Wednesday, August 31, 2005

I don't actually believe it... but it's fun. You must have pondered where you would emerge if you dug a great big hole in the ground in your back garden.... and just kept going! (Via New Links who also give us a link to this shocking news!)
Tom Watson is, quite rightly, taking up the case of one of his constituents who has an O2 mobile phone mast overlooking their house.

Well... the picture of this bloody monstrosity is taken from the bedroom of a one-year-old child in my Ward, and it was erected despite the opposition of local residents. It is an absolute disgrace that this is allowed by Government... and before you ask, yes, I have got a mobile phone, but I would gladly accepted a reduced service if it meant avoiding this sort of thing.

Livingstone to face the Standards Board

As regular readers of these pages will know, there are many things I will gladly argue with Councillor John Hemming about. Not surprisingly really, because he is wrong about so many things. However... on the issue of the Standards Board, I agree with him almost 100%.

Yes, there are instances of councillors ‘bullying’ officers…and there are instances of councillors showing ‘a lack of respect’ for colleagues and others. But it cannot be right that (with as much respect as I can muster) a team of faceless bureaucrats can have the right to overturn the democratic wishes of the electorate and dismiss or suspend a politician. I do believe there should be rules governing issues relating to corruption or other illegal practices, but I can think of no greater act which would bring the post of Mayor of London, or the Standards Board of England and Wales into disrepute, than for these people to take action against Ken Livingstone.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

"Yorkshire all out 232, Hutton ill! I'm sorry.Hutton 111" - BBC news announcer

We used to go to Scarborough for our holidays when I was a nipper, and tales of derring-do by the great Yorkshire cricket side of the 1950's and 1960's led me to supporting the Yorkshire County Cricket side. I suppose I was the cricket equivalent of the 'glory-hunter' Manc fan from Devon... or is it Chelsea these days? Anyway, for my sins I have ended up supporting Yorkshire through thin and thinner over the last 40 years or more. So... I was puffed out with pride to see big Matty helping the King of Spain to guide England home on Sunday afternoon. Why, even curmudgeonly old Boycs is claiming the credit. To understand just how helpful Boycs can be, you have to hear this tale from Basil D'Olivera that sums him up perfectly. D'Olivera came out to bat on a sticky wicket with England a four wickets down for very little, and Boycs was still in on about 6 not out. After a few balls Dolly realised that if you took a large step down the wicket you could nullify the spin and batting became easier. He walked down the wicket to Boycott and explained his theory to the great man. "I know" said the world's most selfish Yorkshireman, "but don't tell the others!"

Thursday, August 25, 2005

...."Chávez, now 51, is the same age as Tony Blair, and after nearly seven years as president he has been in power for almost as long. But there the similarities end. Chávez is a man of the left..."

Richard Gott on Hugo Chavez

Wednesday, August 24, 2005


Says millionaire Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone:

...Drunk and disorderly behaviour amongst under-18's is still a significant problem.

Many of our town centres are becoming no-go zones on Friday and Saturday nights. While the majority of young people behave responsibly the fact that over 31,000 under 18's were prosecuted for being drunk and disorderly will be a major worry for parents everywhere.

Binge drinking can cause significant health problems for young people and it is now clear it is a major social problem in our communities.

So why is it Lib Dem policy to lower the legal drinking age to 16?

(via Lib Dem Watch)
I wonder if, under the British Government's latest proposals to outlaw crazy clerics, they would do anything about Nutty US evangelist Pat Robertson. He has called for the United States to assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez because... "a whole lot cheaper than starting a war ... We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability." Somehow, I feel that it is extremely unlikely that the Bush/Blair doctrine of The War against Terror will be applied to this sort of dangerous religous lunatic. Perhaps the worrying thing is that 7 million sad people are supposed to watch this tripe!

Interestingly, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld felt moved to comment, that..."Our department doesn't do that kind of thing. It's against the law,".

Oh yes, of course. "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its own people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves." — Henry Kissinger following the coup of 9/11 which led to the death of Chilean President Salvador Allende.
Steve Bell on the Irakey Constitution.

Arsene Wenger: Pot to kettle, pot to kettle, come in please.

“When the earth becomes a common treasury again, as it must, . . . then this enmity in all lands will cease.” The English Revolution.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Hattersley intrudes on the Tory Party's private grief.
David Davis's irresistible attributes are said to be a broken nose, membership of the Territorial SAS and a birth certificate which confirms that he was born in a council house. If that is what it takes to become Tory leader, potential Conservative prime ministers are to be found in most job centres.

Theme Park Death. Robert Fisk on the horrors of Baghdad. Also on ZNet: Has Bush reached the tipping point?

