Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Troops come home

And they still haven't found WMD. No doubt more vote winners are on their way. I smell and election coming... unless Brown plans to just move them to Afghanistan.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Massaging the pain

And the figures. As part of their stormtrooper fest at the Kingsnorth power station demonstration, the police manipulated a pliant media to paint a picture of participants hell bent on violence and terrorism.

Lib Dem MP David Taylor unearthed a list of horrific injuries police received during the event, which tells a chilling story of ruthless hippy demonstrators and of real courage under fire by our brave boys in blue:

"stung on finger by possible wasp"

"officer injured sitting in car"

"officer succumbed to sun and heat"

"pain in lower back"

"toothache"

Absolute carnage.

The horror, the horror.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Klaatu barada nikto

Among the the many sci-fi films in my extensive collection, 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still is one of my most treasured. Thought provoking, intelligent and civilised, they just don't make them like this any more. It was one of those movies that I had to get on DVD when the video format changed (plus I'd worn out the VHS tape).

So when I heard that The Day the Earth Stood Still had been remade my thoughts were mixed.

Remakes are often a mixed bag. The Coen brothers' remake of The Ladykillers was okay, but they shouldn't have touched such a classic which couldn't be bettered. Same with I am Legend (The Omega Man). Get Carter I couldn't bare to watch more than thirty minutes. The Italian Job was a mild diversion, but ultimately pointless.

But then there's Scarface, Eldorado and Ocean's Eleven which bettered their predecessors.

Charley and the Chocolate Factory, The Magnificent Seven and Fistful of Dollars (both remakes of Kurosawa classics) equalled their forbears.

The Day the Earth Stood Still comes under the best left alone category. It missed the original's anti war message and 1950s optimism out of adversity ethos that has survived the passage of time. Robert Wise's 1951 film is what the term 'classic' was invented for.

This new version won't be joining my dvd collection. Keanu Reeves as Klaatu just does his wooden thing, with none of the measured compassion and cold reason of Michael Rennie's Klaatu. Although it starts well as a re-imagining of the story, the new film tries too hard to be current, with climate change (although not mentioned) being the reason for our destruction. Klaatu comes to our planet to kill us off, to save the planet and all the other species living here from our excesses. Some great special effects as robot Gort starts taking apart the fabric of human civilisation, the manner of which is slightly remiscent of Spielberg's War of the Worlds.

Ultimately though, it's disappointing, the ending morally ambiguous with a preachy paternalism that bordered on dictatorial.

At least it's not as bad as Indiana Jones crystal skull whatever.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Opening shots

After her letter in the Gazette last night, it looks like Tory Karen Allen is positioning herself as Tory candidate for South Shields (or elsewhere in Tyneside) for the next general election.

The letter is the usual Tory tosh - build more roads, Labour useless, yada yada yada. She earnestly even tries the jobs joker card while blissfully forgetting which party ruthlessly destroyed the region's industries.

It's interesting that in the letter she gives her address as The Kingsway. Although being Shields born, her blog gives her location as Stepney Green in London. A Lloyds broker presumably working in London, why would she mislead readers about her home address, if not to give the impression of being a local? Is she ashamed to use her London address? And why didn't she mention she is a Tory?

Pitifully, despite this looking like a first move to gain local exposure and garner notice from local Tories, she doesn't really say much different from Hepburn and Miliband; there is little ideological difference between the Labour and the Tories. In fact there is nothing of substance. Even the 'give a man a fish' proverb is just space filling, devoid of any context.

Looking at her blog, the Gazette letter was originally posted as a blog entry back in November. It looks like the blog is going to be used as a campaign tool, given that despite blogging since 2006, she only started blogging (ie giving a shit) about North East issues last month. Expect more.

Oddly, the South Shields Conservative website doesn't mention Karen Allen or her letter, and other bloggers haven't picked it up either.

Telling the truth is wrong

Fortunately, parents have subsequently managed to lie well enough to their children to convince them that Santa does exist.

That was close.

God?

Unbelievable or what!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

In England, justice belongs to the establishment

The outrageous decision by the coroner at the inquest for Jean Charles de Menezes, Sir Michael Wright, to rule out a verdict of unlawful killing is

Police officers collaborated over their statements, which didn't match those of bystanders, CCTV footage went missing, de Menezes faced a smear campaign in the press and now a judge has moved the goalposts of justice.

Like Jailhouselawyer, I think there's little doubt that de Menezes killing was unlawful and that Wright's ruling is a blatant display of judicial prejudice.

Common sense prevails in Europe

The Telegraph, Daily Mail and their followers regularly criticise human rights legislation and it's arbiter the European court of human rights. Often it's portrayed as a lawyers' gravy train or an unacceptable interference in UK law.

