Thursday, September 30, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
Miliband, doom, gloom and general stroppiness
ON THE one hand, sections of a jubilant Labour left are turning cartwheels across the floor. On the other, the rightwing press is rehashing the kind of low level McCarthyite headlines not seen in this country since the early 1980s.
Both immediate reactions to the election of Ed Miliband as Labour leader highlight the lack of balance or historical rigour that prevails in political commentary in Britain today.
To the extent that Ed is not his brother – who of course stood in apostolic succession to Blair – then those who do not favour the continuation of New Labourism in its most anachronistic variant will regard his success as the least bad possible outcome of an unnecessarily protracted contest .
But there is little point in coming to firm judgement until we see what Miliband does in his new capacity. While it is good to hear him declare that ‘the era of New Labour has passed’, he has yet to specify with what it will be replaced. If there is to be a Milibandism, we so far have no real indication of what the parameters will encompass.
Ed’s parliamentary career has so far been short, and he was not around for the crunch votes of the first and second term. But it is fair to observe that nothing he has done since 2005 marked him out as a natural born boat rocker.
Perhaps he deserves the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he has been hiding his social democratic light under a bushel, thus accounting for the accusation that he is some kind of crypto-Bennite.
But look under his bed, and the reds are strikingly hard to find. An examination of his concrete track record suggests that little stronger than reheated Hattersleyism is set to feature on the Miliband menu.
Opinions will vary as to how far that can viable be described as a good thing, but it certainly does not constitute a ‘lurch to the left’ in any meaningful employment of the left-right continuum as a working analytical tool.
A minimal grasp of twentieth century British political history should represent some kind of prerequisite for punditry. Yet how many columnists would be able to fit Miliband into the spectrum of Labour leaders of the past? Ironically, one of the best places to glean that information the book ‘Parliamentary Socialism’, penned by Ed’s late father Ralph.
In short, Ed Miliband does not want to be either a Blair or a Brown, which is to his credit. Neither is he likely to transmogrify into a Foot or an Attlee or a Lansbury. Callaghan? Kinnock? Let’s not go there. The question is how inspiring the public are going to find a Gaitskell or a Smith in the crucial years ahead.
Labels: Labour Party
Saturday, September 25, 2010
Work Kills 20,000+ People Every Year in the UK
The TUC has published a report showing that more than 20,000 people in the UK are killed by injuries and health conditions contracted at work every year.
“The Case for Health and Safety” smashes the myth that Britain is one of the safest places to work and shows that health and safety is as relevant an issue today for workers and employees as it has ever been.
An analysis by the TUC of the most conservative official safety figures shows that at least 20,000 people - the equivalent of the entire population of the Orkney Islands - die every year as a result of conditions such as occupational cancers and lung diseases, exposure to fumes and chemicals, and fatal work-related traffic accidents.
The report finds that thousands of workplace injuries go unreported. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) estimates that almost 250,000 workplace injuries happened last year but many were unreported or not reported correctly.
“The Case for Health and Safety” also reveals that 1.2 million working people in the UK believe they are suffering from a work-related illness. These include heart disease, stress, musculoskeletal disorders such as back, shoulder and neck pain, and mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
And the report disputes claims, which have fed calls from business for health and safety deregulation, that the workplace is now much safer than it has ever been.
The TUC is calling on the Government to:
• ignore calls from the business lobby to reduce regulation and enforcement
• champion the issue and appoint a Government 'tsar' for health and safety
• use the UK network of 150,000 trained union health and safety reps to even greater effect
• support the work of the HSE and local authorities in protecting people at work.
You can download the report at: http://www.tuc.org.uk
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Talking about Poplar and Cuts
This Saturday, 25 September, 5pm, Housman's bookshop, King's Cross.
Details here for details.
Saturday, September 18, 2010
Cross post - Benedict XVI: Antichrist, or just a bit confused?
THE DESIGNATION Whore of Babylon does not refer to some mythical top notch super-dirty-in- bed Iraqi chick, but to a serious theological debate over the identity to the scarlet-clad woman described in chapter 17 of the Book of Revelation.
In the faith community in which I was raised, my poor old mum was always considered a hopeless cringing moderate because she did not automatically identify this figure with the Roman Catholic church, being alive to the exegetical possibility that the term could better be applied to the European Union instead.
I am put in mind of my upbringing after reading the remarks delivered by Benedict XVI before 125,000 admirers in Edinburgh yesterday, during which he launched into a tirade against the intolerance of something called ‘aggressive secularism’. Hello, your Holiness?
