Watch out, George, Here comes China

Tonight, George W Bush delivers his annual State of the Union Address. Amongst the topics he will no doubt dwell at length upon, will be the problem of China. For the US, China really is becoming a problem.

Based on statistics for 1993-2002, during which time China’s exports increased at an annual rate of just over 17%, the country will exceed US exports by 2010. You can bet your bottom dollar the panic button was pressed in the US some time ago.

In the opening of his book Being is Enough: Collective Self-Help for a Sustainable World , Doug Brown (Professor of Economics at North Arizona University) writes:

“…the Chinese are doing a pretty remarkable job of growing their way to American affluence. But it’s not sustainable. For their 1.3 billion citizens to live like the average North American would require the carrying capacity of about four more planets.”

I was reminded of this poignant quote when reading a lengthy piece tucked away inside The Guardian’s Society supplement last week. Lester R Brown, president of the Earth Policy Institute examined the consequences of China’s population devouring at the rate of their American counterparts.

Lester Brown writes: “China has now overtaken America as the world's leading resource consumer. Among the basic commodities - grain and meat in the food sector, oil and coal in the energy sector and steel in the industrial sector - China now consumes more of each of these than the US except for oil. It consumes nearly twice as much meat - 67m tonnes compared with 39m tonnes in the US; and more than twice as much steel - 258m tonnes to 104m.”

China also, incidentally consumed 31% per cent of the world’s coal in 2003, and accounted for a 40 per cent increase in world oil demand in 2004. In the past 10 year’s its consumption of aluminium, copper and nickel has doubled to 20 per cent of the world total.

It is reckoned that China will have the same oil demands as the US within 20 years and India will not be far behind.

Lester Brown notes: “If China were to have three cars for every four people – as in the US – it would use 99 million barrels a day. The world currently produces only 84 million Barrel’s a day.”
Lester Brown further sees the important questions as “…what if China's consumption per person of these resources reaches the current US level, and how long will it take for China's income per person to reach the US level?”

Indeed, Lester, a mega-problem of global sustainability to boot; but consider also that China’s foreign exchange reserves last year were in excess of $750 billion and are estimated to hit the $1 trillion mark by mid 2006. What is preventing the collapse of the US dollar and the rise in US interest rates is China’s purchase of US treasury bonds.

Chomsky notes: "China is already establishing relations with Iran -- and even with Saudi Arabia, both military and economic. There is an Asian energy security grid, based on China and Russia, but probably bringing in India, Korea and others. If Iran moves in that direction, it can become the lynchpin of that power grid."

There is another important question – just how long will the US tolerate such a powerful economic competitor threatening the profits of corporate America, a competitor who could collapse the US dollar and a competitor on real cosy terms with the anti-American leadership in Iran and Venezuela?

100th British Soldier Killed in Iraq

Tonight's news bulletins have focused heavily on the 100th British soldier killed in Iraq, concentrating chiefly on the impact these deaths have had on their families.

Without wishing to sound churlish, shouldn't this be called collateral damage? I don't just mean the usual US military use of the term - i.e. when a missile fired at an enemy bunker misses and hits a classroom full of kids. One hundred dead soldiers means a hundred grieving families - widows, fatherless children, childless parents etc - and also a great loss to society

The late Johnny Cash sang a powerful song about the real collateral damage of conflict, entitled The Battle, the lyrics of which are:

I think, sir, the battle is over, and the young soldier laid down his gun,
I'm tired of running for cover, I'm certain the battle is done,
For see over there where we fought them, ,it's quite for they've all gone away,
All's left is the dead and the dying, the blue lying 'long side the grey.

So you think the battle is over and you even lay down your gun,
You carelessly rise from your cover, for you think the battle is done?
Then boy hit the dirt, listen to me, for I'm still the one in command,
Get flat on the ground here beside me and lay your ear hard to the sand.

Can you hear the deafening rumble, can you feel the trembling ground?
It's not just the horses and wagons that make such a deafening sound.
For every shot fired had an echo,.and every man killed wanted life,
There lies your friend Jim McKenny,,can you take the news to his wife?

No, son, the battle's not over. The battle has only begun,
The rest of the battle will cover the part that has blackened the sun,
The fight yet to come's not with cannons, nor will the fight be hand to hand,No one will regroup the forces,,no charge will a General command.

The battle will rage in the bosom of mother and sweetheart and wife,
Brothers and sisters and daughters will grieve for the rest of their lives,
Now go ahead and rise from your cover,be thankful that God let you live
And go fight the rest of the battle for those who gave all they could give.

I see, sir, the battle's not over; the battle has only begun,
The rest of the battle will cover the part that has darkened the sun,
For though there's no sound from the cannon and though there's no smoke in the sky,
I'm dropping the gun and the sabre and ready for battle am I.

The BBC could have done us all proud and reported on the 100,000 Iraqis killed since the allied invasion and the impact on their families. One hundred thousand Iraqis dead - thousands of different skills lost, a million years of experience wiped out.
Fuck all you war-mongering, blood-drenched, jingoistic politicians; you and the


Jesus in the Dock (2)

Continuing from a previous post on this matter (see posting from 5th January) - opening arguments began on the 27th January (Friday) in Vertibo, Italy, in the case of an Italian priest accused by an atheist (and ex-priest) of breaking two Italian laws by asserting that Jesus Christ existed.

Luigi Cascioli (pictured), who is bringing the case against his childhood pal Father Enrico Righi, argues that the Roman Catholic Church has been deceiving people for 2,000 years with the myths that Christ actually existed and that he was the son of God, and that Fr. Righi has violated two Italian laws by reasserting the claim.

The judge, who heard the case behind closed doors, is expected to announce his decision - either to dismiss the case or order Righi to stand trial - later today (Monday).

Cascioli says he has little expectation that the case will succeed in an overwhelmingly Roman Catholic country, but maintains he is merely going through the necessary legal steps so he can ultimately take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, where he intends to pursue the case against the church for "religious racism."

Watch this spot - but don't build your hopes up, for Casgiolio is up against some powerful people with more powerful contacts and who depend heavily upon the Christ myth for their continued exploitation of billions of people.