But this is what it's for. Protecting individual rights from an authoritarian and illiberal state, policed by an increasingly powerful and militarised police force.

Our parliament (that's our MPs folks) couldn't/wouldn't stop this DNA farming, and the House of Lords refused to do anything about it.

The creeping authoritarianism we've seen in the UK since the 1970s shows a growing illiberal tendency among the British political elites. I suppose we're not alone, the USA has its Patriot Act, we have the Terrorism Act.

The DNA and fingerprinting rules adopted by the police are mostly for the investigation of the commission of crimes not yet committed. In effect, this means that the police consider everyone on the database as a potential criminal, which is contrary to the ethos of presumed innocence. The fact that our police are happy using this mandate gives rise to the argument that the police are already too far drunk on their power.

Tonight I'll be opening a bottle of malt to mark this, it's something worth celebrating. I hope those who normally slag off interfering European institutions as pc liberal lefty bureaucratic monsters are humble enough to accept that European intervention can work.

However, it's a tragedy that this should ever have gone to a European court. We should be able to defend our basic rights here in the UK. Even though the UK is signatory to European and UN conventions on human rights, unfortunately we don't have a specific bill of individual rights here in the UK. Given the growth of police powers, and the unwillingness of our MPs to protect our interests, we need an inalienable bill of rights to help protect us from the state.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It's all gone quiet...

...at the South Tyneside Alliance website. The website has been down for at least a week now with a 404 Not Found error. The whois lookup says the address is still registered until June 2009 so possibly it's a technical fault.

Although perhaps a cynic might say that given the coverage that the Gazette lavishes on the Alliance, and the proxy smear tactics of the monkey, they don't need a website.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pottsy the red

I'm gutted. I have yet to reach the giddy heights of the BNP's very own x-factor, Redwatch. I've tried my damnedest to piss off the knuckle-dragging nazi fuckers, but it's all been in vain. The nazi hate site, which is designed to intimidate opponents of racism and facism, posts photographs, names and addresses of those it considers to be "red puppets of the state".

And top of the pops for the North East section? Cleadon and East Boldon Conservative councillor David Potts.

One piece in the Gazette and the wrath of the homophobic monkey blog is all it took Cllr Potts to go to number one. Jammy bastard.

Kudos David. You are now an honorary red. You join other South Tyneside anti facism heroes such as Peter Murray, Merv Butler and Tom Brennan.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Green groans

A few Greens will be spitting their teas out tonight after reading today's Private Eye hatchet job on the Green Party, after it was revealed that two former members, one a parliamentary candidate, turned up on the BNP list. The article, Green Grow the Bigots, tried to construct a picture of a Green Party rife with conspiracy theorists, racists and homophobes. Wow. Heavy shit.

However, despite Private Eye's desperate attempt to discredit, I won't be one of those who regularly write in to the paper to publicly cancel their subscription in offence.

In the real world, I've yet to meet a green racist homophobic conspiracy theorist sun worshipping tree hugger, but I guess whilst some folk with beliefs I don't agree with exist in the Greens they'll be the minority. After all, David Icke started his political career with the Green Party when it was known as the Ecology Party. Not sure that's a great example though...

Talking to Bryan on the phone, he was as usual quietly circumspect about the names on the BNP list:

"Good riddance. I hope the cunts burn in hell."

Indeed.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

State of the media

Punkscience covered the original article, which has now been removed from the Observer/Guardian website. The article was another example of the media in bed with the state, the piece painting a menacing picture of a 'growing threat from eco-terrorists', despite there being no evidence to back the story.

However, it's unfortunate and telling that the Observer's retraction didn't have the same exposure and sensationalist headline as the offending article.

It's more disquieting than you might at first suppose. By using the brand label 'eco-terrorist', the government has manufactured a framework for the police to arrest demonstrators using the Stalinist laws they've been provided with. Couple that with the issue of taser guns, and you have more ingredients for a police state with not just the laws, but the PR and the weapons with which to control the populace.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Rock, paper, spinners

This is a fine and practical example of how South Tyneside Council's spin machine works in tandem with a supine local newspaper.

Nowhere in the article is it mentioned that the revetment works were needed because of the toxic waste buried at Trow Quarry. Indeed toxic waste and leachates are mysteriously absent. Nor does it mention that courageous whistleblower Peter Collins lost his job with the National Trust because he thought the people of South Tyneside should be made aware of Trow Quarry's toxic legacy, whilst NT and the council wanted it kept quiet.

Also missing is the whitewash inquiry held by South Tyneside Council with 'evidence' from people who walked at Trow sometimes.

This isn't news, it's PR.

Gordon's class bribe

It may be satire, but there's more truth in this twisted insight than anything that will be reported in the mainstream press.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Eagle Eye

I went to see this movie last week, by accident, as I was too late for my intended Burn After Reading. Think of this as a kind of dumb Enemy Of The State meets a dumber The Forbin Project meets needlessly wordy and clumsy 2001.

