Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Blogging from Scotland

Catriona Grant here from Scotland - well Edinburgh, loosing her uh hum blog virginity here, I've joined the Stroppy Bird collective on the basis I'm a bird and rather stroppy though I can be sweet too. I'm a member of the Scottish Socialist Party and currently I am the Women and Equality Policy Co-ordinator for the party. When not doing SSP stuff I am involved in Save Our Old Town (SOOT) - check out our website We are campaigning against unscrupulous developers who think it'sOK to bulldoze council housing and build a 5 star hotel, demolish listed buildings in a World Heritage Site and build as few affordable housing that they could get away with. And just in case I didn't have enough I also am the Chair of the Canongate Community Forum - trying to improve our community. It's hard having a community in a city centre in a World Heritage Site. I am a feminist and a socialist and I am gonna stick my head out here but I think I swerve on the rad fem type of feminism and I am a Marxist too. I am ina relationship with Eddie Truman - he manages . Anyway if and when I can think of anything useful, interesting or quirky, I will blog it onto Stroppy Bird to see what happens. So hope to see you soon, if that'sOK.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Second Life - how about a virtual revolution !

Now I spend too much time on the Internet as it is, so I have avoided Second Life. I have enough trouble sorting out my first life and keeping my imagination in check as it is. Recent reports though have caught my attention. But first for those who have not heard of it, a little introduction :

Second Life (abbreviated as SL) is an Internet-based virtual world launched in 2003, ... developed by Linden Research, Inc (commonly referred to as Linden Lab). A downloadable client program enables its users, called "Residents", to interact with each other through motional avatars, providing an advanced level of a social network service combined with general aspects of a metaverse. Residents can explore, meet other Residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, create and trade items (virtual property) and services from one another.

While Second Life is sometimes referred to as a game, this description is disputed.
... It is a semi-structured virtual environment where characters undertake activities for the purpose of personal enjoyment.

In all, more than seven million accounts have been registered, although many are inactive, some Residents have multiple accounts, and there are no reliable figures for actual long term consistent usage. Despite its prominence, Second Life has notable competitors, including There, Active Worlds, and Red Light Center (albeit more "mature" themed).

I'm curious about this, though not enough to pop over and get caught up in it. Is it escapism, is the real world so crap for people they want to inhabit this virtual world? How much does the real world impinge on it? Well on the last one it seems more and more. I read a few weeks back about the business community, the large corporations, buying up islands and space there.

So no escape from the business world, and now no escape from god bothers . Yep, the Catholic Church sees it as a chance to snap up some new recruits . A report in The Times (via New Humanist Blog) states :

Roman Catholic missionaries must reap a virtual harvest of cyber-souls in the kingdom of Second Life: this is the new instruction to the faithful.

It appears in the Jesuit journal La Civiltà Cattolica, a Rome-based publication approved by the Vatican Secretariat of State, in an article by the academic priest Father Antonio Spadaro.
Father Spadaro urges Catholics to go out into the simulation game of Second Life, to lead the cyber-embodiments of their fellow men and women out of the many temptations that exist there.

Amid the virtual towns, however, sin has flourished. Freed from the constraints of their real lives, many occupants indulge in random fornication, and prostitution is flourishing. Gambling is widespread and, although occupants are free from the ravages of alcohol and drug abuse, they are vulnerable to mindless consumerism.

“It is not possible to turn a blind eye to this phenomenon, or offhandedly pass judgment glorifying or condemning it,” says Father Spadaro.
As in any society where sin flourishes, so does religion – of every kind. There are already hundreds of churches, synagogues, mosques and temples serving the faithful, many of whom regard it as their latest virtual mission to save Second Lifers.

Father Spadaro cautions the uninitiated that “the erotic dimension is very present” in Second Life.

While the virtual world might be a refuge for some people seeking to flee the real one, it is also full of people seeking something more from life, including, possibly, religious enlightenment, Father Spadaro says. “Deep down, the digital world can be considered, in its way, mission territory. Second Life is somewhere where the opportunity to meet people and to grow should not be missed. Therefore, any initiative that can inspire the residents in a positive way should be considered opportune.”

Admitting that the anonymous nature of the site means a person’s virtual appearance can be open and honest, he adds: “On the other hand, one can also get caught up in a spontaneity that knows no limits or discretion.”

So one sniff of people having fun and there they are, butting and in preaching. Pah, is there nowhere the puritanical god bothers won't go.

So, where is the left in all this? Perhaps we should all pile in there and recreate all the sectarianism and infighting.We could recreate all the groups, sell virtual papers and have virtual meetings. Would we ever all agree ?

Hey, wonder what the line is on Second Life?


Sunday, July 29, 2007

A Zimbabwean Feminist Speaks

Hat tip to Chris for pointing me in the direction of this very interesting interview with a Zimbabwean feminist. Shereen Essof is described as "a Zimbabwean feminist and revolutionary activist currently based in Cape Town, South Africa." She describes a country in which inflation runs at 1,700%, and where life expectancy for men is 37 and for women 34 - but where luxury cars drive around Harare. A country where Mugabe (pictured) is an appalling repressive dictator, but the opposition MDC is far from perfect.

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Trade Union Movement Flagellates Itself

Reports are coming through that the National Union of Turkeys has invited Bernard Matthews to be the guest speaker at its annual Congress. Union leader Brendan Gobbler explained that in the spirit of partnership, it was important to accept the hand of friendship from Mr Matthews. He confirmed that turkeys would be invited to Mr Gobbler's Slaughterers' Association annual feast, where they would be given a prime slot on the menu, erm, agenda.

Rejecting the bad old days of relentless hostility between turkeys and farmers, Mr Gobbler said that they did not want to be left out in the cold this Christmas, and argued that "You've got to be on the plate to be in the debate".

