Friday, November 25, 2016

Black Friday frustration for online shoppers

Black Friday proved to be particularly frustrating for some as millions of people sought to purchase bargains ahead of anticipated price hikes in the coming months [BBC].

A weak pound that followed the Brexit vote in June has made imports more expensive. However many retailers have yet to pass on the costs to consumers, preferring to take a cut in profits rather than risking a loss of custom.

But price hikes are inevitable in the coming months as old stock dwindles and retailers seek to rekindle profits.

But before the price hikes comes Black Friday, an American import which the cynically minded would say is just a way of retailers getting rid of old stock. Nonetheless there are many who don't mind last year's model.

However, those seeking a bargain have encountered hours of frustration attempting to purchase items on crashing websites or battling through crowds of other bargain hunters.

Online hell

Thousands of people attempting to buy a Dell laptop reduced by nearly 50% were thwarted by constant timeouts and other errors. Those seeking to redress the problem through Dell's helpline found themselves in a very long queue.

Many potential customers took to social media to vent their frustration. "If @DellUK can't cope with people buying stuff from their store, how could they cope with a DDoS attack?" one annoyed Twitter user posted.

Some felt the whole promotion was merely baiting people who unable to buy what they wanted felt compelled to still make a purchase though for a much smaller reduction. "Don't fall for the Dell doorbuster bait and switch" wrote @Jellyf0x. "It's a bait and switch scam, they don't want your £200 they really want to sell you something else later" 

Others felt the online problems did not bode well for a tech giant like Dell. Indeed the Black Friday offer may have backfired. One hopeful buyer glumly suggested he might opt for a Lenevo laptop instead. Others aired similar grievances. "Your Black Friday treatment has been nothing short of disgraceful...I'm taking my money elsewhere & advise others to do likewise!!!" Simon Church posted on Twitter.

Many people were sceptical as to how many laptops were even on sale. Dell on stated there were a 'Limited' number. However given the issues so many people experiencing and the fact that Dell said the offer was closed within an hour of going live, some questioned whether there was even one laptop available at the stated £199 price tag.

Stabbing and overspending

In the physical world things weren't doing too well either. Many shoppers found themselves stuck in heavy traffic as they headed to out of town shopping centres. For some the bargains were not cheap enough though and one off duty police officer was stabbed after attempting to apprehend a shoplifter in Leeds [Sun].

Shoppers grabbing bargains have been cautioned against overspending, especially given the uncertainty of the British economy.

"The key is to make sure you only buy items you were looking for anyway, and not because you fall for the marketing hype," said Gary Caffell, from Moneysavingexpert. "There are some great deals out there but make sure you do your own price comparisons, as prices can fluctuate wildly from store to store - don't just take a retailer's word for it that something is a bargain."

While there will be many who have walked away with a bargain, there will be a far greater number who will have increased their debts by loading expenditure to credit cards. Others will have been left bitter by the whole frustrating experience.

tvnewswatch, London

Sunday, November 20, 2016

40 years since punk rock hit the UK

It is 2016 and some 40 years since punk rock emerged on the London music scene. Anarchy in the UK was released on 26th November 1976 and so began one of the most momentous changes to music and culture. In celebration the London Mayoral office and the National Lottery of all bodies are funded and backed a series of events to mark the occasion [Punk London]. An irony given the furore the Pistols and their contemporaries created with the then Greater London Council and how the punk movement as a whole rejected the nature of capitalist ventures as would include such things as the National Lottery.

But aside of the commercialisation of the event, it is perhaps important to reflect on the importance of the punk phenomenon and its influence on culture and music, be it good or bad.

They couldn't play - or could they?

"Find four kids. Make sure they can't play," Malcolm McLaren espoused in the Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle, reinforcing the myth that most punk musicians couldn't play and that most could only bash out three or four chord riffs.

However, a listen to some of the best punk albums released nearly 40 years ago soon dispels such notions. Indeed some of the musicians were extremely accomplished.

Never Mind the Bollocks here's the Sex Pistols was far from bollocks. And Siouxsie and the Banshees 1978 album Scream is both haunting and complex with its melodies and rhythms.

