Wednesday, December 28, 2005

St Naive

Bob Geldolf is to advise the Conservative Party on poverty. He says he is non-partisan. I say he is pathetically naive. Does he really think the Tories will not use him to promote their policies? Does he really think this is not part of a political strategy? Is he really as stupid as I think?

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas

Although a long time confirmed atheist, I dislike intensely this idea that we must dump the name "Christmas" from our seasonal greeting and say "Happy Holiday". I tend to celebrate the fact that the winter solstice has come and gone - the days are getting longer, but the celebration here is for Christmas and that is how it should stay!

Friday, December 23, 2005

Ignorance is Bliss

Anyone who has followed the "extraordinary rendition" story is likely to conclude that there is something in it. Yet apparently our Prime Minister knows nothing. In response to a request for an inquiry he stated:-

I, I have no evidence to suggest that anything illegal has been here at all, and I'm not going to start ordering inquiries into this, that and the next thing when I've got no evidence to show whether this is right or not - and I honestly, and you know, it's like all this stuff about camps in Europe or something - I don't know, I've never heard of such a thing. I can't tell you whether such a thing exists - because, er - I don't know.

Thanks to Blairwatch for this quote!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

US Judge shows Intelligence

It's good to see some sense is still shown in the US. A District Judge has rules that "intelligent design" is unconstitutional as it "a particular version of Christianity" which violates the notion of the separation of church and state.

It is interesting that creationists, because that is what intelligent design is about, explain that evolution does not explain the "purpose" of life, only having some "power that can manipulate matter and energy" can. In otherwords, these people cannot imagine that they are not here for some purpose, that they really are not important and are just the result of a cosmic accident (for the want of a better expression).

And this is the problem! Once you believe you are here for a purpose, you must also believe in destiny and the need to fulfil that destiny. As people who believe this usually also believe utterly in the "rightness" of themselves, we end up with people thinking they are the chosen ones and anything they do is right. With 45% of the population of the USA, and virtually all their current leadership, believing this, it is hardly surprising their foreign policy is as disasterous as it is. Hopefully, people like Judge John Jones will make the other 55% wake up and realise what is happening.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Why should I pay?

There was an article on the news tonight about the increase in the number of mini motos and, in particular about the nuisance they cause by being ridden on streets and footpaths. The laws says they should only be used on private land (unless they are taxed and insured like ordinary motor cycles). And the response of the fans of these machines? Councils should provide places for these mini motos to be used!

This proposal will obviously cost a council money (especially in terms of insuring themselves against claims when the little darling falls off his mini moto) and they only place that money can come from is the Council Tax - i.e. our pockets. So why should I pay for some kid to race around on a socially obnoxious machine which has no value to me whatsoever? It would appear the only answer is that it will keep the kid off the streets. So, in other words, there is the usual blackmail by people who wish to indulge themselves without responsibility, someone else must pay!

In a similar vein, I commend George Monbiot's column in The Guardian today.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Guantanamo Bay

There is much to admire about the people of the United States of America - their vibrancy in culture, often brilliance in science, innovativeness and much more. But there is also, much that leads me to despair - 45% of them believe in creationism, their belief that killing convicted people somehow has a moral basis, the endemic racism in the society, Bush and his utter corruption of democratic government, etc. But Guantanamo Bay symbolises some of the darkest sides of the US people.

It must be the most fundamental right of any person accused of a crime to face his accusers in an open court for just to be seen to be done. The idea that "enemy combatants" do not have this right or any other right accorded under the Geneva Convention must be an anathema to all. Who are these “enemy combatants”? The Bush Government says they are “evil-doers”, i.e. Al qaeda and/or the Taliban. Neither group should engender any sympathy in any of us, but not to understand the reason they exist will be the reason they will be not be defeated by invasions and high-tec war. And it ill-behoves us to forget that the Taliban are the result of the US funding Muslim extremists in Afghanistan to fight the Soviet occupation. But whatever the individuals have done or believe does not mean they should not be subject to the justice we would all expect for ourselves.

