Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Norwich City 2 Sunderland 1

Norwich City 2

Barnett, Morison

Sunderland 1


A deserved first Premier League home victory of the season pushed Norwich into the top half of the table. Not that they had to play especially well as Sunderland were toothless, lacked a fighting spirit and are clearly in for a season of struggle.

The Canaries started the game by pushing the Wearsiders back with Steve Morison forcing Simon Mignolet to get down quickly to save. Then when the keeper dashed from his box he was beaten to a loose ball by Wes Hoolahan and fortunate to see the Norwich skipper’s shot clear the empty goal.

It took Sunderland 15 minutes to fashion their first opening but with just John Ruddy to beat midfielder Craig Gardner hit his left shot well over from the edge of the area. The keeper then got down smartly to block a Nicklas Bendtner shot before Paul Lambert’s side took the lead on 32 minutes.

Playing a 1-2 with David Fox to get beyond Kieran Richardson, Elliott Bennett’s cross from the byline left Leon Barnett with the simple task of putting the ball into an empty net. It took Norwich just three minutes into the second period to double their lead when Steve Morison headed a floating Marc Tierney cross powerfully home. The scorer was then denied a chance to add to his tally when only a last ditch Titus Bramble tackle prevented him running clear.

2-0 down Sunderland were given a great chance to get back into the match when Bradley Johnson’s back pass was short but Bendtner hit his shot too close to Ruddy and the ball went out for a corner.

Substitute Connor Wickham might also have done better with an Ahmed Elmohamady cross but his header from five yards out lacked pace and power. Ruddy then saved well from David Vaughan as for the first time Steve Bruce’s side put the home side under pressure.

Five minutes from the end a powerful drive from the corner of the box by Richardson caught Ruddy off-guard to reduce the arrears and after which the home fans endured an anxious few minutes before they were able to celebrate all three points.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Bradford Park Avenue 1 Northwich Victoria 2

The key moment came when Avenue missed a second half
penalty at 1-1, 30 seconds later they were 2-1 down.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Leeds United 0 Manchester United 3

Leeds United 0

Manchester United 3

Owen 2, Giggs

A Manchester United side containing none of the eleven that started against Chelsea on Sunday last night swept past a disappointing Leeds United in the third round of the Carling Cup.

Simon Grayson’s side, backed by a noisy home crowd, started well enough and on six minutes Dimitar Berbatov was forced to clear a goalbound effort following a goalmouth melee. This though proved to be Leeds’ only serious effort at goal and they fell behind on 14 minutes when Michael Owen scuffed his shot past Andrew Lonergan after Berbatov and Ji-Sung Park easily carved apart the Leeds left.

With midfielders Michael Carrick and Antonio Valencia playing alongside debutant Ezekiel Fryers in a three man defence it was up to Leeds to push forward and put their illustrious visitors under pressure, especially as in goal Manchester United had Ben Amos, who was making just his third first team appearance. Adam Clayton and Robert Snodgrass did take pot shots at goal, but neither troubled the keeper. 

Frederico Macheda should have made it 2-0 but he was too slow in shooting. It was a temporary reprieve for Leeds as on 32 minutes Mame Diouf found Owen, whose instant control and then drive from the edge of the area sent the ball soaring into the far corner of the net for a superb goal.

Five minutes later the former Liverpool man then set up Valencia who should have made it 3-0. It was, once again, only a temporary reprieve for the home side as on the stroke of half-time Ryan Giggs from a corner played a 1-2 with Park before nutmegging Aidan White and then using the outside of his left foot to deceive Lonergan.

It was to be the United captain’s last part in the action, but his departure gave Paul Pogba a chance to shine on his senior debut and a wonderful sixty-yard crossfield pass to Valencia marked the start of an impressive 45 minutes.

On 56 minutes Owen might have grabbed his hat-trick but curled his right foot shot wide when well placed and after which the only goalmouth action was the substitute Ramon Nunez failing to grab a consolation goal by missing from six yards out in added time. 

Standing up report

Home end - all fans stood during the whole game

Away end - around 2,500 travelling fans stood during the entire game

I would estimate that around 20,000 of the 30,000 crowd stood the entire match. 

Comment on atmosphere

Fair play to the Leeds fans who backed their team to the end, but even when they were all singing at the start it's laughable to describe Elland Road as a really noisy place. Sitting no more than 40 yards from the home end it was still possible to speak to the person next to me. 

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Tories not interested in a recovery

Despite the [British] economy showing no signs of recovery there shouldn’t be any surprise that the coalition government doesn’t intend rowing back on its austerity commitments to adopt ‘plan B.’

That’s because they have no intention of reversing a worldwide capitalist offensive, begun under the direction of economist Milton Friedman over a quarter of a century ago, against the working class and under which the really rich continue to see their wealth increase exponentially.

