Monday, September 29, 2008

Wall Street shares plunge, House of Representatives vote no to bail out package and the Republicans hope a shotgun wedding can boost their fortunes

The House of Representatives has voted against the bail out of Wall Street :

The lower house of the US Congress has voted down a $700bn (£380bn) plan aimed at bailing out Wall Street.

The rescue plan, a result of tense talks between the government and lawmakers, was rejected by 228 to 205 votes in the House of Representatives.

About two-thirds of Republican lawmakers refused to back the rescue package, as well as 95 Democrats.

Shares on Wall Street plunged within seconds of the announcement, after earlier falls on global markets.

A White House spokesman said that President George W Bush was "very disappointed" by the result.

He would meet members of his team in the coming days to "determine next steps", spokesman Tony Fratto said.

The vote followed a day of turmoil in the financial sector.

This of course is all going on bang in the middle of the US Presidential elections. Never mind, McCain has a plan :

In an election campaign notable for its surprises, Sarah Palin, the Republican vice- presidential candidate, may be about to spring a new one — the wedding of her pregnant teenage daughter to her ice-hockey-playing fiancé before the November 4 election.

Inside John McCain’s campaign the expectation is growing that there will be a popularity boosting pre-election wedding in Alaska between Bristol Palin, 17, and Levi Johnston, 18, her schoolmate and father of her baby. “It would be fantastic,” said a McCain insider. “You would have every TV camera there. The entire country would be watching. It would shut down the race for a week.”

There is already some urgency to the wedding as Bristol, who is six months pregnant, may not want to walk down the aisle too close to her date of delivery.

The selection of Palin, 44, the moose-hunting governor of Alaska, as his running mate was one of McCain’s biggest gambles. It paid off handsomely at first, but she could benefit from a fresh injection of homespun authenticity, the hallmark of her style, provided by her daughter’s wedding after appearing out of depth away from her home state.

McCain is expected to have a front-row seat at Bristol’s wedding and to benefit from the outpouring of goodwill that it could bring. “What’s the downside?” a source inside the McCain campaign said. “It would be wonderful. I don’t know that there has ever been a pre-election wedding before."

Yep, that's a real clincher; The shotgun wedding complete with the ice hockey redneck who didn't want kids and Bristol Palin,the shining example of how well a abstinence based sex education works , doing her duty to help mom get elected.

I mean even some on the right are commenting how badly Sarah Palin is handling interviews :

The conservative commentator Kathleen Parker, an early admirer, shocked McCain supporters late last week by calling on Palin to withdraw. “My cringe reflex is exhausted,” she wrote in National Review Online, a conservative journal. “Palin’s recent interviews . . . all revealed an attractive, earnest, confident candidate. Who Is Clearly Out of Her League.”

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Support Abortion Rights in Northern Ireland

Sign this petition.

Here is the wording from the petition page:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, and grant women there the same rights to abortion as women in the rest of the United Kingdom. More details

Submitted by Dr Audrey Simpson OBE of fpa (Family Planning Association)
Deadline to sign up by: 02 September 2009 –

More details from petition creator

We believe that the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Assembly should extend the 1967 Abortion Act to Northern Ireland, and grant women there the same rights to abortion as women in the rest of the United Kingdom.

As the law currently stands, no woman in Northern Ireland with an unwanted pregnancy (including women who’ve been raped, victims of incest, diagnosed with fetal abnormality/disability) has the automatic right to abortion.

Consequently, Northern Irish women:

• Pay the emotional and financial costs (up to £2,500) and travel to England or overseas for a private abortion.

• Have babies they have already decided they don’t want.

• Buy illegal and unsafe abortion pills on the internet in desperation.

fpa believes Parliament should change the law to end the discrimination against Northern Ireland women and give them the right to choose.

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

California Dreaming of Beating the Bigots

Assorted conservatives and homophobes are tryng to force their pathetic fear of same-sex attraction on the entire population of California by pushing a vote on Proposition 8.

Amusingly, while the bigots named their proposal The California Marriage Protection Amendment, California Attorney General Jerry Brown renamed it the rather more accurate 'Eliminates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry Act'.

The amendment seeks to legally restrict marriage to a link-up between a man and a woman. While it is probably no great surprise that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, California's Roman Catholic bishops plus assorted other Bible-bashers are promoting reactionary legislation, this particular move is significant in that it is the first attempt to get rid of legal gay marriage in a place where it already exists.

If you would like a taste of its supporters' views, try this letter, which compares Prop 8's opponents to Nazis and speculates that its defeat will be followed by the legalisation of man-sheep marriages (no doubt the sinister aim of woolly liberals).

Lining up to oppose homophobia are the California Labor Federation, Ellen DeGeneres of course, Steven Spielberg, and San Francisco's Jewish community. Good on 'em.

And the politicians? Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has previously opposed same-sex marriage legislation, but now opposes Prop 8 because he reckons that once a right is granted it should not be taken away. John McCain supports Proposition 8. But while Barack Obama opposes it, that is not stopping him campaigning alongside someone who writes in support of it.

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Saturday, September 27, 2008

Blessed Are the Cheesemakers. Torquay Finally Gets A Life

Torbay Council has finally seen sense and lifted the God-squad-inspired ban on the 'Life Of Brian'.

Yes, for years the Bible-bashers prevented the residents of Torbay and surrounding areas from watching one of the world's greatest comedy films, with their minority tut-tutting obstructing everyone else's right to sinful pleasure.

Whoever made that decision was not the Messiah. He was a very naughty boy.

So popular as the decision been that an extra screening has been organised.

But lest you think that Torbay was the last bastion of God-bothering narrow-mindedness, spare a thought for the residents of Abersytwyth, still barred from appreciating the antics of Brian and his chums in the People's Front of Judea. Never mind, at least Torbay has taken the secular step: always look on the bright side of life.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Ruth Kelly Quits Cabinet. Good.

News breaks this morning that Ruth Kelly has quit the Cabinet.

Long-time readers will be familiar with the contempt in which I hold Ms Kelly - whether she is cutting back on translation services in order to 'fight fascism'; or sending her son to private school to get him out of the under-funded state system that she used to be in charge of; or pretending to be a champion of women's rights.

Usually, when a politician departs from office "to spend more time with his/her family", it is widely seen as code for "sacked" or "resigned because pissed off with party leadership". In this case, maybe it is this, but maybe it really is to spend more time with her family, as she has four kids of primary-school age (and this usually seems to be seen as more of a 'responsibility' for women than for men).

We can expect many tributes to her superwoman status, bravely juggling the competing demands of kids and work, courageously blazing a trail for mothers in politics.

I can certainly empathise with this juggling act, with three primary-age kids of my own, and many years behind and ahead of me of battles with my employer and sometimes even within my union for this not to be held against me.

