Monday 31 December 2007

You don't know Jack, Straw!

I've never been a fan of Jack Straw. In 1996, even before New Labour were elected, he enraged me with his (later implemented) plans for curfews on young people (my views on curfews can be found at the No Curfews On Kids website). And while in government, he has proved to be a horrible right-winger.

So alarm bells rang when he made his recent comments that the Tories are 'resonating' with the British public (BBC News: Tories 'resonating', admits Straw). He then says New Labour must 'adapt' to survive; I fear by that, he means the government must move even further to the right-wing.

His out-of-touch comments echo the excuse given by the government and the Establishment to explain the low voter turnout back in 2001, that people were not voting because they were "contented". As if the many people who had lost jobs when several factories (eg Ericsson's UK mobile phone factories) closed, the people with disabilities who were having their benefits attacked, and others , were 'contented'!!!

This time, to be fair, Jack Straw does acknowledge "the government's recent woes" - although he fails to mention that the New Labour government has been the best-selling (miaou!) author of its misfortunes.

Yes, the Tories are ahead in the opinion polls. But that is less likely to be due to the Tories gaining in popularity, and is more likely due to the other parties failing to gain from the government's growing unpopularity. The Liberal Democrats have had a question-mark hanging over them during the leadership contest, as it was impossible to know what policies their next leader would pursue. The Green Party have been deciding whether to have a leader at all (personally I think they would have been better off staying without a single leader). UKIP never really recovered from when their leader, Robert Killjoy Sulk, took off a few years ago, to form Veritass. Respect are still recovering from when their leader took off, and took a substantial number of members with him. On a happier note, the BNP has split in two (detailed on the Stop The BNP website), following internal strife (Night of the Long Handbags, perhaps :-P)

But none of this makes the Tories a good alternative. After a brief and shallow attempt by Cameron to move the Tories away from Thatcher and Major, the party has reverted to its nasty right-wing self, with such right-wing proposals as the imprisonment of immigrants who overstay their visa. And there have been rumblings of disquiet among a number of traditional Tories, who dislike Cameron's attempts to modernise the party (for better or for worse). So, in the longer term, the Tories may well suffer the same in-fighting which has plagued the other parties lately.

In a way, Straw is right to say that "the government must adapt in order to survive". It must stop pandering to the capitalist Establishment, and start listening to the working class people who elected it in the first place!

Sunday 16 December 2007

Solidarity with Tommy Sheridan against the Establishment

Tommy Sheridan, the founder of the left-wing Solidarity party in Scotland, has been arrested on charges of Perjury (BBC News: Sheridan charged in perjury probe). These charges date back to August 2006, when he successfully sued Murdoch's News Of The World newspaper (hardly a bastion of the truth!) for libel.

This won't be the first time the Establishment have launched a vindictive campaign against someone who has opposed them and exposed their lies. A similar campaign was launched against George Galloway, the founder of Respect; the capitalist Establishment tried time and time again to frame him on allegations that he was in support of, and even took money from, Saddam Hussein's regime. However disappointed I am with the split within Respect, I remain certain that Galloway was not involved in any corruption to do with Saddam Hussein or Iraqi oil.

It also seems a bit too coincidental that Sheridan has been arrested now of all times. Just as the government are in deep $#!t over missing CDs, dodgy donations, the return of fuel protests, and a number of strikes and protests. Surely they wouldn't be trying to recover support among Scottish workers by discrediting the left-wing opposition, could they ?!?

Sunday 25 November 2007

Swimming against a tide of hate

It's not often I agree with something I read in the Daily Telegraph. (No, this has absolutely nothing to do with Respect and the split between the SWP and George Galloway, lol). Or have any sympathy for the military. But then I read the Daily Telegraph's Disabled veterans jeered at swimming pool news report.

It really is appalling how common disability prejudice is in our supposedly "civilised" society, and how deep it runs. This ignorance is far from unprecedented; as far back as 1998 I was banned from using certain facilities at a local swimming pool because of my disability, and 2 years ago the parents of a disabled girl (involved with the local "A pool for Megan" charity) were abused by other parents at a local country park for "scaring their kids".

What is unusual this time is that disabled combat veterans - normally treated as heroes, even by the Establishment - are the subject of such abuse. It is true that our soldiers - who have been recklessly sent to fight illegal, immoral and dangerous wars by our government, for the benefit of the British and American capitalist Establishments, and have been killed and maimed for oil - deserve far better than this!

Yet it does feel bitterly ironic that disabled military veterans are now on the receiving end of such prejudice; back in 2000, a heavily-charged debate about whether people with disabilities should be employed in non-combat jobs within the armed forces flared up, as a result of General Guthrie (then head of the British Army) decrying such a possibility. (My views on this issue can be found at Red Disability's Disability and the British Armed Forces article - which has itself attracted an amount of feedback, both positive and negative).

The usual myth parroted by the Establishment is that disability prejudice is a part of "human nature" and therefore "apolitical". But disability discrimination and prejudice are very much a product of capitalism and propagated by the capitalist Establishment - my views on that matter can be found in more detail on Red Disability's Is Human Nature a barrier to Disability Rights article.

More recently, it seems too coincidental that disability prejudice is rearing its ugly head again, so soon after the government has announced plans for yet another attack on Incapacity Benefit claimants. Apolitical? Maybe. Maybe the German Nazis sent over 100, 000 disabled people to the gas chambers just for a laugh ...

The individual parents responsible for such abuse should be dealt with; what I find "scary" is that such parents are not just brainwashed themselves, they are actively helping the Establishment to brainwash their kids with such poisonous prejudice. (Although the idea of "naming and shaming" them goes even further than my idea, mooted in July in my Register of emotion article on this blog, for a "hate crime offenders register"!)

But to stop others like them, we must first get rid of the root cause not just of disability prejudice (see Red Disability's Got a problem? article) but also of racism, sexism, homophobia, ageism, and countless other forms of oppression. Namely, the capitalist system.

Friday 23 November 2007

The road to Hell

It's virtually impossible not to sympathise with the road hauliers who are threatening to re-start fuel price protests, and I - along with countless other motorists - wish them luck. Caught between the taxman bleeding me dry, and the capitalist petrol companies forever hiking the fuel prices (and their profits), I certainly feel more badly stung than someone who's had a naked romp in an ongaonga tree!

As if the petrol price hikes aren't bad enough, the ever increasing car tax and the threatened road-pricing plans are also igniting considerable anger. What's more, the new structure of car tax discriminates against older cars, driven predominantly by working class people who can't afford newer models - my car is a 1.9 litre Renault Laguna diesel, in a high tax bracket because it's over 1.5 litre. and was made before 2002. (OK, maybe it's a "chavmobile", but 1.9 litre for a diesel car is hardly a "gas guzzler" is it ?!?)

All, officially, in the name of cutting CO2 emissions from cars and protecting the planet. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for protecting the planet and stopping the greenhouse effect, and on a selfish level I'd like to see less traffic on the roads - it's no fun at all being stood for ages in traffic jams (or, to be politically correct, "congestion") when you're already late for work.

However, I'm extremely sceptical about whether the increasing costs of motoring are going to have much - if any - impact on car use. Any motorist who's run into debt paying for fuel, taken out an IVA to pay for the car tax and insurance, and auctioned their organs on ebay to pay for repairs, will tell you that motoring ain't cheap!

So what is the solution? To answer that, we must look at what is causing the problem...

