17 May 2009

Why Vote UKIP?

The rather impressive Re-Elect Jean blog (to get Jean Lambert returned as London's Green Party MEP) points out the flaws in voting UKIP if you're angry about expenses:

It is a shame that some voters are thinking of turning to UKIP as they react to the disgraceful revelations over MPs expenses. After all, of the 12 MEPs elected for UKIP last time, two of them were convicted for fraud, and one of them joined the neo-fascist grouping in the European Parliament. In contrast, the UK's two Green MEPs are the only UK grouping to receive a 100% rating from the pressure group Open Europe for the transparency and accountability of their finances, as this press release details.

Caroline Lucas in the Indy on Sunday

"People are wanting something fresher and more authentic and a bit of passion in politics. When you see all these MPs from the other parties hanging their heads in shame over the expenses scandal, there's a very dangerous – and wrong – sense that you can't trust anyone in politics. So trying to reinvigorate the whole political system is important. There's a real new focus in the party. We do feel we are on the edge of a breakthrough."

10 May 2009

May Meeting - Coventry Green Party

Our next meeting is this Tuesday, the 12th of May, at 730pm, at the Cheylesmore Community Centre. Our guest speaker is Ann Farr, who is a member of Pax Christi, and she recently returned from a post-Gaza-war trip to Palestine. The Cheylesmore Community Centre is at the corner of Portsea Close, Arundel Road and Poiters Road in Cheylesmore.

04 April 2009

April Meeting - Coventry Green Party

We're meeting next on Thursday, the 9th of April, at 730pm, at Cheylesmore Community Centre. Our guest speaker will be Claire Boylen, the local coordinator for No2ID. No2ID is a non-partisan campaign group against the entire idea of ID cards and the growing collection of personal data (NHS IT projects, biometric passports, etc).

I'm Back

17 March 2009

My Next Few Days

It's going to be a busy week for me.

- Tonight, we're having a social, to mark St Patrick's Day, at the Town Wall Tavern, 730pm onwards. Come say hi!

- Tomorrow is an evening meeting in Birmingham to continue West Midlands work on the European elections (at the FoE warehouse in Digbeth).

- Thursday is the Climate Change demonstration here in Coventry (organised by Cafod, WDM and Christian Aid), with a service at the Cathedral (12pm), then a march through town (130pm), then a trip out to the headquarters of E.ON at Westwood Business Park (3pm).

- Then, Fri-Sat-Sun-Mon is the Green Party spring conference in Blackpool! I've never been to Blackpool. All I know about it is this:

"After The Gaza War - Is Peace Possible"

This is on Thursday night (refreshments from 630pm, event from 7pm to 915pm) at the Methodist Central Hall here in Coventry. It will be a talk and discussion by the co-directors of Jerusalem Peacemakers ... on the impact of the Gaza war on the region, renewed efforts for peace building, and what we can do to help.

Eliyahu McLean (Jewish) and Sheikh Abdul Aziz Bukhari (Sufi Muslim) are dedicated to building bridges at grassroots level, and do vital work bringing together people from all faiths and communities within Israel and Palestine to promote dialogue, understanding and reconciliation. They both live in Jerusalem, and Sheikh Bukhari has extensive family and community connections in Gaza.

If you have any queries about the event, you can contact the local organiser: Barbara Payman, on 07866 159675, on email at coventryforpeace@hotmail.co.uk.

16 March 2009

Barcelona's Solar Cemetery

Ed Miliband At "Age Of Stupid" Premiere

Ed Miliband is challenged by "Age of Stupid" director Franny Armstrong; the movie's star, Pete Postlethwaite, also pledges his support to the "Not Stupid" campaign by vowing to return his OBE if the UK government fails to secure urgent and drastic global decarbonisation at Copenhagen:

15 March 2009

What I'm Reading ...

- China's Way Forward, James Follows, The Atlantic: "You never know which statistics to believe in China, but in January a local official in Dongguan told me that at least 1 million factory workers had recently lost their jobs within five miles of where I was ... If China does not keep moving forward and growing, will it tear itself apart?"

- Obama Seeking A Channel To Khamenei?, The Wonk Room, Think Progress: "'The key issue is now to find a channel to Khamenei,' said a senior Western diplomat briefed on the Obama administration’s policy review in recent days. 'If the supreme leader moves, he’s going to do it in a very prudent and incremental way' ... The Obama administration’s first direct contact with Iranian officials is expected to come later this month at a UN-sanctioned conference on Afghanistan in the Netherlands."

- Six Questions for Juan Cole, Scott Horton, Harper's: "Many Americans seem to view the Muslim world as the new Soviet Union, as a relatively monolithic and uniformly hostile bloc of nations. This point of view seems to me oddly detached from reality."

- Alan Watkins, "Voting reform? Too late, Mr. Brown," The Independent, "In the 1997 government, the two leading proponents of the alternative vote were Robin Cook and Peter Mandelson. Mr Cook is, sadly, dead, while Lord Mandelson has quite enough on his plate with which to keep himself occupied."

12 March 2009

North-South Rail In Warwickshire

Some good news on rail: government funding may fast-track (see what I've done there) new stations in Kenilworth, at the Ricoh Arena, and at Bermuda Estate in Nuneaton. Trains would run four times an hour between Coventry and Nuneaton. The Ricoh would be developed as a transport hub, including trains, bus services and a new Park and Ride.

Caroline Lucas And Workplace Equality

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party leader, and MEP for the South East, will feature in the 755pm politics slot on Channel 4, tonight.

Our spring conference is coming up (not this weekend, but next) in Blackpool.

At conference, Caroline Lucas will propose a motion on workplace equality. Women working full-time in the UK are paid 17% less than men.

Caroline's motion would require:

- Medium and large companies undertake equal pay audits that compare the earnings of their employees
- That such companies take action to redress inequalities
- Legal changes to make it much easier for women to take equal pay cases to court, and to allow women to take such cases as a group, with the support of their unions
- Significant funding to be put into encouraging girls and women to consider a broader range of careers
- a law (following Norway) in requiring that companies listed on the Stock Exchange have 40% of their board members being female within five years of the date of the passing of the legislation.

There will also be other motions on women's issues debated at conference:

- a motion to improve NHS pre- and post-natal care, including a full range of birth options and the right
- a motion to help combat domestic abuse, starting with "respect" training in schools, and,
- a motion to extend the right to asylum for women and girls, to include asylum for those who would be forced to undergo forced marriage or genital mutilation were they denied asylum.

China And Recycling

11 March 2009

Media And Teenage Boys

Over the past year, there were more newspaper stories about young people and crime than about all other stories on teenagers put together. The media refer to teenagers are yobs, feral, as sick, as scum. Unsurprisingly, research commissioned by "Women in Journalism" has found that 85% of teenage boys say newspapers portray them in a bad light. They think adults are more wary of them now than they were a year ago.

Fiona Bawdon, a committee member for WIJ: "When a photo of a group of perfectly ordinary lads standing around wearing hooded tops [is] visual shorthand for urban menace or even the breakdown of society, it is clear that teenage boys have a serious problem ... our research shows that the media is helping make teenage boys fearful of each other."

