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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The Future for Housing

Council houses at Hackenthorpe, South YorkshireImage via Wikipedia

Me and my wife tried to get a council house more than 20 years ago but were basically told that we haven't a chance in hell. So we had to purchase in a completely new area as where we lived is considered an affluent area and house prices reflected this. Basically even with both working we couldn't afford anything. We eventually moved about 18 miles away leaving family, friends and our roots.

Move forward a couple of years and we considered moving house. A visit to a mortgage broker exposed us to what I then saw as an unsustainable aspect of the housing market. House prices were high and the ability for many to meet the lenders requirements was becoming more difficult. The lenders couldn't reduce their criteria any more than they had so they changed tack. We were offered what was called a 'self-certificated' mortgage. The upshot is that you lie through your teeth about how much you earn and then you lie lie about your ability to repay.

It was a way to artificially sustain the climb in house prices, and was a portent of the crisis to come.

Anyways, this leads to my thoughts about housing and what I'd like to see done.

For me housing is a basic human necessity and right. It's a fundamental support for family and community cohesion. It's too basic a need and too special to be treated as a commodity or a way of 'making money' and definitely shouldn't have anything to do with the financial spivs and parasites. As such I think the profit motive associated with housing needs to be removed. But how?

Some thoughts:
  • remove the profit aspect through fiscal means, taxation etc
  • remove the house from the personal estate
  • bring all housing under 'social' control
  • allowing owners to transfer their house to the council and then rented back to them at sustainable rates
  • a massive drive in social housing construction to reduce the price of private property
Just pie in the sky thinking I expect. But it would be good to aim for something like this.

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Oh the irony!

LONDON - OCTOBER 09:  Prime Minister Gordon Br...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Looks like Prime Minister Brown and Justice Jack have sprayed themselves in a sticky dose of irony.

They plan to change the legal loophole where suspected war criminals and those accused of crimes against humanity before 2001 can remain at large in the UK and avoid prosecution.

Speaking at the press conference, the PM said:

My message to those accused is simply - your time is up. You may have run from responsibility but you can no longer hide from justice.

I look forward to the day when Blair, Brown, Straw and the myriad of other world neo-con leaders and hawks have those words come back to haunt them.
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Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Unite the Union to call for Tube strike ballot

London Underground roundel logoImage via Wikipedia

Well we've had the RMT out on strike recently and now Unite which represents 600 engineering, electrical, and management workers employed by London Underground has today (Tuesday) decided to reject the employer’s ‘final’ pay offer.

The union will now be balloting it's members with regards to what action to take next.

It will be interesting to see the response of the RMT with crossing picket lines. Can't remember if Unite members respected the picket during the recent RMT action. Anyone know?

In 2008, job descriptions and salaries reveal that the average pay, benefits and bonuses of Transport for London (TfL) top management was £140,000. One hundred and twenty-three TfL managers earned more than £100,000 in 2007-08.

I hope that the wider union movement can counter the expected foaming at the mouth of the press and media. We need to make people understand that actions such as this are always in response to actions by the management and to put the focus where it belongs - with management and their constant moving of the goalposts and the race to the bottom whilst retaining and increasing their generous salaries and plush pension funds.

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Pay Justice for Women Workers

Back in 1997 there were meetings between unions and local government representatives to discuss equal pay. The idea was to kickstart the process of ensuring everyone was paid an honest day's pay for an honest day's work and the result was the single status agreement. But things didn't go as quickly as planned. In 2003, six years after the initial meeting a revised deal was agreed with a deadline of 2007 to implement the agreement. Come 2007 only a third of councils had implemeted the equal pay agreements. Adding fuel to the fire there was an EU ruling in 2004 that the disparity could be back-dated up to 6 years allowing many people to claim this.

It's now 2009 and in many councils the workers are still waiting to see the fruits of this agreement. But the councils would do well to view the recent tribunal outcome regarding Bury Metropolitan Borough Council.

