Friday, 11 December 2009

Some missing comments

I've been tinkering again and it seems some recent comments have gone awol. You can still see them in the recent comments box though.


Thursday, 10 December 2009


So we have the UN Climate Change Conference being hosted in Copenhagen.

We also have George Soros present who is going to form and fund an organization to advise policy makers on environmental issues and look after public interest as policies and programs are created to address climate change.

And then we have the Executive Vice Chairman of Rothschild, Simon Linnett.

But for the private sector to participate enthusiastically in a global carbon trading market, governments must collectively establish a robust framework within which trading can occur. It must be long, loud and legal:

  • Long: it is going to be around for a long time
  • Loud: it will be the dominant mechanism for sponsoring changes in behaviour and we are going to make this perfectly clear to the world's people
  • Legal: we will enforce it through law
A key implication of creating a legal yet global system of trading, is the loss of sovereignty it implies. Governments must be prepared to allow some subordination of national interests to this world initiative, on the issue of emissions. This need not mean a new system of government, above individual nations.
Why do I get the feeling that this is little to do with the stewardship of this planet and more to do with the control of the masses by the unelected?

Pity the thirld world, pity the poor, pity the ordinary.

H/T That The Bones You Have Crushed May Thrill

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Why is a label important?

Trawling through the BBC's website I came across this article about a mother convicted of child cruelty upon her daughter. It says:

A mother who struck her 12-year-old daughter with a computer cable, a broom, a wooden spoon and her fists has been given a suspended jail sentence.

The 37-year-old asylum seeker was jailed for 12 months suspended for two years at Preston Crown Court after she pleaded guilty to child cruelty.
And it's good that she should receive such a sentence.

But what does get me wondering is why 'asylum seeker'? Is there something about asylum seekers that makes them more partial to a bit of physical chastisement of their offspring, a bit more handy with their fists? Something perhaps that sets them apart, as somehow different from 'us'?

I expect better from the BBC.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Against All Odds

Could this be the next Labour Party political broadcast?

I thought it was good until Kinnock and the architects of New Labour came into view, their stories undo the victories of the past. Did the producer see the irony?

Aside from that some interesting images, and it's got Lansbury in it!

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Some Other Blogs

Not a carnival or anything like that I'm afraid, just some links to other blogs that I inflict upon this interweb.

So this one you're at now is all about my politcs, knocking capitalism on the head and creating a fairer world.

For my technical ramblings there's Plans to Prosper.

And for my thoughts on faith in today's world there's a new one called The Sign Of The Cross.

Enjoy. Or not as the case may be.

The Times They Aren't A Changing

Just been looking back at one of my old sites on the wayback machine. What stands out is a posting I made in June 2001.

Surely I can't be the only person on this planet who's bored to tears with the glut of reality tv programmes at the moment?
I still feel the same nowadays. :(

Sunday, 1 November 2009

I'm with Alan

To date two of the panel that were appointed by the Government to advise the Government on drug policy have handed their cards in. Seems that there's a bit of bad feeling over Alan Johnson's decision to give Prof Nutt, the Chairman of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs his P45.

So what's it all about? The Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is a panel of experts that advise the Government on Drug policy, providing evidence and expert opinion which will assist the Government in putting together a coherent and viable policy. Lately the panel have been advising the Government on the reclassification of Cannabis from a Class C to a Class B narcotic. But the Government have decided to continue with the reclassification which goes against the provided evidence from the panel.

So certain members of the panel, specifically Prof Nutt have decided that they will try and alter Government policy by acting outside of the panel. He had criticised the fact the Home Office had moved cannabis back to Class B, against the ACMD advice, and warned alcohol and tobacco were more harmful than both it and ecstasy.

In other words Prof Nutt has crossed the fence and entered the dirty world of politics. So Alan Johnson has put the mockers on Nutt's attempts to influence policy by sacking him.

So I'm with Alan.

Whether weed needs to be a Class B or a Class C has become irrelevant and not really something I care about. But I do care about democracy and that the formulation of policy has to lie with our elected leaders, not with scientists. How we live goes beyond science, beyond things that are black or white. I want to know that should I disagree with those who rule over us and create policy, that my vote can build them up or knock them down. Appointed scientists are beyond my reach.