I wish that half of the media's attention was devoted to young people trying to access mental health services than this endless focus on feral youth. One in ten young adults (aged 16-25) believe "life is not worth living." Fully 95% of imprisoned young offenders have one or more mental health disorder.

We're so obsessed with being afraid of youth that we can't see their problems anymore.

10 March 2009

Tour Around The Blogs

- Richard Lawson on how narcotics, the insurgency and the Afghan government are interlinked.

- James Forsyth on Labour's support amongst public and private sector workers ... compared with support amongst the "economically inactive."

- Iain Martin on Gordon Brown's view that the house price bubble had nothing to do with cheap money and banks out of control. Iain Dale listened to today's You and Yours on Radio 4, where Brown nearly lost his temper, insisting again that it wasn't at all down to him.

- Sam Coates on what might happen, Lib-Dem wise, in the event of a hung parliament.

- Billy Bragg and Dave Rowntree write in the Guardian about the Featured Artists Coalition, "a campaigning organisation that seeks to achieve fair remuneration in exchange for widespread access. Our target is not the music fan but the businesses that are making huge profits by exploiting artistic content for which they pay little or nothing at all."

Finally, Socialist Unity highlight the upcoming climate protests here in Coventry.

Protest At EU Commission In Brussels

This is one reason to follow people on twitter -- reporting with no mainstream media filter. Lisa Vickers works for Greenpeace International, and she's at a demonstration in Brussels today at the EU Commission building. The date stamps are from 1045am.

--

5 Greenpeace activists have been dragged away. 2 face down along the ground. #CLIMATEACTION
3 minutes ago from txt

Police now surround eu commission building but 350 Greenpeace activists are blocking it!
11 minutes ago from txt

During the scuffle with police i managed to get away! #CLIMATEACTION
13 minutes ago from txt

5 activists are now locked 2 front gates with over 100 inside with banners saying "bail out the planet" #climateaction
15 minutes ago from txt

I was locking myself to front gates when police came and began to push us around. #CLIMATEACTION
18 minutes ago from txt

We are demanding finance ministers bail out the planet! #climateaction
20 minutes ago from txt

I was grabbed by police. Lock pulled from my neck. Other girl thrown to floor. #CLIMATEaction
22 minutes ago from txt

350 activists are now blocking EU Comission building with finance ministers inside. #climateaction
25 minutes ago from txt

"Let's Get Tested" Video Competition

The deadline for entries is 31st March!

09 March 2009

The New Domestic Abuse Database

It sounds like, at a launch of a database of serial domestic abusers, Sandra Horley, chief executive of Refuge, told it like it is.

With Jacqui Smith beside her, Holey said government action has been "piecemeal" and that the register was "a gimmick" and doesn't address the root problem. "The majority of violent men don't come to the attention of police and it won't keep women safe. Police can't be expected to monitor relationships and love lives of offenders." She added: "The Government is hoping to get away with useless initiatives like this register, and it is hypocritical to sound tough and do little."

You can see Refuge's national website here.

You can download their financial guide for women experiencing domestic violence, "You Can Afford To Leave" here.

0808 2000 247 is a freephone 24-hour national domestic violence helpline (run in partnership between Women's Aid and Refuge).

Also see: Joan Smith: "Vulnerable women are being failed by the authorities, and the last thing we need is a government policy which shifts responsibility on to victims and away from the people who are supposed to protect them"
Also see: Laurie Penny: "That a database of listed offenders will necessarily be inadequate to the scale of the problem, because not all abuse incidents are even reported, is only one of the reasons that the scheme is frankly barmy. This isn't just a question of trying to shoehorn feminist apologism into the quest for a database state. This is about civil liberties, and it’s about how we conceptualise violence against women."

Nick Clegg's Conference Speech

It's interesting that Nick Clegg, in his spring conference speech on the weekend, spoke about how the Lib Dems stand for "a fierce opposition to monopolies and vested interests."

This is the same party that had its autumn 2008 conferences sponsored by Tesco and Microsoft. The party that wants to keep a privatised train network until at least 2025, and that's ok with PFI. To boot, they're in favour of keeping nuclear weapons and the part-privatisation of the post office.

Their shadow climate change secretary, Simon Hughes, gave a conference speech that didn't mention aviation once. Their "pocket guide" to their policies says that "climate change could destroy our way of life" ... could? It damn well will, unless we start doing things about it, like reducing aviation capacity.

Unfortunately, the Lib Dems are just as grey as Labour and the Tories.

Transition Earlsdon Events in March

The next two events for "Transition Earlsdon" ... if you want more information, you can contact Jo Rathbone on 024 7667 8735.

- Tonight, at 730pm, at Earlsdon Methodist Church Hall Room 1, Prof Liz Dowler from Warwick Uni will speak on "Local Food Ethics and Alternative Food Networks". Prof Dowler contributed to the Food Ethics Council's report on food distribution networks (published in October 08). How are people bypassing the supermarkets? How well are alternatives working?

- On the 23rd of March, 730pm, at St Barbara's Church hall meeting room (corner of Rochester Rd and Beechwood Ave, in Earlsdon), there will be a film screening of "Money as Debt" -- it's a 47 minute animated film which asks where does money come from? Why have we got ourselves into the mess we're in? What is link between the money issue and environmental sustainability?

06 March 2009

Police Databases On Legal Protesters

The Guardian has breaking news on police holding details on thousands of legal protesters. When I was the webmaster of Red Pepper for 2 years, I took it as read that I had gained a MI5 file, but this level of surveillance, and holding details for seven years, is far beyond what people thought was going on.

It is legal to attend political demonstrations. It is legal to attend political meetings. It is legal to attend climate camps, like Kingsnorth. It is legal to be a journalist and cover demonstrations (members of the press are believed to have been monitored during at least eight protests over the last year). The police should not be treating legal activity as though we are criminals.

Corinna Ferguson, Liberty's legal officer, told the Guardian: "A searchable database containing photographs of people who are not even suspected of criminal activity may well violate privacy rights under article 8 of the Human Rights Act. It is particularly worrying if peaceful protesters are being singled out for surveillance."

05 March 2009

Empty Shops And Art Spaces In Coventry

I'm not going to criticise the city council if they do something innovative and intelligent:
"Coventry City Council has teamed up with Coventry Artspace to offer empty properties to local artists."

John McGuigan, the council’s director of city development, said: "There is very little we can do to prevent a company from going out of business but we are looking at ways to make the city more attractive. Empty, boarded-up shops knock the confidence of shoppers and other retailers and we need to react to the effects of the downturn. The Artspace project will mean that local artists will have a place to work and exhibit their paintings. It will not only brighten up the city, it could also give artists a chance to sell their work. People coming into the city would much rather see bright paintings instead of boarded-up windows."

Laura Elliott, artist co-ordinator for Coventry Artspace, said: "This is very important for us ... this will be a fantastic opportunity for us to bring art into the city centre. It will attract people into the city, including shoppers, which will be good for other retailers."

Bits And Bobs

- The Refugee Council, the TUC, STAR (Student Action for Refugees), and other organisations are calling for the government to allow asylum seekers to work. This would help intergration, reskill refugees to offer a better future, and combat destitution. As well, the Coventry Refugee Centre is thinking of bringing this project to Coventry. Currently, the only overnight housing for destitute refugees and asylum seekers is at the Peace House's night shelter.

