Monthly Archives: February 2008

Secrecy in every corner, and we still preach “democracy

After the findings that drugs commonly prescribed for depression are not only useless for many people with mild to moderate illness but actually harmful, we find that the pharmaceutical industry cloaked in secrecy. Once again the profit deity holds sway. This comes at a time when the government is told to make cabinet papers available regarding the decision to go to war in Iraq.
The need for secrecy it seems is not there in the interests of people. Each time it is there to protect powerful interests who have come to dominate. Globalisation is put forward as a desirable goal under this pattern of thinking, and it is the logic which has underpinned the European Common Market.

Continue reading

George W. wants a new job, so here is his CV if you want to give him one

Received from the Socialist Labour Party mailing:
This person needs a job.
This individual seeks an executive position.
He will be available in January 2009, and is willing to relocate.
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20520
Law Enforcement:
I was arrested in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1976 for driving under the influence of alcohol. I pled guilty, paid a fine, and had my driver’s license suspended for 30 days. My Texas driving record has been “lost” and is not available.
I joined the Texas Air National Guard and went AWOL. I refused to take a drug test or answer any questions about my drug use. By joining the Texas Air National Guard, I was able to avoid combat duty in Vietnam.
I graduated from Yale University with a low C average. I was a cheerleader.
I ran for U.S. Congress and lost.
I began my career in the oil business in Midland Texas, in 1975. I bought an oil company, but couldn’t find any oil in Texas. The company went bankrupt shortly after I sold all my stock.
I bought the Texas
Rangers baseball team in a sweetheart deal that took land using taxpayer money.
With the help of my father and our friends in the oil industry (including Enron CEO Ken Lay), I was elected governor of Texas.
I changed Texas pollution laws to favor power and oil companies, making Texas the most polluted state in the Union. During my tenure, Houston replaced Los Angeles as the most smog-ridden city in America.
I cut taxes and bankrupted the Texas Treasury to the tune of billions in borrowed money.
I set the record for the most executions by any governor in American history.
With the help of my brother, the governor of Florida, and my father’s appointments to the Supreme Court, I became President of the United States, after losing by over 500,000 votes.
I am the first President in U.S. history to enter office with a criminal record.
I invaded and occupied two countries at a continuing cost of over one billion dollars per week.
I spent the U.S. surplus and effectively bankrupted the U.S. Treasury.
I shattered the record for the largest annual deficit in U.S. history.
I set an economic record for most private bankruptcies filed in any 12-month period.
I set the all-time record for most foreclosures in a 12-month period.
I set the all-time record for the biggest drop in the history of the U.S. stock market. In my first year in office, over 2 million Americans lost their jobs and that trend continues.
I’m proud that the members of my cabinet are the richest of any administration in U.S. history. My “poorest millionaire,” Condoleezza Rice, has a Chevron oil tanker named after her.
I set the record for most campaign f und-raising trips by a U.S. President.
I am the all-time U.S. and world record -holder for receiving the most corporate campaign donations.
My largest lifetime campaign contributor, and one of my best friends, Kenneth Lay, presided over the largest corporate bankruptcy fraud in U.S. history, Enron.
My political party used Enron private jets and corporate attorneys to assure my success with the U.S. Supreme Court during my election decision.
I have protected my friends at Enron and Halliburton against investigation or prosecution. More time and money was spent investigating the Monica Lewinsky affair than has been spent investigating one of the biggest corporate rip-offs in history. I
presided over the biggest energy crisis in U.S. history and refused to intervene when corruption involving the oil industry was revealed.
I presided over the highest gasoline prices in U.S. history.
I changed the U.S. policy to allow convicted criminals to be awarded government contracts.
I appointed more convicted criminals to my administration than any President in U.S. history.
I created the Ministry of Homeland Security, the largest bureaucracy in the history of the United States Government.
I’ve broken more international treaties than any President in U.S. history.
I am the first President in U.S. history to have the United Nations remove the U.S. from the Human Rights Commission.
I withdrew the U.S. from the World Court of Law.
I refused to allow inspector’s access to U.S. “prisoners of war” detainees and thereby have refused to abide by the Geneva Convention.
I am the first President in history to refuse United Nations election inspectors (during the 2002 US election).
I set the record for fewest numbers of press conferences of any President since the advent of television.
I set the all-time record for most days on vacation in any one-year period. After taking off the entire month of August, I presided over the worst security failure in U.S. history.
I garnered the most sympathy ever for the U.S. after the World Trade Center attacks and less than a year later made the U.S. the most hated country in the world, the largest failure of diplomacy in world history.
I have set the all-time record for most people worldwide to simultaneously protest me in public venues (15 million people), shattering the record for protests against any person in the history of mankind.
I am the first President in U.S. history to order an unprovoked, pre-emptive attack and the military occupation of a sovereign nation. I did so against the will of the United Nations, the majority of U.S. Citizens and the world community.
I have cut health care benefits for war veterans and support a cut in duty benefits for active duty troops and their families in wartime.
In my State of the Union Address, I lied about our reasons for attacking Iraq and then blamed the lies on our British friends.
I am the first President in history to have a majority of Europeans (71%) view my presidency as the biggest threat to world peace and security.
I am supporting development of a nuclear “Tactical Bunker Buster,” a WMD.
I have so far failed to fulfill my pledge to bring Osama Bin Laden to justice.