I love movies. This year, easily the worst and most disappointing movie I've seen is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the... whatever. Who cares. I'll never get that time back. Perhaps the hype was too much, but for me it's become this year's lowest bar and so far I haven't seen a new release which matches the utter crapness of Indie.

Spoiler!

So Eagle Eye is not as bad as Indie. By a long mile. Neither is it excellent. A standard popcorn action thriller with CCTV society paranoia thrown in. The twist is guessed early on and Shia LaBeouf (also in Indie) does what he does. He plays a kind of harmless genius slacker who is pulled into a plot by a nasty supercomputer to kill the president and his cabinet . The female-voiced supercomputer is miffed that the president and his poodles are randomly bombing innocent villagers in foreign lands against the pissed-off pc's advice.

This computer is no ordinary nutty HAL; it uses the US Declaration of Independence as it's moral compass and concludes that killing innocent folk breeds terrorism and attacks on the US so the government is failing its duty to keep its people safe. Realising that the electoral system is ill-placed to resolve the situation, the supercomputer decides to bin them with extreme blowingupedness.

After a lot of running around by LaBeouf and his screen squeeze, I got to a point where I couldn't care less for them. I started rooting for the bady guy. Or girl, computer, whatever.

In the end the computer gets it's plug pulled, the Pres is saved by LaBeouf after a ridiculous chase and everyone was happy. Except me.

I'm not sure if there was supposed to be a message or moral to this story. If there is, it's that governments should be allowed to get away with murder and it's every American citizen's responsibility to defend that right.

It's fast, plenty of action, fun stunts and enough explosions to keep any popcorn muncher happy.

I just wish the too-cute kid got wasted.

Energy: Techno-Fixes

Over at corporatewatch, they've produced an overview report on energy technologies which could see us through a low carbon future called Techno-Fixes. It makes interesting reading, and oddly many of the conclusions match the government's first energy white paper in 2003 which questioned the sustainability of nukes. Here's what Techno-Fixes had to say:
The nuclear industry has jumped on climate change as a last ditch attempt to survive in the face of long-term public opposition, cost escalation and the intractable issue of what to do with nuclear waste. The industry has orchestrated a well-executed spin campaign and has succeeded in putting ‘the nuclear option’ back on the table. However, nuclear power is not carbon neutral, would not be on-stream in time to plug the energy gap or avoid dangerous climate change, and has huge environmental impacts - not least from the huge quantities of radioactive waste created, which no country has yet developed an effective way of dealing with.
On Carbon Capture & Storage, their conclusions are close to mine: too much wishful thinking and corporate (and union) interests driving a technology which would be too late.

You can download the report here.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The blackshirt list

Curly beat me to it, but it looks like a disgruntled BNP stormtrooper has finally released the BNP's membership list to the world. Hosted on a server in the USA, the BNP's attempt to stifle the release through the courts seems in vain, unless the site owner considers the posting inappropriate. Anyhow, the information is now out there.

Although I don't have a copy of the list (having a copy may be considered to breach the injunction and several criminal laws), I've had a quick look through it online and it looks like a few people will be embarrassed and at least one may lose her job. Hilariously, one of those listed is a lecturer on Human Rights/Data Protection. Locally, my suspicions about the affiliations of a number of letter writers to the Shields Gazette have been confirmed.

Given the number of people on the list who registered themselves as pagans druids and cosmic folk line dancers (okay, I made that one up) it seems that odd belief structures coexist happily in the brains of these folk.

There is an irony in this. The BNP uses hate site Redwatch to publish the names, addresses and photos of its opponents in an effort to intimidate. Now many BNP members are pooping themselves that they've been outed.

Not irony, karma. I'm sure the BNP's new-age, tree-hugging members will appreciate the beauty of the cosmic balance.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Burn After Reading

I've long been a fan of the work of the Coen brothers, and find most of their movies hard to fault. Their new movie Burn After Reading is excellent.

Funny, brilliant characters and sudden acts of violence. Typically Coen brothers. They really know how to merge comedy and tragedy.

The film follows a familiar Coen theme: ordinary dumb schmoes (played by Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt) get into a situation way too deep for them. A disc with spook data, a bed hopping bodyguard (George Clooney) and a dirty divorce are ingredients in a recipe for disaster. In an almost Shakespearean prophesy, disaffected spook John Malkovich predicts repercussions the schmoes are unable to comprehend.

Go and see it. After the bleak No Country For Old Men this is a pick me up. If you're a fan of the Coen brothers you won't be disappointed.

Nuclear featherbedding

If any further evidence were needed that our government is a corporate whore, then the get out of jail card provided for the consortium running Sellafield is it.