Many of us (myself included) must commute long distances to work. This can be traced to the decimation of local jobs, notably the closure of coal mines and steelworks in the 1980s and early 1990s, and there have been several factory closures and cutbacks in public sector jobs since. Not just under the Tories, but also under the current Labour government which is now laying the belt into those of us who now have to travel much longer distances (50 miles in my case) to work.

It's not just to work we have to travel. Local shops are being replaced by out-of-town shopping centres, so we must travel to do shopping. And the "school run" has been aggravated by the increasing selection in schools, gathering pace as a result of the government's obsession with new PFI schools and "specialist" acedemies, leading many kids to travel larger distances to school.

At the same time, public transport has seen cutbacks in services and/or fare hikes as a result in privatisation, and the profit motive now takes priority over the welfare of commuters, let alone the environment.

The closure of local workplaces and the centralisation of production in a few large workplaces (often abroad) has at the same time increased the number of lorries on the road, as goods must be transported further than when they were producd locally. What's more, back in the 1980s, we saw a massive increase in the number of lorries as a result of Thatcherite moves to weaken the railway unions, by encouraging the use of road transport. So it is sweet and fitting that the lorry drivers are now turning against the same capitalist Establishment which gave them that power (but has so long denied them the wages and working conditions they are entitled to).

So any bogus solution based on attacking motorists in the wallet, or any other underhand method (such as making it harder for young drivers to get driving licences and easier to lose their licences, or charging disabled drivers for parking), ain't gonna have much effect. Just as taxing cigarettes heavily is not going to deal with the nicoting addiction, so taxing road transport more heavily is not going to deal with society's addiction to the motor car.

The answers lie in:
  • creating more local jobs and services, to reduce commuting by workers and excessive transportation of manufactured goods
  • renationalising public transport to provide affordable, regular and frequent services (including off-peak services, to accommodate shift workers)
  • central planning of the distribution of goods and services - it is wasteful when two lorries carrying the same product pass each other on the motorway, going in opposite directions!
Only these measures can properly protect both the planet, and the living wages of ordinary working class commuters.

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Who will face the music over missing disks?

In a category 5 blunder, 2 computer disks containing the details of 25 million people - children included - have been lost. These disks contained sensitive data relating to child benefit claims, and the blunder was by HM Revenue & Customs. (BBC News: UK families put on fraud alert).

The immediate fall guy for this fiasco seems likely to be the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Alistair Darling. Not that I have any sympathy at all for Ali D; he is a horrible right wing Blairite, who was responsible in 2001 for the government's first wave of attacks on Incapacity Benefit claimants. But the buck certainly does not stop there ...

Catastrophic mistakes like this are made much more likely as a result of overworked civil servants due to an understaffed civil service. For this, Gordon Brown himself must shoulder a heavy responsibility - even before he became Prime Minister, as far back as the early 2000s, he moved to decimate the number of civil service jobs in the name of a "war on bureaucracy". (Yeah, I know that sounds good coming from a government which has brought in more petty legislation than it's possible to keep track of, but that's the phrase I seem to remember them using!)

Whether or not Brown, or Ali D for that matter, end up resigning, there will be repercussions. For starters, they'll find it virtually impossible (I hope!) to force through their "pet project" of ID cards, since nobody trusts the government to hold information about us now. And the fact that a private courier, TNT, were responsible for the loss, will hit the government's plans to privatise the Post Office.

Ah well, you can tell when the government are in deep $#!t. Because they always try to take people's minds off it, by dredging up the threat from the bogeyman of the week. This week it's the turn of under-age drinkers (BBC News: PM urges action on alcohol sales).

So, if you're under 21 years old or look it, you'd best have some ID, to avoid being given the Spanish Inquisistion by the sales staff when you go to buy alcohol. Of course, you could apply for a government/police approved proof of age card, by giving your details to whoever is in charge of issuing these cards.

You never know, maybe these details will end up on the follow up disk to HMRC's current smash hit :-P

Saturday 3 November 2007

Shove Trident up Brown's ass!

Although the political scene seems bloody depressing at the moment, there is a rare ray of light shining through the hurricane. And it's from a rather unusual source - namely the Liberal Democrats.

One of the main contenders for the Liberal Democrat leadership, Chris Huhne, has pledged to scrap Trident if he is elected (BBC News: Trident divides Huhne and Clegg). For a number of years, I've considered the Lib Dems as the best of the 3 main parties, if only for their support for Proportional Representation and the lowering of the voting age to 16. But if Huhne is elected, I will be very glad because, for first time since the 1980s, we will have a party opposed to the lethally dangerous, squanderously wasteful, abhorrent monstrosity that is the Trident nuclear weapons system - which the government have committed themselves to squandering £76 billion of taxpayers money on replacing.

I have been anti-nuclear weapons for a very long time. In fact, I left the Labour Party (OK, I admit, I used to be a Labour Party member, how embarrassing) back in 1988 when they sold out on nuclear disarmament.

To read the truth about nuclear weapons and the threat they pose to world peace, and how to campaign against them, you could do far worse than visit the CND website or the Stop The War website.

Thursday 25 October 2007

Hitting a sour note

Probably the most frustrating (depressing, even) aspect of the current disunity among the left in general, and the troubles within Respect in particular, is that it is happening at a time when we need an alternative to the Establishment parties more than ever. While we are fighting amongst ourselves, the Establishment in general, and the government in particular, are at their most able to piss on working class people with impunity. And that's exactly what they are doing...

The latest example is the government's continuing refusal to ban the smacking of kids - completely ignoring advice from Children's Commissioners from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the NSPCC (none of whom are exactly radical!) The continuing legality of physical child abuse would be bad enough anyway, and is made worse by the sheer hypocrisy of it all - the same government and Establishment which refuses to ban smacking, has often hypocritically used the excuse of "protecting children from abuse" to draft legislation and other measures which curtail our civil liberties.

Needless to Say, the Tories are behind New Labour on this one. just as New Labour have become like the Tories, so the reverse also applies. Meanwhile, the real left opposition (as opposed to the nakedly capitalist, pro-Establishment governing party which masquerades as a "workers' party" when it suits them) are at each others' throats.

We desperately need to stop fighting each other, and unite to give the Establishment the good belting it deserves. The sooner the better.

Otherwise not only young people, but the working class in general, certainly won't "thank us later" :-(

Monday 22 October 2007

Black police showing out for the white cop?

The outgoing (good riddance!) president of the National Black Police Association has called for an increase in the stop-and-search of young people by Police (BBC News: Call to increase stop and search). Such a move would not only alienate young people, who have already seen their rights eroded by dispersal orders, ASBOs, increasingly strict age restrictions, etc. Even some senior black police officers have warned that it would, in effect, lead to more black kids being targeted, as a result of racial profiling - already, black youth are 6 times more likely to be stopped and searched than whites.

Before I go any further, I'd like to point out two points.

First, I have no sympathy for gang members who engage in criminal activity, or carry weapons such as guns and knives - one only has to look at America to see the horrendous results of guns being in common use (freely available in the USA), namely an appallingly high murder rate, including the horrendous school campus shootings which are becoming increasinly common.

Secondly, I have no animosity towards individual Police officers - many joined the Police with the laudable aim of making their communities safer, many are from working class backgrounds (it should be noted that crime disproportionately affects working class communities).

My argument is with the Police as an institution - an arm of the state, which is run by the capitalist Establishment, the Police's job is to do the bidding of said Establishment. Indeed, the same capitalist Establishment, and its puppet political parties, are responsible for the increasingly unjust and repressive laws which the Police's job is to enforce.