In the first place, it is a bit rich hearing homilies about the need for liberalism from a bloke who accuses gay people of possessing a ‘more or less strong tendency ordered towards an inherent moral evil’ and welcomes Holocaust deniers into the bosom of the mother Church. But let that pass.
I’m not even quite sure what ‘aggressive secularism’ is when it is at home, anyway. Does it differ from, say, passive-aggressive secularism, being one notch up on mere stridently assertive secularism but not quite such a bad thing as violent secularism? But let that pass, too. The whole line of reasoning at work here is just wrong, wrong, wrong.
The overwhelming majority of us secularists are actually laid back, live and let live-type dudes. We actively believe in, and argue for, freedom to propagate all religions and none. So if anybody freely chooses to go to mass on a Sunday morning, that’s fine with us. We’ll just stay in bed and nurse the hangover. Now sod off and leave us to suffer.
So it was that I found myself sticking up for a Christian guy handing out ‘turn or burn’ leaflets at the Brighton gay pride march, which could quite easily have seen him severely beaten had the assembled Muscle Marys taken umbrage at their content.
Precisely because I am a secularist, I am in favour of his right to tell people what they do not want to hear. Equally, I am in favour of the right of the Protest the Pope brigade to hit the streets on Saturday, even though I can’t be arsed to go along myself.
The very obvious historical truth is that the people most likely to be at the throats of members of any given religious group are members of other religious groups. They are, to paraphrase his Holiness, aggressive religionists.
In the playgrounds of western Scotland, competing gangs of kids slug it out under the banner of Papes and Prods. Well, they do in the unlikely event that they go to an integrated school in the first place, anyway
I presume that atheist and agnostic children consider themselves far above that sort of thing, and sensibly slope off behind the bikesheds for a quiet lunchtime fag instead.
And there’s more. In the afternoon, His Holiness was off to Glasgow, where a crowd of 65,000 were told: ‘Religion is in fact a guarantee of authentic liberty and respect, leading us to look upon every person as a brother or a sister.’
No it isn’t, and no it doesn’t. This stupid assertion is so readily refuted that I shall refrain from rehearsing the long, long list of repressive theocracies ideologically legitimated by Catholicism and sundry other creeds, both in history and in the present day.
In sum, Benedict XIV’s strange belief that religious viewpoints are in Britain systematically excluded from consideration in the market place for ideas is scarcely tenable. Indeed, they get a head start in the form of the compulsory ‘God slots’ on many broadcast outlets and a guaranteed place on the curriculum, when they should be slugging it out on the same terms as everybody else.
But if those viewpoints are to be taken seriously, it would help to come up with some arguments that are not quite so ludicrous as those the Pope has advanced so far on this trip.
Friday, September 17, 2010
More taking pops at the Pope !
I note with interest it seems to be male straight lefties that seem to be tut tutting at the attacks on the Pope. Apparently us poofs and girlies, well, we are all a tad middle class and are attacking the working class . Hmm, don't remember hearing that when the left attack the BNP, who sadly have quite a few working class members and supporters .
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Pope , not to keen on atheists and secularists
He told the magazine: "England today is a secularised, pluralistic country. When you land at Heathrow Airport, you sometimes think you'd landed in a Third World country."
Asked whether Christians were discriminated against in the UK, he said: "Particularly in England, an aggressive neo-atheism is widespread. For example, if you wear a cross with British Airways, you're discriminated against."
What exactly is wrong with a secular plural society ? It means all freedom of religion and freedom not to believe . No one belief has privilege or is at risk of persecution.
And what is with the Third World Country comment ?
Anyway , back to the Pope :
He added: "Today, the United Kingdom strives to be a modern and multicultural society. In this challenging enterprise, may it always maintain its respect for those traditional values and cultural expressions that more aggressive forms of secularism no longer value or even tolerate."
The Pope also praised Britain's fight against Hitler's "atheist extremism", saying that "Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews, who were thought unfit to live".
Seems the Pope is not above twisting the meaning of secularism, painting it as a bad thing.
But he then goes on to equate Nazism = extreme atheism .
From my history, I don't recall the Nazis as fighting for an atheist society ,but when have facts got in the way of religious teaching . A church that can state that condoms spread Aids as they have tiny holes in them, can just as easily twist and smear secularism and atheism .
For the record , Hitler stated :
Hitler’s Mein Kampf, volume I, at the end of chapter 2: "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."
