Monthly Archives: January 2010

Obama answers Baltimore Republicans on the economy

Carlton Duncan in Jamaica sent me this video of Obama answering an audience of Republicans in Baltimore. This blog has followed Obama’s progress from a relatively unknown name, but at a time one or two were sizing him up. Here he is shown handling a potentially hostile group of people. Interesting to see how questioners address him. The first is careful to bring in the situation of black Americans, giving Obama a letter from a little boy whose father is unemployed and apparently without prospect of a job. Patronage is something Obama is likely to face and here he deals with it with dignity and authority.

When Mandela became free

FW de Klerk talks about the decision to free Mandela. The idea of homeland for the black population fell apart as did formal apartheid.
Israel today has been compared to the apartheid state and the stalled peace process envisages a “two state solution”. How this can happen now is far from clear as Palestinian land has been fragmented and reduced with the process continuing to appease the far-right settlers. How can these Palestinian fragments be more than “Bantustans” dominated by the US-backed Israeli state? The whole population needs to live together in a single unit underpinned by equality. While we know there is still a long way to go in South Africa with mind-sets of colonial rule enduring, there are no longer the formal structures and means of oppression which are evident as Israel continues to occupy and brutally coerce Palestinians not only in Gaza but across the West Bank.
As in the former segregated South Africa the cry goes up “if we don’t do something (i.e. oppress) they will push us into the sea”. Well that hasn’t happened and with the unified state seems an unlikely possibility. At present the Palestinian population are daily facing something far worse.

How reporting the world is (mis)managed

The management of reporting is blatantly distorted in many respects. How much is the subject of investigation concerning Venezuela and achievements of Hugo Chavez:

