Friday, April 30, 2004

Bury the rag deep in your face, now is the time for your tears

"The atrocities in Iraqi prisoners are to be the subject of an official inquiry" and so they should be. But spare a thought for the relatives of Zahid Mubarek from Walthamstow. In March 2000, Zahid, who was a 19-year old first time offender, was beaten to death with a chair leg by his cell mate Robert Stewart, a known racist and psychopath, on the day before Zahid was due to be released. Stewart signed over 200 letters from prison with a swastika, had a Ku Klux Klan sign in his cell and had written to say he would kill Zahid.

It is difficult to comprehend the level of terror Zahid must have felt in the weeks running up to his death, and the failures by the prison service are all too obvious. But not, apparently, to the Home Secretary who refused the family's request for a Public Inquiry. Four years later, after the Home Office fought the family tooth and nail all the way to the Law Lords, the Home Office this week finally conceded that they would hold a Public Inquiry.
"Zahid Mubarek died because of a combination of Robert Stewart's racism and failures of the Prison Service - had Zahid been white, he would not have died" - Commission For Racial Equality

This is a disgrace every bit as disturbing as Guantanamo and Iraq.

Thursday, April 29, 2004

Get those knees up

Dr. John Reed says it is important we all take some gentle exercise every day to keep us fit. Just like his mate does!

It's OK... you can go now

Immediately prior to the Home Secretary's major announcement of his government's plans to introduce ID cards, Greater Manchester Police were involved in dawn raids to round up 'terror suspects' and 'had foiled a terror plot to blow up Manchester' according to news reports. A week later, the fuss about ID cards returned to the back burner and we find these dangerous terrorists have all been released and presumably their 'weapons of mass destruction' have proved as elusive as all those others.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

(Goose) Stepping Down

Oh dear... Desmond has started a trend! The deputy leader of Bradford council has resigned after making a Nazi-style salute and saying "Sieg Heil" at a public meeting.
Labour councillor Lynne Joyce, who was born in Germany, said Simon Cooke, a Conservative, made the gesture as she finished a speech on Tuesday.

Mr Cooke said he had decided to step down for the good of the party but would remain a councillor.

"I regret my actions and apologise for any embarrassment it caused," he said.

Just the occasional execution then?

Afghan officials says the execution for murder of a former military commander does not mean a policy of capital punishment has been reintroduced. It reads pretty much like it has to me!

Tuesday, April 27, 2004


Last week there was the story that certain 'influential' Cabinet members were unhappy about Blair making policy 'on the hoof' in respect of a European Constitution referendum. At the weekend the newspapers carried stories that there was a clear split in the Cabinet over the issue if ID cards and that Jack Straw was leading the revolt. This is followed by a letter criticising the Blair leadership over Iraq and Palestine from former mandarins in the Foreign Office.

Is it possible that Ministers are positioning themselves for the post-Blair world in a way that means Gordon Brown will not automatically get his own way?

Monday, April 26, 2004

A pain in the ass

A sixteen-stone US clerk to the court is suing New York City for $5million as a consequence of a most unfortunate accident.

Friday, April 23, 2004

Who are you! Who are you!

Towards the end of an interesting piece about Weblogging in The Register, Nico MacDonald rightly points out that: "The ‘blogerati’ rightly present Weblogging as opening up writing and communication to the masses. However, this populist and laudable attack on the mass communication sector disguises an elitist tendency at the centre of the blogosphere. This tendency is most obvious in the habit of using first names only (or even nicknames) when referring to fellow Webloggers. For a movement that aspires to (and has achieved some) intellectual leadership, this is inappropriate."

Which got me thinking... we 'talk' to so many strangers, and not many of them actually tell you who they are. But do we really want to know? Personally, I'm happy following the saga of Andre's love torn angst for Stone without being told his real name is Geoff and he works in a bank (it's not... I made that up), I wallow in the trials and tribulations of a Supermum, and I follow BykerSink and his progress towards his VSO like others follow Eastenders or Corrie. Why, on a blogging level I even get on Ok with the Bluenose... and I know we would fall out in no time if we knew each other better. I don't need to meet my favourite bloggers, we don't have that sort of relationship. Let's keep some mystery. Leave well alone, I say.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Say "Non" to Le Pen

The BNP has invited Jean Marie Le Pen, the leader of the French fascist party Front National to speak at a meeting in Birmingham, Britain's most multicultural city, on Sunday. Unite Against Fascism have called a rally on Sunday afternoon at 3pm in Victoria Square Birmingham to protest against Le Pen and the BNP. The West Midlands TUC and West Midlands UNISON are supporting the rally. The last time Le Pen came to Britain he was driven out by mass protests as the Edinburgh venue cancelled his meeting. this was headline news in france and strengthened the fight against fascism there.

