Monthly Archives: June 2008

Mote and Beam

Two comments concerning responses to the question whether Mugabe is legitimate leader of Zimbabwe today. Both are quoted in Al Jazeera (30/6/2008)
“If media controllers had any courage, the headlines today would read: ILLEGITIMATE & INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL U.S. (P)RESIDENT DECLARES ZIMBABWE ELECTION ILLEGITIMATE. What nerve! Imagine a gang-banging thug sitting in judgment of ANYONE. Now, I readily admit that some people criticizing the Zimbabwe election are sincere in their convictions. George the Bush, Condo-Sleazeball & Gordon Brown are, BY VIRTUE of the illegitimate crimes they have committed, together with all they don’t see as illegitimate, are not: war of aggression against four countries that never did a thing to them, stealing elections, crossing any and everyone’s borders & sovereignty to kidnap MOSTLY innocent people, torturing them – many to death, depriving them of ANY human rights, including habeas corpus, imprisoning them INDEFINITELY. Not a single country in the world other than Israel stoops THAT low.”
Nelson Rappaport, Stockholm, Sweden
Added: Monday, 30 June 2008, 09:43 AM Mecca time, 06:43 AM GMT
“I think Mugabe’s election was every bit as legitimate as George W. Bush’s elections and less harm may be done.”
Puck, Seattle, United States

Tough at the top

Our dependency on big corporate organisations for our essentials – food and energy – needs to be carefully considered as we trip off to the local supermarket and shell petrol station. Have they got us over a barrel, or is their still room to fight back. Government – all parties – are complicit and compete in showing loyalty to the market and the powerful. It isn’t doing New Labour much good now though, having rubbished unions and rubbed shoulders and more with the wealthy.
The biggest predatory giant in the supermarket business, Tesco, has come in from criticism from many quarters and now, according to a report in the Observer (29/6/2008), others are joining in. Tesco has extended its sphere of operation abroad, and in the U.S. has come to the notice of Barack Obama. It’s encouraging to read that his criticism is to do with Tesco’s attempts to remove union rights from its employees. Given Obama’s tendency to sound as far right as his Republican rivals as he did at AIPAC, his intervention is to be welcome.

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Birmingham up for grabs

A meeting at Birmingham Council House, organised by Birmingham Trades Council (24/6/2008), invited speakers on the vexed matter of privatisation of public services. What amazed even seasoned activists was the extent of moves to bring in the private sector offering lucrative contracts. All three major parties support this although it is the manifesto of none.
While post office closures are a national issue there are proposals to close a considerable number in Birmingham. This needs to be seen in the context of the government’s plan for postal services as a whole, which have all the hallmarks of privatised operations. Private companies have the opportunity to “cherry pick” the lucrative bits they like and leave the costly unattractive parts. These are usually the parts that provide essential services to the public – like mail delivery and post offices. The process was described in graphic and gory detail by a leader of the Communication Workers’ Union. He would have to leave the meeting early to attend another meeting in Coventry in advance of an announcement that this City, 7th largest in UK, would be having its Mail Centre closed.
In order for firms to tender the rules are that this has to be placed in the European Journal, at a cost of around £1 million. The competitors have to pay VAT so that has to be added in somewhere. The UK has moved much further in running down its postal services than anywhere else, and they give the Chief Executive of the Post Office a 3 year bonus package worth £3 million to run it down, with a poorer service to all of us: later deliveries when we have already been cut from 2 to 1. The once proud flagship Crown Post Offices which remain under the Post Offices control will now be found behind the green groceries of Cost Cutter and the like The Post Office has a huge distribution network, but there has been massive underinvestment. Money has been taken out of the Post Office following the Postal Services Act. Another familiar feature is the “consultation” process in which people are invited to meetings where the commercial decisions will already have been taken. These are not for negotiation.
In discussion we were further reduced to abject gloom when we realised that other unions such as the NUT used private mail services.

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Europe to get Iraqi gas?