In addition, the alienated (in the Marxist sense) nature of policing tends to make police officers see people as either victims or criminals, rather than as people. This can encourage stereotyping of groups of people (eg racial profiling), and is exacerbated by the "canteen culture" which is notably strong in the Police.

It is these factors which have led not only to the call for more stop and search, and for increasing Police powers in the form of ASBOs etc, but also to horrific mistakes such as the killing of Brazilian "terror suspect" Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005, and the botched hunt for the murderers of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in the early 1990s.

At the same time, the Police are not immune from the pressures affecting other public sector (and most private sector) workers, to meet targets. The resulting need to "keep the numbers up" on arrests etc runs the risk of Police anding up chasing easy targets, often petty criminals, rather than the real scumbags whose arrest and conviction takes more time, effort and resources. The need to meet targets may also lead to the increasing use of police informants (a practice which is locally nick-named the "green giro"), which can sometimes do more harm than good to the community when these informants abuse their near-immunity from arrest and prosecution.

So what is the answer? We don't agree with vigilanteism, which leads to self-appointed vigilantes meting out their own definition of "justice". The dangers of vigilante "justice" were epitomised by the "anti-paedophile" mobs of the early 200s, which led to innocent people being killed due to hearsay, and even a paediatrician (child doctor, for any News of the World readers out there!) being hounded out of his home by threats.

What I would like to see, is the laws being made by working class people for working class people, to protect us and our community rather than the Establishment and the capitalist system. The enforcement of these laws could not be carried out by the existing state - it would necessitate the creation of a workers' militia, run by and for workers.

For this to happen, workers would first need a revolution to overthrow the capitalist Establishment and smash the capitalist system.

Thursday 13 September 2007

New Labour on borrowed time?

Alistair Darling, the chancellor, has issued a warning on consumer debt (BBC News: Chancellor warns on consumer debt). Since he daren't attack the rich bankers (typo?) and had said he has no plans for tighter regulation, he has resorted to hectoring those who borrow money.

But why are so many people borrowing so much, and running into debt. Darling, along with many in the capitalist Establishment of which he is a part, is implying that if we run into debt we are either greedy or feckless.

Surely the rising level of debt has nothing to do with low wages, increased living costs, Brown's attacks on public sector pay, the increases in tax for the less well off while reducing the taxes on the rich, and the increasing struggle of many people and their families to make ends meet - has it?

Besides, what right has Mr Darling to lecture us on debt, when his own New Labour party is in debt to the tune of over £20 million, despite its donations from rich tycoons (BBC News: Labour gets most cash from donors). Then again, maybe they were hoping to consolidate their debts into an easy-to-afford Lordship ...

Of course, when politicians run up debts to rich capitalists, it's not their car, house or possessions which get sold.

It's their principles that get sold out. And their voters that get sold down the river :-(

Tuesday 11 September 2007

Striking a blow for the working class

I'm very glad to see the TUC have voted for co-ordinated industrial action this autumn, against this government's attacks on public sector wages (BBC News report: Unions back 'co-ordinated' action)

So far, we've already seen a number of strikes; the Prison Officer's strike (backed by Respect), the London Underground RMT strike (likewise), Post strikes (Socialist Worker report), NHS disputes, need I go on? And this is just the beginning ...

Brown has proved just as bad as Bliar when it comes to trade union support, threatening the prison officers' union with legal action and dismissing union demands for an above-inflation wage increase (BBC News: Brown rejects unions' pay demands). Hardly surprising New Labore (mis-spelling) are as bad as the Tories; like the Tories, they are getting an increasing percentage of their money from rich capitalists and not from working class people (most recently, Lord Sainsbury chucked £2 million in their direction).

Trade union industrial action is most welcome, and I support it utterly.

In addition, there are other ways in which the unions could kick New Labour's Brown eye. For starters, W-H-Y-? are so many trade unions still using their Political Funds to prop up a government which does nothing but kick them, and their members, in the teeth??? I think all unions should democratise their political funds, and follow the lead of the RMT and PCS by no longer giving their money to Labour.

True, Trade Unions do need the support of a political party, which can complement industrial action in the workplace by fighting for their members in Parliament and councils. And we need a party which will listen to our demands and represent our class, not the bosses and capitalists.

But New Labour ain't that party!!!

Tuesday 17 July 2007

Suspension of disbelief

Why is everyone so horrible to George Galloway? Less than 2 weeks after he was heckled during a meeting at Marxism, the political Establishment are now planning to suspend him from the House of Commons for 18 days.

His crime? To defend himself against a smear campaign that he was acting dishonestly in relation to the Mariam Appeal, of which he was involved. (If you are unaware of the Mariam appeal, you can find more details about it on Wikipedia). And to make his accusers look like the muppets they are!

Mr Galloway's response can be found on the Respect Coalition website. To put things into context, it helps if you bear the following in mind:

Firstly, the Mariam Appeal was not a charity, nor was it set up as one. It was a campaign against the sanctions on Iraq (which banned many medical items, even insulin!), by highlighting the suffering they caused to children with cancer (such as Mariam).

Secondly, the Oil For Food programme in Iraq was not managed or overseen by Saddam Hussein's regime or the ruling Baath Party. It was instigated by the USA, was a tool of the Western Establishment, and had to follow strict rules - notable on what Iraq could or could not import.

Thirdly, the fact that the Mariam Appeal may or may not have received donations from people who may have been less than perfectly honest, does not detract from the appeal's aims or motives. I seem to remember that, before his death, the pensions thief Robert Maxwell was famous for his charitable donations. Are all the charities he donated to, now to be investigated??? Much more recently, Labour Party fundraisers now seem to welcome criminals ... not to mention a convicted rapist :-(

As for the claim that George Galloway is bringing the House of Commons into disrepute ...

It doesn't need his help, mate!

Friday 29 June 2007

Outside the realm of sanity

As the joy of Bliar being forced out ebbs away, I now face the prospect of life under Brown.

I never had any illusions in him - he is a right wing bastard who, as Chancellor, abolished the 10p tax rate and in doing so made poor people pay more tax so the middle class could pay less tax. He also supported Bliar on most issues, notably the murderous Iraq war. So I am not disappointed by his latest move - ie bringing "outsiders" into his government, rather than give an inch to the left within his own party.

The most sickening of these appointment is to award the job of Trade minister - the head of the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform - to former CBI chief Sir Digby Jones.

In case you don't already know, the CBI - Confederation of British Industry (or should that be Capitalist Bastards Inc?) - is the organisation of the bosses of big business, the capitalist exploiters in the UK. Not that New Labour has ever given a $h!t about regulating the worst excesses of big business, allowing them to sack workers and move jobs abroad while giving themselves obscene pay rises and bonuses. But now the capitalist Establishment have one of their own in charge of them - er, not to mention a former CBI boss overseeing them - there's no chance of this government doing anything for the increasingly exploited workers.

If you ask me, "outsiders" is perhaps a misleading term. Rather than seeing them as outside the Labour Party, it proves how much the Labour Party is now inside the Capitalist Establishment of which Digby et al are fully paid up members!

The reasons for New Labore (typo) being so in bed with the Capitalist Establishment were made clearer than ever by an article in last week's Socialist Worker. An article about Private Equity Firms (the politically correct expression for Asset Strippers) describes how such firms and their current and former bosses have donated millions of pounds to New Labour. No wonder Brown reckons the Labour Farty can afford to reduce yet forther the (already pathetic) influence of the Trade Union bureaucracy within the party.