Prof Nutt needs to understand that he was brought on board to advise, not create policy. Prof Nutt was appointed, he was not elected and his required impartiality was undermined by his own actions. And the other members who are jumping ship need to get a sense of their own importance or lack of it in the democratic process and stop throwing their toys out of the pram.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Plus ça change

Rummaging through the online version of Hansard looking at the questions asked by George Lansbury, like one does and I came across this little gem:

HC Deb 12 April 1923 vol 162 cc1300-1 1300

§ 60. Mr. LANSBURY

asked the Secretary of State for Air how many punitive expeditions have been undertaken by the Air Force during the year ending 28th March against tribesmen in India and Arabs and other nationals in Iraq and countries adjacent: how many casualties have been suffered by our airmen; how many persons of other nationalities have been killed or wounded; what damage has been inflicted on villages or towns; and will he state what bombs were used?

§ The SECRETARY of STATE for AIR (Lieut.-Colonel Sir Samuel Hoare)

During the year ending 28th March last, bombing attacks were carried out in connection with the various military operations in Waziristan, but there were no independent punitive expeditions carried out by the Royal Air Force against tribes on the Indian frontier. In Iraq and Southern Kurdistan, where no military operations comparable with those, undertaken in Waziristan have been carried out, there have been nine punitive air expeditions. The casualties to personnel of the Royal Air Force in these operations were in India, 3 officers and 1 airman killed, 2 officers and 1 airman injured; in Iraq, 3 officers killed and 1 injured. It is not possible to give particulars of the casualties sustained by the tribes against whom the operations were directed or of the extent of the material damage inflicted; it seems certain, however, that the use of air action in place of ground operations has resulted in a 1301 decrease in the loss of life incurred. The bombs used have been 230 lbs., 112 lbs., 20 lbs. and incendiary bombs.

I would remind the hon. Member that upon the North-West frontier air operations form part of the general military operations against tribes with which the Government of India have been in a state of war, whereas in the case of Iraq punitive air expeditions are only undertaken at the request of the civil authorities in cases where ground expeditions would otherwise have been necessary.


May I ask whether the people who are bombed are able to retaliate? [HON. MEMBERS "Oh!"] I will put the question in another way— whether the right hon. Gentleman and his colleagues do not think that the time has arrived to stop this Hunnish and barbarous method of warfare against unarmed people?

© Parliamentary copyright

Least we've stopped bombing India. Progress of sorts.

Mummy there's blood on my present!

I know Christmas is a while away yet but if my local supermarkets can have their Christmas goodies on sale in October then I can damn well post about Christmas. Actually the post isn't about Christmas, I'm just using it to emotionally blackmail you!

A recent edition of the Morning Star had a report on the deaths of some civilians in Guinea. Not an issue worthy of a report or mention in the more high faluting dailies unless I missed it?

Anyways, the government of Guinea, installed via a coup has been accused of killing civilians using equipment purchased under the pretext of it being used solely for 'border control'. They purchased the Armoured Personnel Carriers called Mambas from a company called Alvis OMC, owned by the world's favourite arms manufacturer BAE Systems

It's one of the odd things about capitalism - the separation of profit from conscience and morality. How we can make money from things we would recoil in horror from were we to witness them themselves.

I don't know why but the image when I read the Morning Star piece was of an angelic little cherub opening her presents on Christmas Morning, presents paid for by the blood of the innocents, fodder to increase shareholders' dividends.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

The BBC, The BNP and No Platform

Yes I know I'm a bit late to the party on this but what the hell!

The appearance of Nick Griffin of the BNP on a recent edition of Question Time on the BBC has ruffled a few feathers in the political and activist landscape, particularly among those who subscribe to a concept known as 'No Platform'.

No Platform is a political position that actively opposes allowing alleged fascists to express their views in public. It basically means that the propogation of fascist ideas and concepts shouldn't be allowed to be vocalised using publicly funded platforms or in areas where the left controls the platform, such as student unions, trade unions and also the media organisations such as the BBC. Leastways that's what I can pin this concept down to.

So the BBC offering a platform to people like Nick Griffin goes against the principle of No Platform and will generate protests and action. Which is what happened at the BBC studios.

The supporters of No Platform include some surprising personalities such as George Carey, ex-Archbishop of Canterbury as well as a huge swathe of the left.