But my empathy does not extend to Ruth Kelly. Why? Because her policies have condemned many working-class women to a struggle harder than hers:
  • The pathetic level of the minimum wage leaves many women having to work long hours, or have two or even more jobs to make ends meet, leaving them very little time to spend with their families.
  • Most of us can not afford to send our special-needs kids to private schools, and would be happy with their state schools if the Government in which she used to be Education Secretary had funded them properly and reorganised them to meet children's needs rather than burden them with tests and targets.
  • Many people are unable to balance work and parenting, because New Labour's flexible working legislation is so piss-weak.
  • She led the charge to allow 'faith-based' adoption agencies to discriminate against gay people - so presumably, some people have more right to spend time with their children than others.
  • And her opposition to abortion rights would force women to have children that they didn't even want.
So, mincing no words - good riddance. Let's have some concern for working-class parents left to struggle by New Labour instead.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Coatesy has a blog !!

About bloody time .

Check out the one and only Coatesy .


The "Alaska Women Reject Palin" rally

I was sent this report ,via e-mail, of a rally in Alaska. I can't find any links to it or who wrote it unfortunately . I like the fact that it seems to have been organised from scratch, by a group of women who didn't want Palin to speak for them. I like the home made placards as well, rather than the uniform 'official' ones usually found on demos. It seems for many it was the first time on a demo.Oh and best of all it seems the nasty tactic of the radio talk show host backfired.

Here is the report and pics:

The "Alaska Women Reject Palin" rally was to be held outside on the lawn in front of the Loussac Library in midtown Anchorage. Home made signs were encouraged, and the idea was to make a statement that Sarah Palin does not speak for all Alaska women, or men.

The rally was organized by a small group of women, talking over coffee. These women hatched the plan, printed up flyers, posted them around town, and sent notices to local media outlets. One of those media outlets was KBYR radio, home of Eddie Burke, a long-time uber-conservative Anchorage talk show host.

Turns out that Eddie Burke not only announced the rally, but called the people who planned to attend the rally 'a bunch of socialist baby-killing maggots,' and read the home phone numbers of the organizers aloud over the air, urging listeners to call and tell them what they thought. The women, of course,received some nasty, harassing and threatening messages.

I felt a bit apprehensive. I'd been disappointed before by the turnout at other rallies. Basically, in Anchorage, if you can get 25 people to show up at an event, it's a success. So, I thought to myself, if we can actually get 100 people there that aren't sent by Eddie Burke, we'll be doing good. A real statement will have been made. I confess, I still had a mental image of 15 demonstrators surrounded by hundreds of menacing 'socialist baby-killing maggot' haters.

When I got there,about 20 minutes early, the line of sign wavers stretched the full length of the library grounds, along the edge of the road, 6 or 7 people deep! I could hardly find a place to park. I nabbed one of the last spots in the library lot, and as I got out of the car and started walking, people seemed to join in from every direction, carrying signs.

Never, have I seen anything like it in my 17 and a half years living in Anchorage. The organizers had someone walk the rally with a counter, and they clicked off well over 1400 people (not including the 90 counter-demonstrators). This was the biggest political rally ever, in the history of the state. I was absolutely stunned. The second most amazing thing is how many people honked and gave the thumbs up as they drove by. And even those that didn't honk looked wide-eyed and awe-struck at the huge crowd that was growing by the minute. This just doesn't happen here.

Then, the infamous Eddie Burke showed up. He tried to talk to the media,and was instantly surrounded by a group of 20 people who started shouting O-BA-MA so loud he couldn't be heard. Then passing cars started honking in a rhythmic pattern of 3, like the Obama chant, while the crowd cheered, hooted and waved their signs high.

So, if you've been doing the math. Yes. The Alaska Women Reject Palin rally was significantly bigger than Palin's rally that got all the national media coverage! Sarah Palin most definitely does not speak for all Alaskans. The citizens of Alaska, who know her best, have things to say.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Improving Unions' Websites

Here is an article that I wrote for the new issue of Off The Rails about improving union websites. It is specifically about the rail unions' websites, but I think many of the points apply to other unions' sites too. Actually, I think the rail unions' sites are better than some of the others, but, of course, not beyond criticism!


New communication technology opens massive opportunities for rail workers and our unions to get better organised. But it offers employers those opportunities too - and at the moment, it is the employers who are making the most of it.

Many rail employers are now using the 'Connect' intranet system, giving them a voice in every signal cabin, depot, station and other workplace, through which they provide regular reports, friendly blogging from the Chief Executive, and web forums where the minority of anti-union workers vent their spleens at will.

But while some people's reaction is to demand that these forums be shut down, the answer is rather that the unions should compete more effectively in the information war. Activists should get on the forums and argue with the scabs. After all, even if the employers agreed to shut down the forums (which they won't - why should they?!), then scabs will just spout their anti-union nonsense round the messrooms unchallenged. Better to get their 'arguments' out in the open and pull them apart.


Our national unions' own websites leave a lot to be desired. The basic problem is that each one comes across as an online glossy brochure trying to 'sell' the union rather than what a union website should be - an online resource for activists and members, and a site that convinces its visitors of the union's case. It is usually easy to see what the union wants you to see, but a lot harder to find out what you want to know. How can I get representation? How can I tell the union about an issue in my workplace? What's the union's answer to management latest propaganda?

One reason this happens is that the unions don't seem to have grasped that a website is not just a magazine on the internet. Most items on the RMT, ASLEF and TSSA sites are articles that were written for something else - the union's journal, a press release, a circular - and then put on the website. While these things should be on the website, there should also be other content that is designed for the website itself.

When the union does recognise the power of the technology available to it, it can be dazzled by the flash stuff but ignore the basics. So, for example, it is great that RMT members can watch webcasts of the union's conferences - but what about being able to contact your rep? or look up your rights? or find out accurate information as to where you branch meets?!

The websites need to be fast-moving and up-to-date. Particularly during a dispute or important talks, the union’s website is the easiest way to get minute-by-minute reports. After every session of talks, our negotiators should post reports - management will be circulating their version! During the shipyard strikes by Solidarnosc in Poland in the ‘80s, workers gathered outside the building to hear the negotiations broadcast live over a public address system. Website technology enables things like this to be done much more widely.

On a brighter note, some union branches and similar groups have set up their own websites, which tend to be more responsive to the needs of members. But they do tend to rely on one enthusiast, and if s/he moves on, the branch can struggle to keep the site going. The key to preventing this is to motivate and train others within the branch to get involved in administering the site.

An effective union website would involve its rank-and-file reps in running the site. The current national unions' websites are not as effective as they could be partly because the unions are not using the technology to best effect - but partly because unions remain bureaucratic organisations which tend to fear too much membership involvement, and don’t actually want us to know too much.