A private company will run the site and make a hefty profit. If they make a mistake, irradiate Cumbria or the Irish Sea, or kill someone, then the tax payer foots the bill. If the taxpayer wants to find out what's going on, tough, as the government has ruled that as a private company the consortium is exempt from Freedom if Information requests. This is despite the fact they will be carrying out a function of the state.

To hide this public liability this Malcolm Wicks broke parliamentary procedures.

There is no UK plc, just a minor and pliant subsidiary.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Kind heart and Kerr nets coverage

Councillor Alan Kerr must have taken a leaf out of David Miliband's PR book.

There's nothing like a bit of modest charity to help your media profile. Well done Alan!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Heroes on handouts

As everyone knows, tomorrow is the 90th anniversary of Armistice Day. The powerful icon of remembrance for our war dead, the poppy, is used to raise funds for the Royal British Legion for their excellent work for veterans and their families.

This symbol of honour and sacrifice also silently represents a shame upon our nation. Few dare speak of it.

Our heroes rely on charity.

According to the RBL,
"38% of ex-Service pensioners report an income below the minimum required for healthy living"
That's a national disgrace.

Until our governments recognise the sacrifices made by our service men and women and properly support them and their families, the selling of remembrance poppies will be stained by our country's failure to properly honour our heroes.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Bad Company

It's been a busy week for me this week. On Tuesday I went to see Queen featuring Paul Rodgers at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle. I wasn't expecting much to be honest, but apart from a slightly limp middle it was a great gig.

Whilst they only covered a couple from Paul Rodgers' back catalogue it was great to hear him sing live. Brilliant.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Legal rendition

Of all the stupid and pointless screwing over our government has taken from the USA over the War On Terror TM, the tale of computer hacker Gary McKinnon would be funny if he wasn't facing imprisonment by a government which loves to torture and kill people.

The US government, and by poodle extension ours, considers Gary a terrorist and evil genius who cleverly outwitted the mighty US Department of Defense and NASA by accessing their computers in the "the greatest military hack in history". He was trying to find out information on UFOs. When he successfully accessed the computers he left messages saying 'your security is crap'. Hardly public enemy number one.

There's no doubt he's been a very naughty boy and justice must be done. But why not here in the UK, where we don't execute or torture people?

Some MPs want a guarantee from the US that McKinnon will be allowed to serve any sentence imposed in Britain in special consideration that he has been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome. Requiring guarantees from a government which executes people with mental problems seems a little optimistic.

But this is our government. They meekly excuse the human rights abuses of the US.

If only McKinnon had been a Chilean dictator responsible for the death and torture of thousands, instead of a UFO saddo, he would have been laughing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dumb luck

Mark Steel is cool. Intelligent. Funny. No, I don't want to have his babies but I almost laughed my latte over myself when I read this over breakfast this morning:
...the Republicans have had the worst campaign that could ever be possible. The candidate looked like there couldn't possibly be anyone in the country more idiotic, but he scoured the continent, found someone who was and made her his deputy.
And this:
One reason why it remains closer than it should be is obvious. Before the election's over, there'll be at least one Republican supporter on Fox News who'll say, "I think that one of the areas in which McCain scores heavily over his opponent is he's proved himself far more adept and capable, over the years, at being white. And for all Senator Obama's flair and charisma this is a skill he clearly lacks."
Although on reflection, I think this comes under the "Many a truth spoken in jest" category.

Through luck, stupid voters and theft, the dumb-looking Repub guy won the last two elections. The evil bastards could win it again.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Number 14

This is scary stuff. Worried that the US may get a black president, two skinheads decided to try to kill him, along with 88 other innocents. 14 of them would have been beheaded. 14, because this holds a mystical power with neo nazis as the number of words in the phrase:

"We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."

Couldn't happen in this country you say? Then what about BNP bad boy bomber Tony Lecomber? Infamous BNP blogger Green Arrow has acknowledged the "The 14 Words" as an article of faith for the far right.

This is what drives the BNP - white supremacy and hate.

In South Tyneside we have seen a rash of racist graffiti matching as the BNP attempts to expand it's vote. When a taxi firm in Jarrow removed a BNP poster from it's office, illegal BNP posters started littering lamposts in Jarrow.

Extreme philosophy breeds extreme behaviour. Fundamentalist extremism breeds in the BNP's dark heart.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Fantasy Island Fuckup

As I've noted before, I keep swinging in my opinion on Miliband. Good guy? Bad guy? Well, now it's settled. The part he's played in fucking over the people of Diego Garcia and the Chagos Islands to sate US 'security' interests (read killing and maiming folk) suggests he is a sociopathic twat.

Miliband wept over sovereign rights during the Russian invasion of Georgia. Civil liberties in Zimbabwe. Expressed regret over rendition flights. After his part in perpetuating this injustice, colluding with successive governments, he has precisely ZERO credibility when it comes to human rights.

