Author Archives: katielib

A Draft for the PM’s Tuesday Speech

Blog post from my friend William Forbes. Views not all shared by me but informative.

William Forbes's Blog

The draft of a speech seemingly prepared for the Prime Minister at her direction has been leaked (although not necessarily at her direction) to the editor.  It forces a completely new assessment of what she wishes to achieve, and a new admiration for her vision and courage, two virtues far exceeding those of her opponents in this country and in Brussels.  Her insistence on rejecting the parochial politics of Brexit for the global politics in which the restructuring of the European Union is only one part — alongside fifty million refugees and Africa’s legitimate ambitions — will place her opponents at serious disadvantage.

DRAFT Speech

The eager anticipation expressed by so many wishing to learn the details of our strategic approach to Brexit is, really, most encouraging, reflecting, as it surely does, widespread enthusiasm for the new opportunities it brings us both for expanded trade globally and, no less important, the…

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Liberal England: How can a #Liberal talk to a #Hate Addict?

The wonderful Jonathan Calder has published my piece on what Europe’s oldest poem, the Iliad, can tell us about hate addiction.

How can Liberals argue with people who are getting a kick out of hate?

The Iliad on Jonathan Calder’s Liberal England Blog

 

#Chiraq

Guest Post from Herbert Agyemang in St Albans

dear reader,

 Every Christmas, I often relieve the ennui of HOME ALONE, and the other wholesale lassitude that stifles, by  and re-watching  old stacks of DVD’S and even streaming and reviewing new movies online.Bar humbugged, and flu-bug notwithstanding and cocooned from prying eyes, my lounge, my personal Library : my four walled and floor to ceiling high book-shelves;  have seen me assiduously  watch at least 10m times or more { 10  times, just in case I missed a skit or something } the latest Spike Lee joint. CHIRAQ. On the each of those 10 or more occasions times, I have come away with this:  I am not a professional film critic by any stretch,  but I don’t think I am wrong to suggest here that  we have  in his tragicomic turn,  CHIRAQ, Lee brilliantly invoke Greek playwright Aristophanes’ ‘Lysistrata’

CHIRAQ

Let me preamble: for the uninitiated the clue is in the title. If still unsure, CHIRAQ is a portmanteau of Chicago and Iraq. Ifl none the wiser still, read on.

It may not take much to make film maker Spike Lee angry, but there’s no denying he gives us his reasons and then some in “Chi-Raq,” a sprawling, blistering state-of-the-union address that presents Chicago’s South Side as a cesspool of black-on-black violence, gang warfare, gun worship and macho misogyny, ruled by unbreakable cycles of poverty and oppression.

All that social outrage clearly demanded similarly outsized treatment, and Lee and co-writer Kevin Willmott (“CSA: The Confederate States of America”) have found a remarkably accommodating vessel in Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata,” whose tale of an ancient Greek heroine leading an anti-war sex strike has been updated here as an alternately bluesy and scalding, yet soulful and playful and deadly serious 21st-century oratorio.

Blunt, didactic and stronger on conceptual audacity than dramatic coherence, this is still the most vital, lived-in work in some time from this maverick filmmaker who has never shied away from speaking his mind or irritating his ideological foes, as he seems destined to do again with this attention-grabbing first feature just released by Amazon Studios (co-distributed with Roadside Attractions).

While the director’s overtly political satires have never fared especially well at the box office, the combination of ripped-from-the-headlines urgency and slick, provocative packaging should draw more than a handful of Lee fans and curious moviegoers — led by but not limited to black audiences — as “Chi-Raq” makes its way from theaters to Amazon’s streaming service. Rattling off enough social-justice talking points to irritate conservative commentators at least through the holidays, Lee’s movie has already drawn the ire of Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel with its title, whose juxtaposition of “Chicago” and “Iraq” is defended in a powerful musical overture, “Pray 4 My City” (performed by top-billed star Nick Cannon). Introduced with the flashing on-screen words “THIS IS AN EMERGENCY,” the song is a grim ode to a major metropolis that has seen more Americans killed in the past 15 years than the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts combined.

