Monthly Archives: June 2008

Road map to where?

There is supposed to be a road map to peace in the Middle East so that Palestinians can live peacefully alongside Israeli citizens. The problem is there is a dangerous and voluble group who want a “road map to Armageddon” rather than to achieve peace. These are Stephen Sizer‘s words when he delivered a talk to the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign in Birmingham on Saturday (7/6/2008).
The power of the lobby in support of Israel was shown when both presidential candidates addressed the American-Israeli group AIPAC affirming support for Israel while not mentioning Palestinians and their inhumane treatment at the hands of the Israeli government. Jewish Voice for Peace has spoken out about this and is sending a petition to McCain and Obama to point out that the peace process doesn’t start where they are beginning.
The Christian Zionists have had much to say and have friends in (very) high places. American foreign policy has been predicated on their message, and now they want to move on th attack Iran using their pseudo-religious arguments to justify it. It has worked before, and if people don’t wise up it will happen again judging by the fact that Obama has to go along with the plot (despite the fact that some are trying to discredit him with the label “Anti-Christ”. The Christian Zionists look to me as the most appropriate candidates for that role themselves!)

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New Labour in Ladywood

To be quite honest I have found the debate on the Ladywood selection by New Labour tedious in the extreme. How could any one of the candidates bear comparison with Clare Short? The problem is New Labour don’t want anyone who is likely to criticise or interfere with their reactionary Tory policies. The candidates may or may not have held office, but when have you read about them and their achievements? The question is how you run a country with the non-entities New Labour is enlisting up and down the country. Their merits as far as New Labour is concerned that when they are told to “jump” they are likely to answer “how high?”
The chosen candidate is not known for herself, but her father is chair of the recently revived Birmingham Labour Party. This was run down a few years ago because Ian Reilly, Commander of West Midlands New Labour, didn’t like some of us. Dad was agent to all three Bordesley Green (Birmingham) councillors ousted for postal vote fraud. How come none of the mud stuck here? Hope daughter doesn’t follow his example! Reilly has consistently championed such people and smoothed their way into New Labour while systematically pushing out anyone with the faintest trace of being progressive. New Labour is suffering but Reilly keeps power and unaccountability to ordinary New Labour members. He clearly has his support in high places. No wonder they’re in deep, deep trouble.
There is a politician in Birmingham today who is regular heard of both locally and nationally and that is Salma Yaqoob. The problem is even if New Labour wanted her to stand for them she would refuse to endorse their wars, their privatisations, their curtailment of human rights and their general inhumanity. Consequently they have to scrape the barrel. Salma has demanded and end to the postal voting system which continues to be problematic and abused systematically, This is not least because women have lost their vote when others have used their names for postal votes and proceeded to fill them in themselves. Clearly Mahmood Ahmed knows all about this and one wonders if his daughter, Shabana, the Ladywood candidate caste her own vote.
The big problem is that New Labour looks like the other main contenders for political office following a root which puts consumerism and markets above human need. Those who have spectacularly failed are hugely rewarded, those who run the banks and large enterprises, while those who have lost out, ourselves, the rank and file take the consequences: a massive rise in the cost of essentials while our assets drop in value. But who will come to the rescue when all are singing from the same hymn sheet. Vote Tory you’ll get more of the same, vote Lib-Dem you get Tories. What a mess!

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Consumers of death

The Jewish Voice for Peace covers the story of how nine activists disrupted an arms manufacturer in Northern Ireland. When their case came to court the judge ruled it was not illegal to prevent killing.
Raytheon are said to have provided lethal weapons to the U.S. and Israel used for the killing and maiming of many civilians. Apart from demonstrating the activists disrupted the company’s computers.
The banned film “On the Verge” also showed how a group of determined people demonstrated against another manufacturer dealing in death in Brighton. It seems that reasons for not allowing the film to be shown are that it shows heavy-handed policing. Once again the courts took a different view and threw out the case brought by the police.

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A Transport Cocktail. Shaken or Stirred?

Full marks to the Stirrer in continuing to mark up the non-advancement of a half-decent public transport system. While I held office as Transport Cabinet Member between 2003-4 I can’t see what progress has been made to what was on the table then. There was a regional transport plan, fairly modest but considerably beefed up when additional resources were put on the table. It seemed to me it was crucial to support this since it would be likely to succeed than if I stopped off to think up something different. That’s precisely what the following regime did. However good an idea an underground system might be, credible it wasn’t. In addition the City Council Officers were advising me of, and taking me to see all kinds of initiatives. Park-and-ride, car sharing were on the agenda. Four years on I’m asking myself where is the progress? The new administration had the same advisers to hand.