- A street in Birmingham (Green Lane in Great Barr) has cut its energy consumption by 20% (an average of £200 in bills per household). Caroline Handley told BRMB radio: "It was a bit difficult because a lot of it is behavioural changes and then suddenly you're thinking I can leave this on, I can't leave that on. But over the 12 months gradually you just do things without thinking now."

- Gordon Brown giving a speech to a joint session of Congress ... bless. Enjoy it whilst it lasts, Gordon, since the centre of power in the world economy is moving to India, Korea, China, Japan, Singapore, and Indonesia. Steve Bell is skeptical about the UK closing its own tax havens, but when you're redrawing the rules, it's "the perfect time to build important [arms control] nonproliferation goals into the world’s banking system."

A few other things to read:

- Saudi Arabia's oil production peaked in 2005.
- Libby Brookes on the 100th anniversary of the war on drugs
- A fifth anniversary next week
- PeaceJam is this weekend in Bradford
- A victory for Tesco over competition and market share
- The TUC has a new pamphlet out: Unlocking Green Enterprise

04 March 2009

Response To City Centre Masterplan

I sent out a press release to local media, at midnight on Sunday, about the city council's finalised "City Centre Masterplan".

Our main points of criticism were that:

- When you strip other factors away, the purpose of the new city centre is to create a place where people shop and shop and shop some more. The Green Party believes, both here in Coventry and nationwide, that we need a society-wide emphasis on sustainability. We can't keep consuming as we have, with shopping fuelled by credit card debt.

- The "10 Guiding Principles" of the project do not prioritise sustainability. Indeed, the "10 Principles" do not even mention carbon emissions, public transport, or how energy will be generated for new city centre buildings. The "10 Principles" don't mention living wages for those who will be working in the renewed city centre. Unless you place these factors front and centre, it's hard to take seriously the rebuttal (by the council, on Touch FM this morning) that they will be key to this project.

- It's unclear how representative the consultation was of Coventry's population. 42% of Coventry was under the age of 30 in the 2001 census. Less than 18% of those involved in the consultation were under 30. This seems very lopsided in a city with two universities (Coventry University; the University of Warwick).

- From areas/buildings to be knocked down/demolished, we need an explicit commitment to use the materials to help build community centres and repair schools throughout Coventry.

What we need to do is strengthen local high streets throughout Coventry, rather than drawing retail activity away into a city centre that will take 15 years to build. Instead of a Disneyland of a city centre, Coventry must attract the same degree of private investment and have it focused on putting our economy, city-wide, on a sustainable footing (retrofitting houses, renewable energy projects ward by ward, public transport).

Language

Just ran across (hat tip to Jess) a Facebook group called "You're in England ... so speak whatever language you choose!"

It's worth reprinting part of their group's page:

--

"Some things to ponder:

* It's nice to hear people talking in their own tongue.
* Immigrants and 'ethnics' and asylum seekers are people too! Just like me and you!
* It's nice to know that as a developed and friendly nation we can give a home to those wanting to improve the lives of themselves and their children.
* Immigration is actually good for the UK, and give it time they'll all be speaking English.
* If you hear somebody speaking a foreign language on a bus, and it makes you angry, that's your problem, and you need to be asking yourself why that is so!
* Try not to look at things with a 'us v them' mentality, you'll much happier for it."

28 February 2009

Why Nuclear Power Isn't The Way To Go

Prof John Whitelegg is the Green Party's spokesperson on sustainable development. He's one of 12 Green councillors on Lancaster city council:

"It is true that a small number of Greens, feeling the urgency of the climate crisis, have suggested a nuclear re-think as a lesser of two evils. But it's also true that the Green Party overwhelmingly thinks they're wrong."

"A recent study showed that the UK nuclear industry has wasted £32 billion. It's the most expensive form of energy when we take into account its long-term waste costs, even if we ignore the potential costs of a nuclear disaster."

"[Greens] want to create a truly sustainable economy. That means viable jobs for huge numbers of people in sustainable industries. Studies have consistently shown that nuclear energy sustains far fewer jobs per megawatt than non-nuclear renewables."

"Renewable energy ... would also create huge numbers of jobs spread around the entire country, benefitting every local economy, for instance the jobs installing and maintaining microgenerators and servicing very large numbers of small-scale windfarms and biogas plants ... in the immediate term we have a recession to deal with. We need to create very large numbers of jobs right now. We can't achieve this by building nuclear power stations in fifteen years' time."

"If we achieved Denmark's rate of growth on wind energy, we could create something like 200,000 jobs in that sector alone by 2020 - faster than you could build nuclear power stations."

"And also, as a matter of priority, we could start straightaway with domestic and business energy conservation. Not only would this rapidly create many tens of thousands of jobs within a short space of time - it would also save as much energy as all the UK's nuclear power stations currently generate."

"So we simply don't need nuclear power to stop climate change. But we do need comprehensive Green policies, and we need them to be implemented now"

26 February 2009

"The Awesome Power Of The Word Clean"

Fairtrade Fortnight - Windward Islands Farmers

Renwick Rose, from the Windward Islands Farmers' Association, at the Fairtrade Foundation Conference (19th February) on "The global food crisis and Fairtrade: Small farmers, big solutions?"

24 February 2009

Upcoming Radio and TV

- I'm going to watch this tonight (the replay at 10pm) - the first Eastenders episode featuring an entirely black cast in its 23-year history. I prefer Corrie, but Eastenders gives the Patrick Trueman character good lines. Yesterday, he had "I don't want any of the chocolates, it would spoil the taste of the rum."

- Tomorrow, at 11am, BBC Radio 4, this looks good: "What Happened to the Working Class" - "Sarfraz Manzoor on how Manchester has reinvigorated itself through its working class youth culture."

- Thursday, at 915pm, Nightwaves, BBC Radio 3, they have a programme "devoted to exploring the culture and politics of the creation of the atomic bomb." They will review "Doctor Atomic," a new opera from American minimalist composer John Adams, about the morality of Robert Oppenheimer.

23 February 2009

A Green MP For Coventry

I've been the "prospective parliamentary candidate" (PPC) for Coventry South since the-election-that-never-was (when Gordon Brown nearly called it, in the autumn of 2007). We haven't really trumpeted it, but we're going to start.

