Monday, February 28, 2005

Mark Alcock (and balls)

Mark Alcock, prospective Lib Dem MP for Barking (sorry, I mean South Ribble) has done his maths and he reckons the Lib Dems are going to win the General Election... and he's got a daft bar chart (or two) to prove it!
A good night to stop in and watch TV. Following on from Faith, a drama about the Miners Strike which has got Tory knickers in a twist because it is not balanced (maybe they want us to see the heartwrenching sadness of Ian MacGregor and the wicked witch of Finchley as they too endured the 12 month strike), and then you can switch to Channel 4 and watch Torture: The Guantanamo Guidebook. Seven people subjected to the conditions experienced by those hostages illegally detained and tortured by the United States Government. Wouldn't it be a good idea if we could have our own Big Brother type show where we could all phone in and nominate people to go into the Big Brother Guantanamo House. I just don't know how I could whittle the list down to seven though.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

"Another Blairite minister admitted he had been taken aback by the hostility to the leader on the doorsteps..." Just exactly where have these people been for the last three years?

Friday, February 25, 2005

Politics matters

New articles on ZNet include a piece about Bush's newly appointed Director of Military Intelligence, When John Negroponte Was Mullah Omar. Also on ZNET The Case for Socialism in the Twenty-First Century, and if that interests you, you will probably want to read Tony Benn's review of Paul Foot's posthumously published last book.

Happy Birthday

This blog is 12 months old this weekend. It was inspired initially by Tom Watson and then by Tim Ireland's 'Why Politicians Need Weblogs'. My first commentors were Ingrid, who has published more good stuff on the crisis in Darfur than the entire British media, and Christine, who continues to entertain, and Tom Watson himself. Thanks to all those who have taken the time to contribute. It's a bit like canvassing really... you get one or two people who are really rude, but most people want to tell you what they think and enjoy the banter. At least the worst I get are a few sharp words, unlike Mohamad Reza Nasab Abdolahi (via The Committee to Protect Bloggers). So, here's to year two.....

Robin Cook on Britain's new Pass Laws. The Guardian also has a review of the new album by Rufus Wainwright, whose dad Loudon produced one of the great first albums... was it really 35 years ago?

Thursday, February 24, 2005

"Mr Kennedy’s office said that it was still considering how to reply to Mr Sacranie’s letter of February 4."
Perhaps the slippery sod could reply for himself?

Military.... Intelligence?

If, as the Rev. Ian would have us believe, Sinn Fein have no place in the constitutional arrangements in Northern Ireland, even if members of their military wing were acting independently of the IRA... shouldn't he also want to exclude the British Government when it's military wing are guilty of this sort of thing? Also... why were there no Iraqis called to give evidence against their torturers? Was someone frightened about what they might say was even more horrific than the allegations against these soldiers? Call me a conspiracy theorist if you want..... (don't you dare!)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

R.I.P. Terry

Terry Weir (centre), Aston Villa's acclaimed photographer for over 30 years, died today.

Acts of Faith

I am a confirmed atheist and more than a little frightened by those zealots who want to save our souls, but will condemn us to eternal damnation if we think they are talking tripe. This decision, taken after a piece of mafioso arm twisting by fundamentalist bigots, really does make you wonder about the sanity of these people. Some twerp was actually on the radio this morning saying they were making these threats "in the interests of people with cancer".

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Vote for the President of the World. Bloggerheads' Tim Ireland wants your vote... but spare a thought for my man, the legend that is Sheephead.
Ken apologises? Does he hell! Good for him, and what a pity he didn't get the backing of his party leader.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Donald Rumsfeld comes to Wolverhampton

“Lets believe we can do it. Lets make the electorate, not only believe that we believe, But most importantly lets make them believe it too!”

Thanks to Tom Watson for highlighting what must be the election campaigning slogan of all time from Wolverhamton Lib Dem hopeful David Jack. Come on Charlie... give this to the nation!