Check out these sites:
RMT Platform
RMT on Arriva Trains Wales
RMT Bristol Rail branch
RMT LU Engineering branch
RMT Finsbury Park branch
TSSA TfL branch
ASLEF Ramsgate branch
ASLEF Waterloo and Nine Elms branch

And of course:
Off The Rails
Workers' Liberty's rail unions page

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Sunday, September 21, 2008

Update on the Italian comedian who insulted the Pope

A few days ago I posted on the story of how an Italian comedian was facing charges for insulting the pope as he was deemed by law to be "sacred and inviolable." Thanks to New Humanist blog I can update you on this :

the Italian Justice Minister, Angelino Alfano, has decided to block the case saying he has "decided not to authorise it, knowing well the stature and capacity of the pope for forgiveness."

The Vatican has backed the Minister's decision, as a spokesperson explained to an Italian news agency:
"The justice minister's decision was wise. The Pope's authority is far too superior to be dented and, in his magnanimity, he considers the case closed."

So its all down to the Pope being magnanimous and forgiving.

Doesn't he feel a teeny bit bothered to be a beneficiary of a law which suppresses free speech and is part of a treaty agreed by Mussolini to allow the Vatican to remain a state?
Pic : Mussolini with Pope Pius XI .


Saturday, September 20, 2008

Shock Horror! Five-Year-Olds Can't Write Their Names!

The reactionary 'school standards' brigade are up in arms about a new report that shows that some five-year-olds can not write their own name.

Er, why is this such a big deal? The priority for kids in their first year of primary school should surely be that they are happy, settled, making friends, and developing the skills that will enable them to learn.

Instead, the government - egged on by the aforementioned reactionary 'school standards' brigade - is concerned only with their ability to pass regimented measures of achievement regardless of their personal development. It is a recipe for a generation of kids who may be able to write a list of key words, but may also be stressed, anti-social and able to learn only by rote and not by creative and critical thinking.

The report goes on to bemoan that many five-year-olds can not write a shopping list. A shopping list?! Why on earth would a five-year-old need to write a shopping list?! Going to despatch them to the local Tesco's for the family's weekly shop, are we? Er, no.

It's not that I'm against school standards. Heavens, no. It's just that my standards are different from those of the government or the Mail on Sunday. They are to do with children's well-being and rounded development, not just their ability to write 'oranges, pasta, coffee' at an age when they should actually be having fun.

Oh, and one more thing. If the government announced the necessary measures that would genuinely improve school standards - eg. better pay for teachers and support staff, more staff to teach smaller classes, more books and equipment etc - that would necessarily involve higher public spending, how do you think the Mail on Sunday would react?!

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Cruddas praises Blair

I did try to like Compass , honest. I went to their conference even though Cruddas had just backed Brown on 42 days detention. I listened to his speech . It was a checklist of all the right things, but as Dave reported at the time, his actions don't quite match:

Compass leaders like Jon Cruddas combine the ability to deliver speeches demanding that Trident be scrapped, council houses be built and the Post Office not be privatised, with the supine cowardice to vote for 42-day detention without trial, a measure he surely must know to be wrong.
On the one hand, Compass wants to present itself as pragmatic radicalism for the twenty-first century; on the other, it wants to keep New Labour sweet. Ultimately, it cannot do both.
It's politics offer too little, too late.

But hey, he has changed from his Blairite past and the left should work with him and Compass , right ? We need to be realistic and he is pushing a soft left agenda isn't he?
Trouble is he seems to change his views to fit what he thinks people want to hear as demonstrated in his interview in The Times. Is he calling for a debate on policy , pushing left wing ideas, even of the softest variety? Nope, he is nostalgic for Blair and offering to support Brown and take a post in his Government:

Voters were watching aghast as Labour tore itself apart, Jon Cruddas said last night in rebuke to the Blairites who are driving efforts to topple Gordon Brown.

In an interview with The Times, Mr Cruddas said that none of those who claim to be Tony Blair’s allies come close to matching the former leader.

The Dagenham MP, who is one of David Miliband’s rivals to succeed Mr Brown, turned down a ministerial job last summer despite being most members’ first choice as deputy leader. He suggested to The Times that he was now willing to take a job under Mr Brown.

Mr Cruddas said that MPs had been reckless, irresponsible and divisive in calling for change without a candidate, timetable or alternative policy programme.

Mr Cruddas, who worked in No 10 under Mr Blair, sought to wrong-foot those who would dismiss him as a leftwinger, praising Mr Blair’s “genius” and making a barely coded attack on those such as Mr Miliband who were “acting under his banner”.

“Blair was a much more charismatic, sophisticated, inclusive and radical politician than any of those who claim adherence to Blairism now,” he said.

Mr Cruddas signalled that he was willing to shore up Mr Brown’s battered administration. “It’s all hands to the pump now,” he said. “A year ago I said my [deputy leadership] campaign wasn’t about a job in government and I felt you had to carry that through. My instinct is not oppositional. Whoever is leader, we’ve got to think how we put the band back together.”

He seems to be hedging his bets . He points out that the Blairites are not talking about policy but does not mention McDonnell who clearly has been. He offers to support Brown whilst hinting he would support whoever was leader.

Even those who see him as a pragmatic soft left MP to do business with should wonder why he did not take the chance to call for a policy shift rather than praise Blair.


Now Might Be The Winter Of Our Discontent After All

Take a very close look at this photo.

It's a TSSA Official Picket. Unless you lived near the Arriva Trains North route a couple of years ago, you will never have seen one of these before.

This one is from the current strike by the TSSA on Arriva Trains Wales. TSSA, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association, is the 'moderate' union in the rail industry, based in clerical and managerial grades, whose name even avoids the word 'union'. Prior to the Arriva strikes, the TSSA had not been on strike since 1926, when it was called the Railway Clerks' Association - and then only because everyone was at it.

The point being? The many doom-ridden commentaries about the unwillingness of workers to fight back may not be entirely accurate. Sure, so one strike does not a winter of discontent make, but if you want to find green shoots of the recovery of industrial struggle then you can. Elsewhere in the rail industry, you can find them in the recent pay victory by CBS Outdoor workers (the people who put up posters on the Tube) and the fantastic, but incomplete, win by Tube cleaners.

Moreover, TSSA's strike on Arriva Trains Wales has had a big impact on services because members of the other two rail unions - RMT and ASLEF - have refused to cross picket lines. So solidarity may be reborn too.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

SSP and the economic crisis

Sorry to be partisan but here is the link to what the SSP have to say about the economic crisis written by Raphael de Santos - my branch secretary for Edinburgh North, Central & Leith.

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Surprisingly Good News from USDAW

I have long suspected that members of shopworkers' union USDAW are dissatisfied with their union and its obsequious brown-nosing of their employers. Check out some of the 194 comments here, for instance.

The result of the union's General Secretary election seems to confirm my suspicions. Despite the efforts of the bureaucracy, detailed below, and despite the fact that the appalling right-wing toady-in-chief was re-elected, a relatively unknown Socialist Party member won an astonishingly good 40% of the vote.

Which presumably goes to show that workers want pay rises not partnership. You don't say.