Recent actions (January/February) as the PPC for Coventry South include:

- organising a visit to three venues in Coventry for Felicity Norman, our lead candidate in European elections this June (we need 10% to get Felicity elected; if you have a few hours to help out, contact Chris Williams in his office on Vyse St, in Birmingham, on 07811 428 682). We went to the Coventry Refugee Centre, to the Gaza sit-in at the University of Warwick, and to an electric van factory (out near the Binley Road and the A46)

- attending the first food sub-group meeting for Transition Earlsdon; speaking at one of the Gaza rallies here in Coventry; attending the Candles for Peace event on the 14th of February in front of the Council House; sitting in (more for my own information as a catch-up) on the latest meeting of CRACIN, the coalition against a replacement incinerator for Coventry, Warwickshire and Solihull; dropping by the Remade Fashion Fair in Birmingham this past weekend

- trying out twitter as a new way of publicising not just our events, but events in Coventry and the region, as well as news stories that may get people thinking "Green" ... this has already led to a few international exchanges

- contributing a quote to a Coventry No2ID press release on WWII identity cards and the lack of a need for them now (no war, no rationining, no lack of census data)

- drafting a newsletter (to be sent around to small businesses in the constituency every few months) for 100 businesses to be distributed in March, late May, September, and December

- lobbying the city council on having smart meters able to be loaned from public libraries

- lobbying the city council on using storefronts left vacant from the recession for artist/farmers market spaces (the farmers market spaces have an obstacle; I've been informed that Coventry Market has a medieval charter that prohibits markets within 5 miles of its site)

- organising our monthly meetings for the Green Party (guest speakers on Transition Towns - January; on rape crisis centres and their funding - February)

17 February 2009

Veggie And Vegan Recipes

A diet which includes meat is responsible for annual greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to driving a mid-sized car for 3000 miles.

A vegetarian diet will generate 50% less emissions (1500 miles).

Going vegan (no animal products at all, no dairy, no fish, no milk) cuts the emissions released by around 87% (to the equivalent of driving just 391 miles).

Organic meat is nice and all, but an organic meat-based diet only reduces your emissions by around 8%.

You can browse some vegetarian recipes here, and some main courses that are vegan here.

From the two lists, the lentil-based recipes jump out: Red Lentil Balls and Spiced Lentils with Cucumber Yogurt.

Also read: 10 Surprising Reasons To Eat Less Meat

Film Awards Season

- "Hunger" by Steve McQueen won the "Novello" award for best first film at the Baftas. Previously, the film had won the Camera d'Or at Cannes, and the Discovery Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. It's about Bobby Sands and the 1981 hunger strike in Belfast's Maze Prison.

- We had a joint social with the Uni of Warwick Young Greens last week, and we went to see "Milk" at the Warwick Arts Centre. I've been to San Francisco twice (1995 and 1997), and it was nice to see a recreation of the 1970's Castro. Sean Penn really disappeared into the lead role, and Emile Hirsch was rather good as Cleve Jones. "I faked a lung disease to get out of P.E. So what? What are you, some kind of street shrink?" "Sometimes." Ben Summerskill, the chief exec of Stonewall, gave a film review in the Guardian. It's up for best actor, best director, best picture, and best supporting actor (Josh Brolin, as Dan White, the fellow city councillor who kills Milk and the mayor) at the Oscars. Click here for a view that says the film sanitises his life.

- It's always interesting to see which films get nominated for best documentary short and feature at the Oscars. The topics this year: MLK's assasination, 14-acre community gardens in Los Angeles, the aftermath of Katrina, and the photographing of people on their way to Khmer Rouge death camps.

Frightening People Into A Police State

Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has said that "we risk a police state" with the climate of fear sown by the government.

Rimington, speaking to La Vanguardia, said: "It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state,” she said.

Her intervention comes just as the Home Office is about to public plans for the police and security services to monitor all of our emails, as well as telephone and internet activity. Since leaving MI5, Rimington has also spoken out about ID cards and on 42-day detention.

12 February 2009

Public Sector Should Lead On Climate Change

The chair of the Environment Agency has used a speech to call for far more public sector leadership on climate change:

- every public building in the country to be fitted with solar panels
- new public buildings to have ground source heat pumps
- public land used, where possible, for wind turbines
- children taught about climate change alongside literacy and numeracy
- one stop shops run by local authorities to help households fit renewables
- interest free loans to pay for micro-generators like wind turbines
- transport in local government by hybrid or electric cars, or video conferencing where possible

I think all of that would be a good start.

Remade Fashion Fair - 21st Feb in Birmingham

The Remade Fashion Fair will be held at the Custard Factory in Birmingham, 11am to 5pm, on Saturday 21 February 2009.

It's organised by Freedom Clothing, a "fashion think-and-do tank" here in Coventry. You can also follow Freedom Clothing on Twitter.

You can see a list of stallholders, and photos of their wares, here.

In their words:

"As we move into difficult economic times, there is obviously a moral imperative to support local producers and artisans. We're really passionate about encouraging people to buy - and perhaps even have a go at making - high quality recycled fashion. We are hoping that this event, which we believe will be the UK’s first exclusively concentrating on high quality recycled fashion, (or if not certainly in the Midlands), will encourage others to join the movement."

10 February 2009

Candles For Peace - Sat 14th February

Saturday 14th February is Palestinian Friendship Day.

People in Coventry, Palestine, Israel and worldwide will be lighting candles for peace in their homes, and in larger gatherings. This collective action is inspired by a Palestinian woman living in Coventry, Manal Timraz, who lost 15 relatives (11 of them children) in the recent air-strikes on Gaza. In response, Manal launched her One Million Candles campaign for peace, security and freedom for all humanity.

In 2009, the 14th February is a day for all peoples to join in friendship and solidarity as one voice, lighting candles for peace in our world.

People will gather to light candles from 530 to 630pm on the Coventry Council House steps.

Bring a "Peace Placard" with the name of your family or group (no war / atrocities banners today thanks!) or just come! Candles provided!

For more information, conctact Barbara Payman, bponemillioncandles@hotmail.co.uk, 07866 159675.

Obama And Rendition

The ominous part, so far, of Obama's foreign policy is that he's not speaking out about rendition. His administration is backing efforts by a subsidiary of an aviation firm, Jeppesen, to bar a lawsuit claiming the subsidiary played a role in the CIA's rendition programme of terror suspects. The suit claims that Jeppesen arranged over 70 flights for the CIA since 2001, and it involves Binyam Mohamed, the British resident held at Guantanamo (the kerfuffle last week over Washington threatening to stop cooperating with London on intelligence). Marc Ambinder was pulling out his hair when reporters didn't ask Obama about Jeppesen at his first televised evening press conference. Allowing the suit to go forward would be a way to open up the process around rendition, i.e. to stop it, and Obama's not taking it.

Malnutrition In Britain

Malnutrition in the UK is at drastic levels. If you are undernourished, you're vulnerable: less resistance to infection, slower healing of wounds, and reduced muscle strength. This is not a small problem. One study of 500 consecutive hospital admissions determined malnutrition in 40% of patients. 3 million people, mainly elderly, mainly in the community, are affected. The cost to society could be as high as £12 billion a year. Dr Mike Stroud gives a commentary around malnutrition here, but one of his key points is that doctors need better training to spot it.

We're Living In A Bathtub

Andrew Revkin at the New York Times has written an accessible (well, as accessible as it gets) article on why we live in a bathtub.

We're running water (carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases) into the bathtub, and, currently, we have a number of "sinks" that can absorb carbon, the drain from the bathtub. We're adding more carbon than is being removed, so the "water in the bathtub" is rising. As well, the "sinks" are starting to reach their limit in absorbing carbon (the drain is getting plugged).

If we get to a situation where global water in = global water out, we'll still have a bathtub with a lot of water in it. As Christian at Greenpeace puts it: "Turning the taps off doesn't solve the entire problem - because it's actually the amount of water in the bath which warms the planet, not how much the taps are on."

