Sunday, November 30, 2008

Guest Post : Where next for the LRC?

Yes,loyal readers and all those saddoes googling David Broder , its a guest post from the comrade who has created some of the most momentous political moments of 2008.What, he was the first Black US President elect you ask in astonishment ? Nah, what was most talked about amongst the leftie anoraks? Yep, David B leaving the AWL. We can all remember where we were when we heard that news. Following on from that, could it be topped you ask, the reason for this post. Yep, the man loved and disliked in equal measures (like marmite), seen by some as a boy wonder, by others as an annoying public school boy with the best sneer on the left, is now a member of the LRC National Committee. With the backing of the bakers union as well. Personally I think he'll cause a few ructions , but the LRC needs that and as far as I'm concerned are welcome .
Oh and I did promise a quick plug for the last of the discussion forums organised by the Commune, with John McD there, or one of his clones (there IS more than one John !).

Anyway, enough of the build up. Here is his post :

Where next for the LRC?

This only represents my own opinions, not necessarily those of anyone else from The Commune.

The turnout at the Labour Representation Committee conference on November 15th reflected the role of the current economic crisis in pushing people long involved in the left back into activity: numbers were up from 200 last year to around 270 (not as reported on our website), even though the number of young people involved has declined.

There were several positive steps made at the conference that could breathe fresh life into the organisation, not least its call for a series of discussions on workers' self-management, social ownership and what we mean by socialism - developing the work begun by the Left Economics Advisory Panel on breaking from Old Labour and Stalinist conceptions of socialism - and the LRC's affiliation to Hands Off the People of Iran. Hopefully both steps will allow the membership of the LRC to be more involved week-to-week and month-to-month.

Indeed, the LRC has suffered from a lack of regular activities in between conferences, and despite the relatively large number of people signed up (as high as 1,500) it currently lacks enough of the character of an activist organisation, or indeed one where people come together to develop their ideas. A large number of individuals are involved in their own trade unions as well as campaigns such as Stop the War, Feminist Fightback, Campaign Against Immigration Controls, HOPI, etc., but the LRC itself neither mobilises its members for such initiatives nor has much "profile". Chris Ford and I were elected to the National Committee at the 15th November conference, and will be looking to encourage far more activities and using the LRC banner more prominently, including building union rank-and-file networks. (As an aside, it wouldn't hurt the LRC to produce more materials, such as a newsletter, to encourage people to take part in discussions and participate in events organised by LRC affiliates).

Most importantly, we will be encouraging a re-evaluation of the politics which dominate the left of the labour movement, and hoping to overcome the current vogue for left-Keynesian "answers for the crisis" as opposed to developing our case for an alternative society. These are fundamentally incompatible - to say that a series of "policy changes" are the answer to the economic crisis (e.g. the Socialist Appeal slogan "Labour: socialist policies, now!") implies a vague albeit top-down understanding of "socialism" wedded to the continuing existence of the nation-state.

Clearly posed too in terms of what the LRC does next is the question of our broader strategy as regards the Labour Party and Labourism. This question must be answered by the whole left, not just the LRC. Unfortunately, the fault lines in this discussion are not really over what politics we should advocate and organise for, but rather whether we want to keep a foot in the Labour Party or instead create a Labour Party mark II. Although I am more adamant than anyone else that it is totally illusory to believe that we could "reclaim the Labour Party", i.e. take it over, and so utterly disagree with Socialist Appeal, the CPB etc., the alternatives suggested by some others are also a dead-end. The Convention of the Left initiated in Manchester in September may lack the decision-making powers necessary to actually create a new organisation, but certainly there is a strong current of opinion arguing that the "big" Trotskyist groups, the left wing of the trade union bureaucracy and some Labour lefts ought to set up a new left party. Sect competition there may be, but to the extent that they have real existence, such a formation is the dream of the Campaign for a New Workers' Party, Left Alternative, Respect Renewal, etc. It is clear that a party based on national trade union affiliations or national trade union funding would necessarily rest on the bureaucracy. Not only current weak participation in unions, but the institutional control of the bureaucrats and the lack of democracy within trade unions, would guarantee this.

This question arises when we read Sean Matgamna writing an open letter to Tony Woodley ('Why won't the unions fight for a workers' party?' - Of course this article's tone is light-hearted and he is not really trying to "win over Brother Woodley", but nonetheless everything he writes talks in such terms, e.g. "The unions need to act: if not the unions, no force in the labour movement can do it": quite why a workers' party ought to be based on trade unions wanting political representation (rather than people who have common political aims uniting around a specific project/programme) is not clear. Throughout history such formations have been very rare, except the British Labour Party and parallel organisations in former British colonies.

For all of the criticisms I personally would have of its (more or less Trotskyist) politics, I think a formation like the French LCR's New Anti-Capitalist Party, which has won a section of the union rank-and-file, unemployed, disabled and retired people, youth etc. to local committees arguing for a fairly specific political project, is a model far more susceptible to democratic culture and member-control of the organisation than one created by (and as a result expressing the interests of) trade union bureaucracies. If such a formation came about it would be foolish to ignore it or stand aside - which is why at the conference we voted for the LRC to be open to supporting certain socialist or trade-union backed candidates who stood against New Labour - but why should we positively go about arguing for its creation?

Furthermore, when thinking of our broader strategy, we must also take stock of the question of the current lack of democracy within left groups: this problem, after all, means that their participation is subordinated to the leaders' desire to hold their own organisations in hand, as was the case when the Socialist Party clique abandoned the Socialist Alliance for fear of their own group's dissolution.

Therefore it seems that the argument poses false alternatives and only seeks to answer the question 'ought the unions back the Labour Party, or ought they establish a new one?' Tweedle-dum or Tweedle-dee? This is linked to the left's failure to take serious stock of the changes that have taken place in the trade union movement and left as a whole, rather than just (however correctly) proclaiming the death of the Labour Party. The current state of the left leaves it in no position to establish a real alternative to Labourism, and indeed the next few years are bound to see yet more social-democrat electoral slates and initiatives to create Labour Party mark IIs which have no real existence beyond Trotskyist groups and their periphery.

What can the LRC do about this? To ask this question is to ask other fundamental questions about what the left exists for, not merely the organisational question of "in or out" of the Labour Party. We need to discuss what politics socialists should argue for; our attitudes to the trade union bureaucracy; the value of placing demands on the government; the value of left "programmes for the crisis" and programmes for alternative governments, and so on. Bottom-up rethinking is necessitated by the left’s continuing loss of numbers and weak ideas and tactics. LRC members will be better able to answer all these questions if we sink roots in trade union rank-and-files, have a much stronger orientation towards campaign work, and participate in the forthcoming forums on what we actually mean by socialism. We should encourage self-organisation in our movement, building unity “from below” on a principled political basis, not sit waiting for the existing left group leaderships and left trade union bureaucrats to thrash out a deal for yet another Labour Party mark II.

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Stoke Newington Goes To The Polls: Nominations Please

Stroppyblog's favourite London neighbourhood - ooh, it has such a villagey feel - has been thrown into political turmoil as Stoke Newington Labour Councillor Jamie Carswell (he in the picture) has resigned.

