30 January 2009
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
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."
25 January 2009
- 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.
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
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.
"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."Also read: Melding Obama's Web to a YouTube Presidency, NY Times
"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."
22 January 2009
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.
"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
- 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
"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 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
19 January 2009
18 January 2009
- 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
"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."
- 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
13 January 2009
"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."
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. He can provide further information to help you make a response.
Also read: Coventry looking for delegates to Youth Parliament
12 January 2009
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!
Look at their new chief fundraiser, Stanley Fink. He's personally donating £1 million to their party. You've got £1 million to give away to charity ... right?
Fink has homes in France and Spain. He owns hotels, including the Hotel Kilimanjaro in the French ski resort of Courchevel. We all have our own hotels.
Fink is the backer of Key-2 Luxury. Look at their website. You can afford their services.
"I am not obsessed with luxury ... I just have a view that the world is not serving the needs of affluent people properly." - Stanley Fink
The Conservatives are just like you.
It's down to the cost of food.
Global wheat and maize prices have more than doubled. Rice prices have tripled. Kenya announced this week a food emergency, where a quarter of their people are under threat.
Part of this is down to a growth in biofuels (it's ominous that Obama is from a corn state). Instead of grain going to food supplies, it is made into fuel. If you fill a petrol tank of a 4x4 with biofuel, that's enough grain to feed one poor person for a year.
Instead of biofuels, we need more electric cars, powered by clean electricity (not electricity from coal-powered stations).
Instead of bailing out banks, perhaps we should use the 43% we own (in the new Lloyds HBOS) and help developing countries with credit, agricultural aid, and food aid.
09 January 2009
"I am convinced that the continuing violence in the region will exacerbate tensions, nurture hatred, and make more difficult a peaceful resolution which is in the interests of both the Palestinian people and the State of Israel. I believe that, in accordance with my Jewish teaching and humanitarian instinct, the appropriate reaction is to call for an immediate ceasefire which may prevent further tragedy engulfing the Palestinian civilian population and save injury and worse to both Israelis in uniform and their fellow citizens in their homes."
"I am comforted by my confidence and hope that in time the Israeli and Palestinian peoples will have the opportunity to fulfil the Micah 4:4 vision of a land and two states 'where every person shall sit under the vine or the fig tree and no one shall disturb the other.' I am aware that my actions may be misinterpreted and misused by those who have no real interest in supporting peace in the region and would deny the right of the State of Israel to exist, and by those who, fearful of anti-Semitism and anti Israel activity, believe that this is a time for the British Jewish community to speak with one voice."
"I have only gone public with these serious reservations done so after much prayer, reflection and thought. And because I do not wish Israel’s relationship with the EU to be damaged."
08 January 2009
There are seats on coaches going from Coventry.
You will need to contact Andy Pettit, the convenor of Coventry Stop The War. His email is email@example.com, and his phone number is 07732 030231.
The London demo will be for 1230pm on Saturday, so the coaches will depart earlier. I don't know exactly when, but Andy will, and they're from Coventry Pool Meadow.
France, Italy, Germany and Poland said their supply from Russia was markedly down.
Slovakia becomes the 2nd country (after Bulgaria) to float the idea of starting a nuclear reactor shut down as part of their EU accession agreement. They may restart a 440 MW unit at Jaslovske Bohunice. The Slovak PM, Robert Fico, said: "If Slovakia remains hostage to a dispute between Russia and Ukraine in the following days, and if non-standard measures have to be taken, then I can imagine restarting Jaslovske Bohunice as a non-standard measure."
Seamus Milne (The Guardian):
"Among Palestinians, [the war] is undermining Mahmoud Abbas - whose presidential term runs out tomorrow - and his Fatah movement, while increasing support for Hamas in the West Bank, where US-trained and EU-financed security forces have now arrested hundreds of activists and banned Hamas demonstrations. It is also strengthening those inside Fatah who want to break with the western-enforced schism between the two wings of Palestinian politics. Hussam Khader, a West Bank "Young Guard" Fatah leader, is one of those now demanding direct unity negotiations with Hamas, and for the Fatah-linked Al-Aqsa Brigades to fight alongside Hamas against Israel's onslaught."
