Monthly Archives: June 2007

Have I not got news for you

A news reader in the U.S. was so angered at the choice of lead story that she tried to destroy the script refusing to read it out. With all the things going on the choice was about Paris Hilton leaving jail. She tried tearing it up, setting light to it and finally shredding it.
” ‘I have an apology,’ presenter Mika Brzezinski told the host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe programme, ‘and that is for the lead story. I hate this story. I don’t think it should be the lead.’ “ She continued:

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Blair in the Middle East

” ‘Can he really intervene?’ asked Hanan Ashrawi, a Palestinian MP and former peace negotiator. She said the Palestinians did not need help building up their institutions. ‘We need third party involvement to achieve peace, to curb Israeli measures, to end the occupation and tobuild a state.’ ” Source Guardian 28/6/2007.
Just who’s agenda does the seemingly sudden appointment of Mr Blair as Middle East envoy represent? If there was an identifiable reason for Blair leaving office it was Iraq compounded by the Lebanon. Palestine though remained in the background even though at the end of the day it is the most pressing and crucial of all issues. “Success” in Northern Ireland has been remarked on, even though there has been a lot of papering over of cracks. The insistence of the Orange Order carrying on with marching breaks through the paper with continuing belligerence and deliberately provocative acts. In many ways it looks as if Paisley has it his way. However Sinn Fein have long realised that the ballot box is moving in favour of a rather different future.
It is pointed out that Blair is carrying baggage in the Middle East. I remember his radio broadcast from Jerusalem when he shared a platform with Ariel Sharon. He seemed to share more than a platform and sounded patronising to a degree to the Palestinians. ” Be good children” he seemed to be saying. Well there are many trying extremely hard to be “good” and fight against an implacable enemy with non-violent resistance. The response to that is anything but non-violent and provocative in the extreme. Daily.
Yasser Arafat was President of Palestine and a member of Fatah, yet Blair, who called into Ramallah following his funeral, refused to lay a wreath and barely bowed his head. Many were outraged. Then Blair hosted a conference in London inviting Palestinians but not Israel. It seemed to go nowhere, how could it? Once again it appeared patronising. Israel of course were very pleased at being off the hook as they were when they invaded the Lebanon. Death and destruction, as in Iraq, passes without comment.

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Washington Post on Cheney continued…

That most lovable of vice-presidents, Dick Cheney, continues to be the focus of the Washington Post (27/6/2007):
“In Oregon, a battleground state that the Bush-Cheney ticket had lost by less than half of 1 percent, drought-stricken farmers and ranchers were about to be cut off from the irrigation water that kept their cropland and pastures green. Federal biologists said the Endangered Species Act left the government no choice: The survival of two imperiled species of fish was at stake.
Law and science seemed to be on the side of the fish. Then the vice president stepped in.
First Cheney looked for a way around the law, aides said. Next he set in motion a process to challenge the science protecting the fish, according to a former Oregon congressman who lobbied for the farmers.
Because of Cheney’s intervention, the government reversed itself and let the water flow in time to save the 2002 growing season, declaring that there was no threat to the fish. What followed was the largest fish kill the West had ever seen, with tens of thousands of salmon rotting on the banks of the Klamath River.
Characteristically, Cheney left no tracks. (my emphasis JT)
The Klamath case is one of many in which the vice president took on a decisive role to undercut long-standing environmental regulations for the benefit of business.”
Source Washington Post 27/6/2007.

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Being Deputy

Who would be deputy? The Washington Post is running a series of articles featuring the US Vice-President, Dick Cheney aka the most powerful VP in the history of the U.S. Yesterday (25/6/2007) it was his part in the build up to the use of torture, while today focusses on his influence on domestic policy.
What’s the likelihood of Harriet Harman, just voted in as Deputy Labour Leader, influencing the leader? During the selection she openly supported Jon Cruddas’ call for an apology on Iraq. On day one she refutes this. Other arguments she made to appeal to the left include reviewing Trident and the introduction of more city academies.

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Handsworth Conversations

3 Minute Wonder grabbed me this week. It featured the work of Vanley Burke, photographer, who has documented the social scene over 40 years. It is now featured in Tate Britain.
Earlier I portrayed Handsworth as an artistic incubator. I have known Vanley for many years and used some of his photographs in schools. They convey an insight into the community in an extraordinary way, and it is just and good that his work should feature nationally and internationally. Vanley remains a modest man attached to the community and alive to social division and exclusion. His work should be known since it offers an education and deep understanding of a dynamic and vibrant society.