It is perhaps no surprise that he is now fundraising for the BNP. Their leader, (in the)Nick Griffin, denied the existence of the holocaust against the Jews - and that is something which Le Pen has consistently sought to trivialise.

Anyone wanting more info can contact Birmingham Unite Against Fascism on 0783 724 4518

On your bike

I know I've mentioned this site before, but it was when I was first started posting and I don't think many people will have seen it. Has your MP responded? Why hasn't that nice Mr Tom Watson sent a photo in... surely his yoof credentials are sufficient to provide a picture or two?

Monday, April 19, 2004

A marriage made in heaven

So, Tony Martin, hero of the masses (or at least those who vote in Radio 4 polls for legislation to allow him to shoot on sight) is urging people to vote for the BNP. Don't they just deserve each other?

The European democracy tests

The excellent BykerSink, as so often, hits the button spot on about the confusion most people feel over the subject of the European Union, the Euro and the proposed referendum on the European Constitution. Whilst certain sections of the media portray the European debate as a xenophobic, little Englander, anti-johnny foreigner argument, people may rationalise that because they are opposed to that mentality they must therefore adopt a pro stance towards these issues.

I certainly have no problems with closer links with other European nations, or the much wider world community come to that. But I do have serious reservations about extending the powers of the EU unless that is accompanied by a democratisation of the EU and its institutions. A couple of years ago someone wrote a rather good article in The Guardian saying something along the lines of "never mind the 5 economic tests for the Euro, what about the five democratic tests for the EU." If I can recall, they were:

The European Parliament should have full democratic powers to introduce legislation. It is the EU's only directly elected body and should be the body which initiates legislation.

The Commission's President should be elected by the parliament. It is a powerful position and should be democratically accountable.

The parliament should appoint the head of the European Central Bank instead of being appointed by "common accord" by the governments of the member states.

The ECB should be transparent in its dealings. It meets in secret and doesn't publish minutes or the voting record of its meetings.

The ECB should work within terms defined by the parliament. Currently the ECB determines its own targets for inflation, and that directs its monetary policy. There is no democratic input, therefore, into one of the major economic factors in the EU.

Given this increased democratisation we would at least be able to determine via a referendum whether we wanted to cede some of our parliament's sovereignty (always supposing, of course, that you think government runs things anyway) to other democratic institutions. Without that democracy, my vote will be no, even if I have to share that vote with some of the most objectionable people possible.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

Part of the union

There is an excellent post over at 4glengate showing how the media misrepresent trade unions. Is The Times article just sloppy journalism? Or more likely I suspect, another example of the Murdoch press trying to drive the wedge between the unions and the party, whilst stirring something in their readerships dusty brains about 'winters of discontent'.

Saturday, April 17, 2004

You know you're a brummie...

Actually, although like me you may have lived in neighbouring Sandwell for 25 years, they still refer to you as 'the brummie'. Anyway, I've filched this explanation of what it means to be a brummie from the brummie blogs site.

Friday, April 16, 2004

The smoking ban

I forgot to mention the smoking ban in public places, including pubs, in the Republic of Ireland. It really does work. I was a bit sceptical when I first heard about it and thought most pubs would just ignore it. Wrong. In every pub we visited, and believe me there were a few, I didn't see a single smoker light up. They politely left the pub and stood outside and continued the craic out there, which meant the bar staff and the rest of us didn't have to share their smoke, and when you got home your clothes didn't smell like an ashtray. Any chance of Dr John Reid having the bottle to push for the same thing here.

Dingle Bells

I'm back! After spending 6 fantastic days in Dingle on the west coast of Ireland. If you're lucky enough to get good weather in Co. Kerry (and we were) it really is a stunning part of the world. Looking out from Slea Head to The Blaskets it feels like you're standing at the end of the earth. Exhilarating! Basically, I suppose I'm really a city person and I don't feel uncomfortable surrounded by the noise and bustle of a city. But a week spent in a place like Dingle, with a soundtrack of Shane MacGowan and the new Christy 6 cd box set in the car, a couple of good books and a regular flow of Guinness, which is allegedly good for you, and a text message from Reg about how we hammered Chelsea... does life get better than this, I don't think so. Roll on June 10th, the batteries are charged and we're ready for them.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

See the dolphin!

