Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Just to let people know I won't be posting now until Friday as I won't be near the internet. How will I cope, no blogs to play on.

I have some posts planned for the weekend on rape and the latest report on police attitudes, Feminists4John, 'Women against Fundamentalism' and mental health.

Pop back then or join in the debates on the posts below.

Back soon...


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Stroppybird eats small children...


I seem to have caused offence by making a flippant remark about the culinary uses of small children.

For the record I do not support eating children under any circumstances whatsoever ...

Monday, January 29, 2007

No exemptions

Downing Street has said there will be no exemption from anti-discrimination laws for Catholic adoption agencies.

Good to see Cabinet members and MPs stand up to Blair .
Glad some in the Labour Party understand the concept of Equality.

Shame the Minister with that brief does not.

X-Ray cameras on lampposts .

My first reaction on reading this was surely it is a spoof.Unfortunately not.
According to a memo leaked to The Sun :

X-ray cameras could be installed on lampposts on British streets to spot armed terrorists and other criminals, it has been claimed. According to a leaked memo seen by The Sun, "detection of weapons and explosives will become easier" if the scheme drawn up by Home Office officials is adopted.
However, officials acknowledged it would be highly controversial as the cameras can "see" through clothing.
"The social acceptability of routine intrusive detection measures and the operational
response required in the event of an alarm are likely to be limiting factors," the memo warned.
"Privacy is an issue because the machines see through clothing."

Liberty states that already :

The UK is the world leader in video surveillance. Britain is monitored by 4 million CCTV cameras, making us the most watched nation in the world. There is one CCTV camera for every 14 people in the UK. If you live in London you are likely to be on cameras 300 times a day.

Now with added nakedness.

This latest suggestion for increased surveillance raises further concerns for civil liberties as well as question mark over whether it would make any real impact on the likelihood of an attack and its cost.

Oh and of course the potential for images to end up on You Tube...

BA cabin crew strike

BA cabin crew look set to strike over attacks on sick pay.

The BBC news site says that :

Out of the airline's 14,000 cabin crew, about 11,000 are members of the T&G - 96% of whom voted for strike action.

I'm not sure if the rest are either members of another trade union or whether they are not in any but 11,000 out of 14,000 is not bad . 96% voting for a strike seems pretty good as well.
So how come the left blogs are not talking about this? Trolley dollies on picket lines , what's the problem.
They may not fit neatly into a left campaign, such as the City Cleaners but their rights as workers are still under attack.

Tony Woodley is downplaying their militancy and playing up their 'professionalism' :

"Let us be very clear that in cabin crew these are not industrial militants. They are a sizable group of professional and responsible women and men who have lost trust in their company's management and that is abundantly evident from that ballot result."

They may not be traditional militants but they have voted overwhelmingly for a strike and a large majority are in a union. From cabin crew I have spoken to in the past its not that well paid and is not 'glamorous'.

It seems BA is pulling out all the stops to break the strike . This includes

Staff are being offered up to £200 a day in transport expenses in an attempt to lure them across picket lines mounted by the Transport and General Workers' Union (T&G).
Management has told the airline's stewards and stewardesses that they can ignore regulations stipulating that they turn up for duty in BA uniform to prevent them being targeted by strikers.
The company is also setting up park-and-ride shuttle bus services based at locations away from the airport and establishing a 24-hour phone line to offer "advice and support" to those who want to work during the strike.

So how about some support for the trolley dollies...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Carnival of Socialism - 'Liberation politics and the left'

Right, here it is at last - The Carnival of Socialism, as picked by yours truly.
I must admit it has been more work than I thought. There are two reasons for that. One is I am obsessive sometimes and have ended up trawling through many many blogs, it is quite addictive.Secondly the theme , 'Liberation politics and the left' , has been a factor. I had hoped, but guessed unlikely, to have been sent posts on liberation issues such as gender, LGBT people, the family, disability, mental health, race and class. I was mostly sent posts on Palestine and Iraq.

The theme was chosen to try to highlight and debate other liberation issues and that's what I will do (bar one exception that I will get to later) . If people don't like it then offer to do a carnival (contact John) on Iraq and Palestine . Any day on the left will find many posts and comments on these issues , its not being ignored. I wanted to take this opportunity to look at other areas of liberation. I am aware there were issues that have been left out but in the end I ran out of time and this post was getting very long. I might do some one off posts on them later.
I have tried to highlight blogs that some lefties may not naturally go to, as well as some of the usual suspects. This post is long, but indulge me and read through and click on to links. It's the least you can do after all my hard work:-) It was though enjoyable and interesting, which probably says something about me , a bit sad really :-)

Right, first off the racism row and Celebrity Big Brother. Why this? Well it has created a debate on racism. I think the trouble is that the mainstream press has focused on Jade and personalised it without asking the difficult questions. She is an easy target, someone feted for her ignorance and stupidity, ill educated and unable to articulate herself up .
There is no excuse for racism but the left needs to look at why someone like Jade bullied Shilpa and made racist comments. Why did she feel such anger for Shilpa? When the BNP is making headway in white working class areas such as Dagenham the answer is not to just condemn,it needs to understand in order to challenge. Jade is all too easy to dismiss as stupid and thats why the media are happy to make it personal.

There are many posts on this subject but I will pick just two to highlight. Firstly Phil makes a stab at understanding without excusing Jade.
Next is the only post I have come across that really delves into the wider issues as to what creates the Jades of this world . It is by that one and only ultra leftist adventurer himself... South Paw. Yep Southpaw, recommended by some wussy feminist in the labour party. This might result in all sorts of reformists toddling over to your site :-)

I would have liked to find some posts on women talking about their experiences of being feminists on the left. I didn't, but Phil, as part of his PhD is interviewing activists in both the Socialist Party and the SWP. On his blog he publishes an interview with a woman activist on her experiences . This is only one persons account but it would be interesting if Phil shares other interviews at some stage.

Sex. Yep it's what Stroppyblog is famous for. Seriously though sexuality is an important issue. I would hope that a socialist world would not be moralist and judgmental on this issue. I believe that the issue of sexuality is a valid one for discussion on the left so I have included a couple of posts on the subject. TWP on her blog discusses her experiences and I thought this was an interesting post on a feminist blog .