David Rovics MP3 downloads for free

Fans of David Rovics (he sings political/folk songs) can download a ton of his stuff from:http://www.soundclick.com/pro/view/01/default.cfm?bandID=111310&content=music

Just right-click on the mp3 link and then click on "save target as" (ie to your desk top). All the tracks from about 12 albums are here.

Further Rovics stuff will be available for download every Friday at:


Will Bush be Impeached?

News on the grapevine has it that the Bush administration is bracing for impeachment hearings in Congress. "
A coalition in Congress is being formed to support impeachment," an administration source said. Administration sources said a prelude to the impeachment process could begin with hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee in February. They said the hearings would focus on the secret electronic surveillance program and whether Mr. Bush violated the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Elsewhere: "There is a reckoning coming," stated House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), "and it is time for Mr. Bush to pay the price for his his reckless disregard for the truth."
and: the Impeach Bush site.
and: the Impeach Bush Ad that apeared in the New York Times.
With Bush giving his State of The Union (or is it 'Onion', George) Address tonight, you can bet it will be full of wiggling and squirming and patriotic balderdash aimed at undermining any impeachment attempt.



The following comes from a hastily prepared newsletter myself and fellow comrades handed out at a Prison Abolition Seminar yesterday. As per usual, we generally get news of such meetings a day beforehand, which means I end up sitting at the pc for hours trying to put a leaflet/newsletter/pamphlet together aimed at that meeting's audience. Fellow barricadist, The Ingrate will well recall the two of us frantically racing to put together a multi-language 16 page pamphlet (figure corrected in comments below)in the wee small hours and in time for the European Social Forum being held in London, and how, on another occasion, bleary-eyed, we burnt the midnight oil putting together a newsletter for an anti-war march and sitting until about 7am printing off and folding tens of thousands of copies of the said leaflet, before heading off to that demo for an eight hour stint handing them out.

The philosophy of "detention" for offenders is one which is, at best, tenuous. It's not just the incredible idea that incarcerating for long periods men and women who fall foul of the law, in a cramped and dehumanizing environment, will result in them emerging as model citizens. No, there is something else which is even more incongruous about prisons. The paradox is, of course, that prisons house people, at great expense, against their will, while other "law-abiding" citizens are homeless. Those who behave themselves, follow the rules, and don't attract the attention of the police, have no guarantee of a home; if you do get one, it'll cost you an arm and a leg. But towards those who break the law, the state suddenly becomes very benevolent, and will give you not only a roof over your head but board too, for months or even years.

Prisons were first conceived as places of "reform" and rehabilitation (in the US they are often still referred to as "correctional" facilities) but for political and economic reasons the ethos rapidly changed to one of punishment and segregation. They are a relatively new idea, dating from the late eighteenth century, about the same time that capitalism first reared its ugly head. That is not to say that there were no sanctions employed against the dispossessed before that time; on the contrary, death and transportation were the sentences of choice, but juries were becoming reluctant to convict in capital cases and the ships bound for Australia were overflowing. With the concentration of workers in new towns and cities subordinate to the sanctity of private property, a more practical method of dealing with convicts was required. Thus, the prison was conceived.

Politicians are fond of insisting that ‘prison works’. This evaluation of course depends on what it sets out to achieve. If the intention is simply to punish the dispossessed for trying to gain a few more material goods, and act as a deterrent to potential offenders, then it could be said to be serving a purpose. However, the deterrent effect is questionable, because common-sense suggests that most criminals don't imagine they will be caught, or they wouldn't commit crimes in the first place. The likelihood of detection would surely be a greater deterrent. If, on the other hand, prisons are intended to rehabilitate offenders and reduce the incidence of crime, evidence shows they clearly do not work. Firstly, statistics reveal that once sent to prison, a person is far more likely to re-offend; and secondly, despite more people being imprisoned than ever before, the crime problem shows no signs of diminishing. The reason that politicians like Home Secretary Charles Clark continue to favour incarceration is that they are at a loss for solutions to the problem of crime, and there are always a few votes in "getting tough".

What getting tough on crime has meant in the last decade or so is a huge increase in the prison population. As of 27th January 2006, the UK Prison population stands at 75,661 (National Offender Management Service) – the highest prison population in Western Europe. The Guardian (27th January 2006) reported “there has been a 250% increase in the numbers recalled to prison for breaching their license conditions in the last five years.” Prison Service research shows that 10 of the 20 establishments with the highest incidence of suicide are also in the top 20 for turnover of population (http://www.politics.co.uk/issues/prison-overcrowding-$2111782.htm). As prisons are presently overcrowded, the building of several new ones will of course be necessary, financed entirely by central government. You'll notice that there is no restriction on prison construction, unlike public housing. And when did you last hear of a prison being closed because it was no longer "economically viable"? Hospitals, of course, do not enjoy the same security. There is now even a prison ship, hastily imported because existing prisons are filling up quicker than new ones can be built. When prison ships begin weighing anchor and hauling their "cargo" off to the Antipodes, things will have gone full circle.

If the idea of going to prison for something as trivial as failing to pay a fine seems unimaginable, then you may be surprised to discover that it is not an uncommon practice in Britain; thousands are sent to prison each year for this most heinous of crimes. Here is another paradox, to add to the pile which accumulates around this subject. People who, for example, can't afford a TV licence, are then fined more than the value of the licence which they couldn't afford in the first place. When they fail to pay the fine, they end up in jail. And here's the "double whammy" which would perplex even the Mad Hatter: the cost of imprisoning, say, a single mother for not buying a TV licence (yes, you with the blinkers on, they do put mothers of young children in prison) is likely to be forty times the cost of the licence. And they reckon that prison works?

What, then, does the convict learn from the experience of imprisonment? As illustrated above, for many the harsh lesson is that society is prepared to pay thousands of pounds to punish you, but not even a small fraction of that amount is forthcoming to prevent you turning to crime in the first place; in other words, punishing the poor and the homeless (one-fifth of the British prison population were homeless prior to being imprisoned) for nothing more than their shortage of money. It is unlikely that many prisoners emerge from the experience with a more positive attitude to the iniquitous socio-economic system which first condemns them to a life of poverty, and then, when temptation gets the better of them, condemns them again to be punished. It's no wonder that prison does little to discourage crime.