Bryan's already covered it with his dry humour. My rage is still at DefCon 1. Bryan has a point. If the British government had such plans for the Falklands, Scilly Isles or the Channel Islands there would rightly be an uproar.

Most of those folk are white aren't they? The Ilois people of the Chagos are darker.

This episode does highlight another issue. Miliband doesn't take all the blame. After all, you could argue that he's only Gordon's (and by extension Dubya's) bitch.

The decision to perpetuate this ethnic cleansing was taken by Law Lords: score line 3 - 2. That's at least three unelected, bewigged and pampered fuckwits who think violating human rights is a jolly wheeze, especially when it's on behalf of the Crown.

The Queen. Yes, whilst Queenie is busying herself sniffing fresh paint, walking on red carpets and congratulating former communist countries for clawing back to freedom, the Chagossians get royally butt-fucked on her behalf.

Okay, technically the Queen has no power, it lies in Gordon's hands. But in nearly 40 years she hasn't said a peep about these people. Her subjects. We can conclude that like all those in the power Jenga tower, she couldn't really care less.

What really matters is the law of the goose and the common.

"The law locks up both man and woman,
Who steals the goose from off the common,
But lets the greater felon loose,
Who steals the common from the goose."
Anon

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: 2

Today I'm joining more than 9,000 bloggers in talking about poverty. I'm saying today, but around the world Blog Action Day 2008 the conversation has started already. You can see some of the posts linked here. But talking about poverty isn't just about heartbreaking stories about starving children in far away lands.

It's local and it's also about solutions. It's the guy outside M&S selling the Big Issue trying to earn a living. It's Citizen's Advice giving that vital help and hope. It's even volunteers helping children learn how to read. It's those and a thousand other stories.


During the recent problems in the banking system one sector of the finance industry has remained unscathed. Credit unions.

Credit unions don't rely on borrowing from banks or money markets. They don't buy up debt or loan books from other financial institutions. Risk is controlled very carefully. Members' interests come before profit and there are no shareholders. Credit unions operate simply, using the savings of their members to make loans to other members.

They are mostly run by volunteer members: for the community, by the community.

All credit unions exist in a limited environment called a Common Bond. It could be anything from a simple staff or union savings scheme, to larger service organisations serving a community like the excellent South Tyneside Credit Union.

Often, credit unions are a way for those who have been abandoned by the big banks to save and borrow sustainably. People have been helped out of the poverty traps of pawn shops, cheque cashing shops and doorstep loan sharks. They've avoided being ripped off by high street high interest electrical goods stores. Some even used credit unions a couple of years back to fill the funding gap after the collapse of hamper firm Farepak.

What's more, savings in credit unions are covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme in the same way as deposits held in banks and building societies.

Anyone can have a credit union savings account, and at the minute you'd be daft not to. If you haven't joined one, you can find your local one now. As well as members, credit unions need volunteers, so if you've got some spare time and want to learn some new skills (or teach some of yours) your local credit union would like to hear from you.

South Tyneside Credit Union
Central Office,
119-121 Prince Edward Road,
Harton Nook,
South Shields
Tel (0191) 454 7677





Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blog Action Day 2008: 1

Three years ago last July, I joined the thousands in the Make Poverty History event held in Edinburgh. The participants in the march around Edinburgh's historic city centre were from many backgrounds, a coalition of campaign groups, charities, religious groups, trade unions and individuals who wanted to try and make a difference. From babies to the elderly, and from most, if not all, ethnic backgrounds.

The sea of people in white walking down Princess Street was something to see with your own eyes, and be part of.

But it achieved fuck all.

There was some disappointment from many who thought, like me, that Bob Geldof's Live 8 hijacked the event, focussing media attention on the televised concerts and pretty people looking concerned. His event turned the eyes away from Edinburgh to the wealthy stars who arrived in jets and limos, performing in their designer gear to a crowd consisting largely of the label generation.

This wasn't helped by MPH's own little branding tool, the white band.

The reality is, that after the events, the world's governments got on with business as usual carving up the world for their wealthy benefactors.

Despite the disappointment and lack of global action, it doesn't mean we should give up. As well as global justice, there's poverty on our streets, in our faces. But our government don't care about these people. They don't invite you to posh dinners, contribute to election campaigns. Bejaysus - most of them don't even vote! MPH was one of those things which helped politicise me and realise that the current raft of the three 'grey' political parties really don't give a shit about anyone.


I'm lucky enough not to have experienced extreme poverty. Whilst our family was one of the many thousands to exposed to Thatcher's brutal and ruthless culling of traditional Tyneside industries I was young enough not to realise or not care that we were poor. Looking back, I'm under no illusions - despite some of the hardships we encountered we had food on our table and a roof over our heads. There were many people in South Shields and on our own estate much worse off than us.