I wandered on to green leftie blogs for the next area of liberation, that of animals. Yep I know it's seen as wussy and liberal by some of the left. Personally, I believe how we treat animals says a lot about our humanity. Just because animals are weaker and can be controlled does not mean we have to eat or ill treat them...hey would we do that with small children! Anyway, over to Derek Walls site for a discussion on this topic

One area where I have found many posts has been on religion. Most who read this blog know I am uncomfortable with how sections of the left seem to critically support reactionary religious groups if they are seen as anti- imperialist (and sod women, LGBT people and others who are at the sharp end of their prejudice). So I was pleased to see the left come out to criticise that well-known supporter of Equalities Ruth Kelly and the Catholic Church, backed by the Cof E, on opt outs on adoption. Some posts to check out include Kit , Bill and Janine .
Jim (possibly aided by a bottle of whisky) weighs into the debate in typical Denham style.
The Provisional BBC are also worth a look for their spoof report .

MarshaJane makes the point that Ruth Kelly seems to have misunderstood her brief. Note to Ruth - it's about arguing FOR equalities not against. MJ calls for her sacking. There is also a link to a petition on the post.
The final word on the adoption debate has to go to Hakmao, who has dispensed with niceties all together with this post and makes the point with few words and a good pic .

A number of blogs also covered the demonstration by some religious groups. Check out Hakmao , Mike (who demolishes bigotry with wit and intelligence ) and Tatchell (who needs no introduction) .Robin recounts his experience of trying to reason with the bigots (give that man a medal ) .

An area I wanted to highlight was disability as it is not often addressed by the left and when it is can sometimes slip into paternalism.
Kit wrote this post in response to the carnival and I look forward to hearing more about his work as Disabilities Officer for SYN.
A few weeks back there was the story of the 'Pillow Angel ' . I could not find any leftie blogs covering it, but I recommend looking at 'Wheelchair Dancer' , who writes from the perspective of someone with a disability , here , here and here. I also found a post looking at the issue from a feminist perspective .
The story of 'pillow angel' (the very name raises issues in itself) highlights the rights of disabled people, the lack of resources for families and carers and the importance of listening to the disability rights movement.

Janine has written about domestic violence and police attitudes , a much neglected issue on the left. Linked to this is the need to defend support services against cuts in public services as it is not a high priority for local authorities.

Right, a few posts as a concession to looking at national liberation. I was sent a post, by David, on the experiences of Native Americans today. It highlights the ongoing struggles they face against big business forcing them from their homes. Reading the maps sent me a post looking at Maori history and drawing lessons for the present. Dave has written about Scottish Independence, an issue for debate for the left in Scotland but one that will impact in England as well.
Finally, as my concession to Iraq I draw your attention to the IraqiLGBT blog. The attacks on LGBT people, as well as trade unionists and women, is something that both the anti war and pro war left like to ignore as much as possible.

Right, that is the last time I volunteer to do a carnival …

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Petition - religious exemptions

I have received an e-mail about a petition :

Petition ~ Exemptions for religious organisations from the Goods, Services and Facilities regulations!

The No 10 Downing Street website runs a petition section where you can sign petitions you feel strongly about. Right now one of the most popular (over 8,000 signatures) petitions on the 10 Downing Street site is the anti-gay petition aimed against the introduction in Northern Ireland of the Goods and Services Sexual Orientation Regulations (SOR).To counter that campaign, another petition has been launched, which states:"Exemptions for religious organisations from the Goods, Services and Facilities regulations, are of great concern and entirely unjust. The use of services, goods and facilities that heterosexuals take for granted, should be allowed to those from the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities; the protections that minorities and religious groups have in law should be granted to the lesbian gay and bisexual communities also; the end of a two-tier system which denies justice in the provision of goods, services and facilities to the lesbian, gay and bisexual communities should be implemented with no further delay and at the earliest point possible throughout the entirety of the UK."If you wish to support that petition, please go to:
You may disregard the 17th January end date.

Louise and Stroppyblog

You may have noticed that I haven’t posted for over a week on StroppyB. I am very sorry about this as it is very sad for both of us but I am moving on. I would like to wish Stroppybird every success for the future of Stroppyblog.


Gordon Brown sexy !!!!!

Nope, this is not my opinion but comes from a poll in New Woman magazine .

10,000 of their readers (of I must say dubious taste and discernment) voted two politicians into the top 100 sexiest men in the world. Brown at 97 and that caring new man Cameron at 87. Wonder where John McDonnell would rank then :-)
Of course looks should be irrelevant when it comes to politics, or at least they should be. Sadly looks and personality in this media age is a factor.

The report goes on to highlight some of the others:

Mr Cameron was rated higher than Richard Madeley, Simon Cowell, David Hasselhoff and England football captain John Terry.
At age 55, Mr Brown is the oldest entrant on the list, but his efforts to present a lighter, more approachable image appear to have paid off with NW readers who voted him ahead of Arctic Monkey's front man Alex Turner, 21, Kate Moss's partner Pete Doherty, 27, and Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles.

St the risk of being told of by Volty and John A for judging men on their looks and clothes (as if, anyway I like weird men :-)), but Hasselhoff, Moyles (or the Kit lookalike ), Madeley, Cowell to name a few of the most puzzling choices.
Why ? Looks like power and celebrity is an aphrodisiac, I mean its not their scintillating personalities or razor sharp intellect that compensates.

Oh and Kit, you don't really look like Chris Moyles and Volty does not dress like Simon Cowell.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Catholic Church and adoption.

The Catholic Church are up in arms about having their 'right' to discriminate against Lesbian and Gay people taken away. Funny, they want the protection of the law but deny it to others:

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor wrote to Cabinet ministers saying church teaching prevented its agencies placing children with homosexuals.
The Catholic Church wants to continue its policy of referring gay couples to other adoption agencies.
But this could fall foul of the Equality Act, due to come into effect in England, Wales and Scotland in April.
It outlaws discrimination in the provision of goods, facilities and services on the basis of sexual orientation.
It says if they are not granted an exemption, local authorities would no longer be able to use Catholic agencies, and they would not be financially viable.
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor told the BBC the Catholic Church was not discriminating against homosexuals and was bound by its teaching to treat them with "respect and sympathy".