Chi-Raq is also the rap alias of Demetrius Dupree (Cannon), who is the lover of the beautiful Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris), and also the leader of a purple-clad gang known as the Spartans; their sworn enemies are the orange-wearing Trojans, led by Cyclops (Wesley Snipes in an eyepatch, natch). The names may come straight from the Peloponnesian War, but the setting is present-day Englewood, Chicago, where tensions erupt in a shootout one night at a packed concert venue (a scene that can’t help but provoke a queasy reminder of the Nov. 13 2015 Paris attacks).

But it’s not until an 11-year-old girl, Patti, is felled by a stray bullet, to the devastation of her mother, Irene (Jennifer Hudson), that someone decides enough is enough.

Enter Lysistrata. {Actually, don’t enter my pussy} Lysistrata, who decides the only way these men will lay down their firearms is if they stop getting laid. Backed by a wise peace-activist neighbor, Miss Helen (Angela Bassett), Lysistrata and her Spartan sisters reach across the gangland divide, persuading the women of Troy to join them in a campaign of abstinence until their men agree to talk peace. Before long, they’ve stormed a U.S. armory — after a nose-thumbing, not-very-funny scene involving the humiliation of a Confederate-flag-bearing crazy (David Patrick Kelly) — where they stage a peaceful but long-term protest, swearing a solemn oath of celibacy: “I will deny all rights of access or entrance / from every husband, lover or male acquaintance who comes to my direction / in erection.” That bawdy, rhyming style of dialogue pulses through much of Lee and Willmott’s script, whose characters blend rap idiom and rhythmic cadences into a stylized, vulgarized poetry that gives the picture an infectious pulse even when the narrative machinery occasionally stalls.

The focus on words rather than weapons (almost all the bloodshed takes place early and off screen) isn’t the only way the filmmakers honor and update their source’s ancient theatrical origins. The action periodically halts for the running commentary of Dolmedes, a one-man Greek chorus played, as he must be, by Samuel L. Jackson, his lip-smacking wordplay as colorfully varied as his sherbet-hued three-piece suits. The other key orator here is Father Mike Corridan (John Cusack, hoarse with conviction), a figure inspired by the real-life priest and social activist Michael Pfleger.

During Patti’s funeral mass, which serves as the film’s emotional and musical centerpiece, Father Corridan invokes the spirit of the martyred Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., unleashing a fiery harangue against the tyranny of the NRA, the glorification of thug culture, the mass incarceration of African-Americans, the lack of government investment in impoverished neighborhoods, and an overriding culture of fear and apathy that stands in the way of meaningful change.

The man behind this macabre sermon, of course, is really the enchanting Lee, whose preferred dramatic method here is to cobble together a grab-bag of grievances and hurl them at the screen with sometimes witty, sometimes clumsy abandon. To watch “Chi-Raq” is to feel as if you’ve stumbled into Gil Scott-Heron spoken-word recital, a hip-hop concert, and a gospel-choir performance rolled into one — held together by none other than a  a Terence Blanchard Jazz score, and peppered with up-to-the-minute references to Americas never-ending national nightmare: not just Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, but also Sandra Bland and the Charleston, S.C., church shootings (“Dylann Storm Roof / he’s the proof / post-racial … poof!”).

But for all its relevance to the very liberal and left-leaning Black Lives Matter movement, the movie focuses less on boiler-plate issues of white privilege and police brutality  than on the dispiriting everyday reality of blacks killing blacks, a system of “self-inflicted genocide” that is the target of Lysistrata’s blue-balls diplomacy. Ironically all these are hot-potato political topics right-wing conservatives would side with. I don’t know if  the self-identified liberal Lee is aware.

but I digress.

Before long, women all over the globe are joining the protest, waving signs with their own versions of the movement’s “No peace, no pussy” rallying cry. (Somehow, it’s sloppily explained, Lysistrata even manages to get strippers and prostitutes in on the ban, while also shutting down porn sites and phone-sex lines.)

While it cites the example of Nobel Peace Prize laureate Leymah Gbowee, a modern-day Lysistrata who helped improve tribal relations in war-torn Liberia, West Africa, “Chi-Raq” isn’t seriously proposing mass celibacy as a feasible solution to the problems of contemporary American society. But there are still potent, if obvious, insights here into how bloodlust relates to carnal lust, how guns function as phallic symbols, and how a culture of violent machismo engenders an exploitative attitude toward women — an attitude that Lysistrata and her sisters attempt to reclaim by strutting about in form-fitting military fatigues and chastity belts. These and other costumes designed by Ruth E. Carter dovetail splendidly with Alex DiGerlando’s detailed, color-coordinated production design; despite its gritty environs, the production has a bright, theatrical sheen, amplified by the expansive widescreen compositions of d.p. Matthew Libatique (in his fifth collaboration with Lee).