The Thatcher era heralded a me, me, me UK which is still with us today, from the rich robber bankers to the feckless hoodies and chavs, to twats in 4x4s parking on pavements. This is as much as a poverty of ethics, expectations and responsibility. No such thing as society.

Now the world is experiencing a brief blip in it's economic fortunes, partly because of greed, partly because of stupidity and partly because of the strict adherence to the religion of free market economics. Many people in the UK will suffer, but the repercussions will fall the hardest on the developing nations as the developed nations reign in aid spending.

It's a disturbing irony that since MPH western governments have kept their hands and their cash in their pockets whilst developing nations struggled, yet quickly found money to throw at the financial system.

Blog Action Day is in a small way, with thousands of people, trying to keep the issue of poverty on the agenda. If we keep having the conversation, we won't be letting anyone forget.



Thursday, October 09, 2008

Goodbye Mr Wilson

This sad news passed me by. Bill Wilson, my old English teacher at Cleadon Park Comprehensive, passed away last month. He also coached me as a sprinter for a short while until we realised my heart wasn't in it.

I remember the very first English lesson, which entailed writing a contract in the back of our English books. It outlined his simple requirements - work hard, no defacing the books and homework in on time - that left us in no doubt who was the boss. Fresh out of junior school it was terrifying.

Many of his less well performing students (including me at one time) will remember "Mr Wilson's slipper". Often chalked with a target or text designed to be left on the backside in a faint chalk mirror image, the slipper gained a legendary status at Cleadon. However, pain wasn't the purpose or the effect - the sheer indignity of it all was enough to make you want to avoid a repeat performance.

But his high standards and similarly high expectations of his students' technical abilities was matched by an intuition and skill in encouraging students to nurture their imaginations. He was a great teacher.

I owe what command of grammar I have to him (which is hopefully good) and to a lesser extent his deadly slipper.

In sport, he had equally high expectations on the field and on the hills, his encouragement reinforcing a simple message: success takes hard work, but can still be fun.

And driving around in that deep purple MK3 Ford Cortina must have took some balls.

For what was a hard school, he was a suitably tough teacher when necessary, but when he smiled and laughed you couldn't help but join him.

I only knew him a short while, and it's been several years since I've spoken with him, but the image of those impish eyes and that mischievous grin will stay with me.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Land of the free

I don't usually really fuss much over US elections, although a chance that Palin could literally be a heartbeat away from the presidency is a bit of a worry. In practice there'll be little policy wise between the two main candidates. The Obama-McCain business bailout pact is an example.

Despite this there's great excitement in the US when the televised debates start. Such is the strong partisan element of US politics. But voters get to watch debates between two candidates among whose top corporate contributors are the financial institutions who have screwed the banking system.

It's pure theatre.

US voters don't get to see the third or fourth parties in the debate. This is because the televised debates are stitched up by and between the Republicans and Democrats not to allow any third parties into the game. The debates are structured beforehand and subjects decided upon to leave the viewer with little more than a press conference with rehearsed spin and catchy sound bites.

Such manipulation is as cynical and undemocratic as Putin's fiddling of the Russian presidential elections, where opponents to his heir were refused coverage or given airtime when no-one was watching.

The United States claims to export democracy. In the US presidential elections, democratic choice is a fiction.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The 7th day...

Seems an apt day for some holy advice for god-fearin' bloggers, the Ten Virtual Blogging Commandments:

1 You shall not put your blog before your integrity

2 You shall not make an idol of your blog

3 You shall not misuse your screen name by using your anonymity to sin

4 Remember the Sabbath day by taking one day off a week from your blog

5 Honour your fellow-bloggers above yourselves and do not give undue significance to their mistakes

6 You shall not murder someone else's honour, reputation or feelings

7 You shall not use the web to commit or permit adultery in your mind

8 You shall not steal another person's content

9 You shall not give false testimony against your fellow-blogger

10 You shall not covet your neighbour's blog ranking; Be content with your own content


Hat-tip to jailhouselawyer.

Monday, September 22, 2008

South Tyneside TV

A new online TV channel called STCentral has opened for business in South Tyneside. Run by JAG productions at Holman Court in South Shields, it's labelled as a "local community TV network based in South Tyneside delivering news coverage and programmes about the South Tyneside".

And it's free of charge. If you have a local story, let them know.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tesco Vile

Tyne Crossings Alliance honcho Paul Winch has another target in his sights, and it's the supermarket that helps itself to more than a little: Tesco. He has a new site Hebburn:TescoVille?, to chronicle Tesco's bid to add Hebburn to its list of retail fiefdoms and the campaign to stop Hebburn from becoming another carbon copy town where local business makes way for giant retail sheds.

