Category Archives: Environment

The entrails left by profiteers. Life is cheap

As I understand all life derives from a single source and we can see that we are just a part of this evolution. Yet the mass market of food production takes little into account about what is necessary for a quality of life among animals and crops produced. Since we are inextricably linked human life and welfare will be deeply affected. Profits are all, welfare nowhere as we can see by the entrails left by profiteers. Life is cheap to them.

Chicken is cheap – probably cheaper than chips – yet its production leaves many question with the entrails – literal as well as in fact – leave a trail of harmful and deadly bacteria. The agencies charged with ensuring we have a supply of nutrious, healthy food are seriously challenged. One or two articles and programmes have documented intensive production. It is characterised by low wages, shocking working conditions with health and safety of workers difficult to spot. The problem is we don’t know where our food is sourced. If we did we wouldn’t want it.

This week President Obama landed in UK, prospective trade agreement TTIP in hand. Stay in the EU in trumpeted, otherwise UK will be at the back of the queue for trade agreements. Isn’t that precisely what we want? TTIP would take away any ability to challenge the filthy part of the food industry when corporate interest takes over from ours with ability to take even governments to court if they question damage to health by, not only tobacco, but harmful food production. Thanks, but no thanks Barack.

Midland Metro extension from Snow Hill to New Street

I took a walk along the short Midland Metro extension which at last connects the two main stations in Birmingham, Snow Hill and New Street. As a City Councillor and Cabinet Member for Transportation from 2003-4 I signed a document advancing this, but the new Tory Lib-Dem administration put it on ice. Some of them were after an underground system. Financially the case for the Metro just about stacked up, but an underground system? I knew the London Underground very well as I had lived and worked there for many years, but you sometimes have to walk considerable distances when changing trains! I had planned to present the then Lord Mayor, Cllr John Alden with a shovel with a map joining the Council House to his home in Harborne, together with a model of a London tube train, but the idea wasn’t approved by Sir Albert so I regret I let it drop. I did tell John about this later but he just gave me a puzzled look. (Journalist Paul Dale from the Birmingham Post and Mail, saw the shovel and model train in my office and questioned me about. He didn’t see the point either!)

I travelled by train from the Hawthorns into Snowhill, which is just as well because I found the Metro now stopped short at St Paul’s. Beyond that was a deep hole.


I was expecting it to be joined up to the new extension since it was announced that trams would be testing it during October. Nevertheless you can see that people are very busy getting it ready.



It’s not clear where the tram stop will be. Is that under construction? Presumably the buildings at the end of the platform will be part of a connection between rails and tram. There’s no sign of a platform outside Snow Hill (see below).


The first stop is taking shape in Bull Street.


Then right into Corporation Street. No sign of another stop here.


But something seems to be emerging here outside the side entrance to New Street, now “Grand Central” Station.


So welcome to New Street Grand Central Station.


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Capita marches on as banking and finance control all

In Birmingham banking and finance are well-oiled as Capita marches on. Essential services have been slashed to the bone in the face of “Austerity”. Win or lose Capita and the like gain as if there is no tomorrow. The way they are going there will be no tomorrow as among their ranks the global warming flat earthers ensure that the priorities are with money, loads and loads of it. To the rest governments deliver “shock and awe” to the working people. “We are the Party for working people” intones Cameron as more is taken out of their mouths and delivered into the hands of C(r)apita and the like.

But you’ve seen nothing yet. What was once Blackwater in the USA won major contracts in areas which once the state firmly controlled. In Iraq their personnel became involved in the conduct of war. This was convenient to the state since they weren’t covered by the rules of war and Geneva convention. If their staff were killed or injured their families received no recognition or compensation. The Chief Executive of Blackwater was noted for is hatred of Islam and Muslims. Individuals like Dick Cheney held their shares. Naturally bigger and better wars were voted for by the wealth driven politicians. And so Capita. Now they are reaching further and further, higher and higher.

While some of Capita’s mates like G4S and Serco for fraud outsourcing marches on, and it is the giants who are going for the cream. They cherry pick the profitable services while the bits that are doubtful and unreliable sources of dosh – like A & E hospital services – are marginalise, even closed.

Is Capita efficient? The health service and local government haven’t found it so. It’s expensive and in Birmingham failed to deliver on taking over the call centre and IT systems.