For example in the US, the top 1% own nearly 50% of the wealth, up from 28% in 1968. In the UK the richest 10% are now 100 times better off than the poorest with the top 1% possessing total household wealth of £2.6 million or more.

Problem is they can’t hope to spend it, preferring instead to seek out investment opportunities that had the effect of putting billions of $’s/£’s in the hands of bankers. Which they then used to seek out super profits in hedge funds - that multiplied in total from ten to two hundred and fifty billion $’s in six years from 2002 - pushing up food and oil prices and sparking a credit fuelled drive whereby the working class borrowed money it should have had in the form of higher wages in order to pay their mortgage and rising bills.

Of course the solution should be to ensure money goes to those who need it, as after all they would then spend it and thus create demand for businesses products? Yet there has never in history been a ruling class that has acted against its own self-interest - and the Tories are very much the representatives of the ruling class, parts of whom have only just last week began to argue for the top rate of tax to be reduced from the 50% paid on each pound earned over £150,000.

So the plan is to continue down the same road, such that by throwing millions out of work, cutting pensions and reducing public sector unions to what they are in the private sector, it will prove possible to ensure the rich can largely do as they like and continue to increase their power and share of the world’s wealth.

None of which the likes of Ed Miliband, Labour’s leader, clearly intends opposing after his appearance at yesterday’s TUC Conference in which he criticised workers for daring to stand up for themselves by taking strike action.

Miliband, of course, is so terrified of being portrayed in the media as an effective opponent of the ruling class that he even withdrew from speaking at the Durham Miners’ Gala for fear of being too close to RMT leader Bob Crow on the speaker’s platform. He also instructed Labour MP’s to become scabs by crossing public sector picket lines on June 30th and despite a few attacks on bankers bonuses you’ll find little to indicate he’s too much different from the likes of ex-Labour Prime Ministers Tony Blair or Gordon. Both of who presided over a massive increase in levels of inequality between 1997 and 2010. 

Monday, 12 September 2011

The crises of multiculturalism – racism in a neoliberal age - book review

The crises of multiculturalism – racism in a neoliberal age.
Alana Lentin and Gavan Titley
Zed books

Why did you write this book?

One of the initial triggers for this book was noticing how, in Ireland a few years ago, when there was an increase in migration, public discussion was full of warnings about ‘learning from the failures of multiculturalism elsewhere’.

Factoids about ‘ghettos’ and ‘parallel lives’ and ‘incubating terrorism’ were in constant circulation, as if these were simple, given social phenomena that develop automatically from the presence of ‘migrants’. As we began to look at it more closely, we found these strong ‘failure of multicultural’ discourses in countries where nothing approximating to multicultural policy ever existed.

We began to examine how they circulate transnationally; particularly after 9/11, the mere presence of Muslims in a given country was enough to sanction a quite repressive what if politics – what if what happened there happens here.

So we began to research how the idea of the failure of multiculturalism launders anti-Muslim and anti-migrant racism. It says, in effect, see? We tried, we were too generous, they were too different, and now we need to get back to the certainties of integrating them on our terms, and excluding them to protect our ways of life.

You don’t define multiculturalism – why’s that?

Because our primary interest was in mapping and analyzing how ‘multiculturalism’ works in political rhetoric, media shorthand, and racist code. It can’t just be defined and then super-imposed on societies that now use it to talk about a huge spectrum of issues relating to race, culture, migration and social anxieties.

Throughout the book we discuss different understandings in different countries, as well as different academic theories, but discussions aimed at defining multiculturalism frequently have little to do with actual political developments. So we had little interest in proposing an elegant but basically redundant definition, or in adjudicating between existing ones.

What we trace is the ways in which rejecting something called multiculturalism is frequently a code for rejecting multicultural societies themselves. Ironically, it is a form of political correctness, one that allows social problems to be pinned on racialized minorities without leaving one open to the accusation of racism.

Was or is multiculturalism a challenge to the status quo?

Bluntly, no it isn’t, but a longer discussion would do justice to some political achievements. In the UK, in the early 1980s, for example, ‘town-hall’ multiculturalism certainly gave some forms of respect and autonomy to besieged communities, but it also took the politics out of anti-racism, ultimately reducing the struggle for equality and against state racism to one of cultural recognition and support.

To simplify a little, cultural recognition is nowadays a cost-free politics, and increasingly used as a placebo for more radical change.

This doesn’t mean it’s not important, but as a political horizon it excludes quite a lot. The irony now is that multiculturalism is mainly depicted as a state-sponsored, liberal assault on the national status quo, its roots in processes of control are written out.

Why have politicians been so willing to declare multiculturalism a failure?

Because they spend most of their time justifying or spinning decisions made in the interests of capital, and taking control of the ‘problem’ posed by lived multiculture provides a compensatory spectacle, a chance to appear decisive and responsive.

