma Sky
I don’t believe that any of this was inevitable. As Bayan said, there really was hope for a world without Saddam Hussein. The big mistakes in 2003 were dissolving the Baathist Party and the military, which collapsed the State and led Iraq into civil war. From 2007-09 was the only time in the whole war that the coalition had the right strategy, the right leadership and the right resources and helped bring all Iraqis together and tool Iraq out of the civil war.Iraq went back into civil war after the 2010 elections were so tightly contested. It is all about Iraqi politics and the Iraqi political elites themselves must take huge responsibility for what we see today