More than a mere Councillor, Jamie was indeed the Deputy Mayor, responsible for such hideous and unpopular policies as 'Estates Plus', under which the Council plans to flog off patches of estates to housing associations at a fraction of their worth, allowing them to build new homes to squeeze in ever more people into already-crowded estates, covering up green spaces and blocking your view of the sky. Such policies have so impressed Tower Hamlets Homes - the Arms-Length Management Organisation (ALMO) that runs housing in our neighbouring borough - that it has lured Jamie away from his £48k post in Hackney's Town Hall for one which we can only assume pays a little more.

So, Stokey residents will soon being voting in the consequent by-election, and Stroppyblog's readers are hereby invited to suggest candidates. Will Dave Osler volunteer himself for the Labour nomination? Will Paddy the Puritan stand, attracted by the prospect of creating more non-drinking zones in N16's streets? Or perhaps Mark Fischer, determined to fight off such reactionary moves and defend his right to lurch around Stokey High Street? Does Stroppybird spend enough time in Stokey to qualify as a resident and stand as a 'We hate Stokey' candidate? And will Clive write a really gripping TV series about the whole affair?

Over to you ...

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Writing Letters Instead of Blogging

Apologies for blogging slackness this week, due to a combination of workload and PMT.

But I did get round to writing to the Hackney Gazette about the leak of the BNP's membership list, and you can read my letter here.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Strange Logic Of The Rich

It is not often that I defend the New Labour government, and I think yesterday's budget announcement falls pathetically short of what is really needed, but the criticisms from various fat cats has made me feel almost defensive of Brother Darling.

The cut in VAT is A Good Thing, albeit a very small Good Thing. VAT is a thoroughly regressive tax, as not only does everyone pay it at the same rate regardless of their wealth or income, but the lower your income, the greater proportion of that income you spend on VAT-taxed goods. The poor pay more. VAT should be scrapped altogether.

Anyways, there is no guarantee that you or I will notice the VAT cut, if shops choose to keep prices the same and trouser the tax cut themselves. Bourgeois ideologues would have us believe that the discipline of the market and the rigours of competition (actually, aren't those phrases from New Labour's Clause 4?) would ensure that prices will fall, but the market has not exactly covered itself in glory of late, has it?

I have just watched a city geezer on the telly scoffing at the VAT cut, pouring scorn on the idea that anyone would even notice saving "36 pence on a £20 sweater". Clearly, he's a bloke who does not need to take care of the pennies so the pounds take care of themselves - unlike lots of people. So good on the BBC interviewer who retorted, "Well, you're used to talking in millions and billions - and that's just your expenses!"

There has also been dismay at the prospect of extra tax on incomes over £150,000 - mainly from those on incomes over £150,000. The main characteristic of these whinges has been the reservation of arguments for the rich that they would never allow to be wasted on the working class.

"It's a disincentive: why should I work harder if I would only have to pay more tax?", whined a wealthy businesswoman on Radio 5 yesterday. By that logic, cleaners, teaching assistants and numerous other low-paid workers would not even bother getting out of bed in the morning (or, often, in the middle of the night) to go to work at all, would they? Clearly, low pay is a great motivator for the low paid, riches a great motivator for the rich. Glad we've got that straight.

The next, and somewhat breathtaking, whine was from a posh bloke who argued that there is no point taxing the rich because they will just find ways to avoid paying the tax bill - indeed, the government could lose, rather than gain, income! That logic is so brilliant that I think we should extend it to everyone. We shouldn't charge Council tenants rent because they will just find ways of not paying it. Shops shouldn't charge for any goods because people will just find ways to nick them. We shouldn't make kids go to school because they will just find ways to skive off. We shouldn't have laws because people will just find ways to break them.

The rich seem to believe that they are subject to different rules, and even different logic, from the rest of us mere mortals.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Review: The Transporters

The Transporters is a DVD aimed at kids with autistic spectrum disorders, designed to help them learn to understand other people's emotions from their facial expressions.

The Transporters are vehicles of various types, each of the sort that travels along defined lines ie. tracks or cables - predictability is important to autistic kids. It's a bit like Thomas the Tank Engine, with the important difference that each has a real face.

Each of the 15 episodes focuses on a particular emotion, with the face showing that emotion in response to events. We see the characters being happy, sad, angry, disgusted (love that one), worried, afraid, unfriendly, jealous, excited, surprised, tired, proud, sorry, and perhaps a couple I've forgotten. Alex thinks they should be pissed off too. The characters do not speak at all - the only speaking is done by narrator Stephen Fry, who tells us what is happening and what the characters are feeling.

After each episode, there is an optional quiz, testing the kid's understanding of what facial expressions mean and what a character might feel in a particular situation, with the choice of 'easy' or 'hard' versions of the quiz.

In my humble opinion, The Transporters works a treat. After several weeks of watching it regularly, Joe definitely looks at people's faces more, and works hard at figuring out how they are feeling. He thinks more about how a person might feel in any particular situation. This is important progress. However, he still needs to go the step further and work out that sometimes his actions might have prompted the particular feeling, and that if it is a negative feeling, then he should desist from the behaviour that prompted it (eg. spitting at mummy makes her angry, so don't spit at mummy).

A couple of minor niggles ... There are six male characters, two female. It should be equal. Although this proportion does reflect the incidence of ASDs between the two genders, that is not the point - it needs to reflect the genders of the faces whose expressions the autistic kids need to figure out. There are two black characters, but no Asian, Arab or mixed-race. And none of the characters have glasses (that's not an issue of being representative, but of learning to read emotions in eyes behind lenses)!

I would thoroughly recommend The Transporters to parents of autistic kids. I would also thoroughly recommend that the government fund every autistic child to be given a free copy when they are diagnosed, rather than having to fork out thirty quid to buy one.

Now, what was I saying last week about access to services for autistic kids being biased against working-class families?


Saturday, November 22, 2008

BNP membership list - Hitler spoof

Via Darren :


Woolas' Wise Words. Not.

Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has achieved something really quite difficult - positioning himself to the right of Boris Johnson.


Friday, November 21, 2008

Transgender day of remembrance

I should have posted this yesterday, but I think its still important to highlight a day late.

I hope to get a guest post up on the issues at some point, as sadly the issue of discrimination and violence towards trans people is not one always one picked up by lesbian and gay people , let alone the left, and yet they were at the forefront of the Stonewall riots. But more of that at a later date.

For now, from the TDOR as to why there is a remembrance :

The Transgender Day of Remembrance was set aside to memorialize those who were killed due to anti-transgender hatred or prejudice. The event is held in November to honor Rita Hester, whose murder on November 28th, 1998 kicked off the “Remembering Our Dead” web project and a San Francisco candlelight vigil in 1999. Rita Hester’s murder — like most anti-transgender murder cases — has yet to be solved.

Although not every person represented during the Day of Remembrance self-identified as transgender — that is, as a transsexual, crossdresser, or otherwise gender-variant — each was a victim of violence based on bias against transgender people.