The Clash's first LP of the same name, while raw also has some incredible moments. Take White Man in Hammersmith Palais for example or Police and Thieves with their strong reggae influences and heavy bass lines.

And while occasionally despised by many in the punk scene, how can one ignore the Stranglers with their wandering bass lines courtesy of Jean-Jacques Burnel and the haunting keyboards of Dave Greenfield.

Gone but not forgotten

Sadly many of those old punks are no longer with us. And not all of them met an unhappy end like Sid Vicious who found his way to taking a heroin overdose after allegedly dispatching his girlfriend Nancy Spungen with a knife in a New York hotel.

Lead singer of X-Ray Spex Poly Styrene passed away in 2011, at the age of 53, after a battle with breast cancer that spread to her spine and lungs. The guitarist Jak Airport also succumbed to cancer and died in 2004 aged 49.

The Clash of course lost their frontman and rhythm guitarist Joe Strummer in 2002 when he became the victim of an undiagnosed congenital heart defect. He was 50.

Lead singer Ari Up of the Slits meanwhile died of cancer in Los Angeles, aged 48.

And who could forget the Ramones who by 2014 had lost all four of the band's original members. Lead singer Joey Ramone died of lymphoma in 2001, guitarist Johnny Ramone died in his Los Angeles home in 2004 at the age of 55 after five years battling prostate cancer, bassist Dee Dee Ramone succumbed to a heroin overdose in 2002 and drummer Tommy Ramone passed away in 2014 aged 65 following unsuccessful treatment for bile duct cancer.

Moving on

Whilst some old punks have died others have simply moved on. John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten is still knocking out records at 60 but many of his contemporaries left the music scene some time ago.

Former drummer with the Clash, Terry Chimes is now a chiropractor while Steve Ignorant, lead singer of the anarcho-punk group Crass is now a lifeboatman. Meanwhile punk fashion icon Jordan has since become a veterinary nurse [Guardian].

Such changes in career might not seem very punk, but what's wrong with helping saving the lives of animals, fishermen lost at sea or relieving someone's back pain? After all punk was as much about community and helping others as it was about DIY rock music and sloganeering.

In the end we all have to move on with our lives as a Guardian photo gallery of old punks shows [Guardian].


For most people punk is little more than nostalgia [Guardian]. There are some groups that continue to tour, such as the Damned, albeit with different line-ups. But there are many who scorn the flogging of a dead horse and the commercialisation of punk.

Indeed, Joe Corré, son of Malcolm McLaren and Vivienne Westwood, has said he he will burn £5 million worth of punk memorabilia in public in reaction to the commercialised Punk London celebrations. "Rather than a movement for change, punk has become like a f***ing museum piece or a tribute act," Corré is quoted as saying [BBC / Telegraph / Guardian].

But at the same time one cannot ignore the influence punk has has had on music, fashion and culture. From the new wave groups of the late 1970s and Gothic bands ranging from Bauhaus to Marilyn Manson, punk has changed the face of music.

Distressed jeans have almost become socially acceptable some four decades after torn clothing was a fashion statement, though bondage trousers have faded away to little more than a distant memory. Nonetheless to have coloured hair hardly raises an eyebrow as it did in the mid-seventies. In fact punk has become a commodity and a symbol of London as much as its red phone boxes, black cabs and the Queen with postcards of snotty youths with green mohicans sitting alongside those depicting Beefeaters and the Queen Mother [FT].

Shifting politics

The politics has also shifted somewhat. Punk was initially defined as being a subculture largely characterized by anti-establishment views and the promotion of individual freedom. However, now, more than ever, most youngsters are driven by materialistic desires than by politics. And the only freedom sought by many is in the pursuit of entertainment and leisure activities.

To coin a phrase from one of punk's first anthems Anarchy in the UK, "Your future dream is a shopping scheme." Bear that in mind if you start shopping on Amazon to rebuild your old punk collection on CD.