In fact, what has actually happened is that the TUC has invited the Director-General of the CBI to be a guest speaker at Congress this year. And when some members of the General Council objected, General Secretary Brendan Barber retorted that it was too late, since the invite had already been sent! A few worthy souls voted to send a dis-invitation in the next post, but the majority of the workers' leaders did not wish to offend their members' masters.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

'Team Stroppy'

As mentioned in earlier posts, Stroppyblog now has two more Stroppy women, Janine and MarshaJane.

I quite like the idea of having a range of stroppy socialist feminist women contributing here. As Dave so charmingly put it, 'Harridan's Place'. Hmmm !!
The trouble is , socialist feminist women are thin on the ground on the blogs. There are wussy (yes,Punchie, more than even me) soft left types or rad fem types. When this blog was set up the idea was to act as a bridge between feminist and socialist ideas , particularly at a time when the left seem to be busy dropping their feminist, lesbian and gay and many other principles so easily.

MarshaJane and Janine on board is a start. I'm giving some thought to what else this blog can do. In the mean time I would like to encourage stroppy women to perhaps guest blog here. Some women may not be into having a blog or regularly posting, so this blog could serve as a platform for occasional posts from them. If that encourages them to set up their own blog all well and good.

So get in touch if you are interested.The e-mail is in the profile.


Oscar - a spooky feline

Apparently Oscar , pictured, seems to know when residents at a nursing home are about to die :

A US cat with an apparent ability to sense when a nursing home's residents are about to die is baffling doctors.
Oscar has a habit of curling up next to patients at the home in Providence, Rhode Island, in their final hours.

The two-year-old cat has been correct in 25 cases so far and staff now alert the families of residents when he sits down next to their ailing loved one.

The case is the subject of a study in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Doctors say that when Oscar settles next to a patient, it can mean he or she may have as little as two hours to live.

"He doesn't make many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die," David Dosa, a professor at Brown University who carried out the research, told the Associated Press news agency.

Oscar was adopted as a kitten at Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Centre.

The cat is said to do his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses at the home, but is not generally friendly to patients.

Although most families are grateful for the warning Oscar seems to provide, some relatives ask that the pet be taken away while they say their last goodbyes to their loved ones.

When put outside the room, Oscar is said to pace up and down meowing in protest.

Thomas Graves, a feline expert from the University of Illinois, told the BBC: "Cats often can sense when their owners are sick or when another animal is sick.
"They can sense when the weather will change, they're famous for being sensitive to premonitions of earthquakes."

A doctor who treats patients at the home said she believed there was probably a biochemical explanation, rather than the cat being psychic.

I can imagine that may freak out some of the people there, a sense of unease as he prowls around, hoping he does not settle by their side.

I think if I was about to die I would find a cat curled up by my side quite calming.


Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. I don't care what you think, I love it.

Spent the weekend with my nose in a book. Finished by Sunday night. Somehow also managed to buy a new computer, set it up, take it apart again, take it back to the shop and demand the parts that they 'forgot' to pack, set it up again, and spend a bit of quality time with my family too.

Obviously, I'm not going to give away any essential bits of the plot. I will say, though, that after the last book, I had this theory about the identity of R.A.B. and my mate Rosie had this theory about Severus Snape. As it turns out, we were both right.

No doubt, cynics will continue to write dreary newspaper columns and tut at 'grown-ups' reading HP on the bus. But there will be no apologies from me. So it's undemanding? Escapism? And so what?

It's also absolutely gripping. You just have to know what's going to happen next. So you eat your tea one-handed, and decide that today is the day that your kids simply have to learn to dress themselves. Because you care about the characters, because the narrative drives you on. I guess it helps to like fantasy, and to love all that myth and legend stuff too.

But this book also manages to convey that parts of Harry and friends' search for the Horcruxes is drawn out, boring, frustrating. And it also has its Grand Emotional Themes - that the only way to 'master' death is to accept it, that even those you admire and trust most have faults, that kids born into evil have the right to redeem themselves, that you might not know people as well as you think, that pressure and fear create friction amongst the closest friends and self-doubt that can nearly consume you.

And it's allegory of the bad guys as fascists is the most blatant yet. A prison called Nurmengard, indeed. And the Muggle-Born Registration Commission made me come over all chilly - a fantasy persecution so horribly similar to real ones.

Ok, so there are bits about the way JK Rowling writes that jar a little - personally, I can't bear the word 'numbly', but it has always seemed to be one of her favourites. And yes, it's obscene how filthy rich she is. But I wish I could write books like this. And I'm sad that it's all over.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Low pay

Thanks to Stroppy for inviting me to 'bring a bit of class' to the blog ;)

Though I think I'll stick to a safer topic for my first post!

Low pay - some of you will know that the Socialist Youth Network that I co-chair with Owen Jones is Launching a COalition Fighting Unfair Pay (COFUP) on Tuesday night (and I hope to see some of you there, Cttee room 9 House of Commons)

We'll have a broad range of speakers from trade unionists, MP's, Councillors and local campaigns.

On the same day at 12 oclock the Freemantle care workers in Barnet will be ending a 24 hour strike - this is exactly the reason why we need a campaign to fight for Labour Councils and the Labour Party to have a policy of a decent living wage.

We need to be ensuring that the government stops ignoring workers that are suffering because of Browns privatisation agenda.

Privatisation and the break up of local government has made thousands of workers vulnerable to having their pay driven down in this way and some local politicians then refuse to accept that they are responsible because these are not direct Council employees.

Its not too late to send a message of support to the Barnet Freemantle workers so please do
via John Burgess Barnet Unison

There is also a Rally at the start of the Strike tomorrow at:
Dell Field Court
Etchingham Park
N3 2DY
1.30 - 2.30
Nearest tube Finchley Central (Northern Line)

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Denham behind the wheel !!

Congratulations to Jim for passing his driving test.