We live in times more sensitive than ever to hatred based violence, especially since the events of September 11th. Yet even now, the deaths of those based on anti-transgender hatred or prejudice are largely ignored. Over the last decade, more than one person per month has died due to transgender-based hate or prejudice, regardless of any other factors in their lives. This trend shows no sign of abating.

The Transgender Day of Remembrance serves several purposes. It raises public awareness of hate crimes against transgender people, an action that current media doesn’t perform. Day of Remembrance publicly mourns and honors the lives of our brothers and sisters who might otherwise be forgotten. Through the vigil, we express love and respect for our people in the face of national indifference and hatred. Day of Remembrance reminds non-transgender people that we are their sons, daughters, parents, friends and lovers. Day of Remembrance gives our allies a chance to step forward with us and stand in vigil, memorializing those of us who’ve died by anti-transgender violence.

There are three events being held in Brighton, London and Manchester on Sunday.

Brighton, England, UK

The Gender Trust ( and The Clare Project ( are holding Brighton’s first Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday 23 November 2008, 16.00hrs at the Dorset Gardens Methodist Church, Dorset Gardens, Brighton BN2 1RL, United Kingdom . This is a non denominational meeting and not a religious service.There will be a candlelit vigil and readings. All are welcome.

London, England, UK

Will hold a Transgender Day of Remembrance service on Sunday, November 23rd at 2:00 PM at the Dragon Hall, Stukeley Street, Covent Garden. with any queries, suggestions or offers of help
This event is supported by Camden LGBT Forum

Manchester, England, UK

Will be hosting a Transgender Day of Remembrance on Sunday, November 23rd Assemble for the vigil in Sackville Park (off Canal Street, Manchester) at 3.45pm. The One Minute’s Silence and reading of the names of the deceased will take place at 4pm by the Beacon of Hope. This will take place by candlelight so please bring a candle and holder if you are able to. The vigil will last for approximately one hour, and will be followed by an informal gathering at Taurus bar (1 Canal Street) if people wish. Both Sackville Park and Taurus are fully accessible, although at Taurus we may use a private function room down one flight of stairs.
All are welcome; please feel free to bring a reading, flowers or another appropriate tribute.
For more information, contact Dave at

More info on events around the world here.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hurting and Humiliating Kids - An English Public School Tradition Lives On

While the country is apparently obsessed with a TV political correspondent who can't dance, have a look at this horrible story about a schoolboy left unable to walk by the punishments meted out to him by his private school.

Hillcrest School in Stockport repeatedly made the 13-year-old - who has a joint condition and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder - stand still for up to 40 minutes in detentions. Not surprisingly, this was painful, debilitating and humiliating for the boy. Obviously, the English public school tradition of cruelty and degradation is alive and well.

The Special Needs and Disability Tribunal found the school guilty of unlawful discrimination.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Guest posts

Just a reminder that we are always happy to have guest posts on Stroppyblog.

The idea is to have a mix of left views .

It would be really good to have some women guest posting as so far its the men wanting to. Come on, there must be some more Stroppy leftie women out there who'd like to post here?

Coming up ...

Ben Lewis on the upcoming Hopi conference and Iran.

THE David Broder on where now for the Labour Representation Committee (he is now on its NC).

And if Jim can remember what he was meant to be writing, one from him as well!


Guest post : Lifestyles

Below is a guest post from Mod on housing.

Lifestyles? What a trendy name. You can barely pick up a newspaper without the word, lifestyle, hitting you in the face But what does lifestyle mean to the British ? A nice TV? Good holidays? Trendy clothes? Plenty of free money? Or does it come down to something a bit more basic?

Housing? Housing is a very British concern, as an island there is little room for expansion and limited land.Housing is a favourite topic of conversation at middle-class dinner parties, from boasting about the size of the new extension to griping about negative equity, the British middle classes are intimately acquainted with the topic of housing. But they are not alone, the preoccupation for shelter, warmth, companionship and food have long dominated human culture, and understandably so.We can all sympathise with someone when they lose their home from natural disaster, flooding or fire.

So, given the above, the latest proposals from the Labour government are more inextricable and perverse.Basically, they remove security of tenure from Council tenants and introduce a degree of coercion related to the occupants' income and work situation.Many Council properties may be rubbish, but when you got one, you knew what you had, as a Council tenant, that was it, you had it for life, as long as you paid the rent, etc.

Now New Labour seeks to introduce the worst forms of social engineering and coerce Council tenants to do what Council bureaucrats and the government want. The Green Paper proposals were outlined recently:

"Whitehall officials said that ministers were looking at proposals from the Chartered Institute for Housing, which represents housing officials. It has proposed fixed-term tenancies in which anyone granted a council home would have it initially for three or four years before a review. Those whose circumstances had improved would no longer be able to remain on subsidised rents. A spokesman for the institute said that no one would be evicted under its plan, but that they could face higher rents. At present, social housing rents rise each year by the retail price index plus half a per cent. Under the new plan higher-tax payers could pay nearer the market rate."

Rather than improve the number and quality of Council houses, the New Labour proposal would introduce a higher degree of intransigence, instability and worry for Council tenants.It would not improve the lives of Council tenants one iota, but this proposal would assist in creating a larger underclass, completely disenfranchised from the political process and society.So in one fell swoop the New Labour government will have managed to do what even Margaret Thatcher could not do:destroy social housing in Britain.

But there is a bigger political picture to this nasty proposal, aside from the very obvious social effects, there is a political consequence, the growth of the BNP in Britain.There are some 2.8 million Council properties affected by this proposal, which probably extends down to 4-8 million people, who would, in all probability, have mostly voted for the Labour Party.It's a fair assumption that if Council tenants are going to vote they probably, by and large, would have voted for Labour. That's not going to be the case after this proposal goes through. Council tenants will feel stressed, ever under the watchful eye of a bureaucrat and insecure. They won't be voting for the Tories in large numbers, not the Liberals, either, no, they won't.

So unless there is a miraculous conversion, a sizable chunk of those Council tenant votes would land in the lap of the BNP.New Labour will have provided the BNP with all the propaganda that it needs.So the Left must take up this issue, not only because it is socially wrong, a direct attack on the working classes, but politically it is a gift to the BNP and will only assist their growth.And in putting forward this proposal New Labour has almost guaranteed that it will lose the next election as million of Council tenants vote elsewhere.Great job, New Labour, you've done the Tories job for them. Bastards!

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The Right to be Represented

Readers may be interested to know about an important legal success for trade union members last week, involving my good self. Read all about it here.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Uphill Struggle To Claim Your Rights

This year, I have successful claimed two very important rights for my son Joe - who has Asperger syndrome - and our family. Firstly, his Statement of Special Educational Needs, and secondly, Disability Living Allowance. The first means that he now has his own Teaching Assistant throughout the school day, playtime supervision and extra specialist teaching. The second means that we get sixty-odd quid a week towards the extra expenses of having a kid with his special needs.

But each claim was a struggle up a very steep hill, which not only used up a lot of our time and energy but also made me realise that many people in a similar situation to us will not be getting these rights.