Uneven as storytelling, scattershot as satire, and capped by an emotional climax that feels too rigged to resonate, Lee’s latest joint is best appreciated as a vigorous and uninhibited work of social criticism, executed with the madly riffing instincts of a pop-cultural magpie. It’s a rare movie that can tap into ancient Greek literature and a century’s worth of African-American performance traditions, and still find time to sample freely from “West Side Story,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Patton” and “Dr. Strangelove.” There are also clear echoes of Lee’s own filmography, and if “Chi-Raq” never summons the tension and immediacy of his earlier work“Do the Right Thing,” it can’t help but recall his “She’s Gotta Have It” and “Girl 6” in the way it pivots, morally and dramatically, on the story of a woman’s sexual independence.

The artist Parris first caught Lee’s eye with her memorable turn in “Dear White People,” and here, whether she’s rocking an afro or a slinky gold Cleopatra number, she projects intelligence and charisma as the film’s inspired voice of reason, even if there’s a certain flatness to her moral determination. In the more ambiguous role of Lysistrata’s lover-turned-adversary, Cannon has rarely been more commanding on screen, a brooding alpha figure who provides, in one of the film’s better scenes, a fleeting glimpse of the terrified, fatherless little boy within. Cusack and Jackson both have moments to savor, and Steve Harris (“The Practice”) is fittingly bellicose as Lysistrata’s most openly chauvinistic opponent. Harris is one of several Chicago natives in the ensemble — including Hudson, who gives the film a raw, uncomfortable jolt by enacting a fictionalized version of her own family’s violent tragedy. 

That sort of bold stroke is all too emblematic of “Chi-Raq”: Even when the movie’s choices veer on misguided, its confrontational attitude strikes a nerve.And that willingness to charge on through, risking scorn and ridicule, is perhaps the clearest sign that this quintessentially Brooklyn filmmaker has given Chicago the raucous, despairing yet faintly hopeful tribute it deserves. Lee’s vision of a scarred, gutted city may not please the tourism board, but his movie is better for it: Its seething dramatic texture captures a deeper, more elusive beauty that — like reconciliation, reform or any other human ideal — can only be achieved when the illusion of safety is left behind.

HERBERT AGYEMANG

FREE-LANCE WRITER/ LITERARY CRITIC.

#Europe, my country

#Europe, my country

When I was nineteen, Paula and I went inter-railing around Europe. The Berlin Wall had come down just the year before.

We splashed in the fountains in front of the Eiffel tower, then took a train East, chatting all day in English with a young man from Iceland. We stayed in the Ruhr and then in a small castle in Bavaria that was full of Yorkshire Terrier puppies. But we had to carry on East because Prague was the place to go, the recently uncovered jewel.

Being vegetarians then, all we could eat in Prague were white bread rolls, plain yellow cheese and the sweetest, most pungent tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. In the old town the statues of heroes on horseback, and the shutters and curtains decorated with hearts, recalled to us our own childhood fairytales of gingerbread cottages and earnest princes.

We wandered in grand nineteenth-century cemeteries, peered into dynastic shrines where brown and white photos showed familiar old-fashioned costumes – fluffy beards, cravats, monocles.

A history teacher and his wife and teenage son had us to dinner and spoke to us in broken English and broad smiles of delight that we could all be there together. After dinner the couple withdrew to the sofa to watch TV and cuddle unashamedly. We kept in touch with their son Jan by post-card for some years.

Paula and I took our picnics of white rolls, cheese and tomatoes to benches in the wide squares. Around us the middle-aged and the old walked slowly, almost gingerly, out from their apartments to sit on benches and talk, softly, casually, about this and that, the pigeons, the children.

We were told this was a great new pleasure for them, that they hadn’t been able to do for forty years.

The women were stout, with knotted nets of varicose veins around their calves.

Taking the train back we passed leafless forests, where smoke from soft coal had burned away the leaves.

We saw the wound and we saw it starting to heal.