Socialist Venezuela update

Steve Whatham is a Lawyer and member of the SLP.
“Never has a country, its people, its politics, its leader, its myths and truths been so misreported and lied about as Venezuela in the past decade.
So states John Pilger – Documentary Filmmaker (“War on Democracy”) and author of Freedom Next Time
Writing December 14th 2009 Lee Salter – gives credence to this misreporting.
That there has been a decade of propaganda by the BBC in its reporting of Venezuela.
Researchers at the University of the West of England, UK, have exposed ongoing and systematic bias in the BBC’s news reporting on Venezuela. Dr Lee Salter and Dr Dave Weltman analysed ten years of BBC reports on Venezuela since the first election of Hugo Chavez to the presidency in an ongoing research project, and their findings so truth and accuracy.
The researchers looked at 304 BBC reports published between 1998 and
2008 and found that only 3 of those articles mentioned any of the positive policies introduced by the Chavez Socialist administration.
Eva Golinger also writing on Venezuela spells out some of the people friendly policies—-
The first and foremost important achievement during the Chávez administration is the 1999 Constitution, which, although not written nor decreed by Chávez himself, was created through his vision of change for Venezuela. The 1999 Constitution was, in fact, drafted – written – by the people of Venezuela in one of the most participatory examples of nation building, and then was ratified through popular national referendum by 75% of Venezuelans. The 1999 Constitution is one of the most advanced in the world in the area of human rights. It guarantees the rights to housing, education, healthcare, food, indigenous lands, languages, women’s rights, worker’s rights, living wages and a whole host of other rights that few other countries recognize on a national level. My favorite right in the Venezuelan Constitution is the right to a dignified life. That pretty much sums up all the others. Laws to implement these rights began to surface in 2001, with land reform, oil industry redistribution, tax laws and the creation of more than a dozen social programs – called missions – dedicated to addressing the basic needs of Venezuela’s poor majority. In 2003, the first missions were directed at education and healthcare. Within two years, illiteracy was eradicated in the country and Venezuela was certified by UNESCO as a nation free of illiteracy. This was done with the help of a successful Cuban literacy program called “Yo si puedo” (Yes I can). Further educational missions were created to provide free universal education from primary to doctoral levels throughout the country. Today, Venezuela’s population is much more educated than before, and adults who previously had no high school education now are encouraged to not only go through a secondary school program, but also university and graduate school.
The healthcare program, called “Barrio Adentro”, has not only provided preventive healthcare to all Venezuelans – many who never had access to a doctor before – but also has guaranteed universal, free access to medical attention at the most advanced levels. MRIs, heart surgery, lab work, cancer treatments, are all provided free of cost to anyone (including foreigners) in need. Some of the most modern clinics, diagnostic treatment centers and hospitals have been built in the past five years under this program, placing Venezuela at the forefront of medical technology.
Other programs providing subsidized food and consumer products (Mercal, Pdval), job training (Mission Vuelvan Caras), subsidies to poor, single mothers (Madres del Barrio), attention to indigents and drug addicts (Mission Negra Hipolita) have reduced extreme poverty by 50% and raised Venezuelans standard of living and quality of life. While nothing is perfect, these changes are extraordinary and have transformed Venezuela into a nation far different from what it looked like 10 years ago. In fact, the most important achievement that Hugo Chávez himself is directly responsible for is the level of participation in the political process. Today, millions of Venezuelans previously invisible and excluded are visible and included. Those who were always marginalized and ignored in Venezuela by prior governments today have a voice, are seen and heard, and are actively participating in the building of a new economic, political and social model in their country.
The BBC has failed to report adequately on any of the democratic initiatives, human rights legislation, food programmes, healthcare initiatives, or poverty reduction programmes. Mission Robinson, the greatest literacy programme in human history received only a passing mention.
According to the research the BBC seems never to have accepted the legitimacy of the President, insinuating throughout the sample that Chavez lacks electoral support, at one point comparing him to Hitler (‘Venezuela’s Dictatorship’ 31/08/99).
This undermining of Chavez must be understood in the context of his electoral record: his legitimacy is questioned despite the fact that he has been elected several times with between 56% and 60% of the vote. In contrast victorious parties in UK elections since 1979 have achieved between 35.3% and 43.9% of the vote; the current UK Prime Minister was appointed by his predecessor, and many senior members of the British cabinet have never been elected. It will come as no surprise that their legitimacy is never questioned by the BBC.
Of particular note is the BBC’s response to the military coup in 2002. BBC News published nine articles on the coup on 12th April 2002, all of which were based on the coup leaders’ version of events, who were, alongside the “opposition”, championed as saviours of “the nation”. Although BBC News did report the coup, the only time it mentioned the word “coup” was as an allegation of government officials and of Chavez’s daughter.
The “official” BBC explanation was that Chavez ‘fell’, ‘quit’, or ‘resigned’ (at best at the behest of the military) after his ‘mishandling’ of “strikes” (which, as Hardy [2007] reminds us, were actually management lockouts) and demonstrations in which his supporters had fired on and killed protestors. In reporting this latter, Adam Easton, the BBC’s correspondent in Caracas wrote ‘Film footage also caught armed supporters of Mr Chavez firing indiscriminately at the marchers’ (‘Venezuela’s New Dawn’). The footage in question was broadcast by an oligarch’s channel that had supported the coup and was shown to have been manipulated.
Given that Chavez had won two elections and a constitutional referendum before the coup, it is surprising that the BBC privileged the coup leaders’ version of events. The democratic, restorative intentions of the coup leaders were unquestioned.
In ‘Venezuelan media: “It’s over!”‘ the BBC allows the editor of El Universal to declare unopposed “We have returned once again to democracy!”. Perhaps more significantly, in ‘Venezuela’s political disarray’ the BBC’s Americas regional editor chose to title a subheading ‘Restoring democracy’. ‘Oil prices fall as Chavez quits’ explains that Chavez quit as a result of a ‘popular uprising’.
Crucially, all of the vox pops used in the nine articles were from “opposition” supporters, and the only voices in support of Chavez were from government officials, Chavez’s daughter or Cuba. It is therefore reasonable to infer from BBC reports that ordinary Venezuelans did not support Chavez; whilst the coup was inaccurately reported as ‘popular’, the counter coup was not.
The research programme is ongoing and the researchers arrive in Caracas at the end of December for the next stage of the project.

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Haiti – reflections

Now is a time to act in the devastation which has been met with in Haiti. However Fidel Castro in Cuba, a near neighbour, is in a good position to comment and in his reflections points out what Haiti has meant in history, particularly from the point of view of people of African descent. Why is Haiti now so impoverished, like so many other countries in Southern America, Africa and so on?
Castro reminds us that Haiti was the first black state to take on the might of both British and French colonial forces and to defeat them under Toussaint L’Ouverture.The BBC site reminds us that Toussaint is one of the unsung abolitionists overlooked in so much history. The classic account is in The Black Jacobins by another outstanding figure rarely mentioned, although he lived and died in the UK, CLR james.
Venezuela is among those who reacted swiftly to the emergency.

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The “Classless Society” was announced. Who was kidding who?