To apply for a statement, you have to fill in a form and write about your kids' condition and needs. It helps if you can get other people to write supportive stuff too, so we enlisted Joe's speech and language therapist, child psychologist, consultant paediatrician and inclusion co-ordinator at his playscheme. The initial result we got was a 'high incidence' statement - so called because it rules that your kid's special needs are so common that the school should be able to deal with them within its existing budget. So that's no good to anyone. In fact, as a retired school teacher mate of mine said, it can be worse than nothing, as the kid gets all the stigma of having a statement but none of the support that comes with it.

So we had to appeal. We wrote more text, and enlisted more people to write more text. The appeal succeeded, and Joe got a 'low incidence level 3' statement, which gives him the support listed earlier in this post.

I strongly suspect that our local education authority - Hackney's Learning Trust - has a standard practice of offering crap statements all the while planning to improve them on appeal. Perhaps they are hoping to save cash with the families who are too poor, unsupported, vulnerable, foreign, lacking in confidence, inarticulate, pressed for time, stressed out or just plain grateful for the slightest support to summon the strength to appeal.

Drafting an appeal is, after all, second nature to me and Joe's dad, as we are both union reps who have lost count of the number of appeals we have drafted for members.

The application form for Disability Living Allowance is about 80 pages long. I submitted it online, and had to come back to it day after day after day after day, wading through the sections, reviewing what I'd written, adding things I'd overlooked, making sure that it really did accurately describe Joe's needs, and answered all their questions, including the several confusing ones. When my partner announced to the family support group that we attend that we had successfully claimed the benefit, he got a round of applause, as many of the other families there had been defeated by the application process.

In my experience and opinion, the system is biased against poor and working-class families.

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Petty Bourgeios Feminists at it Again - Soon men will have no rights!

Article in this week's Observer - Jacqui Smith looking at making buying sex from women more difficult and questioning the "bizarre" practice of taking business contacts to Lap Dancing clubs. I don't see the problem with criminalising the buying of sex, the sooner the better and I don't support that it will make women who are prostituted more at risk, the logic is flayed. If the consent is consensual - why the risk? Prostitution and the sex trade of women causes untold risks to women and is not a safe practice for women. I believe that prostitution is violence towards women and whilst individual transaction sand acts may not be it is done in the context of the abuse and oppression of women including raping, toruing and killing them.

I do however agree with the English Collective of Prostitutes on women's poverty. Equal Pay for women in Britain is lagging way behind, and child care is extortionate. So "goan yersel Jacqui" as they say in Scotland but there is a lot to do beyond criminalising the buyers of sex.

From Observer, 16th November 2008

Home Secretary plans to crack down on vice trade on the streets, while lapdancing clubs will face a stringent licensing regime

The Home Secretary has attacked the 'bizarre' practice of City firms entertaining clients in lapdancing clubs, on the eve of a government crackdown on the sex trade which is expected to criminalise most men who use prostitutes.

Jacqui Smith said she expected to see some lapdancing clubs, which have mushroomed in recent years, close and fewer new ones opened under reforms triggered by concerns over a seedy culture of sexual titillation creeping across city centres. She will outline plans this week to criminalise paying for sex with a woman 'controlled for another person's gain'. The new offence will carry a hefty fine and criminal record, which could prevent those caught from getting jobs in sensitive occupations.

The legislation will cover women who have pimps or drug addicts who work to pay off their dealers as well as the rarer cases of trafficked women. This is expected to include the majority of Britain's 80,000 sex workers. Ignorance of a woman's circumstances will not be a defence. Kerb crawlers will be 'named and shamed', while those who pay a prostitute knowing she has been forcibly trafficked could face rape charges.

The measures are highly controversial, with critics arguing that men will seek other outlets if prostitution is driven off the streets. Smith said it was 'not mine or the government's responsibility to ensure that the demand is satisfied', adding: 'Is this something about which people have a choice with respect to their demands? Yes, they do. Basically, if it means fewer people are able to go out and pay for sex I think that would be a good thing.'

The prostitution review will be published this week, followed later this month by new licensing arrangements that are expected to see lapdancing clubs, currently licensed in the same way as pubs, subjected to the same stringent regime as sex shops, allowing local residents more opportunities to object.

Smith said she believed the law had been 'left behind' by the explosion in lapdancing clubs, which were seen as acceptable entertainment for a corporate night out. 'If I were a business person and I were wanting to make the best impression on clients, who presumably are female as well as male, I do think it's a bit bizarre that you would take them to a lapdancing club,' she said.

The new regime would make it more difficult to open them. 'It's not a complete ban on lapdancing clubs, but it's saying you don't operate in a vacuum, you have an impact on the community around you. I would hope it would make it harder for them to open, certainly in residential areas, and I would suspect that some of them will be closed when the licences come up for renewal.'

The English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP), which has vigorously opposed the clampdown, says outlawing paid-for sex between consenting adults will punish women who find this more lucrative than menial jobs. Forcing the trade underground would mean that 'the risks they are forced to take will be greater', said a spokeswoman.

One anonymous lapdancer who provided a statement for the ECP said she could earn £250 in four hours of dancing. 'Nine out of 10 women turn to prostitution or lapdancing because there's not enough money to survive. Recently my mum couldn't afford a pair of school shoes for my brother and sister. When I worked a day job I couldn't help her, but now I can.

'If the government is offended by the work we do, then give us the financial means to get out.' She said that there was 'no pressure to have sex with men, only opportunities', in her job.

The ECP's argument has been fuelled by the glamorisation of sex work at the hands of bloggers such as Belle de Jour, the call girl whose memoir became a bestselling book and then a TV film: she claimed to love sex and regarded working as an escort for £300 as a better option than temping.

Smith said that she did not believe that was true of most sex workers. Under the new offence, men would not be able to claim in court that they had not known the prostitute had a pimp or a drug habit. 'It won't be enough to say, "I didn't know",' she said. 'What I hope people will say is, "I am not actually going to take the risk if there is any concern that this woman hasn't made a free choice." It would be quite difficult for a man paying for sex in the majority of cases not to fall under this particular offence.'

She had ruled out a universal ban on paid sex because some women argued they did it out of choice 'and it's not my job to criminalise the demand for that'.

Katherine Rake, director of the Fawcett Society pressure group, which has campaigned for a clampdown on lapdancing clubs, welcomed the planned curbs. 'People have suddenly woken up to the fact that our city centres have changed very dramatically and that has an impact on us all, it being part of the culture of sexualisation. It has been a silent creep, but a deadly one in terms of what it meant for social attitudes and how women feel in public spaces.'


Friday, November 14, 2008

Censorship at Waterstones

Just as it looked like Sarah Palin was going to walk away with the Bad Faith Awards, Christian 'lone' Voice Stephen Green makes a late bid for the prize, by forcing the Waterstones in Cardiff to cancel a book signing. Patrick Jones was due to sign copies of his new poetry collection Darkness is Where the Stars Are but Waterstones cancelled at the last moment citing concerns about disruption. Apparently our friend Stephen had mobilised a few believers, aggrieved at what they consider Jones' blasphemy, who sent emails and called the store. What's the deal! Are we allowed to pressure bookstores to cancel events featuring people we don't like... if so there's a few I'd like to start with.