This is of course the same Cardinal who did such a good job of protecting children from priests , the same Catholic Church with such a good record on child protection.

What message is this sending out? 'Sympathy' ! That says it all, LGBT people are really to be pitied as they are sinners. The church will pray for them but does not believe they are fit to become loving adoptive parents. The Church may direct them elsewhere , to other agencies who will work with such 'sinners', but that is still the message.

How can it be acceptable for anyone providing a service, whether that's adoption or any other , to be able to act on their prejudices . How about replacing the word gay with 'Black', 'Disabled', 'Muslim', 'Old' ...
That would be seen, rightly, as unacceptable but discrimination against gay adopters is not ?

Everyone has the right to practice their religion and have freedom of conscience. They do not have the right to withhold services from a group . If they feel that strongly then perhaps they should not provide an adoption service, leave it to others.

With more and more 'social services' being handed over to faith and community groups it is important that they practice in an anti-discriminatory manner.

This attitude by the Catholic Church also assumes that all the children that they would find homes for are heterosexual. No gay teenagers. And of course no gay priests .

Seems the cabinet is split on this issue of exemptions.
Blair would probably be happy to go along with exemptions . The official line is :

The prime minister is trying to find a solution to the adoption row that "addresses the different concerns" of the Catholic Church and gay rights groups, his spokesman has said.
He's looking for a way through that recognises and tries to address the different concerns on both sides.

How , without giving a message that discrimination is acceptable when its gay people.

Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor said:

...The anti-discrimination law should be given full effect. "We do take the view in this country that you shouldn't be discriminated against on that basis and think that applies to everybody, whatever your religion," he said.

Exactly. You can't pick and choose when it comes down to discrimination.

Yet again though Ruth Kelly seems to be taking an interesting approach to the role of Minister for Equality. It seems quite clear from her actions, or at times lack of them, that she is not exactly happy with supporting LGBT people against discrimination. Of course she is entitled to hold her own religious views but perhaps being in a role where her views appear to conflict with her role is not the best option.

So we are back again with the conflict of interest for Ruth Kelly, between government policy and her own religious beliefs. It seems they are incompatible . I mean, what part of 'Equalities' or 'anti discrimination' does she not get. It makes a farce of the role that she does not champion equalities for all groups rather than avoiding directly answering the questions about her views on LGBT people.

She really is in the wrong job.

Update: The Church of England has backed the Catholic Church and stated

"rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well-meaning".

Legislation cannot and should not control beliefs, but this is about actions and services provided that clearly discriminate and send out a message that lesbian and gay people should not be parents.

On a more positive note :

Anglican priest Father Martin Reynolds, from the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, is a long term foster carer.
He told the BBC there was no proof growing up in a gay family was bad for a child.
"There have been massive studies in America and elsewhere of the impact of growing up in gay families - maybe not always adopted families, very often they're children of the families themselves - and the evidence is, would you believe it, there's no more harm and no more good than in a gay family then there is anybody else's family."

Carnival of Socialism

I will do it, promise.

It will be up by the end of the week.
Blame it on getting drunk with the bloggies, Sunday spent taking the 'boys' (Kit and John) for brunch and a general air of lethargy/can't be arsed and having 'proper' work to do.

Will also report back on the 'Women against Fundamentalism' and the 'Feminists4John' meeting.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Drunk and unmanageable - the inaugural meeting of the (legendary!!) Jim D fan club ...

Last night was the first leftie bloggers piss up which took place in a grotty pub in Euston. The roll call of dishonour included JimD, Volty, Mike, Jon, Andrew, Marsha Jane, Tammy, George, Janine, John, Kit and Dave.

Guest of honour was Jim D with his minder Volty, who Dave now knows is not his girlfriend. Volty did a good job of keeping track of where Jim left his bag and finding it when lost, intervening when Jim banged the table to hard and ranted at poor old John and then escorting him back to Brum . Volty is indeed a hero, and not as also said by certain SWP comrades, Jim D's bitch.

Jim, well what can I say. He came very very close to both a slap and having drink poured over him , more of that later. Once he got over the upset of Louise not being there ('which one are you? Not Louise, ohh :-( ) he got into the swing of arguing with everyone . He insisted of buying me JDs and I had to eventually insist he let me buy him one. But then he veered on very dangerous territory and patted my head and called me doll. Yep, he came very close to a slap ! Do that again Jim and I will .
At various points in the evening the table would shake as Jim banged his fist down on it. I believe Volty may have captured this on his mobile for youtube consumption. Volty, if you have it send me a copy and I'll post it here.

Jim was also the focus of Mikes' attention. There is a photo on Kits mobile (one of five he had in his 'manbag') of Mike kissing the back of Jim's head. We were though spared Andrew and Jon snogging, which allegedly happened the last time they got drunk together, but more later on that topic.

By the end of the evening there was much hugging, I blame it on the alcohol. At one point this turned into a group hug (or a rugby scrum) and an impromptu rendition of the 'internationale'. We did at this point get close to being thrown out.

Jon arrived late but had started on the vino earlier and was soon in the spirit of things. Later on, on route to a Nepalese Restauant he was shouting 'I was born a trot and I shall die a Trot' in response to jibes that he was a reformist. Osler was shouting back 'bollocks'. But then bless, the excitment must have all be to much and Jon nodded off to sleep in the restaurant.
I will later this year be backing the Jon4MP campaign in Brighton:-)

Earlier in the day there was a discussion on Kits site about whether there were any 'fit' and well dressed men on the left and I offered to judge on this at the drinks. On arriving at the pub my heart sank and as more turned up it did not get any better. I think Stroppyblog could offer a sort of leftie 'Trinny and Susannah' service. Shall I name and shame? Well perhaps I will allude and leave people here to draw their own conclusions. I think there were a number of 'styles', I use that word loosely, ranging from 1970's Trade Union official through to 'what's washing powder/soap/an iron' and the colourful. But bless, they were all lovable in there own ways. Of course I have to say Dave was the best dressed , he should be the amount of time he spends in front of the mirror. Well I am biased.

There were a number of 'competitions' last night, such as fittest left bloke through to who is the biggest male tart. This last group had a short list of three. Comrades Osler, Berry and Rogers. I think Dave had the edge due to age but Andrew was catching up fast.