Dingle has got its very own dolphin just outside the harbour and yesterday we went out in a small boat and it came right up to the side of the boat. In spite of my reluctant cool... I was squealing just like the kids. Great fun. Now we're off to consume some of Fungi's fellow sea creatures at one of the beautiful seafood restaurants.

Sunday, April 11, 2004

Signing off...

I won't be posting for the next week because Mrs P and me are off to Dingle to enjoy the Kerry countryside, sup some blackstuff and generally wind down.

Friday, April 09, 2004

And many a gamble has been lost and won....

"A tax on the stupid" is how a friend of mine describes the national lottery. Whilst I would not entirely subscribe to her rather harsh judgement, I do fear the consequences of the government's new Bill to deregulate the gambling laws, and not just because it will lead to an increase in gambling addiction.

It isn't only the Mega Las Vegas style casinos in run down holiday resorts that bother me either. They will be the tip of the iceberg as people are enticed into the wonderful world of slot machines by the machine in their local chippy, through to the ones in pubs that now give you change from £5, £10, and £20 notes to avoid you having to keep troubling the bar staff to convert your wages into pound coins.

My Ward is described in the Planning guidance as a tight-knit community of Victorian terraced houses, with very little scope for increased car parking. A recent proposal by the loathsome Blue Chip Casinos to convert a local pub into an all-night gamblig casino was, quite rightly thrown out by Planning Committee. They rejected it on the grounds that it will cause a nusance to residents with the noise of punters coming and going, as well as the problems of traffic and parking. To make matters worse they have a ludicrous proposal to convert the pub exterior to a replica of an ocean going liner (the nearest sea is nearly 100 miles away). The residents are quite rightly convinced it will blight the area and lead to increased crime and a downward spiral of house prices.

Blue Chip have now appealed to the national Planning Inspectorate and some planning inspector wallah from Bristol will come to Smethwick to decide the future of the community before buggering off back to Bristol. The feeling in the area is very much the same as that over 'phone masts. The politicians have taken the Casino owners cash (I am told donations to the Labour Party from Casino owners make interesting reading, as well as MP's connections to various betting lobby groups) and this is the payback.

Personally, I feel sick for these people. There will be a public inquiry at which they will be able to put their view, but we are ordinary working-class folk who will be faced with Barristers employed by Blue Chip, and I fear for the result. Perhaps Mr Barry de Lacey, the owner of Blue Chip, would welcome his 'low-end of the market' casino in his own back garden, but I suspect his back garden is so large he wouldn't even notice.

So I was particularly impressed with John O'Farrell's lampoon of the new gambling laws in today's Guardian.

"Look how much we stand to win!" says Tony Blair, adding up the revenue from the new casinos and jobs in the leisure industry.

But like any hardened gambler, he's forgetting about how much it will cost him: hundreds of thousands of people getting into debt, losing their homes, unable to support their families. More people turning to crime to pay for their habit.

There are an estimated 300,000 so-called problem gamblers in this country (which is twice as many as I bet my kids there would be). But it won't be the casinos paying for all the social costs of more addicts. Maybe the all-party committee should explain everything it has learned to the prime minister, and he might think twice about the morality of it all.

"So, guys, how do these big bookmakers maintain such enormous profit margins?"

"Well, it's simple really, PM. They take loads of money off millions of poor people, but keep them passive by occasionally giving small amounts back."

"Hang on a minute," says the prime minister. "I thought that was what the Treasury did."

Thursday, April 08, 2004


The entry page to Michael Moore's website contains this mosaic comprised of photographs of all those US soldiers who have died in the Iraq War.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

He's done it again

Two days... two great blogs. Check out Slave to the 11c and the terrific Exorcist by bunnies. Keep it up Jim.

If the war is over, who is winning the peace?

Nearly 12 months ago President George W. Bush said "major combat operations are over. He added, "When Iraqi civilians look into the faces of American troops "they see strength and kindness and goodwill". Steve Bell sees it differently.