Punk London is conclusive proof, if needed, of the French situationist Guy Debord's assertion that consumer capitalism drains authentic lived experience of meaning. "All that once was directly lived," wrote Debord in 1967, "has become mere representation."

But not all the old punks have forgotten their roots, even if some claim they've sold out such as John Lydon - aka Johnny Rotten - with his butter adverts.

Concerning Corré's intention to burn £5 million of memorabilia, Lydon is highly critical.

"He [Corré] is into lingerie isn't he? Well I think he'd be better off burning his bra," Lydon quips. "It's pathetic and he's going to ruin the environment with all those toxic fumes."

"If you've got £5 million of anything, donate it to charity," he adds on a more serious note, describing the act as "pompous, ludicrous and unfortunately what Britain seems to be full of."

He has also slammed Brexit as ludicrous. "To leave it [the European Union] would be insane and suicidal," he resolves. "We're never going to go back to that romantic delusion of Victorian isolation, it isn't going to happen."

"There'll be no industry, there'll be no trade, there'll be nothing – a slow dismal, collapse. It's ludicrous."

"It's an act of cowardice really, it's running away from issues instead of solving them." [Metro]

Indeed for this old punk rocker it rather reflects the anthem from a song he penned 40 years ago when he suggested there would be "no future".

tvnewswatch, London, UK

Monday, November 14, 2016

Sleepwalking into a new era of fascism

A little over 80 years ago an outspoken Austrian seized power and took Germany on a course few will ever forget. That man was of course Adolf Hitler.

His rise to power came after the 1932 German general election. Although he had no absolute leadership at the time, Hitler managed to oust Hindenberg as his party grew. Two successive federal elections left the Nazis as the largest party in the Reichstag and anti-democratic parties in control of a majority of its seats. Under this political climate, Hindenburg reluctantly appointed Hitler as Chancellor of Germany in January 1933.

Soon after judges were forced to sign allegiance to the party and the so-called People's Court was established. There was no presumption of innocence, and most cases brought before the People's Court had predetermined guilty verdicts.

The court was established in 1934 by order of Adolf Hitler, in response to his dissatisfaction at the outcome of the Reichstag fire trial, in which all but one of the defendants was acquitted.

Newspapers of the day such as the Völkischer Beobachter and the associated publication llustrierter Beobachter followed the party line of criticising the verdict and labelling socialists, communists and others as so-called enemies of the people.

And so began the erosion of civil rights and a consolidation of power  by the Nazi party led by Adolf Hitler.

Sleepwalking into a Fascist state

Post-Brexit, and more recently post-Trump, there has been some concern that the democratic West is sleepwalking into new era of fascism.

There are those that would say such claims are exaggerated. Neither May's government nor Trump have yet seized absolute power, nor have people's rights yet been eroded. The police are not wearing jackboots, there are no concentration camps and the judiciary is still independent. But there is a language coming from today's politicians that has strong echoes of Germany's dark past.

The vote to leave the European Union was partly won on the back of arguments surrounding immigration, and some might say outright racist language.

Unnerving parallels

UKIP's Nigel Farage in particular was criticised for his campaign where he focused on the large numbers of refugees fleeing war zones such as Syria.

One particular poster caused outrage with many likening it to Nazi propaganda [New Statesman].

Hours after the vote to leave the EU was announced racist attacks increased dramatically. Poles in particular received a barrage of abuse, but Muslims, Jews and others also found themselves in the line of fire of emboldened racists.

It certainly wasn't a state-sponsored Kristallnacht but for those on the receiving end of the attacks this mattered little. One Pole was murdered in one Essex town after being set upon by youth apparently for simply speaking in a foreign language.

During the Tory Party conference Angela Rudd suggested employers keep records of all foreigners they employed [Guardian / BBC].

Even members of her own party aired their concerns. "This kind of divisive politics has no place in 21st Century Britain," the Conservative MP Neil Carmichael, chair of the Commons education select committee and member of the Open Britain campaign, said. Meanwhile Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said "drawing up lists of foreign workers won't stop unscrupulous employers undercutting wages in Britain".