There probably was some serious conversation but I don't really recall it. In amongst who was a tart, who had snogged Jon Rogers , Kit and John wanted myself and Dave to adopt them. Hmmm. They did prove quite hard to get rid of. After the drinks Jon, Andrew, MarshaJane, Dave, Kit, John and myself went for a meal. Then our 'adopted sons' ended up back at Chez Osler for further drinks and to listen to the tales of Dave ('In my day'...) way past what should have been their bedtimes.

The following morning we took them out for brunch and they returned back to the flat. Couldn't get rid of them. It was bad enough when they all started talking about how comfy slippers were, but when the talk turned to sugar production in Cuba that was enough and I sent them home. Yep, I'm not just not the maternal type.

Dave has some pics on his mobile but has lost the cable to download it. No one could work out how to text on his phone either. So sorry no pics.

Looking forward to the next piss up. Over to Kit, the bloggers social secretary. But pick a pub that does not run out of JD next time ...

Update: The pic of Mike kissing the back of Jim D's head is to be found on John A's site. Not sure why I thought Kit had the pic...too much JD (thats Jack Daniels not Jim Denham !!).

Friday, January 19, 2007

Carnival of socialism

Just a quick update and reminder.
The original date for the Carnival was the 20th January .It might be a little late due to being lured to a pub in Kings Cross by some dodgy bloggers (yes, that's you Volty, Jim D and Kit ) . I suspect Sunday may be spent nursing a hangover .
I will though spend tonight ploughing though blogs to see what I can find rather than living it up on Friday night. Well when I say living it up, it was either watching Osler read or blogging, so no great sacrifice :-)

Can people send me any last minute posts they have done or seen. I have had a few so far, thanks.
But but but ... banging head against wall, liberation and the left is NOT just about Iraq or Palestine . Can some of you lefties (and Kit so far has) try to think about other liberation issues.
That includes gender, disability, the family and relationships, LGBT issues, mental health, race and class. Other issues are welcome as well along these lines.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Christian Voice and Jerry Springer

The last few weeks have not been to good for Christian Voice. First off they objected to the Sexual Orientation Regulations , which was passed by the Lords last week.

They have now lost their private blasphemy case against "Jerry Springer the Opera".

As well as this action they also called on Prince Edward to join their campaign :

His Royal Highness the Prince Edward is Patron of a Theatre which is planning to stage Jerry Springer the Opera in the new year...
why His Royal Highness must resign as Patron of that Theatre...
by associating with 'Jerry Springer the Opera' Prince Edward will bring shame and judgment on our Royal Family.
We don't want that. It's time for Prince Edward to stand up for Jesus Christ.

Hmmm. Well of course he should, being such a fine upstanding family man who I am sure has never deviated from the Christian path.

Further outrage is found on their page 'Britain in sin'. I recommend it to Paddy the Puritan, he will probably find much to agree with them on :-)

Must stop reading their website. I will become 'disgusted of Brighton', sitting tutting at the bigots as they do at us sinners. Its quite addictive ...

Hat Tip : New Humanist

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

John McDonnell - Feminists4John meeting

Marsha Jane sent me this e-mail re the John McDonnell campaign :

I will be chairing a meeting to discuss the feminist aspect of the John4Leader Campaign and would like to invite you to participate. From the very beginning when John McDonnell first announced his bid for the Labour Leadership, we made it clear that this campaign is about encouraging political participation and providing a voice to sections of our society who have felt alienated and excluded from politics. We have been absolutely overwhelmed with support since the launch of the campaign, as it inclusive and far-reaching. We are all aware that women, although making up over fifty percent of our society, are severely under-represented in political activism and decision making. Far too often feminism slips off the agenda. It is now important to fully establish the feminist program within the campaign, making sure that anti-sexism and issues that particularly affect women are at the forefront of political debate, encouraging more female activists to get involved. The meeting is on 24th January 7pm Grimmond Room, Portcullis House is a chance for women activists to come together to discuss with John how to take forward this element of his campaign. I hope you will be able to attend. Warm regards

I will be there and post a report .

Ipods - Escaping the real world.

I quite like Jim's blog. In the male left blogosphere he is quite unusual in the issues he addresses. His posts often draw on personal experience and emotion. A little while back he posted on listening to music on public transport and the feelings of being cut off :

The feeling of utter cut-offness from my surroundings is eerie, and probably rather dangerous. It's hard to put my finger on why it feels so wrong, but it's certainly odd that I enjoy a bus journey more without my favourite music in my ears than with it. I guess I don't find the experience so dreadful that I need to find such an artificial way to escape from it....

He goes on to talk about interaction and states that :

ear plugs cut out the possibility of anything butting into your own private world. Hmmm.

I travel about quite a bit for work and I usually play my ipod when on the train and bus. A few days back my ipod froze and I had to go without it . This got me thinking about Jim's post.I don't have an issue with his views. My feelings are different, and that may be down to the fact that I spend a lot of time on trains and buses, I like to cut the world off. It may be that I am more of an anti social person. Not sure.

On a practical level I like to read on trains and I find the chatter distracting. Mobile phones on trains have made this worse. I find myself listening and sometimes that amuses me. The majority of the time though I want to read or at least think. I prefer quiet but music on an ipod is the best I can manage in order to concentrate.

Over the last few months with my mother being unwell, and then after she died, I have had times where I do just want to shut out the inanane babble of people on trains more than usual even for me. I hate being squashed up with strangers on trains, surrounded by talking . I prefer to choose who I get that close to !

If my day has been stressful escape from the world is good. That does not mean I don't engage with it, but I like my own company (some might say just as well :-) ). I like to escape into my head and plugging myself into music helps . I don't think that means I disengage permantly, but enough to remain relatively same.

Thankfully my ipod is now working again :-)

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Carnival of Socialism

The Stroppies are hosting the next carnival. What the hell are these carnival comrades thinking?
I know it is a scary prospect and you are all wondering how much we will lower the tone with the theme we pick. Well we did consider :

Crap TV and the left

Socialism and sex toys: free on demand

Fucking, fisting and fishnets - will they exist after the revolution (if not why not)

Dirty chicks talk left

Decadence and socialism: where's the champagne?

Theory as foreplay: Trotskyist pillowtalk for beginners

But no. We will behave with decorum. Ha! Believe that and you'll believe anything...........