If all other things were equal, perhaps a case could be made for punishing transgressors, but as everyone knows, equality is not something that can be associated with capitalism. It's bad enough that so many are trapped in a life of poverty, yet the arrogant pitiless free market has to constantly rub their noses in it. Conspicuous inequality is what leads the poor to try to obtain a little more by any means available. If politicians wanted to reduce crime within capitalism, they would establish a system to counsel, aid and attempt to rehabilitate offenders--alas, not politically popular and not many votes in it. On the other hand, if they were serious about eradicating crime, they would identify and attempt to remove the causes of crime. This, however, would raise questions about why we need private property, money, privilege, etc.--not likely to be tackled by most politicians, as the one thing they agree on is the continuance and support of a social system in which a minority owns most of the wealth and exploits the rest of us to maintain it.

The Labour government, for all its claims to be "tough" on the causes of crime, is proving to be just as ready to cage people up in a way considered inhumane in zoos. Whichever side of the law you're on, whether you're in or out of jail; if you're poor there is one sound-bite that will always ring true: Tough on you.


Jesus Christ Again

I copy the following from the Anarchist Federation’s * December-January newsletter Resistance, which I picked up at a meeting in London yesterday and which should be read in conjunction with the earlier posting (Jesus in the dock).

THE CHRISTIAN CHARITY Breakfast Trust are upset because some switched-on, street-wise kid asked why Mary and Joseph named their baby after a swear word (Jesus Christ)! So they have spent. £200,000 making a 30-minute animated film called “It’s A Boy!”, featuring the voices, of among others, Cannon and Ball (nauseating British comedy duo), with music by the celestial Wanker Virgin Sir Cliff Richard! A copy is being sent to every primary school in Wales. Geraint Davies, secretary of the teachers’ union NASUWT thinks it’s a good resource and should be widely used in the run up to Christmas.

The indoctrination of children with a fictitious story about the birth of Jesus (the Xmas story) is rather perverted and sick considering Jesus never actually existed as a person. Yes, that’s right, he’s a construct. A myth! If you want proof check out Brian Flemming’s revealing film “The God Who wasn’t There” at www.thegodmovie.com. You will discover that the early founders of Christianity seem wholly unaware of the idea of a human Jesus. The Jesus of the Gospels bears a striking resemblance to other ancient heroes and figureheads of pagan saviour cults.
Christianity borrowed its central myths and ceremonies from ancient religions. The ancient world was rife with tales of virgin births, miracle-working saviours, tripartite gods, gods taking human form, gods arising from the dead, heaven and hells, and days of judgement.

Many of the ceremonies of ancient religions match those of Christianity, e.g. consider Mithraism. Mithra, the saviour of the Mithraic religion and a god who took human form, was born of a virgin. He belonged to a holy trinity and was a link between heaven and earth. And he ascended into heaven after his death. His followers believed in heaven and hell, looked forward to a day of judgement and referred to Mithra as “the light of the world”. They also practiced baptism (for purification purposes) and ritual cannibalism – the eating of bread and the drinking of wine to symbolize the eating and drinking of he god’s body and blood. Given all this Mithra’s birthday should come as no surprise: December 25th. This event was celebrated by Mithra’s followers at midnight. But Christians today aren’t obsessed with blood and violence, are they?

Bush: “God Told Me to Invade Iraq”. Now this cruel and bloodthirsty religion is to be used to corrupt our children. Jesus Christ indeed!

* A few decent downloads can be had from the AF site, including Resistance.


A few useful quotes for socialists (2)

This lot courtesy, one again, of Information Clearing House:

"We have stricken the shackles from 4,000,000 human beings and brought all labourers to a common level, but not so much by the elevation of former slaves as by reducing the whole working population, white and black, to a condition of serfdom. While boasting of our noble deeds, we are careful to conceal the ugly fact that by our iniquitous money system we have manipulated a system of oppression which, though more refined, is no less cruel than the old system of chattel slavery.": Horace Greeley - (1811-1872) Editor of the New York Tribune, ran against Ulysses Grant for presidency.

"The early years of the century marked the progress of the race toward individual freedom and permanent victory over the tyranny of hereditary aristocracy, but the closing decades of the century have witnessed the surrender of all that was gained to the more heartless tyranny of accumulated wealth.": Richard Franklin Pettigrew (July 23, 1848 - October 5, 1926) He represented the Dakota Territory in the U.S. Congress.

"The principal power in Washington is no longer the government or the people it represents. It is the Money Power. Under the deceptive cloak of campaign contributions, access and influence, votes and amendments are bought and sold. Money established priorities of action, holds down federal revenues, revises federal legislation, shifts income from the middle class to the very rich. Money restrains the enforcement of laws written to protect the country from abuses of wealth--laws that mandate environmental protection, antitrust laws, laws to protect the consumer against fraud, laws that safeguard the securities markets, and many more.": Richard N. Goodwin - Speechwriter for John F. Kennedy

"Big money and big business, corporations and commerce, are again the undisputed overlords of politics and government. The White House, the Congress and, increasingly, the judiciary, reflect their interests. We appear to have a government run by remote control from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Petroleum Institute. To hell with everyone else" : Bill Moyers - PBS Commentator

Court of Appeal Rules in Favour of Profit

Pleural plaques is an asbestos related condition and a sign of irreversible damage to the lungs, increasing the risk of cancer. It affects many who have worked in heavy industry particularly shipyard workers. For 20 years, sufferers of the condition were entitled to compensation. Many former shipyard workers on Tyneside, suffering from the condition, who had ongoing claims for compensation, were today devastated to learn that the Court of Appeal have overturned a previous High Court ruling that sufferers of the condition should receive compensation. For 20 years sufferers have been entitled to compensation, now they are being told to shut up and die.

No sufferers can say they were alerted to the dangers of the work they were carrying out and neither were they provided with masks or respiratory protection. Thus, their lives have been blighted because of the negligence of their former employers.