This is why the fiction of a failed experiment of multiculturalism is so important; it allows politicians to present the diversity in societies as something they can govern, and that they are going to take in hand in the interests of the silent, put-upon majority. It provides a good source of ‘dog-whistle’ politics, and a way of continuing the pretence that migration policy is influenced by public opinion.

What has motivated those who have attacked multiculturalism for its [supposed] lack of liberalism?

Multiculturalism has long been presented as the opposite of liberalism, i.e. as arguing for forms of collective rights over those of the individual. Even in the rarefied tussles of political philosophy, that is a gross exaggeration, it is more accurate to see multiculturalism as trying to fill in liberalism’s blindspots about how individuals actually live in society.

Politically, multiculturalism has become associated with an ‘anything goes’ cultural relativism that can impact on the freedoms of women, or of LGBT people. The problem is that ‘being a liberal’ is frequently worn as a cultural identity defined against people who are assumed to be anti-liberal. It might reject multiculturalism, but this kind of liberalism is itself a multicultural identity.

How has rejecting multiculturalism been central to laundering increasingly acceptable forms of racism?

One of the things we often hear is that something isn’t racism because it speaks about culture, and the problems with ‘their culture’ not their ‘race’. Yet racism has never been just about spurious theories of biology or violence on the basis of skin colour, even if these have been central to the racist horrors of the modern period. Racism has always been about organising and justifying hierarchies, and culture has been historically central to this.

However, the widespread political consensus is that we are all post-race, therefore talking about culture is different, even when it follows the same logics, and has the same exclusionary effects, as the racism being rejected.

Why are you concerned that some women, gay men and lesbians are denouncing the Muslim community for what they perceive is hostility towards them?

Because there is no such thing as the Muslim ‘community’, and the struggle against sexism and homophobia is not furthered by locating these problems overwhelmingly in the presumed culture of an imagined ‘community’.

The presumed conflict between gay or women’s rights and Islam paradoxically contributes to the fundamentalist idea that homosexuality is a ‘western disease’ rather than a universal fact of life. By making being gay, or indeed a woman, about ‘western values’ that very universality is challenged by those claiming to work for women’s and gay rights everywhere.

The participation of some feminists and gay activists in furthering Islamophobia leads to a politics of ‘us’ and ‘them’ rather than building on the potential alliances between marginalised groups. This allows for imperialist politics, such as the wars in Afghanistan or Iraq to hide behind a discourse about defending women.

The ban on the burka in France is also supposed to be about women’s rights, but what happened to a woman’s right to choose? What kind of liberal society presumes that all Muslim women are unable to resist patriarchy, that every veiled woman, even those with degrees and good jobs, are oppressed by Muslim men, all of who are (potential) ‘honour killers’?

The veil is a perfect example of how spurious arguments about women’s rights are used to mask a much deeper societal discomfort about the challenge to the very idea of the nation it poses. The French and the Dutch understand that Muslim people know that their liberalism isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and that frightens them and leads them down the road of repression.

You pose some parallels with the situation faced by German Jews in the early part of the last century and those of Muslims in Europe today – is that wise?

We make some very specific comparisons and to go beyond them would not be wise, of course. The point we make, in discussing certain mainstream authors, such as Christopher Caldwell, is that the arguments they use concerning the impact of strong, faith-led Muslim communities on a supposedly weak, relativist European culture is that these were the same kinds of arguments made about European Jewry; a culture eating away at tolerant hosts from the inside.

Further, it doesn’t seem to be very disturbing for many people that a large, diverse European population is routinely singled out as a problem. The echoes of that, if not parallels, should disturb everybody.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

G20 fails to prevent speculators pushing up food prices

“The G20’s inaction won’t prevent financial speculators, including British investment banks, from making a killing by pushing up food prices to levels that are unaffordable for millions.”

That’s the view of agricultural scientist Charlie Clutterbuck. It comes after agriculture ministers from the world’s richest countries failed, at a meeting in Paris in June, to back up French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s strong words with a plan to tighten regulations in the commodity markets.

In 2007-08 a surge in food prices that triggered riots in some countries was widely blamed on speculation. None of which has prevented the price of food rising to record levels today or millions going hungry.