The theme is :

Liberation politics and the left.

Go get scribbling. You have Xmas and the New Year to trot out something dynamic. Whaddya mean you were planning to drink, dance and be debauched instead. Where's your party discipline, comrade? Honestly, these days you just can't get the cadre.

Get the posts to us by the 20th January 2007. Email them to either:

Ciao comrades

Stroppy and Louise

Update : Just bumped this up to remind people as we posted this before xmas.

Updated update ! We have received posts on national liberation. Which is good but we were hoping that people would look at liberation in a wider sense. For example the left and women, LGBT people, disability, mental health , religion .

Freeloading Blair...

Ok, Ok, I am on a bit of a roll regarding the eternal stupidity of one Tony Blair Esq.

Blair, seems to have enjoyed free airline upgrades worth thousands and isn't too hot on paying his own way either. No wonder Tony "leave it to science" Blair doesn't want a little issue of global warming to impinge on his love of long haul flights.

"But British Airways yesterday confirmed that the Prime Minister has yet to pay for the upgrade to business class from economy that he requested on checking in at Heathrow, and will be invoiced".

And, "Mr Blair has taken "free" holidays worth more than £775,000 with wealthy hosts since taking office. They include four holidays at a Barbados villa owned by Sir Cliff Richard".

Blair isn't out of the mire yet as questions are being asked about how much he paid to stay in Robin Gibb's luxury £5m pad with 10 bedrooms.

Just how deep is Blair's love for freebies?

Actually, I think he would be rather suited to be a presenter on Relocation, Relocation and wouldn't look out of place along with the other grasping, greedy entrepreneurs.

The inaugural meeting of the Jim D fan club .

Kit has heroically taken on the challenge of organising a social event in the real world for the leftie bloggers . Pop over to his site to find out details. Pop over anyway to take a look at his blog.
I said I would give the event a plug over here and tell everyone why this will be the social highlight of January (ok, this is a dull month so not much competition). So far my experiences of meeting bloggies has been good fun, so looking forward to Saturday.

Those of you who may be wavering will I am sure be swayed (either way :-) ) by the main attraction. Yes , the delectable Jim D will be there all the way from Brum. Jim D, jazz buff and fan of gorgeous George , Respect and the SWP, has been tempted down by alcohol and scintillating company.Hmmm, he may be disappointed on the latter . The Stroppies did manage to drive him to drink and make him unmanageable (although I believe it doesn't take much, listening to Talk Galloway has the same effect). Hopefully we can do the same again in person. I have been told by Jim he looks like Cary Grant. I picture him more as Father Jack. All will be revealed on Saturday.

Other 'highlights' will include the degenerate decadent badly behaved Unison lot . I hope the pub has good lighting . Kit can talk Kylie with Louise. Kit, don't forget you agreed to wear fishnets if I bought you some :-) Dave, the cheery optimist , will be a cross between Victor Meldrew and the Frazer in Dads Army ('We're doomed' ). Oh and I am trying to persuade the Blairite Blogger to come along :-)

See you there...

More sleaze for Tony Blair

Guess who has offered Blair £2million to pull New Labour out of the financial mire? Yes, step forward, well known asset stripper and exploiter of workers rights, Lakshmi Mittal. Ah yes, you all say, the same bloke who gave cash to New Labour while Blair wrote a favourable letter to the Romanian government when Mittal was going for the nationalised steel company there. And where else can you get a good supply of cheap labour? Eastern Europe of course.

But Blair swears he didn't know anything about the donation (nudge, nudge, wink, wink...say no more).

Blair's philosophy is more about helping out his powerful capitalist buddies as opposed to listening to the public.

The bailing out was organised by Lord Levy who is currently out on bail due to the cash for honours investigation. You really couldn't this saga up, could you?

A Labour spokesman said: "Mr Mittal has been a committed supporter of the party for many years and any financial gift from one of the world's most successful businessmen is very welcome."

Even if this is all above board, it is downright appalling that Blair is happy to take money from an exploiter like Mittal whose health and safety record is shocking. And there have been protests by trade unionists in steelworks owned by Mittal around eastern Euope because of the lack of workers' rights

In September 2006, an explosion claimed 41 lives in a Kazakh mine and promoted widespread industrial action, was the result of safety violations by mine bosses, an official commission has found. The report said other top bosses in the coal department of JSC Mittal Steel Temirtau - part of the international Arcelor Mittal group headed by Lakshmi Mittal - were also guilty.

"Workers have long alleged that Mittal, which runs 61 plants across 27 countries, has done little to improve labor and safety conditions since taking over Kazakhstan's largest metal factory and the mines that fuel it 11 years ago. Mittal Steel Co. NV is in the process of merging with Arcelor SA to form Arcelor Mittal.
Mittal CEO Lakshmi Mittal said that the company had invested US$240 million (nearly 190 million) in modernizing the complex. He also said victims' families would receive up to US$55,000 (43,300) each in compensation".

Drop in the ocean for Mittal when you consider that this man is worth £25billion and has done exceptionally well due to soaring prices in steel. But at the expense of exploiting workers for cheap labour. And that's what Mittal does best.

Yet Blair and co. are only too pleased to swipe Mittal's cash. Blair's desperate for a place in the annuls of history and that legacy is of an odious warmonger steeped in sleaze and corruption.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Blair's legacy......

Blair has described his foreign policy as controversial. Well, that's an understatement, mate, 'cos I can think of other words to describe it and "controversial" isn't one of them.

The warmonger argues: "war on terror" may last a generation but to retreat would be a "catastrophe".

Also said he wanted to keep a strong American alliance and "for us as a nation to be as willing to fight terrorism and pay the cost of that fight wherever it may be".

Yeah well, Bliar isn't paying the cost that's for sure.

Mr Blair admitted public opinion was divided over Britain's military campaigns and "unnerved by the absence of victory" in its traditional form.

Blair, the deluded moral crusader, is obsessed with self-image. He makes the "tough decisions" and believes he's right while everyone around him knows he's wrong including the majority of the public. He's one incredibly vain operator who will carry on with this mindless foreign policy until he's kicked out of office. It is also bound up with his own legacy and how he will go down in history. He wants to project the Big Hero that he "liberated" Afghanistan and Iraq yet most think he's a war criminal who really should be handcuffed and taken down to Belmarsh.