Is Capita ethical? Small businesses who have worked with Capita haven’t found so according The Independent They are advisers to businesses to work off shore. Presumably they do so – so do they pay their taxes in a way that reflects their colossal hold on public and private services? Irrespective, Capita marches on a giant predator devouring local government as it cuts “essential services” to the bone making huge profits out of taxes. The Government has arranged it so that taxes we pay together with assets owned by us through our local council are handed over to the private sector. Groups like Capita can’t lose.

Fracking serious

While Lancashire councillors dither about allowing fracking exploration to continue, residents of Oklahoma worry about earthquakes occurring daily in an area where the oil/shale gas companies have had their evil way.

The Lancashire Councillors it seems have no principled objection to fracking, they just fiddle round the edges objecting to noise and nuisance. The environmental harm and consequential health hazards apparent to their constituents don’t appear to be on their radar.

In the US today’s report of what is happening in Okaloma is a repeat of what happened in Ohio. Lancashire has already experienced them, but the fracking industry, while not denying their existence, likens them to a lorry rumbling past your house at the very worst. Who do you believe and trust when so much is at stake, with governments supporting the massively powerful corporations to the hilt?

North Dakota faced another problem, this time not an earthquake but a waste water spill. Interesting to know how this is contained but more importantly how leaks occur. All this is minimised and glossed over but not just by the corporations themselves, but by the politicians who get into bed with them. They should be representing us since we voted for them. The Corporations don’t and are totally unaccountable unless you’re a shareholder, that is. In that case you want bigger and better wars, food that makes you ill so you can sell medicines, and fracking until the world has an orgasm.

Nuclear mushrooms. Kept in the dark and fed on sh… don’t tell

It’s not presumed enemies we need to be fearful of. As those who live in Ukraine or Japan found out to their cost it’s their own nuclear stock which is the danger. These events hit the headlines because the consequences were all too visible with radiation being scattered far and wide across the planet. The drip feed of stories of nuclear incidents both civil and military ought to frighten us all into action. Stop this madness. Presently the world is seemingly in control of those with other ideas of individuals divorced from reality in for short term personal agendas. Individualism, which in particular the American Dream is about and sold to all of us, allows the few to impose their wishes. The truth about actual nuclear near catastrophe has been withheld. Eventually the truth will dawn.
A recent revelation was about a bomb dropping on North Carolina. These weapons, many times more powerful than those seen at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, were routinely flown around. On this occasion something went wrong with the aircraft resulting in the bomb being dropped and only narrowly, we are now told, failing to detonate. Have lessons been learned or is the catastrophe the accident waiting to happen?

Food Sovereignty

There is an over production of food globally but around half, much expensively produced cost wise and environmentally, goes to waste. This adds to the cost. Locally produced food can be beneficial since it is easier for the consumer to identify the producer and transport costs are reduced as are CO2 emissions. It is not always the case that local produce is cheaper since it may be cost effective to transport out of season produce than store it in warehouses which may be at a distance from the producer, only to be transported to supermarkets again at a distance.
Struggling countries like Cuba may face huge bills importing food so they encourage more and more people to use unused space to grow crops. Havana, it is estimated, can supply food to about 50% of her people. For most cities a target of 10% would be a huge achievement.
In March 2012 a delegation from the Socialist Labour Party in the UK visited Cuba and saw local initiatives to grow organic crops for food and medicine. In January that year the SLP had put a resolution to the Party’s Triennial Congress in Blackpool which was remitted for further consideration. Four members of the SLP delegation: Andrew Jordan, President, Shangara Singh, West Midlands President, John McLeod, Brighton and John Tyrrell, West Midlands had a discussion on a site just outside Havana.
More recently the SLP held a day school at the Uplands Allotments in Handsworth, Birmingham, led by Malcolm Currie whose wife, Balbir, is Secretary of the Allotment Association. We discussed local initiatives on food issues, including local production and supply.