Her full speech was carefully worded to avoid accusations of extremist ideology [Spectator] However, many felt the overall feel was one that drifted further towards the politics seen only a few decades ago in Nazi Germany.

LBC radio presenter James O'Brien likened her speech to the rhetoric found within the pages of Hitler's autobiographical treatise on political ideology Mein Kampf [Independent].

"For the state must draw a sharp line of distinction between those who, as members of the nation, are the foundation and support of its existence and greatness, and those who are domiciled in the state, simply as earners of their livelihood there." [Adolf Hitler-Mein Kampf]

The lines from Mein Kampf seen by themselves are not far removed from the rhetoric coming from certain right-wing politicians.

"Enemies of the People"

In early November a High Court ruling was announced that said the British parliament must have a free vote before Article 50 - which triggers the negotiations to leave the EU - is invoked.

The anger that followed, especially in the right-wing pro-Brexit press, was staggering. The Daily Mail led the pack calling the three high court judges "Enemies of the People".

The irony was not lost on some who likened the headline to those seen in papers that once backed the Nazi party in the early 1930s. "Compare and contrast Nazi Illustrierter Beobachter 1933 and the Daily Mail 2016" @HistoryNed said in a tweet.

The headline was essentially the same, although many misread the pictures of those in the Illustrierter Beobachter to be judges . They were in fact journalists, political activists and lawyers, as FullFact later pointed out. However, the comparison was clear. Many newspapers, especially post-Brexit, had become even more right-leaning and had now begun to attack the same enemies once attacked by the Nazi party.

Immigrants, refugees, left-wing journalists, political activists, the so-called liberal elite and judges have all been attacked in British media. Immigrants and refugees have been blamed for all number of ills while political activists, the so-called liberal elite and judges have been lambasted for daring to question the EU referendum.

Meanwhile Nigel Farage proclaimed there would be "anger on the streets" should Brexit be hindered and called for a 100,000 strong march on the Supreme Court when the government appeals the decision. At the same time UKIP's Suzanne Evans said she felt that judges "should be subject to some sort of democratic control" or even sacked.


Britain is not the only country that has swung to the right. The presidential election in the US, which saw Donald Trump elected as the 45th president, has stunned the world.

Britain's foreign secretary Boris Johnson has described the Trump victory as a "Good thing for Britain" and a "Moment of Opportunity". But Trump was a man who came to power on an almost overtly racist, misogynistic, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, protectionist ticket.

Trump has been on record as wanting to ban Muslims from entering America. He has called Mexicans rapists and criminals. And he has dismissed accusations of sexual assault as "locker room banter". He has also called for his Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton be locked up for her crimes, something that has echoes of Ernst Thälmann's incarceration soon after the 1932 German general election.

"Make America great again"

Trump's main slogan was "Make America great again" which raised the question as to when America wasn't great.

One could dismiss some of what Trump said as rhetoric, merely saying things to whip up a crowd who feels disenfranchised.

One core view appears to be one of isolationism and protectionism. He has called for TTIP [Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership] to be abandoned. He has suggested the US might pull out of the WTO and called NAFTA the "worst trade deal ever.". And he has threatened a trade war with China. For what is a globalised world, the Trump victory on the face of it does not look good.

He has questioned NATO's role and also the role the US plays in its policing the world. But he is also seen as a dangerous individual who may go as far as pressing the nuclear button.

Concerning civil rights he is known to be pro-life [anti-abortion]. He has expressed what might be construed as anti-gay message and is opposed to same-sex marriage [BBC].

The ghost-writer Tony Schwartz, the journalist who authored "The Art of the Deal," Donald Trump's best-seller, has called Trump a sociopath [BBC / YouTube / New Yorker].

There are others that are concerned over Trump's association with the likes of Alex Jones [ABC / JonRonson / Amazon / YouTube].

Trump's other bed fellows have included UKIP's Nigel Farage who was the first UK 'politician' to meet with the president-elect.

This raised eyebrows in Britain where some Tories suggested Farage might even act as a go-between the UK and Trump [Sky News / Guardian / Time].