Blair is probably also keeping an eye on the lecture circuit in the States as many of his predecessors have gone down that avenue before.

And now Gordon Brown is distancing himself from Blair, rather late, hey Gordie, and rather cynically as well. He's signalling to everyone else that he's not Blair and that he won't be cuddling up to the neo-cons. He may modify bits and pieces of the Blairite project but ultimately it will be the same. Different leader same project.

Well, as the Moody Blues once sang: "Go Now..... " Anthony Charles Lynton Blair Esq and take Gordon with you.

Next week on More4 (15th Jan) is The Trial of Tony Blair
Repeated on Channel 4 (18th Jan). Robert "Wolfie Smith" Lindsay plays Blair.

The writer Alistair Beaton says: "I gather Mr Blair is very concerned about his place in history. This film is my idea of where that place might be. Whether it's fiction or prediction remains to be seen."

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Wednesday rant: Relocation, Relocation

Sorry comrades but this programme makes me wanna take up arms. Step forward Relocation, Relocation. The shrink said I shouldn't watch it but the masochist in me forces me to.

A friend of mine once said her boyfriend just sits there and rants at the telly while the programme is on. I couldn't agree more 'cos that's what I do.

Why does it bug me so? Firstly, those bloody presenters, irritating and sinus impaired Kirstie along with witless Phil, the non-entity. But what is worse. Nay truly worse, is the people they are finding pads for. They are usually "entrepreneurs" never ordinary workers who get by on a joke of a salary and would probably be hard pressed to buy a broom cupboard in London let alone buy a one bedroom flat. This couple tonight wanted a flat in London (ended up in Clapham) and a family pad by the seaside (Ramsgate). I think the bloke makes his money in "buy to let" where he buys them up and rents them out at a massive profit.

A better name for this odious programme should be Exploitation, Exploitation, Exploitation!

The Magnificent Seven....?

There is a poll on the BBC website asking you to vote for your political hero. The poll closes on the 11th January and the "winner" is announced on the Politics Show (14th Jan). The seven you can choose from are:

Tony Benn
Neil Kinnock
Alex Salmond
Clare Short
Norman Tebbit
Margaret Thatcher
Shirley Williams

Magnificent Seven? They are having a laugh.

The biggest chills down my spine was seeing scary old Norman "on ya bike" Tebbit and ..... The Iron One. The list is piss-poor to say the least. But Thatcher..... NOOOO!!

Why is Shirley "SDP/Liberal Alliance bollox" Williams on there, along with Witchfinder General Kinnock?

Funny that old Blair didn't make the final seven. Mmmm. Wonder why?

Alex Salmond. Why?

I am with Greenman on this. Vote Tony Benn!!

Benn won with 38.22% of the vote.
Thatcher came second (hiss boo) with 35.31%. And in third place.... Alex Salmond with 10.98%. Shirl beat Kinnock with 6.36% to his 4.98% of the vote. And Clare Short and the On Ya Bike One both got 2.07% of the vote.

Well done comrade Benn.....

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Religious bigots on the march outside Parliament.

Well, my blood pressure has increased along with experiencing a bout of apoplexy as the religious bigots are on the march again but this time outside parliament. They are protesting against the Sexual Orientation Regulations. The Lords are debating whether to scrap the law and the vote will be taken at 7:30pm this evening.

Keith Porteous Wood of the National Secular Society said: “Scare mongering, gross exaggeration, and even factual inaccuracies are being employed by Christian groups to try to panic politicians into rejecting these regulations. Their tactics are becoming ever more desperate and misleading.

I am hoping there will be a counter-demonstration.....

There is also a piece written by the Toynbee One calling on Peers to get themselves down to parliament and vote for these regulations.

Update: Apols. for poor quality of pic. But there were about 100-150 of them protesting and some were getting nicked by the cops. The vote is being taken later tonight. Oh and thanks to the National Secular Society for the email.

They failed to scrap the regulations in a 3 to 1 defeat.

Monday, January 08, 2007

House of Lords debate Mental Health Bill

The House of Lords today will be considering proposals regarding the new draconian Mental Health Bill.

Health Minister Rose Winterton argues: "We have made it very clear in the bill that appropriate treatment has to be available for detention to take place”.

But now with the “Minority Report” style proposals, New Labour are gearing up to lock people up labelled with personality disorders who haven’t committed any offence even though it is considered untreatable. Whether it is deemed "treatable" or "untreatable" the idea of locking people up 'cos of a label is repressive beyond belief.

These proposals are not going down a treat with that bastion of radicalism (not!), The Royal College of Psychiatrists.

El presidente, Professor Sheila Hollins argues:

"I think the idea that somehow this bill is going to prevent homicides and violent assaults is a mistake. In some ways there is a possibility that by increasing stigma associated with mental illness we will actually deter people from coming forward."

Around 50 Labour MPs have signalled their intention to oppose the Bill in Parliament.

Update: Lords reject mental health plans

I have seen it all now....

Bloody Nora! I have seen it all now.

"A sanitary towel with a fake vagina attached so your “husband” can have “external intercourse” with you while you’ve got your period".

Oh and by the way, the woman has to be lying on her back for the contraption to work.

Fantastic. If only us women knew about it sooner then hey, it coulda been on our Xmas list.

Maybe it will still take-off and become a best seller. But then again maybe not.

Check out the diagrams.

Hat tip: The F Word

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Iraq: the great oil swindle

They came, they saw and they have taken the oil.

The Iraqi government is about to push through a law giving Western oil companies the right to exploit the country's massive oil reserves. Western oil companies will be entitled to up to 75% of the profits from Iraqi oil. Now I say Iraqi government when really the draft law went to the US government and major oil companies in July and to the IMF in September.

The law was drafted with the "assistance" of BearingPoint, an American consultancy firm hired by the US government, which had a representative working in the American embassy in Baghdad for several months. These moves have been concealed from the Iraqi parliament. The Iraqi people have been completely bypassed in the manoeuvres to get this new law into place.

In this draft law there are odious stabilisation clauses that in effect overide Iraqi sovereignty. The oil companies will be able to sue the Iraqi government if laws are passed that interfere with the oil companies profits. The Iraqi governments of future years will not be able to pass labour protection, health and safety or environmental law without the threat of expensive litigation in the international courts. The contracts are deliberately very complex: oil companies will undoubtedly find loopholes.