I phoned the manager of the Cardiff Store, who wouldn't comment but referred me to John Howells in their central press office. He said the event was cancelled because of concerns about safety in the light of a high volume of complaints received yesterday (he wouldn't say how many or what proportion were emails or phone calls).


Surely it is a matter of principle that you should not be able to precipitate the cancellation of any event just by claiming it offends you or implying that you will attempt to disrupt it? Surely it is the author and publisher who Waterstones should be supporting here?

Its worrying that bookshops are running scared of causing the slightest offence to religious sensibilities, as NH say :

If you don't like the book don't read it and don't come to the books signing. End of. If bookstores start caving in to this kind of (albeit cowardly and pathetic click-of-a-mouse intimidation) then we really are in the shit.

They suggest e -mailing Waterstones and complaining :

Email Waterstones to let him know what you think: (Howells says this will be logged and it would be nice if complaints on behalf of free speech end up equally those of offended religionists)

The religious right are very good at their e-mail and letter campaigns and we who want free speech and to put the opposing view are usually quite lazy at it. I would urge readers to e-mail Waterstones. its takes five minutes and to be honest most of us waste a lot more time arguing with each other on the blogs, so no excuses !


Thursday, November 13, 2008

Acid Sprayed on Afghan Schoolgirls

Two men on a motorbike threw acid in the faces of eight Afghan girls yesterday. Three of the girls have been hospitalised.

Although, as I understand it, no group has yet claimed responsibility for this appalling attack, it appears that its aim was to 'punish' them for going to school and therefore dissuade others. During the Taliban's rule (1996-2001), girls were barred from attending school (and from numerous other activities, for example going out without a male escort), so the Taliban or a similar group must surely head the list of suspects.

Would anyone like to claim that condemning this terrible, reactionary, sexist act of violence against women is somehow imperialist?

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vatican upset

Monday, November 10, 2008


In the interests of transparency and wanting to show off a little,well I'm being honest!, here are some stats .

I'm really pleased the blog is gaining in readers and is averaging about 300-350 unique visitors a day. I now there are issues with how its counted, but the direction is up!

Thanks to my co-bloggers and guest posters for all their work. Oh and looks like the cats and Obama gave me a blog bounce over 600 on Wednesday...reward for a very late night. I think the highest ever was about 700 and that , sadly, may have been due to searches of the words Broder/CPGB/Iran/AWL. Pah, the left is fucked.

Anyway I really really will do some tidying up and revamping in the weeks to come. Anyone wanting to guest post, let me know. Ideas and comments always welcome . And Punchie, yeah lifestyle...blah blah blah.I'll ignore that.

Seriously though I do want to build a group blog of socialist feminist bloggers , its not all ego. So i'm chuffed, even if its still way below the big boys .

Month Page Unique First time Returning
Loads Visitors Visitors Visitors
Nov 2008 4,980 3,841 2,813 1,028
Oct 2008 12,542 9,322 6,390 2,932
Sep 2008 12,911 9,223 6,324 2,899
Aug 2008 14,235 9,867 6,804 3,063
Jul 2008 10,652 7,586 4,747 2,839
Jun 2008 10,153 7,595 5,144 2,451
May 2008 12,094 8,661 5,595 3,066
Apr 2008 13,082 8,956 5,964 2,992
Mar 2008 11,226 7,772 5,161 2,535
Jan 2008 12,020 7,332 4,504 2,828


Guest Post from Mod : Unfulfilled relationships.

Below is a guest post from Mod. If anyone else fancies doing one then get in touch.

Unfulfilled Relationships

Don't you hate it when a relationship doesn't work? Or you have a string of unfulfilled encounters? Doesn't it leave you thinking about your own habits? What you do wrong? and how your interaction with your partner(s) doesn't always work?

Remember the heady days when you first met, that trip to the pub, how you walked hand-in-hand, and eventually consummated your relationship, only to have it fail soon after?

Sound familiar?

I was reading an article at Dave's and it struck me how some Public-school lefties have a problem understanding the significance of Obama's win to African-Americans and the working classes. And how such a problem might have deeper roots.

On one level, there is a small degree of abstract understanding to Obama's win, but deep down there is no genuine connection with the history of African-Americans' experiences in the United States, their aspirations to be treated as more than just chattel, their desire to have a say, to be listened to.

Of course, on one level it would be very easy to be critical of Obama's election, as the candidate of big business, etc, but that completely misses the very real connection between Obama and his constituents, and why they celebrated.

And connections are what relationships are about, if you can't connect deep down to your partner, and empathise with their problems, support them when they need it then they are very unlikely to ever reciprocate, it becomes a cold mechanical relationship.

Still worse, if you ignore their feelings, their aspirations and seek to lecture them, then in all probability they will leave you, and you'll be stuck on your own until you can find someone who likes being dominated, but that's not a real relationship of equals.

A fulfilling relationship is where both parties learn from each other and enrich each other's lives.

All fairly obvious? But what does this have to do with politics?

Well, if you sit back and ponder the matter, that could be very similar to the working classes' experience with the British Left over the past 40 years, an unsatisfactory relationship.

We've been hectored, told we must do this or that, rarely listened to, and eventually we've mostly switched off.

True enough, some of the working class does belong to the Left, but a very small part, probably counted in tens of thousands, not millions as it should be.

And if you are really concerned about the situation you have to ask why?

It struck me that Punchie's attitude at Dave's, although very stark, isn't terribly removed from a lot of the British Left's leader's attitudes.

Granted not all of them are Public-school wombats but their detachment from reality, from the working classes, seems to stem from some dominant middle-class traits, where their views are important and the working classes are only fit as fodder for demonstrations or to storm the barricades, but rarely ever treated as equal partners.

I wonder if you could analyse the background to the leadership of the Left over the past 40 years, would you find predominantly Public-school/grammar school, University educated white middle-class types or something else?

It shouldn't really matter, but I think being educated at Public-school can often traumatize individuals at a deep level, and they bring that trauma with them into work, relationships and political attitudes.

After all WHY did the British ruling classes create and develop the British Public school system?

To create leaders, subalterns and administrators for the Empire

So being soft, cuddly and empathic to the feeling's of the poor, disenfranchised, etc are not high on the list of required attributes.

Instead an aloof, detachment is required to implement the policies of the Empire, to do what you are told and do it well.

So I'll bet that required coldness, inculcated at an early age and reinforced at Public school, is hard to shake off.

It doesn't help when you wish to relate to real people's existences, and if you don't try to relate and connect, then no one will want to connect to you.

There's probably a lot more to it, but those are a few of my entirely subjective thoughts on the matter.

Finally, I am NOT saying this happens 100% of the time, and I don't think that it is all of the story, but if you can't relate to people in one area then that will often limit your effectiveness in another.

I suspect that this is just one of many factors, and I am still left wondering why the British Left are so unsuccessful when across in Europe things seem a bit better? What is it about the British Left that makes it so?

could it be a "Wham Bam Thank You Mam" attitude?

