Thursday, June 30, 2005

Afghanistan is no longer a haven for terror, the Taliban is history, and the Afghan people are free. (George W. Bush - August 2003) Via Bloggerheads and Think Progress (which has a number of other similar links)

Helicopter brought down by hostile fire in Afghanistan - 17 feared dead.
Farewell to Essaouira! Sunset from our flat.

Islamic terrorists attack the US. Iraq did not carry out attacks against the US, despite a decade of bombing raids over Iraq by US aircraft. The US invades Iraq. Those who resist and oppose this invasion are dubbed terrorists. The war in Iraq is therefore part of The War Against Terrorism (T.W.A.T.). Truth is lies. Black is white. War is peace. Bush repeats the spurious link between September 11th and the war in Iraq.

If Michael White is to be believed then the Campaign Group look set to compromise over ID cards. What surprises me is the notion that the cost issues outweigh the civil liberty issues. Personally I'm not unhappy about some form of ID card which allows me to verify my credit transactions and rent a DVD, but the sort of Big Brother approach being suggested in the Bill goes much further than that... and the notion of tying it in to the aforementioned T.W.A.T. makes it even more scary. Not a scientific poll I know, but the responses to Tom's blog survey suggest both cost and civil liberties are significant.

A pretty good map search and route planner.

In the pre-general election quiz I was exposed as a closet Lib Dem. Just about as accurate as this one which tells me I act 30! My MP would never accuse me of being that mature.

Monday, June 27, 2005

As I move inside from the sun kissed beaches of Essaouira, I note that New Labour whips are supposed to be threatening dissident backbenchers that they will withhold all-expenses-paid official trips to exotic locations unless they promise to toe the line. Given how cheaply me & Mrs P. have been able to spend a week in Morocco watching one of the world's great music festivals, I have to say this has the smack of an empty threat about it. Anyway, tomorrow, tanned, relaxed, rested up and recovered from an early dose of Montazuma's Revenge, I will return from this short break fully invigorated. (I hasten to add that this trip was not a fact finding freebie courtesy of the Sandwell taxpayers in order to investigate the possibilities of a festival in the desert just outside of Rowley Regis)

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Note from Essaouira

We arrived in Marrakech on Tuesday and stayed at a terrific Riad owned by two Scots, David and Ross. If you are ever in Marrakech I could not recommend their hospitality at Riad Arahanta too highly. Ross took us the short walk through teeming Marrakech streets to the incredible Djemaa el Fna. It is absolutely breathtaking and almost impossible to put into words. Ross even found a place where we could get a couple of beers too.

We moved on the next day to Essaouira, a quite beautiful costal town and the home of an annual world music festival. There are musicians on almost every corner and three giant stages, two in the main squares and one on the beach. Again we managed to blag a drink by convincing hotel staff we were with the TV crews and sponsors in a large beachside hotel. There was an extraordinary buffet which sat uneasily with some of the poverty outside, and the grotesque site of an arabic drum band accompanying a bloody fashion show. The festival finishes tomorrow with a performance by Youssou N'Dour. Glastonbury? Who needs it?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Well, tomorrow we fly to Marrakech, and then on Wednesday to Essaouira for the music festival. The way the weather has been the last 3 days, Marrakech promises to be a bit cooler. For those following the saga of 'Hemmingate', and don't want to buy a tabloid, you can follow the best of it (and a lot more besides) through my two fellow Midlands bloggers Political Hack and TalkPolitics. So… unless the sleepy fishing port has an Internet CafĂ©, its farewell for a while.

No.. not me... this is His Bobness in Africa

Friday, June 17, 2005

Master of the understatement

Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming reveals that his wife is "not best pleased."
The very model of a modern Labour Minister: A tribute to Charles Clarke. (via TalkPolitics).

