Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Silver shoes

I have evidence that capitalism will go on for ever and ever because the likes of me who should know better keep buying useless rubbish. I bought a dress for three pounds! Which I was pleased with however I then to go along with it bought a hand bag at £28 and a pair of silver shoes at £30 then ear rings and a head band for £6! I know no matter what happens I will NEVER wear a pair of silver shoes again, though in saying that I used to have a pair of silver sandals that I had since 2000 (I wore them to Tommy Sheridan's wedding) but I gave them away to the PDSA last year only wearing them once. Guess what? This year silver shoes came back into fashion again so I had to buy another pair even though I know I won't wear them again!

Can't post a picture of silver shoes as it won't let me

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Monday, October 29, 2007

Paul Fox, Ruts Guitarist, RIP

I normally make it a rule not to post YouTube stuff too often, but having just heard of the sad death of guitarist Paul Fox, I have to post my favourite song by one of my favourite bands, 'Staring At The Rude Boys' by The Ruts ...

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Respect Splits

Posted without comment (for now) ...

Dear Respect Member,

SWP leadership splitting from Respect

We are astonished that the Respect National Secretary John Rees has spoken publicly in support of four councillors who have split from Respect in Tower Hamlets.

Today, Monday 29 October, there was a press conference called by four former Respect councillors in Tower Hamlets. They announced that they had resigned the Respect whip on the council and were forming a Respect (Independent) party. This is a clear split from Respect.

John Rees answered questions at the press conference. He expressed his support for the four breakaway councillors. In answer to questions from journalists he said that Respect (Independent) candidates could be standing against Respect candidates in elections. Cllr Oliur Rahman, who was a member of the National Council and a national officer, did not rule out standing against George Galloway, who is Respects only nominee to be the Respect parliamentary candidate in Poplar and Limehouse.

No party could be expected to tolerate its purported National Secretary colluding with those who have split from the organisation and discussing standing candidates against it.

By this action he has betrayed the members of Respect and the party he is supposed to advocate, defend and build. He has forfeited his position as National Secretary and as a member of the National Council. He has clearly indicated that he and the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party are splitting from Respect.

Nothing could more clearly demonstrate the duplicitous behaviour of the SWP leadership, which has been asking for support for its petition against witch-hunts whilst preparing its forces for a split from Respect.

Yours in solidarity,

Linda Smith, National Chair
Salma Yaqoob, National Vice Chair
Ayesha Bajwa, National Council
Victoria Brittain, National Council
Rita Carter, National Council
Ger Francis, National Council
George Galloway MP, National Council
Jerry Hicks, National Council
Abdul Khaliq Mian, National Council
John Lister, National Council
Ken Loach, National Council
Abjol Miah, National Council, Leader of Tower Hamlets Respect Councillors Group
Bernie Parkes, National Council
Yvonne Ridley, National Council
Clive Searle, National Council
Alan Thornett, National Council
Nick Wrack, National Council


Saudi Protest - This Wednesday

Its really good to see an initiative from Socialist Youth Network take off in such a big way. Myself and Owen as co-chairs of SYN were interviewed by the Indie over the weekend and the story is on the front page!

Its also been picked up all over the media from The Sun to the Guardianand even theMiddle Eastern Times not to mention all over the blogosphere with too many links to mention!

The Middle Eastern times story says "On Wednesday, protestors are due to stage a mass human rights demonstration outside the Saudi embassy in London, supported by figures including senior ruling Labour party lawmaker John McDonnell."

:) my we have moved up in the world! On a more serious note it is good to see a wide coalition of people speaking out against the visit, it is disgraceful the hypocritical way that this government are treating Iran in comparison to Saudi. Saudi Arabia is arguably the most repressive society on earth (though that argument is taking place at Osler's blog!)

It has no political parties, no free elections, no independent media or trade unions. Human rights violations are rampant - including the lack of basic rights for women, the repression of gays, the widespread use of torture,amputations and public executions.

Obviously though Abdullah has no worries despite being met by a barrage of protests at his visit, with it seems the only people happy he is here being the Government, he slags them off on BBC News this morning. How to win friends and influence people eh - still I suppose when all the government care about is your oil it doesnt matter what you say about them or how much you abuse people?

I hope to see as many of you as possible on Wednesday 6pm - 8pm Saudi Embassy, 30-32 Charles Street, W1J 5DZ Speakers include: Yahya al-Alfaifi (Saudi trade unionist), Katy ClarkMP, John McDonnell MP, Marsha-Jane Thompson (SYN Co-Chair), SandyMitchell (former British prisoner in Saudi Arabia), Murad Qureshi AM and Peter Tatchell

Sunday, October 28, 2007

30 Year Old Classic Song

Superficial but amusing conversation in the Booth/Leach household about adverts. "Wasn't there a band called The Adverts?" ... "Yup, they did a brilliant song called Gary Gilmore's Eyes ... wonder if it's on YouTube ..."


Arguments Against Socialism

Of late, we've been getting a lot of practice on this blog arguing with other lefties and amongst ourselves. It's high time to put those skills to use arguing with the right wing. So - following an excellent discussion I attended yesterday afternoon - here is a list of some arguments against socialism touted by right-wingers. The comments box is open for (attempts at) replies.

  1. There is no such thing as class (any more).
  2. Socialism means authoritarian dictatorship.
  3. Human nature is that people are selfish and greedy.
  4. Human nature also means that people are all different, and socialism would force them to be the same.
  5. Elites are necessary.
  6. Central planning won't work.
  7. Private property is the key to freedom.
  8. Socialism might sound good in theory, but in practice it has been a disaster.
  9. Revolution is simply destructive.
  10. The idea of a revolution is just fantasy.
  11. It's better to concentrate on making small but real improvements in people's lives in the here and now.
  12. The working class is not fit to change the world - the trade unions are dominated by sell-out bureaucrats and lots of working-class people are small-minded and even bigoted.

Over to you.


My head hurts

Good intentions . I planned to avoid the blogs today, but like a soap opera addict I had to get the latest episode.


Might post something a little more constructive later if I don't lose the will to live all together.



The first couple minutes of Sicko made me wince. A man is literally using a needle and thread to sew up a deep wound in his leg. No health and safety and you aren't conscious of anything anti-septic being used or a sterile (the man's cat sits on the sofa) environment. He couldn't afford to go to hospital so it was a case of DIY stitches and probably will take his chances if an infection develops.

Another man spoke about losing the tops of two of his fingers. His hospital gave him a choice, the middle finger would cost around $30,000 to re-attach and the ring finger would cost around $12,000. The man chose the ring finger as it was the cheaper option and all he could afford.

Welcome to America, the land of the free (if you can afford it) where nearly 50 million people are without health insurance while 18,000 die because of being uninsured. A rich country with third world health care.

Moore interviews people who have shafted by private healthcare providers, workers who left in disgust at what they were expected to do and medics who couldn't stomach rejecting patients for healthcare any longer just to make the company happy and to make a quick buck for themselves on the backs of misery and pain. I remember a scene in The Sopranos where Tony Soprano is in hospital where he's visited by the HMO to assess his condition. He tells her to f*ck off. I wondered how many Americans echoed that sentiment!

Healthcare (what an oxymoron) in the States is about profit. People have to jump many hurdles to get "approved" by a healthcare provider and even then it is never certain as there's "pre-existing conditions" and "deductables". A needless complicated system that even if you are certain to get insurance they'll find ways of rejecting you. I think it is highly possible that I wouldn't be granted health insurance if I lived in the States.

Two women both had sick children. One got her child to the hospital but was told by her healthcare provider that the hospital wasn't approved so she had to wait around for her daughter to be transferred. By the time she got to the right hospital her daughter died. The other woman in the film had a similar life threatening situation concerning her daughter. Her daughter survived. Why? She lives in France where her daughter was treated immediately without the rigmarole and extra worry of approved hospitals.