We have to stop running too much water into the bathtub.

Powerdown, Motorbikes And NZ Greens

- Call up your local university and ask if they are using "PowerDown" software in their 24-hour computer labs and 24-hour libraries. An average PC, left on for 24 hours a day but used for only 40 hours a week, uses 17kW of electricity, of which 13kW is wasted.

- Maybe my namesake could be using an all-electric motorbike by 2010. ZERO, Brammo and Quantya are all releasing all electric motorbikes. KTM, Honda and Yamaha have bikes in the pipeline for 2010.

- The Greens in New Zealand have won support from all parties for a pay freeze for MPs until a review in 2010. Makes for a change from the 2nd Home Secretary, no?

- Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is fire-resistant and water-repellent. It's used in food packaging and non-stick pans. Women, however, with high levels of PFOA in their blood, have a dramatically reduced chance of conceiving, and were twice as likely to be diagnosed with infertility. Are non-stick pans worth that?

09 February 2009

US Research At Aldermaston

The US Congress stops funding of the "Reliable Replacement Warhead" ... so what does the Pentagon do? Conduct the research in Britain.

It's the natural result of the Atomic Weapons Establishment being managed by three private companies, two of which (Lockheed Martin, Jacobs Engineering) are American. As well, this kind of British-US joint research into nuclear warheads has been going on for years.

Kate Hudson, of CND: "Any work preparing the way for new warheads cuts right across the UK's commitment to disarm, which it signed up to in the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. That this work may be contributing to both future US and British warheads is nothing short of scandalous."

Also read: The Future of the UK’s Strategic Nuclear Deterrent: the Strategic Context (House of Commons Defence Committee, 2005/6)

08 February 2009

China And US To Partner On Climate Change?

This sounds rather encouraging. China and the US might team up to fight climate change. Hillary Clinton has announced her first overseas trip (Japan, South Korea, China, Indonesia): "She will raise the prospect of a 'strong, constructive partnership' to combat climate change on a visit to Beijing next week, and the President is seriously considering a proposal from many of his most senior advisers to hold a summit with the Chinese leadership to launch the plan."

06 February 2009

Basic Sanitation For Everyone

Power Shift - Youth Conference on Climate Crisis



You can find more information at: http://powershift09.wordpress.com/

If you would like to apply for any roles (descriptions on website), send an email (max 500 words) and your CV to: kate@ukycc.org by 5pm on FRIDAY 13th February (spooky!).

Please mark the position you wish to apply for and don’t forget your name, email and phone number. Explain why you would like the role and why you would suit the position using examples from your past experience.

Obama Environmental Report Card

Good - Obama has ordered the US Department of Energy to draft regulations to make ovens, vending machines, microwave ovens, dishwashers and light bulbs more energy-efficient.

Good - Camilla Cavendish in the Times: "The first two executive orders signed by the President were, he said, a “downpayment” towards the green economy. One tightened fuel-efficiency standards for cars, an issue once thought to be politically untouchable. The other gave permission to states to move faster than the Federal Government."

Good - Lisa Jackson, the head of the US environmental protection agency, has said that the government will no longer stand in the way of requiring coal and oil-fired power plants to install more stringent mercury controls.

Bad - The US Senate's version of the stimulus package has $50 billion in loan guarantees that could be used to build new nuclear reactors and liquid coal plants: "On Monday, twenty environmental and watchdog groups sent letters to the Senate urging the $50 billion loan provision be removed from the bill." Obama and liquid coal is not new. In January 2007, he introduced a bill (with Republican Senator Jim Bunning) to "evaluate the feasibility of including coal-to-oil fuels in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and provide incentives for research and plant construction." In an email sent out by his campaign in June 2007, he said he supported coal-to-liquid fuels, so long as they emit 20% less life-cycle carbon than conventional fuels."

Bad - Obama's stimulus package is skewed in favour of motorways. It has $30 billion for highway construction and only $12 billion for public transit. Greenpeace USA calculates: "If $30 billion were spent on light rail and repairing highways instead of building new ones, the greenhouse-gas emissions would be 10 to 50 times less, because highways tend to encourage more driving and sprawl."

Aid To Jaguar Land Rover

Especially over the last month, local media (papers in Coventry and Birmingham), the city council, and local Labour MPs, have been focused in securing aid for the motor industry (primarily Jaguar Land Rover).

I think we should walk more and cycle more, and use public transit more. But, I don't have a rose-coloured glasses expectation that people will stop driving. I do think the future of the car industry will be focused on the phasing-out of the internal combustion engine. As such, I don't see the point in aiding the car-industry-as-it-is, without attaching provisions to shift the car industry to how-it-should-be.

That is, aid to Jaguar LandRover if 20% of its production is low-emission by 2010, 40% of its production low-emission by 2012, 60% by 2014, etc. Or this idea, to give consumers a £2000 rebate if they trade in older inefficient vehicles for low-emission ones.

05 February 2009

Nuclear Power? No Thanks!

You can see a collection of photos from a Green Party protest in Berlin against a nuclear industry conference here.

Snow 118 118

- You can visit www.coventry.gov.uk/snowline for a full school closure list

- Stagecoach and
Mike DeCourcey bus services are called off. BBC Coventry and Warwickshire say that DeCourcey will review on an hourly basis.

- If today's your bin/recycling day, the city council is saying that "
waste bin collection has been suspended today due to the fresh overnight snowfall. Residents should put bins out at the same time next week."

04 February 2009

Britain And Guantanamo Bay Torture

David Davis wants the government to make a statement about how complicit Britain was in torture at Guantanamo Bay. He was just on BBC 5 Live.

Davis said that a senior Law Lord wanted to put information about torture in the public domain, but said they had not, as the US government (Bush Administration) threatened to change the intelligence arrangements with the UK.

It's in dispute what the Obama Administration's position is on the information being in the public domain. Davis wants to know that too.

Coventry And Dresden ... Over Twitter

The Green group on Dresden City Council started to "follow" me on Twitter yesterday. I answered back: "Freundliche Grüße zu meinen Kollegen in Dresden!" They responded saying that "it's fine to get in contact to the Greens of a city with such fateful relationship to Dresden." I've twittered back about peace groups in Coventry. This is what "web 2.0" is about ... 15 years ago, I just wouldn't have thought one day, hey, I'll pick up the phone and call the Dresden Green Party. If you're interested, you can find their Twitter account here, and their local website here. My German is horribly rusty, but I think their last two press releases are on tenants threatened by urban redevelopment, and 13 old chestnut trees being cut down beside the State Chancellery building.

Transition Earlsdon - Food Ideas

I went last night to a Transition Earlsdon meeting on "local food alternatives." The guest speaker was Karen Leach, from Localise West Midlands. The meeting was surprisingly well-attended, about 11 people in a small room at Earlsdon Methodist Church Hall. Karen cited a number of examples (notably in Leamington, Stroud and Middlesbrough) of community-supported agriculture. We also talked about using street planters to grow fruit/veg, communal ownership of allotments and using barter to share the harvest. For a follow-up food event, we agreed to have a "seed swap" at 11am, on the 21st of February, at Cafe Desire (Albany Road and Broomfield Road). For more information (if you want to get involved), call Jo Rathbone on 02476 678735.