Perhaps the pro-war left would like to protest against this abuse of their noble enterprise to bring "freedom" to the Iraqi people?

On the website of the Iraq Occupation Focus there is a pdf of an excellent report called, Crude Designs: the rip-off of Iraq's oil wealth. Well worth a read.

Proposals to x-ray young asylum seekers

This piece in Friday’s Guardian utterly horrified me. The Home Office seeks to introduce procedures which will allow young asylum seekers under the age of 18 years to undergo x-rays of their teeth and wrist bones to determine their age.

The reason being is that an asylum seeker under the age of 18 years receives high levels of support and protection than adults and that ministers are concerned that “some asylum seekers try to pass themselves off as younger than they are to qualify”.

Fortunately, these proposals are being challenged by various organisations. The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health have questioned the ethics of “irradiating people for purposes not to their advantage”

The Royal College of Radiologists advised its members that it is: ‘inappropriate’ to undertake an x-ray for the purposes of age estimation. Other arguments used against x-rays is that it is not an exact science, reliability is limited and margin of error substantial – accuracy only to within plus/minus 2 years in assessing age.

At the moment, when an unaccompanied asylum seeking child (UASC) comes to the UK:

“The social services department in the area where the young person presents as an asylum seeker will need to decide on the age of the individual to establish if it has a duty to assist or look after them under Part III of the Children Act 1989.”

The current system is abusive as there was a successful challenge to a Home Office decision regarding 2 young asylum seekers who were considered to be 18 or over. They had been detained as adults in Oakington detention centre.

“The children were only released when social workers informed the Home Office that, in their view, the physical appearance of the two strongly suggested they were under the age of 18.”

It is interesting that the draft document from the Home Office says dental and wrist x-rays have been successfully used in other European countries.

Really? Well, countries such as Bulgaria, Denmark, Czech Republic, Greece, Ireland (Office of the Refugee Applications Commissioner is still considering whether to use x-rays as a form of age assessment), Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Slovakia, do not or very seldom apply an age assessment.

Germany and Austria discontinued with x-rays due to unreliability. Sweden uses x-rays, dental examination and psycho-social assessment (though not been implemented as yet). Norway is similar to Sweden.
(From Separated Children in Europe Programme -workshop on age assessment and identification, Bucharest, 20-22 March 2003. Report by Kate Halvorsen).

Even in the USA x-rays and dental examinations have been heavily condemned by medical and dental experts. The U.S. Department of State has instructed its staff not to rely on radiological testing.

In Belgium, Ilse Derluyn of the University of Ghent has produced a study which reveals the very high incidence of serious emotional problems among unaccompanied asylum-seeking children

“Some 47 per cent of them showed signs of depression, 45 per cent serious symptoms of anxiety and 58 per cent post-traumatic stress disorder. AI reports that the Italian government has breached national law and international standards by detaining unaccompanied minors and has called on the authorities to implement an independent monitoring system to listen to the opinions of detained children.”

This kind of intrusive and oppressive measure will only increase the distress of these children.

So why now with the UK?

Around 2,965 unaccompanied kids came into this country in 2005 while 2,425 were age disputed. Around 650 were eventually resolved. Why can’t they give these kids the benefit of the doubt as they are probably scared and feeling vulnerable but resorting to intrusive procedures can only worsen the situation as it is an abuse of trust? What about consent? And free legal representation? Incidentally, with the Carter proposals on legal aid immigration and asylum is one area that will be hit very hard.

"No one seems to be listening to what the children themselves have to say, or considering the impact that their experiences before and since coming to this country may have had on them."

Is this an example of late Blairite racist electoralism? Asylum seekers still provide an easy scapegoat for politicians who want someone other than the powerful in society to blame for the problems for ordinary people. The government are still playing this vile game and the most vulnerable people are to be punished for problems caused by others.

This is another repressive measure by New Labour to show that they are being “tough” on immigration. Bullying and scaring powerless kids. Yeah, really tough!

Saturday, January 06, 2007

The fine art of paper selling

I hated paper selling. Reading this interview with the actor James Purefoy in today's Guardian magazine made me chuckle. Well, especially this bit:

"I sold the Socialist Worker outside Brixton tube," he laughs. How many papers did he sell per Saturday? "I was crap, absolutely useless".

As a once shiny bright-eyed bushy-tailed young cadre who sold papers years ago I too can relate to the words of comrade Purefoy. I was a sodding crap as well, absolutely useless. I couldn't sell my way out of a paper bag. It didn't exist in the organisation I was in but maybe there should be seminars on paper selling (could put one on at Marxism... "The Fine Art of Paper Selling: for beginners"). I just kinda thought it was a waste of time as what was the point of it? Building the organisation while increasing the profile at the same time? Do me a favour!

It always felt like ritual humiliation especially if your mates happened upon you selling the rag. Or selling in the miserable cold rainy weather with soggy papers and one time I remember selling in a fucking blizzard (my poor frost bitten fingers!). Oh yeah, and if anyone argues that it is a good way of engaging in the class struggle then I will say you are experiencing delusional behaviour, comrade, as most people usually run a mile at a sniff of a paper seller (though I am sure there are people who have had good and positive experiences....somewhere) And yeah, some are more prolific and enthusiastic than others.

But there is a kinda hierarchy of paper selling and it usually exposes where you are in the pecking order. Shouldn't all members sell the damn paper?

Even now when I spot a squabble of paper sellers (the new collective noun for paper sellers) part of me tries to shut them out though tempting as it to shout, "Fuck Off and leave me alone"! I am reminded of the days when I did it and hated it. So out of solidarity with the enthusiastic collective I buy one from all of the 57 varieties.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Debate in Parliament on legal aid - 11/1/07

I have blogged numerous times about the changes to legal aid in relation to the Carter proposals. The MP Karen Buck was able to secure an adjournment debate in December and this has led to a debate in Parliament by the DCA/Vera Baird (Department of Constitutional Affairs) on the 11th January 2007.

These proposals will have a severe impact on all areas of legal advice and consequences will be dire for people who need free, legal advice.