Socialist Party member Robbie Segal shook the entire shopworkers’ union USDAW by gaining 40% of the vote for General Secretary in the ballot result announced today. Robbie is a Tesco worker who on shoe-string resources with a tiny band of activists in a David and Goliath battle faced the entire USDAW official machine. The whole right wing union full time bureaucracy was mobilised to crush her, but she still managed to gain over 18,000 votes, winning the moral victory by far.

The incumbent, John Hannett, had the entire union behind him – except the members. He appears in the union journal and other union publications every month. Robbie was virtually unknown to most of the members other than those that have known her first-hand as a fighter over the years. As an example, three NEC members were flown into the Central London branch meeting to argue against one Socialist Party member to secure the nomination of all the London branches for Hannett. But Robbie’s programme clearly appealed to the members by calling for an £8 minimum wage for all, no to partnership between the union and the employers- as there is in Tesco, for democracy within the union, and for an alternative to New Labour for ordinary people to have a party that genuinely represents them. Robbie also pledged to reject the £100,000 Hannett took and to continue on her Tesco wage.

The result is in no way a ringing endorsement of the current leadership. The low turnout of 13.2% reflected the fact that Hannett did his very best to subdue the issue, by calling a summer election, calling no debates with Robbie and producing no other material other than the ballot paper and a letter to the branches demanding their support. So Hannett’s 7.8% support in USDAW must be seen as a massive vote of no confidence in his performance in the job.

This result, for a clearly socialist candidate in the USDAW General Secretary election is testimony to the changing mood in the unions. USDAW has for many years been the bastion of the right wing with an avid New Labourite leadership. John Hannett pulled all the stops out to use the union bureaucratic machine in his favour for this election. Robbie proved his leadership severely lacking.

USDAW national public meeting: ‘Fighting for a Democratic Usdaw’ - to discuss union perspectives, election results and plans for future action is this Saturday, 20th September 12-3pm, Lucas Arms, 245A Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8QZ. Nearest station, Kings Cross St Pancras.

Voting returns are:-
Voting papers distributed……………348,278 100%
Ballot papers returned………………46,002 13.2%
Hannett…………………………………27,320 59.4%
Segal………………………………………18,673 40.6%


Lehman Brothers and the sad plight of the City Boys...or give up blow drying hair and save the planet!

Now I know what warm caring people the readers of this blog are, so I'm sure the following will cause many to shed a tear in distress to hear of such suffering. Perhaps someone will set up a Facebook group or organise some fund raising.
I myself was touched when I heard of the plight of City boys and how they and their families were struggling to survive . Thanks to Katherine Bucknell, novelist and wife of a City banker, their pain is now known , she explains :

Nobody at Lehman Brothers will be making a pile of money any more, real or virtual. Nor do they have an income. Or an office, a BlackBerry, a plane ticket to an important meeting out of town, a driver waiting downstairs. In Chelsea there were anguished shouts heard on the pavements at 6.30am on Monday, and people were breaking down in tears in Starbucks.
Adjusting to being out of work will be hard for the rest of them, adjusting to being out of luck even harder. Their self-esteem may now be lower than their net worth. They have no place to go but home, to tell the family.
And when they do get home, how long can they afford to stay if the rent is high or a mortgage outstanding? What about the builders remodelling the kitchen? The nanny and the cleaner? How will they pay for the private school? The private health insurance? The car, the clubs, the tennis lessons? Dining out, theatre, opera? Christmas presents, holidays, charities? The accumulating pile, which to a banker serves as a report card, means many different things to those who help to spend it and to those on whom it is spent.
For every vanished pile there will be crying children, an angry spouse, unemployed builders and domestic help, goods left on shop shelves, flats and houses available to rent or buy, empty restaurants, and villages in Africa that don't get their new water pump after all.
Wives who don't work in the City, or don't work at all, are in a tense waiting game. They may have long ago ceded the management - and even understanding - of investments to their husbands, but by now they have examined and re-examined the lists in newspapers and on the internet of banks reported to be in the biggest trouble.
Even as they hope they won't have to, they are making plans to economise. City wives are tougher and more practical than a lot of people realise. They are not celebrities. They are managers - plenty of them once worked in the City themselves. Economy also means home management, and already they will be preparing for some very tough cuts, though not all their decisions will make sense to outsiders.
Which holiday should they cancel first? Skiing, because it's the shortest, coldest and most expensive. How soon can they get out from under the lease on the country house - or, if the penalties for breaking it are too great, should they spend all their holidays there while the lease lasts?
Who can they let go from the staff? Most would rather do without the nanny than without the cleaner. With any luck the cleaner likes children anyway and will help out in a pinch. If there is a cook, she goes before the nanny. The cleaner also knows how to roast a chicken and wash up. Forget the garden altogether - expect to see a lot of weeds as the crisis worsens - although the unemployed may take some comfort in doing the gardening themselves. Shopping ... they have been meaning to cut down on shopping for years. Haircuts, though, they can't do without
Friends who lent us a sofa four years ago because they were buying all new furniture have asked for it back. They have been building a mansion in the country; luckily for them, it was completed before the current troubles. But it seems that they can't afford to furnish it. It is not the ideal moment for me to buy a new sofa, so at our house a few people will be sitting on the floor.


Yes, I am already looking for a silver lining. I am painfully aware of how grossly America out-consumes the rest of the world, and feel guilty about this even though I have lived in Britain for nearly 25 years. When Al Gore first circled the globe, advising us to change our ways before we burnt up the planet, I wondered why people couldn't commit to a stricter regime. I gave up blow-drying my hair for a whole year. Yet we have gone on having not only more than our share, but more than we could pay for.

Punchie, pass that AK47 ...

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Jail for insulting the Pope?

Found this via New Humanist blog. Seems its not OK to insult either the Pope or the Italian Prime Minister.

The Times reports :

An Italian comedienne who said that Pope Benedict XVI would go to Hell and be tormented by homosexual demons is facing a prison term of up to five years.

Addressing a Rome rally in July, Sabrina Guzzanti warmed up with a few gags about Silvio Berlusconi ...

But then she got religion, and after warning everyone that within 20 years Italian teachers would be vetted and chosen by the Vatican, she got to the punchline: "But then, within 20 years the Pope will be where he ought to be — in Hell, tormented by great big poofter devils, and very active ones, not passive ones."

She is facing prosecution for "offending the honour of the sacred and inviolable person" of Benedict XVI.

Giovanni Ferrara, the Rome prosecutor, is invoking the 1929 Lateran Treaty between Italy and the Vatican, which stipulates that an insult to the Pope carries the same penalty as an insult to the Italian President. Prosecution requires authorisation from the Ministry of Justice, for which Mr Ferrara has applied.


The move to prosecute her over her anti-papal remarks was praised by some on the centre Right, including Luca Volonte, a Christian Democrat, who said that "gratuitous insults must be punished".