02 February 2009

Roy Magee - 1930-2009

I've read on BBC news that Roy Magee has died. He was a Presbyterian minister in Belfast who helped to broker the 1994 ceasefire of Northern Ireland's loyalist paramilitaries. Magee said that he first made "loose" friendships and contacts in the early 1970s with people who became key figures in the Combined Loyalist Military Command. Money goes into war-making or short-term efforts at peacekeeping. Instead, we need to invest more in long-term peace building. If we want (domestically) stronger communities and less gangs, or if we want (externally) defused tensions in the Middle East, Africa, Pakistan, and Kashmir, it's not an overnight process.

EU Court Rules And Worker Unrest

Peter Mandelson was on BBC Breakfast this morning saying that the problem isn't the EU, or the actions of Total, but judgements by the European Court of Justice.

The judgements (Laval, Rüffert, Luxembourg, and Viking) were in December 2007 and April 2008. Laval and Viking, for example, stem from corporate actions as far back as 2003 and 2004.

In 2003, Viking, which is a Finnish company that runs ferries, employed an Estonian crew and cut its wages by 60%. Laval, which is Latvian, sent workers to Sweden to build schools in 2004. A Swedish construction union asked Laval to honour the existing collective agreement for the building sector. Laval refused, keeping to Latvian pay conditions that undercut the Swedish workers.

In both of these cases, the European Court of Justice ruled in favour of Viking and Laval. The court "effectively outlawed industrial action where unions are trying to win equal pay for migrant workers and banned public bodies from requiring foreign contractors to pay such workers local rates."

The EU shouldn't be a labour market where workers get the lowest common denominator.

Over the last 10 years, we haven't heard Labour talk about union conditions coming second across Europe. We haven't heard about the negative aspects of an economy dependent on more agency work, on an increase in short-term contracts, subcontracting, and the corporate sector using more people who are "self-employed". That's because they were fine with it.

As Jon Cruddas points out:

"Exploitation, precarious jobs and exploitative levels of pay could be offset by cheap credit and then hidden behind the sparkle of consumerism. Those times are over. With social insurance in short supply, people's key source of economic security was the rising asset value of their homes. That's gone. There is no cheap credit to make up for falling or stagnant wages."

30 January 2009

How Can BBC And Sky Sleep At Night?

"British Jobs For British Workers"

I'm sure, at the time, that Brown thought it was a coded way of drawing support back from the BNP, but his "British Jobs For British Workers" slogan might backfire. So far, there are hundreds of workers, at 13 locations up and down the country, who have walked out, due to Total giving a £200 million contract, at a Lincolnshire oil refinery, to an Italian firm.

Of course, Total gave the contact, since British workers weren't willing to accept inferior terms and conditions, but that's not the spin the media coverage (and the union slogans and placards) are giving it. It's being portrayed as nationalism, rather than a class issue.

80% of new jobs (from 1997 to 2007) went to immigrants, both EU and non-EU. This, combined with answers to Tory written questions on youth who are not in education, employment or training, paints a picture of an entire generation who didn't benefit from the economic "boom". That generation will now pay a high price during a steep economic downturn ... and will be rather susceptible to this kind of nationalistic sloganeering.

26 January 2009

New Technology And War

The Woodrow Wilson Centre Quarterly has a frankly terrifying article on technology and new warfare. It's a tale of PackBots, TALONs, the Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System (SWORDS), and MARC­BOTs (Multi-Function Agile Remote-Controlled Robots). The authors also make the point that robotics will further disconnect the military from society, that people are more likely to support the use of force as long as they view it as costless:
With no draft, no need for congressional approval (the last formal declaration of war was in 1941), no tax or war bonds, and now the knowledge that the Americans at risk are mainly just American machines, the already falling bars to war may well hit the ground ... the public truly will become the equivalent of sports fans watching war, rather than citizens sharing in its ­importance ... Inevitably, the ability to download the latest snippets of robotic combat footage to home computers and iPhones turns war into a sort of entertainment. Soldiers call these clips “war porn.” Particularly interesting or gruesome combat footage, such as video of an insurgent being blown up by a UAV, is posted on blogs and forwarded to friends, family, and colleagues with subject lines like “Watch this!” much as an amusing clip of a nerdy kid dancing around in his basement might be ­e-­mailed around. A typical clip that has been making the rounds shows people’s bodies being blown into the air by a Predator strike, set to the tune of Sugar Ray’s snappy pop song “I Just Want to Fly” ... To a public with so much less at risk, wars take on what analyst Christopher Coker called “the pleasure of a spectacle with the added thrill that it is real for someone, but not the spectator."

Street-By-Street Home Insulation Campaign

Tony Benn Vs The BBC - The DEC Appeal

25 January 2009

Tour Around The Interweb

- The government is pushing ahead with four sites for new nuclear power plants: Sellafield in Cumbria, Bradwell in Essex, Oldbury in Gloucestershire and Wylfa in Anglesey.

- You can follow updates on the Gaza solidarity sit-in at the University of Warwick here.

- A new US study, published online this week by the American Journal of Cardiology, warns that, in the first year of California using Taser stun guns, the number of in-custody sudden deaths rose dramatically. "Tasers are not as safe as thought," said Dr. Byron Lee, one of the cardiologists involved in studying the death rate related to Tasers. "And if they are used, they should be used with caution."

- A farmer in Wales has taken it upon himself to contamine the entire principality's GM-free status.

PFI And Hospitals

The Tories are warning that "up to a dozen major projects worth more £2 billion" in the NHS building programme could be halted, due to the credit crunch and Private Finance Initiative schemes.

This is due to a number of reasons.

PFI has been built around 30-year loan agreements, and fewer banks are willing to agree to those. They may have to be switched to 7-year loans. Finance bonds, often a component of PFI deals, are now harder to obtain, as insurance to boost the credit rating of schemes is virtually non-existent.

PFI projects that might have included 3 banks in the past (e.g a £4.5 billion project to widen the M25) now involve 14.

Labour has viewed PFI as the "Plan A" for building, well, everything -- schools, hospitals, street lighting and incinerators here in Coventry, road building. They don't have a Plan B. And the NHS could now end up paying back more than £50 billion over the next 30 years for hospitals worth a fifth of that amount.

23 January 2009

West Midlands Green Party AGM

If you're interested in attending, it's tomorrow, at the Welsh Congregational Church, Loveday Street, Birmingham, B4 6NR. That's about a 5 minute walk east of Snow Hill station.

There will be a fundraising lunch at 1230pm, and the meeting begins at 130pm, and will end at 4pm.

You can take a look at the regional website here.

Looking Back From 2010

These predictions -- about Obama's future use of technology and consultation, don't sound too far off:
"In a series of appearances broadcast in prime time but circulated beforehand in high-definition video to online supporters, the president called on Americans to log in to my.WhiteHouse.gov, a social networking site built around the shell of his campaign's successful my.BarackObama.com, and submit their ideas on what measures the legislative package should include. Those signing in used an application much like the now-antiquated MixedInk, which combined the attributes of a wiki with ranking systems like Digg or Reddit, allowing visitors to recombine and rank other people's input."