Insurance companies are no doubt rubbing their grubby little hands with glee. This Appeal Court ruling has saved them a tidy little fortune. It is envisaged asbestosis related claims will cost the insurance industry £10 billion over the next forty years, with claims for pleural plaques hitting the £1 billion mark. The trade Union Amicus and their solicitors now hope to get the Appeal Courts ruling overturned in the House of Lords. Amicus believes the ruling could affect 14,000 cases a year. Here's wishing them well.

It’s the same old repetitive story – there’s profits to be had; fuck the workers!
further info:

"No Payout": Shields Gazette

"Asbestos ruling could remove victims' right to compensation": The Guardian


Human Rights report lambasts the US

The 500 page Human Rights Watch Annual Report 2006 is now available for download.

The report shifts its usual emphasis on countries well known for human rights abuses and this time around focuses on the USA and European countries, the former for its hypocritical defence of torture.

From the Intro:

“Today, the willingness of some to flout basic human rights standards in the name of combating terrorism has deeply compromised the effectiveness of that commitment. The problem is aggravated by a continuing tendency to subordinate human rights to various economic and political interests.

“…Key U.S. allies such as Britain and Canada compounded the leadership problem in 2005 by seeking to undermine certain critical international rights protections. Britain sought to justify sending terrorist suspects to countries that torture, and Canada worked aggressively to dilute key provisions of a new treaty on enforced disappearances. These governments, as well as other members of the European Union, also continued to subordinate human rights in their relations with others whom they deemed useful in fighting terrorism or pursuing other goals.

“…even when the [US]administration spoke out in defence of human rights or acted commendably, its initiatives made less headway as a result of the credibility gap. European and other powers, meanwhile, had their own credibility problems or did far too little to correct the balance. The result was a global leadership void when it came to defending human rights.

“…torture and inhumane treatment are forbidden unconditionally, whether in time of peace or war, whether at the local police station or in the face of a major security threat. Yet in 2005, evidence emerged showing that several of the world’s leading powers now consider torture, in various guises, a serious policy option.

“Any discussion of detainee abuse in 2005 must begin with the United States, not because it is the worst violator but because it is the most influential.
“…President Bush continued to offer deceptive reassurance that the United States does not ‘torture’ suspects, but that reassurance rang hollow.

“…Moreover, President Bush’s pronouncements on torture continued to studiously avoid mention of the parallel prohibition of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment.“Needless to say, this embrace of abusive interrogation techniques—not as an indirect consequence of official policy but as a deliberate tool—has significantly weakened the U.S. government’s credibility as a defender of human rights.”

And as for British Complicity in torture:

“…Britain has adopted policies that would make it complicit in torture. In 2005, Prime Minister Tony Blair proposed sending terrorist suspects to governments that have a history of torturing such people—a policy that the United States had already adopted in a practice sometimes referred to as “extraordinary rendition…Following precedents set by the Bush administration, the Blair government proposed sending terrorist suspects to places such as Libya, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia—all governments with notorious records of torturing radical Islamists.”

500 pages later the Report focuses again on the USA:


“The United States incarcerates people at a greater rate than any other country, 724 per one hundred thousand residents. Seven million people—or one in every thirty-one persons—is in prison, or on probation or parole. Black men between the ages of twenty-five and twenty-nine are seven times more likely than their white counterparts to be in prison or jail. More than six hundred thousand people annually leave prison, most of them to return to distressed minority neighbourhoods, facing formidable barriers to successful re-entry, including laws that limit their access to education, housing, and jobs."

Death penalty

“As of November 4, forty-eight people had been executed in 2005. Evidence of the arbitrariness and procedural flaws in the imposition of the sentence continue to grow. Since 1973, 121 people have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence, including one in 2005.

Child prisoners

“While U.S. child offenders no longer face the death penalty, they do face the possibility of life without parole sentences. There are at least 2,225 child offenders sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison in the United States, an estimated 59 percent of whom received the sentence for their first criminal conviction. The United States is one of fourteen countries in the world known to permit such sentences and research suggests that there may be no more than twelve child offenders outside the United States serving life sentences without possibility of release. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by every country in the world except the United States and Somalia, forbids sentencing child offenders to life without parole.”Well worth downloading!


When Sex Sells

Though I loathe the capitalist politics his political party promote, I can’t help but feel sorry for Mark Oaten, (left) the Liberal Party MP, publicly embarrassed and his career and family life in tatters following a New of the World revelation that he had paid for sex with male prostitutes.

Sorry, but this really is a private matter and bugger all to do with anyone outside of his family. He’s paid for sex? Big deal – so have 10% of all UK men, according to the New Statesman.

Sunday’s Observer carried a timely special report entitled “Sex – Britain’s quiet revolution.” It revealed that 40% of people had cheated on their partners, that 39% per cent had two relationships going at the same time, that 15% percent had same-sex relationships, that 65% of all people interviewed believe prostitution should be legalised. With these statistics in mind Oaten seems just like your ‘average man in the street’. What on earth is his crime? Did he harm anyone? Did he stop loving his family? No!

The simple fact is that here is a newspaper that has little or nothing to say and is aware that the vast majority of people are interested in sex and so run page after page of sex-related stories. The paper is generally perceived as catering for people of a limited intellect, incapable of forming a political opinion on their own and who are inclined to pigeon hole politicians according to their sexual preferences.

As Max Hastings writes in Monday’s Guardian: “Sex offers a lazy way of passing judgement on a public figure, sparing us the difficulties of assessing their work.”

And he’s right. The NotW never bothered asking his constituents if he was a decent MP, whether he held regular surgeries, answered queries from his constituents or campaigned on the issues his voters had elected him to campaign on – which, to be honest, is what really matters – rather, they knew this was a story that would sell papers (or rather expose its readership to a hoard of advertisers attracted by a juicy story, which is what papers are all about) and ran with it.

Hastings went on: “For the media to investigate misgovernment requires endless labour for uncertain results and often little thanks from readers or viewers. Uncovering sexual lapses is incomparably easier.”