Jim, that suave Cary Grant look alike , was finding the long long walk to the nearest offie a bit of a drag. Of course this is self-inflicted. The lesson is do not sign puritanical petitions ,even if asked by sweet little old ladies. Now he has to drive and that will lead to giving lifts to comrades and staying sober, as Volty puts it :

It’s an achievement that he’s already apprehensive about as he’s beginning to realise that sometimes he’ll now have to be the guy who says “not for me thanks, I’m driving” - a phrase he didn’t previously realise existed in the English lexicon. He’ll also be chauffeuring people to political events and jazz gigs before you know it.

I can picture him now, behind the wheel of a little red sports car , wearing a cravat .

Jim, pictured, before he passed his test.


Stroppyblog - blogger, Wordpress or own blog ?

Seems lots of people are leaving blogger for wordpress. Others have their own independent blog. I'm wondering whether to move of blogger. I don't have that many problems, but I'm up for moving if another platform is better, less problematic and allows me to do more.

I would be really interested to hear what other bloggers have to say on this from their own experiences. Comments please .

Saturday, July 21, 2007

BNP Scum Say Boycott Muslim Cabbies

The vile BNP is calling on residents of the Stoke area to boycott Muslim-owned taxi firms following what it describes as an attack by Muslims on a young white man.

If its account of the incident is true - and obviously, you can never trust what a bunch of neanderthal racist lying Hitler-loving wackos tell you about anything - then young Shaun really has been the victim of a nasty attack. But the BNP's pretence of support and sympathy for him is just that - a pretence. Whilst demanding that the attackers are brought to justice, they are using it as a pretext to blame Muslims in general and to explicitly encourage white people to punish a whole community for the actions of a few. Moreover, the BNP advocates boycotting taxi firms because of the (presumed) religion of their owners or drivers, obviously trying to drive a wedge between white and Asian people in the area.

Of course, they repeat one of their favourite mantras about how this would all have been handled differently if the race/religion of the attackers/victim had been the other way round. One of the first times that they used this disingenuous 'argument' was following the murder of white lad Richard Everett by Asian youths in Somers Town in 1995, conveniently ignoring the fact that there was a united response from people of all ethnic backgrounds to condemn Richard's murder and help the community. A couple of weekends ago, the Somers Town carnival took place - an annual, multi-ethnic, working-class event, which (I think) was set up in response to Richard's murder, and which is supported by (amongst others) the RMT, whose head office is in Somers Town. No sign of the BNP - their concern for the white victims of violent crime seems to have dissipated now the chance of whipping up racist hatred has passed. Not that they'd be welcome anyway.


Friday, July 20, 2007

18 Doughty Street : A hotbed of lefties...apparently

Someone has a very strange idea of what constitutes left , even wussy liberal left :

Doughty Street has a distinct liberal left bias; however its founders have gone on to establish two similar sites, Centre Right and Britain and America, both of which espouse highly conservative positions. Do not believe for one second that these sites are some noble attempt to redress the balance. They exist because Doughty Street leftist polemic has proven to be both popular and profitable, so if it works for the left then why not for the right? I get the slightly scary feeling that someday soon all news may look this way.

WTF! I know many bloggers call it Tory TV .
As another blogger, Bob Piper , states :

If Ben Marshall thinks Doughty Street is left polemic there must have been a seismic shift in world politics.

I looked at the profile of the author of the CiF article:

Ben Marshall has worked for The Mail On Sunday, Rolling Stone, Loaded (as Editor at Large), GQ (as Hollywood Editor) and is a regular contributor to The Guardian Guide. He is also Associate Editor of Golf Punk, and the provider of the Ben Marshall interview for Uncut Magazine

Ahhh, it is starting to make sense now.

hat tip PCoE

By-election results and cash for honours decision

Two subjects I would normally post on, but am too busy today to give it much thought. I may link to other blog posts if I see any interesting ones.

Any thoughts on these , leave them in the comments ...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

'Team Stroppy'

Stroppyblog is pleased to announce that MarshaJane will be joining 'Team Stroppy' as a contributor.

Most of you know her from the many blogs she is on, including Union Futures , Labour Left Forum , Socialist Youth Network and many more !!

Given all that, its great that she has agreed to do the odd post for Stroppyblog.

I am hoping to entice a few more Stroppy leftie women to post as watch this space !

Hain Hits Single Parents

It seems that because the victorious candidate for Labour Party deputy leader enjoys cutting benefits to lone parents, the defeated ones have to get in on the act.

New Work and Pensions Secretary Peter Hain - you know, the 'left wing' bloke - has announced that he is to withdraw benefits from single parents who are not 'actively seeking work' once their youngest child reaches the age of seven. This has shocked even his right-wing mates, who were satisfied with the upcoming reduction in entitlement following the kid's 12th birthday.

May I point out that a seven-year-old child should not have to, for example, walk themselves to and from school unaccompanied, or look after themselves when sick. And a single parent of a seven-year-old (plus maybe older siblings) does not need to 'actively seek work' - she or he already has work, very active and demanding work, looking after those kids.

But, says Brother Hain, we have to get single parents out of poverty, which means getting them into jobs. It's a weird kind of 'anti-poverty' policy that is based on taking people's money away. And a yet weirder one that forces poeple into jobs which, because they must fit around school hours and school holidays, are likely to be low-paid, and which will be even lower paid when the parent has to take unpaid leave to look after sick kids. Perhaps Hain is running a recruitment drive for low-paid Learning Support Assistants or Lunchtime Supervisors.

I look forward to a future speech by another of the Deputy-losers, Alan Johnson (he who is the Education Secretary and to the best of my knowledge was never a Marxist, rather than he who has recently renounced his sinful Marxist youth), bemoaning standards of discipline and behaviour in schools, and blaming the parents for not helping kids with homework, attending parents' evenings, instilling values etc. And conveniently forgetting that one of the reasons they are not doing so is that Peter Hain has made them go out and get menial jobs.