Words like obscene, grotesque, inhuman cannot describe the healthcare system in the States. Watching the American woman describe her dead daughter was unbearable, tragic, moving and shocking. The child's death was needless. And yet the CEOs of these corporations are rich beyond belief. Insurance and drug companies make a killing.

Grainy CCTV images show sick people being dumped in the gutter outside mission style run hospitals (the care you get it very basic) because the other hospital has discovered there's no insurance etc. Moore globe trots around America, Canada, UK, and France. All these countries have universal free healthcare (France is far far better than the one we have here).
Moore meets rescue workers involved in 9/11. Many of them have respiratory problems and have been abandoned by the government. They have to eke out a living on very low pay buying basic medical necessities at inflated prices. One woman pays $120 3 times a month for basic medicine when she could get the same drug in Cuba for around 5 cents. They cannot afford to get well. So.....where does Moore take them to get free universal healthcare...? Yes that land run by Satan...Cuba.
I like the cut and paste documentary style of Moore (it reminded me of the excellent Walmart: the high cost of low price). It isn't deeply analytical but Moore doesn't pull any punches. And that method can be highly efficient in putting your message across along with a dose of humour .There are couple of rather schmaltzy scenes but I forgive him. He makes a simple straightforward yet politically powerful case for universal health care (and lobbyists hate the film and are trying to spin that healthcare insurance is run by really fwiendly cuddly people). It is a damning indictment for private healthcare. There's an interview with Tony Benn who explains the history of the NHS in Britain.

But this should serve as a cautionary tale for us Brits as the likes of Kaiser Permanente are sticking their already bloated chops in the trough as they have been invited to discuss healthcare with New Labour. Around 14 of these healthcare companies have been commissioned by New Labour for buying healthcare for NHS patients.

Ivan Lewis, New Labour minister, has claimed that these companies can be trusted! One of these "trusted" companies, Unitedhealth, was fined $9.7m in 2004 for defrauding the US healthcare system. Gee, you can surely trust this lot with the family silver!

Private medicine is creeping into the health service. And there are charges to healthcare i.e. dentistry and trying to find an NHS dentist is bit like needle in a haystack! There are the inevitable pushes for charging by economists who preach "rationalisation"...

Yes, what a fresh and dandy idea, a two tier health care service where the poor get thrown in the gutter.....

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Protest the Saudi State visit

Info below about a protest this Wednesday.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007
6:00pm - 8:00pm
Saudi Arabian Embassy
30-32 Charles Street, W1J 5DZ

The Saudi dictator King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is arriving in Britain on a 3-day state visit at the invitation of the British Government on 30th October 2007.

Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive regimes on the planet. There are no political parties, free elections, independent media or trade unions. Furthermore, human rights violations are rampant - including the lack of basic rights for women, the repression of gays, the widespread use of torture and the practice of public beheadings.

The British and US governments continue to help prop up this dictatorship, not least because of the massive oil reserves that exist in Saudi Arabia. Just recently, Britain sold 72 Eurofighters to this barbaric regime.

Come along on 31st October to stand in solidarity with the Saudi people, to oppose the Saudi dictatorship, and to demand the British government stop propping up this murderous tyranny.

Speakers :
Katy Clark MP, John McDonnell, Yahya al Alfaifi (an exiled Saudi trade unionist), Sandy Mitchell (a Briton who was imprisoned for 2 years in Saudi Arabia and subjected to horrific torture), Murad Qureshi (Labour member of the GLA) and Peter Tatchell.

The Embassy is right next to Green Park station. See here for directions.

John McDonnell has tabled the following EDM condemning the state visit.

The organisers are asking people to write to their MP to ask them to sign Early Day Motion 2102 condemning the Saudi human rights record - just drop a quick message at .


No justice, no peace....

What has Christpher Alder, Brian Douglas, Sarah Campbell, Orville Blackwood, Rocky Bennett, Gareth Myatt, Zahid Mubarek, Joseph Scholes, Jean-Charles de Menezes, Harry Stanley, Adam Rickwood........and many more have all in common?
They have died at the hands of the state whether it was in police custody, shoot to kill policies, psychiatric hospitals and special hospitals.

This procession was organised by United Families and Friends Committee (UFFC) and Inquest. It is to remember people who have died in these circumstances. Every year (this was the 9th procession) the demos get bigger as more people die at the hands of state institutions.
There's a real poignancy, vibrancy and emotion about these demos as families and friends come together to show support and solidarity towards each other and to make demands on the state. Speakers expressed anger at the way Parliament ignored the Lords recommendation to include deaths in police custody in the Corporate Manslaughter Bill. Pauline Campbell (who I have heard speak many times) spoke about the number of women who have died in prison since the start of 2007 (7 to be precise) and the fact she has been arrested around 14 times for protesting outside hell-holes like Styal prison.
We marched to Down Street where representatives from the families handed in a letter to Gordon Brown. Flowers were laid outside Downing Street as well to remember the dead.

As speaker after speaker said: "No peace without justice"


Saturday, October 27, 2007

Updated blog roll

At long last I have got round to updating the blog roll.

I plan to organise them into headings , but for now the new ones are added on to the end.

First off mnemosyne , which bills itself as the 'rants & musings of an uppity woman of color'.Sounds good to me. Thanks to Jim and Volty for drawing the blog to my attention.A quick look at the posts shows subjects on violence against black women, lesbians, John Coltrane , Charlie Parker and some campaigns that I must check out more. Its US based and , for those whose heads are starting to hurt, it does not mention Respect once !A plus point in its favour.

I have added some humorous blogs , they are Olly's Onions, The Daily Mash and Provisional BBC.

David Broder (one of those young smart arse AWLers) seems to be blogging again, so he is back. Modernity is added. Well he is one of our more regular commentators , so though I'd better give him a link:-)

Also added are Organized Rage, Renegade Eye, Splintered Sunrise and The Soul of Man under Capitalism.

So hopefully a good mix of blogs.



Friday, October 26, 2007

Way forward?

There has been so much debate around Respect/SWP and the political trajectory of the Left overall. What do we do? How can we move forward?

Firstly, I think we need to move on from the in/out LP argument. We need to find ways in bringing comrades together to build a cohesive and strong left as people are active in different ways in fighting for socialism.

Secondly, there has to be less dogmatism, control, bureaucracy and more openess, fluidity and looser structures. Because we need a better way of discussing, engaging and sharing ideas other than the usual way the Left likes to educate the members.

A pluralistic and democratic left that builds and develops comrades confidence and creativity not following the usual line etched in stone (the same inevitable line that is followed forever more).

How do you bring the anti-war activists, tenants fighting against privatisation and the leftie individual who wants to get involved but doesn't know how to? How do we bring together scattered lefties? How do we create a cohesive response to New Labour and the rampant neo-liberal project?

One idea is something along lines of the World Social Forum (WSF) and the European Social Forum (ESF). They could be local, regional and/or national, start off small and try and build it by a possible viral process (spreading ideas that adapt and change...cross pollination).

For a start, it could bring together international struggles and link up with campaigns whether it is trade unions campaigning around migrant rights, housing, anti-war and liberation politics. These groups could forge links with activists and a free flow of ideas could evolve. The functioning would be pluralistic that would try and stop group(s) dominating the forums. If there was enough of a critical mass of activists then the usual trot and or tank domination would probably be minimal (it may even have an influence on their own political functioning and practice).

These are ideas off the top of my head and they're still evolving.... watch this space...


So many films to see, so little time....

Decisions, decisions, decisions. Last week and this week a couple of interesting films have been released. I am tempted by Cronenberg's Eastern Promises but I saw the trailer recently that didn't impress me too much as it was rife with stereotypes with bad accents! And I thought that Cronenberg's previous attempt at the more mainstream, A History of Violence, was magnificent (also starred Viggio Mortensen).