BBC News

What the BBC don't mention is that the council execs squandered over half a million quid trying to fight a legal requirement. And their response? Apologies for trying to defend immoral actions? Graciously accepting that they had been trying to keep the majority femaile workers on lower wages than they were legally entitled to? No, not a chance. Their attitude is that they expect the workers to pay. So says council chief Mark Sanders "Jobs will go - there's no doubt about that,".

Sound familiar? Those in authority cock things up, workers pay the price? Hmm, banking crisis anyone?

Anyways, congratulations to Unison for pushing this through. And shame on those councils and their leaders whose incompetence, stupidity, criminality, mysoginy and intransigence are creating a situation that is entirely their own creation. I hope the voters will be made aware come the local elections.

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Monday, 6 July 2009

O Israel, What Are You Doing To Gaza?

Israel and Gaza -17Image by Amir Farshad Ebrahimi via Flickr

Cast Lead, Israel’s military offensive against Gaza killed more than 1,300 people, wounded many more, made tens of thousands of people homeless, and destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure. Six months later, the report says, its inhabitants have been unable to rebuild their lives due to Israel’s blockade.

The UN estimate that $2.4 billion is needed to repair the damage. At a conference in Egypt $1.3 billion has been pledged for reconstruction in Gaza. The amount that the Israeli state has allowed into Gaza for reconstruction is a big fat zero.

For God's sake, where is the humanity?

Read more.

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Shrewsbury 24 Papers Not Released

LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 12:  Actor Ricky Tomli...Image by Getty Images via Daylife

The 'Shrewsbury 24' were a group of union members who were involved in trying to maintain the national strike whch hit the building industry in 1972. Among the demands of the strike were a 35 hour week and an end to the 'lump', a way of employers avoiding financial and health and safety aspects for the workforce.

In a clearly political move the Tory government made an example of 24 unuion members, known as the 'Shrewsbury 24' and had them arrested and sent to trial on charges of affray, unlawful assembly and conspiracy. Two of the 24, Des Warren and Eric ( Ricky ) Tomlinson were convicted of conspiracy and sent to prison. Des Warren died in 2004 from drug-induced Parkinson's, caused by the use of the 'chemical cosh' whilst in prison. Ricky Tomlinson was subsequently blacklisted upon his release and denied his trade but has managed to carve a career as an actor and comedian.

For a long time there has been a call for the files involved in this case to be released but this has always been refused. Even recently with a request under the Freedom of Information Act the Home Secretary 'Justice' Jack Straw refused to release them under grounds of national security.

Last Saturday there was a march and rally in support of the 24 organised by the Shropshire and Telford Trades Council.

Much more over at A Very Public Sociologist: Marching with the Shrewsbury 24

Quite what could be a threat to national security in the papers relating to these obviosuly political show trials is beyond my ken. My suspicion would be wrong doing and law breaking by the justice system. One day we will know, and our memories will not have faded.

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Sunday, 5 July 2009

Pirates of the Mediterranean II

This image shows many of the characteristics c...Image via Wikipedia

I recently discovered what could be the reason for the apparent increase in the hijacking of ships off the coast of Somlia. There was a documentary or summat about the issue and the claim was made that piracy has increased because given the lack of an effective Somalian government the 'western' nations operating fishing fleets in the Mediterranean were treating Somalian waters as open season, reducing stocks and so denying the Somalian fishermen the catches they traditonally enjoy.

So that could be why we are seeing increased Somalian piracy.

But it doesn't explain how at the other end of the Mediterranean boats are being shot at and borded and the crew and passengers being banged up in a middle eastern jail. I'm reminded of Midnight Express at this point!

For those who haven't twigged this is about the Israeli state thinking it's ok to arrest foreign nationals in international waters.

The Respect Partys Yvonne Ridley puts it so much better:

Pirates of the Mediterranean: Part II
Yvonne Ridley

Wednesday 1st July 2009

The arrogance of Israel is nothing short of breathtaking.