Incidentally, David Jack scored the first ever goal in a Wembley Cup final... could they be by any chance related? Let's face it, to score in the Cup Final you've not only got to believe... you've got to believe you believe...
Last night we went to Warwick Arts Centre to see the African Soul Rebels tour. A terrific concert, starting with the hypnotic blues rhythms of the Toureg tribesmen (and one woman) Tinariwen. Next up were Senegalese hip hop rappers Daara J. Not entirely my cup of tea but real high energy stuff. My daughter Sian liked them best and before long she had forged her way to the front of the stage. Finally, Rachid Taha, an Algerian Rock n' Rai singer who looks like a cross between Pacino's Frank Serpico and early Bruce Springsteen, and the togetherness and fun of the band has strong echoes of The Boss. Three great acts... for less than £15, and the only sad thing was the fact the hall was nowhere near sold out. When you consider that Birmingham City want to charge £45 to watch a bunch of overpaid prima donnas ponce around for 90 minutes, the African Soul Rebels are real value for money. Still chance to catch them if you can get to Gateshead, Edinburgh,Shrewsbury, Leicester and London.
Daniel Brett, as so often, offers a thoughtful piece on Darfur, and warns of those who find simplistic solutions to complex problems. "It infuriates me that people with only a passing interest in Sudan, prompted by a few television pictures, can wade in and demand one or the other group be armed or favoured in any way."
"Labour candidates who opposed the war should not be punished;" Phew, that's a relief.

Ken Livingstone ups the anti and asks questions about the Daily Mail's Nazi theme party.

A popular local councillor... (Lib Dem chap also gets mention.)

Friday, February 18, 2005

Now that is truly shocking! Cunning stunt (via The buddah)
Regular readers of this page will know that the odious Blue Chip Casinos are attempting to convert a pub in my Ward into this monstrosity:

Local residents are up in arms over the idea of an all-night casino in the heart of a residential community. and have been blocking the proposal at Planning Committee and at a national Planning Inspectorate public inquiry. Eighteen months in, the latest battle took place this week at Planning Committee when once again Blue Chip’s plans were thrown out… to the delight of the dozens of residents in the public gallery. Once more the residents have spoken… we don’t want your bloody casino, now go away and leave us alone!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Casting the first stone...

It seems perverse to me that the man who refused to apologise to the nation for plunging the country into a war on a totally false premise, should be urging Ken Livingstone to publicly apologise for making insulting remarks to a journalist.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Rotten apples

Councillor John Hemming, Lib Dem Deputy Leader of Birmingham City Council's Conservative dominated coalition is quite rightly upset over the issue of alleged fraudulent abuse of the postal ballot system by some individuals in the Labour Party last June. Where Hemming tips over the edge of sanity though, is when he accuses the Labour Party in general, or the Government of "undermining democracy." We need to be clear about this. The Labour Party issued strict written instructions to members about the use of postal ballots which made it absolutely clear that there should not even be a suggestion of interference in how individual voters cast their vote. If Hemming is suggesting otherwise he should put up or shut up. If the Labour Party has to accept the responsibility for people who "allegedly" (and that is important) fiddled the vote... will John Hemming and the Liberal Democrats accept responsibility for the Scottish Lib Dem MEP who so 'liberally' interpreted his expenses that he claimed mileage expenses in a single year equivalent to driving "three and a half times around the world?"

Also on his blog Hemming is getting concerned about kids and anti-social behaviour. A bit rich for a Party that have opposed almost all Labour's proposals on anti-social behaviour but who's Culture spokesperson wants to to reduce the legal drinking age to 16. That should stop the kids spraying graffiti... they'll be too busy getting pissed!

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Lorenzo at Blogshake has put his vote up for bids on ebay. Watch out Lorenzo, Councillor and part-time sleuth John Hemming will be on your tail.
According to The Observer's Food Awards the best place for kids food in the North East is The Italian Kitchen, 229 Three Tuns Lane in, errr.... Liverpool???

On the subject of Liverpool... I cannot recommend highly enough the Kirkby Times. An independent working class website with some cracking stuff. Look at Blair's World and the blog of Kirkby Councillor Robin Bustard No.1 on the list if you type in Blog Councillor in google). All contained alongside some seriously good stuff about issues such as the Hillsborough disaster. Magic!