Many who do not believe in God fought against Nazis, fight today against fascists and war in this world. Religious people do not by any stretch of the imagination have a monopoly on peace and doing good. Examples that immediately spring to mind are Bush and Blair , consulting their God, before going to war in Iraq and Afghanistan.
How much concern for life does the Catholic Church have for women in places such as Nicaragua, where no abortion is allowed , even if their life is at risk. Doctors are too scared often to give treatment for cancer to pregnant women in case it causes the foetus to abort. My concern is with the woman who is a alive , not sacrificing her as some sort of incubator .
I am pretty sick of those of us who argue for a secular society, with freedom of speech and belief , being called extreme and the whole notion being misused. A secular society = freedom of belief and none for all. What is wrong with that ?
Labels: God squad
Dylan Moran on religion
Bill Hicks on the Pope
Monday, September 13, 2010
All in it together ?
Executive bonuses are close to their level before the financial crisis, a survey by business advisory firm Deloitte says.
It found that the average bonuses for directors of FTSE 100 firms amounted to 100% of their basic salary, rising to 140% in the top 30 public companies.
For others, not time to break out the bollie :
Almost 45,000 town hall jobs are to be cut across the country as councils brace themselves for a savage government squeeze on their budgets.
Analysis by The Independent has identified tens of thousands of local authority posts that will be scrapped – with jobs working with the elderly and with unemployed young people particularly at risk.
Councils across the country are drawing up plans to trim their spending by between 25 and 30 per cent over the next four years, reductions that will lead to a huge number of redundancies among the two million local government workers.
In the past week alone, 1,500 redundancies have been announced at Somerset County Council and 200 at Bedford Borough Council, while unions have warned that 1,000 posts are about to be axed by Bristol City Council.
The leader of Oxfordshire County Council yesterday warned that it could have to shed 1,000 jobs.
The Independent has identified 50 councils, from the south coast of England to the north-east of Scotland, where more than 40,000 jobs are being cut. A further 3,500 posts in Connexions, a service run by local authorities to give careers advice to teenagers, are about to be scrapped.
With many of the country's 400 local authorities only beginning to draw up budget plans, between 100,000 and 200,000 jobs could eventually be lost in councils. Some losses will be achieved through voluntary redundancies and retirement, but widespread sackings are certain.
Labels: public sector
Sunday, September 12, 2010
Emergency campaign video for Child M campaign
Saturday, September 11, 2010
Islamophobia in America: Nine Years On from 9-11.Cross post from Tami Peterson
I will let readers judge for themselves but certainly won't be writing for Counterfire again.
Islamophobia in America: Nine Years On from 9-11
In August of 2001 I got a job in lower Manhattan with a financial software company. I remember the awe I felt having moved to the Big Apple, the energy, the sheer excitement of living in the hustle and bustle of the if-you-can-make-it-there-you-can-make-it-anywhere New York. NYC is also a gathering place of sorts for those in the States who have grown up elsewhere. Huge numbers of artists, bohemians, queers, activists and liberal minded people move there every year, mixing with the multicultural beauty of the city from Queens to Manhattan to the Bronx and Brooklyn. Yet this is far too pretty a picture of NYC which carries such charm precisely because it is a city that is at the same time dangerous, human, alive, sordid and real.
I lived in Brooklyn with a native NYer, a Latino whose mother was Ecuadoran and father Puerto Rican. I remember feeling distinctly on top of the world in a city that I adored, a far cry from my upbringing as a Mormon in conservative Utah where knowing anyone who was non-Mormon or non-white was rather unique.
This romanticism of New York was short lived as the whole world changed on the 11th of September 2001. When one lives through such a dramatic event, it is difficult to separate the intimately personal horror one experienced with the dramatic political event itself. My experience was terrifying and I still find it incredibly difficult to talk about. I saw people falling to their deaths, heard horrific noises, saw horrendous things and was diagnosed, along with 20% of NYers who were in the vicinity, with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) which unexpectedly manifested itself in me fully after the 7th of July, 2005 bombings in London. I am currently on the World Trade Center Health Registry along with 50,000 others who were there on the day so that they can monitor long term health effects of the event.
Nine years on, the images, the stories, the horror and the terror seem almost strangely blasé. Every year the photos reappear with some new political analysis whether Judith Butler in her Precarious Life, Slavoj Zizek in First As Tragedy, Then as Farce or Noam Chomsky in his 9-11. The left has rightly been determined to utilise and try to understand 9-11 for its political implications, meaning and ongoing relevance to politics.