Continue reading

Fair Trade profits up, but who benefits?

Fair Trade is catching on. I go to the Co-op quite often to shop. This week I was looking for the “organic” label since my family over from Canada like to eat that way. I couldn’t see a single item but for “Fair Trade” there was plenty of choice.
The Co-op has been a leader in Birmingham for some years and helped when the Council declared itself a “Fair Trade” organisation. With expansion has come criticism, and as with organic produce prices are higher than non-branded equivalents. The question arising is how much of the mark-up goes to the producer and how much goes to massage company profits upwards. People are buying “Fair Trade” marked items presumably because they believe they are benefiting producers who face high levels of poverty.

Continue reading

15 injured in Bil’in non-violent protest this week

This week’s news from Bil’in tells us that as soon as the peaceful protesters left the village, because of the illegal seizure of their land and the erection of an obscene wall, the Israeli army put up barricades, fired tear gas and sound bombs. As a result 15 were injured, many needing treatment at hospital in Ramallah.
This doesn’t merit a word in the world’s news. Why? I don’t have an answer, except to say that it is controlled.

Continue reading

No tram in Birmingham? Then what?

The Birmingham Post today (23/2/2008) questions the future of the Midland Metro, which consists of one line between Birmingham Snow Hill and Wolverhampton. As Cabinet Member for Transportation 2003-4 I felt it a matter of great importance to advance new routes.
Every new tram system brings out the NIMBY groups and so it did here with the Tories drumming up opposition in Edgbaston and Lib-Dems canvassing residents living along the Walsall Road. What I didn’t expect was for other Labour councillors to try to outdo the Lib-Dems in opposing plans. They enlisted the support of Khalid Mahmood, M.P. for Perry Barr who described it as a “white elephant”. Since he was then PPS to Tony McNulty, a transport minister does he bear any responsibility for stalling the one hope we have of getting some sort of public transport system which will help get cars off the road. The problem is he and others have no alternative suggestions. The only idea they have is the bus, which instead of improving in Birmingham gets steadily worse. Anyway the Tory/Lib-Dem coalition have closed bus lanes I approved! Desperate! The underground? Well it was always patently obvious that if we were having difficulty funding the Metro then the likelihood of getting an underground was below zero, but you couldn’t tell them that. Anyway the Metro can be an underground, or it could become a “sky train” like in Vancouver. If it ain’t there at all it can’t do anything.
Nottingham managed to get its plan through for a tram employing a public relations officer to build enthusiasm for the venture. Yes the NIMBY lobby were there but not allowed the upper hand. Their numbers pale into insignificance compared to other residents. Councillors opposing the scheme in Birmingham did not bother to sound out other opinion.

