Feeling ick about Amazon? Alternatives for a positive Christmas

From the Guardian’s Alternatives to Amazon: MPs spread seasonal boycott message:

Big high street/online retail names: Four were singled out for praise: Debenhams, John Lewis, Next and Lush.

“Bookshops: Researchers rated 22. The two top-scoring names were online charity bookstore Green Metropolis, and Oxfam. Close behind was Better World Books, which works in partnership with literacy charities, followed by eBooks.com, Books etc, our very own Guardian Bookshop and The Book People. Foyles scores pretty well, as does WH Smith, Waterstones and Blackwell’s.”

Amazon aren’t always the cheapest option anyway – you can compare prices for specific books + delivery on booko.co.uk.

And as for why people might be boycotting Amazon, check out Ethical cosmetics company Lush takes ‘bullying’ Amazon to court and My week as an Amazon insider:

“It’s taxes, of course, that pay for the roads on which Amazon’s delivery trucks drive, and the schools in which its employees are educated, and the hospitals in which their babies are born and their arteries are patched up, and in which, one day, they may be nursed in their dying days. Taxes that all its workers pay, and that, it emerged in 2012, it tends not to pay. On UK sales of £4.2bn in 2012, it paid £3.2m in corporation tax. In 2006, it transferred its UK business to Luxembourg and reclassified its UK operation as simply “order fulfilment” business. The Luxembourg office employs 380 people. The UK operation employs 21,000. You do the math.

Brad Stone tells me that tax avoidance is built into the company’s DNA. From the very beginning it has been “constitutionally oriented to securing every possible advantage for its customers, setting the lowest possible prices, taking advantage of every known tax loophole or creating new ones”. It’s something that Mark Constantine, the co-founder of Lush cosmetics, has spent time thinking about. He refuses to sell through Amazon, but it didn’t stop Amazon using the Lush name to direct buyers to its site, where it suggested alternative products they might like.”

Sexy and funny only goes so far

From Feminists can be sexy and funny – but it’s anger that changes the world:

“Sexy, funny feminism is inspired by the fear that feminism will never get anywhere unless it is likeable. For a long time now, feminists have been told that their message will never spread to the masses if the messenger appears to be an angry man-hating lesbian shouting the odds from a gender studies seminar room. But we need to realise that popular, non-threatening feminism is destined for failure as well. In a patriarchy – and if you are a feminist, you accept that we are living in one – what is popular and non-threatening is what men deem to be acceptable.”

In which a politician made me cry

From David Lammy’s Speech on Same Sex Marriage:

There are those that say this is all happening too quickly. … And I sympathise. … And I will be respecting that when I vote for this Bill.

…Because it does command the support of the country.

…Because it does respect religious freedom and tradition by permitting – rather than mandating – religious organisations to conduct the ceremonies.

…And because it is the end of an organic journey from criminality to equality for the gay community that began over half a century ago.

This change is right, this change is necessary and its time is now.

Separate is NOT equal, so let us be rid of it.

Because as long as there is one rule for us and another for them, we allow the barriers to acceptance to stand unchallenged.

As long as our statute books suggest that the love between two men or two women is unworthy of being recognised through marriage, we allow the rot of homophobia to fester.

The Bible is complicated.

But its enduring message is not that homosexuality is wrong, it is to “love thy neighbour”.
It offers no caveats.

Guardian: ‘Our media have become mass producers of distort’

I can’t believe I haven’t gotten around to blogging this (from April). I’ve got a few weeks where I’m not teaching or studying or doing freelance work or busy volunteering, or even, sometimes over the next few weeks, not even working, so expect a rash of catch-up posts. Anyway, onto the article… a lot of the same points could be made about blogs, but at least there’s a clear sense of ‘caveat emptor’. A very long time ago I used to expect that I could trust something I read in a newspaper.
Our media have become mass producers of distortion

“There never was a time when news media were perfect. Journalists have always worked with too little time and too little certainty; with interference from owners and governments; with laws that intimidate and inhibit the search for truth. But the evidence I found in researching my new book, Flat Earth News, suggests our tendency to recycle ignorance is far worse than it was.
I commissioned research from specialists at Cardiff University, who surveyed more than 2,000 UK news stories from the four quality dailies (Times, Telegraph, Guardian, Independent) and the Daily Mail. They found two striking things. First, when they tried to trace the origins of their “facts”, they discovered that only 12% of the stories were wholly composed of material researched by reporters. With 8% of the stories, they just couldn’t be sure. The remaining 80%, they found, were wholly, mainly or partially constructed from second-hand material, provided by news agencies and by the public relations industry. Second, when they looked for evidence that these “facts” had been thoroughly checked, they found this was happening in only 12% of the stories.
The implication of those two findings is truly alarming. Where once journalists were active gatherers of news, now they have generally become mere passive processors of unchecked, second-hand material, much of it contrived by PR to serve some political or commercial interest. Not journalists, but churnalists. An industry whose primary task is to filter out falsehood has become so vulnerable to manipulation that it is now involved in the mass production of falsehood, distortion and propaganda.
And the Cardiff researchers found one other key statistic that helps to explain why this has happened. For each of the 20 years from 1985, they dug out figures for the editorial staffing levels of all the Fleet Street publications and compared them with the amount of space they were filling. They discovered that the average Fleet Street journalist now is filling three times as much space as he or she was in 1985. In other words, as a crude average, they have only one-third of the time that they used to have to do their jobs. Generally, they don’t find their owns stories, or check their content, because they simply don’t have the time.
Add that to all of the traditional limits on journalists’ trying to find the truth, and you can see why the mass media generally are no longer a reliable source of information.”