Financially, he probably can, with New Labour getting millions of pounds from capitalists - including those with the morals of a Great White. However, in terms of activism, and votes, he may yet regret dissing the millions of workers who put Labour into power in the first place.

The Respect Coalition is attracting an ever increasing number of workers disenchanted with the fake workers party that is New Labour, and has already unseated numerous Labour councillors - and at least one Labour MP - in working class areas. With your help, we can unseat more of these sell-outs!

What the working class needs is a party which will not sell out to a right-wing agenda to gain middle and ruling class votes.

What the working class needs is a party which will not kow tow to the bosses and the capitalist class.

What the working class needs is a party which is run by and for the working class.

The Respect Coalition is that party !!!!!

Monday 11 June 2007

Lost in translation

So Ruth Kelly, the Blairite communities secretary, wants to cut translation (BBC News: Translation help 'should be cut'). This is touted as part of a drive to make all immigrants learn English, but it will in fact mean immigrants who do not speak good English are likely to be effectively denied help and access to many services. Especially when you consider that the funding for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes has been cut (Socialist Worker: "Demonstrating for Esol: out to stop language cuts")

One area in which translation is especially valuable is in legal proceedings, such as police interviews and court cases. Coupled with institutionalised Islamophobia and institutional racism in general, a lack of translation facilities - and foreign defendants not properly understanding the proceedings - is likely to lead to more miscarriages of justice. Ah well, I suppose it means the Establishment can lock up more innocent people without having to extend the period of detention without trial ...

Forcing the English language on people, through international imperialism and by repressive behaviour at home, is not new. The whole push for immigrants to speak English (it has been suggested they even speak English, rather than their native language, at home!), has echoes of the hated Welsh Not which was common in 19th Century Wales. The Welsh Not was hung round the neck of school kids who spoke Welsh, and the last kid to still speak Welsh was beaten. (I sure hope the Establishment today don't go as far as using child abuse to force people to speak English ...). Personally, I'd love to see a Welsh "Knot" around the necks of Ruth Kelly and all the other xenophobic bastards in the government and in the Establishment in general!

As I've said before, if the Establishment really want us all to start using English, they can start using it themselves. Instead of confusing us all with jargon and soundbites - such as "modernisation" to mean "selling out", "rationalisation" to mean mass redundancies and cutbacks, and "integration" to mean cloning!

Thursday 7 June 2007

Register of emotion

I see the Home Secretary John Reid wants to bring in a Terrorist Offenders Register, similar to the Sex Offenders Register (BBC News: Terror detention to be reviewed).

This isn't the only link between sex offences (notably paedophilia) and terrorism (notably terrorist bombings). Both are terrible crimes which horrify the vast majority of people, of all races and religions. At the same time, both are the subject of a moral panic, which in its wake has brought legislation and other measures which are rather more controversial.

Last week's Socialist Worker had on its front page, an article about an Asian muslim who was arrested in London for taking a photo which the Police thought was connected to terrorism ... a photo of Tower Bridge! (Socialist Worker: I took a picture of tower bridge and was arrested for terrorism). This has stark parallels with the moral panic over innocent photos of children (my views can be found on this web page).

As for the Offenders Register, the problems - as with the Sex Offenders Register - are not so much with the idea itself, as how it is likely to be implemented. Miscarriages of justice have occurred with the Sex Offenders Register, the Birmingham Sunday Mercury in 2004 reported the case of a 14 year old girl being forced to sign the Sex Offenders Register for a crime which she was later cleared of in court (Sunday Mercury: Little girl forced to sign sex offenders' register). In addition, a Liberty report from 2002 notes that "Only a fraction of the 18,500 names currently on it pose a real threat to children or the wider public. The Register should be cleared of (for example) people involved in consensual gay sex, so that the Register is properly focussed on people who pose a real danger, and so the authorities who use the Register and monitor those on it can concentrate on real dangers." (Sex Offences White Paper: Liberty Initial Response).

I have also heard about people being encouraged to accept Police cautions for offences such as child pornography, on rather flimsy evidence, and ending up on the Sex Offences Register, rather than see the alleged offence go to court. Not sure how true this is, but the worrying thing is, in these days when civil liberties are under constant attack, it sounds believable.

Would a Terrorist Offenders Register be much better? Well, we can really trust the same Police who killed the Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menzes on the London Underground, to never make a mistake in their identification of a terrorist, can't we?

Then again, some people really do deserve to be on the Terrorist Offences Register. Such as the British politician who took us into an illegal war in 2003 and masterminded the illegal bombing of Iraq. (Not that we need a register to know his whereabouts right now - his every movement and action, no matter how trivial, seems to be all over the media, >yawn<).

Also, why should it only be sex offenders and terrorists who are on a register? Just as the Sex Offenders Register and the Terrorist Offenders Register are to protect innocent people from sickos, I think there should also be a Hate Crime Offences Register. This would detail people convicted of hate offences such as racism, sexism, disablism and homophobia. In addition, people cautioned for crimes which would not necessarily reach court, such as verbal abuse or "making fun", would also be forced to sign the register so their activities would be monitored and they could be prevented from working where they may abuse members of minority groups. After all, it could be argued that racist language and name-calling leads in the end to racist murders.

Sunday 27 May 2007

Do your homework Hodge!

Government minister Margaret Hodge's poisoned views about immigrants and council houses really are extreme - even the Nazi BNP has said that her remarks "echo" theirs! (BBC News: Hodge views echo our policy - BNP)

The attitude of racists (and of many brainwashed morons) is that immigrants allegedly get preferential treatment when it comes to housing. This isn't the case, even with council housing. Most immigrants are immediately housed in private accommodation, often bed-and-breakfast or similar, while many refugees are housed in hostels or even detention centres like Campsfield. Immigrants have to, and always have had to, join the same queue for council housing as British nationals.

Occasionally, clusters (for want of a better word) of immigrants do become eligible for council housing. This is because they tend to arrive in the UK in clusters. This may be because they have fled their own country due to the onset of war, persecution by their regime, or natural disaster. Or it may be because they have come to fill a shortage of labour, especially if they have skills for which there is a shortage at the time. Either way, after a certain time, they eventually reach the front of the queue and are housed in council (or similar council-provided) housing.

In the case of private accommodation, immigrants certainly do not get preferential treatment - quite the reverse, in fact. Like any oppressed minority, they are more likely to experience prejudice and be turned down or given inferior treatment by private landlords. (As a person with disabilities, I have personally experienced prejudice when looking for accommodation in the past. Even, in one case, blatant disablist abuse!) It hardly seems fair to, when they eventually become eligible for a secure home, tell them they must go to the back of the queue again :-(

The answer is to invest in building more council houses and renovating the existing council houses, and stop the creeping privatisation of the council housing stock. Not to blame immigrants, or anyone else, for the shortage of decent affordable housing - when the blame lies entirely with this government and the previous Tory government, who started the sale of council houses.

It's not just in housing where New Labour politicians seem to be racing with racists! Within the past year, Tony Blair himself parroted the myth that gun crime is perpetuated by black youth. And for a number of years, Islamophobia in the name of "stopping terrorism" and attacks on asylum seekers seem to have been the norm for this government. Along with calls for immigrants and their families to speak English even at home.