Next week Mrs P. and myself are heading off to Essaouira in Morocco for the annual Gnawa World Music Festival. Headlining this year is the Senegalese musical legend Youssou N'Dour. If you're unable to join the 100,000 of us descending on Essaouira (and if you haven't got accommodation, don't even think about it) you could do worse than go to London to see these two Malian masters at work.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Never mind the legal issues around Michael Jackson, there is another legal scandal hopefully working its way to a conclusion in Mississippi. The scandal is that it has taken 41 years for the state of Mississippi to bring a murder prosecution against one of the white supremacists who it is alleged murdered three students and dumped their bodies in a swamp in 1964. The killing of the 3 civil rights workers was chillingly recorded by the late Phil Ochs within months of the murders with the chorus of... "Oh, here's to the land you've torn out the heart of -- Mississippi, find yourself another country to be part of!" Later attention was brought to the killings when Gene Hackman starred in a Hollywood film based on the murders.

For all those who believe that the US is a civilising force, bringing democracy to dark and shady areas of the world, take the time to remember that this was US democracy just four decades ago.
" In truth, corruption has seldom been a barrier to foreign aid and loans: look at the money we have given, directly and through the World Bank and IMF, to Mobutu, Suharto, Marcos, Moi and every other premier-league crook."
George Monbiot on debt relief.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Birmingham has 11 Members of Parliament. Nine of them are Labour, one is a Lib Dem... and one is a Tory. So when a leading Birmingham Tory Councillor says the City's TEN MPs should "get off their butts" and start fighting for the people of Birmingham, has he simply forgotten their sole Member of Parliament? Or does he think the people of Sutton Coldfield don't matter anyway?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

This evening myself and Mrs P. went for a meal with two members of the Town Twinning Committee from Sandwell’s twin town Le Blanc Mesnil. Shortly after the first bonjour my linguistic skills ran out, but Mrs P. and two local tame trots, Lynn and Godfey and our hosts, Clare and Dave Hallam, knew sufficient French to get us through. Anyway, the upshot is I’ve pledged to try and spend some time raising the profile of the Council’s twinning arrangements with Le Blanc Mesnil. Personally I would like to encourage better links between UK and French trade unionists as opposed to more arrangements between bigwigs in business on both sides of the Channel. However, our guests, Serge Jorry and Monique Chabanois thought the internal politics of French trade unionism may be a barrier to that.

Me, Monique, Serge and mine host, David Hallam

Saturday, June 11, 2005


Just some of the fantastic images at Banksy's site. (Thanks to Skuds for the reference) However... some of the images contain writing so they may be banned if the increasingly esoteric John Hemming were to have his way.



kissing coppers

Friday, June 10, 2005

Earlier this week the great Steve Ajao was knocked down on a pedestrian crossing and he is seriously ill in hospital. Steve is a giant in Birmingham jazz and blues circles, and not just because he towers over almost everyone. One of the nicest blokes you could ever wish to meet, Steve runs the Bebop Club in Ladypool Road in Balsall Heath and tonight there will be all sorts of things going on to raise money for him and some of the best jazz musicians in the area will be playing. Jazz musicians don't get sick pay... come along if you can.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Terence McSwiney, the Lord Mayor of Cork, died on hunger strike during the Irish War of Independence in 1920. This year Cork is the European Capital of Culture and as McSwiney's book Principles of freedom, written immediately before the hunger strike, has been published as part of that event. however, McSwiney's introduction has been replaced in the latest publication, which is unfortunate because it contains a passage about Hiberianism, the catholic equivalent of the Orange Order. To make up for what it describes as this "cultural vandalism" the Irish Political review reprints Terence McSwiney's original introduction. For more, absolutely fascinating stuff on this, go to Tom Griffin's excellent site The Green Ribbon.
Wow! Electoral fraud. Not postal voting, but proxy voting. It's all quiet over here though.


Letter in The Guardian
As a London cyclist, I can assure Tristan Clayton that Idiot on Board signs for cars are available (Letters, June 8). They are conveniently fitted by the manufacturer and read "BMW".
William Weinstein

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

It's all about trust, Tony. That's the message from the splendid Big Barn website. Links to local food producers in your area and some interesting recipes.