This law doesn't have a very good pedigree :

Perhaps unsurprisingly, this law comes from the 1929 Lateran Treaty, in which Mussolini agreed to allow the Vatican to exist as a state, and it gives the Pope "sacred and inviolable" status alongside, funnily enough, the Italian president (or PM as it would have been in Il Duce's day).

That's quite a scary law that says the Pope or the President can't be insulted, especially since Berlusconi wields such power over the media . Does anyone know if this law has been enforced in recent times?

If the Pope is so honourable why doesn't he call for a law enacted by Fascists to be repealed ?

No person or belief system should be privileged as "sacred and inviolable," beyond satire , insults or criticism .


Monday, September 15, 2008

The Great Depression

As Lehman Brothers - "the bank that survived the Wall Street crash" - dramatically fails to survive the sub-prime criris, I give you ... a great song, a non-video and a set of lyrics.

I think we must have all gone mad
Maybe right turned over
They promise us the earth
Instead we’ve got the great depression
Now you’re free and easy with the base
You blame your brothers and sisters
And neurotics say "sod the rest"
It’s the new dissention

Into the abyss
By pushing forwards
It’s always down
It’s a desperate war
You’re trying to blow yourselves up
You don’t care who you stand... with the help about
Hey hey - well that’s not the way

No sense or reason in your fussing and fighting
And your violent obsession
Who’s ever really left feeling fine
After the great depression?
No sense of purpose in the competition
Keeping up with the Joneses
You buy a house,
You buy a car
You buy a marriage and a bed of roses

Into the abyss
By pushing forwards
It’s always down
It’s a desperate war
You’re trying to blow yourselves up
You don’t care who you stand ... with the help about

Hey hey - well that’s not the way

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tiocfaidh Ar La

Courtesy of the London Underground Celtic Supporters' Club, I recently had a good read of Tiocfaidh Ar La Fanzine - "for Celtic and Ireland".

The first thing I'd say is that the people running it have done something quite impressive and which should be of interest to those of us concerned about building a genuine base for left-wing politics in working-class communities. They produce a popular publication with a big audience by combining their political agenda with an important part of people's social and cultural life: football.

But the second thing I want to say is to knock that political agenda. The lead article in the latest issue - which I unfortunately can not find on their website - is an interview with an ANC member. The choice of interviewee itself says a lot - not a South African trade unionist, or community activist, but a government supporter.

There is very little discussion of common politics between TAL/Irish Republicanism and the ANC: perhaps that is taken for granted. But there is plenty of discussion - in fact, it dominates the interview - of the details of the bomb that the ANC member planted, the number of casualties, and his subsequent arrest and imprisonment. It comes across as though the fanzine's empathy with the ANC is about their common method of struggle rather than any common politics.

TAL does ask the ANC man about current problems in South Africa, but accepts his reply uncritically. He denounces the recent anti-immigrant riots - rightly perhaps, but with no acknowledgement that the policies of the ANC government might be responsible for some working-class people turning to reactionary xenophobic violence. The ANC has, after all, pursued policies of privatisation, cuts and union-bashing that keep many black people in poverty.

This is particularly interesting because TAL is proud of its anti-racist and anti-fascist stance, and many of its supporters would readily accept that New Labour's abandonment of the working class has fertilised the ground for anti-immigrant prejudice in Britain. If the answer in Britain is to assert working-class politics and to challenge the government, then that should be the answer in South Africa too.

It seems to me that the ANC should be a warning, rather than an example, to Irish republicans - or at least to socialists who support Irish republicanism. The anti-working-class ANC government shows where you end up if you cheerlead a national liberation struggle but allow it to be devoid of working-class, socialist politics, and do not insist on working-class political independence.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rearranging the deckchairs pt 2 : New Labour

The BBC reports :

An MP has been sacked as Labour's vice chair after publicly joining calls for a leadership election.

Joan Ryan and four other Labour MPs - Fiona Mactaggart, Siobhain McDonagh, George Howarth and Janet Anderson - have asked for nomination forms.

And fellow MPs Graham Stringer, Gordon Prentice and John McDonnell have called for a leadership contest.

Entering the latest row on Saturday evening Mr McDonnell - who has long been urging a leadership election - described current Labour infighting as "like watching the crew having a punch up on the deck of the Titanic".

The MP for Hayes and Harlington said: "Most Labour Party members are looking on aghast as the Blairites and Brownites fight an irrelevant turf war.

"Without a single policy difference between them they are willing to destroy a Labour government. I challenge both of them to publish a policy programme to put before our members for support and let's test the views of our supporters on the way forward for Labour."


TUC: Rearranging The Deckchairs?

I promised on Stroppy's open thread a few days back to do a wee post on Brendan Barber and his deckchairs. I thought it a story of such patheticness that it warranted blogging.

There I was watching BBC News 24 on the day before TUC Congress started, when the Beeb's cameras popped up on Brighton beach to show Brother Barber embracing a row of deckchairs, upon each of which rested a large letter, spelling out 'FAIR TAX'. Immediately, the BBC reporter said, "The TUC wants the government to tax the rich".

And therein lies the patheticness. The BBC had to spell out what the TUC's vague, motherhood-and-apple-pie slogan actually meant. Why on earth could Barber's deckchairs not have spelled out 'TAX THE RICH'?! Could they not afford the extra three letters, having blown the budget on Congress hospitality? Or did they not want to upset the, erm, rich?! Or not put a demand on the Labour government that was at all specific or put them under any kind of meaningful pressure?

Anyways, the deckchair 'photo-opportunity' seems to have left no lasting impression, as I have failed to find an image of it on the world-wide web - hence the rather more ordinary deckchairs atop this post. But Google 'deckchairs' and 'Barber' and you'll find that the links to TUC pages about the deckchair episode have been mysteriously replaced by other stuff.

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Public Meeting - For a women's right to choose

I seemed to have dropped off Abortion Rights e-mail list, so thanks to Louise for sending this to me:

For a woman’s right to choose
Campaigning to defend and extend women’s abortion rights in the final stages of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill

7pm Tuesday 7 October 2008 House of Commons Committee Room 10

Speakers include:
Diane Abbott MP, Katy Clark MP, Katie Curtis NUS, Evan Harris MP, Wendy Savage DWCA, Dr Audrey Simpson fpa Northern Ireland, Polly Toynbee Guardian commentator, TUC speaker. Others to be confirmed.

All pro-choice supporters welcome!

The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill goes through its final stages in Parliament this autumn. In May we defeated anti-abortion amendments to lower the time limit from 24 weeks. This was a huge victory for women, the pro-choice movement and Abortion Rights. Yet the fight is not over — anti-abortion MPs have tabled a series of amendments to restrict women’s abortion rights when the Bill is voted on at its decisive Report Stage. We believe these amendments must be defeated.