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Increased consumerism won’t, can’t solve the world’s food crisis

A belief in the sanctity of market forces continues to lead to misery for countless numbers of people as costs and availability of essentials spiral. These woes are graphically drawn in today’s Washington Post (7/6/2008). If wealthy consumers in the US are having a tough time then what about those without economic clout? One things for sure, the very engine for creating the problem is geared up to exacerbate the situation. It’s in a hole and won’t, can’t stop digging.
In UK banks have come to grief through nonsensical acts by their managers. Government bails them out with the result that the very idiots responsible for huge failures are walking away with the money, our money. Son of Thatcher (not poor, pathetic Mark (aka Scratcher) who continues his comfortable life style while his mate is in the rather less opulent surroundings of a notorious African jail), Tony B. and his New Labour cronies have given succour to the continually discredited system. Neither Gordon Brown or anyone else is going to muddle their way out of the mess. Look as they might for an alternative to G.B. ain’t going to work. Baby face Milliband? Forget it.

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USA ‘ARMS AND SURVEILLANCE’ COMPANY TO RUN THE UK 2011 CENSUS?

Worried? Want to sleep soundly tonight? If so take immediate action!
The next UK Census (in 2011), in which participation is compulsory, might be run by an arms company with close links to the United States government, and which also focuses on intelligence and surveillance work. See below for more info.
(N.B. there are currently just 3,460 signatures on the petition, 3/6/2008)
Deadline to sign up by: 15 June 2008)
The decision is now imminent. Sign the petition today:
Petition on the Downing Street website
http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/ census-alert/

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Dudamel in Birmingham with the Philharmonia

I don’t attend concerts very often these days, but I decided to get a ticket for this one at Symphony Hall (3/6/2008). It was under the baton of the Venezuelan Gustavo Dudamel. The seat was front row and searching for the right number rivalled looking for that in an aircraft. I still managed to sit in the wrong seat. However the experience was highly rewarding.

The Philharmonia Orchestra played under Karajan at the first concert I attended in the Royal Festival Hall in the 1955-6 season. Clara Haskil was pianist. Not long ago I heard Carlo Maria Guilini conduct them in Birmingham for an all Brahms concert (2nd Piano Concerto and Symphony), all played at a very deliberate pace. Hugh Bean returned as leader. This time it was Brahms First Piano Concerto. I have always preferred the second, but here was a deeply felt reading giving the impression of a first hearing. Dudamel launched the piece with the dark angry chords emphasised. Although the tempo was deliberate there was a clarity where detail could be heard to telling effect. Piotr Anderszewski was soloist, similarly forceful where necessary, but clear and delicate also. Quite honestly it’s the first time I noted a fugue in the finale. Anderszewski rounded off with an encore of solo Bach while Dudamel reclined on the decking among the players.
Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony also made its mark. The performance ranged from breath taking pianissimo to rousing fortissimo, particularly in an exciting finale. Bernard Haitink gave a very different performance with the Concertgebouw Orchestra a few years back but of a similar high quality. Someone warned me that Dudamel distorted rhythm in Shostakovich, but I didn’t detect it here. I was almost expecting salsa to emerge somewhere along the way!

Obama is the nominee for Democrats

Barack Obama secured nomination as presidential candidate for the Democratic Party. Both he and Hillary Clinton spoke in recognition of each others achievement during a long and grueling campaign. Hopefully the earlier spiteful combats have not done lasting damage to the Democrats given that a McCain victory would look like a Bush third term. Need to get off the planet now!
In 2006 I was teaching a group of young people. They were out of school for one reason or another. At this time Obama came to our attention in an article in the Washington Post. I got hold of a copy of his first book and we talked about him. At that time it appeared a long shot for him to get anywhere near the presidency. The subject matter proved to be of deep interest to the class.

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Archaeology enters politics

Archaeological digs in East Jerusalem are acquiring a new significance. They are being used as part of the land grab operation by settlers. Unbelievably remains of Muslims have gone missing or have been mishandled by the so-called archaeologists.
The operation is being covered up by the use of jargon and academics are keeping quiet about what’s going on. More.

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Pauline Campbell’s legacy

I attended Pauline Campbell’s funeral which took place at St Alkmund’s Parish Church, Whitchurch in Shropshire last Friday (30th May, 2008). Family and friends took part in a service where her young friend, Georgina Griffiths, had organised music associated with Pauline. Fond tributes were paid by representatives of the Howard League for Penal Reform (Frances Crook, their Director) and Inquest as well as close friends.
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Others remained outside with a banner accusing the Home Office with responsibility for now Pauline’s death. Pauline was interviewed outside Holloway prison earlier this year, along with other demonstrators, including Georgina, who had been a friend of Pauline’s daughter Sarah until her death in 2004. Before the interview Pauline had been manhandled by the police present and brought to the floor by a 16 stone officer.