I also want to see the film, Blame it on Fidel (La Faute A Fidel), which is on limited release. The director is Julie Gavras the daughter of leftie director Costa-Gavras (who directed, Missing, an unforgettable political film that exposed American involvement in the coup to overthrow Salvador Allende in Chile).
Oh, and what we have all been waiting for has been released this weekend and that's Michael Moore's Sicko. A damning indictment of private healthcare and why the States needs a welfare state.
And finally, next week sees the follow-up to Shekhar Kapur's sumptuously filmed Elizabeth (so what if the historical facts were a bit out of kilter it was a pleasure to watch) with Elizabeth: The Golden Age (I doubt if they could have gone for Elizabeth II..too confusing). Cate Blanchett (Blanchett was robbed as she should have won the Oscar for Best Actress in 1999 not cry-baby Gwyenth in an ill- fitting pink Ralph Lauren dress) reprises her role as the eponymous virgin Queen and thankfully, Geoffrey Rush, who electrified first time around as deadly spymaster Francis Walsingham.

So little time..........
I was also pleased to read that the film Control has been nominated for 10 awards at the British Independent Film Awards (BIFA). The event will take place at the end of November. Good luck to new comer Sam Riley who played Ian Curtis he deserves the award for Best Actor..


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Why HOPI should be accepted for membership in StWC

I thought I would stick my tuppence h'alfpenny regarding this debate around HOPI (Hands Off People of Iran).

To put my own cards on the table, Andrew Murray of StWC is wrong to decline membership to HOPI.

I hope this ludicrous decision is overturned soon. There is sabre rattling regarding an attack on Iran and another country to be targeted by the imperialist west.

"The main focus of StWC is, however, on challenging the policies of the British government in respect of the war, which includes respecting the rights of all peoples to self-determination.."

I am an anti-imperialist. Regime change has to be from within by the self-determination of the Iranian people. But why can't HOPI join? I think the arguments used by Murray are red herrings esp. One argument being that HOPI being a front for the CPGB. And I can't see how HOPI really counterposes the politics of StWC either.

There are probably other fronts…and many groups do indeed have more fronts than the average sea side town! But a coalition (yes, the word, “coalition”) should accept them. Unless if it is a deliberate attempt to smash and disrupt your group up then yes, you would bar them.

But this doesn't seem to be the case with HOPI as there are people involved who are consistent principled anti-imperialists. You politically argue your points by NOT barring them, or the specious argument that “the CPGB are a collective pain in the arse” is nonsense… Reality check here, name me a group that isn’t?

This decision should be overturned as it will give StWC a very bad name along with the anti-war movement overall. It will start an unhealthy precedent and attacks democracy. If we are gonna get picky about political affliliations and picking and choosing then what’s Andrew Murray’s group again, many people think StWC is an “SWP front” and so on… glass houses, throwing stones come to mind as well.

If this is a "front" by the CPGB then they are utterly clever in hoodwinking comrades. The list of names include some I have known for years and have been around the political block for years and would know a "front organisation" if they saw one.

If also we use this bizarre logic of denying HOPI membership then why are Labour lefties allowed? I mean, we are members of a pro-war, pro-imperialist party. Murray's argument falls to pieces. It shouldn't be allowed any gravitas.

I think Charlie Pottins is correct in asserting: "If Hands off the People of Iran was really just set up as some devious CPGB stunt, they have been clever with it. The supporters' list includes some well-known figures whose standing in the anti-war, labour and> progressive movements few would doubt (e.g.John> Pilger, Ken Loach, Naomi Klein, MPs John McDonnell and Harry Cohen, and Green MEP Caroline Lucas...).

I think it boils down, partly, to people disliking the CPGB and that is pretty subjective and apolitical. There's are many groups on the Left that I find annoying and narksome but I don't think, hey, lets bar 'em. I work with them, argue and engage with them. HOPI has other groups/individuals involved including Organisation of Revolutionary Workers of Iran, and Workers Left Unity Iran, so let them have membership.

The treatment of HOPI will fuel the fires of the pro-war "left" while rubbing their hands in glee something which coulda/shoulda been avoided.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

'Florence and Michael must stay' campaign

I will post on the Feminist Fightback event last Saturday, just a bit busy for long posts the last few days, but just wanted to quickly highlight the 'Florence and Michael must stay ' campaign.

Florence spoke at one of the workshops.
Check out the website for more information as to how you can help:

Florence is from Sierra Leone and is seeking asylum for herself and her young son, Michael. Florence fled Sierra Leone because she was suffering physical abuse including beatings by her parents and rape by her cousin, who she had been forced to marry. This all happened because Florence told her parents she is a lesbian, a fact that she had previously kept secret.

When Florence turned to the police for help they turned her away, saying it was a family matter. She tried to find a safe place to stay but could not and was forced to return home to face more abuse and violence.

She was horrified when told her parents were planning to force her to undergo female genital mutilation, commonly called female circumcision, as they believed this would ‘cure’ her. This process involves mutilating a woman‘s genitals, often resulting in serious infection and illness, and sometimes death.

The Home Office, and courts, have turned down Florence‘s application for asylum on the basis that her story is not credible, and that she could simply move to another area of Sierra Leone. Homosexuality is illegal all over Sierra Leone and it is a very homophobic society.

This judgement does not account for Florence’s distressed state when she arrived here, pregnant as a result of the rape, alone and scared. Nor the fact that she did not have legal representation as she did not have money for solicitor, or legal aid.

Florence has suffered from depression due to the stress and trauma of her life, and her son, Michael, is suffering with her. His speech and development have been seriously affected by their unsettled life. Florence and Michael have been moved six times since she arrived by the National Asylum Support Service, on whom she is dependent.

Florence has been let down by many people, by friends and family as well as by the authorities in the UK. Her application has been refused because she could not prove that there was “a sustained pattern or campaign of persecution against you which was knowingly tolerated by the authorities…” Yet in September 2004 Fannyann Eddy, the founder and director of Sierra Leone Lesbian and Gay Foundation (SLLAGA) was brutally attacked, gang raped and murdered in her office at SLLAGA. The police have yet to arrest anyone. If a person in Fannyann‘s position could not get protection from the Sierra Leone government, then what chance does Florence stand?

I know many on the left are busy fighting each other at the moment , but perhaps take a little time out to show your support for women's and LGBT rights .

Pic: Florence and Michael.

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Abortion: The Cardinal Speaks

Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor and his fellow Cardinal Keith O'Brien have marked the fortieth anniversary of the Abortion Act by writing an open letter to women considering having an abortion urging them to thiink again. Brilliant. You're in perhaps one of the most difficult situations of your life, facing a tough choice, and you get a truckload of god-bothering guilt piled on too. (On the other hand, it might be a simple choice for you, and the god-bothering might not bother you at all - good luck to yer, girl.)

Interviewed on Radio Five Live yesterday, Cardinal O'Connor repeatedly argued that women should have time to think about what to do and don't rush into their decision. I'm guessing he will be oppposing cuts in time limits then - which, after all, would mean you have to make a decision more quickly.

The interviewer then put it to the Cardinal - if, after due time for consideration, she decided to have a termination, would he support her? Well, no. He considers abortion morally wrong, so couldn't ever support it. Great - have all the time you like to consider your decision, but make sure you decide what the Catholic Church wants you to decide.

Of course, I could consider that telling people to believe in oppressive orders from an imaginary god is morally wrong, not to mention intellectually bankrupt and laughably irrational. But I don't advocate that the law ban you from doing it, Cardinal Murphy. I just hope that counter-mobilisation will isolate you and your bigoted views.

Meanwhile, the good news is that a majority - albeit a slender one - believe that it should be easier for women to access abortion.

