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).


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."