"Big change in the world"

Johnson's assertion that Trump's win has brought about a Big change in the world is not wrong [Guardian]. But whether it's a good change is debatable.

The win has emboldened the far-right with the KKK in the US claiming victory on the back of Trump's election and the likes of Marine Le Pen in France, Geert Wilder in the Netherlands and Norbert Hofer in Austria seeing it as their chance to capitalise on the back of a growing disenfranchised electorate with populist, and, some might argue, racist politics.

Trump proclaimed his victory would be "Brexit, plus, plus, plus". However Brexit has come to mean any number of things since 24th of June 2016. For some it is the banner of taking back control, of reclaiming sovereignty and independence. For others it has become a symbol of increased government control, a dissolving of sovereignty and intolerance. Some Brexit campaigners have claimed that the European Union was trying to achieve what Hitler had failed to do by creating a federal Europe with more integration. However, the Brexit vote has given ammunition to the hard right and fanned the flames of Fascism. Europe too is in danger of becoming sucked into the populist nationalist fervour that has so far taken over both the UK and US.

Lessons of history

It is often said that man should learn the lessons from history. Sadly however, people very quickly forget the past. The warnings are more than clear as movies like Schindler's List, Labyrinth of Lies and The Pianist indicate. Lincoln's dreams of bringing together America also seem lost. There is, as Alex Jones seems so willing to convey, a New World Order developing. But it may well be far darker than he envisaged.

It is time the free world wakes up before it's too late and walks into a new era of Fascism [BBC / Guardian / Independent / Seeatblogs]

tvnewswatch, London

Monday, November 07, 2016

Brexit and the echoes of Nazi Germany

Last week the High Court in London declared that the UK government must have a free vote before Article 50 is invoked [BBC]. But there has been a stream of anger both in newspapers and on social media following the ruling.

The ruling [PDF] has upset the Prime Minister's plan to invoke Article 50 using the royal prerogative [Guardian]. But it has also unleashed a stream of attacks upon the judges and those who brought the case. Indeed Gina Miller, who brought the case, has been subjected to online abuse which has even included death threats [Independent / Sun].

"Anger on the streets"

The reaction to the court decision by former UKIP leader Nigel Farage was immediate and robust. "I now fear every attempt will be made to block or delay triggering Article 50. They have no idea level of public anger they will provoke," he wrote on Twitter.

Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show on the BBC Nigel Farage reiterated his opinion that anger over any dilution of Brexit could spill over into anger on the streets, something that some have likened to Enoch Powell's infamous "Rivers of Blood" speech.

"Believe you me, if the people in this country think they're going to be cheated, they're going to be betrayed, then we will see political anger the likes of which none of us in our lifetimes have ever witnessed in this country. Those newspaper headlines are reflecting that."

Asked by Andrew Marr if there was a danger of "disturbance in the streets and so on" if Parliament thwarted Brexit, Mr Farage replied: "Yes, I think that's right...The temperature of this is very, very high." [BBC]

He spoke too of a feeling of betrayal by the government and questioned whether the judiciary should be independent. "After today's judgement I'm really beginning to question the independence of our judiciary," Farage tweeted soon after the High Court ruling.

Farage's view was repeated by other UKIP members. Candidate in the UKIP leadership race, Suzanne Evans, said she felt that judges "should be subject to some sort of democratic control" or even sacked [BBC / Sun].

"Enemies of the People"

Both her and Farage's views were reflected on many of Britain's Brexit leaning press. The day after the ruling, judges were labelled as traitors and enemies of the people [Guardian].

The Daily Mail not only condemned the three judges as "Enemies of the  People" but made judgement on whether their verdict was valid given one had founded a European law group and one was openly gay! [Daily Mail]

There was particular anger concerning the reference to one of the judges being gay. However some were somewhat dismissivive of the headline with the author J.K.Rowling tweeting "If the worst they can say about you is you're an OPENLY GAY EX-OLYMPIC FENCER TOP JUDGE, you've basically won life."  [Independent

The gay community was far more angry however. Pink News and other papers representing the gay community quickly responded to the vitriol pouring from the right-wing paper.