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Judgement of Paris

An 'ickle while back there was a post (read some of the choice comments esp. from a Southpaw Punch Esq.) about the illustrious nobody Ms Paris Hilton, who got into a tussle with the law 'cos she was pissed in charge of driving her car (rather like her mate Lindz Lohan), she tried to fight the law but the law...HA!..won!

Oh, the Schadenfreude! Oh, the humanity... Oh, and she found Gawd, can you believe, who was probably doing a hard stretch for fraud and embezzlement in the cell next door. Bless ya my child!

Anyways, what I wanted to say was that I received the latest exceptionally good mag from Women In Prison and there's some very good letters from real women doing long stretches in prisons and ex-prisoners who aren't impressed in the least at the way Paris was let off for rich....opps...sorry... meant that to say good behaviour. Double standards and having a comfortable class position in society.

Here is a letter from Susan (Cookham Wood).

"Money buys privileges and this was surely the case with Paris Hilton and the way she was dealt with. Ordinary prisoners have to go through the system and serve their time regardless of mental or emotional state, but this lady seems to have received a great deal of exceptional care, which makes one suspect that some exceptional money was involved as well"

Amen to that sister.


Abortion: it is all about moral degeneracy...apparently

I attended the counter-demonstration today. Got there for 9am and nobody else was there except.......for the anti-abortionists. The anti-abortionists have changed tactics and had a makeover (all superficial and skin-deep as their message is still about controlling womens bodies). They used to be male carrying the usual placards with pics of aborted fetuses and waving plastic fetuses yelling misogynistic crap like, "whores like you support wholesale murder".... (ah, fond memories). Not this time, 20+ young women wearing white sashes with the slogan..."Women deserve better than abortion".. Like what? Less control on their bodies? Back to backstreets and wire coathangers? What exactly do women "deserve"?

Seems like the anti-abortion lobby is trying to change its image by playing to women by being all cuddly and friendly. But we know it is rubbish and they just want to destroy the already limited choices women have...
They represented Alive and Kicking and though they appeared slick and organised operation the arguments are still the same: eroding abortion rights for women.
Unfortunately, there was only me, counter-demo of one and Mikey (from SYN) turned up later so that made 2. And Mikey created some DIY placards (see pics...). A true lifesaver!

But the old style anti-abortionists raised their collective ugly heads Precious Life (Jim Dowson's mob) as two of the faithful stood away from the other "respectable" anti-abortionists (see pics). One passer by had an argument with them telling them, "How dare you tell a woman how to control her body"... I agreed with the passer-by and was yelled at by them. They recycled the same lies about abortion. If he was so pro-life then why did he support capital punishment? Silence! I then asked their views on childcare provision. Silence! Thought so...

Then the bloke spoke about too much sex education being taught in schools that is leading to STDs and abortion, "total moral degeneracy".....he yelled!
I am hoping that more pro-choicers will be attending tomorrow from 9am onwards as we have nothing to be complacent about as the anti-abortionists will always be pushing for changes in the law. Organised and slick. We have the arguments and the public support on the side of choice but we can't sit on our laurels we have still got to confront them and their arguments.

No return to the backstreets: A woman's right to choose.....
(I have put some more pics on FaceBook)


Sex Workers' Protest In Bolivia

Hat tip tp Laura from Feminist Fightback for digging up and translating this story of sex workers' protest action in Bolivia.

Tens of prostitutes today occupied a medical centre in the city of El Alto and began a hunger strike as a protest because the government did not punish those who burned and destroyed brothels last week.

Lili Cortes, leader of the (meretrices - I don't know an exact translation but let's say sex workers) of El Alto, neigbour city to La Paz, told Efe that her comrades also threatened to bury themselves alive and sew their lips together if the government has not solved their problems by next Wednesday.

Last week family heads and groups of high school students destroyed and burned more than 50 bars and brothels of the city, the poorest in Bolivia, considering them nests of delinquency.

The leader of the sex workers said that the government should come up with solutions to their problems because now they have been left without workplaces and the police could have avoided 'the disgrace', but had a passive attitude towards the demonstrators while they burned the places down.

Cortes asked 'that justice be done' and 'to put those in jail who promoted the destruction and burning' of their workplaces, as well asking that they apply plans of 'citizen and laboural security' (clunky translation) for that sector.

The prostitutes occupied the medical centre where every week they go for sexual health checks, especially testing for HIV-AIDS.

According to Cortes, her colleagues from El Alto decided not to attend any more checks as a protest measure, and maintained that the sex workers of the country should come out in solidarity with them using this means of protest if a solution is not arrived at.

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Monday, October 22, 2007

Bill Gates having to cough up some serious dough......

Heh! Heh! Ha! Ha! Microsoft has thrown in the towel and admitted defeat to the European Commission. This landmark anti-trust ruling has been rumbling on for 3 years and started as a rearguard action against a decision to pay £347million fine (small change for old charity loving Bill G.).

This will open up the global IT market to greater consumer choice. Anti-trust laws are better operated in Europe and ironically, the USA. It means a company isn’t allowed to have monopolies. Unlike in the UK where a New Labour and/or Tory politician would prefer to stick pins in their eyes than reign in the capitalists. It is better to kow-tow to the demands of capitalism…

The reason Microsoft got the lion share of the market was mainly due to sharp practice. They understood that in order for PCs to communicate they would need an operating system. As long as your ‘puter is Windows compatible then it is all systems go. Microsoft inevitably made it difficult for other opening systems like Linux as everything is predicated towards Windows. Barriers are put up and other companies are pushed out of the market.

Microsoft gambled big and lost financially (they may still incur further fines). They breached the “abuse of a dominant position” rule in European law (yeah, I know, it sounds kinky…so no snickering). There isn’t a problem legally having a dominant position in the market but using it to keep out competitors is…

Microsoft probably caved in ‘cos the European Commission could have argued that they would push Linux and Windows would have been screwed. And they also hit Microsoft with a massive fine. One of the reasons why Rupert Murdoch is hostile to the European markets is that his dominance would be curtailed unlike his free reign in Britain.

This is a victory as to a certain extent capitalism has reigned in the worse excesses. Classical neo-liberalism wouldn’t have had any problem with the conduct of Microsoft but there is that contradiction inherent in neo-liberal economics that large dominant companies start to act like…the state…

More power to Linux……………

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My self-portrait....

I originally thought today would be another dull and depressing day. It did start that way with the ongoing saga regarding certain things happening in my life.

But what broke the melancholic spell was seeing that the Radio 4 show PM had put up my pic on their Flickr site. They asked people to send in self-portraits of themselves so I did just that.

For the past couple of months I have developed a keen interest in photography that has helped to improve my mental health, rebuild confidence and well being. Something to enjoy and like as opposed to feeling ground down by the stresses of life. Anyway, it may sound daft to get so pleased over something small but it really has lifted my spirits and the past couple months have been welll.....crap.

Thanks to Madam Miaow who originally suggested to me to send in a pic to the programme. I really appreciated the suggestion.
(The pic above is of the sea and the beach I took at Seaford, east Sussex)


Sunday, October 21, 2007

More control freakery, power struggles and Party feuds

...nope, not Galloway v the SWP.

This time its more on the long running feud between the Brown and Blair camps. Last week there were reports of plots against Brown by disgruntled Blairites,today The Mail on Sunday (yep, just reading it online leaves me feeling a little grubby ) has a story about a new book by Anthony Seldon:

Tony Blair's allies were accused of trying to sabotage Gordon Brown's Government last night after sensational revelations about rows between the two men in a new book written with unprecedented access to Mr Blair's Downing Street.

The book by Britain's leading political biographer, Dr Anthony Seldon, discloses a series of explosive clashes as Mr Brown plotted to force Mr Blair to resign.