Monday, February 14, 2005

"No more 'Mr I know best'" Blair tells Labour's Spring Conference, and now he wants to build a "partnership with the people." It's his partnership with the little fellah in the White House that worries me though.

Labour will win the forthcoming General Election, says Roy Hattersley, because "The Prime Minister is a better One Nation Conservative than Howard will ever be." Sad, but sadly true.

Sunny Jim, the last trade unionist to become Prime Minister (and also possibly the last trade unionist to become Prime Minister, if you get my drift), is the age of 92 years, 10 months and 18 days, Britain's oldest ever former Prime Minister.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Microsoft's new Route Planner.. this really is worthwhile Try this:

MSN Maps & Directions - Get Directions

Select Norway for the country in both start and end

Start City : Haugesund
End City : Trondheim

Click Get Directions.

(Thanks to Jim at Slave to the 11C)
I know the xenephobes want an English manager, but surely they want some record of achievement, not any old English manager. Mr Potatoehead has now decided to throw his hat in the ring!

Time to start being afraid

Values such as respect for political and human rights... "are the indispensable elements of an Iraq where the rule of law prevails, justice is served and freedom is guaranteed."... so writes John Negroponte, US Ambassador to Iraq in The Day We Defeated Fear. Unfortunately he uses El Salvador to illustrate the way fear can be defeated. El Salvador where death squads "abducted members of the civilian population and rebel groups. They tortured their hostages, were responsible for their disappearance and usually executed them." The "death squad option" was also evidenced in Honduras where the US Ambassador, one John Negroponte, looked the other way. Now the US are said to be preparing for the "Death Squad Option" in Iraq.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

A day to remember

It took 15 years for the British Government to admit they were wrong in locking up the Guilford 4. It has taken another 15 years for them to apologise. Why? And even when they do... the Speaker fails to catch the eye of the MP demanding the apology during PMQs, so they miss out on that very public apology. I had the good fortune to be present at the Old Bailey as a trade union observer on the day the Birmingham Six were released and the combination of euphoria mixed with bitter resentment at the way these totally innocent Irish/Brummies had been treated was electric. It was also tinged with sadness for the other victims, the families of those killed in The Mulberry Bush and The Tavern in the Town, who must have felt totally robbed as the real bombers had been allowed to escape by the bungling of the police in their desperation to find a victim... any victim!

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

You're 'aving a larf...

If the BNP website is to believed (and I wouldn't believe them if they said today was Tuesday without checking first) they claim one of their racist councillors in Bradford may have a case for race discrimination. Apparently he was lawfully sacked by Serco, but because he is in the BNP, and the BNP is exclusively white, he may have been unfairly discriminated against because of the "ethno-specific nature of the BNP as a political party."

Nice work if you can get it....

... but I suppose it helps if you are connected!
Formerly headed by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, parent firm Halliburton showed Iraq-related revenue of about $1.7bn and $13m of operating profit in its most recent quarterly results.
From Bloggerheads via Friendly Fire.
Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL) - George Monbiot tells how the US occupation regime helped itself to $8.8 bn of mostly Iraqi money in just 14 months.

Steve at Occupied Country has a pretty good musical taste. OK, so we're 'of a certain age' but I find most of the stuff that works its way onto his i-pod is music that I also rate very highly. So, prompted by Steve I decided to buy the Pat Metheny Group album, The Way Up. I'm usually wary about buying anything where I've only heard one track on the radio because I often find that the track I heard was the only decent thing on it. Well... The Way Up has only got one track, and its the only decent thing on it. It's absolutely stunning. I've played nothing else for a week, and on every listening it has got better, and delivered up things I had missed earlier. Great, great jazz rock. Thanks Steve.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

A documentary celebrating the 40th anniversary of Malcolm X's visit to the Black Country is to be shown at venues in the area over the next two weeks. The local Branch of Unite Against Fascism have issued this press release.

Malcolm came to Smethwick in what turned out to be the last week of his life, at a time when he already knew he was in imminent danger of assassination. His arrival in Britain came in a period when Smethwick had become notorious as the scene of racial conflict, fuelled by local and national politicians seeking election in the area (does this sound familiar?).