As for me I'm finding it very difficult to support the principle of No Platform. There are a number of reasons why.
  • Whether we like it or not Griffin and Brons are democratically elected MEPs. Together with other BNP candidates in the Euro elections they garnered the support of just under a million voters in the UK.
  • Those who try and implement a No Platform stance are in a way guilty of censoring free speech and debate in the public arena. The disgruntled right would cry discrimination as well. The left can claim it's not censorship but the general public are going to read it another way.
  • We set a precedent for denying a platform on political grounds when there may come a time when the boot is on the other foot. Then we'd have to struggle under the banner of hypocrisy.
  • We create right-wing martyrs. Martyrdom is very powerful.
  • We set ourselves up as arbiters of what the public should be hearing in terms of democracy and the democratic process. The public hate the attitude of 'we know best' politicians, guaranteed to lead to an unwelcome reaction come polling time.
  • To my mind it's an extension of what I've seen the left do in other public situations, such as with Rocco Buttiglione - the disenfranchisement of people because their particular beliefs don't fit in with what some see as acceptable.
So I do grudgingly support Griffin's appearance on QT but I think the way they prepared the event was atrocious and carried out in the worst possible way. There are a number of things which went very badly which gave succour to the BNP and their supporters

First off, QT became the Nick Griffin Show. Worse than that it became the Let's Beat Up on Nick Griffin Show. He was subjected to a lot of attack but it left him looking like the victim of bullying. At the start of the show it seemed they were all queuing up to smack him with a verbal brickbat whilst Dimbleby as head boy pinned him down. Chalk one up to the fascists there.

Secondly the choice of guests seemed designed to poke every facet of Griffin's fascism: Jack "I'm Not Going To Catch Eye Contact With Griffin" Straw, with Jewish descendants, Baroness Warsi, a muslim, Bonnie Greer, an African-American and Chris Huhne, well Chris Huhne.

Thirdly the inability of Jack Straw to actually respond to any question without doing his "I hate Nick" speech. It left him looking like a twerp at one point, with Warsi actually following on and answering the question. One down for the establishment.

Fourthly the stupid, stupid decision to limit the debate to things revolving around BNP policies. Where were the questions on Europe and the damned Constitution, where were the questions on Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq?

Were there any good points to the programme? Yes, Bonnie Greer showed that it is possible to make fascists look stupid within a democratic framework.

So to sum it up I can't support the No Platform principal but God help us if we can't get together and show the policies of the BNP for what they are - fascist and racist.

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Behind the scenes of the posties' dispute

We see daily on the news and in the papers headlines such as "Industrial Suicide" and "Posties' Anger Over Temps". And I bet many, many people will be trotting out the usual recycled misinformation and blaming the posties. "Lucky to have a job", "Bunch of troublemakers", "Wreckers!". In our media we rarely see behind the scenes of industrial disputes and never venture further than the politicised media headlines before constructing who's to blame and how to put it right.

Here's an excellent diary type item that goes behind the scenes of the dispute from the postie's point of view.

Old people still write letters the old-fashioned way: by hand, with a biro, folding up the letter into an envelope, writing the address on the front before adding the stamp. Mostly they don’t have email, and while they often have a mobile phone – bought by the family ‘just in case’ – they usually have no idea how to send a text. So Peter Mandelson wasn’t referring to them when he went on TV in May to press for the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, saying that figures were down due to competition from emails and texts.
Read more at the London Book Review

Friday, 16 October 2009

Something about that Eastern Orthodox sound

To my mind some of the most beautiful sounds ever have come from the Eastern Orthodox Church, particularly the Slavic regions. The soundtrack to the video below takes me to another place!

And here's one of the most moving human creations ever!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Fletcher Memorial Home

Listening to one of my favourite Pink Floyd albums the other day, The Final Cut. Perhaps for me the best track is The Fletcher Memorial Home. It got me thinking about how many of the glorious leaders across the world since the Falklands Conflict would now be eligible for residency...........

Anyways, enjoy the song.

Monday, 12 October 2009

What The Guardian’s Banned From Telling You: A Third Estate Exclusive

A complete repost of an article from The Third Estate.

Please repost the post from The Third Estate.

Written by: Owen
- October 12, 2009

Earlier this evening The Guardian was served with a gagging order forbidding it from reporting parliamentary business. To quote the article in the paper itself:

Today’s published Commons order papers contain a question to be answered by a minister later this week. The Guardian is prevented from identifying the MP who has asked the question, what the question is, which minister might answer it, or where the question is to be found.

The Guardian is also forbidden from telling its readers why the paper is prevented – for the first time in memory – from reporting parliament. Legal obstacles, which cannot be identified, involve proceedings, which cannot be mentioned, on behalf of a client who must remain secret.

The only fact the Guardian can report is that the case involves the London solicitors Carter-Ruck, who specialise in suing the media for clients, who include individuals or global corporations.