On the eve of one of the most damning reports ever to be published on human rights abuses and suspected war crimes, Israel committed an act of piracy. While western naval fleets are patrolling the waters off the coast of Africa, acts of piracy are being carried out routinely in the Mediterranean.

But the international community leaders couldn't care less because most of those who are kidnapped, shot at and hijacked at sea are Palestinian fishermen from Gaza.

However yesterday Israel crossed a line after firing on and boarding a boat carrying aid and peace activists to Gaza.

The 21 on board included former US Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire, who were taken prisoner by the Israeli navy after gunboats surrounded and seized the Free Gaza Movement relief boat 'Spirit of Humanity' on Monday.

The aid was seized, their mobile phones confiscated and no doubt cameras capturing the illegal actions of the Israelis were also removed.

"This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip," said Cynthia McKinney, the Green Party's 2008 candidate for President of the United States.

"President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that's exactly what we tried to do. We're asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey."

In the past the Israeli Navy has claimed that boats have entered their territorial waters and breached their part of the sea in the eastern Med.

However, thousands across the world who followed the progress of the Free Gaza Movement boat Spirit of Humanity by internet, GPS, Twitter and various other means of communications over the last 30 hours know for sure that the boat was illegally stopped in international waters.

This is piracy. Nothing more. Nothing less.

It's anyone's guess what will happen to the Humanity's cargo of medical supplies, cement, olive trees, and children's toys.

But what we need from Barak Obama and Gordon Brown (there are at least half a dozen Brits on that boat) is strong leadership in which Israel apologises and allows the boat and its passengers to continue the journey into Gaza.

The G8 leaders all know what the Israeli Army did in Gaza and the war crimes that were carried out making it impossible for the Zionist military to travel into most European countries for fear of being arrested.

And in the next 24 hours Amnesty International will spell out exactly what was done on the ground during that 22-day war.

We know that the fourth largest military in the world, a military given weapons by Britain and the US, destroyed 50,000 homes, 800 industrial properties and 200 schools.

During a recent trip to Gaza with the Viva Palestina convoy, I saw the scores of mosques bombed - even orphanages had been targeted. The net result was the slaughter of more than 1,400 civilians, including hundreds of children.

How long is Israel going to be allowed to behave as it wants ... and even likes?

I saw, with disbelief, some of the taunting, sadistic messages scrawled on lounge walls in bombed out homes by departing Israeli soldiers - one even left his email for “any complaints”.

I remember when Tony Blair, called the Taliban the most evil, brutal regime in the world and he justified this statement because he said they didn't even allow children to fly kites.

He wondered at the mentality of a regime which could be so cruel to children.

That was way back in November 2001. Well I wonder what he would think of a regime which blocks cherries, kiwi fruit and chocolate from reaching the hands of the children in Gaza? Yes, t hat's how evil this Zionist regime is ... it can't even bear the thought of these poor kids receiving a few tasty treats.

Every week, about 10 officers from the Israel Defence Force's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit meet to decide what sort of food the 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip can eat.

Let's name and shame the men this gruesome threesome - Colonel Moshe Levi, Colonel Alex Rosenzweig, and Colonel Doron Segal. All three decided a few days back that apricots, plums, grapes, avocados, cherries, kiwi fruit, green almonds, pomegranates and chocolate were "delicacies" and therefore expressly prohibited.

I will return to these three shameful soldiers at a later date, but let's return to today's events which has, in my view, reconfirmed Israel as a rogue state by launching into international piracy yet again.

You will notice the top of this story is called Pirates of the Mediterranean II - that's because I wrote an article in December revealing how another free Gaza Movement boat, the SS Dignity, was rammed by an Israeli naval gunboat.

The act of aggression on a peace mission was launched in international waters 90 miles off Gaza, without any warning to the captain of the Dignity or the crew. Israel claimed the incident was an accident and that its naval officers had made numerous attempts to communicate with the Dignity. The Israelis ‘accidentally' rammed the boat no less than three times. The Israelis accused the international activists then of "seeking provocation more than ever." Isn't it amazing how the Zionist State suddenly goes belly up and adopts a victim mentality?