An article in Al Jazeera (22/6/2008) may explain why Blair was joined at the hip with Bush. We are told that Shell is charged with exploiting the vast source of gas in Western Iraq which would would be piped out across Syria. All this while Iraqis continue to endure intense suffering at the hands of the western capitalist war machine.
Further reading of the article raises a puzzle since it appears that plans were well on the way to develop this before the 2003 US led invasion. If this was the case then Blair was well off song in this respect too.

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A desperate plea from Friends of Bil’in

Each week the people of Bil’in protest against the wall, their loss of land and livelihood, and violent attacks by Israeli soldiers armed to the teeth on defenseless people. Now, as reported before, live ammunition is in use in contravention of Israeli law.
F.F.J June 20 2008-“The Israeli Army has used almost every weapon in their arsenal to impose their Apartheid on the Palestinian people in Gaza and the West Bank. In many cases these weapons, which are often lethal, are used on the whole of the Palestinian population regardless of whether they are simply trying to lead a private family life or if they are resisting the occupation.
The Village of Bilin in particular has been struggling against the Apartheid Wall and the occupation for three consecutive years using peaceful resistance. Bilin has been holding weekly demonstrations with the participation of local villagers, internationals, and Israeli supporters. In return, the Israeli Army has used all manner of violent methods and weapons to silence the Bilin Resistance, even though Bilin’s approach has been non-violent.”

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Cllr John Lines

John Lines is a prominent member of Birmingham City Council, in fact he is Cabinet Member for Housing currently. Today’s “Iron Angle” in the Birmingham Post (21/6/2008) illustrates why he shouldn’t continue to be a cabinet member, or to hold public office at all. The following is a report from Defence Management which reports Line’s vile message:
From: 23rd January 2008

Birmingham Tory slams asylum seekers

Wednesday, January 23, 2008
“While British soldiers and Gurkhas may struggle for support from a government that overlooks the significance of their contribution, many immigrants who sneak into the UK get preferential treatment, according to Conservative Birmingham City councillor John Lines.
Talking to about housing services for former members of the armed forces, the cabinet member for housing was highly critical of the government’s treatment of veterans and ex-Gurkhas in particular and suggested asylum seekers got a much better deal.
Lines said: “We do not afford them [Gurkhas] citizenship. We pay them a pension to go back to Nepal. Yet some scallywag, some scumbag can jump on the back of a lorry, come over under the tunnel and never expect to work a day in his [expletive] life. And if he’s been here for a time waiting for a decision, we give him automatic British citizenship. The world’s gone [expletive] mad.”
Lines’ comments come at a time when Tory party leader David Cameron is looking to stamp down on outspoken remarks and give the party a softer image on immigration and asylum seekers.
But this is not the first time Lines has expressed such views. In May 2006 he ordered the removal of TVs from council houses allocated specifically to asylum seekers. He said that taxpayers’ money should not pay for a luxury many people cannot afford.
And in June 2005, Lines wanted to stop a grant to Birmingham’s Asylum Support and Immigration Resource Team (ASIRT) which provides legal assistance and other services for asylum seekers.
• Gurkhas who have left the British Army after 1 July 1997 are eligible for indefinite leave to remain, which allows them to stay in the UK forever. Most refugees discovered at the border are held in detention facilities while they await a hearing. If they are granted asylum, refugees are usually granted further or indefinite leave to remain. After a few years they are allowed to apply for citizenship.”