The right to report on what’s said and done in Parliament is traditionally seen as pretty fucking important in a democracy, so in an attempt to aid transparency, the Third Estate can exclusively report that the question is (probably) this one:

61 N: Paul Farrelly (Newcastle-under-Lyme): To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of legislation to protect (a) whistleblowers and (b) press freedom following the injunctions obtained in the High Court by (i) Barclays and Freshfields solicitors on 19 March 2009 on the publication of internal Barclays reports documenting alleged tax avoidance schemes and (ii) Trafigura and Carter-Ruck solicitors on 11 September 2009 on the publication of the Minton report on the alleged dumping of toxic waste in the Ivory Coast, commissioned by Trafigura.
Trafigura, of course, is the company that was recently revealed to be dumping toxic waste into the sea near Ivory Coast. Why they and Carter Ruck would be so keen for this not to be revealed I’m not sure, (especially as it’s clearly publicly available), but they have a history of this kind of behaviour.

All the questions due to be asked in Parliament from tomorrow (Tuesday) onwards can be found here, so feel free to have a browse through the rest of them – it’s possible I guessed wrong, though I think it’s unlikely. And please, please re-post this – the more places publish it, the harder it is to justify a gagging order and the worse Carter Ruck and Trafigura will look.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Gary McKinnon Refused Extradition Appeal

Gary McKinnonImage via Wikipedia
Gary McKinnon has had his extradition appeal and finally run out of options within the justice system in the UK. Hopefully he'll be appealing through the European Court of Human Rights.

The High Court, which turned down his extradition challenge, decided the case did not raise 'points of law of general public importance' - a prerequisite of being able to pursue a case at the higher level.  Quite how the imposition of a one-sided extradition treaty is not in the general public interest seems to have been lost on the UK legal system. Obviously would've upset the status quo.

His mother has said:
No other country in the world would so readily offer its citizens to the US as sacrificial lambs merely to safeguard a "special political relationship". 
And she'd be right. Quite what it is about the UK's politicians and legal system that transforms them into Uncle Sam's lapdogs is beyond my ken.

Mind you, now Obama's astonishingly been given the Nobel Peace Prize maybe things will change. Then again, likely not. 
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Tuesday, 6 October 2009

We're all in it together

Given George Osborne's threat that "We're all this together" it gives me an excuse to embed a video from The Pirates. I still have this on a 12" single. Somewhere. Quite apt really given the Tory's and NL's planned piracy of the dignity of the poor and unemployed.

As the lyrics go:

Brothers can you hear me
Are we getting taken for a ride
We're all in it together

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Mary Honeyball

For a long time now I have a had a friend request on Facebook from Mary Honeyball. I assume it's the political one as it comes with a picture of her.

I'm a bit bemused by the friend request since given her high levels of God knocking in the past I do have to wonder why she would be interested in a God-botherer like myself?

Perhaps I should give in and add her as a friend. Perhaps she wants to convert me?

Tories Unveil Care Home Guarantee

HARROGATE, ENGLAND - MAY 11: Leader of Britai...
Those caring and sharing Tories are at last showing their caring side and have knocked up some proposals to deal with the issue of care for the elderly.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Tories unveil care home guarantee

Actually it's all bollocks. The nasty party are just throwing some schemes around to enable their parasitic friends, private capital to get more of their blood stained fingers into the pie that is the NHS, and also into the savings of the vulnerable.

They are saying that you can have care in your old age if you cough up £8000 when you hit 65. This 8 grand is trousered by the insurance industry ( interesting how many MPs and ex-MPs grace the boards of insurance companies eh? )

So not only is private capital being given a backdoor into the NHS but you can only benefit if you have the money. And if you haven't got the money? Tough, FOAD as they say.

Wasn't the NHS brought into existence to just deal with the injustices of a system where health care was available only to the wealthy? I look forward to the day when we can claw back the parts of the NHS that have been chipped off and offered to the capitalists - dental, opthalmic and others.

Private capital, keep your hands off the NHS.

Wednesday, 30 September 2009

GoodReads to LibraryThing

I have been using GoodReads to catalogue all the books I own, have read or want to read. Found the link to it from Steve Hayes' blog. Seems a good thing to do, to be able to see what you've read and to be able to share reviews with friends and others on the site.

However, logged in this morning to add a new book and all my books have disappeared! Nowhere to be found. Defunct. Empty.

Had only managed to catalogue about 30 books so not a great loss but disappointing nonetheless.

Image representing LibraryThing as depicted in...So have now decided to register at LibraryThing and start all over again! If anyone else is a member who visits here then feel free to add me as a friend. Seems they have a limit of 200 books before they ask for cash so we'll see how it goes. Can anyone recommend any other online book catalogue type sites?

** Update - GoodReads have now emailed me thanking me for setting up my new account, using my original username. Not sure what the hell's going on there but it seems that my account has been overwritten? 

