Monthly Archives: August 2007

“The bureaucracy has to be seen to be believed”

The flash action by prison officers should be taken seriously. Very seriously. The government acted quickly to get a court order to force their hand. Not only is this a sign that prisons aren’t working but that the overcrowding seriously impeded any meaningful work they might be able to achieve. The whole system is a mess and a blot on what is supposed to be a civilised society.
“The bureaucracy has to be seen to be believed,” says Mr Robinson. Legal papers, suicide watch checks and personal data form small piles for prisoners who may be in the prison for under a week. “The strain is increased hugely in my time because of drugs and mental health problems.
“When I started here we were locking up criminals. Now it’s mostly people with a drug habit or psychiatric disorders. I’d guess 80%.”
Source Guardian 20/8/2007.
This extract from a Guardian interview with a prison officer illustrates how bad things are away from public view with Thatcherite policies maintained and intensified under New Labour. Let’s repeat what he’s saying.
When I started here we were locking up criminals. Now it’s mostly people with a drug habit or psychiatric disorders. I’d guess 80%
So what we suspected is the case: prisons have become used for more than dealing with criminals, including the most vulnerable people in society with mental illness. Even so his estimate of 80% is unbelievable. But we and the government better believe!

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Sarkozy’s bigotry to the fore

We knew Nicolas Sarkozy from the days as Interior Minister he dealt with African migrants. Now he reveals the depths of his ignorance by claiming “African’s haven’t entered history”. From Nubia and Egypt on Africans have been ahead of the game. For profoundly racist reasons Africa’s history has been ruthlessly suppressed just like its people.
In Zimbabwe I saw African history for myself, although Europeans, still dreaming of Ian Smith, continue to be in a state of denial. (At one time in Southern Rhodesia it was unlawful to claim that the stone buildings were the work of Africans). What is most alarming is that Thabo Mbeki, South Africa’s President, should give him credibility.
That Sarkozy is enjoying popularity in France at the moment is a matter for deep concern and is a sign of a deeply divided country moving to the right. Once Thatcher was that but eventually people saw through her. Once Tony Blair was like that and now people have seen him for what he is. Gordon Brown needs not only to distance himself with the right wing views of George Bush, he needs to likewise from the deeply racist and ignorant Sarkozy.

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Des Browne says….

The expected trite statements follow the news that three more British service people have been killed. On this occasion Afghanistan. “Friendly fire” they say. Never mind they are dead so Des Browne says ….. Whatever it is its not worth repeating, Des Browne never is. Just one more New Labourite dead from the neck upwards.
We are getting tit bits of information that troops will be out of Basra before long. Too late for some. A number more have died since Gordon Brown has taken over. How many more before that’s sorted?
Meanwhile Bush is pumping, pumping arms as fast as the factories can churn out the agents of death. Whose names do these have written on them? Presumably not George W. Are these the values we shaer with our American friends and allies Gordon Brown? Accoriding to the Independent 600,000 more Iraqis have fled their home since “the surge”.
When I was a member of the Labour Party I thought I would be glad when Blair eventually stood aside, as I had been when I and many others fought for a Labour victory. New Labour intervened and Labour was hijacked.

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Jesse Jackson in Birmingham UK

Jesse Jackson, Birmingham, UK, 2007
Jesse Jackson was on target when he visited the Cannon Street Memorial Baptist Church on Soho Road, Handsworth. This is Birmingham UK not Alabama. Other speakers gave a warm up, including Cllr Salma Yaqoob who reminded the audience that when she had questioned the Tory leader, Mike Whitby, about no black cabinet members he had told her to go back to Oldham. She said that there were now two appointed!
Jackson’s message was timely. Speaking on the anniversary of the Haitian revolution of 1791 when slaves revolted under the leadership of Toussaint L’Ouverture, Jackson reminded us that slavery wasn’t over. If you didn’t have access to decent jobs, education, health care etc. then how was freedom a benefit? He reminded the audience that African people had contributed hugely to the economic success of America and European countries yet they had still to reach a point when they got equal reward. This was still a way off at the present rate of progress.
Ken Livingstone gave an apology for slavery happening as Mayor of London following Liverpool’s example. Birmingham has yet to think of it so let’s put in an apology. As a Birmngham citizen, former Labour Councillor representing a Handsworth ward let me put forward an apology. Birmingham manufactured guns, Birmingham manufactured chains and shackles. Birmingham still does and one of its clients is Guantanamo Bay! Let Mike Whitby repudiate this, let Paul Tilsley repudiate this. Let Albert Bore repudiate this. We are deeply sorry for the centuries of violence, degradation and death inflicted on those taken from their African homes and the exploitation of their labour and resources. In doing so we pledge to build a society based on equality and to right the continuing consequences, the enduring legacy left by slavery.