Well, I sometimes wish politicians and the Establishment in general, would speak English. Rather than their first languages of soundbites, spin, gibberish, and increasingly right-wing nastiness!

Wednesday 23 May 2007

Pimping an alternative

I notice the Home Office are now running radio adverts against kerb-crawling for prostitutes. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a fan of prostitution at all - it is degrading, exploitative and often dangerous work for the people (mostly women) involved. However, I am extremely sceptical about whether cracking down on prostitutes, or even their prospective clients, is really the answer.

Prostitution is hardly their first career choice. Rather, they are desperate people - according to the Home Office's own web page on the subject, "up to 95% of those involved in street-based prostitution are problem drug-users" (ie drug addicts) ", and many are homeless". Many are desperate for the income they receive from prostitution, and are unlikely to stop - rather, the problems will be driven underground.

The dangers associated with prostitution were highlighted in December last year, when 5 prostitutes were killed in Suffolk. Any crackdown will make prostitutes and their clients less likely to co-operate with Police and give information regarding violence (in the extreme case, murder) towards prostitutes. Indeed, it is often stated that in the Netherlands, where prostitution is tolerated, the incidence of violence towards prostitutes - and sex crimes in general - is much lower than in the UK.

The radio adverts emphasise the fact that kerb crawlers can be caught on CCTV. Now if we are to believe the propaganda in support of CCTV, it is supposed to make people safer. Surely, then, chasing prostitutes into relatively secluded or remote areas without CCTV, will make them more at risk!

What, then, is the answer? One possibility is for licenced brothels, preferably run as sex workers' co-operatives. In addition, regular health checks - notably STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) checks - and safe sex education, free condoms etc for prostitutes would greatly improve the welfare of prostitutes, as well as helping to reduce the incidence of STD's in the wider population.

I also think there should be efforts to bring sex workers (prostitutes included) into trade unions. This would not be unprecedented; in the USA in the 1910's and 1920's, the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World, often known as the "Wobblies") was the first to organise prostitutes. (source: The Lucy Parsons Project - Women in Textiles)

Then again, when the current government sometimes seems nearly as hostile to trade unions taking industrial action as its Tory predecessor, I don't think they'll support that idea. They'll feel much more at home taking a moralising stance against prostitutes and their clients :-(

Tuesday 22 May 2007

Disability rights or capitalist wrongs?

Remploy, a company which employs workers with disabilities, has announced plans to close 43 factories (BBC News "Disability firm to close 43 sites") - leading to calls for strike action from a number of trade unions, notably the GMB, which represent Remploy workers (GMB website: "Unions move to national strike at Remploy").

A number of disability charities have supported the closures: the BBC News article reports "Mencap, Mind, Radar, Scope, Leonard Cheshire and the Royal National Institute of Deaf People have said disabled people were more likely to have fulfilling lives by working in an 'inclusive environment'." However, the Remploy Trade Union Consortium have criticised Remploy for planning to close factories in areas of already high unemployment, and the charities for acting against the wishes of disabled workers.

Ideally, I believe it would be better if disabled and non-disabled workers worked together in non-segregated workplaces, on equal wages and equal terms and conditions of employment. However, closing factories - of whatever nature - in areas of high unemployment is unlikely to achieve this. Especially when according to Scope's own Time To Get Equal website, "In summer 2003, only 49% of disabled people of working age were in work, compared to 81% of non-disabled people in work." More likely, the factory closures would make more people with disabilities equal to non-disabled unemployed people!

In my Red Disability article on charities, I have previously argued that disability charities have always tended to operate on behalf of, rather than for, people with disabilities. The charities involved seem to be proving that point, by ignoring the wishes of the Remploy workers themselves.

Meanwhile, Remploy themselves have admitted the real reason for the factory closures - cost cutting. Whatever their public image, Remploy are acting just like any capitalist company, obsessed by profit and loss with the workers ultimately paying the price.

In reality, the best way to create an inclusive environment is by comprehensive equal rights legislation (with no exemptions), and the creation of decently paid jobs for all workers by investment in public services. Not by sacking workers, whether disabled or not!

Monday 21 May 2007

Snooping plan doubleplusungood

The ridiculous authoritarian ideas just keep coming, it seems. The latest Home Office proposals are to make it compulsory for council workers, charity workers and doctors to tell Police when they suspect someone could (I emphasise could) commit a violent crime. (BBC News Staff asked to 'snoop' for police)

What's wrong with that? Where do I start? First of all, it would put working class council workers in danger of reprisals, at a time when their working conditions are already being eroded. Along with charity workers, some of whom are volunteers; a lot less people would be so happy to volunteer their time if they knew they were seen as potential grasses and treated accordingly by people they are hoping to help. As for expecting doctors to report their patients to Police, surely that breaches the doctors' oath of patient confidentiality!

As for the criteria for determining if someone is likely to commit a violent crime: "Possible warning signs could include heavy drinking, mental health problems or a violent family background."

The law seems to provide yet another means of hammering people with mental illnesses (most of whom are not dangerous), who have already been hammered a few years ago by the Mental Health Act. But it is the latter criteria that is the most pernicious, as it seems based on the flawed assumption that "the abused abuse". Besides, how will they define "violent family background"? Considering the $#!t that used to pass for "reasonable chastisement", a substantial percentage of the population of Airstrip One, sorry, the UK, possibly fall into that category!

Recently, even the Police themselves - hardly a bastion of left-wing liberalism! - bemoaned the situation where they were arresting people for minor offences, just to meet stupid targets. Just how creating a situation, where Police are to be informed of every possible tendency towards criminality, is likely to reduce the Police's workload, I fail to see! Rather, it is likely to create yet more miscarriages of justice.

Don't get me wrong, I am against all forms of violence, and would be happy to help the Police bring the perpetrators of violence to justice. So I have a few suggestions as to who should be investigated ...

In 2003, Tony Blair, a resident of 10 Downing Street, instigated a vicious, murderous, illegal war on Iraq in which thousands of civilians, men, women and children, were killed and maimed. A number of government ministers including Tony's next door neighbour, soon to move into Tony's current address, supported this act of violence in which offensive weapons such as cluster bombs were used. Another ringleader of this gang was George Dubya Bush, currently resident in the White House in the USA. It's time all involved were brought to justice!

Friday 18 May 2007

Who watches the watchmen?

The RIP Act, anti terrorist legislation, the Criminal Justice Act, enhanced CRB disclosures, talking CCTV, etc etc - every time an illiberal act is passed, the cry goes out - not justfrom the government, but from the Establishment in general - that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.

So how come a large number of MPs, from both of the main Establishment parties, are supporting a Private Members Bill which would exempt MPs from the Freedom if Information Act ???

What's more, Gordon Brown - whose coronation as Prime Minister (there will now be no election for the post-Bliar Labour Party leader) is due in June - will not oppose the Bill (BBC News: Brown will not block secrecy bid). So much for his claims to want"to build the trust of the British people in our democracy" (BBC News: Brown makes pitch to lead Britain).

It's not hard to see why (once again) both Labour and "opposition" Tory MPs are backing this pernicious piece of legislation. The Tories started the sleaze ball rolling in the 1990s, and it has continued to snowball under Blair's New Labour government (I wonder how much peerages go for on ebay nowadays ...)

But there is an alternative to the soap-opera that is official "politics". While New Labour hurtles down Coronation street, a group of Eastenders - Respect councillors, the main opposition in Tower Hamlets - are making every effort to make their council accountable to their local constituents. And George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, is doing likewise nationally.