"When, in August 2009, rural congressmen and farm groups complained that their constituents were being disenfranchised due to lack of Web access, the Department of Homeland Security retrofitted hundreds of Hurricane Katrina-era trailers with Internet terminals and deployed them as "Democracy Stations" across the country. Allegations that these stations were more densely distributed in Democratic-leaning areas were largely overlooked amid the boomlet of positive press coverage that week."
Also read: Melding Obama's Web to a YouTube Presidency, NY Times

22 January 2009

DIME Weapons Used In Gaza?

At a time when the BBC is refusing to air a Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal for aid to go to Gaza, Al-Jazeera is reporting on the possible use of DIME weapons by Israel.

DIME stands for Dense Inert Metal Explosives. DIME munitions were developed by the U.S. Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Virginia. DIME weapons were tested at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. There were reports that Israel was using them against the Palestinians in the summer of 2006.

When detonated, DIME devices use tungsten dust. It burns and destroys everything within a four-metre radius. Abdominal injuries that seem minor degenerate within hours. Victims have multi-organ failture. Pressure waves from DIME weapons move from the ground upwards, causing huge injuries to the lower part of the body and abdomen.

Dr. Erik Fosse, a physician with the Norwegian Aid Committee who worked in Gaza hospitals during the conflict, told the Independent that he saw a number of patients in Gaza with unusual lower-body injuries:
"It was as if they had stepped on a mine, but there was no shrapnel in the wounds," he said. "Some had lost their legs. It looked as though they had been sliced off. I have been to war zones for 30 years, but I have never seen such injuries before."
Just like depleted uranium and cluster bombs, there will be a long term cost to the use of DIME.

A 2005 study (in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives) showed that tungsten alloy presents a serious cancer risk for anyone exposed to it in the form of embedded shrapnel.

Rats implanted with tungsten alloy developed extremely aggressive tumors within 4-5 months after implantation. The rats also started producing too many red blood cells, as early as a month after implantation. Even the low-dose rats had a 100% tumour rate.

Palestinian civilians aren't rats, but they are being used as test subjects for new forms of anti-insurgency weaponry.

Cooking And Eating As A Family

Raymond Blanc is also the vice-president of organic gardening charity, Garden Organic, which is just east of Coventry:

"Creating a more caring family - and the best way to create cohesive families is by cooking and eating together - is more likely to create a caring society ... Food harvested and eaten in season tends to be tastier, fresher, more nutritious, supports local communities and, because there is plenty of it, is cheaper, he said."

Photo credit: Telegraph

Where White Phosphorous Shells Get Made

Green Whiskey

I was watching Countryfile last weekend, and they were profiling the Scottish whiskey industry. Now, I read that the by-products of the distilling process are being used in biomass-fueled combined heat and power plants. So far, there are two, one in Fife, and a new one proposed for Speyside. The plants use draff -- the solid grain product removed from the mash tun prior to fermentation -- and pot ale -- the liquid high-protein residue from a still. To give an idea of scale, the biomass plant in Speyside would produce over 7MW and power 9000 local homes.

Local Events On Gaza

There are a number of local events taking place on the continuing situation in Gaza.

- The Coventry Stop the War Coalition will hold a public meeting tonight, at 730pm, in Studio One, Coventry Sports Centre, Fairfax Street (on the 2nd floor). Speakers include: Lindsey German (National Convenor, Stop the War Coalition), Caroline Johnson (Birmingham Ramallah Twinning Initiative), Amre Bone (Coventry City Circle), Mary Simpson (Coventry Trades Council), and Manal Timraz (Habibi Restaurant, who has lost 15 members of her family to the Israeli bombs).

- This Saturday, there will be a Stand up to Hatred walk, starting at 1pm at the Belgrade Theatre, marching to the Cathedral ruins. Coventry Stop the War supporters are planning to take part in this walk wearing T-shirts highlighting the killing of innocent women and children in Gaza.

- Also on Saturday, there will be a humanitarian event organised by United Muslims of Coventry. This will take place at the Muslim Resource Centre, Red Lane, from 1.30-5.30. There will be food, auctions, stalls, speakers and much more. It aims to raise money for humanitarian relief for the survivors of the assault on Gaza.

In addition to the local events, there will be another national demonstration on Saturday, marching from the BBC at Portland Place (just north of Oxford Circus) to Trafalgar Square. Coaches will leave from Coventry at 1030am, from the Pool Meadow baths on Fairfax Street. The cost is £10 (£5 unwaged), and you can contact Andy, from Stop the War, if you want seats, 07732 030231.

Also watch: Children speak out on the Middle East (BBC Newsround)

21 January 2009

Some Breaking News ...

Tony Juniper is being announced today as the Green Party general election candidate for Cambridge.

Peak Wood And Peak Oil

Today is the second day of a three-day world future energy summit in Abu Dhabi. The opening speech of the conference was given by Willem-Alexander, the crown prince of the Netherlands:
"When the Roman Empire finally collapsed, large parts of Europe had been deforested. Acres of forestland had been cleared for farmland and to provide firewood. Wood and food were essential, to maintain the Roman Empire. To meet their short term needs, the Romans overexploited their prime energy resource. They did not think about the consequences for later generations. So the demise of a seemingly invincible civilization was partially due to the unsustainable use of their prime energy resource. The question is, are we going to be any wiser?"

"What the Romans were experiencing, we would now describe as peak wood. Reaching a point of maximum production after which it enters terminal decline. We are now facing a century of at least four undesirable peaks, peak oil, peak gas, peak coal and peak uranium. Mountaineers may be proud to conquer peaks, but there is no reason whatsoever for us to be proud. We can, however, change the course of history. The technologies we need are there"

20 January 2009

Obama's Inauguration

I'm going to a reception at Climate Change Solutions for the Obama inauguration speech/broadcast.

Obama's team on climate change looks good. His ideas around opening up government through technology look good.

The New York Times
says 53% of white voters in Alabama now have favourable views of Obama, compared with 17% before the election. That's stunning. Those kind of numbers come from Obama going out of his way, sometimes controversially (HRC, Rick Warren, Robert Gates), to build consensus. Only through building consensus will Obama build a coalition that agrees to wrenching change on "energy independence" and healthcare.

All the "Obama will be a historic President" commentary is hyperbole. Obama has to do things, and move the country his way, and then people can start talking like that. I mean, Bill Clinton began rendition, and he expanded the use of the death penalty, and it led to the kind of electorate that went for George Bush twice. Obama has to embed any changes that he makes, so that they persist after he leaves office, by the ballot or the bullet.

Also read: openDemocracy authors on hopes and fears for an Obama administration

18 January 2009

Upcoming Green Party Events In Coventry

I had a relaxing day today -- going for a walk with my wife between Berkswell station and The Bear, a pub with low wooden beams and Sunday lunch. It's amazing how quickly you can get into farming countryside (7 minutes on the train) from Coventry.

- Tomorrow, I'm thinking of going to a 5pm meeting of the Young Greens at the University of Warwick, and there will also be another 6pm protest, against the Israeli actions in Gaza, in front of the Council House in Coventry.