Having moved to Britain in 2004 I was confronted with a variety of analyses of the event with which I was previously unfamiliar. Chief amongst these was the claim that 9-11 was not to be condemned because this would imply that US imperialism and Islamic terrorism were equal threats. In addition others had claimed that whether one liked it or not, this was an “anti-capitalist” act and therefore in some way progressive. What these views failed to fully understand was that far from being “anti-capitalist” the attacks helped to prop up the system, were used as a justification for war and undoubtedly prolonged the life of a Bush administration which was profoundly unpopular in the days before the attack. (And for the record I despise the so-called “9-11 Truthers” who spend more time on ridiculous conspiracy theories than having any real concern for the victims or those still dying from being first responders while breathing in the toxic dust.) The capitalist system is good at using reactionary events to its advantage and this has been borne out in a variety of ways as the attacks continue to be used to justify the deadly war in Afghanistan to the continued presence in Iraq to innumerable misuses of state terror from Russia to Israel to China.
This is further evidenced by the reactionary response to 9-11 that is feeding the current wave of Islamophobia in the United States. This is a tragedy lived twice over; yet one would be hard pressed to see the latest events as mere farce. Nearly sixty Muslims lost their lives in the attacks on 9-11, yet this alone is not reason enough to oppose the increasing Islamophobia in the US. On the24th of August, 21 year-old Michael Enright hailed a taxi near 24th street in Manhattan. He asked the 43 year-old Bangladeshi immigrant Ahmed Sharif “Are you a Muslim?” and when Sharif said “Yes” he pulled out a knife, cutting Ahmed’s throat, face and forearms. Luckily Sharif lived and Enright is facing 25 years in prison.
It is the reactionary politics of movements like the Tea Party that feed off of the victims of 9-11 to fuel hatred, racism and Islamophobia using ignorance, exaggeration and fear. Do a simple search on Facebook for “Ground Zero Mosque” and it becomes clear that the misinformation about Park51, a Muslim Community Centre which includes a prayer room, which is NOT being built on ground zero but a number of blocks away, is as misinformed as it is hateful. There are claims that President Obama is allowing a “victory monument” for terrorists at Ground Zero, that a “super mosque” is being built at Ground Zero, that Muslims are celebrating the triumph of their “hateful religion” due to “liberal communists, socialists and fascists” like Obama (yes, I am not sure how one can be all three of those either).
Lost is the American ideal that I and most others were taught from their youngest days, that we were a country founded because of the need for religious freedom, that our forefathers fought and died for that right and that immigration and the acceptance of others is at the very heart of what the United States is all about. Whether one chooses to believe this about the US, the fact that this once staple of teaching young school children across the country in conservative and liberal areas alike is fast being replaced by a fierce hatred of the “other” whether it be Mexican immigrants in Arizona or Muslim cab drivers in New York City, is a phenomena worth watching closely. It cuts across the very core of the country and reveals how the United States now sees itself; increasingly isolated, superior and always right. Lost is any kind of humility, a respect for knowledge and wisdom and promoted is an attack on all things secular and non-Christian.
It is this cynical use of a tragic event to subvert some of the most cherished values of the United States, a tragic event which occurred in one of the most alive, beautiful and multicultural cities, that is perhaps most galling. I can still remember the feeling I had when visiting my native Salt Lake City, Utah and seeing the innumerable bumper stickers vowing to never forget alongside another calling for supporting the war in Iraq. “What the hell do you know about it? What the hell do you know about beautiful, multicultural New York and those that died? Who are you to call for others to be killed for something you know nothing about?” I remember thinking.
Analysis is one thing, using such a tragedy to promote war and state terror is quite another. Yet this has been done since mere days after the attacks with George W. Bush standing on the smoldering pile at Ground Zero yelling into a megaphone about how “the people who did this” were going to pay. For many he meant Al-Qaida and Osama Bin Laden, yet nine years on it would appear that it is innocent Muslims that are the ones that are still paying for the horror of that day. The reality is that the Muslim victims of 9-11 far exceed the sixty from the day itself, they include the hundreds of thousands killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Palestine. They include Muslims tortured and killed in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib. They include Muslim rescue workers who rushed to the scene on the day and who along with their brothers and sisters have been snubbed by a government which has refused to support those still sick and dying from the toxic smoke and dust. They include victims of Islamophobic hate crimes across the world and Muslim victims of state terror in the name of “security” and “freedom”.