Key in the list of charges is that a developer and retailer were chosen before South Tyneside Council put it to public consultation.

And this is the council that praises itself for consultations?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Phew!

There's a saying in Middlesbrough: "What smell?"

However, for the last couple of days there's been a distinctly poo smell in my little corner of Shields, which has been tugging at the nostrils without respite. Whiteleas, Cleadon Park, the Nook and Harton have been fairly mingin'. Despite a fairly warm night last night, windows stayed closed. It only just now seems to be dissipating.

Or "Middlesbrough Syndrome" is kicking in.

It happens a couple of times a year when farmland bordering Cleadon and Whiteleas gets mucked with pig shit. I know its got to be done, but begads it honks.

Not nazi taxis

A mistake. Well, that's all right then and everything's fine with the world.

But, it's obvious that the member of staff responsible for the poster faux pas doesn't see anything wrong with the BNP, which is a bit concerning. It seems in some quarters the BNP has been successful in burying its Nazi heritage behind class struggle and snappy suits.

Some people are either easily fooled, or actually agree with the BNP's racist agenda and simplistic solutions.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Nazis in taxis

Some South Tynesiders have spotted BNP posters on display in taxi offices around the borough. Express taxis in Jarrow has one on view to the public in their Viking precinct office.

I've got no problem with political parties getting their posters up in business premises. Several candidates at the last local election were fortunate to have their posters displayed in shops and pubs.

However, the BNP is not a normal political party. Despite its attempts to play respectable, the BNP is a racist party with shamelessly racist members. It's leader, Nick Griffin, has denied the Holocaust and has been convicted for inciting racial hatred. Many of its councillors and members are not strangers to the courts on charges for fraud, violence, drug dealing, and even bomb making and murder.

The BNP's publicity material is rife with exaggeration and lies, and conspires to raise a cult of white victimhood amongst the British working class and forment hostility towards ethnic minorities and immigrants. The content of the message boards of the BNP and its sister Stormfront illustrate the race hate that forms the dark heart of the BNP.

As the votes for the BNP have grown in South Tyneside, so has the racist graffiti on our streets. Extreme viewpoints feeds extreme behaviour.

The BNP is a cancer.

Express Taxis has its freephone number up in shops like Morrisons. Many of the firm's customers won't be aware of what kind of organisation Express is endorsing. I would also hate to think that South Tyneside Council has contracts with Express and its subsidiaries whilst the taxi firm is giving a publicity platform to such a divisive and hate-filled organisation.

Slow news day

Well done to the Gazette for splashing news of critical importance to the people of South Tyneside. There's just not enough oddly shaped vegetable stories.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Christian bonk on

The easily offended religious have got a hard on at an expression of free speech again. Fundamentalist Christian Emily Mapfuwa has launched a private prosecution against the Baltic Gallery in Gateshead for

"outraging public decency and causing harassment, alarm and distress to the public"

The distress was caused by a Jesus with a nice big cock strapped on. Presumably Ms Mapfuwa travelled specially from Brentwood in Essex to be outraged at this crappy monument to a priapic prince of heaven. Must have been a fun day out.

Whether you consider it art or not (and I think it's a bit age 12), or a clich├ęd conceit, in a room full of other brand icons with erections, you can't fail to see the attempt at some wry humour and a clever eye for attracting publicity.

Perhaps Mapfuwa should have picked a better work to go for, rather than something which is pretty shit. At least she's guaranteed it worldwide success wherever it goes.


I find an odd and twisted morality in a religion where it's okay for young children to see images in churches and schools of a man being crucified - a hideously cruel and barbaric method of execution - with a very human visage of a man in pain and despair, but images of the same guy with his old man out in an art gallery are taboo.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Chromed

Tonight I've been mostly playing around with Google's new browser Chrome. My normal browser use is split between Opera and Firefox. I have Safari for testing and Apple mobile, but it's so hideously slow that it doesn't get used for day to day stuff on my Windows systems.

I like the page text search function in Firefox, but Opera runs faster. Other users may disagree on the speed comparison, especially since FF3 is much improved speed-wise, but Opera still seems to run faster on my systems. It seems Chrome has the best of both worlds here, but I need to tweak it (and especially the security settings) to get it running the way I want.

The installation is a breeze, but one slight annoyance is that it won't load Firefox or Opera bookmarks: IE favorites only.

The first thing that hits you is the interface: its definitely of the minimalist school (below), an address/search bar, a couple of icons and that's about it. A nifty new toy is the 'Icognito' window. Pages viewed using an Incognito window won't be recorded in your browser history and any cookies loaded during a window session will automatically be cleared when the Incognito window closes.