In 1964 a Tory MP had been elected for Smethwick under the slogan of 'if you want a nigger for a neighbour vote Labour' and, over the following winter, the legacy of that campaign continued with the local Council's attempts to prevent the sale of previously White-occupied homes to Black people from the Commonwealth.

Malcolm paid a short visit to the town as an act of solidarity with the Black and Asian immigrants to the area (many of the arrangements for the visit were made by the local Branch of the Indian Workers' Association). At a press conference he said "the worst form of human being, I believe, is one who judges another human being by the colour of his skin".
He was asked what he thought of the situation in Smethwick and replied: "I have heard that Blacks in Smethwick are being treated in the same way as the Negroes were treated in Alabama--like Hitler treated the Jews".
Asked what he would do, he said "I would not wait for the fascist element in Smethwick to erect gas ovens ...".

Malcolm flew back to the USA the following day and was gunned down as he spoke to a public meeting in New York just a few days later. Twenty-two thousand people went to view his body as it lay in a Harlem funeral home.

To different people, Malcolm's visit has been a source of curiosity, outrage and inspiration. For anyone involved in the local campaigns against racism & fascism -- both then and now -- the visit of such an international figure is a welcome reminder that we are part of a global movement. The anniversary of his visit is also a reminder that the gains we have made against racism in Smethwick and elsewhere had to be fought for.

But the campaign isn't over. The General Election expected in May or June this year will see the fascist British National Party contest several constituencies in the Black Country and Birmingham. Now is surely as good a time as any to take Malcolm's message seriously.

For more information on the showing of the film, e-mail

Friday, February 04, 2005

"....for many Labour supporters, the whole point of winning an election is to create a fair, open society that reflects our decent, humanitarian values. A manifesto that promised them such a society might give them the motivation they need to vote and secure Labour a better chance of winning." Robin Cook in The Guardian on the Labour Party Manifesto.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Whitby's Poodle

When I got on the Council a few years back the legal officers were crawling all over us like a rash to make sure we declared any interest, financial or otherwise, in any matters under discussion. They were particularly concerned in respect of planning applications, for obvious reasons. So it came as something of a surprise to read that the Tory Leader of Birmingham City Council, Mike Whitby, had participated in planning committee debates about mobile phone masts, without declaring that he had over £2,500 worth of shares in vodafone! Now I have no reason to believe that Mike Whitby intended anything by this failure to declare, and in fact he stood a couple of times for election in this Ward before he "crossed the border" into Birmingham, and everyone round here speaks well of him. The interesting thing for me is how quickly his Lib Dem Deputy John Hemming was diverted from his main political obsession of counting the cost of the carpet in the Labour Group room to jump to His Masters defence and rush off a letter to the newspapers defending his boss because "his shareholding is too small to require a declaration." I suppose if you are a millionaire like Hemming, most amounts are of little consequence.... but most right-minded people would agree with the Ombudsman who said "Where a member has got a pecuniary interest in any matter they need to declare and withdraw from proceedings."

Justice... they call it justice!

It is very satisfying to know that we have delivered democracy and civilisation to the people of Iraq. Corporal Jonathan Petrice, a colleague of Larkin, initially said he had seen him ordering the Iraqis to undress. However, under cross-examination, but without being prompted, he said he was now confused as to whether it had in fact been Larkin.

Never mind The State of the Union... this is the speech Bush should have given in 2002.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

One of the most frquent complaints I receive as a councillor (apart from that bloody casino proposal) concerns the car parking charges for visitors to the Sandwell General Hospital. Although we called the issue in for scrutiny we were not succesful in getting them to reduce the charges, so people continue to block up side roads outside the hospital. It now seems in Dudley, they've got an altogether different problem.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A good mate of mine, Andy Goodall, managed to get me a copy of The Revolution Will NOT be Televised. A must see. What a fantastic film. Much of it shot from inside the Presidential Palace as the US inspired coup against Chavez takes place in fron of our eyes... and then unravels as the popular protest builds. President Chavez, this week, closed the World Social Forum in Brazil with a tribute to the people of the United States : "One day the decay inside U.S. imperialism will end up toppling it, and the great people of Martin Luther King will be set free. The great people of the United States are our brothers, my salute to them."