And it gives a revealing insight into the tensions in Mr Brown's inner circle with a series of venomous disclosures about one of the Prime Minister's closest allies, Schools Secretary Ed Balls


Serialisation of the book, Blair Unbound, starts today in The Mail on Sunday and gives shocking accounts of rows between Mr Blair and Mr Brown and their allies – often involving the most abusive language.


In his book, Dr Seldon shows Mr Blair struggling to govern the country against a backdrop of constant tension and foul-mouthed flashpoints with Mr Brown.

More often than not, it is Mr Brown who loses his temper. Seldon says that when Mr Blair put Alan Milburn in charge of Labour's 2005 election team, Mr Brown shouted: "You've appointed that f****** Milburn! Is it about cooking the manifesto against me?"

After another showdown, Mr Blair complained: "All he would say is, 'When are you going to F-off out of here?'"

Bickering aside, what caught my eye was what Blair is supposed to have said :

The book claims that Mr Blair protested: "I feel like an abused and bullied wife," after Mr Balls was "astonishingly rude" to him during talks between the camps last year over when he should leave No 10.

No, you were the most powerful political figure in Britain and your situation in no way resembled that of an abused wife (or partner). Its offensive and insulting to make that comparison and shows up a total lack of awareness.You had control and power, something an abused woman does not have . You were, and are, rich and could extricate yourself from that situation . You were not mentally , as well as physically, beaten down.

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POA: Please Let Us Baton Teenagers

The Prison Officers' Association, having recently put other union leaderships to shame with its confrontation of the anti-union laws, is now showing its more reactionary side, apparently calling for its members to be allowed to use batons against inmates as young as 15.

I won't deny that there is probably a serious problem of violence in Young Offenders Institutions, nor that prison officers can be genuinely fearful for their well-being. But there are dozens of demands that the POA could make that are less brutal and more effective than batons. There is a serious problem of assaults against frontline London Underground staff, but no way on earth would I as a union rep demand that our members be armed!

POA leaders often make quite socially-progressive comments about the social control issue eg. "90% of prisoners should be in the care of the health service not the prison service". But while that might sound good from platforms, it doesn't seem to translate into progressive rather than reactionary demands over immediate workplace issues.

A union for prison officers is naturally going to be something of a contradictory beast, pulled between its two natures as a genuine workers' organisation and an organisation of people engaged in authoritarian social control. I guess that socialists need to encourage the former and challenge the implications of the latter.

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Cosmo on Rape Crisis centres

Cosmo mag has an important article this month about the closures of Rape Crisis centres in the UK. Though rather blindingly thoughtless and piss-poor they had a article recently on this new phenomenon called "grey rape", "a situation in which they [a woman] never intended to have sex, but wound up forced into it because until that point, they’d been a willing participant".
It seemed to me that the glossy was capitulating to the that old adage of "woman blaming". But also diminishing and denigrating rape by continuing the myths that are attached to it. So a woman, by definition of "grey rape", has been a little bit raped but not totally. Grrrrrr! Give me strength!!!! Rape is rape. No means no!

Anyway, less of my ire and frothing at the mouth at right-wing Cosmo's insentivity, contradictory messages and rank stupidity (but hey, what can I expect at a glossy that champions the multiple orgasms, swanky top-notch jobs in the city...none of that low paid shit, latest skin care product that will set you back a month's salary, how to be a size zero and please your maaaan in the bedroom...but don't expect full support and solidarity over issues like rape)
And yet............Cosmo comes up with this article on the closure of rape crisis centres (you'll need to buy the mag to read the piece). In 1985 there were 84 centres now that has been reduced to 32. Half of these have been threatened with closure. One centre in High Wycombe has had to withdraw some of its services due to funding cuts. Around 200 women were helped last year.

"We can no longer offer counselling or help with court procedures or befriending".
And many of these women are desperate for someone to talk to regarding their experience of rape. Where can they go? Who can they speak to?
Milton Keynes and York no longer have centres. The organisation Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre for Women in Merseyside (RASA) is totally overstretched and can't cope with demand.

The government, meanwhile, is chucking cash at Sexual Assault Referral Centres (SARC) that are police and health service led centres, which deal with the immediate aftermath of rape. The Havens in London does vital and important work for countless women yet..... there is still a place for Rape Crisis Centres as they support women for the long the term, independent, friendlier, less clinical (no matter how understanding health professionals and cops are) and many women who work for Rape Crisis centres are survivors of rape and sexual abuse. They kinda know what you are going through and show so much empathy.

Home Office minister Meg Hillier argues: "This year the government is investing around £3m into practical support for victims of these crimes"...

Absolute peanuts and a drop in the ocean financially. It is pathetic! Rape Crisis centres are a vital service in supporting women.

As Laura (a counsellor for Rape Crisis and rape survivor) says: "People assume we'll always be there and the thought that we might be able to help someone is too terrible to contemplate".


Friday, October 19, 2007

CSI: Sara Sidle must not leave

Nooooo! She can't leave! Jorja Fox (Sara Sidle) just can't leave CSI: Las Vegas.
I have been watching CSI since its start on Channel 5 way back in 2001.
And she is one of the original cast. I like her sexy spunky feisty feminist strength, the solidarity she shows with other women and just the overall empathy she displays.
I also like Catherine Willows who is the other woman CSIer. And the fact she has got it together with Gil Grissom.
The Las Vegas series is far far superior than the other two in the franchise (New York and Miami).

But not all is lost as there seems to be a grassroots campaign orchestrated by the fans of CSI who are trying convince Jorja not to go. Don't cha just love mass action.....

Producers of the show have received 3,000 letters from pissed-off fans who don't want her to leave. And this stroppyblogger supports the campaign. Thinking of merchandise with "Sara Sidle Must Stay" emblazoned on a t-shirt. I mean, what will Grissom do and CSI won't be the same without her.

I am just sooooooh heartbroken by the news that I am in mourning for her character already (sniff, sniff). And may have to eat the rest of the chocolate cake from Waitrose to cheer myself up (sniff, sniff, sniff). Ok, any excuse to scoff the cake.....


Prepare To Meet Your Maker

As we all know, Islamist suicide bombers are deluded fools who have been conned by religious demagogues into believing they will be rewarded for killing others and themselves with paradise in the afterlife.

Hey, great idea, thinks the head of the British Army, we'll have some of that. Yes, God-bothering Chief of the General Staff Sir Richard Dannatt reckons that the Army should spiritually prepare troops for death by reassuring them that there is an afterlife. And I suppose that doesn't even count as "lying" if you believe the nonsense yourself.

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Obituary to Deborah Kerr

Deborah Kerr always reminded me of one of those posh subdued English roses with a clipped accent and stiff upper lip. But that's on the surface when she was on the celluloid screen she could act exposing a passionate sexuality.

Her most famous role was bored housewife, Karen Holmes in From Here to Eternity (1953) where she follicked in the waves and on the beach getting down and dirty with her lover, Burt Lancaster.

Very tame now but at the time it caused a commotion with the Motion Picture Association of America where stills of the scene where waves are crashing over the snogging couple were banned as it was seen as too erotic!

I loved her in The Innocents (an adaptation of Henry James's bk The Turn of Screw) were she plays the sexually repressed and haunted governess in this Freudian and gothic chiller. My other favourites include Black Narcissus (1947) directed by the dynamic duo, Pressburger and Powell. Another one of their classics (I saw again over the summer on BBC2) The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943). Not terribly fond of Quo Vadis or The King and I.

But she did have hidden depths and qualities that stood out. Joan Crawford was meant to play that role made famous by Kerr. I just can't imagine it myself........


Counter-demo supporting a woman's right to choose

Next week, there's a 2-day conference called Global Safe Abortion on the 23rd and 24th October at QEII Conference Centre, London.

Organised by Marie Stopes, Abortion Rights and Ipas. The conference also will mark the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Act in the UK.
I have just heard that anti-abortionists are planning a demonstration outside the conference.