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Feeling bored ,can't sleep, got a headache or feeling a bit chilly ? Fancy a shag ?

Apparently there are 237 reasons why people have sex.

The Independent on Sunday reports :

While love and attraction remain the clincher for many, for others it is about getting closer to God; gaining a promotion; revenge; or a way to get rid of a tension headache.

Some of those asked said it was a reasonably effective way of overcoming boredom or burning up calories, while a few were attracted by the idea that it kept them warm, helped them fall asleep, or eased the stress of the day.


"We identified 237 distinct reasons why people have sex," the researchers said. "The study provides perhaps the most comprehensive exploration to date of the reasons people give for having sexual intercourse. They ranged from the mundane – 'It feels good' – to the spiritual – 'I wanted to feel closer to God'. They ranged from altruistic – 'I wanted the person to feel good' to manipulative – 'I wanted to get a promotion'."

Well call me a shallow floosie, but what other reason is needed other than its the most fun you can have with or without your clothes(or fishnets) on;-)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Talking of shameful and embarrassing secrets...

I want to know what Denham's is .

More shameful than this perhaps?

I'll find out when I next meet him in a pub. I apparently have quite Paxmanish qualities of persistence, or so I have been told by my not so better other half .

Some things I wouldn't admit to

...even for the money:

James Blunt, the former Guards officer turned romantic pop singer, is set for a courtroom battle in the long-running dispute over the authorship of six songs from his mega-selling first album.

Royalty payments to the ex-Harrovian were suspended last year after a claim by Lukas Burton, a Los Angeles record producer, who said he co-wrote the tracks with Blunt when the singer was little more than a raw young talent embarking on a career in the music industry.

Burton, who has worked with stars including Dido and Sir Paul McCartney, is seeking royalties for the tracks "Goodbye My Lover", "No Bravery", "Cry", "I Don't Believe", "I Really Want You" and "Don't Lose Yourself".

The man should hang his head in shame...Dido, Blunt ...arghhh

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Alan Johnson: He's not a Marxist any more, you know

It's been obvious for some time that Alan Johnson - he of the Euston Manifesto, rather than he of the high-up Government post, and spelt differently from he who was kidnapped in Gaza - is no longer a Marxist. Now, he has finally admitted it and spelt out why.

I know he's an academic an' all, so maybe there's something in his rigorous intellectual analysis that is going over my head, but it seems to me that he is basically saying, "Life under capitalism's pretty good, you know". To which the obvious answer would begin "It might be pretty good for you, mate, but ..."

Anyway, Alan goes to the trouble of itemising his reasons, so I'll go to the trouble of summarising them in an irritable, slightly satirical and undoubtedly unfair fashion.

1. I no longer think that people are nice. Except my and my mates, of course. We're lovely. Horrid people are horrid. No amount of social change can make nasty people nicer, despite the evidence otherwise. Humans will never be capable of running a nice society, so we should settle for a nasty one and try to smooth some of sharp corners. Maybe.

2. Abundance is a crap idea. It kills the planet. I have quite enough abundance thank you very much, and if other people don't, then tough. Learn to live with your scarcity: it's good for the soul.

3. Markets are great. I know this, because New Labour's new Clause 4 told me so.

4. I don't want a better life. My life is fine, thanks. Other people's lives? Not bothered.

5. The working class no longer has nothing to lose but its chains. It now has satellite dishes and mortgages. At least in this country, it does. Well, parts of this country, anyway. Proletarians, arise! You have nothing to lose but your MP3 players?! That's so not the word on the street. As far as I know. Capitalism is dynamic, and workers can reap the rewards (joining a union can help here).

6. History doesn't prepare us for socialism after all.

7. The middle class is here to stay. Capitalism is stable. And that's fine by me.

8. Those dictators who called themselves Marxists - they were not slimy, deceitful, lying bastards after all, they were telling the truth! And just because plenty of Marxists are against dictatorship - well, what do I care?!

9. I just don't believe in it any more, really.

10. I now think social democracy is a good idea. Capitalism is just fine, so long as it's run by nice people. Mind you, the rate I'm going, I may soon think that social democracy is a dangerous ultra-left philosophy too.


Janine joins Stroppyblog

Some of you may know Janine from her blog , Jblog.

Well she has , in the tradition of a Southall by-election, defected to Stroppyblog.
Janine will be posting over here and keeping me company . And no , I'm not joining the AWL;-)

Good to have another Stroppy woman on board !!

Gay Times advert - London Underground and double standards

Pink News reports on a story in the London Paper yesterday :

A gay lifestyle magazine cover proved too racy for London Underground, who asked that the image be substituted for one more sedate.
The offending cover of GT ironically marks the 40th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality.

The reason for the ban :

... London Underground refused to allow the image of a scantily-clad male and what appeared to be his partner to be used on the network, arguing? one of the models? was in an “unnecessary? state of undress”.


A spokesman for Gay Times said: “In our opinion, their refusal? is totally unjustified considering some of the heterosexual? ads on display at the moment.

This advert seems no more 'unnecessary' than many others on the underground and elsewhere for that matter.

So semi naked heterosexual couples and women are ok, the whiff of censorship only seems to kick in when its two gay men .
Homophobia is still alive and kicking.

Pictured above : the banned and the approved adverts.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Does Ken Livingstone live in Brighton?

Dave was doing his usual media tarting on 18 Doughty Street tonight. One of the other guests was a particularly unpleasant arrogant woman by the name of Helen Szamuely. Her main response to anyone who disagreed with her was that they were wrong, she was right and they did not know what they were talking about. In the debate about Boris Johnson wanting to stand for London Mayor , she pronounced that Ken Livingstone lived in London. When questioned on that she said everyone in London politics knows that .