Politicians like Blair like to have us believe that “class” in society no longer exists. The news that banks are still paying out something like £40 billion in bonuses indicates there remains a group for whom there are different rules.
There are two distinct groups in this respect: one has the power to decide on their remuneration, pension and perks, the other is powerless in this respect. Not only are they powerless, it is they who pay in large measure for the benefits of the other group. Of course this is a simplistic view of a complex issue, but that complexity is itself used to mask the situation which is daily made legitimate by a media industry which is part and parcel of the elitism.
Peter Mandelson it has been announced will mastermind the forthcoming election for New Labour. A shady figure who has been in and out of the background, but forever there somewhere. He’s fallen out with Brown it was announced. Was he ever with him? In the latest coup attempt by the Blairite faction he made a supreme effort to show he was still with the leader. “Joined at the hip” he once proclaimed on his relationship with Gordo. Yes “I’ve got you with a pistol in your back” he meant. It’s even been mentioned that his Lordship might himself be the next leader.
If so what side of the “class divide” does Mandy stand and/or represent? stating the bloody obvious Mandy loves money cuddling up with billionaires on their yachts and exclusive island retreats. New Labour the “Peoples Party”……. Stop me laughing. Even more serious though what was Mandelson up to during his days relatively unreported in Europe. His decisions around fishing may have benefitted Europeans, much less some African nations for whom fish mean life or death.
Mandelson has announced that New Labour cannot win with the “working class” vote alone. Well what does he include in the working class? I’m sure the group that can decide on the level of income for itself is not a natural majority yet all major parties cave into their demands, so who represents the majority? You know those who have lost their jobs and their houses because of the folly of that group, the ones that have lost their pensions, the ones who find it difficult to pay for the highly priced necessities, transport and power supplies. In this respect Brown appears less extreme. less Blairite than Mandy. Me, I’m standing for the Socialist Labour Party.

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News blackout on Gaza broken

The Guardian has written about George Galloway MP being deported from Egypt. And by the way something has been/is going on in Gaza.
According to an e-mail from a friend, Zarina, a bit more is going on like bombing raids have been resumed, although the Palestinians have also resumed rocket attacks on the Israeli border area. She writes:
“As Israeli F16s attack northern, Western, Southern and Middle Gaza
tonight, doing extensive damage, the Palestinians of Gaza are, once again,
terrorized by American bombs and Israeli genocidal policies. Viva
Palestina is still there, and the Gaza Freedom March has just finished.
For those of us, Palestinian, International and Israel who are
continuously outraged, we can still make our voices heard. Watch this
and see what happened around the world on December 31, 2009 as
Supporters marched on December 31, 2009 and January 1, 2010 to demand of
their governments, “Break the siege on Gaza, let them live in peace and
The famous song you hear, Va pensiero by Giuseppe Verdi was first
performed in 1842 when the Northern part of Italy was under the thumb of
the Austrian empire, occupied as Palestine is today. It is a song about
the plight of the Jews as they are assaulted, conquered, and subsequently
exiled from their homeland by the Babylonian King Nabucco
The song has become a plaintive cry for freedom for all occupied people
and is dedicated to the Palestinian fight for justice, from the Occupied
West Bank to besieged Gaza.
Watch for the Free Gaza announcement of a flotilla of boats to go to Gaza
in the spring.”


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Unreported Gaza

Two further press release widely unreported:
Press Release 6th January

Egyptian Police attack Humanitarian Gaza Aid Convoy

Last night Egyptian police again delayed the Viva Palestina aid convoy
carrying much needed aid from reaching the people of Gaza. Having agreed
to Egyptian demands whilst being stranded in the port of Aqaba some seven
days ago, convoy leaders agreed to re-route their journey after receiving
guarantees from the Egyptian authorities of a safe passage to Gaza.
Humanitarians from all over the world transporting the aid were attacked
by riot police in the port of Al-Arish last night (5th January). And it is
now reported that some of the activists were hospitalised overnight for
their injuries. They have since returned back to re-join the convoy
members in the port and thankfully have no life threatening issues.
British and national embassies are being kept informed of the situation.
Protests broke out when Egyptian authorities at Al – Arish ordered some
lorries to use an Israeli-controlled checkpoint. The activists preferred
the goods to be transported via Egypt’s Rafah crossing as agreed.
George Galloway who is leading the convoy said Israel is likely to prevent
it entering Gaza – This morning he told Sky News. “It is completely
unconscionable that 25% of our convoy should go to Israel and never arrive
in Gaza.”
Following Israel’s horrific attack on Gaza, people all over Britain worked
for months raising funds for aid and aid vehicles for the Palestinian
people. Those taking the aid are humanitarians from all walks of life,
who have given up a month to bring the much needed medical aid in a
gesture of solidarity with their continuing oppression under Israel’s
illegal siege.
Betty Hunter, General Secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign said,
“It is shocking that the Egyptian government is behaving in this way.
There can be no justification for preventing this aid and the people who
have worked so hard to provide it from reaching Gaza. The Palestinians
are waiting for this well publicised international convoy to arrive and
these actions of the Egyptian government, and the building of Egypt’s
steel wall signal that Egypt is colluding with the Israeli government’s
illegal siege of Gaza.”
Viva Palestina ‘The Return to Gaza’ is partnered with the Palestine
Solidarity Campaign and departed London on 6th December bound for Gaza.
For further information on the Viva Palestina convoy visit
Press information from Alice Howard on Tel:07944 512 469 or viva email:
Alice Howard
Viva Palestina UK – Administration Manager
Tel: +447944 512 469