Boris hypocrisy in cultural provision and access?

Boris Johnson’s ‘Cultural Metropolis: The Mayor’s Priorities for Culture 2009 – 2012 (pdf link, front page showing one of those despicable central London cultural venues)’ states that:
“there are physical and sensory barriers that can reduce access for disabled and older people, as well as those with young children. There is real potential for cultural organisations to build new audiences by removing such barriers”
but at the same time he’s letting Transport for London “scrap an upgrade scheme to offer step-free access at South Kensington station”?
And if it’s so hard for ‘outer borough’ Londoners to get in to central London, how much harder would it be for outer Londoners on the other side of London to get to something held in an outer borough? Let alone for a tourist. So is he going to magically multiply the funding available so events can be held in the north, south, east and west, or do most people just miss out?
But hey, maybe it’s all part of his ‘donut’ strategy – suck up to London’s outer suburbs (the poor neglected waifs) and ignore the inner suburbs who were rude enough not to vote for him.
Yep, London still needs Boris Watch.

Boris Watch

London needs Boris Watch. It needs their ‘attempt to enhance the accountability of the new London mayoralty’.
Not just because he’s stopping public transport projects and scrapping the proposed congestion charge for West London, made the anti-racism Rise festival erm, not anti-racist anymore, but also because Boris Johnson and arts advisor Munira Mirza are so good at spin they’d have you convinced night was day if you weren’t careful.
Depress yourself reading between the lines at Boris Johnson shakes up funding for capital’s cultural events:
“Ritterband said if groups were unable to strike sponsorship deals for their events, it would suggest the event was not “commercially viable”.”
Since when was that a yardstick for whether a community event was worth putting on? Do artistic merit and community value not count anymore?
And I love their cheap south/north, inner/outer suburbs attempt at ‘divide and conquer’ London.
And it gets even more head-spinning in ‘Give young people high culture not hip-hop – Johnson‘:

Arts chiefs should stop patronising young people by targeting them with hip-hop and movies, and instead offer them access to high culture, Boris Johnson, the London mayor, will say today.

In a report outlining his strategy, his chief of arts and culture strategy, Munira Mirza, argues that too much emphasis has been placed on making events “user-friendly”.
She said: “Too often, it is presumed that young people will only like art that they can immediately relate to.
“Working-class students may be steered towards popular culture like hip-hop, new media and film on the basis that they will find older art forms such as opera or ballet irrelevant.” Mirza said this was “extremely patronising”.
She added: “There’s been a kind of inverse snobbery about culture. I get the feeling some people would look at Shakespeare and say, that’s a bit too intimidating for working-class people.

But isn’t there snobbery in assuming that hip-hop and film can’t have the same cultural worth as opera or ballet? And of course the assumption that ‘young people’ only like ‘popular culture’ because they haven’t been provided access to the ballet by well-meaning arts administrators rather than because some hip-hop or new media is actually good – well, that isn’t patronising, is it?
Of course it’s all masked in language for which they can’t be called to account – ‘get the feeling that some people would’ covers a lot of sins.
Btw, if you google ‘boris watch‘ a sycophantic load of drivel is currently the first hit, so if you also have a blog, why not link to BorisWatch and help people get to the right site?

UK clothes shops opposed to child labour

I never thought I’d agree with India Knight:

How do we think it became possible for a new dress to cost £6? If the finished garment, including the store’s mark-up, costs £6, what do we think the person who made it was paid? What kind of conditions do we imagine they were working under? And how old do we think they were? Now, I like clothes and I like a bargain. But really, who could wear these clothes and feel good about it? (Answer: millions of people. I find this insanely depressing. And they still look awful.)
The following stores have all explicitly stated their opposition to child labour: Marks & Spencer, American Apparel, H&M, Arcadia Group (includes Topshop, Burton, Miss Selfridge, Wallis, Dorothy Perkins), Gap, Adili.com and People Tree.

In Credit crunch chic: how to save pots of money.

Maybe they were gay homosexuals

Saxon grave ‘couple’ may have been two men, says the Telegraph.

The amazing discovery shows the “couple” lying side by side in the grave with one’s arm across the other.
But the discovery has left experts with a 1,000-year-old mystery.
They know that the body pictured on the right is that of a man, over 6ft tall but they believe that the body on the left is also that of a man as well.
First they thought the couple were a man and wife united in death. But now they believe they could be two men who were ‘brothers in arms’, possibly warriors, who died together and were buried in the one grave.

“There were no artefacts buried with them to give us any clues. It is a bit of a mystery really.”

Is it really so difficult to countenance the idea that they might just have been a couple? Gay men aren’t an invention of the modern era. If they looked like lovers, maybe they were lovers.
I do love the bit where they say ‘They are exceptionally tall – both over 6ft. The one on the left has got some female traits to it but it does seem to be male’.