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Whoops - Skipped the Aspie Post

Some of you may have missed my regular Aspie Sunday post yesterday, on account of the fact that I didn't do one. This is because yesterday, the demands of parenting an child with Aspergers and his two brothers left me too shattered to turn my computer on let alone post anything.

So, if you like, you can consider this an open thread on managing challenging behaviour.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Nagging and Infidelty is no defence

Good on Harriet Harmon, that bourgeois feminist that she is - she's taking on the judges and telling them to get with it! No longer will "provocation" be accepted in crimes of murder where female partners and ex-partners are the victims. No longer will the excuse of she was a "nag" or she humiliated me when she left me for the local train-spotter" be a defence! And quite right too. See the article in the Observer here

There is a lot written about "Honour Based Violence" usually focused on BME communities however in indigenous Britain the defence of provocation is accepted when a husband murders his cheating or nagging wife. His honour was lost when his property left him for another man or she was sleeping with his friends - so he murdered her. It seems to be accepted but it should not be. It is in fact a murder in the context of domestic abuse - it is a domestic abuse murder. Joseph McGrail was cleared of murder in 1991 when a judge said "her nagging would test the patients of a saint". 120 women are murdered in Britain every year by their partners or ex-partners.

Activists have fought for years for provocation to be used in the cases of women like Emma Humphries, Kiranjit Ahluwalia and Sara Thorton who killed their abusers - but they were found to be murders and their abuse, their rape and torture was dismissed and these women were seen to be evil.

And further legislation will be coming into place to criminalise buying sex from a woman who is being prostituted for another's gain. I am glad this is all coming to pass. Buying sex from a woman who is pimped, trafficked or prostituted by another is not consensual sex and should be deemed as rape. The woman cannot give her free consent because her safety and life is controlled by another. I know it is controversal but I can't see how you can argue against that. Anyway good for Harriet Harman and I wish her best of luck when she battles it out with the civil servants and law lords and those that do not want to change the status quo.

There is no excuse for domestic abuse!

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Psychological tests to screen for gay priests - more reactionary crap from the Vatican

Religious people are forever banging on about wanting their beliefs to be respected and not to be offended, delicate little flowers that they are. Yep, plays, books , art mustn't be nasty about their particular superstition yet they happily come out with offensive crap themselves. Fair enough, free speech and all that. Just it does work both ways. If you dish it expect to take it.

So what brings on another Stroppy rant about god bothers ?

This :

The Catholic Church is to vet all candidates for the priesthood to eliminate anyone suspected of "deeply seated" homosexuality.

After being hit by a series of sex scandals, the Vatican has given the seal of approval to the psychological screening to test for evidence of personality disorders or serious doubts about aptitude for the priesthood.

Controversially, the head of the Vatican committee that made the recommendations has made it clear they should be used to screen out homosexuals, even if they are celibate, because homosexuality is "a type of deviation" that disqualifies a priest from exercising "spiritual paternity".

Speaking at a press conference earlier this week, the prefect of the Congregation, Cardinal Grocholewski, explained why a seminarian should be excluded from the priesthood even if he is celibate if it appeared that he was homosexual.

"The candidate does not necessarily have to practise homosexuality. He can even be without sin," the Cardinal said. "But if he has this deep-seated tendency, he cannot be admitted to priestly ministry precisely because of the nature of the priesthood, in which a spiritual paternity is carried out. Here we are not talking about whether he commits sins, but whether this deeply rooted tendency remains."

He added: "In a certain sense, when we ask why Christ reserved the priesthood to men, we speak of this spiritual paternity, and maintain that homosexuality is a type of deviation, a type of irregularity. Therefore it is a type of wound in the exercise of the priesthood, in forming relations with others. And precisely for this reason we say that something isn't right in the psyche of such a man. We don't simply talk about the ability to abstain from these kinds of relations."

It says that if seminary students show signs of grave immaturity, then "the path of formation will have to be interrupted". Symptoms of "immaturity" would include unclear sexual identity, difficulty with the celibate life, excessive rigidity of character and lack of freedom in relations.

When it comes to assessing a candidate's ability to be celibate, the document suggests that "it is not enough to be sure that he is capable of abstaining from genital activity" but that it is also necessary "to evaluate his sexual orientation".

Where to start! The sex scandals as far as I'm concerned are not that they have had gay priests but the abuse of children, both male and female. I hope they are not implying that gay=paedophile? It most certainly doesn't.
So they see gay people as immature, deviant and with a wound that affects relations with others . Bit like Iris Robinson who believes a bit of therapy will straighten them all out.

Even if you approach this from the Catholic view that gay sex is a sin rather than enjoyable, it seems a bit intolerant to stop even those who refrain from 'genital activity' (don't they realise sex is a lot more than what you do with your genitals, but hey what do you expect from celibate old men) . So how come its alright for heterosexual ones who struggle with celibacy?

Oh and finally how exactly are they going to smoke out the deep seated gay man? Check out their record collection and DVDs for show tunes and Judy Garland? Perhaps being well dressed with an eye for good interior design? (btw I know these are stereotypes!)

Or perhaps a penchant for red shoes , flamboyant flowing frocks and designer sunglasses?

Exactly why should I give any respect to this 'faith community'?They certainly wouldn't respect my beliefs, way of life or friends.

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Etiquette tips ...

Now as regular readers know, I'm not one for North London dinner parties, sipping wine and making polite small talk about house prices, schools and asking for the recipe.
It also seems I wouldn't fit into life working in academic institutions if this report is anything to go by, getting drunk and calling people fuckwits might be a bit of a faux pas. There is apparently grooming advice given to new staff at Leeds Metropolitan University as part of a guide to etiquette:

Make sure your underwear fits and is unobtrusive, consider whether your eyebrows are a distraction to others and, at all costs, avoid looking cheap.

The rules were set out during “manners training”, which included how to walk wearing a hat, how to select the correct cutlery during dinner and how to make polite small talk.

In the chapter on developing a “personal brand”, the graduate trainees were told to avoid wearing “clashing colours, crumpled or stained clothes” and to make an effort not to appear “frumpy, tarty, [or] lazy”, Times Higher Education reports.

“It really is up to you to send out the signals that you are intelligent, efficient, interesting and an asset to the university,” the guide tells them.

To that end, staff who attend or host university functions are told to be careful not to veer on to subjects that may cause offence during dinner discussion.

“Dinner is meant to be enjoyed, not to be a forum for debate,” and sex, religion and politics should not be on the menu for discussion, according to the 22 pages of rules.

Patricia Lee, the wife of the university’s Vice-Chancellor, Simon Lee, compiled the guide and gave a workshop to staff on how to conduct themselves at functions and how to behave at table. Decorum during dinner should be maintained so as not to cause “insult to your hostess”, the guide advises, adding that “wine at dinner is to complement your food, not to help you along the way to drunkenness”.

Refrain from clinking glasses during a toast, steer clear of the condiments before you taste your food, and never, ever lick your knife, it says. “If your napkin drops to the floor, it is acceptable for you to pick it up unless the house has a butler or servants near the table,” it goes on.