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Oh, by the way….

A piece in the Birmingham Evening Mail (23/8/2007) reported the early release of a violent prisoner fro Winson Green. It’s not clear whether it was an error or a case of swapped identity. As an after thought the report mentions casually that two people committed suicide there last weekend.
One of the deceased was an Iranian awaiting sentencing. He was on a charge of “harbouring”. Well that’s cleared that up then. The other was an Irish national inside for burglary.
Meanwhile Pauline Campbell has had one charge replaced by another because she insists on demonstrating every time a woman dies in the “care” of HMP. If she didn’t take the trouble then the cases would pass by unnoticed just as these two men did.

Diplomacy, human rights and justice, not more war and more weapons.

Diplomacy, human rights and justice, not more war and more weapons is what Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) is imploring the people of the U.S. to press on Congress. The full letter reads:
Dear John,
On August 17, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Israel and the United States assuring that military aid to Israel would be increased for the next ten years. But Congress still has to approve the Appropriations bill, so there is still time for you to oppose the increase in aid to Israel, the $13 billion of military aid to Egypt and the $20 billion arms sales package to Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states. Tell Congress that the solution to the spiralling conflicts in the Middle East is diplomacy, human rights and justice, not more war and more weapons.
Earlier this month, the Bush Administration announced that it would be increasing military aid to Israel 25% to $30 billion, would be guaranteeing $13 billion in military aid to Egypt and would sell $20 billion to the Gulf states, primarily Saudi Arabia, all over the next ten years. The Middle East is lacking for many things, but the one thing that every Middle Eastern country is awash in is weapons. This is a time for the United States to be promoting diplomacy, not more violence. For more information about the proposed military aid and sales, click here.
US law states that military aid is only to be used for defense, and is not to be provided to countries which engage in a “consistent pattern of gross violations of internationally recognized human rights.” None of the recipient countries, including Israel, meet this standard. Click here to demand that our leaders uphold US law and that they promote justice, peace and diplomacy, not more war in the Middle East. Your e-mail will be sent to your congressional representatives, as well as the President and the Secretary of State.
To take action, click here.

On behalf of President Bush, thank you for your correspondence.
We appreciate hearing your views and welcome your suggestions.
Due to the large volume of e-mail received, the White House cannot respond to every message.
Thank you again for taking the time to write.

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Lots of excitement over transport announcements

There appears to be a lot of excitement at money becoming available for new 100
mph rolling stock
on the London Euston Line and for a fleet of new
. Problem is both will operated on congested rail and road
networks. By contrast London is granted billions of pounds for the Thameslink
My good friend Cllr Jon Hunt is now leading on buses on the PTA, problem is,
like Khalid Mahmood MP he hates the tram. OK, but neither has any other
modernisation idea to put forward as far as I can see. I’ve asked them enough times. Perhaps it’s these gentlemen who are responsible for beginning to paint the trams in outrageous colours!
I use the number 11, a show case route. It now has real time information at
stops. Piy about the buses though. Today I saw that the next bus was due in 7
minutes, but so was the following one. The next one was 28 minutes. The times of
the first two eventually reduced to 6 minutes only to revert to 7! They stayed
at that while the 3rd bus reduced to 18 minutes. Were the others going backwards.
There is, of course a real problem on the number 11 route which the former
administration were tackling by improving junctions and introducing bus lanes.
Len Gregory, in control(?) for 3 years now seems to have taken things backwards,
like the no. 11 bus with closure of lanes. Improvements proposed 4 years ago
such as the Perry Barr underpass have vanished apparently. Menawhile congestion
increases apace.
I like using the tram for all the reasons I dislike the bus. It doesn’t get held
up and is usually more reliable. I say “usually” because that service seems to
be falling into disrepair. Most of the station real time indicators don’t work,
and on the trams the information system is not operating. It’s not so bad if
it’s switched off but sometimes it gives the wrong information.