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Route 443

The following is from Jewish Voice for Peace and is an illustration of how some prominent Israeli citizens won’t descend to the level set out by the present extremist government:
“Adam Keller, spokesperson for Gush Shalom, translated this article from Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s widest-read newspaper, from Hebrew, since it wasn’t translated into English. His introductory note and the article are below.
Route 443 is one of the “apartheid roads” cut through the West Bank for Israeli drivers (as far as I know regardless of whether they are Jewish or Palestinian Israeli) to the exclusion of Palestinians. There have been ongoing popular protests in the West Bank against the road and the confiscation of lands that it causes, as well as a court case brought by Palestinians and ACRI (Association for Civil Rights in Israel).
As Adam Keller notes below, despite the prominence of the article in Yediot, it was not translated to English or posted on the popular YNet website. This seems to be part of a pattern of lack of willingness to air “dirty laundry” to an international audience.
It is certainly notable that such a prominent member of the Israeli establishment is using the word “apartheid.” It is also interesting that this judge seems to despair for now of the court system, in the end reminding Israelis of their individual responsibility to protest and not allow the Court to give them a reason to be ‘voluntarily blind.’ ”
–Rebecca Vilkomerson
Don’t travel on Route 443
The Apartheid Road – Silence of the Judges

By Boaz Okon
Yediot Aharonot, June 10, 2008
Boaz Okon is a prominent jurist, was a judge on the Jerusalem District Court and registrar of the Supreme Court, and since his resignation in 2006 is the juridical commentator of Yediot Aharonot. The following article appeared not only on the op-ed page, but also with a box, containing a summary, placed conspicuously on the paper’s front page – which is quite exceptional. Exceptional in the opposite direction is the fact that this article, unlike many others of Okon’s, was not included in the Y-net website nor translated to English. This I have decided to do myself.
Adam Keller
Box on Page 1 – entitled “Don’t travel on Route 443”
“There are acts for which in retrospect we would not be able to forgive ourselves. Moments for which we would ask ourselves how we could have been so stupid.
Our Supreme Court is approaching such a moment. On its desk is the appeal against the decision of the Defense Minster to block to Palestinian traffic the part of Route 443 which goes through the West Bank, and allowing passage to Israelis only. The Defense Minster gave the order to create a network of alternative roads for the Palestinians, which came to be knows as the “Fabric of Life Roads”. Which means: in the 1980’s, a narrow village road was widened into a full-fledged inter-city highway, the present Route 443. In order to achieve that, the land of Palestinian villagers was confiscated; now, these villagers are forbidden to use that route, and face new confiscation of lands in order to have new routes, with a tempting and cynical names, created for their use.
Had words been capable of dying of shame, the words “Fabric of Life Roads” would have died long ago.”

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New Labour in New Europe

It’s fascinating when some of those who disappear from view emerge through the gloom from time to time. One of the originators of New Labour, who even they found a liability, Peter Mandelson turns up as the one responsible for the Irish “No” vote rejecting European unity. This is according to Nicolas Sarkozy.
“The foreign secretary, David Miliband, this morning dismissed Sarkozy’s remarks as a ‘playful’ gesture.
‘I don’t think Peter’s turn from national figure of blame to international figure of blame is really fair,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.”

Understanding Zimbabwe

Understanding what’s going on in Zimbabwe is a tall order, but an article in today’s Guardian (20/6/2008) about who might follow Mugabe with a description of the present locus of power illustrates one aspect. The military became involved in politics after 2000 when a possible alternative to Zanu PF appeared. What the successive generals made clear is that they were not prepared to see a reversal of what they considered they had won through the liberation struggles.
In this regard socialists might have sympathies, particularly if it was clearly a peoples’ struggle. However it seems most people are seen as the enemy now and a powerful elite has emerged enjoying the privileges brought with it.

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Guantanamo firm to leave Birmingham

Hiatt the Great Barr firm, which is said to have made shackles for Guantanamo Bay, is to relocate to the US. The firm was established over 200 years ago when its products were available for the slave trade.
The company joins a long list of firms which trade in human misery, receiving considerable profits for their shareholders. Firms in the US like Blackwater and Haliburton have massive contracts supposedly for security operations in theatres of war. The people of Iraq are incensed that non-military personnel have been found responsible for killings and torture – people not covered by any rules of engagement applying to military personnel. Not that anyone from these firms who is kidnapped can expect much support from their employers. Five people taken five years ago have been virtually forgotten about.

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