Cameron gets his solar panels and then pulls the ladder away

David Cameron believes in the environment so much that he has solar panels fitted to his home. Look again. Cameron is taking advantage of the high rate of return on solar panels before the rate of payment is slashed. So having benefitted he has pulled away the ladder and left everyone else who can’t afford it out in the cold. The guy who fitted the panels says he has to lay off his workers, so what is this doing for Cameron’s green credentials? The Big Society? Does he know what he’s talking about? He’s too busy keeping his snout in the trough.
After 12th December for every £1,000 you will get £500 so if you still want to benefit you need to get moving. How this encourages the solar industry in Britain is anyone’s guess. The government’s claims to be green are in tatters while once more Mr Cameron is laughing all the ay to the bank.

An ever-widening wealth gap exists in Israel

The Israeli government suppresses more than Palestinians it seems since many of its own citizens are poor. Presumably many settlers do bring considerable resources with them from places like the US. Building continues apace as more of them take over Palestinian land.
One Palestinian village in the West Bank, Bil’in, has had a small piece of land returned to it after years of non-violent struggles. The problem they face is that there is little water. Israel command control of the water sources and the settlers the other side of the Bil’in wall consume very high amounts of the precious commodity well in excess of citizens of places like Tel Aviv.
Protests against the Israeli government are long term as tent cities spring up and while in the first place much happened in Tel Aviv other cities across the country are joining in.
So it looks like a small wealthy elite (as elsewhere across the market driven Capitalist World of “Disaster Capitalism”) imposes its will with military might and domestic policies which disadvantage its people who do not have access to housing, employment and other basic needs. Israel is wealthy with money pouring in from the US but they choose to spend it on military might in the name of defence and oppressing the poor. Seems familiar.

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Bankers’ bonuses. Dustmens’ bonuses

Class division. Doesn’t exist. Take a look at these two stories, both involving the Lib Dems, one nationally, one in Birmingham, supposedly the blueprint for the Con Dem war on the people. Cleggy has done another u-turn and again the party is squirming, very quietly so as not to attract attention, but it appears some may have a conscience. Meanwhile back here in Brum Paul Dale in the Post has uncovered yet more scandalous bonus payments which allow a refuse collector to earn £45,000 a year!
I suspect very few will pick up anything like this, but I don’t quite get the point. It is an accepted norm still that people who work with their hands can expect a small return compared to the 6 figures that those with control of finances award themselves. Cllr Martin Mullaney who sits on Birmingham City Council is a Liberal Democrat. Well I thought so, but you would never have guessed given the scathing remarks he has made about the ability of the council’s work force to earn a decent living. Much of this has now been stopped. Today we are protesting in Birmingham that the refuse collector’s basic wage has been slashed by £4,000.
Bringing the wages of women and men into line has been a vexed question for a long time, but single status was introduced because of the unfair way that pay differed because of your gender. When I had some dealing with this as a councillor a snag was hit when it was found that with back pay owed bringing parity to women would bankrupt councils. I never hit on the idea of lowering already low paid men down in line with the scandalously low pay many women received as cleaners, working in kitchens. or as carers. It has taken the Con Dems to think of that. It is quite familiar and expected Tory thinking, but if you voted Lib Dem did it ever occur to you that they would fall in line. Cllr Mullaney was saying the other day how the scab labour that the council found money to pay for clearing the streets of black bags were better than the councils’ work force.
As chair of the now defunct Contact Services Committee I had regular monthly meetings with the refuse collectors who were as loyal to Birmingham City Council as anyone could wish. At every meeting they were anxious to hear that targets were being met, sickness rates were kept as low as possible and so on. And this is the thanks they get. Cllr Mullaney hide your head in shame. Are you still a Lib Dem? I would never have believed it.

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Canada and neutrality

Canada has long been thought of as the epitome of a fair society, an honest broker which will temper the excesses of its powerful neighbour in a world short, and in desperate need of fairness and justice. Over the past decade it has become increasingly apparent that this is a myth as human rights are consigned to the dustbin. Ask those who make up what Canada termed “the First Nation” intending to give some sort of dignity and status to the indigenous population. Does this stand up to scrutiny? With the sort of land grabbing for minerals associated with African countries we see land supposedly owned by those communities raped and pillaged as multinationals move in to exploit valuable resources. Whether coal or diamonds the indigenous people far from benefitting find themselves living in environmental degradation of a high order.
On the question of Middle Eastern peace where even the new administration in the USA has singularly failed to make an impact can we expect Canada to step in? Watch this if you believe that.