07 January 2009
Now, the twenty-two young people who make up the group have written to Gordon Brown:
"As a group we have defined ‘violent extremism' as being the indiscriminate killing of innocent people, wherever and by whoever this is perpetrated. With over 450 innocent Palesinians killed in Gaza at the hands of the Israeli government, the British government must see this as an act of ‘state terrorism', and as a form of ‘violent extremism' it must be clearly condemned. By not doing so we are in grave danger of sending a message to the youth of today that the mass murder of civilians can be justified if the right grievances are cited."
- 14 years of liquid radioactive waste leaks in Essex!
- I'm surprised this wasn't bigger news, considering everyone's so keen on nuclear. Areva NP will now control the largest uranium mine in Africa (and the second largest in the world). It's a joint venture with the Niger goverment (2/3 Areva, 1/3 Niger). Mining will begin in 2012, and it will make Niger the world's 2nd largest uranium producer (Canada is 1st).
06 January 2009
- Mainstream media reports continue to portray that Israel is just as under threat as Gaza. During the six-month ceasefire by Hamas, Israel did not open crossings to Gaza. They did not extend the truce to the West Bank. Israel proceeded to tighten the siege of Gaza, repeatedly cutting electricity and water supplies. Hundreds of hospital patients died as "collateral damage" of this siege. At the height of the 2nd Intifada, 1000 Palestinians were killed, with 400 Israelis dying. Now, we have a situation where 500 Palestinians can be killed, and a dozen Israeli civilians die, plus 3-4 more IDF troops killed by friendly fire, and this can be portrayed as an equal battle.
- Patrick Scott's comment (#7) (he's referred to the 3rd Jan demo in London):
"I was on the march from Trafalgar Square to the Israeli embassy which in my estimation was at least 90% Muslim, the marchers were relatively young and included quite a few families with children. The 'traditional' left was grossly underrepresented on the march. Maybe this was because many left activists simply simply saw this as just another march and simply adjourned to the pub after the rally at Trafalgar Square. Not good enough under the circumstances."
"While the Palestinian Authority is busy trying to score divisive political points by condemning Hamas and cracking down on solidarity demonstrations in the West Bank, outrage and despair prevail among Palestinians. Palestinian youth clashed with soldiers at checkpoints across the West Bank and mass demonstrations were held in PA-controlled Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah and Nablus, calling for unified resistance to Israeli violence. There were also sporadic riots in East Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the PA has been doing everything in its power to stand in the way of Palestinian community action. But there is a general will to resist and there is popular sentiment among Palestinians that President Mahmoud Abbas is a collaborator with Israel who has achieved little for them."
"A colleague from Ni'lin summed up the possibility of an infant Intifada blooming against the will of the PA, saying: "You see that we have no problem confronting the fourth largest army in the world, you think we're really that concerned about the PA."
- Robert Fisk talks about the possiblity of UN peacekeepers:
"The Palestinians have been trying to internationalise their conflict with the Israelis ever since Yasser Arafat pleaded for UN forces to protect the Palestinians after the failure of the Oslo agreement. Always the Israelis have refused ... which "frontier" would the UN then patrol? The UN border of the 1940s, the pre-1967 ceasefire lines – in which a pre-annexed East Jerusalem belonged to the Arabs – or the post-1967 border in which Israel claimed "annexed" Jerusalem, or the massive walled "frontier" which now bites deeply into yet more Palestinian territory – illegally in international law? And would the UN also have to "observe" the equally illegal Jewish settlements built on Arab land within the West Bank ... The UN could place some international troops around Gaza. But it would only be a matter of time before they would be required around the West Bank. That would be a Palestinian dream – and, for those Israelis who wish to continue their expansion into Palestinian land – a nightmare."
You can find out more information about next Monday on Facebook (the Socialist Party has set up an events page for the next demo).
If you have photos from last night, or want to write a brief (50-100 words) impression of what you thought, please send them along: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here is one from Roy Sandison, with the Rugby Green Party:
05 January 2009
04 January 2009
Tell your friends, family and workmates, and bring whistles, banners, and placards.
Edited to add: members of Rugby Green Party are taking the bus to Coventry at 410pm from North Street, come and join them if you can.