Continue reading

Kosovo. A new U.S. colony

The following article was sent by the SLP. Seems UK is as much tied to US foreign policy as ever however disgraceful the act. Having revealed that an earlier attempt to attack Serbs was from the Third Reich, what is now happening in protests indicates how provocative the unseemly acceptance of Kosovan independence was. And the Kosovan flag contains symbols of the European Union! “Beautiful” was the remark by one European commentator. Some European countries are not convinced so the Europe is divided.
The Socialist Labour Party wrote in its introduction to the article:
“The demonstration of over 500,000 people in Belgrade and the attack on the U.S. Embassy show the depth of outrage and anger over the seizure of the Serbian province of Kosovo. In the past three days two Kosovo border posts were destroyed, one by fire the other in an explosion, along with ten McDonald’s outlets and several Western banks and other hated targets.
Millions of people see this week’s recognition of Kosovo “independence” as an effort to legitimize a direct U.S. colony and to permanently secure a giant U.S. military base in the region.”

Continue reading

Re. Kosovo’s Independence from Serbia

A note from Bharat Bhushan with an article by George Monbiot written in 2001. Wondered why the Foreign Secretary was looking so smug today when he welcomed Kosovan independence, as did surprise surprise George W. Russia and China are about to reject it (along with Spain) so watch out!
Re: Kosovo’s independence from Serbia
just a brief article written in 2001 by George Monbiot exposing the link between Trans Balkan pipeline from Caspian Sea via central asian countries to Bulgarian Black Sea port of Burgas and then passing through Bulgaria and Macedonia to Albanian port of Vlore and the Albanian interest in the separation of ethnic Albanian dominated Kosovo from Serbia.
very timely.
Published on Thursday, February 15, 2001 in the Guardian of London
A Discreet Deal in the Pipeline
Nato Mocked Those Who Claimed There was a Plan for Caspian Oil
by George Monbiot
Gordon Brown knows precisely what he should do about BP. The company’s £10bn profits are crying out for a windfall tax. Royalties and petroleum revenue tax, both lifted when the oil price was low, are in urgent need of reinstatement. These measures would be popular and fair. But, as all political leaders are aware, you don’t mess with Big Oil.
During the 1999 Balkans war, some of the critics of Nato’s intervention alleged that the western powers were seeking to secure a passage for oil from the Caspian sea. This claim was widely mocked. The foreign secretary Robin Cook observed that “there is no oil in Kosovo”. This was, of course, true but irrelevant. An eminent commentator for this paper clinched his argument by recording that the Caspian sea is “half a continent away, lodged between Iran and Turkmenistan”.
For the past few weeks, a freelance researcher called Keith Fisher has been doggedly documenting a project which has, as far as I can discover, has been little-reported in any British, European or American newspaper. It is called the Trans-Balkan pipeline, and it’s due for approval at the end of next month. Its purpose is to secure a passage for oil from the Caspian sea.
The line will run from the Black sea port of Burgas to the Adriatic at Vlore, passing through Bulgaria, Macedonia and Albania. It is likely to become the main route to the west for the oil and gas now being extracted in central Asia. It will carry 750,000 barrels a day: a throughput, at current prices, of some $600m a month.
The project is necessary, according to a paper published by the US Trade and Development Agency last May, because the oil coming from the Caspian sea “will quickly surpass the safe capacity of the Bosphorus as a shipping lane”. The scheme, the agency notes, will “provide a consistent source of crude oil to American refineries”, “provide American companies with a key role in developing the vital east-west corridor”, “advance the privatisation aspirations of the US government in the region” and “facilitate rapid integration” of the Balkans “with western Europe”.
In November 1998, Bill Richardson, then US energy secretary, spelt out his policy on the extraction and transport of Caspian oil. “This is about America’s energy security,” he explained. “It’s also about preventing strategic inroads by those who don’t share our values. We’re trying to move these newly independent countries toward the west.
“We would like to see them reliant on western commercial and political interests rather than going another way. We’ve made a substantial political investment in the Caspian, and it’s very important to us that both the pipeline map and the politics come out right.”
The project has been discussed for years. The US trade agency notes that the Trans-Balkan pipeline “will become a part of the region’s critical east-west Corridor 8 infrastructure … This transportation corridor was approved by the transport ministers of the European Union in April 1994”. The pipeline itself, the agency says, has also been formally supported “since 1994”. The first feasibility study, backed by the US, was conducted in 1996.
The pipeline does not pass through the former Yugoslavia, but there’s no question that it featured prominently in Balkan war politics. On December 9 1998, the Albanian president attended a meeting about the scheme in Sofia, and linked it inextricably to Kosovo. “It is my personal opinion,” he noted, “that no solution confined within Serbian borders will bring lasting peace.” The message could scarcely have been blunter: if you want Albanian consent for the Trans-Balkan pipeline, you had better wrest Kosovo out of the hands of the Serbs.
In July 1993, a few months before the corridor project was first formally approved, the US sent peacekeeping troops to the Balkans. They were stationed not in the conflict zones in which civilians were being rounded up and killed, but on the northern borders of Macedonia. There were several good reasons for seeking to contain Serb expansionism, but we would be foolish to imagine that a putative $600m-a-month commercial operation did not number among them. The pipeline would have been impossible to finance while the Balkans were in turmoil.
I can’t tell you that the war in the former Yugoslavia was fought solely in order to secure access to oil from new and biddable states in central Asia. But in the light of these findings, can anyone now claim that it was not?
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2001