#Mohammed Ali

Guest Post on Mohammed Ali by Herbie, St Albans

If the Bay of Pigs can be seen as a straight right hand to the psychological jaw of White America, then the Las Vegas defeat of the {black Christian} Floyd Patterson by {the black Muslim}  Ali was a perfect left hook to the gut”.——-

The heavyweight champion is a symbol of masculinity to the American male. And a Black champion, as long as he is firmly fettered in his private life, is a fallen lion at every white man’s feet. Through a curious psychic mechanism, the puniest white man experiences himself as a giant killer, as a superman, a great white hunter leading a gigantic ape, the black champion tamed by the white man, around on a leash. But when the ape breaks away from the leash, beats his deadly fists on his massive chest and starts talking to boot, proclaiming himself to be the greatest , spouting poetry and , and annihilating every gun bearer the white hunter puts on him { the white hunter  not being disposed to crawl in the ring himself } a very serious slippage takes place in the white mans self-image – “that by which he defined himself  no longer has a recognisable identity. “IF THAT BLACK APE IS A MAN,” the white hunter asks himself,

“THEN WHAT AM I”.

ELDRIDGE CLEAVER  : ‘SOUL ON ICE’.

MUHAMMED ALI:

UNFORGIVABLY BLACK

Muhammed Ali understood the psychopathology of boxing, its racist metaphor and  tapestry in the  American cultural quilt. he exploited it to the hilt. Right now that Black Power activism may not fit neatly into the outpouring of grief, respect and reflection in the coming days and weeks after his death only two Fridays ago at age 74. but it is one of the most crucial and enduring parts of a legacy that shaped the world.

By the late 1960s, Ali’s unforgiveable blackness  helped him emerge as a transcendent and global figure of black liberation, in doing so became more “black” than James Brown – the godfather of soul. He possessed more charisma than his friends Stokely Carmichael [ Kwame Ture} and Hubert Rap Brown {later Jamil al-Amin} who both tutored the heavyweight champion on the nuances of his own groundbreaking anti-war activism. He proved more accessible than Nation of Islam leader Elijah Muhammad, who gave Ali his name as part of a successful effort to pry the young champion from the grips of his most important mentor, Malcolm X.

Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X were, like the title of the recent electrifying history of their friendship, Blood Brothers, whose shared reputations as trouble-makers hid profound intellectual energies and supple understanding of America’s racial politics.

Malcolm’s own star power helped shape Ali’s introduction to the world following his ascension to heavyweight champion in 1964. The two men conducted a public media tour of sorts, grabbing lunch in Harlem, touring the United Nations and verbally sparring with the large media contingent that trailed their every move.


Privately, Malcolm had attempted to school the young Ali on the nuances of the Islamic faith, the contradictions of the Nation of Islam and the burdens of public fame and celebrity. Malcolm taught Ali how to speak truth to power by any means necessary.

This lesson proved fatal in Malcolm’s case, when former colleagues, including Ali himself, shunned him after he left the Nation of Islam. on individual trips to Ghana both meet at the Ambassador Hotel. the one time obsequious gofer chastised his supreme captain{ as was one of Malcolm’s titles} for “betraying Elijah Muhammad”. ——

Talking of Ghana,In  Kumasi, its second largest city Muhammad Ali, was feted. My late iliiterate Grandmother, I am told, joined the kerbside throng and swooned over Muhammed Ali.  My late dad wh was in Britain at that time was so fond of Ali he  had a compendium of his memorabilla, bibliographies’ and I in turn autodidact developed an autodidact love of unnecessary trivia. continued to update this library and I grew up being fed ncyclopaedic facts and figures of  this ballet dancing batterer and his political career, like grain down a foie gras

but I digress.

 

Ali would publicly regret not having stood by his mentor’s side in later years. Tutored by the Black Power Movement’s most revolutionary symbol, however, Ali would find himself unwittingly taking Malcolm’s place as America’s most well-known black Muslim.

Ali’s religious beliefs and Nation of Islam membership sparked a national controversy. White promoters and business interests, who controlled much of the boxing establishment, threatened to cancel future fights. Many journalists defiantly referred to the heavy-weight champ by what he labeled “my slave name” of Cassius Clay. Ali insisted that reporters and boxers “say my name” — including former Cleveland Williams and Ernie Terrell both whom he defeated in humiliating fashion for failing to do so.