Well its the first I have heard of it and I spend time in both London and Brighton. My understanding is that to be Mayor you need to live in London? Perhaps I am wrong but I assumed it was similar to being a local councillor , who needs to live in the constituency even if not the ward.

Perhaps some London comrades can answer this, does Ken live in London or Brighton? She did not say both, she said he lived in Brighton and did not mention two homes , which is another issue .

I'm curious now . Of course if you are involved in London politics you really must know the answer , everyone does .

Update Just done a google search and it seems Ken has a second home in Brighton. Now there is of course the issue of having two homes, but the statement Helen made was that 'he lived' in Brighton. I am assuming his main home is in London. Just being nit picky ...

Boris for mayor : an update

A few days ago I posted on the news that Boris Johnson was considering putting his name forward to be the Tory candidate for mayor. Well he has decided and he is.

As I said before, I think he stands a very good chance of winning.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Hakmao - In the dentists chair

Hakmao asked me to submit to her DIY Dentistry and answer the important questions facing the left today. I agreed, well its never a good idea to get on the wrong side of her. I then decided to push my luck and ask her to answer the questions as well, which she has done. See below for the wisdom of Hakmao !

How do you get up in the morning? For years it was never
without a double espresso, although I've weaned myself off coffee
since leaving Australia - these days it's two weak black teas. I wake
up ridiculously early - with or without an alarm - full of boundless
enthusiasm, ready to frolic in the long grass and chase butterflies in
the sun ... then I remember I'm living in Scotland.

What will you wear to storm the Winter Palace? My best
diamante collar ... and boots.

What is you favourite pizza topping? Ham and pineapple.

Luxemburg or Lenin? Luxemburg and Lenin - and Victor Serge too.

Haggis or jellied eels? Haggis with neeps and tatties. Whisky
makes me retch violently, so a red wine sauce or brown onion gravy is
my preferred accompaniment.

Do you think Harry's Place has already passed its best point, or is
the best yet to come?
HP isn't really a blog. It's more like rival
gangs who meet at a prearranged time every week to fight - the neocons
on one side and the racists and fascists on the other.

Red or blue? Red flag. Blue steak.

What do you think is the main threat to George Galloway's/Tommy
Sheridan's/Robert Kilroy-Silk's permatan?
A period as part of one
of the concrete supports on the new Forth bridge.

North or South? North - Northumberland, Scotland, Berlin,
Chiang Mai - in the Northern Hemisphere, South - Otago, Southland,
Fiordland - in the Southern Hemisphere.

Beer or wine? Lager - Baltika, Staropramen or Pilsner Urquell
if available.

If you could have three people shot, who would they be? Just
for fun - John Howard (racist Prime Minister), Phillip Ruddock (racist
former Immigration Minister) and Brendan Nelson (smirking little
weirdo and Defence Minister).

Saturday, July 14, 2007

London slipping into the Thames

Well a slight exageration, but news surely to cheer up Will.

Mind you , if that happened then all us soft southerners would head oop North and that would annoy him even more !

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

'Rewarding' marriage

Figures have recently shown that the numbers of people getting married is in the decline. That displeases, amongst others, the Tories. From the Party that criticises Labour for creating a nanny state, comes the proposal to bribe people to get hitched.

The focus is supposedly because it will help children, but the £20 a week average tax break would be available for those without children. My guessing though is this does not extend to civil partnerships.

Ian Duncan Smith, the person behind the recommendations, seems to be harping back to some golden age when most people married and stayed so till death to they part.
Yes, people tended to marry and stay married but that did not always mean a loving happy family home. Many were deeply unhappy but did not divorce, very often women could not afford to do so and divorce was still a stigma. It was frowned upon.

Women remained in abusive relationships because they could not afford to leave or they did not want to admit to ‘failure’. Children in school would stand out if their parents were divorced, or worse still they were ‘bastards’. Interesting how the child would bear the brunt of the parents’ actions and be penalised. seems the Tories are happy to return to that.

In my work with older people I have come across many that resent each other and are deeply unhappy, but its ‘what you did’, you made your bed and you laid on it.
I’m not saying people should always expect to be deliriously happy and leave at the first row, but life is short and why should someone stay in a relationship if they are deeply unhappy, perhaps with abuse or violence thrown in.

What about the children you may ask? Well I’m not convinced a child is best served by living with two parents who no longer love each other, who argue. Is it good for a child to hear bitter shouting and perhaps witness violence? Perhaps the parents make do and don’t argue, but is quiet coldness, a lack of love and affection between parents a good example for a child? Two parents of course are good, but that may be better served by them living separately and sharing the childcare.

And the Tories are quite specific in the parents they hold up as ideal:

Mr Cameron said: "The kids do best if mum and dad are there to look after them and today we have a benefit system that encourages couples to be separate. We have no recognition of marriage in the tax system. These things have to change."

He told the BBC that "mending Britain's broken society" was the "big argument of our times". He added: "We need a big cultural change in favour of fatherhood, in favour of parenting, in favour of marriage."

Children need parents that love them, whether that is a mother and father who live together or are married, two fathers who are gay or two women who are lesbians. The Tories may not like the fact, but abuse and violence happens in their nice heterosexual word of married couples. It does not protect a child or guarantee a stable upbringing.

On the Today programme Iain Duncan Smith said that people should be ‘rewarded’ for being married. So what about the children of single parents or co-habitees? If the issue was really about their welfare, rather than conservative values, the focus would be on tackling poverty, housing and education. The aim would be on ensuring all children lived above the poverty line in decent housing.

No, this is about ideology, heterosexual marriage good, other lifestyles bad.
An argument is that married couples split up less than co-habitees. I don’t understand the logic,that by giving people an extra £20 they will get married and somehow their relationship will suddenly become more stable? There are lots of short unstable marriages and lots of committed co-habitees. Does the figure take account of people who may live together, for example as students or when young, but not plan to have kids?