Again, Hastings is right. There are endless stories to investigate and report about – war, famine, hunger, poverty, crime and a million other problems rooted in the insane way we organise our world for production…Christ, the list is endless. But no, the seedy little sex story can be secured with a bribe in a minute over the phone and recouped when the big advertisers, getting wind that a big scandal is about to break, take out half-and full-page adverts in anticipation of a huge audience and consequent profits.

So we whittle the public humiliation of Mark Oaten and his family down to its lowest common denominator: Sex scandal sells newspapers, advertisers are attracted and the money pours in. Or: who gives a shit if we ruin someone’s life, break up their family? There’s profits to be had, goddammit!Get one thing straight! – newspapers are not there primarily to provide us with news. The news is a sideline. They exist to make money by exposing us to advertisers. If a newspaper lost its advertisers it would fold within a week.

That rant out of the way - and on a lighter note - it does seem that some politicians just never learn:


A few useful quotes for socialists (1)

One of the sites I subscribed to a while back for daily newsletters is Information Clearing House. Along with the news links I received yesterday came the daily quotes. The following are well worth copying and storing:

"The convention which framed the Constitution of the United States was composed of fifty-five members. A majority were lawyers-not one farmer, mechanic or laborer. Forty owned Revolutionary Scrip. Fourteen were land speculators. Twenty-four were money-lenders. Eleven were merchants. Fifteen were slave-holders. They made a Constitution to protect the rights of property and not the rights of man." Senator Richard Pettigrew - Triumphant Plutocracy (1922)

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of war, corporations have been enthroned, and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all the wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the republic is destroyed. I feel, at this moment, more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless." Lincoln in a letter to Col. William F. Elkins on November 21, 1864

"This great and powerful force-the accumulated wealth of the United States-has taken over all the functions of Government, Congress, the issue of money, and banking and the army and navy in order to have a band of mercenaries to do their bidding and protect their stolen property." Senator Richard Pettigrew - Triumphant Plutocracy - Published, January 1, 1922.

You can guarantee I'll be exhausting that first quote in the future. If readers of this blog think such quotes are worthwhile to post I will gladly post more in the future.

Big Brother Day 17

According to The Daily Mirror , supporters of banned Muslim cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed, have issued a fatwa denouncing George Galloway's appearance on Celebrity Big Brother.

It described the Respect MP as "the lowest of the low".

Perchance the SWP will be issuing their own fatwa soon.

I wonder if images of George, clad in his socialist leotard and coaxing an imaginary puppy, has anything to do with it?

On the Respect website George reasons at length as to why he will appear on BB. In short, George is going through this for downtrodden and oppressed workers everywhere - rather like Christ dying on the cross for our sins. Say's George: "Sure, there may be an indignity to be suffered along the way. But it will be worth it." Spoken like a true martyr.

Rumour has it that Saddam Hussein has sent George a mesasage from his prison cell in Baghdad: "Sir, I salute your courage and indefatigability."
I ask you!!

Attention readers: Captions for the photo above will be most welcome.


Venezuela - overspending on defence?

Venezuelan military spending is upsetting the US at the moment. The State Department is concerned at the country’s “outsized military build-up.” Venezuela will spend just over $1 billion this year on defence and is thus considered to be a threat to regional stability.

I really don’t know whether to laugh or cry. The country making this claim is the US, which this year has a military budget of $441 billion. Venezuela thus has 0.25% the military budget of the US, yet is considered to be over-spending!

And which country has created more instability in Central and Southern America than the USA? Just having a cursory scan through one file for Central and Southern American countries in which the US has intervened (for regime change) – and never for the better - I come up with:

Panama (1918), Honduras (1924), Argentina (1946), Colombia and Peru (1948) Bolivia (1951), Guatemala (1954), Argentina (1955), Chile (1958), Ecuador (1960), Brazil (1962), Honduras and Ecuador (1963), Brazil, Bolivia, Chile (1964), Bolivia (1966), Panama (1969), Chile & Bolivia (1970), Bolivia (1971), Uruguay (1971),El Salvador (1972), Chile (1973), Uruguay (1976), Panama (1981 & 1984), Nicaragua (1984), Panama (1989), Nicaragua (1990), El Salvador (1994), Ecuador (2000), Nicaragua (2001), Bolivia (2002), Brazil and Venezuela (2002 to date).
When it comes to instability, the suppression of democracy, human rights abuses, no country on the planet surpasses the USA in creating upset in South America, yet Washington pontificates about Venezuela being a threat?

Now, right next door to Venezuela is Colombia. Colombia, a close friend of the US, is one of the most violent countries in the world. For 40 years the country has been torn apart by a three-sided civil war that has claimed 200,000 lives. Hundreds are disappeared each month. Colombia is also the largest recipient of military aid in South America.

Despite the Colombian government’s appalling human rights record, its support for the vicious paramilitary group United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia, it has received $billions since the start of Plan Colombia in 2000. The country is also to receive a new squadron of fighter jets by 2007.

Back in 2004, the first country Dubya Bush (pictured above with President Uribe) visited upon re-election was Colombia. He praised the government’s anti-narcotics and ant-drugs policies and promised another $500 million for the noble cause – it was after all helping the US in a big way. Well, not really. In fact, a study by the Washington Office on Latin America found that cocaine is 31% cheaper on the streets of the United States than it was before Plan Colombia was initiated.

With the amount of crap Venezuela has had from the US in recent years - what, with a coup attempt against Chavez and the stirring up of hostility between Colombia and Venezuela – I’m rather surprised the country’s military budget is so small, especially as Venezuela has sizeable oil resources and Washington has all but announced that it has a divine right to all the oil in the world and will control it by hook or by crook. Maybe Chavez just thinks $1 billion is more than enough to defend the interests of the country's corporate elite?

RENDITION TO TORTURE - when ignorance is no excuse

“Ignorance is no excuse in law”. I must have heard this saying a thousands times, usually in reference to some poor sod who has committed a crime without knowing it; maybe receiving an item they did not know was stolen and facing a fine heftier than the scally that nicked it, or fined for some traffic offence they were oblivious of.

I was reminded of this saying when reading Martin Bright’s article “Rendition: The cover up" in the current issue of New Statesman, and a piece referred to by Nick Cohen in a section headed “Hear no evil, see no evil” today’s Observer.