Women in fact need improved rights. Forty years after the enactment of the 1967 Abortion Act, pro-choice MPs are seeking to improve access to abortion and bring the law into line with developments in medical practice and social attitudes. Changes proposed include a reduction in the number of doctors who need to consent, from two to one, and the extension of the law to Northern Ireland.
Eighty-three per cent of people support a woman’s right to choose. Abortion Rights believes the law should reflect that majority.

Join us to add your voice and debate the next steps for choice. The meeting is planned to allow plenty of time for questions and discussion.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Rees and German resign from “left alternative” leadership ?

Today’s ‘left alternative’ members’ bulletin announces the resignation of socialist workers’ party leaders john rees and lindsey german from the national committee of the swp’s post-respect electoral front. no political explanation has been given for this move, although it is clearly part of the fallout from their electoral debacle in may and their attempt to shift in direction.


“Left Alternative Members Bulletin 10th September 2008 “1. Statement from Left Alternative officers
“The officers of the Left Alternative are sad to have to inform our members of the resignations of John Rees and Lindsey German from the officers group and National Council. However, they remain members of the Left Alternative.
“John and Lindsey have been tireless members of the officers group and National Council since the inception of Respect. As National Secretary, John has provided consistent judgment and direction in the most difficult political circumstances, while Lindsey has been our inspirational Mayoral candidate in the GLA elections in both 2004 and 2008.
“The National Council, at its meeting on 6th September, agreed a unanimous vote of thanks to John and Lindsey for everything they have done for our organisation. We are proud to have them as members of the Left Alternative and look forward to continuing to work with them in campaigns from Stop the War to the People before Profit Charter.”

Pushed or jumped ? True ?
Hmmm, now what ?


Economic Crisis: Learn From The Past

As we all lurch into economic crisis, will the labour movement and the left be up to the challenge? Our job is to organise for the working class to defend itself from the effects of the crisis. We need to do so ideologically, politically and economically ie. to understand the crisis, to put forward demands for government action, and to encourage effective industrial action by workers.

Failure to do so means that working-class people pay the price for a crisis not of our making. And sadly, that is what has happened in the past. So I want to take a look back at the slump of the early 1920s and examine the labour movement's response, in the hope that we won't make the same mistakes this time round.

Towards the end of 1920, the brief post-war boom came to a sharp end, as prices began to fall and trade declined. The following year, 1921, Britain's exports and imports fell by nearly half, prompting The Economist to label it ‘one of the worst years of depression since the industrial revolution’.

Employers being employers, they argued that trade could only revive by making prices more competitive, meaning costs must be cut, meaning wages in particular must go down. Over the next three years, wages fell faster than they ever have done in British history. Despite the bosses’ predictions, this did not reverse the slump. But it did have a catastrophic effect on working-class people.

In any recession, the two main classes fight over who is to carry the cost. So as employers made the workers pay the price, how well did the labour movement fight for the workers?

Soon after the war, two union leaders had made their names in two big industries. Jimmy Thomas was the General Secretary of the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR), which won wages rises through a successful national strike in 1919. At the same time, Ernest Bevin was earning the monicker 'The Dockers' KC' by his articulate and successful advocacy of the case for better wages, conditions and job security at the Shaw Court of Enquiry into port labour.

But the slump wiped away the gains of these two mammoth fights, as the union leaderships responded inadequately.

As slump set in, passenger journeys and freight tonnage on Britain’s railways fell dramatically. The government was preparing to hand the railways back to the private companies having 'borrowed' them into government control during the war, and did so by drastically cutting costs. In May 1921, they suspended the guaranteed working week - and bizarrely enough, Thomas supported them! He and the other union leaders were so scared of job losses that they accepted attacks on working conditions rather than fight both. And guess what happened next? Yep - the job losses came too: in the year following March 1921, the employers sacked nearly 60,000 railworkers.

And Bevin? He saw the Shaw Report's recommendations fall by the wayside and negotiated not improvements for workers but pay cuts. His biographer Alan Bullock wrote that "The most that Bevin and the [Transport Workers'] Federation could do was to retreat in good order, preserving the machinery for national negotiations and using it to negotiate each reduction by agreement."

After the formation of the T&G on 1 January 1922, Bevin was so determined to avoid confrontation with the employers that he negotiated a three-stage pay cut for already-underpaid dockers. In 1923, there was some hope that the third cut would not go ahead, and when those hopes were dashed, dockers walked out across the country. But the T&G refused to make the strike official and ordered members back to work. The willingness of dockers to take action like this suggest that negotiating pay cuts was not 'the most' that Bevin could have done: he could have led a fight.

On the political front, Labour had not yet formed a government, and its 60 MPs were in the most part a rump of ageing trade unionists who were not in the habit of challenging Lloyd George's Tory-dominated Coalition government. But Labour did have power in local government, having won control of a fair few Councils in the 1919 elections in which many working-class men and women had the right to vote for the first time. Many of these new Labour Councils improved pay and conditions for their own employees, several introducing a minimum wage of £4 per week. But when private-sector wages fell, political pressure came on the Councils to cut municipal wages too. Some, such as Herbert Morrison's Hackney Council, willingly obliged; others, such as Poplar, resisted. And Ernest Bevin? He denounced Poplar's intransigence and argued that they should negotiate cuts! Why? Because he could not stand to see the role of union negotiators sidelined.

The Communist Party's J.R.Campbell argued that labour movement leaders’ collaboration with wage cuts arose from a wrong understanding of capitalism: they accepted the view that the slump was abnormal for capitalism, whereas communists recognised that economic crisis is a natural feature of capitalism. “In the sphere of wages, the reformists stand for concessions to capitalism, in order to help capitalism get back to ‘normal’, while the Communists stand for a resistance to the demands of the capitalists and the preparation for a decisive struggle against capitalism.’

So industrially, politically and ideologically, let's not repeat the mistakes of the past.

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Well doesn't look like the world has ended after all...

Yep , still here after all the nonsense.

Inspired by a post on Shiraz, what would you do if the world was about to end? What music would you want playing, what would you eat , where would you be and who with, doing what?

I'll start.

Well if it had of been this week I'd wanted to be wrapped up in a duvet, wearing my best DMs and fishnets with Dave and my cats cuddled up. I'd be eating chocolate and very drunk on JD (well sod being healthy in my last few hours). I'd probably be playing loud punk or rock. It would include The Clash, Iggy Pop, Pixies, Velvet Underground and the Sex Pistols.

If it was at a time when I didn't have cats I'd be doing all the above but on a very remote beach somewhere looking out at crashing waves and a greying sky. Or perhaps I could get the cats to sit and watch with me?

Then of course I'd find out God did exist and my hell would be a eternity with some of the most annoying commentators and bloggers arguing for ever about David Broder/AWL/Iran ...


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Sarah Palin and rape victims

I have avoided posting on Palin as there are lots of other good posts covering just how bloody awful her politics are . Check out here, here and here for starters.