** Update2 - Otis and Rivka from have now sorted my account issue out. Good to see such a proactive attitude from GoodReads! So back to using, view my profile here and link up!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

The Socialist Blogging Forum

Jim over at The Socialist Way has just started up a forum for discussion around socialist issues. As Jim puts it:

So let me cut to the chase, I would like to start a new forum for socialist bloggers and individuals who are socialists or just interested in discussing any posts in more detail, or just sharing any ideas or information that would be of general interest. The proposed forum would be open to anyone interested in developing and sharing a better understanding of what socialism is or what socialism means to any individual from a personal perspective, it would not be affiliated or take any particular party line. My initial thoughts are that the forum would be small to start off with and likely would remain a manageable size that is comfortable for all concerned, and with as little labour as possible, but we would need a moderator; I am happy to fulfil this role and set-up the forum to start off with. This is just an idea that I've been thinking about for some time and I am hoping, and this is a big if, if not a bare cheek that Chris H and his excellent blog would consider being a founder member; no strings or obligations involved. Think about it and lets have your thoughts. We can build a new socialist blogging community with real purpose and optimism!
Sometimes blogs can lack the continuity and the immediacy that a forum can offer. Often I would like to think out loud and listen to feedback, often on many concurrent issues. Yet at the same time I don't want part-political restrictions in place that can fetter free-thinking. Socialism to me covers a wide range of thought and practice, going beyond what people perceive as the accepted Marxist interpretations. A free arena to think and discuss yet linked to current issues and relevant blogs seems a good idea to me.

You can join here at Socialist Blogging.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Oh The Hypocrisy Of It All

Underground Iranian Nuclear Plant
So it now appears that Iran has been building a second nuclear enrichment plant which appears to have upset a broad range of countries. Those who have piped up with complaints include the UK, US, France, Israel. In fact our very own Miliband has not ruled out military action. That's very good of him. The UK may have the second furthest 'military reach' but we have neither the manpower nor the political will to do so.

This whole issue of nuclear power and nuclear weapons seems to bring out the imperialist in the Western nations who themselves have both nuclear power and nuclear weapons. We seem, and I say 'we' as we are a democracy, we seem to consider ourselves to have some innate right to decide upon who else joins the cosy nuclear club and feel we have the right to interfere in other countries sovereign policies.

We rant against the Iranians for their supposed secrecy yet across the UK and US territories I wouldn't be surprised it if there were 'secret' nuclear facilities that the IAEA or the national electorate know nothing about.

We complain of the threat that comes from a newly emerging nuclear power yet retain enough nuclear weaponry ourselves to end civilisation. So which rogue state was it that has exploded not one but two atomic weapons over the heads of civilians killing hundreds of thousands? Which countries have shown the seriousness of the situation when nuclear power goes wrong? Not Iran for sure.

And the hypocrisy reaches new heights in the condemnation of Iran for it's steps along the nuclear path whilst ignoring the issues of Israel's nuclear arsenal and it's reported environmental issues with the ageing Dimona nuclear facility.

I think  if we put our money where our mouth is and did away with all our weapons of mass destruction before we pontificated about nuclear proliferation then we would be in a much better position, both for us and the rest of mankind.

My faith in humanity rests not with the 'civilised' Western neoliberal states but with the countries small and poor, with the countries that have suffered at the imposition of our imperialism, with the countries that have suffered under Western military attack. The fact that any nation in the world still wishes to retain civil relations with us given our track record is a miracle.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

No Power Without Accountability

Harpymarx has a good post knocking James Purnell's waffling about giving unelected representatives more power within government. Gets my goat it does.

Anyways, a good excuse for playing Billy Bragg's No Power Without Accountability.

And while we're at it here's the great Solomon Burke, None of Us are Free.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

What to read next?

Almost finsihed reading "George Lansbury - At The Heart Of Old Labour" by John Shepherd so I'm now looking for some new train-time reading material. My requirements are that it can be read in both 15 minute sections and extended periods, covers something 'political', ideally pitches one man or woman against oppression with or without a happy ending, fiction or non-fiction, left of centre and can keep me awake.

So far I've gathered the following as likely candidates:
  • In This Way I Was Saved by Brian DeLeeuw
  • Norfolk Red: The Life of Wilf Page, Countryside Communist by Mike Pentelow
  • Freedom: Short Stories Celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights from Amnesty International
  • The Devil and Mr Casement: A Crime Against Humanity by Jordan Goodman
If anyone can suggest which of those make good reading then please let me know or if you have any other suggestions? Feel free to have a shufty at my recent reading list at, link below.