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Gaza Convoy Hold up. Widely unreported.

Clearly there are forces at work stopping the reporting of world events. Gaza one year ago had its problems although news stories gradually circulated. However war crimes have gone unchallenged with Minister David Milliband wanting to cahnage the law to prevent the likes of Tzipi Livni answering charges,
Now the convoy taking aid to Gaza one year on has met with resistance mostly at the hands of the Egyptian authorities. The elite world order is well in place with poor and dispossessed left to fight it out, From the Al Jazeera report it looks as if the siege of Gaza has been broken but not without considerable violence occurring at the Gaza border and in demonstrations in Cairo with viscious intervention by the state.

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Snow in the Suburbs

Planning to go out but a fall of snow has delayed that a little. Very little compared to a friend I’ve just spoken to in Pembrokeshire and up north in Yorkshire where another friend hasn’t managed to get into work.
Just a little snow in the suburbs? Well a little flurry or to poses some bigger questions as we’ve been gripped in the cold for a week or more now. National Grid warns of shortages of gas and tells power suppliers to use coal. Can we now? We’ve got a huge supply of the stuff but although we continue to burn it most of it comes from elsewhere. It’s far dirtier than our own and quite a bit more costly. One of the effects of global warming is that the warming Gulf Stream could switch off making it much colder in UK. One commentator has asked “Is this it?”
First question – how far can we continue to depend on power derived from foreign sources? Which of course begs the question of how we pay for what we are now using given that the multinationals control supply and price.
The Guardian the power question quickly with that of the supply of food, with minister Hilary Benn issuing dire warnings about food sustainability.
Second question – how far can we continue to depend on the huge businesses that supply so much of the food we consume? Being New Labour the role of big business is not the issue so can remain unchallenged.

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Frances-Mary Blake 1939 – 2009

Friends and acquaintances of Frances-Mary Blake will be saddened to hear of death, aged 70, in December. In the mid-1970s she sorted and catalogued one of the largest collections of historical documents of the civil war period for the archives department of University College Dublin. Following her work on the papers of Republican officer Ernie O’Malley, she edited his best-selling book on the civil war, The Singing Flame. Frances also worked on and wrote the introduction for Raids and Rallies, another book extracted from O’Malley’s papers about the war for independence. Later she wrote The Irish Civil War – and what it still means for the Irish people, which outlined her own views of that period
Frances-Mary Blake was born and lived in Rickmansworth, on the north-west outskirts of London, later moving to nearby Chorleywood. She had a varied selection of jobs; working in a library, in broadcasting, as a purser on the Cunard lines, as an editor for the publishers W. H. Allen and then with the British Waterways Board. Her mother, Mollie, was Irish and Frances inherited from her a love of Ireland. She often spoke about the happy family holidays in Donegal and later Kerry.
Frances was an active member of the Troops Out Movement and we remember her as a passionate campaigner for human rights and against injustice. As an ardent defender of the Republican Movement she deployed her gifts as a letter writer to challenge its critics such as politicians and public commentators in sharply worded, clearly argued letters. She also wrote a great many letters of support to Republican prisoners, some of whom she visited during their incarceration. Many prisoners and their relatives became lifelong friends. All her works were well received and often inspirational to many who shared her ideals. But Frances will be best remembered as a writer, especially for her contributions to the Ernie O’Malley books.
Frances-Mary Blake was born on 29th March 1939. Last November she was admitted to hospital after a period of illness. She died on 5th December. After a Catholic service she was buried in Woodcock Hill Cemetery, Rickmansworth, on 14th December.
Frances was devoted to the cause of Irish independence and gave much of her time and talents in campaigning to achieve that end. We remember her with deep affection as a dear comrade and we know that there will be many people in Britain and Ireland who will wish to pay tribute to her unique contribution.

Troops Out Movement

3rd January 2010

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