Can a relationship be made stable by an extra £20 a week? As I said, this does not underline the real poverty and lack of opportunities for many in this country.
I would worry about people rushing to get married, when perhaps not ready, in order to get a bit extra cash.

Will £20 persuade someone to stay put? The reality is that it is cheaper to live together, married or not, than separate. Shared bills, childcare and mortgage/rent. So how exactly is it that the Tories believe people are dumping their marriages to be better off financially alone?

This shows New Tories are still Old Tories. Two other events have also reinforced that. The Tories have made clear that not only will they ‘reward ' those who are married, they will crack down on single mothers:

Single parents will be required to work at least part-time as soon as their youngest child reaches the age of five under radical proposals for reforming the welfare system to be unveiled today.

The report, from a social justice commission headed by Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, will recommend that "living on benefit should not be a way of life".

Oh and they also seem to have had their own ‘Ruth Kelly’ moment:

Sayeeda Warsi is the new Tory shadow minister for community cohesion, but has landed the party straight into a row over gay rights.

As the candidate for Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, was revealed to have distributed a leaflet to her potential constituents warning that the lowering of the age of consent allows children to be "propositioned for homosexual relationships".

"Labour has scrapped section 28 which was introduced by the Conservatives to stop schools promoting alternative sexual lifestyles such as homosexuality to children as young as seven years old... now schools are allowed and do promote homosexuality and other alternative sexual lifestyles to your children," the leaflet also said.

This is not about economics and financially supporting children,its about the symbolism of holding heterosexual marriage as an ideal.The flipside is that anything else is lesser. Its a move back to a time when women were trapped in marriages, as much by societal pressure as money. Its a time when kids were stigmatised by their parents marital status and when LGBT people were firmly in the closet.

Half of Rape Crisis centres facing closure

The government talks a lot about victims of crime and ensuring they are supported and listened to.

That does not seem to extend to ensuring the survival of Rape Crisis Centres :

Victims of rape could be left without proper counselling or support because the Government has been unable to sustain reliable funding for support services. As many as half of England and Wales' Rape Crisis centres are facing closure or severe cuts this year as the Government pulls funds from the organisation.

Rape Crisis believes up to half of its 32 centres, which offer specialised help to victims of sexual abuse, will be forced to close, or left in "severe trouble" if the Ministry of Justice does not renew the Victim Fund grants that were provided last year.

The Victim Fund was established last year with a £1.25m government grant for distribution among organisations that help victims of sexual assault. The fund saved the support network from near collapse, but now, just one year from its inception, it has already cut funds from the charities it set out to help.

Nicole Westmarland, chairwoman of Rape Crisis in England and Wales explained that since the Government was offering no equivalent service, it was its responsibility to maintain reliable funding. "Most women who come to Rape Crisis wouldn't go to the police or the health services, and only 18 per cent have even reported the crime", said Dr Westmarland.

"The Government also doesn't provide an anonymous helpline. They never said the funding would be for ever but the new money created a demand for a service, and now we'll have to turn vulnerable women away." She said she believed that charities were withdrawing financial support because they felt it should be the Government's responsibility to provide it.

It is estimated that 80,000 women are victims of rape or attempted rape every year, yet the specialist support centres say the Government has never had a reliable scheme to fund their work. In 1985, there were 84 centres across England and Wales. Now there are 32, with only two to cover the whole of London.

The figures on the Rape Crisis website show this is a service that is needed as much as ever .

Sunday, July 08, 2007

'Middle class poverty ' and private school fees

Yet again it seemt the left is not really taking account of the real struggles out there :

THE COST of private education for day pupils has breached the £20,000 barrier as schools set their fees for the next academic year.

Many parents complain that the steep increases over the past few years are forcing them into “middle-class poverty”. The anger has been compounded by the fact that some top schools have in the past colluded over charges.

A survey of 82 leading independent schools, including The Sunday Times Top 50 School List, reveals that day school fees will rise by 6% in the next academic year, with some already charging more than £20,000. Boarding school fees have also risen above inflation with a 5.5% increase, with fees at Tonbridge School, rising to £26,826, ahead of Eton College at £26,490. Consumer Price Index inflation is running at 2.5%.

Carol Evans, who lives with her husband Hugo near Gloucester, has three children, two of whom were day pupils at Rendcomb College, an independent school. The third was privately educated but they have now sent him to a local state-run sixth-form college as they can no longer afford the fees.

“The increase since we started sending our kids private has been fantastic,” Evans said.

“If you have two kids it might be okay, but once you try sending three or four private it’s just impossible.

“There is no more skiing at Easter or summer holidays in Greece. It’s a week in Devon if you’re lucky.

“I think people are increasingly looking at the state sector and saying, if you can find good non-fee-paying schools, why not? We’re lucky in this area in that we have very good schools that are not fee paying.”

So don't you mock, life is tough for some.

Pic - Gordonstoun

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Boris for Mayor ?

Walking through London I noticed an Evening Standard board proclaiming that that Boris may run for Mayor . No need for last names, Boris is in the celebrity company of Madonna, Kylie and Jesus in that everyone knows who is being referred to.

And celebrity is the issue here. Boris is not a fool even though he acts it. He bumbles and behaves like a eccentric toff, with his shambolic appearance and his wayward hair. The public generally forgive him any gaffes and a number of alleged affairs. I'm not sure many really take notice of his politics and probably know him better for his appearances on HIGNFY.

If I was Cameron I make would sure he was the Tory candidate . I think he would stand a very good chance of winning, mainly because people would see the TV character and not the Tory politician.

Might put a bet on that.

(Not that this is in anyway support for a Tory candidate !)