The victims of 9-11 are continuing to die around the world every day because the victims of 9-11 are also the victims of the responses to 9-11. Yet the oldest victim is not a person at all but an idea. It is the idea that America is a country where people of all faiths are respected and welcome, an idea which is enshrined in the US Constitution. It is a tragic loss from which the United States will find it very difficult to recover
Friday, September 10, 2010
Wanky cool kids
Tuesday, September 07, 2010
In the footsteps of local rebels
Labels: east end
Monday, September 06, 2010
Public support for Tube strike
The current score is: Unions - 75.55%
Transport for London - 24.45%
London TravelWatch (the official watchdog for transport users) is polling visitors to its website. If you vote in the poll on ticket office opening hours on the front page (in the left hand column), you are then invted to vote on several more: click here.
At the moment:
- around 70% of respondents want ticket offices open for the whole time that the station is open (ie. for longer than they are open now!)
- over 80% of respondents believe that public transport is at risk because of funding cuts
- around a quarter have had problems topping up their Oyster card
London radio station phone-ins: The Tube strikes will no doubt be a hot topic of conversation on London's radio stations. There is a list of phone and text numbers for radio stations here. You, your friends and family may like to express their views!
A majority of GLA members (Labour + LibDems + Greens = 13 out of 25) oppose the Tube job cuts. When they proposed a resolution several weeks ago, the Tories walked out of the meeting to make it inquorate. We look forward to the resolution being resubmitted and the Tories staying in the room and being defeated!
Several disability organisations support our fight against staffing cuts, as the people they represent need staff to help them around the Tube. One organisation, Transport for All, had a very supportive letter published in the Evening Standard, which you can see here.
Tube cuts impact on people with disabilities
How cuts to tube staff will affect disabled people :
Open letter to TFL against Underground staff cuts
Open letter to TfL and the Mayor of London.
Dear Mr Johnson,
London Visual Impairment Forum (LVIF) Transport for All and Inclusion London are greatly concerned about the proposed staffing cuts for London Underground which, we believe, could seriously undermine the mobility of older and disabled people in the capital.
LVIF comprises voluntary (not for profit) organisations working with, and on behalf of, blind and partially sighted people in Greater London. There are approximately thirty eight local, London wide and national organisations actively involved. There are 39,315 people registered as blind or partially sighted in London, with between 78600 and 117900 others that have low vision but who have not registered.
Transport for All (TfA) – is a pan London disabled and older persons organisation that provides advice, information and advocacy on accessible transport issues. It is recognized that there are approx 1.4 million disabled people in London and over 1 million people aged 60.
Inclusion London is a pan-London disability equality organisation. We provide policy, campaigning and capacity-building support for Deaf and disabled people’s organisations (DDPOs) in London. Inclusion London promotes equality for London’s Deaf and disabled people. Our work is rooted in the Social Model of Disability and the Cultural Model of Deafness. Inclusion London is a Community Interest Company. We receive funding from London Councils, Big Lottery and Capacity Builders.
We understand, from the RMT’s open letter to TfL and London Underground’s response to this, that cuts to London underground staff have been proposed. Whilst we understand that budgets are tight our concerns centre around the impact on the level of assistance that will then be available to older and disabled people. We are also concerned about the implications for personal security.
Many disabled people rely on assistance from staff in order to safely use and negotiate the system. The need for assistance arises both in normal operating conditions when passengers may need help to use ticket machines, negotiate barriers or access platforms, as well as during periods of disruption and emergencies, when the need for assistance is particularly critical. For example, when services are disrupted staff are needed to provide advice on alternative routes, physical assistance (e.g. escorting to an alternative line) and reassurance, especially when the disruption occurs midway through a journey.
The presence of staff is also important in terms of personal security. Passengers, particularly vulnerable passengers, feel safer if there are staff around on which they can call if needed. The presence of staff may also act as a deterrent to those who would otherwise cause problems on the system.
We believe that the loss of staff will have a significant impact on the lives of London’s residents and commuters. With the Olympics and Paralympics Games only two years away the impact will be even more acutely felt then when there will be many thousands of visitors, including disabled visitors, wishing to use the Underground. Staff cuts now are likely to undermine proposals to increase staff on the Underground during the Olympics and Paralympics.
LVIF, TfA & Inclusion London would therefore call on you and TfL to reconsider these proposals to ensure that disabled and older people can continue to use the London Underground in the future.
(On behalf of LVIF, Transport for All and Inclusion London)