Chrishall57's  book recommendations, reviews, favorite quotes, book clubs, book trivia, book lists

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Hull and back

HULL, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 19:   Ibrahima Sonko...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

I was all set for an early start to pay a visit to the city of Hull this Sunday. But administrative issues ( almighty cock-up ) have meant I can't go until Monday.

I like Hull.

Monday, 31 August 2009

More than 30 police hurt at G20

More than 30 police officers were injured in clashes or accidents during protests at the G20 summit in London, new figures show.

The injuries ranged from being hit by flying debris, attacked by protesters or crushed in crowds to dog bites and being scalded while making a hot drink.

Sounds like most seem to have been injuries attributable to 'friendly fire'. No wonder they've toned down the confrontational tactics for the latest climate camp.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

More to read on George Lansbury

Just ordered two more books on that favourite figure of mine from ages past, George Lansbury.

First off is George Lansbury: At the Heart of Old Labour by Dr John Shepherd. Surprisingly I haven't managed to find any reviews of this tome so I'm trusting that it's going to be a good and informative read anyways.

And it's hardback so the size and quality of the print should make things a tadge easier on my eyes!

Secondly a more recent book by Janine Booth, brought to my attention by a blog posting on the Leftwing Criminologist. The book is "Guilty and Proud of it: Poplar's Rebel Councillors and Guardians 1919-25". This one I'm really looking forward to as it deals with the practical outworking of Lansbury's own relationship with those he was elected to represent.Just read an old blog post by Janine Booth regarding Minnie Lansbury. I hope the book will highlight her work as well.
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Galloway and the Palestinian cause

Here's a gem of a clip from George Galloway's radio show. Whether you like him,love him or loathe him you can't deny his commitment to the Palestinian cause. And he's great entertainment. Mind you with foils like this....

Given the dreadful level of ignorance around the issue of the Palestinians I do despair.

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Saturday, 29 August 2009

MIA: Boggy

OK, he's not pretty, his head's too small for his body, he's boss-eyed and he's got a bit of a temper. But he's a loved moggy. And he's gone missing. :(

We came back from a week's holiday to discover no trace of him. The person who had been feeding the cats said he was there on the Friday. Saturday, no sign.

He was there when my youngest said his first words; he was there when my sons had their first day at school; he was there when my wife and I got married; he was there when I dealt with the grief of losing my parents; he was always there.

And now he's gone.

I live in hope.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Tax and conscience?

Dispersion of chlorine in World War IImage via Wikipedia

Listening to the radio the other day, can't remember what it was but I do recall something along the lines of ;

home taping/drugs/knock-off cds and dvds contributes to organised crime/mafia/people trafficking/swine flu ( * delete as appropriate )

You know, one of those messages where the authorities want to deter you from doing something slightly dodgy by appealing to your conscience.

Then I got to thinking about the same concept and government taxation. What dodgy dealings does my tax contribute to?
  • invasion
  • war
  • chemical weapons
  • weapons of mass destruction
  • regime overthrow
  • suppression of political dissent
  • kidnapping
  • financial corruption
I'm giving up there, the list is going to be too long.
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Thursday, 20 August 2009

Double or quits

Snouts in the troughImage by Ruth Flickr via Flickr

The real colour of the establishment showed through recently with the absurd claims by Tory grandees Douglas Hogg and Patrick Cormack. Both are claiming that the pay of MPs should be doubled in return for scrapping the second home allowance.

Hogg claimed that their pay had fallen so low that it was insufficient to support the lifestyle "to which most professional and business classes aspire."

What better supporting evidence that short of knocking the capitalist system on its head we need to ensure that MPs receive the average workers wage, plus justified expenses.

I really thought that we had left the era of the toffs behind. Apparently not.

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Friday, 14 August 2009

The Yanks, the NHS and the Tories

Seems that certain sections of the US political scene have been falling over themselves to knock the NHS. Words and phrases such as 'evil', 'Orwellian' and 'death panels' have been bandied about to stoke up fear of the red menance and to have a pop at Obama.

Seems not so long ago that there were a number of blog posts regarding the home grown Tory attitude towards the NHS, especially that expressed by Daniel Hannah the Tory MEP. He was having a great old time in the land of the free putting the boot into the concept and practice of the NHS, much to the delight of the interviewer.

I blogged about it here in April but you'll find his youtube video all over the place. In fact I'll embed it again as it's well worth watching. The condemnation from Cameron over Daniel Hannah's interview was noticeable by it's absence.

