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.