Hopefully in the coming years, the representation of Respect will increase not just in the East End, but nationally. We have already seen the start of this process, with Respect gaining 2 extra councillors this year.

Then, New Labour and Tory politicians and their mates in the Establisment will have nowhere to hide and plenty to fear!

Tuesday 15 May 2007

Sparkling Wiggles creators, get a life!

On the subject of YouTube, I'm glad to see they appear to have removed the appalling "Sparkling Wiggles" video.

If you aren't aware, "Sparkling Wiggles" has a 4 year old girl with a speech disability being encouraged to say "Sparkling Wiggles", because her pronunciation makes it sound like a racist phrase.

Some have argued it's not racist because the girl doesn't know what she's saying. What is true is that the girl isn't being racist.

But the video is racist, and the adults (parents?) encouraging the kid to say "sparkling wiggles" are being racist by treating it as a huge joke.

And disablist. I myself have a speech disability, so I know how it feels. Throughout my life, I've had problems with brainwashed morons encouraging me to say phrases which I have difficulty saying, just for a few alienated laughs.

In fact, this video and other cases (such as the recent case of two adults who were prosecuted for goading their kids to fight while being recorded with a camcorder) have made me question my belief that non-pornographic video recording of children is virtually harmless.

Then again, I still think it's sheer hypocrisy that Establishment TV stations get away with broadcasting reactionary carp (typo) like Brat Camp and I Smack And I'm Proud - both of which show cruelty to kids, to a massive audience. After all, if theres any truth in the Establishment's assertation that paedophiles may get sick fantasies from watching recordings of Nativity plays etc., I dread to think what must run through the same nonces' minds after watching the aforementioned video nasties masquerading as "reality TV" :-(

YouTube and whose army?

I see the US military have banned their soldiers from using YouTube, as well as several other websites - including social networking sites such as MySpace. (BBC News: US blocks soldiers from websites)

I think this is appalling. Whatever my views on war and the role of the military (UK, US and weherever), I do think soldiers should be entitled to certain rights. Such as the right to communicate with their family and friends, when they are stationed abroad.

What's more, it seems hypocritical for the US military Establishment to ban their soldiers from using such sites when, as the same article states, "The Pentagon only recently started posting its own videos on YouTube, showing soldiers in action in Iraq in a move designed to reach out to a younger audience and to show the successes of the US military" - ie for recruitment and propaganda purposes.

The excuse given for the ban is "they've (sites such as YouTube and Myspace) had an impact on bandwidth resources and network availability". Considering the sheer amount of money spent bombing Iraq and Afghanistan, I am incredulous that the military can't afford a few more gigabytes of bandwidth for their own soldiers.

In the past, videos from Iraq - taken on mobile phones - have appeared on video sharing sites similar to YouTube. Some of these show the less pleasant reality of life in Iraq, rather than the sanitized view we so often see on the Establishment TV stations.

The ban couldn't possibly be to stifle any news and views contrary to the official line - ie that of Bush, Bliar and the Establishment in both the US and UK - reaching the public gaze. Could it?

Thursday 10 May 2007

Shirebrook Respect victory in Derbyshire Times

It's not often I have anything good to say about the local press. But the Derbyshire Times (based in Chesterfield) did have good coverage of Ray Holmes' victory for Respect in Shirebrook.

What's more, they referred to Respect as the "left wing Respect party" - makes a pleasant change from the press' usual habit of referring to us as the "anti war Respect party", which implies (wrongly) that we are a single issue party.

By contrast, the Mansfield Chad concentrated more on Labour's loss of the seat than on Respect's glorious victory:

Tony Blair, you are the weakest link ...

Today, Bliar announced he is to quit as Prime Minister on 27th June. Good riddance (although, sadly, it means we've still got to put up with the right-wing, closet Tory, warmongering, capitalist bastard for another 7 weeks). Needless to say, I won't be "wanting more" as the media seem to think we will (RU listening Gordon Brown ?!?).

Across the English Channel, it seems to be a different story. The right-wing French Tory Sarkozy has won the French presidential elections, beating the Socialist Party (French equivalent of our Labour Party) candidate Royal (I never thought I'd prefer a Royal to a president!).

Among those to congratulate Sarkozy on his victory, with a fawning speech on YouTube, is none other than Tony Bliar. Hardly surprising really, Bliar has a long and sorry history of sucking up to right wing members of the Establishment, both at home and abroad.

The epitome of this is Bliar's craven support for the US president George W Bush, including sending our troops to fight in the murderous and immoral (and in the case of Iraq, illegal) wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there are countless other examples.

Soon after Bliar entered Downing Street in 1997, he met Margaret Thatcher - the Tory prime minister responsible for butchering the coal and steel industry, taking us to war in the Malvinas, and privatising everything that wasn't nailed down. Since then, he certainly seems to have taken Mrs Thatcher's advice to heart!

In 2000, he praised Army chief General Guthrie for his appalling speech which sneered at the "culture of litigation" and belittled the idea that people with disabilities could be employed in the Armed Forces. (My views on the latter subject can be found my Disability and the British Armed Forces article on the Red Disability website).

Then in 2005, he was quick to defend Ian Blair, the chief of the Metropolitan Police, after the Brazilian worker Jean Charles de Menenzes was shot dead by the Metropolitan Police. (Thought you didn't like gangs with guns, Mr Bliar!)

Throughout his reign, he seems to have been a fan of the right-wing Australian media baron Rupert Murdoch, no wonder this government's policies sometimes seem to have been influenced by The Sun and the Snooze of the World newspapers :-(

Then there's the former Italian prime minister Silvio Burlusconi, who is not only a media baron (this time associated mostly with owning several TV networks in Italy), but who invited the fascist MSI and the (similar to the Ulster Unionists) Northern League, into his government coalition. Not to mention alleged links with the Mafia.

Ah well, I guess Bliar has at least admitted making a mistake. Not for taking us into the illegal war in Iraq, pissing on the working class by sucking up to the rich, or belting our civil liberties. His biggest mistake, he says, was being too soft on poor people and thinking he could solve anti social behaviour in poor areas by investment and increasing the living standards of the most deprived people in society! He now thinks he can hold back the tide of social decline, like a Cnut (the ancient Briton king that is!), by more repressive laws, increased use of ASBOs etc.

His resignation is long overdue. As I've already stated, however, I'm very sceptical whether Brown will be much better.

I'll be celebrating the end of Bliar. But the fight against Blairism goes on!

Saturday 5 May 2007

Fascist Bastards

At midday today on BBC2, See Hear - a programme aimed at deaf people - had a feature about the deaf survivors (and victims) of Nazi Germany. It was one of those programmes which was both interesting and disturbing at the same time.

Jewish deaf people obviously were targeted worst by the Nazis, but all deaf people in Germany at the time were in danger. As well as the 6 million Jews and millions of Communists and Trade Unionists who were murdered by the Nazis, hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities ("useless eaters" as the Nazis called us) were similarly exterminated in the gas chambers.

As both a communist (I'm not ashamed of the term!) and a person with disabilities, I have an interest in making sure the horrors of Nazism are never repeated. (For my views on Nazis, see my article on the Red Disability website). So last Saturday and Sunday I was one of the group of Unite Against Fascism members who leafleted Alfreton and South Normanton (where the BNP stood, and thankfully failed to win) with anti-BNP literature.

