Monthly Archives: December 2007

The PPP’s choice of its new leader does not auger well for democracy in Pakistan

Benazir Bhutto ended her life with a view of her as a courageous politician and fighter in the struggle for democracy. Unfortunately her wishes indicated in her will lead to what Tariq Ali calls a “charade” and “feudal” act by nominating her own family to succeed her.
In the emotional climate following the tragedy of this assassination rational thought becomes clouded. Benazir had Western backers, and as we know only too well they have their own agendas. US involvement in particular in country after country has lead to tears and more tears, but in the case of Pakistan they have followed the trail started by British imperial rule.

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Our happy children

Remember folks our UK children must be the happiest by 2020. The Independent today (30.12.2007) shows two ways we are going about it.
First in our young offenders institutions staff are following to the letter the top secret manual that the government won’t talk about. It shows ways to restrain kids- and staff are doing just that. It involves blows to the face, bending back thumbs to the limit and bending back arms.
Children in care are there in the first place most often because of the abuse and neglect they have already experienced. Our country, enshrining its Christian values (the Catholic Blair and Presbyterian Brown) shows them that abuse is the right way to behave. Hopefully when they have children themselves they will want to avoid them facing the same traumas. Unfortunately records indicate that abused children are likely to turn into abusers. No one is breaking the cycle.
I raised this at the case conference of a young woman in care whose mother was in care and whose children are being placed in care. Social Care and Health Service in Birmingham has set up a Children’s Rights group to ensure young people’s voices are heard. Unfortunately it is not independent from the service encumbered by a bureaucracy which gives the young people added additional problems and misery.

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Solar power takes off, but where’s the U.K?

Looks like there’s a revolution afoot in the technology around solar panels which allows easier production and cuts costs. Where is this taking place? The production company is in California’s silicon valley. Is there interest in Europe? Yes, but in Germany where there are already big steps forward in introducing solar power.
John Vidal writing in the Guardian (29/12/2007) describes the scene: ” The solar panels produced by a Silicon Valley start-up company, Nanosolar, are radically different from the kind that European consumers are increasingly buying to generate power from their own roofs. Printed like a newspaper directly on to aluminium foil, they are flexible, light and, if you believe the company, expected to make it as cheap to produce electricity from sunlight as from coal.”

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New Labour is it’s own worst enemy

The insistence by Gordon Brown on extending the period of detention without trial looks to be heading to considerable opposition. The quote from the Director of Public Prosecutions damns the proposals for relying on threats which are not based on evidence. The road taken by Blair has already done immeasurable damage to community relations and stirred up feelings against Muslims in a way which draws uncomfortable parallels with the stoking of hatred against Jewish people. It looked in the first week that Brown was embarking on a process that drew away from this. That intention has now become very blurred.
” It emerged as Sir Ken Macdonald, the Director of Public Prosecutions, delivered a damning verdict on Mr Brown’s 42-day plans. He argued that the 28-day limit was working well, accusing ministers of wanting to pass laws based on a theoretical threat. ‘I think the basic point is whether you want to legislate on the basis of hypotheticals or whether you want to legislate on the basis of the evidence that we have acquired through practice,’ Sir Ken told BBC Radio 4’s The World at One. “It seems to me that if you are legislating in an area which is going to curtail civil liberties to a significant extent, it is better to proceed by way of the evidence and the evidence of experience.” Source The Independent 27.12.2007.

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Private practice

Why it is this New Labour Government persists in privatising everything it can, undermining public services is inexplicable to Labour supporters. The only way it can be understood is by seeing Labour as a party hijacked. It took over Tory policies implementing them in ways unimaginable under the Thatcher government. Health, education, legal services are all fair game. Although time again privatised services have come to grief and proved costly. there seems to be no let up. Since New Labour came to power a number of businesses have flourished. Those like Capita have grasped local government contracts and flourished. They have acquired a power which is not in the public interest. They have been able to acquire profit even when they have provided less than adequate services.

Open for business

Bethlehem hotels are full this year and there are more returning to celebrate Christmas. Does this mean all is well. The article from Al Jazeera (26.12.3007) shows that its is not. Smiling Israeli soldiers do not counter the huge barrier separating Bethlehem from Jerusalem. There is also a dwindling Christian population.
Even though there are more in Bethlehem, according to a report by PNN many Christian clergy continue to be denied access to Bethlehem and other places of Christian pilgrimage.

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Al Sharpton’s Year

The Washington Post (26.12.2007) outlines Rev Al Sharpton’s year of battle over Civil Rights issues. I was present when Sharpton visited Birmingham’s Afro-Caribbean Millenium Centre a couple of years back when he, like Jesse Jackson earlier this year, had a rallying call to the City’s an nation’s Black population.
Why necessary? Well see the article to see why in the U.S., but the Black population is at risk in the UK too. Mikey Powell’s case is well-publicised since he died while in the hands of the police in Birmingham, yet with no one taking responsibility and no clear reason why he died. A few weeks back the Kuumba Centre in Sandwell were dealing with a case in Ilford, Essex, where a young man with mental health issues had been reportedly beaten up by police. His mother had been roughly pushed out of the room when she complained, knocking her mobile phone to the floor. I don’t know if or where this incident has been reported. I don’t know how many other cases there are. I do know since the David (Rocky) Bennett report precious little progress has been made on dealing appropriately with need in the African Caribbean community in particular,
which has been high profile. Other groups at risk, such as young Asian women, or refugee groups who have witnessed atrocities in genocidal wars across the globe, don’t stand much chance getting health care. Prisons are full up, many it seems are from groups suffering poor mental health. A disproportion, as in the U.S. are from B.M.E. communities.

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Does Israel want peace? Not bloody likely

Jewish Voice for Peace have sent the New York Times report and comment from Uri Avnery, not pulling his punches. Neither should he! Even when the excesses of the extremist Israeli regime is revealed no whisper of protest comes from governments around the world.
Today, 12/23/2007, the New York Times reports that Ehud Olmert’s government is steadfastly refusing to consider Hamas’ ceasefire offer while simultaneously affirming plans for new Jewish housing in two Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land. In his usual provocative and informative analysis, Uri Avnery explains the Israeli government’s choices as part of the overall plan to achieve one expanded Israeli state along with small Palestinian Bantustans; he says “the real aim is to break the Palestinians, which means breaking Hamas.” Avnery describes (again) just how bad things are in Gaza, where Palestinians must deal with dramatic shortages of fuel, water, and other necessities as well as almost-daily Israeli tank & bomb attacks. As most of us watch this barrage from the side, Avnery’s sharp analysis offers one important way to make sense of Israeli behavior.”
Sarah Anne Minkin

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Baghdad Burning Blog in Syria

It was a feeling of great joy I felt when I checked on this celebrated website. I haven’t checked it recently so perhaps this is a belated discovery! It was profound relief to know that its author has found sanctuary in Syria and as ever her vivid description of her new surroundings involves the reader.
The happiness that comes from knowing that a friend is safe and well in no way diminishes the deep sorrow from the knowledge that this is but one instance of displaced people. The knowledge remains that many are still trapped, although some manage somehow to resist the oppression that others, local and foreign, are imposing on them.
The squalid truth is that sectarianism has emerged from the presence of US and allied forces there to preserve and enhance their commercial interests. Civilians representing private corporations are there too contributing to the killing and torture of innocent people. Before Shia and Sunni co-existed, as we read in earlier reports from Baghdad Burning. They lived, worked, intermarried without thinking twice. Life became impossible when you couldn’t walk the street without knowing who was your enemy.

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