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Paul Hindemith

Hindemith has a certain reputation as being academic and dry as a composer. Certainly he was a craftsman who used form following Bach to construct his huge output of compositions. To ignore him however you will miss a great deal of pleasure from works which include rhythmic bite and express a real depth of feeling. In his early years during the nineteen twenties he was regarded as avant-garde producing works, like Sancta Susanna, which caused consternation (it still does) and some near riotous music, as in the first Kammermusik.
You hang around waiting for ages the suddenly, like buses, two turn up at once. Two DVDs of Hindemith’s opera about the obsessive goldsmith Cardillac have just appeared. A series of murders mystify the townspeople. Eventually a pattern emerges pointing to Cardillac himself.
I had the opportunity of hearing Paul Hindemith conduct on two occasions, each concert containing his own music together with that of Anton Bruckner. To me Hindemith’s use of brass particularly echoes Bruckner. The finale of the Mathis der Maler Symphony is a case in point.
In one concert with the London Symphony Orchestra Hindemith included his Concer Music for Brass and Strings and the orchestral version of “Das Marienleben” sung on this occasion by Theresa Stich-Randall whose death has recently been announced. Bruckner’s Third Symphony completed the programme.
Das Marienleben began as a cycle of seetings of poems by Rilke for voice and piano. Hindemith selected some for orchestration. They are moving. A recording by Karita Mattila I find very satisfying.
On the other occasion Hindemith combined a performance of his American Requiem “When Lilacs Lat in the Dooryard Bloom’d” with a Bruckner Mass. The Requiem seems to have become highly prized by Americans with their stirring settings of the words of Walt Whitman. It is also closely associated with Robert Shaw who commissioned the work and made a fine recording for Telarc with his own Chorale.
At Covent Garden I saw a performance of the opera Mathis der Maler conducted bt Esa Pekka Salonen. I find the story of the man, again an artist, moving and enlightening. It introduced me to the paintings of Grunewald, including St Maurice. Hindemith was inspired by the Isenheim altarpiece giving titles to the three movements of the Mathis Symphony. In this production Peter Sellars brings in peasants with Kalashnikovs and Molotov Cocktails! Unfortunately I had to leave before the end to catch the last train back to Birmingham.

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Jalandhar, capital of a free Ireland

The following was published in an Indian journal, The Tribune written by Varinder Singh:
When Irish govt-in-exile was formed
Varinder Singh
Tribune News Service
Despite having kept one of the biggest and sensational historical facts under wraps for over 80 years, hardly anyone knows today that Jalandhar Cantonment was once declared a seat of the “Free Irish government-in-exile” and was a place where a rebellion, by 1000-odd unsung Irish soldiers-turned-freedom fighters, who were inspired by the ongoing Indian freedom struggle, turned out to be one of two mutinies” after the famous naval mutiny” faced by the British armed forces.
What created yet another leaf of history after a long gap of time was the fact that perhaps no Irish envoy or Irish representative had visited the place after 1950 till a curious Mr Phillip McDonagh, the Irish Ambassador to India, paid a visit recently to the barracks, where the ‘mutineers” had enacted the high-tension drama to attain freedom for their brethren back home and where one of world’s unparalleled and unheard-of peace efforts was made by one Jim Daley, leader of a group of Irish soldiers, who was shot dead by a British firing squad in November, 1920, after the Britishers cornered the “mutineers” after making them starve for a few months.
A landmark in history and yet the lesser known incident took place in the summer of 1920 when the winds of freedom, sweeping across India as well as Ireland, were fuelled after news of cruelty being inflicted upon the Irish by the British, particularly that of a brother of a soldier having been hanged in Ireland, creeped into Jalandhar Cantonment, where about 1000 Irish soldiers were deployed as part of the British armed forces.

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