Viscious attack on prominent Sikh family

While a demonstration had been promised outside a Birmingham Gurdwara because of a marriage between a Sikh woman and Muslim man, the matter took a serious and more violent form of protest. The perpetrators would appear to be against the Sikh religion rather than upholders of a faith which has proud traditions. Early in the morning someone set light to three cars in the driveway of Jarnail Singh Bhogal at the family home in Handsworth Wood.
It has not been established who perpetrated this criminal act, but the sooner they are brought to justice the better it will be for all of us.
It appears that the bridegroom accepted Sikh values, so precisely what the problem is for the protesters I fail to see. Any excuse for gratuitous violence seems the only answer.

£2 billion on external consultants

A report questions the use of £2 billion on external consultancy fees by the British government(BBC News 19/6/2007). It says that in many cases the consultants are called in without investigating whether they will add value.
The matter raises serious questions in view of the expanding privatisation brought in by this government, following American practice shown to be corrupt where contracts are handed out to friends. Large corporations are making massive profits out of government contracts. In security private firms are handling matters which should be under rules and regulations set down for the conduct of governments. Private concerns are not so regulated and they operate deep secrecy.
When in local government I remember an external consultant talking about his recent work. During the session he referred to an earlier report he had written which had recommendations. No one had acted on the recommendations. How often are reports commissioned fro external consultants, who often charge sizeable sums, but are then left to gather dust? Certainly there have innumerable reports on equality matters which make serious recommendations which are not implemented.

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The man who helped capture Saddam

Another “war hero’s” story. One of those involved in the capture of Saddam Hussain, feted on his return to New York, is haunted by what he saw of war. Instead of revelling in his acclaimed actions he is forgotten and alone to carry his despair. The Washington Post (17/6/2007) has published yet another portrait of an unsuspected casualty of war.
Washington Post 18/6/2007.
Just who is benefiting from the mayhem. Just those who have shares in the big corporations dining on the fat commissions from government contracts. The cost of their good fortune cannot just be measured in dollars or pounds but in the grief and suffering of countless others whether America and allies or Iraqi.

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Inter-faith union

A young couple recently married with the blessing of one of the Gurdwaras in Birmingham. The unusual thing about the occasion is that the bridegroom was Muslim. One would have thought that this was an occasion to rejoice as an expression of moving on from a chapter of history of bitter division between religious faiths.
Unfortunately the hate brigade have entered the arena pointing out how it offends Sikhism. So Sikhism has its own home grown fundamentalists.. In this years Vaisakhi celebrations in Handsworth Park a group of the self-appointed turned up with unsheathed swords and committed serious acts of violence against people taking part in the celebrations. There were serious injuries. Another group damaged Birmingham Repertory Theatre when a play with views they did not like about aspects of their culture was staged. Its author received death threats. Again in the recent local elections members of three Gurdwaras were expected to show their allegiance to their faith by voting for a Sikh candidate irrespective of his track record and political views.

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Iraq’s private war

A Washington Post report (16/6/2007) throws more light on what it calls a “parallel war” with private companies fighting it out with Iraqis.
“Private security companies, funded by billions of dollars in U.S. military and State Department contracts, are fighting insurgents on a widening scale in Iraq, enduring daily attacks, returning fire and taking hundreds of casualties that have been underreported and sometimes concealed, according to U.S. and Iraqi officials and company representatives.”
So the reality in substantially worse than we have imagined with a privatised which presumably recognises no international law of conduct, has no logistical source, is being conducted in conditions of strict secrecy. The source of funding is massive government contracts so the tax payer pays. Shareholders on the other hand will be dancing in the streets as the dividends swell their bank accounts.International capitalism shows that it has no bounds, no moral underpinning and is totally out of control. The problem is many of its backers claim a religious conviction telling them that God has told them this is their mission. Neither Judaism or Christianity are done any favours by these evil acts, not is Islam served by the blatant disregard of human life by the latest actions of Hamas. One thing Fateh has going for it is that it is a secular organisation.

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