The New Statesman made much use of a secret memo, downloadable from the New Statesman site. In a nutshell, as Tony Blair geared himself up to face Commons questions about British participation in extraordinary rendition in early December, his officials asked the Foreign Office for a briefing document. The consequent memo, signed by Irfan Siddiq, a private secretary at the Foreign Office, and addressed to Grace Cassy, assistant private secretary at No 10 Downing Street, reveals a government with its head up its arse.

While the FO concedes that extraordinary rendition “is almost certainly illegal” (“almost?) and that were the government to co-operate in it “such an act would also be illegal,” the FO, quite simply does not know if this has actually happened.

The memo ask the key question: "How do we know whether those our armed forces have helped to capture in Iraq or Afghanistan have subsequently been sent to interrogation centres?" And the answer offered is: “Cabinet Office is researching this with the MOD. But we understand the basic answer is that we have no mechanism for establishing this, though we would not ourselves question such detainees while they were in such facilities.’"

Further on, aware that the law may have been broken, anticipating the grilling Blair will get in the Commons when it is realised he is totally oblivious of CIA extraordinary rendition flights and whether Britain knew about them the Foreign Office counsels Blair on how to handle the matter:
“We should also try to bring out the other side of the balance…the need to balance the rights of the suspected terrorist against those of the potential victim.

“We think we should now try to move the debate on from the specifics of rendition…and focus people instead on Rice’s clear assurance that all US activities are consistent with their domestic and international obligations and never include the use of torture.”

That every other European government almost pissed itself laughing when Condoleezza Rice – during her recent damage limitation tour of Europe – told them the US is not into torturing suspects seems to have passed the FO by.

I somehow doubt the government will be able to move the debate on and fob us off with whatever Washington wants us to believe, Not least because further revelations of CIA renditions flights via Britain are continuing to emerge and because the chief of Greater Manchester Police has launched a criminal investigation and parliamentary groups are looking deeper into the issue.

I can’t help but agree with Nick Cohen who, referring to the way New Labour survives such scandals, says:

“Tony Blair escapes because enemies always hit him with the wrong charge. This scandal is not about what the government does know but has covered up, but what the government doesn't know but should.”

Too bloody true. “Ignorance is no excuse, m’lud. The Jury finds the defendant guilty and therefore advises that a hearing date be set to prosecute the prime minister and his Cabinet.”


Father Dear Father

A comrade in Northern Ireland has alerted me to a story in his local paper . One Father Dillane - who was regarded in his parish as a 'good sport' and a popular priest - has fathered a child. Nothing unusual in that, you may say; the point is FATHER Dunane is 73 and the mother of the child is 31 and their relationship has been ongoing for 9 years.
Way to go, pops!!! Celebrate, not celebate! Father Jack Hackett (pictured) , eat your heart out.


Murdering Profits in Thailand

I mused a lot on this yesterday. Are the three Thai judges who passed the death sentence on the two fishermen who murdered British holiday-maker Katherine Horton batting for Thai Capitalism PLC? I ask because in passing the sentence they mentioned how the murder had sullied Thailand’s reputation and threatened its lucrative tourism industry.

Their logic is thus: Thailand = tourism = profits. Ergo, anyone threatening those profits must be seen by the international community to be paying the price, less holiday-makers are put off travelling to Thailand. That the murder, arrest, court case and sentence took place at lightening speed – within 18 days – suggests the Thai authorities have in mind the coming holiday season - Thailand is expecting 5 million touirists in the next 4 months.

Of course there are serious issues here. The trial lasted one day and the defence seems hardly to have been allowed time to prepare a case. The two accused were twice presented with the chance to give evidence, but each time they were also told their statements would be enough. Moreover, the accused were illiterate, one signing his statement with a thumbprint and walking away from court smiling as if he was unaware of just what had transpired.

The police seem to have been anxious to secure a conviction as quickly as possible. One 17-year-old worker at the beachside bungalows where Miss Horton had stayed later told how he had been beaten by police trying to force him to say that the bungalows' owner, Amnoi Dechenna, who had been a suspect, was the killer.

Furthermore, the death penalty ignores a long-standing practice in Thai jurisprudence, that those who come clean and plead guilty are spared the death penalty, and sentenced to life in prison instead. It has been suggested this was the reason the accused confessed early on.
With all respect to the family of Miss Horton, the entire palaver suggests that the bigger crime the two fishermen committed was in damaging the Thai tourist industry. Some 13 million people visited Thailand last year. Though I do not have the US$ figures for 2005, in 2004 11.7 million visitors spent an estimated US$11.55 billion. That suggests a lot of profit is threatened when holiday makers get murdered.

British Day

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel”, wrote Dr. Johnson. Indeed! - nowadays it is one of the cries of the Labour Party as it tries to rescue itself from the corner it has been battered into by the press in the wake of a series of scandals.

Chancellor Gordon Brown wants Remembrance Sunday turned into “British Day” – a sentiment no doubt supported by Nick Griffin and his band of trustee bone-headed lobotomismos in the BNP who, like Brown, are very keen to promote British history, culture and identity at every opportunity.

The problem with Remembrance Day is that we are supposed to remember the dead of the two World Wars, seemingly forgetting why those wars were fought, who profited from them and the true cost paid by the working class. The proposed ‘British Day’ will be another day for collective historical amnesia when no mention will be made of the tens of millions killed as Britain expanded its empire around the world, of the battles fought protecting the spoils from far off countries, the mayhem unleashed in those countries and the mess Britain left them in after “independence”. And the British history that will be celebrated on ‘British Day’ will definitely not remember 1000 years of bloodshed and murder on British soil in defence of ruling class interests.

Speaking to a Fabian Society Conference, Brown said: "In any survey our most popular institutions range from the monarchy to the army to the NHS. But think: what is our Fourth of July? What is our Independence Day? Where is our declaration of rights? What is our equivalent of a flag in every garden? Perhaps Remembrance Day and Remembrance Sunday are the nearest we have come to a British day - unifying, commemorative, dignified and an expression of British ideas of standing firm for the world in the name of liberty."