Unite Against Fascism is a united front, a broad group of people from several political parties and other groups, whose sole aim is the defeat of fascism. Which is why SWP, Respect and Labour Party members and supporters work alongside each other while leafleting and organising against the BNP.

Whatever my views on Labour as it stands, I'd rather be ruled by Labour - or indeed by the Lib Dems, Tories or even UKIP - than by the BNP. In the same way that I'd rather have a nimbostratus cloud above me than a cumulonimbus thundercloud. Both may piss on me from a great height, but only one risks killing me!

Joys of spring but bored with Bliar's arrogance

So Blair describes the recent election results as "a perfectly good springboard" for Labour to win the next general election, does he?

Whether or nor Labour escaped a "rout", it was hardly a resounding victory, even less a resounding endorsement of his policies (or those put forward by Gordon Brown)!

By contrast, I am moderately encouraged by the results, at least in England and Wales. (Not so in Scotland, sorry to see Tommy Sheridan and the newly formed Solidarity party fail to gain any seats there).

Don't get me wrong, it's not the Tory gains that are encouraging for me. As I've already stated earlier, I don't see the Tories as a preferable alternative to New Labour. But I am pleased with the gains Respect has made (eg in Shirebrook), and the gains by other parties to the left of Labour. Such as the Green Party, who have gained 17 seats nationally (and have 2 seats on Sheffield council).

I'm also pleased the Nazi BNP have failed to make the breakthrough many feared. In some areas they made unwelcome gains this year, such as North West Leicestershire, but in others - notably Burnley - they lost seats. Let's hope this year's gains for them are similarly short-lived!

As for Labour's prospects, they may have a hope of winning the next general election.

But not if they continue with Blairite policies :-P

Friday 4 May 2007

Ray of hope in Shirebrook

Congratulations to Ray Holmes for winning for Respect in Shirebrook! After many weeks of campaigning, all the hard work of Ray (and those who helped with leafleting, canvassing etc) has paid off. I think there's likely to be a few changes in Shirebrook (about 6 miles south of Clowne), possibly on Bolsover District Council in general (which covers Clowne), in the near future :-)

Also really good to see Michael Lavalette retain his seat in Preston, and Respect's number of seats on Birmingham council rise to 2 with the election victory of Mohammed Ishtiaq in Sparkbrook.

Back to near my own backyard - Sheffield this time - good results for Maxine Bowler in Sheffield Burngreave and Miron Rahman in Sheffield Darnell, both of whom came second.

For more details on how the Respect candidates fared across the country, click here.

Saturday 21 April 2007

Establishment turkeys, regulatory chickens, or just fowl play?

So Bernard Matthews, the turkey meat company, is to get £589,000 compensation for the birds slaughtered during the recent outbreak of H5N1 bird flu there. A nice little earner for a company whose working practices helped cause the outbreak in the first place, it's a shame the laid off Bernard Matthews workers are unlikely to get proper compensation for their lost wages.

Intensive rearing of birds, whatever the animal welfare implications - according to the CIWF, "Turkeys spend their short lives crammed with up to 25,000 birds in windowless and barren sheds" (source) - the sheer overcrowding of the birds means airborne diseases (such as H5N1) will spread rapidly in such an environment.

Then there's the practice of importing birds from abroad. Whatever the risk of spreading disease, this is increasing the number of food miles - and the amount of CO2 produced - by Bernard Matthews' turkeys.

Finally, Defra "Inspectors saw gulls feeding on meat scraps which had been left in uncovered waste bins" (source). A typical example of capitalist cost cutting at the expense of basic health and safety for the surrounding area, let alone prevention of the spread of H5N1!

"Bootiful"? I think not!

Tuesday 17 April 2007

No confidence in any Establishment politician

So Gordon Brown has survived the vote of no confidence against him. I'm hardly over the moon, as I am one of the losers from Brown's recent budget. His stupid idea of scrapping the 10p tax rate is to sting everyone earning 12000-18000 a year - myself included :-( - while reducing the tax of higher earners. So much for any illusions that Brown may have been any better as PM than Bliar!

But my disappointment is tempered by the fact that the motion of no confidence was moved by Cameron and his Tories. They $#at on me from a great height while in power during the 80's and early 90s with such delightful policies as the poll tax, mass redundancies throughout the public sector (including BBC Transmission), the scrapping of student grants and their replacement with loans. On a wider level, my own local area suffered badly under the Tories as they closed the local coal mines, causing mass unemployment with all that entails. Many of the job losses happened under the premiership of John Major, who has joined in the slagging off of Blair and Brown.

At the same time, Blair and Brown have been no defenders of jobs - many jobs were lost locally when the local Ericsson mobile phones factory closed in 2001, and the government did nothing to help. Civil servants have fared even worse; a few years ago Brown threatened thousands of civil service workers with redundancy. Under the guise of the "war on bureaucracy". (Seems a bit rich for a government which has crap-flooded the legal system with thousands of petty laws since 1997 to talk about a "war on bureaucracy", but that's another story!)

I'd love to see a vote of no confidence in Blair and Brown, they've both sold the Labour Party and its supporters down the river. But the Tories have no need at all to talk, they're just a nuisance and I wish they'd keep out of it.

As for the next Labour leader, I'd love to see John McDonnell win on a left-wing platform. Better still, I'd love to see an end to the Labour-Tory duopoly on power.

Which is why I'm backing the Respect Coalition.

Tuesday 10 April 2007

Hitting the root cause

In principle, I'm all in favour of the NSPCC's latest proposal of banning the smacking of kids in shops (NSPCC urges shops to ban smacking article on BBC News). Hitting kids is a form of child abuse, and should be banned completely, in my opinion.

Why shopping centres? As the article states, shops are areas where kids (and some adults!) are most likely to have "temper tantrums" - especially when the kids want something which their parents can't afford.

I've no time at all for the right-wingers (or nonces masquerading as libertarians) who say it should be up to parents to discipline kids in any way they choose, including smacking. But I do recognise the argument that many cases of kids being smacked are a result of parents losing their patience, and that shop assistants are not necessarily the right people to intervene when that happens.

To address the root cause of why kids are likely to pester their parents for products, we must recognise that the kids are not at fault either. Through a mixture of advertising, marketing and placement of certain items in prominent positions (eg near checkouts), shops and companies use - create, even - "pester power". The capitalist Establishment love this, because kids are encouraged to force their parents to spend money, which ends up in the pockets of shopkeepers, toy and sweet companies, and other capitalists. But it also causes disappointment, with all that entails, when the parents can't afford what the adverts are hyping that week.

Which brings us to, why is there such inequality between families? Why is the gulf between rich and poor increasing, not decreasing, under an allegedly "Labour" government? Why are kids, who have no power in capitalist society, made to suffer as a result of such inequalities?

Only when we address the problems of inequality, poverty and greed, will we see a tackling of one of the main root causes of violence - from the smacking of kids, to wars between nations.

Monday 9 April 2007

Legal model is plane stupid

I'm kinda getting used to seeing new stupid age restrictions (see my previous article on age restrictions), so the ban on under-18's being implemented by some model flying clubs (as detailed in this Spiked! article) should not really surprise me anymore.

Yet what is surprising, appalling but surprising, about this age restriction is that it is not a direct result of the government (or even the establishment) having deemed model plane flying to be unsuitable for kids. Rather it is an indirect result of over zealous legislation drafted with the alleged aim of protecting children from paedophiles - for more info, see the Manifesto Club website.