Good news - Alan Johnston freed

BBC correspondent Alan Johnston has been released :

The BBC reporter was handed over to officials of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas, which controls Gaza, in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

At the news conference, Mr Johnston thanked everyone who had worked towards his release.

He described his experience of captivity as "appalling" and "occasionally quite terrifying".

"It became quite hard to imagine normal life again," he said.

"The last 16 weeks have been the very worst of my life," he added. "I was in the hands of people who were dangerous and unpredictable."

"I literally dreamt many times of being free and always woke up back in that room."

Mr Johnston said he was not tortured during captivity but he did fall ill from the food he was served.

He added that he had been kept in four different locations, two of them only briefly.

He was able to see the sun in the first month but was then kept in a shuttered room until a week before his release, he said.

He was kept in chains for 24 hours but was not harmed physically until the last half hour of his captivity, when his captors hit him "a bit".

Hopefully he won't do an Yvonne Ridley and start talking crap .

Update : Realise I put Alan Johnson and not Alan Johnston in the title. I was under the impression it was the DL candidate and ex postie who had been kidnapped !!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Floods caused by gay people !

More reactionary nonsense from the Church of England. Apparently :

The floods that have devastated swathes of the country are God's judgment on the immorality and greed of modern society, according to senior Church of England bishops.

One diocesan bishop has even claimed that laws that have undermined marriage, including the introduction of pro-gay legislation, have provoked God to act by sending the storms that have left thousands of people homeless.

While those who have been affected by the storms are innocent victims, the bishops argue controversially that the flooding is a result of Western civilisation's decision to ignore biblical teaching.

The Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle (pictured), argued that the floods are not just a result of a lack of respect for the planet, but also a judgment on society's moral decadence.

"This is a strong and definite judgment because the world has been arrogant in going its own way," he said. "We are reaping the consequences of our moral degradation, as well as the environmental damage that we have caused."


"We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate," he said.

"In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as 'the beast', which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want," he said, adding that the introduction of recent pro-gay laws highlighted its determination to undermine marriage.

"The sexual orientation regulations [which give greater rights to gays] are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God's judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance."

He expressed his sympathy for those who have been hit by the weather, but said that the problem with "environmental judgment is that it is indiscriminate".

A few thoughts come to mind, why does god choose to punish supposed 'innocent ' people? Why didn't he create some great flood in London during the Gay pride march on Saturday?

Does this mean Ruth Kelly will always have a little ray of sunshine above her head and her home will never be flooded ?

So was the tsunami a few years back caused by gay sex ?

Naughty naughty lesbian and gay people for thinking they can do what they like. Its all your fault and so any attacks on you is surely justified.

Somehow this attitude is not just nonsense but hardly caring. Aren't Christians meant to be full of compassion, not vengeful old men bothered by what others do in the bedroom?

"Gifted young TV star forced to quit top school to join mum and lesbian lover on Greek island"

Not exactly the most snappy of titles, but it is a headline in the Daily Mail. And no I don't buy the rag, I skim most papers on the Internet and sometimes have a look at The Mail in that way 'disgusted of Tunbridge Wells' watches Channel 4.

So whats it all about then ?

Apparently :

Last summer, eight-year-old Alex Stockley's future couldn't have seemed brighter.

The talented son of a barmaid and a farmhand had won a £5,000-a-year scholarship to one of England's finest prep schools.

And, in an extraordinary show of generosity, members of the public who saw Alex in a TV documentary raised the other £30,000 needed to pay the remainder of the fees for the boy with a genius-level IQ.

This week, however, it emerged that the fairy-tale ending to the story of the child given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is lying in tatters.

And then the outrage really begins , as this woman is a very very bad mother...she is a lesbian !

The article goes on (bold added by SB) :

After just two terms at Glebe House in Hunstanton, Norfolk, his 32-year-old mother, Eileen Stockley, has removed him and taken him to the other end of Europe, far away from the school which she begged to educate her son, away from his father, Ian Pearce, and away from everything he knows.

Caught between his estranged, squabbling parents, suddenly it seems that Alex's needs are no longer a priority. He is being taught at a Forces school in Cyprus. Why? Because his mother was determined to set up home there with her 23-year-old lesbian lover, an RAF communications specialist.

On the website Friends Reunited, Eileen claims that last week she underwent a civil partnership ceremony with her lover, Amy Wormesley - and can barely contain her happiness at her new life. "Living in Cyprus with my beautiful wife Amy!" she gushes. "She's my world and I'm hers."

No mention, of course, of Alex's world. Or the possibly disastrous effect her behaviour will have on him and his education.

Instead, after briefly mentioning she has two children, Eileen gushes that there is 'another on the way', before blatantly contradicting herself by adding: "Hopefully will have another by next year, we trying (sic) at the mo."

Who knows by what method this couple are trying to add to their brood, and what her other two children would be expected to make of a half-sibling with two mummies.

Meanwhile, at his home in Norfolk, a bereft Ian Pearce now has no idea when he will see his son again.

"Alex was doing so well at Glebe House. It was everything he could have hoped for. He was happy and he'd settled in and he was getting glowing reports.

He's such a bright boy and he was in the best possible hands. Now he's off into the unknown and who knows how long for?"

The seeds of this unhappy development were sown when Eileen Stockley met her current lover. She is thought to have encountered her while she was working behind the bar at RAF Marham, while Amy was stationed there.

Mr Pearce had no inkling that his former partner had any lesbian tendencies before he heard about Amy: "She'd always been interested only in men, as far as I knew," he said.

"Eileen has betrayed Alex and betrayed all those who donated money for his education. I can't believe she's done it."

Certainly, viewers of last year's documentary, Admission: Impossible, who donated tens of thousands towards Alex's education at Glebe House would be forgiven for feeling they wasted their time and money.

Admission Impossible followed the stories of six families from across the UK as they navigated their way through the complex schools admissions system, trying to secure the perfect place for their child.