The monarchy, the army and the NHS are our most popular institutions? Really? Fifteen years ago a survey of foreign tourists found that 1 in 10 expressed an interest in catching a glimpse of the Queen when they came to London. A similar recent survey found that figure had changed to 1 in 1000. The army is popular? So that is why they are inundated with requests to enlist and why only a handful of people turned out to protest against the British army being sent to Iraq. The NHS? Would this be the one that New Labour has kicked the shit out of, the remains of which Blair is slowly handing over to the private sector?

Brown asks: “what is our Declaration of Rights?” Are you taking the piss, bonny lad? If the Labour Party had its way we would live in a Big Brother state, our every move monitored every moment of the day, each of us carrying biometric ID cards, afraid to think outside of the box. A declaration of rights would mean no more in Britain than in the US, where it has been recently replaced by Patriotic Acts 1 and 2.

Brown cites the patriotism of the US – a country where selective amnesia should be a UN recognised mental illness – as a model to emulate. But, when did you ever see poor America wave the flag? Do they fly from the windows in downtown Chicago, New York or Washington? Hardly. In general, flag waving in the US is the orgasm of affluent right-wing suburbanites.
Countries like the USA and France may well have their national days – but here they celebrate the overthrow of tyranny. Other countries have national days too; a fair few call them Independence Days, and celebrate freedom from oppressive colonial rule when the union jack was removed from government buildings.

Brown believes the British flag should be recaptured from the far-right - an interesting statement considering the Labour Party is nowadays to the right of the historically right-wing Conservative Party. Moreover, Brown should learn from History – Thatcher’s nationalistic rants, far more than the anti-fascist activities of the left, resulted in the drop of the National Front vote at the 1979 and 1983 elections. People who had previously voted NF simply voted for the Tories. I wonder if Brown is after the BNP vote? The way he is going he will certainly get it.

In truth, your average Briton does spend much time pondering British achievements, history or culture. The most popular foods are big Macs, pizzas and pasta – none of them British in origin. England’s patron Saint George was actually a Turk who seems to have risen to fame slaughtering a crocodile and who never set foot on British soil and perhaps never spoke a word of English. No one sings or even knows more than one verse of “God Save the Queen” and only the desperately sad can tell when the Union jack is upside down (I lived over thirty years before finding out there was actually a “right way up”). And, I wager that there are more people in Britain that have the union jack on their underpants than have the flag neatly folded away to be waved on cue.

Fuck all flags, Gordon. The union jack is nothing but an imperialist, blood-drenched rag that should be burned along with every other prop of nationalism. It is a hindrance to human progress, not an aide. No doubt, though, you’ll get your way and Parliament will move that we have a British Day. I’m just wondering if a Patriot Act will bring it into being.


"It's a good day to die"

These were the final words of 76-year-old Clarence Ray Allen (pictured) before he was murdered by the state of California yesterday. Ignoring arguments that putting to death an elderly, blind, partially deaf, and diabetic wheelchair-bound man, suffering from heart disease, was cruel and unusual punishment, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave the thumbs up for another execution at San Quentin, only a month after signing ‘Tookie’ Williams’ death warrant (see the blog entry here: Killing Tookie Williams).

Allen was not even allowed to shuffle the final few feet from his wheelchair to his execution table where he would be administered a lethal cocktail of drugs, but was instead manacled and carried to the stretcher by guards.

His lawyers had lodged claims never before endorsed by the high court: that putting to death a frail old man would contravene the US Constitution's ban on cruel and unusual punishment, and that the 23 years he spent on death row were unconstitutionally cruel too. But to no avail. In most countries, after 23 years in prison for murder you could expect to be released from prison. In the USA this is all part of the waiting-to-die game.

Governor “grim reaper” Schwarzenegger will have plenty more opportunities to rid California of its most dangerous threats to society in coming years. There are now five condemned men in California who are over 70 and nearly three dozen in their 60s. Since California reinstated capital punishment, 31 men have died on death row of natural causes and 11 have been executed. The oldest person executed in California in recent years was brain-damaged 62-year-old Donald Beardslee, who was murdered by California State 11 months ago.


Blair mistrusts his own Cabinet

It’s a fact that 70% of MPs support the introduction of an ID card, the majority of these Labour Party MPs. We can assume that a majority of Labour MPs would have voted in favour of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 - which gives the state the right to snoop on our email - texts and telephone conversations, or else it would never have become law. Indeed Labour MPs have generally supported the government every time Blair has tried to turn Britain into the mother of all open prisons. But now the Cabinet is up in arms and the Commons is expected to cry a collective “foul” in the coming weeks because Blair is aiming to give MI5 new powers to bug MPs. Poetic Justice or what?

After 40 years Blair is to overturn the Wilson Doctrine – named after Harold Wilson and the practise of not having MPs phones tapped – believing MPs should be treated just as any other citizen (with the minimum of trust and respect for privacy) and MPs are kicking off big style. Andrew Mackinlay, the Labour MP for Thurrock, protested it was a “hallmark of civilised society” that MPs were not spied upon.

And why the hell not, Andy? History shows that the most untrustworthy people in the country generally gravitate towards the House of Commons – the place is full of damned liars and cheats and scallywags. If phone tapping is okay for us mere proles, then why not for MPs? Or have you got something to hide? And I can’t help using the usual Labour Party refrain against you, the one hurled back at us when we complain about the erosion of civil liberties: “If you’re doing nothing wrong then you have nothing to worry about.”


Some cats have no respect

Imagine you reside in Bethnal Green and are desperate to reach your MP because the state is about to deport you thanks to some cock-up with immigration papers. You try and try to reach your MP for help and support but can’t contact him. You can’t contact him even though you can see him live on TV, where he has been for the last two weeks taking part in Celebrity Big Brother (a.k.a. Muppets ‘R’ Us). As the police and immigration control batter down your door and a fifteen stone sergeant wrestles you to the ground, pressing your head sideways into the floor, you glance up and see your MP on his hands and knees, pretending to be a cat and crawling about the floor like an utter imbecile.