What a snobby , sexist and boring set of rules.

I'm pretty sure I would cause offence to the hostess pretty damn quickly , being a bit tarty and wanting to talk about politics, sex and religion whilst drinking too much and certainly not waiting for the servants to pick up after me. It really is for the best that I have never been to a dinner party and as Dave says to me, you're never make a classy bird Yeah, I'll stick to arguing in pubs with drunken old Trots ...


Friday, November 07, 2008

NUT / PCS: Are Workers Unwilling To Fight?

The last couple of days have seen NUT members vote by only a small majority on a low turnout for strike action; and PCS call off a strike called for Monday based on a ballot which also had a smallish majority on a low turnout. NUT's Executive has decided not to call strike action; PCS has got the employer's agreement to extend its mandate pending talks.

It was hardly a surprise to see the PCS strike called off, as its advance press release had led on a call to the government to avoid the strike rather than an announcement that the strike was to take place.

I'm not going to comment on the rights or wrongs of the specific decisions not to call and to call off, respectively, strike action - rank-and-file activists in those unions are better placed than me to judge the rights and wrongs. But obviously the weak mandate is a key factor, and I think it is worth kicking off a discussion on why the members' votes were so un-resounding. I would suggest two factors.

Firstly, the economic crisis. Many workers may respond to the economic doom and gloom with a reluctance to rock the boat in case the boat capsizes and tips them out. They may feel too nervous about keeping their job to be willing to put themselves on the line for higher wages - perhaps especially in the civil service where so many jobs have already gone. Or they may go along with the idea that in times like this, the whole country should pull together and tighten our belts.

This is an understandable but unfortunate attitude. Alternatively, workers might respond to the economic crisis in a more belligerent way, saying "If I have got higher fuel bills then I need higher wages", or "If the government - my employer - can afford £500 billion to bail out the bankers, then it can afford less than that to give me and my workmates a decent pay rise". Indeed, workers may well feel both the fear and and the sense of injustice at the same time. Which one is decisive in choosing whether to vote for a fightback or not may well depend in their confidence in their union's chances of winning.

Which leads neatly on to my second point. Striking involves sacrifice, and beyond a certain limit, workers will be willing to make that sacrifice not just to make a gesture but if they think they have a chance of winning. This is perhaps especially the case, and more of a cold mathematical calculation, when it comes to pay fights. In my experience, when a union asks its members to fight over pay, the members ponder on how much they will lose by striking versus how much extra they are likely to win.

It has been great to see both NUT and PCS take national strike action over pay when for so many years neither did. But those have been one-day strikes months apart, easily ridden out by the employer, and I can't see how anyone would think that Gordon Brown would crumble in the face of that.

It is a particular shame to see the confidence, mobilisation and power of April 24's action apparently dissipating, its momentum allowed to drain rather than being built on.

Finally, I am not excepting my own union from criticism. RMT has messed up its share of pay fights, and lost a ballot in Network Rail operational grades earlier this year. Here is an interesting analysis as to why that particular ballot was lost.

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Gay marriage ..yes we we can't

In the amidst of the Obama victory, two of the states that voted for him also backed a move that bans same sex marriage. A blow to equality:

California and two other states voted in Tuesday's elections to ban same-sex marriage, dealing a blow to gays and lesbians in the left-leaning, trend-setting state months after they won their case in state court.

Tony Perkins, president of the conservative Family Research Council which worked for the passage of the anti-gay marriage measures, said the wins on same-sex marriage bans signaled Obama's mandate is for economic policy, "not one to implement a radical social policy."

"What lost last night was the Republican Party, but it was not a rejection of traditional or moral values, because you have two states that voted for Barack Obama -- Florida and California -- that also passed the marriage amendments," Perkins told Reuters in a telephone interview.

California's Supreme Court had declared same-sex marriage a right in May, unleashing a flood of weddings, but the state's voters changed the Constitution to rescind the right after one of the most expensive ballot campaigns in history.

Florida and Arizona joined California in Tuesday's elections, adding to the list of dozens of states banning same-sex marriages with similar laws.

The good news is :

Meanwhile, in one of the most emotionally-fought U.S. social issues, abortion rights advocates declared victory in two states.

Colorado voters rejected a measure that would have made abortion the legal equivalent of murder by defining human life as beginning at conception.

South Dakota defeated a ban on abortion that, if passed, had been expected to spark a court battle leading to the Supreme Court.

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Obama wins , Mel is none to happy

The fear however is that the world now becomes very much less safe for all of us as a result. Those of us who have looked on appalled during this most frightening of presidential elections – at the suspension of reason and its replacement by thuggery -- can only hope that the way this man governs will be very different from the profile provided by his influences, associations and record to date. It’s a faint hope – the enemies of America, freedom and the west will certainly be rejoicing today.


western civilisation is losing out to a far-left agenda which has become mainstream, teaching American children to despise the founding values of their country and hijacking discourse by the minority power-grab of victim-culture.

America’s belief in itself as defending individual liberty, truth and justice on behalf of the free world will now be expiated instead as its original sin. Those who have for the past eight years worked to bring down the America that defends and protects life and liberty are today ecstatic. They have stormed the very citadel on Pennsylvania Avenue itself.

I look forward to future columns .


US has its first Black President

As Palin would betcha .

Pic : Bob relaxing now the result is known.


David Broder and the US Elections

Well that should get some stat hits.

Woke from my nap, still sleepy, to find people talking about David Broder in the comments box!!
Was relived to find out it was an American David Broder , not our very own boy wonder, and that the left wasn't obsessing on the other big political event of the year yet again instead of whats going on over the pond:-)

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Had a nap. Awake now and catching up.Cats surprisingly lively. I'm not.

Looks like bye bye Republicans.

Pleased to see that Elizabeth Dole has been booted out:

Democrats are picking up another Senate seat from the South: Democrat Kay Hagan has defeated Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole in North Carolina.
Dole had appeared to be headed to re-election, but she's been hurt by revelations that she's spent little time in North Carolina in the past year.
Dole is the wife of former GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole.

She ran an attack add :

Dole's 30-second ad, which is running on television in North Carolina but has not (understandably) been promoted by the GOP, uses a September fundraiser co-hosted by 40 people, including a representative of the Godless America PAC, to falsely accuse Democrat Kay Hagan of being an atheist herself.

The end of the ad features a picture of Hagan with a female voice yelling "there is no God!" -- the clear implication is that the voice is Hagan's. In fact, the Democratic candidate is a Sunday School teacher and an elder at her Presbyterian church.

Its a shame Hagan didn't say so what ! You say that like its a bad thing.

Dole had more to say on those godless gay people:

Capitalizing on Hagan's opposition to a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in the state, during the campaign, the Dole camp sent out a mailer claiming that Hagan's agenda, with the help of "liberal judges," will be to advance a "radical homosexual agenda," including same-sex marriage, removing "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance, and forcing the Boy Scouts to accept gay and atheist troop leaders.

Good riddance.

Hagan opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in North Carolina.

Pic : Bob getting a bit fed up with me pointing my camera phone at him when I should be asleep and so should he !