In my view, by far the most pernicious aspect of the need for "enhanced" Criminal Records Bureau disclosures is that these disclosures are not confined to criminal (or even civil) court convictions. According to The Case Against Vetting report:

"CRB checks reveal offences of which people were accused but not convicted, encouraging discrimination against people on the basis of unproven accusations. Indeed, the climate of fear and precaution means that employers would feel remiss if they did not take such information into account. The ‘better safe than sorry’ approach means undermining natural justice at the expense both of law-abiding adults and the children who might have benefited from their work."

Don't get me wrong, I understand that kids do need to be protected from being harmed by paedophiles - and would have more time for vetting if the CRB checks were restricted to proved criminal convictions.

At the same time, it must be borne in mind that countless times more kids are killed each year in road accidents than by paedophiles (or even by child abusers in general). Since a disproportionate number of road accidents are caused by unlicenced or banned drivers, surely it is time to force people selling cars to do CRB checks on prospective car buyers, to make sure they're safe to drive a car.

To this end, I have set up a petition to Tony Blair, urging him to make car sales subject to CRB checks. If you agree, as I do, that kids need to be protected from maniac drivers, please sign the following petition:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Make buying a car involve Criminal Record Bureau checks

Friday 6 April 2007

Lies, damn lies and benefit claim statistics

I see the Department of Work and Pensions are to use lie detectors, to determine whether or not claimants are eligible for benefits (BBC News article: Benefit staff to use lie detector).

What's more, unlike most traditional "lie detectors" which measure a whole range of factors (such as heartbeat, skin resistance, brain electrical activity), the "lie detectors" used by the DWP will base their decision entirely on one factor along - the claimant's voice!

So, some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in society are to have their livelihood determined by technology which is still considered suspect. What's more, what about people (like yours truly) who have speech disabilities?

Even traditional "lie detectors" which base their decision on a range of physical readings of a person's metabolism, are deemed of suspect accuracy - "evidence" based on "lie detector" tests is not deemed admissable in court, for example.

But there is one place where lie detectors have been uses successfully - on The Jeremy Kyle Show. Now that's a point, if the government think lie detectors are so infallible, maybe John Hutton should invite Tony Blair (not to mention his namesake, Lord Hutton, who thinks Tony Blair's so sweet and innocent) to appear on the Jeremy Kyle Show. The episode title - "The electorate don't trust me after my 45 minute affair with WMD's"!

Wednesday 4 April 2007

Don't talk back ...

I see Mansfield (about 10 miles to the south of my home village of Clowne) is set to get Talking CCTV, as detailed in this BBC News article.

I always did feel uneasy about CCTV invading my privacy. I know the Establishment's argument of "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" - an argument I may have slightly more time for were it not for the huge glut of new laws (over 1000 since New Labour came to power) creating a glut of new offences. And then there's ASBOs, which virtually allow the Police, local Councils, and other sections of the Establishment to make up the law as they go along.

I especially find it bitterly ironic that the expansion of CCTV in recent years has co-incided with increasing restrictions on the use of Camcorders or even still photography. (Here's an article I wrote earlier on the subject).

As for the idea of CCTV cameras where the person watching can give orders to the person he is watching, it kinda reminds me of the bit in 1984 when Winston Smith was bollocked by Big Brother for not putting enough effort into his exercise. Then again, considering the current obesity health panic, maybe I'd better not give this government ideas!

Tuesday 3 April 2007

Smoke screen

I never was a fan of age restrictions, and am no supporter of the proposal to raise the age for buying tobacco to 18. Not that I like young people smoking, I just think that age restrictions - as well as being discriminatory and unfair - are likely to be counter-productive, and give an undeserved "cool" image to the age-restricted product among those under the legal age.

I'm not surprised at all that New Labore (typo) want the legal age for buying tobacco raised. This is, after all, the same government that has brought in curfews and dispersal orders for teenagers, and seems hell bent on demonising young people. Indeed, since before New Labour came into power in 1997, their trajectory to the right has been so great that they long ago left the orbit of the left (and are now on a collision course with The Sun level politics).

What is rather more surprising, disturbing even, is that the Green Party in Scotland also seem to be backing such a flawed proposal (Scots Green Manifesto on BBC website). It's a shame, as 95% of what the Greens stand for I agree with - especially on nuclear disarmament, pulling out of Iraq, protecting civil liberties, protecting the environment (obviously!). I'd still much rather vote for the Green Party than the Labour Party. (Admittedly, right now I'd rather vote for the Monster Raving Loony Party than the Labour Party, but that's another story!)

In fact, the same Scottish Green Party manifesto opposes the demonisation of young people. So it's quite possible that their policy on the smoking age limit is a "glitch". I hope so, I dearly hope it's not the start of the rightward drift that has afflicted the Labour Party and is starting to afflict the Liberal Democrats. Under the name of "modernisation". Call me a Luddite if you like, but I hate Modernisers!

On the positive side, Scotland does have a new left party which is standing for the first time in this year's elections. Solidarity, a left-wing breakaway party from the SSP with Tommy Sheridan at its helm, has a radical socialist platform. The main points of their manifesto can be found here.

Sunday 1 April 2007

Police, Sir

No sooner have I started this blog, than I notice a rather pernicious plan by the government, to give new powers to teachers to discipline "unruly" pupils (BBC News article).

These include: "Teachers will be able to discipline pupils outside school too - if they see children behaving badly on public transport, for instance."

Even within school hours, it is highly debatable whether giving teachers the power to be judge, jury and executioner is rather debatable. Outside of school hours, allowing punishments to be dished out kangaroo-court style is even more unfair.

Other measures include: "the new law explicitly states that teachers have the right to ... impose detention, including sessions outside school hours and on Saturdays". What about in areas where public transport does not allow for kids getting into school on Saturdays, or travelling home late?

Don't get me wrong, there are some "teachers' rights" I would be in favour of. Like the right to decent wages, and the right to teach the kids to learn creatively rather than to pass endless exams (like the SATs).

But these new powers are simply about controlling the kids more heavy handedly, which is a move backwards not forwards. Calling them "teachers' rights" suggests at best a very partisan definition of "rights", and is at worst a good example of Newspeak.

And what about the rights of the students? I know, it takes a brave person to support the rights of young people nowadays, when anyone who is not a child hater (or at least a hardline adult-chauvanist) risks being labelled a "paedophile". But when we consider the already announced measures to keep kids in school up to the age of 18, it seems young people are having their rights and freedom hammered by the government. Before you think it doesn't affect you, I'll leave you with the words of Pastor Niemoeller.

"First they came for the jews ..."

Hi from AKP

This is Anthony's new blog, dealing with recent news and political developments, and their implications.

It seems this government, on a weekly - sometimes even daily - basis, comes out with a stupid right-wing authoritarian idea which gets me really mad.

What's more, there sometimes seems to be no way of channeling that anger against the government. Certainly not in terms of voting, the main parliamentary "alternative" - ie the Tories - are more-or-less exactly as bad as New Labore (typo).

Where I live (Clowne), this year, there may not even be that threadbare option. Last year, in the County Council elections, Labour fielded the only candidate, who got in by default. In this year's county and parish council elections, it is far from impossible that this may be the case again.

Thankfully, even if I can't oppose the government at the ballot box, I can voice my opposition to the b***ards. Thanks to the internet - or more precisely, blogging - everyone can now voice their opinions online. This blog is my bite of the cherry.