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Jim Fitzpatrick and the Muslim Wedding

The East London MosqueImage by hugovk via Flickr

So we hear that the Farming Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick has walked out of an Islamic Wedding at the London Muslim Centre because he didn't agree with the policy of seperating the sexes during part of the ceremony. I'm not sure if he has raised the issue or other parties have flagged it up but he seems hell-bent on distancing himself from the Islamic community in his constituency of Poplar and Canning Town, a community which represents perhaps 30% of the voters.

I had been cobbling together a blog post about this but then reading the press release from Respect I thought to hell with it, they've put it so much better! So why not just post it!

Friday 14th August 2009

George Galloway today condemned Government Food Minister Jim Fitzpatrick's attack on a Muslim wedding as a "disgusting insult, cynically motivated by political opportunism".

Fitzpatrick issued a press release this week to the East London Advertiser announcing he had refused to enter a Muslim wedding party at the London Muslim Centre to which he had been invited because his wife was asked to go to the section for women only.

"Fitzpatrick must have been a to a hundred segregated weddings, not least in the West of Scotland," said Galloway. "Only now has he decided to gratuitously insult the family and friends of the bride and groom in the cheap pursuit of Islamophobic votes and as part of the vicious faction fight going on in the local Labour Party."

Galloway continued: "It is for the bride and groom and their respective families to determine the wedding arrangements in line with their religious commitments and customs. If you don't want to go to a Muslim wedding, don't go. But don't turn up and then carry out a wholly artificial politically motivated stunt.

"I am simply amazed and astounded by this behaviour by a government minister who represents a very substantial Muslim minority in his constituency. I honestly did not think anyone could stoop so low, but Fitzpatrick really has got down in the gutter in his increasingly desperate attempt to hold on to his parliamentary seat.

"And Fitzpatrick has singled out the Islamic Forum of Europe for attack because they have been demonised by the faction Fitzpatrick is supporting in the civil war raging in the Tower Hamlets Labour Party. The (Labour) council leader Lutfur Rahman and his close Muslim colleagues on the council have all been condemned as members of the IFE by their opponents within the Labour Party who are motivated more by career ambitions than any principled difference.

"It is clear that Fitzpatrick's actions and subsequent statement are not only a desperate and, I am sure, unsuccessful ploy to try to shore up his collapsing support in his constituency but also part of that fight which is tearing the Labour Party apart. I have no doubt this will backfire very badly on him and he will thoroughly deserve it."
Listening to a debate on this issue on LBC Radio this morning there didn't seem to be much going on in the minister's favour. Certainly some of the suggestions that he' spandering to the right wing by seemingly highlighting the 'islamisation' of society deserve some consideration.

We have a Minister with a large muslim minority in his constituency, a large muslim minority we should add. We also have a government, of which he is a Minister that in the eyes of the muslim community is invading and killing muslims in other countries.

Is this event the beginning of the government changing tack and realising that the traditional support they have recieved from muslims in Britain could be coming to an end, and they have to redefine the demographic of their support through the demonisation of the British Islamic community.


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Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Some reading

Being a rail commuter has given me some quality time to catch up on reading. As it's payday I've ordered a few new books to tide me over.

Currently I'm ploughing through Marx's Capital Vol 1 but it's not a book I can read from cover to cover without several intermissions, so

My new reading list is:

  • Summer of Blood: The Peasants' Revolt of 1381 by Dan Jones
  • Keir Hardie: A Biography by Caroline Benn
  • Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada ( h/t Mick )
Ones which I have left until I'm through with this batch are:

  • Paul Robeson: A Biography by Martin Bauml Duberman
  • Hewlett Johnson, Priest, Prophet, and Man of Action by Clive Hancock, Hewlett Johnson
  • The Man Who Was Thursday: A Nightmare by G. K. Chesterton
Let's hope the Royal Mail management don't start kicking off with their wacky schemes for 'modernisation'.

Any suggestions for reading gratefully received!
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Saturday, 1 August 2009

You Choose!

Paul RobesonImage by ClevelandSGS via Flickr

"Every artist, every scientist, must decide now where he stands. He has no alternative. There is no standing above the conflict on Olympian heights. .. The battlefield is everywhere, there is no sheltered rear..... Fascism fights to destroy the culture which Society has created; created through pain and suffering, through desperate toil, but with unconquerable will and lofty vision . . - What matters a man's profession or vocation? Fascism is no respector of persons. It makes no distinction between combatants and non-combatants... The artist must take sides; he must elect to fight for freedom or for slavery. I have made my choice. I have no alternative. The history of the capitalist era is characterised by the degradation of my people; despoiled of their lands, their women ravished, their culture destroyed... I say the true artist cannot hold himself aloof. The legacy of culture from our predecessors is in danger. It is the foundation upon which we build a still more lofty edifice. It belongs not only to us, not only to the present generation, it belongs to posterity and must be defended to the death." - Paul Robeson, 1937

You choose.