Cover up? Not me guv, honest.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

I like David James. OK, he's not the greatest goalkeeper who ever trod the turf, but in my book he's a good guy. In 2000 Aston Villa lost 1-0 in the FA Cup Final to Chelsea, the goal coming about largely because of a howler by James. The newspapers the next day laid the entire blame for our woeful performance on 'Calamity' James. No headlines about the fact that the forwards hadn't mustered a shot on goal throughout the whole 90 minutes (strangely familiar yesterday at Old Trafford too) or that the midfield was non-existant, or that no defender cleared the corner which James actually came for. No, the whole debacle was down to 'Calamity' James. The next day, through 'contacts' in Birmingham City Council, I managed to wheedle the family into Birmingham City Council House, where Doug Ellis had managed to get the Council to organise a Civic reception, presumably in anticipation of our great victory. The players trooped in, and didn't they just troop. OK, they didn't have anything to celebrate, and they should have looked sheepish about their shambolic performance the previous day. Also... a Civic Reception... for losers? No wonder they were embarrassed. If anyone should have wanted to hide away it was the giant goalkeeper who had been scapegoated by the media. But whereas Billy Bigtimes like Gareth Southgate and Lee Hendrie and most of the other multi-millionaires just sulked in the corner, Jamesey was everywhere, posing for photos with the kids (and, shamefacedly, their dads in some cases) signing autographs and chatting amiably with anyone and everyone. Benni Carbone and Merse, at least one of whom probably didn't have the faintest idea what was going on, also joined in I'm pleased to say. The sulky Southgate, who demanded a transfer to a 'bigger club' and then moved to those football giants Middlesboro, continued to sip his Britvic juice and hide in the corner.

Anyway... as I say, he ain't the greatest, but I like David James, and I felt for him this week when the cliche-ridden media pygmies got their spears out again to prod him mercilessly. Still, it all finished happily... he was back in Brum yesterday and had a smile as wide as the Bull Ring at the end of the match. And so did I.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

In the report to Sandwell Council's Planning Committee two weeks ago the local police said they had no problem about establishing a casino in a quiet residential area, because if anything, casinos can lead to a reduction in crime. Thankfully, the Planning Committee still rejected the ridiculous casino proposal... and in the meantime, two miles away, the police can get to work on this.

Stop stealing our F****ing signs! Must be worth a bob or two on Ebay.

Tony Woodley is right. The law on solidarity action should be changed by a Labour Government. Workers should be allowed to stand up for weaker colleagues being attacked by a third party employer. Currently Tory controlled Walsall Council is proposing to "hive off" over 2,000 staff to three different employers. The new employers, Fujitsu, Vertex and United Utilities, although acting as a single consortium, are adamant that the transferred workers, although being transferred under the same TUPE conditions, will work for individual and separate employers, with distinct and separate bargaining 'rights'. Thereby making any solidarity action taken by employees from across the companies immediately unlawful, and the workers will find their action will be be "repudiated" by cowering union full-time officials anxious not to have their company cars sequestrated. These are all workers carrying out work for what is, fundamentally, the same employer: Walsall Council. Any action should be considered in that light, and employers shouldn't be able to hide behind the labels of privatisation.

Letter in The Guardian
I am mystified by the fuss Israel is making over the removal of 2% of its illegal settlers from the Occupied Territories. Israel managed to ethnically cleanse half a million Palestinians from their homes during the 1948 war. In recent years, it has destroyed thousands of Palestinian homes. So are we supposed to be so impressed by the "trauma" of removing 8,000 squatters from Gaza, that we no longer expect Israel to abide by 30 years of international laws demanding the removal of the other 98% of settlers from the Occupied Territories?
Chris Webster
That should be enough to get the loathsome Melanie Phillips spitting blood.

Friday, August 12, 2005

.....more ominous, perhaps, than the occupation of Iraq is the occupation of the US.
It is not only Iraq that is occupied. America is too

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Best holiday read to date this year, by a million miles, has got to be Robert Lewis' splendid 'The Last Llanelli Train'. Try to imagine a gumshoe from Bristol, played by Shane Macgowan, and you've got Lewis' spaced out Robert Llewellyn. How anyone 26 years of age can write a book so full of drunken, debauched, degenerate, degraded, dissipated and dissolute experience, I do not understand. I know Pete doesn't usually read British crime fiction... but this is different and right up his street.

Monday, August 08, 2005

I have just been shocked by a banner headline in a Sunday newspaper in France. Robin Cook Dead. What a shock, and bad news for all of thus who oppose the Blairite faithful. It is strange, thinking back, how much it seemed to hurt Cook to have to oppose his former Leader. I had many difference with Cook, not least his support for the daily bombing of Iraq (the war didn't start in 2003, whatever myth the BBC continue to peddle) when he was Foreign Secretary. However, this letter in The Guardian struck a nerve with me.

No one is more dangerous than a politician who will put principle before ambition. Robin Cook, rest in peace.
David Whalin
Annandale, Virginia, USA

Hattersley on Robin Cook is also worth a read.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Well done the Express and Star! Here is an amusing little tale about wife beating. Man knocks woman senseless because he can't find his cans of ale. What a hoot!