There is a counter-demo organised called by Abortion Rights to show our vocal support for defending a woman's right to choose and the pro-lifers can SPUC Off!

Please turn up around 9am. I will definitely be there so may see other comrades.


Tackling mental distress and stigma

I recall many moons ago castigating a policy officer at MIND asking them, “what the hell are you doing about unfair treatment towards people with mental distress in the workplace and the stigmatisation people face when applying for a job”… Reply: Nothing of consequence.

But that’s MIND for you and funny enough a couple of months later I was perusing the letters page in the Guardian and came across castigated MIND officer and an ‘ickle letter she had penned highlighting the problems faced by people with mental distress in the workplace and over stigmatisation. Déjà vu methinks. I wouldn’t have minded but the bulk of the letter included many of mine and others concerns yet MIND (being MIND) never acknowledged the problems in the first place. Do I take this as a back-handed compliment?

MIND were only too happy to put our ideas in print but without any credit to us. Btw: if MIND comes up with a supa-dupa idea then I bet my month’s salary that it came from a bunch of mental health users who are probably part of MINDLink (I am a member, for what it’s worth).

MINDLink is where they ghettoise the users, kinda arms length treatment. We are seen but not heard as MIND knows better (ironically they also have a stereotypical view of mental distress). But they endeavour to use our expertise without real acknowledgement or equality.
Ah, I have got that off my chest. .......

The reason I am having a go at MIND is that them and the usual suspects, Rethink, Mental Health Media (who I kinda like) and some others have come together to form the “Moving Project” with the rather bizarre headline…"If you’ve ever had measles don’t apply"….

I think whoever came up with that in the focus group made a mistake as to make that analogy misses the target completely.

After getting a big wodge of cash (£18m) from the Big Lottery Fund and Comic Relief, this project has lofty plans such:

“Moving People is an ambitious and groundbreaking programme to eradicate the stigma and discrimination of mental ill health”….

They quote statistics such as:

84 per cent experiencing problems in getting jobs, mortgages, healthcare, friendships, relationships (Mind survey, 2004).

55 per cent of young people (NUS and Rethink, 2001) wouldn’t want anyone else to know they had mental health problems.

49 per cent of people with mental health problems have been harassed or attacked

33 per cent of this group report having been dismissed or forced to resign from jobs

84 per cent experiencing problems in getting jobs, mortgages, healthcare, friendships, relationships (Mind survey, 2004).

And……32 per cent of Londoners think 'There is something about people with mental illness that makes it easy to tell them from normal people'

Yeah, ‘cos we have “psycho” inscribed on our foreheads and …what the hell is “normal”? (Someone accused me recently of being “normal”….I was offended!)

Well, it will take more than a 4 year project funded with £18m to educate and challenge the stigma and stereotypes of mental distress. Other plans include anti-stigma campaign, physical activity projects, events focusing on 2012 Olympics (!!!!!), empowerment projects, training professionals, legal challenges and so on.

Now, all worthy stuff but what I would like to say is there is nothing explicitly stated about tightening up the Disability Discrimination Act, the draconian Mental Health Act, Welfare Reform Act, Freud Review and so on……………..Sod events focusing on that elitist jamboree in 2012 but highlight the real problems people face when they experience mental distress.

Also, the media has been instrumental in presenting mental distress in a negative light (“mad”, “bad” and “dangerous”) and the emphasis on that leads to stigmatisation, stereotyping and lack of insight. Similar with television, majority of scripts show mental distress as a “violent disorder”. And with the changes in the Mental Health Act this has led to a knock-effect that has worsened and reshaped understanding of mental distress. And during the past 10 years negative views on mental distress have worsened. I can see one uphill struggle…..

Regarding employment, you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. First John Hutton and now Peter Hain is putting the thumb screws on the so-called “work-shy” yet nearly two-thirds of employers say they wouldn’t touch someone with a mental health problem with a 6 foot barge pole. Yet again, the onus is on the less powerful in this society while the powerful are being let off the hook. Also, if they are looking into discrimination and the workplace, they should be involving the trade unions (actually from my own experience trade unions could do with a good dose of education around mental distress).

The other component to this project is involving carers and service users. Service users will be part of developing this project using skills and knowledge. Involvement in training professionals and giving first hand experiences.

I hope they will respect and listen and take note of the views of service users. But I am sceptical as I have seen similar laudable projects before where service users are encouraged to participate under the illusion they will be taken seriously. Unfortunately, many times it hasn’t been the case and instead you end up feeling tokenistic and nobody is really listening. You kinda end up taking a backseat but on paper it looks impressive though reality is different.

The best people to understand stigma, discrimination and victimisation are people with mental distress. I hope this project realises that it should be service users at the forefront easily visible, treated equally and with respect not wheeled in at the last minute to give a touching tragic testimonial to a group of professionals with the organisers being all patronising and desperate to pat you on the head. I have seen that countless times and that in itself is depressing. Service users have the ideas on how to educate and develop understanding. We are the experts and that in itself is empowering.

Here endeth the rant (well, it’s therapeutic to talk….that's if you can get counselling on the NHS).


Thursday, October 18, 2007

Thoughts On The SWP Expulsions

This has been widely reported on other blogs already, but below is the SWP's explanation for its expulsion of three leading members:

Party discipline

Last weekend 3 SWP members - Rob Hoveman, Kevin Ovenden and Nick Wrack were expelled from the SWP.

Kevin and Rob

Kevin and Rob are SWP members working for George Galloway. However, recently this situation has become increasingly difficult. The party leadership has come to believe that it was impossible to have two comrades working for someone who has openly attacked the SWP in recent months. This was a position several leading members of the SWP articulated at the recent Party Council. Also over the last year there have been a number of meetings between the CC and Rob and Kevin.

At these meetings the CC raised major concerns with the way both these comrades worked in Respect. We believe that they were more concerned with promoting George Galloway's line in Respect than the SWP's position.

More seriously, they have denounced the SWP to individuals and organisations outside the Party.

Two members of the CC met with Kevin and Rob last week, they were asked to resign their posts in George Galloway's office. Kevin and Rob have subsequently written to the CC refusing to stop working for George Galloway despite the party's concerns.


The recent Respect NC voted to create a new position of National Officer. The SWP believed that the post was created to undermine Respect National Secretary John Rees. However, after some changes to the way the post was defined, the SWP agreed to setting up of the post. George Galloway then suggested that Nick did the job. Nick said he would seek various people's opinions.

The SWP made it clear that we didn't think Nick should accept the job because he had publicly disagreed with the line being put by the party about Respect. This would have created confusion in the Respect national office. Nick met with two members of the CC and agreed to accept party discipline and not take the post. Several days later his name was put forward by a member of International Socialist Group for the post. When asked, Nick refused to withdraw his name saying he had changed his mind and now wanted his name to go forward.

Despite a further meeting with two members of the CC and several phone calls, Nick refused to withdraw from standing for the post. There are occasions when the CC may ask a comrade not to take a post, perhaps a full time trade union position, or promotion to a job that puts someone in an untenable position. Nick was therefore expelled because he refused to work under the direction of the SWP leadership and reneged on the agreement he made with the CC.

It is important to make one thing clear, the three comrades have not been expelled because they disagreed with the Central Committee. It is because they failed to accept Party discipline and worked against the nationally agreed SWP line.

Expelling comrades is not something the CC does lightly, but in all three cases we felt we had no choice.

Of course, this is the latest in a long and appalling history of the SWP purging its ranks. It may claim not to do so 'lightly', but the very large number of expelled SWP members could testify otherwise. Even if the SWP insists that these three members were not expelled simply for expressing disagreement, there is certainly a long long line of people who have been chucked out for just that.