Sarkozy, the G20 Chairman, told ministers that “By addressing the volatility of agricultural markets, in assuring food security for the world for today and tomorrow, we will rebalance the structure of capitalism so that it once again contributes to the development and well-being of the people including a billion farmers.”
All of which proved a little hard for the likes of Britain’s farming minister Jim Paice to stomach who said, “We are not persuaded that speculation is causing volatility.” And what emerged from the behind closed-door discussions was hardly encouraging, with ministers preferring to pass on the problems to an October meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors ‘to take the appropriate decisions for a better regulation and supervision of agricultural financial markets.’
Charlie’s disappointed and so too are the World Development Movement [WDM] that campaigns on issues of global justice. Spokeswoman Heidi Chow accuses the Government of turning a blind eye to a number of reports from respected bodies such as the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that “prove there is a link between excessive speculation and rising food prices.”
She has little doubt what lies behind the myopia saying “it’s because they’re standing with the City of London” or in Charlie’s words a government that appears “unwilling to take our own food security seriously is more dependent on speculation in the Gherkin than investing in our own cucumbers.”
Earlier this year the WDM released its own report on Barclay’s role in food speculation, following which campaigners held protests outside a number of the banking giant’s branches.
The report estimated Barclays could be making up to £340 a million a year from food speculation. Obtaining an exact figure is currently impossible because many - perhaps even most - deals are done secretly with no-one knowing what’s being traded or at what price or quantity. Recently Al Jazeera TV provided a picture of what might be happening when it discovered that the offices of a hedge fund in central London bought up 7% of the world’s cocoa crop, stored it for a few months and when chocolate reached record levels sold it on for massive profits.
WDM want the secrecy to end with all contracts forced to pass through regulated exchanges. They’re not against financial institutions playing a role in the futures market whereby farmers and producers get a guaranteed price for next year’s crops, a policy first established in Chicago in the 1920s to support grain producers.

“Providing credit is good, but not if it comes with dominance. What we don’t want is financial speculators that are not fulfilling a genuine need for producers or who are even interested in food” said Chow who pointed out that last year the Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Act that was passed in the US included provision to restrict financial speculators to 25% of the futures food market.

Now the WDM wants to see the British Government support similar proposals and limit the amount bankers can bet on food prices

But as the Con-Dem’s have, so far, done little to limit the power of the major banks isn’t that a little optimistic?

“We feel this is a fundamental issue as food is a basic human need. We want them to take action on something that is only profiting a very small number of people or institutions but affecting millions across the world including, of course, poor people in the UK who are being hit with massive food price rises” said Chow. 

Sunderland 1 Chelsea 2

Sunderland 1
Ji Dong-Won
Chelsea 2
Terry, Sturridge

Not quite men against boys but once debutant Nicklas Bendtner had headed Sebastian Larsson’s free-kick wide from eight yards out there was only going to be one winner in this match.

The Pensioners opening goal did though have a touch of fortune about it, Lee Cattermole hardly touching Nicolas Anelka. From the resulting free-kick Juan Mata beat Simon Mignolet but not the post and with Kieran Richardson not bothering to get out quickly enough Chelsea skipper John Terry was allowed two chances to beat the keeper after Ramires floated the ball to the back post. Sunderland manager Steve Bruce continues to persist with Richardson at fullback; a role he is totally unable to fulfil defensively.

A goal up and enjoying total possession Chelsea nevertheless lacked a cutting edge or an incisive pass and with Wes Brown in fine form Sunderland might even have gone in at half-time level but Petr Cech was down quickly to block Stephane Sessesgnon’s low shot.

Brown was however guilty of ball watching on 51 minutes allowing Daniel Sturridge to run on to Raul Meireles fine through ball. In the side for record signing Fernando Torres, Sturridge beat Mignolet with an impudent back-heel that not even a backtracking Brown could prevent entering the net.

Having scored only one goal so far this season there was never any chance of the Wearsiders grabbing a point and although substitute Ji Dong-Won managed a smart finish in added time many of the home fans missed his effort having long since given on their sides chances. Season long it has to be said these seem to be no better than a bottom six finish, Sunderland having collected just 13 points from their last 19 games.

Bruce has also just lost record signing Asamoah Gyan on a season long loan to the United Arab Emirates side Al-Ain and Connor Wickham may have cost £8 million from Ipswich but the teenager cannot be expected to do much more than continue to learn his trade this season.

Chelsea’s prospects are, of course, much brighter and yet it’s difficult to see them seriously challenging either of the Manchester clubs for the title. In Mate, Meireles and Sturridge the Londoners do though have some fine young talent and ten points from the first four games isn’t too bad a start. 

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Coastguard campaign saves jobs but might not save lives

“Please thank everyone who participated in the campaign against coastguard closures” said Dave MacBeth, the PCS assistant secretary for the union’s marine and coastguard section, after learning the government has rowed back on some of its plans to decimate the nation’s life-saving service.  

Instead of just five daytime and two round the clock stations it’s now proposed to have one major Southern England base with 96 staff and eight sub centres of 23 personnel all operating 24 hours a day.

Coastguard watch officer Dave isn’t against modernisation but wanted to retain the current 19 stations and 220 threatened jobs and he remains fearful that despite the saving of a third of the threatened posts that “local knowledge which helps co-ordinate rescue attempts by lifeboats and helicopter will be lost.”