Monday, June 06, 2005

There was an interesting feature on the radio yesterday about the jailed Russian billionaire Mikhail Khodorkovsky. A Russian commentator was asked about the reaction of the people to Khodorkovsky’s nine year prison sentence. The overwhelming majority of the population are in favour of it, he replied. Irrespective of the charges of tax evasion and fraud, they have seen state assets handed over to private individuals who have made fortunes beyond their imagination out of companies which once belonged to the people. Despite what seems to be reported in the media overseas, there has not been few signs of sympathy for Khodorkovsky amongst ordinary Russians , he added.

This got me thinking. Surely the overwhelming majority of people in this country would feel exactly the same…. if only they were asked the same question? How do you feel about the British Government handing over state assets, and in the case of fuel, water, telecommunications, transport, (and latterly education and health) etc, vital necessities for people’s everyday existence, to private individuals who accumulate massive wealth as a consequence of this asset stripping operation?

One person who has shown sympathy for Khodorkovsky, though, is George W. Bush. Leaving aside any natural empathy he may have for corrupt individuals who make a fortune out of crooked oil deals, Dubya, who doesn’t do irony said, "Here, you're innocent until proven guilty and it appeared to us, at least people in my administration, that it looked like he had been judged guilty prior to having a fair trial." This would make interesting reading (if only there were allowed to read it) to those who have been incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay for three years without charges or access to any legal system at all.

Sunday, June 05, 2005


A Lazy Sunday afternoon! If you Hate that Frog here's your chance to let him have it in the style of Yeti Sports! (Via New Links) which also offers a referral to a site with an interesting explanation as to why cyclists wear black shorts.

Doctor Vee can get on my wick with all that lib Dem crap... but he refers to some cracking posts. For instance, this one. If this is how much attention people pay to credit card signatures, what difference will ID cards make!

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Watch out, here they come... McDonald's, Starbucks and Disneyworld Basra. Freedom is on its way people.

Meanwhile Gordon Brown seems to be dragging Dubya screaming to address the problems of Africa. You see, George doesn't mind helping to write off the debts they lent to corrupt dictators, but he wants to fund it out of the existing aid budgets. In one hand, out the other. Anyway... these greedy swine could cough up £7 million worth of assistance. If you're thinking of changing your mobile service provider... remember them.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Liberal Democrats have long been the most Euro fanatical of the main parties, even more so than the New Labour project people who seem almost as determined to create a Thatcherite free market across Europe.

The Lib Dem Manifesto, whilst making twittering noises about ‘decentralisation’ and ‘more democracy’ came out firmly in favour of the EU constitution:

“…... With enlargement to twenty-five member states the EU needs reform to become more efficient and more accountable. The new constitution helps to achieve this by improving EU coherence, strengthening the powers of the elected European Parliament compared with the Council of Ministers, allowing proper oversight of the unelected commission and enhancing the role of national parliaments. It also more clearly defines and limits the powers of the EU, reflecting diversity and preventing over centralisation. We are therefore clear in our support for the constitution, which we believe is in Britain’s best interests.” (The REAL Alternative 2005)

Yes, there it is. The Lib Dem argument for a yes vote in a referendum on the EU constitution. Clear, unequivocal, no room for doubt in anyone’s mind there then.

So, a few days after the French voted to reject the Constitution, and the Dutch kicked it into touch… what do we find? Regular readers of the always interesting John Hemming weblog will have seen a splendid example of political gymnastics, even by his standards. So quick out of the blocks was JH that at 6.00pm on Sunday night, with opinion polls across France declaring a victory for the 'no' campaign, Hemming already had one foot on the bandwagon. Now he writes... "There is an opportunity of changing the direction of the European Union away from "ever closer union". I've searched his site for the words... clear in our support for the constitution, to no avail. Ah well, that's one pledge ditched... just three weeks after the election!