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Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Soul of Man Under Capitalism: NHS - Unwittingly Breeding Terrorism?

The Soul of Man Under Capitalism: NHS - Unwittingly Breeding Terrorism?

Missed this one, well worth a read.

The Left and Faith

Fotografía de Gustavo Gutiérrez Merino, teólog...Image via Wikipedia

I know I shouldn't but I take great delight in watching the rise in blood pressure that invariably develops amongst certain on the left whenever faith comes into the conversation. I'm reminded of the numerous occurrences from the Hammer films popular in my youth where Christopher Lee's Dracula recoils from the crucufix or clove of garlic held aloft by Peter Cushing's Van Helsing. There is somethng about 'faith' that many have difficulty grasping, of seeing beyond their typecasting or negative preconceptions or even dare I say, bigotry.

There is a long and sweet history of faith working in the realms of the 'left in the UK. We can look back to the radical christian and faith movements that flourished around the time of the English Civil War, to the reformers calling for the abolition of slavery, to emancipation, to relief for the poor, to housing and employment and trade unions. We can look to the almost remembered past where icons of the labour movement were driven, at least partly or initially by their faith in their desire to obtain justice for the workers and for the poor. Think Hardie, Lansbury, Mann and many others. In times not so long ago we have seen some influence of Liberation Theology and the Catholic Workers Association within the Catholic community. In today's times we see the activities within the peace movement of many people who define themselves by their faith. And also in foreign climes people of faith have contributed to the struggle against oppression. Dorothy Day, Father Thomas Hagerty, Merino, Metz and Chavez spring to my mind.

This isn't to say that we can make a statement along the lines of 'faith = left' as there are also many, many situations where the churches and those of faith have sided with the oppressors for their own ends or where their interpretation of theology leads to marginalisation and inequality. But as the church itself is not one politically homogeneous structure, neither is the left. Just as the church can act and appear in a variety of conflicting ways and thoughts so does the left. Just as the church and faith groups can cherry-pick their understanding of the activities of the left, so do those on the left allow their own prejudices to colour their view of the church and people of faith.

One thing which does concern me is the current opinion whereby faith is something that needs to be actively expunged from public view and life. Less of a case of freedom of religion and more along the lines of freedom from religion. The left itself in a worldwide view has been at the sharp end of oppressive governments and states where being seen as left-wing is a portent of the breaking down of a door and the sound of boots in the hallway before becoming one of the 'disappeared'. Or where being seen on the left causes employment issues. We've seen this in the structure of the European Union where people who were previosuly part of the 'Communist' state establishment in former Warsaw Pact countries have been denied positions within the EU governmental framework. So I do get worried when I see the left in power denying people a public platform because of some perceived worldview that someone may have. We are all subject to our worldview being shaped both by what we believe, what personal philosopy or politic we hold to and what we are fed by the media. Not one of us has ever had a single thought that hasn't been influenced somewhere along the line by our history, culture or personal experience.

But there are parties in existence where the 'marxist' left have become bed fellows with faith groups. Respect is one where the SWP have worked with muslim and other groups to form a political party of broad support that has had council success and put one MP into Parliament. We have seen in the recent Euro elections that the various factions and parties of the left have been unable to make a political breakthrough under their own steam. Low turnout and split votes have retained the dominance of the incumbent political parties. The best outcome for those of a progressive view in this political climate is through coalition and compromise. I think we have seen the first fruits of that, and my hope is that the left is a broad enough 'church' to encompass all groups that make up society without discrimiation along faith or religious lines.
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Sunday, 26 July 2009

A Voice of Reason II

WELLS, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 09:  Harry Pa...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The last British survivor of the World War I trenches, Harry Patch, has died at the age of 111.

Mr Patch was conscripted into the Army aged 18 and fought in the Battle of Passchendaele at Ypres in 1917 in which more than 70,000 British soldiers died.

Something he said a few years ago is worth repeating.

Why should the British government call me up and take me out to a battlefield to shoot a man I never knew, whose language I couldn’t speak? All those lives lost for a war finished over a table. Now what is the sense in that, but still we send our lads to war. In Iraq, our young men are being killed and told to kill.

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Friday, 24 July 2009

A Voice of Reason

The pass of Salang, approximately 3800 meters ...Image via Wikipedia

Listen to what Lance Corporal Joe Glenton says about the war in Afghanistan. He deserves all the support the progressive movement can provide if the authorities decide to go after him.

Read more here

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