Just what adjective can go with the images of George Galloway, the RESPECT MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, on his knees, purring and licking imaginary cream from the cupped hands of actress, and fellow Big Brother contestant, Rula Lenska? “Nauseating” I guess sums it up.

Where I a constituent of Galloway, and had voted for him, I’d be bloody livid. I’d be wanting to give him a right bloody kicking as soon as he gets out. Not only is he elected to represent his constituents in Parliament, to be a point of contact when the shit hits the fan, to fight your corner, but MPs get more holidays and perks than anyone – 13 weeks in Summer - and here he is taking paid time-off and literally taking the piss out of his constituents on live TV. Me, I’d be mounting a campaign to get fellow constituents to vote the bugger off the show and back into the job he is highly paid to do

No doubt Galloway, darling of the SWP, the man who praised Saddam Hussein’s “courage and indefatigability”, who equates Islam with Socialism, and champion of the anti-Iraq war cause, believed he could use the Big Brother opportunity as a political platform. Big Brother bosses were having none of it and have made sure that he is there, like every other fading celebrity, simply to make an utter spectacle of himself and for the amusement of a muppet audience.

And whilst Galloway is on the Big Brother set, playing pussy cat and smoking enormously fat cigars (I wonder if they were a gift from Castro?), providing his political enemies with an abundance of weaponry they can use against him during his next parliamentary campaign, the Commons has been debating the Crossrail project that will affect his east London constituency.
Sorry, George, mate, but when it comes to own goals, you’re 10-0 down.


Thanks to
Gray for the link to the Weekly Worker (see comments below) and from which I can quote:

"Putting two fingers up to the very notion of democracy and accountability, Galloway consulted no-one in Respect about his decision to take part, let alone ask the permission of the leadership. According to national secretary John Rees, Respect was informed just 24 hours beforehand that the organisation’s most prominent leader and figurehead would be incommunicado for up to three weeks, “bereft of watch, phone, family and all contact with the outside world” (Galloway statement, made public January 7).

"The Socialist Workers Party can hardly be said to approve of the Channel 4 programme. In fact the SWP’s utter distaste for Big brother is well known. According to Socialist Worker, the show is full of “sad, vulnerable people … desperate to be on TV” (Socialist Worker August 26 2000). In the opinion of former central committee member Pat Stack, “Volunteers, wannabes and the downright sad enter these things” (Socialist Review July 2002).

"In fact just sitting in front of your television while the programme is on could seriously damage your health: “Channel 4 is not just exploiting the contestants. It is debasing the viewers as well. By watching Big brother you too become part of the dehumanising process” (Socialist Worker August 26 2000). "

Galloway gave his comrades 24 hours notice? You can just imagine the SWP leadership hurrying round to his house with a bundle of Socialist Workers - "Here, George, Mate. I know it's short notice, but try floggin' a few of these if you get the chance. Maggot looks like he'd buy a copy."


The God Who Wasn't There

What an interesting year this looks to be for religious nutters. Not only will Revelations fanatics be focusing on the 6th June, for obvious reasons, a date that will also to see the release of the film The Beast, but at the end of January one Father Enrico Righi will appear in an Italian court in an attempt to prove that Jesus actually existed.

Luigi Cascioli, ex-priest, atheist and author of The Fable of Christ, has brought a case against Don Enrico Righi after the latter ridiculed Cascioli for querying whether Christ actually existed. Cascioli’s case is that there is no dependable or contemporary proof that Christ ever really lived, which makes Father Righi guilty of "an abuse of popular credulity" and the Roman Catholic hierarchy guilty of "substitution of persons" which, in Italy, are crimes.

On his website, and it’s well worth checking out, Luigi says: “ It is the first time in the history of mankind that a religion is prosecuted directly in a law case that will end with a verdict regarding specific and defined crimes, which is the abuse of popular credulity and belief (article 661, Italian criminal code) and the substitution of person (494, Italian criminal code). “

Judge Gaetano Mautone initially declined to hear the case until the court of appeal found that he was obligated to take up the case and that Father Righi had a case to answer. Consequently, the judge will ask Father Righi to provide proof that not only did the biblical Jesus live in the area we know as Palestine, but that he was also the son of God.

I’m not counting on this case going Cascioli’s way – just too much is at stake; the capitalist class risk losing too much of a weapon of subversion from their arsenal, but this case is going to be riveting for lapsed-catholics/atheists like myself to see the Jesus myth exposed to so much scrutiny, and in this respect it can’t do the case for Socialism any harm at all. When common sense takes a step forward, religion takes a step back

Also getting a lot of publicity at the moment is the film The God Who Wasn’t There. Check this site out - I'm sure Cascioli would approve! The film can actually be downloaded at http://www.newnova.org/ and at www.thepiratebay.org . This film, by Brian Flemming, who is also behind The Beast (above) claims to do for the Jesus myth what Bowling for Columbine did for the gun culture and Supersize Me did for the Big Mac.
Mark the 6th June in your diaries – looks to be an interesting day.


Big Prezza is watching you

Most of today's papers run with the story about John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, telling tax inspectors they can use satellites to spy on householders’ attempts to improve their homes. Prescott would have tax inspectors use satellite imagery to find out who has built garages and conservatories, or extended their kitchen, in order that the mendicants can have their council tax, inheritance tax or capital gains tax increased.

Prescott’s department will supervise the creation of a database which contains details of every house in the country to help tax inspectors calculate new charges. Not only can tax inspectors enter your home to take
photographs, they can use the latest technology to bring in a stealth tax on home improvements.

That such a move is proposed by a man who has three residences smacks of utter hypocrisy. Prescott has official residences at Admiralty House and Dorneywood as well as his constituency home in Hull, yet pays council tax on his Hull home only. The corrupt bastard is thus is let off paying £3,256 a year in council tax. When he was in charge of transport and presiding over a fuel crisis, Prescott got away without paying for his petrol too.

If you want similar perks – numerous houses, several cars, free petrol – it seems the best way to go about it is to shove your tongue as far as you can up Tony Blair’s arse. Undoubtedly, hundreds of other new Labourites can testify this works wonders.

Whatever you do, though, don’t complain to Prescott about it – you might get a smack in the mouth.