Guantanamo Bay must be closed as a matter of urgency. Thanks to Jack Straw and Tony Blair, we are complicit in this hypocritical situation – the idea that we are showing the world how freedom and democracy works whilst denying it to a group of people in our direct control.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Well, well, unless you're sick

For years Dr Alison Pollack has argued coherently against the Public Finance Initiative. 1998 Now we are informed that a flagship PFI hospital, Queen Elizabeth NHS TRust, in Woolwich is "technically bankrupt". And the reason? They are locked into a £20 million PFI annual payment they cannot afford. Source

Wonder if our MPs will get excited about this matter? Probably not, as both Tories and New Labour are wedded to the PFI fiasco.

MPs get excited

Members of Parliament are well known for writing their memoirs (sometimes even before they leave office, although Blunket's tome may have been prescient...) So the condemnation of Christopher Meyer, former ambassador to Washington, by the Commons public administration committee reeks of rank hypocrisy.

Funny how excited MPs can get about someone publishing information on Tony Blair's ball-crusher trousers, yet can't seem to stifle a yawn about a war fought on utterly misleading intelligence.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Free Speech??

Maya Evans stood near the cenotaph on October 25th and recited the names of the 97 soldiers killed in Iraq. Because she had not been given permission to do this by the State, she was arrested under Section 122 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

Blair's buddy Charlie Falconer told the Today programme "Freedom of speech is alive and well in this country. We are a country which could not be freer in its press, in what we say. The idea that we take a measure, which is a public order measure, designed to protect our parliament building, as depriving us of freedom of speech is ridiculously overdone. There isn't a country in the world that doesn't take particular measures to protect its parliament."

Protect its parliament? Wow, what a threat a 25 year old reading out a list of names must pose!

And thanks to Tim Ireland's blog for allowing us to share the thoughts of Maya's local MP, Michael Foster:-

New law protects the right to protest

Sir: I am really sorry that my constituent Maya Evans was convicted under Section 122 of the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (report, 8 December).

On the face of it, it looked to be an overreaction on the part of the prosecutors but be that as it may, it would be wrong to say that the legislation is unnecessary. Its purpose is not to deny protest but to ensure that such protest is possible.

Historically all sorts of protests have taken place around Parliament, but with the current terrorist threat it would be easy to mask a terrorist atrocity under the guise of a legitimate demonstration. The easy solution would have been to simply ban such protest - as the media indeed claim is the purpose of the Act - but that was not the Government's intention.

Section 122 of the Act makes protests within 1km of Parliament illegal unless authorised by the police. However, the police are required to give that authorisation unless public safety or national security is compromised. Thus protests such as that of Maya Evans can be accommodated, provided the police are informed in advance. Indeed it should be noted that Miss Evans's fellow demonstrator Mr Rai did give such notice and was not prosecuted.

Ms Evans's prosecution is unfortunate and appears to have been somewhat zealous, but to suggest it is an attack on free speech is bizarre. Such a right must be, and indeed is, protected by this legislation.


At this point, words fail me.....

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Could you Credit it?

It seems that now up to 10,000 identities of civil servants may have been stolen from the Department of Work & Pension's Family Tax Credit system. However, the report in The Guardian does not mention that the system is another of the Texan company EDS's. They have apparently already coughed up £71 million in fines and compensation for the system, although identified fraud is put at £30 million and overpayments (probably much of it unrecoverable) of £2 billion, so not much joy for the tax payer there!

So why are EDS still getting major Government contracts? At the end of 2003 they were sacked from an Inland Revenue contract The Register and yet by March 2004 they are awarded a £4 billion defence contract. Source

Monday, December 12, 2005

Extraordinary Jack Straw

So Jack Straw has been told by Condoleeza Rice that no-one has been the subject of "extraordinary rendition" via the UK, the USA have not asked us to permit such a flight and he cannot find any evidence of such flights. That's OK then.

I suppose it is too much to expect any explanation for the 400 odd CIA flights using UK airspace and airports. And just a co-incidence that despite the admission by White House spokeman Scott McClennen that extraordinary rendition happens, it didn't happen here in the UK.

It would also seem that our leaders think that sometimes torture is permissable if it serves a greater good. How twisted our standards of law and justice have become. Once an ideal is tarnished, it can never be made good again.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Is this a good idea?

After having an on-line diary for nearly ten years now, I have decided to give blogging a go. Not sure whether or not it is worth it, but what the hell!

My normal ramblings are here but this site will be more about commenting on things - or raving on inconsequentially....

It comes as no surprise that the poor in New Orleans have been effectively abandoned by the Bush administration. Source Out of sight (i.e. the mainstream press), out of mind.