The statement is notable for its lack of any description of the process by which the comrades were booted, whether or how they have the right to appeal etc. I was expelled from the Labour Party by letter; I suspect I would not have had any better treatment from an SWP-style regime.

However, I think it would be wrong to present this simply as a matter of SWP Central Committee tyrants oppressing the brave and principled dissenters.

Firstly, I feel an urge to note that although explusion should not be carried out with the frequency and method by which the SWP does it, it is not on principle, in all cases, wrong. No socialist organisation should expel members just for disagreeing, or even for disagreeing in public, but surely no-one would deny a socialist organisation the right to expel someone for, say, crossing a picket line, voting Tory, or physical violence against another comrade. Between these two extremes lie many acts which may or may not warrant discipline.

Secondly, the three expellees have actually done somthing quite gross - shacked up with George Galloway and refused to give up their cosy bag-carrying jobs with His Gorgeousness. Yuck. I wouldn't want someone in my own group (Workers' Liberty) who did that.

But what strikes me most of all about this is that the SWP is swimming around in a cesspit of its own making. Expelling people for schmoozing with Galloway?! That's been your organisation's entire perspective for the last few years!

Surely all Nick, Kev and Rob have done is take the party line too literally. When lots of us said that Galloway was an unprinicipled, fat-cat, egomaniac, bigoted pal of some of the world's worst tyrants, the SWP both defended him and denounced us for saying so. But really, they knew that it was true - and just said what they said to protect their latest opportunist turn in the hope of recruiting from Galloway's orbit. Perhaps the expelled trio believed what their party said and forgot what they should have known to be true.

By the way, my comments may or may not be the Workers' Liberty 'party line', but if they are not, I sure won't be expelled for making them.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2007

United Campaign Rally For Trade Union Freedom

There's a rally tomorrow regarding the Trade Union Freedom Bill that will get its second reading in Parliament on the 19th October. The rally is to show support for this Bill.

Hope to see comrades there......

Event Details
Date: Thursday 18 October 2007
4.00-4.30pm - Assemble opposite House of Commons
4.30-5.30pm - Demonstration outside House of Commons
5.30-7.30pm - Rally in Committee Room 14, House of Commons
nearest tube is Westminster

Confirmed Speakers
John Hendy QC - United Campaign National Secretary
John McDonnell MP
Sarah Veale - TUC Head, Equality and Employment Rights
Phil McGarry - STUC President
Bob Crow - RMT General Secretary
Tony Woodley - Unite T&G General Secretary
Paul Kenny - GMB General Secretary
Mark Serwotka - PCS General Secretary
Matt Wrack - FBU General Secretary
Brain Caton - POA General Secretary
Jeremy Dear - NUJ General Secretary
Keith Ewing - IER President
Ian Lavery - NUM President
Anita Halpin - SERTUC Vice President
Katy Clark MP
Jon Cruddas MP
Christine Blower - NUT Assistant General Secretary
Gail Cartmail - Unite Amicus Assistant General Secretary
Patrick Roach - NASUWT Deputy General Secretary
Manuel Cortes - TSSA Assistant General Secretary


Sexy spies are back......

Iran, peace deals, MI5, kidnappings, mercenaries, bombings, double-dealings, vaccines, explosions, stunts, biological warfare, more mercenaries ......more stunts, cuddly teddy bear and a partridge in a pear tree

Yep, series 6 of Spooks kicked off and what a spectacular opening episode. It has ditched the compact storylines and has gone all 24 where the story will be developed over the coming weeks.

Adam (coming all over Kiefer Sutherland), Harry, and Ros (who is shagging Adam) are all back having survived the final episode of the previous season and now a deadly virus is on the verge of gripping London (and the numbers of infected people is rising) where our glossy super sexy leather-clad spies have to:

1. find the man infected with the nasty

2. find a vaccine

3. find their co-spy, Zaf who has been kidnapped by some nasty mercenaries

4. who is behind this dastardly plot.....(now dear reader, lets have bets on who are the "baddies"? CIA, rogue MI5, MI6.....Denmark, the CPGB....who knows?).

Cripes! Gripping stuff. Lets hope there is some classy liberal-leftie writing from the likes of Howard Brenton (one can only hope)

And they have only a couple of hours to save the cheerleader, save the world. Well, something very much similar, you get my drift......


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

TUC Women's Committee

Last week, I attended my second meeting of TUC Women's Committee. You'd hope this would be a gathering of women activists from various unions to organise solidarity with women workers in struggle and plan exciting campaigns for working women's rights. In practice, it is gathering of some activists and some full-time officers, who go through an agenda largely consisting of reports which we are invited to comment on to little apparent purpose. Despite that, it should still be possible to fight for the aforementioned solidarity and campaigns to get a look in, and even if comments criticising the government's latest wheeze don't go anywhere, I'm still glad that I am there (along with others) to make them. Some high- and lowlights:

Hearing about the struggle by women workers in the Antalya Free Trade Zone in Turkey.

Reviewing the recent TUC Congress. The equality debates got pushed to the end of the agenda, as per usual. And the only controversial issue all week was the General Council persuading the big unions to vote down a resolution from the Women's Conference on childcare. No, they are not willing to provide childcare that enables parents to attend fringe meetings. I suggested instead that we could have a creche during fringe meetings but not bother during Congress hours - then I could go to the interesting discussions and have some quality time with my children while Congress votes unanimously for inane resolutions and listens to that bloke from the CBI. Apparently, I was joking.

Being consulted by the government. Except they ask questions designed to get the responses they want, put a word limit on your reply, and give the TUC such a short time to reply that the response is written by an unelected official. We - the elected Women's Committee - get to comment on its afterwards. I expect the government would probably ignore what we would say anyway, but it would still be nice to actually say it.

So, too late, I commented on the government's consultation on the 'Priorities for the Ministers for Women'. The Ministers asked how they should support families, the TUC replied that low pay is a big factor. The MInisters asked for practical suggestions - Janine suggests (too late) that the TUC could have mentioned increasing the minimum wage, preferably by a significant amount. The Ministers ask how we can tackle violence against women and improve the way we deal with women who commit crime. The TUC gave some reasonable replies about violence against women, but omit to answer the second part. Janine suggests (too late) that we should raise the issues of deaths of women in custody, women who are in prison but shouldn't be (eg. for shoplifting, debt, etc), and, and POA General Secretary Brian Caton put it so neatly at a TUC fringe meeting last year , the fact that "90% of prisoners should be in the care of the health service rather than the prison service".

Planning next year's TUC Women's Conference. About which more another time.

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Feminist Fightback

A plug for this event :

Organised by a group of Socialist Feminists including the Education Not for Sale student network, the Feminist Fightback conference aims to bring together feminists from a wide range of perspectives to debate ideas and develop practical strategies for fighting women's oppression and exploitation.

Fightback 07 will build on the success of last year’s conference, attended by over 220 people, which gave rise to several activist initiatives, including the March 3 2007 Torch-Lit March for Abortion Rights.

This year will continue our campaign to defend and extend abortion rights and our discussions will include…










Feminist Fightback’s supporters include the National Union of Students Women’s Campaign, the RMT Women’s Committee and the International Union of Sex Workers.

Saturday, October 20, 2007
Time: 12:00pm - 6:00pm
Location: University of East London, Docklands campus,
Street: 4-6 University Way
City/Town: London

I plan to go along and will post a report afterwards.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Squeeze the rich.........

Gordon Brown got it wrong. George Osborne got it right. Well, that's according to the whipped up Tory press. Osborne tapped into the property owning wealthy Daily Mail brigade of the south east that produced this masterstroke of cutting inheritance tax.

While Brown was slow (rather like dithering around on elections) on the up-take and has now been accused of stealing the Tories thunder. The Cameron/Osborne ticket is doing well in the polls unlike Gordon whose bounce is starting to deflate. But the proposed cut in inheritance tax is a very big worry. Brown is under fire from his own side especially the Blairites who believe he should have spotted the need to cut inheritance tax before the Tories. This form of triangulation is all about shifting even more to the right before the Tories.