Tuesday, November 04, 2008

US Elections - late night blogging

I plan to stay up as late as I can and watch the results. I may be doing some blogging over at Liberal Conspiracy, but mainly here.

I am aware that some people think I have a poor grasp of socialist ideas ( I do though have a politics degree, so have a bit of a clue !). Others think this is a lifestyle blog or even that all I offer here is 'tits and fishnets'. Hmmm, perhaps posts about fisting, fucking and fishnets might have sullied my reputation:-)

Pah, this is a serious political blog. Well OK, not always. So I'm not going to be poe faced. In fact I intend to have some assistance from my cats. Tonight I will be in Brighton with them, some JD (the drink not Mr Denham), my laptop , coffee and snacks. I plan to chat with fellow bloggers and play a few moves on facebook scrabble with Jim J and who knows perhaps Mr Pottins , my regular fellow addicts.
Back to the cats. I plan to upload pics of them as the results come in. Well you didn't expect them to type did you. Nope, they are purely decorative.

So live cat blogging on the US Elections...

Pic : Beryl sort of showing an interest .

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Monday, November 03, 2008

US Elections - Open Thread

Being a bit of an anorak I like elections ; the facts, figures, analysis and gossip. Yeah sad I know. So come the early hours of Wednesday morning I'll be watching the results of the US Presidential race and some interesting referendums as well.

This evening I'll post some of my thoughts , in the meantime do feel free to comment here.

Pic : my cats who aren't very interested in the US elections.


London Calling

London Calling is one of my favourite albums and covers, so it was a bit remiss of me not to know some background such as who designed the sleeve or its history. That was rectified when I came across the obit in Saturday's Guardian of Ray Lowry:

During the years characterised by punk, post-punk and the economic depression of the early 1980s, the cartoons of Ray Lowry, who has died suddenly aged 64, were admired as much by readers of Punch, Private Eye and Mayfair as those of the New Musical Express, plus many alternative magazines and fanzines, for their anger and anarchic humour.

Ray's best-known image remains the sleeve he designed for the Clash's third album, London Calling. Alongside the photographer Pennie Smith, he accompanied the Clash on their north American tour in September 1979, later adapting one of Smith's rejected, out-of-focus shots of Paul Simonon angrily slamming his Fender bass into the stage at the Palladium in New York. To this he added bold pink and green lettering, paying a blatant tribute to Elvis Presley's eponymous first album cover. The link between the Clash and rock'n'roll's early energy was never more clearly expressed. It was no coincidence that Ray's enthusiasm for music had begun in the mid-1950s.

Probably only of interest to music anoraks like myself , but hey keeps me happy . If I ever won the lottery , after of course bankrolling the left and buying my own party that would keep alive the stroppy tendency, I'd have walls covered in rock photography and original film posters .

In the meantime I'll admire my copy of the LP.

Anyway, a good excuse to put up the picture!


Sunday, November 02, 2008

Autism blog posts 2006/07

Links to posts from my previous blog on the Workers' Liberty website on the subject of Asperger's and the autistic spectrum:


Talking of prank phone calls ...

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Women campaigning in Glenrothes By-election

Women activists in the Scottish Socialist Party were out campaigning in Glenrothes for demands for women and to encourage women to use their vote.

Our candidate is a great activist - Morag Balfour, she has campaigned for many years against Trident and is a "militant" peace campaigner, she is also the Co-Chair of the SSP alongside Anthea Irwin.

Just thought comrades would like to see some activity, all three elections are on 6th November 2008.Robert Richard, SSP candidate in Forth ward, Edinburgh

Morag Balfour, SSP candidate, Glenrothes by-election, Fife

Daniel O'Donnell, SSP candidate, Bailieston, East Glasgow

And just to let you know we are also standing in Forth Ward in Edinburgh - Robert Richard and the SSP's very own Daniel O'Donnell is Bailieston Ward in East Glasgow.

For more information - check out the SSP website here

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Ross and Brand: Don't Join the Hysteria

I had intended not to blog about the Jonathan Ross / Russell Brand / Andrew Sachs / Georgina Baillie saga, but since it has taken up residence on the front pages of most newspapers and featured widely in blogland, I suppose I had better join in.

First off, I think that if Ross and Brand should be sacked, then they should have been sacked long before this particular stunt. For being crap. And for demanding huge sums of money for being crap. Looked at in employment terms, this was surely a performance issue long before it was a disciplinary one. It is an absolute scandal that anyone should be paid £6m a year for doing anything at all - let alone that a public employee should be paid £6m per year for being crap when the vast majority of public employees are very good at their jobs but are being told to accept below-inflation pay rises.

Ok, so my personal view that they are crap is just that: a personal view. Sure, there should be a place in public broadcasting for people who Janine does not personally like. But I'm sure we could all think of a hundred better uses to which the BBC could have put both the millions of quid and the hours of airtime.

The Sachs incident itself? It was pathetic and out of order. Public humiliation is not a form of entertainment in my book. Picking on someone who has done nothing to deserve your broadcast bullying is barrel-scraping of an unacceptable kind.

And just because a woman dances in a group called the Satanic Sluts does not mean that her sex life is fair game for public broadcast. Those who argue that it does remind me of the detestable practice of defence lawyers introducing a woman's sexual history as some kind of mitigation to excuse her rapist.

So, would I shed a tear if Ross and Brand were sacked? Never to darken our airwaves again? No, I wouldn't. But will I join in the wave of demands for their heads on a platter? No, I won't do that either. Why?

The media coverage of this really is way, way over the top. No doubt that's partly a result of the cult of the celebrity; it's partly a result of genuine and correct objection to their behaviour. But there is a third factor too: a conservative, censorious outburst by those who think sex, swearing and irreverence are very, very naughty and think that the BBC is a haven of lefty, liberal, disrespectful progressives who must be pulled into line.

One sign of this is that there were only a handful of complaints after the broadcast itself, but tens of thousands after the front page denunciations appeared. I would always be alarmed at the prospect of being on the same side of an argument as the Daily Mail, and I will not join their side on this one. The Mail has no genuine objection to Ross' and Brand's fat-cat salaries, nor to bullying or sexism. It objects to its perception of the BBC's non-adherence to traditional values, and probably to the very existence of the BBC as a state-run broadcaster.

An outright victory for right-wing critics of Ross and Brand would mean that all sorts of broadcasters and comics would come under increasing scrutiny, not just to ensure that they stay within acceptable bounds of non-persecution of elderly actors and their granddaughters, but to ensure that they stay within bounds of behaviour acceptable to the Daily Mail. The Mail has already begun to cast its net wider using the momentum of the Ross/Brand scandal to demand censorship of broadcast material that offends its sense of 'tastefulness' and 'decency'.

We can and should condemn Ross' and Brand's broadcast, but we also have to defend comedy and broadcasting from would-be censors. The charge-sheet against Ross and Brand includes that they were 'offensive'. Indeed they were, but that is the same charge levelled by Bible-bashers against 'Jerry Springer: the Opera', and it was a cause of celebration that their attempts to suppress it failed.

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