Liz Davies (Chair of the Haldane Society) has written on the Carter Proposals in the latest Socialist Lawyer and also in last month's Morning Star (sub needed).

She argues: "Most legal aid lawyers are already thin, under-nourished cats. If the Carter proposals are adopted, very few legal aid solicitors will be able to carry on making a living. And, in the world of criminal defence, housing, parents facing the removal of their children, there isn’t exactly a rich private client group to turn to, to subsidise the loss-making publicly funded cases".

Steve Johnson, Chief Executive of Advice UK said -
'The Government's proposals are unworkable. They will leave many people without access to good legal advice when they need it. They were driven by a desire solely to save money and will undermine the good quality advice services that our members aim to provide and so access to justice. We urge them to re-think the proposals and start listening to advice providers.'

The Law Centres Federation have agreed to boycott the new proposed Legal Aid contract.

There is this Dickensian feel to New Labour that the poor and the powerless should meekly accept whatever their betters decide to dish out to them; whether it is an eviction notice, a cut in benefit, a bullet through the head while sitting on the tube or deliverance to the torture chambers of the third world.

Torchwood: postmortem

Well, it is time to bid adieu to Torchwood. Captain Jack seems to have hitched a ride in the Tardis and who can blame him? His work colleagues have a propensity for shooting him (and sometimes each other!) on a regular basis and even that doesn't work as this boss can't die. Honestly, chaps, just go for a collective grievance and sort out the working conditions that way. Though, on the other hand, shooting him cuts through the bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, I missed the first two episodes as I fell asleep..... But since then I have watched the edited highlights on the BBC website. There were some fresh, imaginative and creative storylines that transgress the usual norms concerning sexuality such as alien life force feeding off orgasmic energy to sexy seductive gender bending aliens. Oh and the main characters do get to shag a little bit. We even find out bits and pieces about the enigmatic Captain Jack. Other storylines, included, one that was a kinda Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Wicker Man.

One area I was disappointed with was the way the main characters were glossed over and not fully fleshed out (well, to me anyway) so it jarred and seemed a tad odd to me a bit when one of the main characters (Ianton) keeps his half Cyberwoman girlfriend in the dungeon. You get a glimpse at their past relationship but now he is in the role of Dr Frankenstein as he wants to "cure her". Doesn't end well as you can imagine.

I found the same with most of the characters especially with Gwen the new recruit (I found her irritating for some reason), her boyfriend and her on/off fling with Owen (the medical dr). I just felt I never really got to know the characters at all.

I liked the storylines that included demonic fairies, the send-up of the film Fight Club but using scary bitey aliens called Weevils and resurrected work colleagues (another one who was shot but it was self-inflicted this time). There was the odd time travelling story, you know, you step on a plane in 1953 and end up in 2006 (no, they weren't using Easyjet). And last night's finale was about the time rift being shattered causing a devilish creature to plague downtown Cardiff (poor old Cardiff). But Jack saved the day and he was resurrected by a kiss (Oh, stop pinching storylines from The Matrix....).

Overall, there was freshness and imagination (Buffyesque in places.... though doubt they have the mega budget to spend on sophisticated special effects etc. as it seemed all sticky back plastic and rubber) but that couldn't save the clunky scripts and lack of characterisation. I'd give it 7 out of 10 and that's me being generous. Could do so much better! Maybe next series (she hopes).

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

This Life: 10 years on.....

Well, bit of cult viewing tonight as I have been looking forward to this since it was first announced months ago and have been watching the repeats on BBC2 in preparation for tonight's This Life + 10 years.

I was bit slow on the uptake and never started watching This Life until the second series and started to really liked it. The series' producer was Tony Garnett (he's also produced the current one-off) who worked with Ken Loach in the 1960s and 1970s. And the storylines, well they were pretty cool as well. And they stopped with the second series which was sensible. Oh it was a shame Amy Jenkins writing career went down the drain afterwards.

Anyway, tonight we see whether the intervening years have been kind to Egg, Milly, Anna, Miles and Warren.

I wonder if this will catch on and will we get X-Files + 10 years: The truth is still out there....?

Oh yeah, whether you are interested, the characters I liked the best were Anna and Miles though Milly could pack a punch.

The religious bigots are on the march.....

The scary, scary religious bigots are on the march in northern Ireland. They are attempting to block new laws that will protect lesbians and gay men from discrimination by hoteliers and guest house owners.

A choice quote from one bigot: "The Pentecostal movement, on the basis of Holy Scripture, views homosexuality as being deviant and sinful."

Peter Tatchell states: "This new law is long overdue. It gives lesbian and gay people the same protection that has been given to women and black people for many decades. The disparity has been a long-standing injustice. But the religious and political fundamentalism of Northern Ireland has often made life very difficult for lesbian and gay people."

Ruth Kelly, is said to be "sympathetic" to the "pleas" by the Anglican and Catholic churches about this opposition to this new law.

Why doesn't Ruth Kelly just go the whole nine yards and join them on their demonstrations and in their opposition 'cos it is becoming patently obvious she doesn't give a damn about the discrimination and oppression faced by lesbians and gay men?

Btw: Check out the "brimstone and fire" pic (ye shall repent... yada, yada) on Liam's blog. Absolutely choice!

PCS balloting membership over strike action

The PCS is balloting 280,000 members in 200 government departments and agencies about possible strike action.

The strike action could start on 31 January to coincide with the deadline for self-assessment tax returns. There is widespread anger at compulsory job losses, piss-poor pay offers and outsourcing.

In his pre-Budget Report to Parliament on 6 December the Chancellor of the Exchequer set out the Government’s plans for continuing cuts in every department, agency and public body for 2008 – 2011. This new round of cuts will total 8% per year or 24% over the period

Mark Serwotka said: "There will be a range of very imaginative forms of industrial action. We are already planning a second wave of action, which will not be a traditional one-day strike.

"There is an onslaught against civil servants who face job losses, worse conditions and a pay cut, so we are expecting a big 'yes' vote for industrial action."

Sir Gus O'Donnell, Cabinet Secretary has warned the PCS that the public could lose sympathy for civil servants if action was taken.

Yeah well, they always come out with that guff about why you shouldn't strike but they are only too happy to pay you pathetic wages, engage in cuts and compulsory job losses.

2007 kicks off with a ballot and good luck to PCS in building a YES vote!