Continue reading

Public Services. The Future

I got to the tail end of a conference and workshops debating where public services are going, or where they should be directed. Speakers included John McDonnell MP, Hillary Bills, past President of the National Union of Teachers and Rick Hatcher, leading a campaign against academies.
The main thrust of all speakers was that the privatisation of public services was not only a very bad idea, it was extremely harmful to service users and threatened jobs of dedicated and experienced service providers. Example after example was given of the serious consequences of privatising services with large sums of money going into company profits with service users losing out.
Hillary Bills pointed out that children were being treated as “commodities” and that their education has suffered as a result. She said that the NUT along with the other teachers’ associations were united against academies referring to the way that the sponsors were able to dictate the way schools were run and the content of their curriculum. Creationism in the science lessons in schools in north east England was an extreme example. When she was President of the NUT she had visited many countries where she had witnessed first hand the effects of “globalisation” arising from what she termed a “neo-liberal agenda” (John McDonnell preferred “neocon”). Rick Hatcher pointed out that the new governing bodies of academies were appointees of the sponsors so parents would have no say. There would be no role for local authorities, and therefore local democracy as the new systems were introduced.
John McDonnell pointed out that he was “Labour”, not “New Labour” which led to a question what he was doing in the party as it was now impossible to operate from within. (No, I wasn’t the questioner in this instance!)

G.P.s need to watch their backs

Usually I reject commercial telephone calls at home. I tried to get them stopped but at least some get through. This was a consultant, I was told, employed by the Primary Care Trust (Heart of Birmingham) surveying satisfaction with their general practitioners.
The questioning was lengthy with endless questions prefaced with “would you change your G.P. if….?” . Opening hours was one of the carrots.
Actually I have no intention of leaving the practice I use. Apart from getting appointments by telephone I have no complaints. In fact care I have received has been excellent including effective treatment for a number of potentially disabling conditions.
However I did fall for agreeing that more convenient opening hours would be beneficialm such as Saturdays and evenings.

Continue reading

“They were defeated, not by the terrorists, but by the lack of basic equipment”

They were defeated, not by the terrorists, but by the lack of basic equipment” – that was the coroner’s verdict after the death of a British soldier in Afghanistan. Andrew Walker – who has some form on criticising governments, especially the Americans – spoke out at the end of the inquest into the death of Captain James Philippson, who was killed in a fire fight in which British forces were heavily out-gunned by the Taliban. The inquest was told that before the battle, soldiers had repeatedly complained about a lack of proper equipment. We will be speaking to a defence minister.
Thus spake Snowmail in advance of Channel 4 News on 15th February. They went ahead and spoke to a defence minister , who was, well er.. defenceless. “But we are putting more into supporting our troops”…”the supplies were there but someone forgot to give them to the troops.” You could cry.
Never mind that the troops should never ne in Afghanistan or Iraq in the first place, but when you place them there the least you can do is to ensure the maximum personal protection.
This week protesters visited Downing Street to remind Mr Brown that more was expected of him than he’s delivering. With Tony Blair out of the way it was thought that there was an end in site. Something appeared to begin to shift in Iraq, but it’s gone dead quiet now (well not for the poor, long suffering Iraqis). Afghanistan? It’s the Taliban. Condi came hotfoot to ensure there’s no stalling in the “war on terror”.

Continue reading