Traffic calming

I picked up on this reference about possibly the country's smallest 30mph zone courtesy of balders. In my Ward (Bearwood) where virtually everyone wants something to keep the traffic speed down, we have got one speed bump. It is in a cul-de-sac no more than 50 yards long, and there is only room for one car to go down the road at a time. Crazy!

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Very Clever Trevor

I got this really clever little music mapping site courtesy of Jim who's new Blog looks as if it will be promising.

Terror alert

One of the theme's in Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine concerns the way US citizens are kept perpetually in fear of some unknown bogey-man. As in George Orwell's 1984 it is important to keep people frightened in order to justify 'the state' spending all that money on police, security forces and defence to look after you. A number of Bloggers today make the same point as balders in expressing cynicism about the timing of our latest terrorist scare.

Monday, April 05, 2004

Whose culture is it anyway?

I am English, male, white and middle-aged. I was bought up on Disney and John Wayne, before progressing to Pulp Fiction via The Godfather. On the radio we had Motown, Elvis and Otis and I was devoted to Dylan. I struggled with Shakespeare, but I devoured the Jack’s (Kerouac and London), and to this day I love crime fiction that comes out of a Los Angeles that will always belong to Chandler’s Marlowe. Ok, so I hate MacDonald’s and don’t do Starbuck’s, but when people start talking multiculturalism, perhaps we should take a step or two backwards and ask exactly whose culture are we talking about here? Today I still like Bob Dylan, but I also listen to reggae, and Youssou N’Dour, and Touareg singers from the Sahara. I eat Balti curries ‘invented’ in Birmingham’s curry quarter and the only new places of religious worship near where I live are Temples or Gudwara’s. Yet suddenly people like Trevor Phillips and those who want to interpret his words start twittering on about the problems of multiculturalism and its concept... and out of the swamp comes Tebbit with his ‘cricket test’. Good job old Enoch has gone, his rivers of blood would start flowing again.

Dueling banjos

Thanks to Tim for this. Brilliant!

Adolf has a bad hair day

He would have been 115 years old this month but it's been a pretty bad day all round for Adolf Hitler. Firstly it would appear that 10% of the nation's adults thought he was a fictional character, and then the citizens of one Austrian Town turn round and do the dirty on him by stripping him of honorary citizenship.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

Learning... or earning

Academics and Vice-Chancellors in English universities are concerned that allowing more working-class students into their world of dreaming spires (or concrete and glass boxes which is more typical of the English universities) will dilute their academic worth and they are blaming the government for what they call clumsy 'social engineering'. It must, of course, be made clear that all this has nothing at all to do with their desire to attract the best brains from the public schools and the best families with the biggest wallets.


Having experienced a particularly bad hangover last weekend after Mick and Suzanna's wedding, I've decided to go back to the pub before the footie today, and serve a writ on the landlord. That'll teach him not to get me drunk!

Saturday, April 03, 2004

Trimble - The media's favourite loyalist thug

For the media Ian Paisley is beyond the pale - excuse the reference - but David Trimble is the media's favourite loyalist. Not for him the trademark loyalist tattoos and strident flagwaving. But when you listen to this despicable little man closely, if you poke with a stick beneath his stone, you reveal inside a slimy creature every bit as nasty as the mob. His disgusting attack on Rosemary Nelson and Pat Finucane in the House of Commons on Friday is just the latest example of a man appealing to the most base instincts of extremist loyalism before Paisley steals all of his support.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

We're not racist...honestly

Just to follow up on the Michael Howard PMQ's issue. It would appear it is now perfectly easy to spout racist claptrap and get it dressed up in language that will mean you do not get classified as some sort of dodgy Kilroy. Take the repugnant BNP. If you go to their website (wash your hands on the way out) you will see they rarely use the words 'race' or 'black'. All they need to do to stir up the neanderthals is use the words 'asylum seeker' or 'illegal immigrant'. It paints the picture for them and allows them to spout their hatred. Similarly, if you follow the links on Cuthberton's Conservative Commentary, then nestled there amongst the usual Melanie Phillips' and The Bruges Group in the 'great sites' for you to visit you come across Migration Watch UK whose views are best described as like the BNP without the boots. Perversley, Migration Watch UK seems to be Chaired by a former British Ambassador in the Middle East for nearly 20 years, where I suppose he was an 'economic migrant' really.