I'll just add something I found via Feministing which illustrates , as if we didn't know from the Thatcher experience, that purely being female does not mean a politician will act in the interests of other women . Op-Edna explains :

Of all of the things I’ve learned about Sarah Palin in the last week and a half, this has got to be the most disturbing. While Sarah Palin was serving as the Mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, the city charged victims of sexual assault between $300 and $1200 for their own rape kits. A rape kit is a sexual assault forensic evidence kit, used to collect DNA that can be used in criminal proceedings to assist in the conviction of those who commit sex crimes. The kit is performed as soon as possible after a sexual assault or attack has been committed. It is usually humiliating and uncomfortable for the victim–imagine enduring that and then paying $1200 just so that the criminal who assaulted you might be caught.

This was overturned by the Democratic Mayor in 2000 . I'll add what was said at the time as it shows a pretty callous attitude to the victims of rape from the police. From Fontiersman , via Op-Edna :

ANCHORAGE - Gov. Tony Knowles recently signed legislation protecting victims of sexual assault from being billed for tests to collect evidence of the crime, but one local police chief said the new law will further burden taxpayers.

The new law makes it illegal for any law enforcement agency to bill victims or victims insurance companies for the costs of examinations that take place to collect evidence of a sexual assault or determine if a sexual assault did occur.

We would never bill the victim of a burglary for fingerprinting and photographing the crime scene, or for the cost of gathering other evidence, Knowles said. Nor should we bill rape victims just because the crime scene happens to be their bodies.
While the Alaska State Troopers and most municipal police agencies have covered the cost of exams, which cost between $300 to $1,200 apiece, the Wasilla police department does charge the victims of sexual assault for the tests.
Wasilla Police Chief Charlie Fannon does not agree with the new legislation, saying the law will require the city and communities to come up with more funds to cover the costs of the forensic exams.

Rape victims as a 'burden' on taxpayers ?? Have very selfish of them to go get themselves attacked.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

When the wind falls

Windfall tax - what's all that about then?!

Obviously, Brown's refusal to levy said windfall tax on the fat-cat energy companies and their whopping profits is because of his resolute unwillingness to do even the smallest thing to upset even the most unpopular, money-grabbing, rubbish capitalists around. It's yet another sign that he governs for the ruling class not the working class - though anyone who hasn't noticed that yet is probably immune to signs even were they ten square metres of flashing neon parked two centimetres in front of your nose.

But the cheerleaders of the windfall tax argue that its revenue should be used to help poor people pay their fuel bills. Excuse me, but doesn't that just mean putting the dosh straight back into the trousers of the energy companies?! Or am I missing something here?

The saddest thing about this whole 'row' is that the bloody obvious answer is apparently not even on the radar. Look, if the government wants to get its hands on the private energy companies' wodge, then take them into public ownership.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Open post

Yeah i'm being lazy . I can't think of what to post on and I won't be about now until tomorrow night (apart from peeks on my mobile). Just in case none of the other Stroppybloggers get a chance to write anything, use this as a open post.

Chat amongst yourselves. Anything you like. Oh except more about David Broder/AWL/Iran/Jenna Delich. Enough of that !


Saturday, September 06, 2008

Important Women In Socialist And Feminist History

The London Socialist Feminist Discussion Group - launched last year followed a dayschool on socialist feminism hosted by Workers' Liberty - has announced its programme of meetings for Autumn-Winter 2008-9. Here it is (and you may be interested to know that one Janine Booth will be introducing the discussions on Constance Markiewicz and on Minnie Lansbury) ...

The London Socialist Feminist Dicussion Group is open to everyone interested in discussing socialist and feminist ideas in an informal and welcoming forum.

Our group meets monthly. Our programme of meetings for autumn-winter 2008-9 starts on Friday 12 September when we will be starting a series of discussions focusing on important women in socialist and feminist history.

This series will start with a look at the life and politics of Rosa Luxemburg. Luxemburg was a Polish-born revolutionary mostly active in the German socialist movement in the early 20th century. She was co-founder of the Spartacist Lague, a precursor to the German Communist Party. Luxemburg was captured and killed by right wing forces after the failed Spartacist uprising of early 1919. She remains an important figure in socialist history both for her actions during her life and her ideas.

  • Friday 12 September: Rosa Luxemburg
    7.30-9.30pm Lucas Arms, 245a Gray’s Inn Road, London, WC1X
  • Friday 10 October: Constance Markiewicz
    7.30-9.30pm School of Oriental and African Studies, Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG
  • Friday 7 November: Clara Zetkin
    Time and venue as for October
  • Friday 5 December: Minnie Lansbury
  • Friday 9 January: Marie Stopes
  • Friday 6 February: Sylvia Pankhurst
Time as above. Venues to be arranged
More details

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Friday, September 05, 2008

Buffy to blame for mass exodus of women from the church

How did I miss this !

Great Daily Mail headline :

50,000 women abandoning church every year as Buffy the Vampire Slayer turns them on to witchcraft

Oh dear  from one superstition to new age crystally type nonsense , still lets look on the bright side :

Christian churches in England have lost at least 50,000 women from their congregations every year since 1989, says a sociologist.

Dr Kristin Aune, from the University of Derby, said many young women are put off going to church because they link it with traditional values.

She also said television icons such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who promote female empowerment, discourage women from attending services.

Dr Aune added: 'In short, women are abandoning the church. Because of its focus on female empowerment, young women are attracted by Wicca, popularised by the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

There is a bit more in The Telegraph:

"Young women tend to express egalitarian values and dislike the traditionalism and hierarchies they imagine are integral to the church."

Her research, published in a new book called Women and Religion in the West, cites an English Church Census which found more than a million women worshippers have left churches since 1989.

She believes many women have been put off going to church in recent years because of the influence of feminism, which challenged the traditional Christian view of women's roles and raised their aspirations.
Her report claims they feel forced out of the church because of its "silence" about sexual desire and activity, and because of its hostility to single-parent families and unmarried couples which are now a reality for many women.

Raised aspirations, empowerment, feminism or rules made by reactionary old men in frocks?

hmmm tough one that.

Pic Tara and Willow, lesbian witches from Buffy, .

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Guest post on Jean Charles de Menezes campaign

Charlie went to the campaign meeting and has kindly sent me these notes on how it went :

AFTER commemorating the third anniversary of the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes with a wreath ceremony outside Parliament, family and friends of the Brazilian electrician have heard there's to be be an inquest, opening on September 22, at the Oval.

They are delighted that the case is being examined, but worried the limitations on this inquiry may obstruct their search for the whole truth, and for justice to be done.

At a meeting on Thursday evening, Yasmin Khan of the Justice4Jean campaign reminded us of the facts. On the morning of July 22, 2005, Jean Charles left his flat in south London for work. He boarded a bus, and got off at Stockwell tube station, where he stopped to pick up a newspaper, then paid by Oyster, and went down by escalator to catch his train. Seeing one already in, he ran to get on before the doors closed, and took a seat.