Madeleine Peyroux's Careless Love is one of my favourite albums of the year. Imagine Billie Holliday singing Bob Dylan's "You're going to make me lonesome when you go" and you've got it. Perfect. Also, anyone who refuses to kow-tow to that toerag Parkinson, is OK with me.

Lots about tornados around the world from John Hemming in the last week, but very little about the growing band of people unhappy with his Tory/Lib Dem coalition's response to their plight. It seems they were less than impressed with the performance of John's Leader, Mike Whitby, on local television (very well described by UK Political Hack on Tuesday).

Another benefit gig for local blues and jazz musician Steve Ajao last night. Nearly £1,000 raised... and a surprise appearance from the man himself, in a wheelchair. That didn't stop him jamming with a 10 piece band in a tremendous finale. Welcome back Steve.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

As we left for work this morning the road was packed with police and the woods opposite the house were sealed off with 'scene of crime' tape. I went over to ask the police what was happenning to be met with a stonewall response that 'we are investigating an incident'. Brilliant! I would never have guessed that without police assistance. What sort of incident? A bomb making factory in the bushes? An explosive device found? An arms cache revealed by the provisional IRA as part of their deal with the Government? Who knows? As it turned out, someone amongst the local constabulary felt able to reveal to the local newspaper that they were investigating a mysterious death after a body had been found in the woods. Only a few weeks ago there was an alleged sexual assault in the woods, and following that the police undertook to keep Councillors informed so that we could try to stop incorrect rumours spreading, and as elected representatives we would have some idea of what was happenning in the neighbourhood. Fine policy that turned out to be!

Last night the Planning Committee once again through out (unanimously) the odious plans by Blue Chip Casinos to turn a local pub in a residential area into an all-night gambling den (see 26 July posting). Congratulations to all the residents who turned up to the Planning Committee with their banners and placards... who says people aren't interested in politics! Hopefully, now, the owners of the pub, who I understand to be Enterprise Inns, will put in some investment and turn The Barleycorn into a decent pub with good beer and food that will be a benefit the local community. If they're not going to do that, let's flatten it and build some homes in what is one of Sandwell's better areas (and that, believe me, is not a big claim).

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Apparently the M6 in the West Midlands has been described as Britain's most hated piece of road. It is called the 'Highway from Hell' which is a polite way of saying it comes out of Walsall. As someone who commuted to this dismal little town for longer than I care to remember, I can confirm that Walsall is most definitely the part of Britain that God forgot to throw away when he finished the earth.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

John Pilger on why we should pay tribute cherish the memory of the International Brigades.
Impeccable gentlemen now invade defenceless countries in our name, destroying hospitals, shooting doctors, rounding up thousands and writing a number on their forehead or forearm, then imprisoning and torturing them. They speak of freedom and democracy, and our way of life and our values, and they deride those who reason why. They do not wear armbands and they do not strut. They are different from fascists. But their goals are not different: conquest, domination, the theft and control of vital resources.

Poster adapted from the excellent Micah Wright Propaganda Remix site.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

As George Monbiot points out, this weekend marks the 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, and Bush and Blair are commemorating it in their own special way: by seeking to ensure that the experiment is repeated.

Just a few figures:
It is estimated that 188 million people lost their lives as a consequence of war and genocide in the 20th century.
Roughly nine civilians are killed to every soldier by acts of war (stick that where it hurts, John Humphrys).
$1,034 billion was spent on military expenditure last year. $455 billion by the US, $47.5 billion by Britain.
The value of arms sales by the top 100 producers in 2003: $236 billion.
Providing three years worth of basic food HIV/AIDS medication, childhood immunization and clean water and santisation for the world's neediest people = $230 billion.
"The only groups who win in armed struggle are the arms manufacturers." - President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez

Monday, August 01, 2005

Blowin' in the wind

It is 50 years this month since a young black man named Emmett Till was beaten, tortured, shot, tied in barbed wire and thrown in the Tallahatchie River. His crime, in the land of the brave, was to wolf-whistle at a white woman. Fifty years later a young black man is brutally murdered by racists in Huyton, Liverpool. His crime, in the land of the free, well, he was walking to the bus stop with his white girlfriend.

What a waste.
Inclement weather in Birmingham.... but apparently, no storm!

The Tory/Lib dem coalition are kicking up a fuss over the storm. Perhaps using it as a good week to bury the bad news that they have wasted £150,000 of the electorate's money and 12 months carrying out a feasibility study into a Birmingham underground system that the world and its dog could have told them was a total non-starter.

He may appeal to somebody, but surely Lee, it's time to grow up. Don't be a jerk all of your life.

If you were wondering why the Reverend Ian Paisley doesn't welcome the IRA's recent statement that it is committed to peaceful means, don't rule out enlightened self-interest. As many a Council leader will tell you, it pays to keep an eye on the payroll vote. When many of your supporters earn their living from the 'security' forces, you have to try to keep the threat alive or they might get their redundancy checks.