The Tory vote collapsed in the early 1990s as Major reneged on tax cuts. Unfortunately the usual Tory voter is awaking from their slumbers especially over the debacle over inheritance tax. There has been a rich clique of "celebrities" who have been greedily demanding a cut in inheritance tax. While the Tories are gaining in the polls, New Labour faces a very big problem as can they rely on their core voters? New Labour treats it's core voters with contempt but tries to entice them by chucking a few crumbs in their direction.

But New Labour is gonna have a very big problem explaining to the faithful why they are better than the Tories. The Lib Dems are imploding under Ming Campbell. Cameron clutches a bundle of trendy policies borrowed from his mate Arnie. This greenwash of the Tories may attract some Lib Dems. The Lib Dem, at the end of the day, voter is a Tory but is too embarrassed to admit to it. Whether Cameron can swipe Labour voters over to his camp time will tell.

Anyway, why the beef about inheritance tax? Because it was meant to be progressive and it effects 6% of estates. At the moment the threshold is £300,000 with a 40% tax but that will be increased to £600,000 threshold. The cut in this tax will create an unfair advantage for the wealthy but the motto in this society is "greed is good" as opposed to that wild idea of redistribution of wealth... This distorts even more so the power relationships in society already made worse by the inflation in the property market.

The problem is that many people want to have a Scandinavian model of a welfare state yet also want an American style of taxation. You can't have both. While enticement of tax cuts may be a vote winnner the welfare state suffers. The next election will be undoubtedly be about tax and who can give away the most goodies. During the past 30 years there has been a shift from progressive to regressive taxation and it will continue.

The Tory voter has come out from under its stone to go out and vote. Can the same be said of New Labour and it's voters?

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I plan to update the blog roll later this week.

Any suggestions as to one's I should check out and add ?

A few people have asked about the ads on the haloscan comments.Apparently the free version comes with them.

Oh pic found via Splintered Sunrise. Couldn't resist as it is such an unpleasant picture on so many levels. Hope none of you were eating or a bit hungover and groggy when you saw this;-)


Saturday, October 13, 2007

Cameron - “Look at me and think of Schwarzenegger”

Brown may no longer be enjoying his bounce, but Cameron is still trying on images and not yet convincing. Now he's gone all Terminator,off down the hood in La La land to meet Governor Arnie .

He starts off praising , or is that fawning over, the US in a way that almost surpasses Blair's brown nosing :

“But we should be the best friends [with America] rather than the newest friends. Clearly we’re the junior partner. But a best friend tells you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.”

Then off to meet Arnie. They didn't compare toothpaste but did bond over their favourite DVDs:

Arnie presented Mr Cameron with his 12 favourite DVDs, including High Noon, The Godfather and Lawrence of Arabia. “They’re all at the top of my list, too,” said Cameron.

He then :

was introduced by an anxious charity worker to a room of heavily tattooed Hispanic and black Americans. “This is David,” she said. “And he’s from England.”

meeting :

Deseiriee Anderson, 27, from South Los Angeles, whose brother is serving a 25 year-to-life sentence for a gang crime. “I’m here to learn computer skills,” she said, as the Opposition leader sat on the edge of her desk , “and to get my gang tattoos removed.”

Something to talk about at the next Notting Hill dinner party .

But it wasn't all slumming it :

He spent his first night at the Mondrian Hotel, the celebrity nightspot where Britney Spears was recently observed in less than happy circumstances. Amid the Lamborghinis, the parking valets and the poolside revelry of the Sky Bar (with its provocatively dressed waitresses), Mr Cameron must have cut a rather unlikely figure.

Even then he made sure he was down with the 'Heat' constituents :

Then again, he appears to have found new appreciation for popular culture. “I was watching telly in bed the other night and I started to watch a Channel 5 documentary on Britney, and it was captivating,” he said.

Most bizarre comment though was :

“Look at me and think of Schwarzenegger”

Nope, see a old Etonian tosser coming over all Ali G .

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Commie price comparison

While at the bloggers’ drinkies last weekend we had a fair share of discussions about trotty groups. I mean, only lefties bring along their own propaganda and stick it in the centre of the table. Useful if the conversation proves boring, and watching rugby on widescreen isn’t your thang so a quick flick through the mags to while away the hours….or until the conversation gets interesting..

Anyway, it kinda occurred to me that leftie groups should be, to use managerial speak, proactive in recruiting the masses. So here’s my plan and if I was active in a trot group I would have written it as part of an internal discussion bulletin but as I don’t belong to anything of trot value I thought I’d publish it here.

When some poor schmuck thinks about joining a gang of commies, first thing that should be in operation is a kind of “Trot price check” where all the groups include how much dues you have to pay, a summary of their respective programmes (do they adhere to the Transitional Programme and so on), candidate membership, ex-comrades rating their experiences including the ongoing visits to the therapist (that should be fun….!!) and best of all….what do you get out of it.. There will also be symbols to differentiate the groups such as an outline of Trotsky or an 'ickle tank .....

Now….it may sound like I am emulating capitalism but left-wing ideas need some serious marketisation. Hey, this is some radical blue sky thinking. You shop around for deals from car insurance to food to phones so why not for the trot group. They could have “deal of the week” … “Comrades we are slashing our dues from 20% down to 15%”. And they could break this down by employment (public sector worker expected to pay… £xx). Or better….pay what you can afford (hey, we are socialists after all!) And this puts economic pressure on the other trot groups to give incentives. And hell, we do need a dose of good old fashion internal competition to the keep trots on their toes.

Unfortunately, Trots can’t do the usual incentives (poorer, for a start) like the banks so instead of a free iPod it will be …”Join us and you get a free Che t-shirt” (hey kids, he’s dead hip at the moment), sing-a-long-revolutionary songs on CD, Trotsky/Lenin/Stalin On…….. and £10 voucher to spend at the local off-Licence… Simple! Recruitment galore….

Other incentives include, “recruit 2 people and get 1 free”, "join us and you won’t have to sell the paper for a month", Trot scratch cards (find 3 Trotskys/Lenins but nowt for a Stalin) where you win an all expenses paid dinner at Pizza Hut with the full-timers of your choice. Wow… exciting…

Second prize is dog eared copy of Lenin’s What is to be Done.

.......and third prize is a leave of absence from this week’s branch meeting….

You know, every little helps….on the road to the revolution…

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Burning Books

This one's old news, but I've paused to contemplate the fact of Bible-bashers burning Harry Potter books. At first you think it's just wacko, but seriously, this stuff is frightening. Of course, the stories are from the USA, but don't think it could never cross the pond - after all, the government funds and endorses an Academy in the North East which might not burn Potter books but does ban them.

And reactionary stuff that seems very much on the fringes during 'normal' times can suddenly grow during times of economic and social crisis. As Paul Weller sang in The Jam's Funeral Pyre:

As I was standing by the edge
I could see the faces of those led pissing themselves laughing
(and the flames grow higher)
Their mad eyes bulged their flushed faces said
The weak get crushed as the strong grow stronger

We feast on flesh and drink on blood
Live by fear and dispise love in a crisis
(what with today’s high prices)
Bring some paper and bring some wood
Bring what’s left of all your love for the fire
We’ll watch the flames grow higher!

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Update on Kettle Foods

Kettle Foods workers have voted AGAINST union recognition. The vote was 206 to 93 not to join Unite. Private equity group, Lion Capital is said to be cocker-hoop about the vote while the trade union, Unite is dismayed. I am worried about how the 93 workers will be treated now this vote has gone through.

So funding a bunch of union busting scumbags worked as it probably put untold pressure on the workforce. This is a bad day for unionisation.

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