What Jean Charles did not know was that he had been followed from home by a special surveillance team that had been watching his block of flats for a terror suspect called Hussein Osman. One of these officers held the carriage doors open and a squad of armed officers entered. Jean Charles was restrained and then shot seven times in the head as he lay on the floor.

Immediately after the shooting a number of falsehoods were spread. It was said that the young Brazilian was wearing bulky clothing, such as an overcoat, on a Summer's day, leading officers to fear he had concealed explosives on him. (This was not long after the London bombings) In fact, he wore a thin denim jacket, as photographs show. He was supposed to have vaulted the ticket barrier and raced down the escalator to evade pursuit. But he had used an Oyster card, and only ran when he saw his train, probably anxious because he was late for work.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair told the Home Office the Independent Police Complaints Commission would not be allowed to investigate the shooting. The police claimed CCTV footage from Stockwell station or the train was not available because the cameras had not been working. London Underground said this was not so.

Yasmin said one reason for misgivings about the inquest was that the coroner had agreed that up to 50 police officers will be permitted to give their evidence behind closed doors and without identifying themselves. She agreed with a member of the audience who suggested that this was another propaganda move, to instil in the jury and public the notion that this was about "terror", and that the officers were risking danger, whereas it was we the public who needed protection.

Other questions raised in the meeting concerned the use of special bullets which were illegal, and to what extent army special forces had been involved in the killing.

Justice4Jean is hoping to give the inquest maximum publicity and attention, and urges as many people who can to attend the inquest, especially on the opening day, when firearms officers are expected to be in court.

The campaign is setting up a special blog for the inquest at Justice4Jean.


Thursday, September 04, 2008

Sometimes its hard to be a woman

Right! Tomorrow I am a witness at a civil partnership and I am really excited about it but I have spent the past x amount of hours doing stuff in order to look nice tomorrow - this has included shaving my legs, then putting false tan on, dying my hair, exfoliating my skin, putting a face mask on, putting false nails on, painting my toe nails then tomorrow I will go to the hairdresser, put false eye lashes on, then lots of make up, teeter about in silver high heel shoes, put a fastenator in my hair wear an uncomfortable bra, have a fancy dress on - I have already asked Eddie to decide what hand bag! And what has Eddie done - ironed a shirt and gone to the barbers.

How did such inequality happen -why do women do it? Is it self expression or self oppression?


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Ed's blog

A quick plug for a newish blog - EdIsRed by lovely friend and comrade Ed Whitby. So far, it mainly includes Unison local government issues, the campaign to stop Ed's local Tyne and Wear Metro being privatised and a pic of his boyf.

Stroppy - add Ed to the blogroll will ya, sis? Ta.

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Jean Charles de Menezes - updates

Couple of updates I received via Facebook:

Justice4Jean Blog

"The campaign has set up a blog that will be updated during the course of the inquest, which is expected to last up to three months.

There's obviously not much to see just at the moment, as the inquest doesn't start until 22nd September and we don't yet have details of the official website that the Coroner will be setting up.

But visit and bookmark the blog at:


Justice4Jean Organising Meeting



Mobilising Meeting called by the Family Campaign:

Thursday 4th September 2008 6.30-8pm

Room G2,
School of Oriental and African Studies
Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square WC1H 0XG


(Hosted by SOAS Palestine Society)

The campaign is asking for supporters to attend the first day of the inquest – the 22nd September – and help us mobilise for this day.

We want to send a strong message out at the beginning of the inquest and need your help to do it, so please join us on the 4th and get involved in the campaign for Justice 4 Jean.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Young People and Gang Violence: Thoughts

Two of the most recent murders of youngsters by youngsters in London have taken place within a mile of my house: one in the little street where I used to live, and one in the tower block where I used to visit my then partner. Bringing up three sons in Hackney, one just a few years off teenage, certainly focuses your mind on the issue.

For a long time, the left has left the political terrain of 'crime' to the right wing, as though it is not our natural territory. I tried to address this in an article some years ago and I hope that many of its arguments are relevant to the situation today. But I guess that more needs to be said.

With this latest issue of gang violence, mainly with knives, it seems that not even the right wing are confidently declaring their solutions - maybe even they baulk at the idea of capital punishment for screwed-up youth. I don't think I've ever seen so many political rabbits caught in headlights.

Much of what response there has been has focused on ridding the streets of guns and knives. I wouldn't particularly protest against this on principle - initiatives such as amnesties seem reasonable to me. I'm rather less keen on the idea of compulsory searches at schools and elsewhere, as I can't help but think that even if they might confiscate a few weapons, they may also create a siege mentality, resentment and 'challenge' to the worst offenders to get round the system and so worsen the problem in the long term.

Around a year and a half ago, I witnessed the police searching passengers travelling through Bethnal Green tube station, selected 'at random'. Funnily enough, I wasn't collared and marched through the metal detectors: somehow, I don't think that middle-aged white women were on the target list. I stopped and watched for ten minutes, and every single person they pulled was a young ethnic minority man. So I challenged the head copper, who denied it all and made sure a couple of white people were pulled too.

It is also notable that the use of ASBOs, dispersal orders or other new powers created by New Labour has not prevented the outbreak of gang violence.

Gang violence is certainly linked to poverty and inequality. Having no space of your own in a cramped home, on a rundown estate, unable to afford constructive leisure activities, parents out working long hours because they have no choice, unable to aspire to or afford higher education, all while fat cats ostentatiously profiteer at our expense ... On top of this, the lack of resources to public services for working-class people contributes too. Large classes in over-stretched schools mean that some pupils don't get the attention and support they need. These are obviously all factors in driving some young people into violent behaviour.

But equally obviously, it is more complex than this. Not everyone brought up in poverty ends up stabbing someone, and not everyone who stabs someone can not afford entry to the local sports club. We have to ask ourselves more complex questions.

If you join up because the gang has 'got your back', then why do you feel that no-one else - community, family, the authorities that are supposed to protect you - have your back? Why, similarly, do those not give you the sense of belonging that a gang provides?

If it is true that the random, unprovoked killings may be some sort of gang initiation, then why is it that gang would require someone to prove themselves like this, and what exactly is it that they are proving?

What sort of definition of masculinity has our society established when for some boys, extreme violence is part of the process of becoming a man? But on the other hand, why are girls getting more and more involved in this sort of thing too?

And what about parenting? "We blame the parents" has always been the refrain of the right. But parenting is pretty much the hardest job in the world, carried out by rank amateurs with no training and precious little support, and only the amateurs who brought them up as role models. Parents do remarkably well in the circumstances, but if some mess up, that's hardly surprising.

With economic crisis looming, the crisis of youth violence may also get worse, and may be both fuelled and harnessed by a resurgent fascist movement. There may never have been a more urgent time for the left to get its act together, both in understanding and addressing these issues and in fighting for a reinvigorated labour movement, so that young people want to join our gang instead.

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