- Later this week, Coventry and Warwickshire Green Party folks will meet up (Thurs night, Coventry Peace House) and talk about local elections (Warwick DC, May, 2009), the European elections (in June, 2009), and general election planning (with the polling numbers, it has to be Feb/Mar 2010).

- The West Midlands Green Party will have its AGM next weekend (Saturday, in Birmingham, near Snow Hill).

Finally, the Green Party's lead candidate in the West Midlands for the European elections, Felicity Norman, will be visiting Coventry a week Tuesday (the 27th), followed by visits/events in Leamington Spa (on the 28th). We've lined up a visit to Modec for 2pm in the afternoon, and tomorrow, I'll try to arrange another event for 11am in the morning.

15 January 2009

It All Depends On China

The Financial Times's Alphaville column continues to be a good read:
"If the Chinese economy collapses, or even slows dramatically, then the raison d'etre for the country’s huge foreign exchange reserves - as a sterilisation measure to dampen domestic inflation - will evaporate. With that, so will China's US Treasury holdings. Or alternatively the Chinese could devalue the yuan. Either way, the US will be in trouble. Treasury prices could collapse (although given the current renewed banking collapse fears, not before a significant rally has occured) and if that happens, the Fed's yield-lowering credit easing policies will be left in tatters. As will any plans for economic stimulus packages. Hypothetically, that would leave just the nuclear option: devaluing the dollar."

Tour Around The Interweb

- Press the button in the back of the John McDonnell action figure, now with added mace action, kick kick!

- The leader of the Labour group on St. Edmundsbury Borough Council, Suffolk, quits Labour, to join the Greens, over Heathrow (hat-tip to Rupert)

- Sam Coates, at the Times, says that there will be no substantive changes to MP's expenses (despite the Derek Conway furore) ... and that it's being slipped out on the day of the Heathrow runway announcement

- Magnum, the photography agency, has an interesting blog discussion about the use of war photographs in the Gaza conflict

- Japan is planning to provide zero-interest loans to environmentally-friendly companies, and ultimately to create up to one million jobs; in contrast, Labour wants to bail out the UK car industry, with no incentives attached to move them towards lower-emissions/zero-emission vehicles

- Finally, Jack Straw wants to ban open inquests in terror cases, i.e. no more de Menezes inquests where the police get shown up

14 January 2009

EDM On The Royal Mail

It's interesting that an Early Day Motion in Parliament, signed by over 70 MPs, opposing the part-privatisation of the Royal Mail, has not attracted the signature of the three Coventry Labour MPs - Jim Cunningham, Geoffrey Robinson and Bob Ainsworth. Cunningham and Ainsworth have half an excuse (Cunningham is a PPS to a minsiter; Ainsworth is a junior minister), but Robinson should be expressing solidarity with postal workers.

13 January 2009

A Peace Stimulus For Gaza

Daniel Noah Moses and Aaron Shneyer, Christian Science Monitor:
"Israelis and Palestinians have a choice. They can continue business as usual: violence, separation, hatred, and fear. Or they can recognize that they must look for mutually beneficial ways to share their small corner of the world. People-to-people diplomacy works on the assumption that if Israelis and Palestinians connect at a human level, they will build compassion and trust. They will change public opinion. Painfully, slowly, they will create cross-border movements to transform the cultural and political reality on the ground."

"Leading up to the Good Friday agreements in Northern Ireland in 1998, at least $650 million in mostly government funds was spent over five years to bring Catholics and Protestants together. This people-to-people diplomacy touched at least one-sixth of the population (250,000 people). There are nearly 12 million people within the borders of Israel and the Palestinian territories. To reach roughly the same proportion of people there as in Northern Ireland, let's assume we need to spend at least the same amount per capita. This would be about $5 billion over the course of five years – $1 billion a year."

"This is pocket change. The war in Iraq has cost the American government almost $600 billion so far. The United States gives more than $2 billion annually to Israel for military aid. Why not invest close to that amount in peace – $2 billion a year over the course of five years, just $10 billion for the first phase of a peace-building initiative worth its salt."

Report On Gaza Rally In Coventry

The protest rally last night in front of the Council House went very well. I'm bad at estimating numbers, but it entirely filled the area just across from the Council House, the corner of Earl Street and Little Park Street.

Dave Nellist co-ordinated the speakers list, and spoke at the beginning and end.

The very first speaker was Manal Timraz, the owner of Habibi restaurant on Far Gosford. She spoke of losing 15 members of her family, with three dozen more still unaccounted/unable to be contacted. She's coordinating the One Million Candles appeal for assistance to send to Gaza. You can read more about it, as she updates the campaign, here.

I was about 7th on the speakers list, the first time I was using a megaphone, the first time speaking to a crowd that large. There were speakers from the Coventry TUC, Farid Noor from WATCH, two students from Cov Uni, two young nurses from the Muslim community, a speaker from the Muslim Resource Centre, a Labour councillor, a Tory councillor, and Rob Windsor (the other Socialist on the council).

There will be an organising meeting, to create a Coventry solidarity committee for Gaza, tonight at St Peter's Community Centre in Hillfields.

Coaches will be going to a regional demonstration in Birmingham on Saturday morning (coaches leaving the Muslim Resource Centre, Red Lane, CV6, 5EE, at 10am, for a 12pm demo in Victoria Square, Brum).

Other things to read:

- Arab political parties are being banned from taking part in the February election in Israel
- Economic activity in Gaza has ground to a halt
- Israel strikes 60 targets in Gaza on the 18th day of the conflict
- A clinic providing free primary health care in Gaza has been destroyed
- Human Rights Watch on the use of white phosphorous in Gaza
- Muslim parliamentarians warn of the anger in British Muslim communities
- The Israeli government's attitude towards UN resolutions

Consultation On Voting At 16

The Votes at 16 Coalition is encouraging people to contribute to the Youth Citizenship Commission consultation on lowering the voting age.

The deadline is Tuesday, the 20th of January.

Young people (aged 16 and 17) can pay tax, but they cannot elect the government that spends their taxes. 16 and 17-year-olds can join the armed forces, but they cannot elect the government that sends them to war. 16 and 17-year olds are real citizens and deserve the vote.

You can visit the Youth Citizenship Commission website here. Tell them why the voting age should be lowered.

A briefing sheet on the consultation, how to respond, and why the voting age should be lowered to 16 can be read here.

If you are from an organisation and would like to respond or join the Votes at 16 Coalition, contact Tom Burke on tburke@crae.org.uk. He can provide further information to help you make a response.

Also read: Coventry looking for delegates to Youth Parliament

12 January 2009

Coventry Gaza Protest - 12th January, 6pm

The 2nd emergency protest, in solidarity with the people of Gaza, will take place tonight in front of the Council House, here in Coventry. It will be at 6pm.

There may be two sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But only one side has tanks. Only one side has nuclear weapons. Only one side is using white phosphorous. Only one side has imposed a blockade (by air, land and sea) that has turned Gaza into an open-air prison.

I agree with Naomi Klein, in a comment article in the Guardian on the weekend.

People of conscience, all over the world, need to impose broad boycotts and divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era.

Hope to see some of you tonight!