The MailOnline soon removed the references to Sir Terence's sexuality in the headline [PoliticalScrapbook]. But for some it was clear that many papers had become an outpouring of almost fascistic propaganda.

Nazi overtones

Many people began to liken the Daily Mail with the Nazi leaning paper Völkischer Beobachter which in 1933 ran with similar headlines whilst condemning judges that failed to follow the party line.

One senior Church of England bishop said people in Britain should be "very alarmed" at the way newspapers reacted to the High Court decision Parliament must vote on triggering Article 50.

"The last time we saw things like the photographs of judges on the front page of a newspaper described as enemies of the people is in places like Nazi Germany, in Zimbabwe and places like that," Nick Baines told BBC Radio 4's Sunday programme [Independent].

It is not the first Nazi association. Even before the EU referendum a UKIP refugee poster bore a striking similarity to an image from Nazi propaganda film and Farage himself was accused of stoking up the flames of xenophobia, racism and intolerance [RT].

The irony that Brexit is now being used to target the Left, Gays, foreigners, refugees and now judges will not be lost on some who feel that the country is gradually moving further to the Right wing of politics.

Growing hate crime

The fallout from the Brexit has continued with a surge in racism, hate crime and now it appears a gradual leaning of newspapers towards fascism.

Speaking on the BBC's World this Weekend, Cobra beer founder Lord Bilimoria said "the anti-immigration sentiment is like nothing I've experienced before" and said he personally had received countless abusive tweets and even letters following the EU referendum [BBC World this Weekend - available until 05/12/2016]

But he also spoke of the difficulties faced by Britain should it not retain access to the European single market [Radio Australia] .

May has apparently already rejected any suggestion of relaxing immigration, something which Bilimoria says won't be looked upon favourably by India [BBC]

A trade deal with India is absolutely imperative, but there is a significant risk Britain might lose its business relationship with the world's largest democracy if Britain's European relationship sours [BBC / Guardian].

India relies on Britain's access to the single market to trade inside Europe and this is something which appears to be something the British PM seems willing to abandon. With immigration being seen by May and her hard line Brexiteers as a red line, access to the single market will be difficult to maintain.

Bilimoria is not the only business leader to have stepped forward to attack the government over their immigration policy. Many are worried that curbs will mean they cannot recruit the staff they need to keep their firms running smoothly.

Seamus Nevin, head of employment and skills policy at the Institute of Directors, said, "Businesses know that the EU referendum result means change to free movement of workers from the EU, but people were not voting to make the economy weaker. The evidence is clear that migrants are a benefit to the economy."

Adam Marshall, director general of the British Chambers of Commerce, has also raised concerns. "Businesses across the UK report skills shortages on a number of different levels. Firms are pretty clear they will need workers from overseas with various skill levels in the years ahead," Marshall said [City A.M.].

Uncertainty is the only thing that remains certain. And that uncertainty may continue for at least two years as Britain negotiates its exit from the EU. Even at the end of the two year process, which will only begin after the triggering of Article 50, Britain may still have not clear trading position with the 27 nation trading bloc - or indeed any other nation around the globe.

Last week Polish MEP Danuta Hübner said Britain cannot negotiate a free-trade agreement until it has left the European Union [Guardian].

Indeed issues surrounding the single market, the customs union, free movement and immigration in general, remain unclear. There is still no clear indication on what type of Brexit the government wants.

David Davis, the Secretary of State for Exiting the EU, merely repeats the line that the electorate have given a clear mandate that they wish to leave the EU. He has also dismissed the assertion the referendum was merely advisory, something which even Nigel Farage has been forced to admit [Independent]. Indeed this issue was clearly stated prior to the referendum, but not widely known [Guardian].  

The road ahead looks even more bumpy than many may well have foreseen [Guardian]. Meanwhile investment is beginning to slow as uncertainty forces many companies to rethink their position [BBC]. And for consumers prices look set to rise further, the latest victims being Birds Eye products and Walkers crisps [BBCGuardian].

tvnewswatch, London