Millions of views tuned in, with hundreds offering to donate money.

At least the £30,000 raised after the programme is held in a trust fund, whose trustees are the governors of Glebe House School. Neither Eileen nor Ian have control over it.

Donors may feel cheated when they learn Eileen herself seems very different to the down-at-heel single mother portrayed in last August's documentary, whose only concern was to do the best for her son.

According to Mr Pearce, the truth about this dysfunctional family is far less heartwarming than viewers were led to believe.

The 37-year-old farm worker, who lives in Weasenham, near Swaffham, Norfolk, with his partner Tracey and their nine-month-old son, Rhys, says that Eileen lied during the making of the two-part documentary.

The premise of the programme was that Alex, clearly an exceptionally able child, had no choice but to remain in the mediocrity of the state sector, because the Government made no provision for gifted children.

Alex's IQ was measured at 148, and he sailed through Glebe House's entrance exam in record time, taking just 15 minutes to complete a test which took other children 40 minutes, and scoring more than 90 per cent.

The TV crew carted his mother down to London, where she petitioned the PM in Downing Street to no avail and then arranged a meeting with a financial adviser, whose role in the drama was clearly to prove that Eileen had no chance whatsoever of paying for a private education on her meagre income.

During the course of that interview, Eileen was asked if she was divorced, to which she replied 'yes' twice, even though she has never been married.

She was asked if there were any grandparents who might be able to offer some kind of financial assistance towards Alex's education.

Her reply was simply: "Both my parents are dead." In fact, her mother, Pat is still alive, though her relationship with Eileen has apparently endured a mutual silence for more than a decade.

Speaking from Cyprus this week, she tried to explain why she had denied the existence of her own mother on the programme and failed to mention Alex's two paternal grandparents.

"I have had no contact with my mother for 12 years, and as far as I was concerned, she's dead.

"If Alex's other grandparents were upset by the programme, then perhaps they would like to contribute towards his education."

She added that she lied by saying she was 'divorced', because the programme makers told her to. True? Or another convenient falsehood?


Whether this disruption to his precious education has any lasting impact remains to be seen.

Those that saw Alex on television and witnessed this affable, trusting and astonishingly clever little boy can only hope that having already overcome so much, somehow his remarkable spirit will sustain him.

Seems the Daily Mail has made up its mind as to who the baddie is in all of this, though life is rarely that simple.There are also real issues about whether the state system provides for very bright children, the role of reality television and how parents ensure they both continue to work together in the best interests of their child when they split up.It doesn't ask what happens to other bright kids who don't get on TV and tug at the heartstrings . That might involve the Daily Mail questioning the education system . The Daily Mail does not really trouble itself with the complexities too much, the real issues for them being the fact she was a lying single parent who ran off with another woman and horror of horrors is now planning a child with the new partner. It is not even that consistent, criticising the mother for lying to get money for a private school and then complaining that the child was no longer going to the school (paid for by money gained according to them dishonesty).It also implied that there may have been state provision but then ignores that in the rant against the mother .

Pic of Eileen Stockley and son Alex. Funny, she doesn't look like a lesbian , I mean where are the dungarees, why is she wearing make up. That must confuse the Daily Mail readers ...

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

The return of Derek Hatton ?

Brought to my attention by Susan , who found it via Yozzer.

Apparently :

It was reported in the Liverpool Daily Post in May 2007 that Hatton has stated that he has recently rejoined the Labour Party and that he intends to seek selection as a parliamentary candidate in the North West. Hatton also says that his ambition is to be Deputy Leader of the Labour Party and that he would run for the office in the summer in the unlikely event of him being able to enter parliament via a by-election. Hatton made clear that he is no longer a Trotskyist, but maintains that he remains firmly on the left of the party, expressing his belief that Labour has to abandon 'New Labour' ideology (or "neo-Tory", as Hatton puts it) and return to its traditional values.

Well he missed out on that DP vote didn't he.Imagine the debate on the leftie blogs, Cruddas or Hatton ?

Perhaps the media work and motivational speaking engagements have all dried up, well there are so many other egos out there jostling for air time . Wonder if he has been approached for Celebrity Big Brother .

I can't see Brown letting him get selected anywhere.

Anyone know why he is back in the labour Party?

One good thing Brown has done...

He has said no to the Queen wanting another handout :

The Queen may charge visitors £10 to watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace as she ponders emergency measures to meet her repair bills.

The plan has been drawn up by senior royal aides after the government refused a request for an extra £1m a year to help fund urgent repairs to the crumbling palaces.

Other money-making schemes being considered include charging admission to the Buckingham Palace gardens, currently accessible only to people with a coveted invitation to one of the Queen’s garden parties, and offering tours of the royal kitchens.

Officials are bemused by the apparent indifference of the Treasury to their plight. Their attempts to secure extra funding have been rebuffed for more than two years, and they are resigned to an even cooler response under Gordon Brown’s premiership. One senior courtier said: “We are deeply frustrated.”

Lord St John of Fawsley, a constitutional expert, described the idea as “absolutely repellent”. He said:“We need to keep up our appearances as a nation. The government should assume its responsibility and pay for the repairs to the palace. We are one of the richest countries in the world and these buildings belong to the nation.”

Well if it belongs to the nation why can't we all wander in there, why is there a charge and why do the Royal Family live there. Why is it the responsibility of the government, and taxpayer, to subsidise their numerous abodes when many people do not even have one decent home to live in?

Since Gordon says housing is a priority I have a suggestion to help with this and save the treasury some money. How about evicting the old queen and her hangers on and packing them off to a retirement bungalow in Eastbourne. Give them a state pension and suggest the younger ones toddle down the job centre and test out the whole welfare to work system. Then do up the palace and make it affordable flats for people to live in.

I would do a Punchie and suggest a firing squad but somehow don't see Gord going for that ...