In the process, Ali paved the way for a generation of black athletes — most notably Basketball Hall of Famer, Lew Alcindor— to unapologetically embrace their political and religious beliefs and adopt a proud new racial identity and a new name: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Black Power radicalism framed Ali’s decision to refuse the draft. Stokely Carmichael, who was then chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, and friend of Ali, popularized chants of “Hell no, we won’t go!” in explosive speeches around the nation. Martin Luther King Jr. soon followed Ali and Carmichael, lending gravitas to the burgeoning anti-war movement through his Riverside Church speech on April 4, 1967 in New York City.

Ali’s refusal to be inducted into the military shortly after turned resistance against the Vietnam War into a movement that transcended boundaries between sports and politics.

In the aftermath of defeating Sonny Liston in 1964, when Ali became heavyweight champion of the world, he famously remarked, “I shook up the world!” Ali’s words anticipated the global response to his anti-war stance, actions that were shaped by his growing participation in the Black Power Movement.

Stripped of his livelihood as a boxer and denied legal protection of being a conscientious objector, Ali went on the offensive. He defiantly confronted the U.S. foreign policy establishment. He outraged U.S. public officials by declaring that the Vietnamese people never “called me a nigger.”

Ali echoed Black Power activists’ critique of American hegemony. He challenged the usefulness of the Cold War as an organizing international principle, and stood in solidarity with the “Third World” against foreign intervention.

Ali became the most visible symbol of Black Power’s radical critique of American imperialism, structural racism and white supremacy. Like the early Malcolm X, he used the Nation of Islam’s belief in racial separatism as a shield against the political violence associated with efforts at racial integration. He wielded black history as a sword against white claims of racial inferiority.

Ali embraced the rough edges and the plainer surfaces of black identity in a manner that was unapologetically, at times unforgivably, black. Captivating the student body at Howard University, Ali ridiculed the oppressive breadth of white supremacy in popular culture, noting how “even the King of the Jungle, Tarzan in black Africa is white!” He then quipped that in heaven, black people were in the kitchen fixing the “milk and honey” for their white counterparts to eat.

Black Power shaped Ali’s global political imagination, offering him a framework to link his religious beliefs, athletic gifts, and outspoken personality. His odyssey helped fuel campus protests, emboldened medal-winning black athletes to raise defiant black-gloved fists at the Mexico City Olympics of 1968, brought anti-war sentiment into American living rooms and contoured wider debates over race and democracy that endure to this day.

Ali never rejected his political radicalism; he merely refined it. He incorporated many themes of his youthful activism into his career as a human-rights activist, philanthropist and global ambassador.

In old age, Ali became a universal icon — one whose legend at times stubbornly resisted the facts of his complicated legacy.

HERBERT AYEMANG

FREE-LANCE WRITER

#UKIP Myth: Toy Story

When Leo sits down with his Toy Story jigsaw puzzles a cold hand grips my heart. Sunday evening, I want to feel cosy, and he brings out those garish, creepy figures.

But there’s no escape. ‘Come, Mummy,’ says my two and a half year old, extending the beckoning hand that can’t be refused.

toy story jigsaw

Added to the first horror of sorting out four jisaws that have been jumbled together, I then have to pore over every limb of these gruesome zombie like objects: the corpse with the drooping eyelid (Leo calls it ‘baby’); the giant locust crossed with the Incredible Hulk (Leo calls it ‘green man with yellow pants’); the sickly pink fluffy monster (‘teddy bear’ to Leo), the leathery octopus, the eight-eyed monster…. I want to hide these four jigsaws (once we start we have to do them all) in a cupboard, but his favourite babysitter gave them to him for Christmas, so it wouldn’t be diplomatic.

I wonder if this is how Ukippers feel about the European Union: weird alien creatures they don’t want to understand. And I sympathise.

But I have to learn from Leo who assumes that everything around him is animate, and in some way connected to the world he already knows, and so he can relate to anything. The doll is a baby, the eight-eyed monster is a different kind of frog.

Maybe even Farage is just a different kind of frog.

Maybe we can relate to the Other without losing ourselves.

World v Britain

Market Bulletin from St James Place Wealth Management shows clearly that investors think a stand-alone UK is pants. Read here:

SJP Market Bulletin 20 June 2016