Exactly what the hell is Israel up to by banning or trying to prevent boats from entering waters not in its territory? This is the Mediterranean. Just when did Israel assume complete authority of the Med? Israel's deplorable attack yesterday, and its previous one on the unarmed Dignity is a violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states, "the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes."

Delivering aid to the needy is just such a "peaceful purpose." Deliberately ramming or hijacking mercy ships and endangering its passengers is an act of terrorism and piracy. I say Western fleets should now head to the Mediterranean to crack down on this breed of pirates who make the Somali gangs look like Captain Pugwash and co. The Somali pirates are motivated by money - that makes them criminals. The Israelis commit these acts out of sadistic pleasure ... what does that make them? And if they are allowed to continue, what will that make the likes of Obama, Brown and the other cabal of foreign leaders who look the other way? Enough is enough.

The time has come to acknowledge that Israel is a failed project, a rogue state - and a danger to ordinary, decent, law-abiding members of the public. Until it comes to heel the international community needs to impose sanctions, freeze its assets, stop selling arms and installing a UN peacekeeping Force to bring it under control because it is a menace to its neighbours and the wider world.

For more information and updates, see the Free Gaza Movement web site , including the latest release on the seizure of the relief boat

For communications and updates from Cynthia McKinney, visit her Green Party page and blog

* Journalist Yvonne Ridley and film-maker Aki Nawaz sailed to Gaza with the FGM on the first mission to break the siege in August 2008. Ridley was given a media award at the annual Muslim News awards. Her website is
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Friday, 3 July 2009

Tesco to take over Northen Rock?

Had to be done!

David Rovics - Jenin

Reading the Amnesty report into Cast Lead, Israel's criminal excursion into Gaza in late December 2008 brought to mind an apt song, Jenin by David Rovics.

I remember listening to this for the first time a few months ago in the car. I remember it starting off and then getting darker and darker and as the last few verses appeared my mind was thinking:


I did actually turn it off before the end initially but a few minutes later managed to listen all the way through.

A very powerful song. Do listen although I won't say 'Enjoy'.

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Thursday, 2 July 2009

Cast Lead - Amnesty International Report

Gazans left homeless following Israel's Cast L...Image by ISM Palestine via Flickr

Amnesty Internation have produced their report into Operation Cast Lead, conducted by the Israelis in the Gaza Strip.

You can download it here. It makes grim and tearful reading though, as this excerpt shows:

One of the most shocking cases is that of the al-Sammouni family, who lost 31 members of their extended family in the al-Zaytoun neighbourhood, in the south-east of Gaza City. Most of those who perished were killed when one of the family homes, that of Wa’el al-Sammouni, was shelled, seemingly with tank rounds, on 5 January 2009, a day after Israeli soldiers had ordered dozens of family members to move there from a nearby house belonging to the same extended family. In addition to those killed in the attack, several other family members who had been wounded in it died in the following days as they remained trapped in the house because the army did not allow ambulances to reach the area. Several family members bled to death over a three-day period while they waited in vain for someone to rescue them. Children lay for three days without food or water next to the bodies of their dead mother, siblings and other relatives.

If that isn't a war crime then what is?

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Wednesday, 1 July 2009

More Propoganda From the BBC

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 2Image by Daniella Zalcman via Flickr

The situation in Iran is tense, there's been a war of words between the Iranian leadership and those gentlemen and ladies of impeccable character in the UK government, so the BBC shouldn't be inflaming the situation as an 'impartial' reporter of news?

You'd think so. So why the hell do they trot out a headline like this?

Iran 'frees more British staff'

See what they did there? A glance at the headline and it seems those dastardly turbanned johnny foreigner Iranimaniacs have taken hostage British citizens. Except they aren't British citizens, they are Iranians who work at the British Embassy.

Propaganda and double-speak on behalf of the corrupt and immoral British government.

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Jah Wobble Visions of You

An excellent song from Jah Wobble.