Tabbed browsing is here to stay and Chrome uses tabs, but in a different way. Each tab runs in its own thread, which means more system resources being used, but it also means that if one tab fails due to dodgy page scripting then you only loose the tab, not the whole browser session.

I've written this post using Chrome, and it seems that it kills Blogger's click and drag image resizing function which is a bit annoying, as I thought Google would have produced a browser fully compatible with their own blogging tool, but perhaps I need to explore a bit more.

From what I've seen so far I don't think Firefox, IE or Opera have much to worry about from Chrome. For me it'll be an interesting toy. However, if Google throw development resource at it (as they've contributed to FF), it may one day become a contender.


chrome

Monday, September 01, 2008

Local wildlife

I've been away on holiday to the West Coast of Scotland, staying in a lodge on the outskirts of the village of Strontian. I saw Sea Otters, Common and Grey Seals, Herons, a fleeting glimpse of a Pine Marten and even a Sea Eagle. And lots of Highland coos, which are staging something of a farming comeback in the area. Once I've recovered the photos of the shots I managed to take on my old camera I'll post them here. Unfortunately, one batch had their headers corrupted so I'll be spending some hours with a Hex editor.

Due to an ankle injury I was unable to enjoy the mountains (Ben Resipole was a neighbour) so I had to enjoy them from afar.

I came back home to South Shields to find straggly tomato plants after a deluge, an overgrown lawn full of frogs and this little beauty, a Common Darter.

common darter

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Tough on crime

A jilted lover tooled himself up with a knife and a Vicks Sinex bottle filled with ammonia and went to the home of his girlfriend and love rival.

That's right, Carl Zanetti manufactured his own chemical weapon delivery mechanism and intentionally took a knife on his little jaunt. In any court that says premeditation.

He sprayed one of his victims in the face with the ammonia and smashed a glass panel of their front door trying to get in. One could only be glad that Zanetti failed to get in the door and dread what might have happened had he been successful.

And the reaction of South Tyneside's top Tory David Potts?

To give Zanetti a reference.

You'd be forgiven for thinking that the Tories are going soft on crime. It's also a timely reminder that even in the 21st Century those with the right social connections can still get first class treatment from the beak.

Don't let the bastards get you down eh?

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Genius of evolution

If you missed it the other night, here's the first episode of Richard Dawkins' series, The Genius of Charles Darwin:


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Dystopian present

Helicopter searchlights scanning the area. Armed shock troops intimidating citizens. Arresting innocents. Taking their possessions. Accusing them of uncommitted crimes. Inciting violence. Using dodgy laws to bludgeon peaceful protest.

Well, the police in Kent are certainly making a name for themselves. Welcome to Airstrip One in the 21st Century.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

100 months to fix the planet

It's not alarmism, but a call to action, reeking with something the mainstream parties lack: an ideological desire for change for the better.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Holy cow

What a fun way to say thanks.
"by sacrificing more than 200 goats and four buffaloes"
Apparently it's okay because it's an "an age-old practice".

And these medieval fuckers have nuclear weapons.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Green gold

The algal biofuels story sounds too good to be true, so it probably is.

I have an alarm in my head which goes off whenever I hear the phrase "carbon neutral". My right eyebrow involuntarily raises in a Spock-like fashion and I look for the catch. The term itself sits uncomfortably with me, along with 'carbon offset'. Anyhow, the concept goes like this: when the fuel is burned it releases only the amount of CO2 the biological fuel source absorbed during growth. So far so green. The cynical devil on my shoulder argues that under the same rules fossil fuels could be classified as carbon neutral as they only emit the amount of CO2 that was sequestered millions of years ago by dead vegetation.

To be truly carbon neutral, the process of growing, gathering, processing and transportation should not result in a net increase in emissions. That means that before the fuel gets to the tank in your car each step in the process must either be powered by renewable energy and/or more carbon neutral energy sources.

In an economic culture where growth rules, successful carbon neutral fuels would ensure that we become a victim of that success. The algae fuel would be subject to usual market forces (assuming we avoid daft minimum biofuel use rules like the EU is trying to push), so as demand raises, so will production. Whilst the algae sucks up CO2, when it burns it will put it back. There is no growth, but there also is no net reduction in emissions. The most that can be hoped for is that the rate of CO2 emissions growth may be reduced.

Whilst such initiatives may sound impressive, they don't meet the key challenge - we need to reduce our carbon emissions. Even if every car in the world could sustainably run on biofuels, we would still need to make drastic cuts in the carbon budget if we want a hope of staving off runaway climate change.

With this post I'm afraid I'm calling shenanigans somewhat on many greens who see a future in algal biofuels and a way of weaning our economy off fossil fuel. Don't get me wrong, I can see a limited opportunity for such a product, but only one which fits into a diverse energy source model, with the focus on net reductions in CO2 rather than mere neutrality.

So I'm not so cynical that I can't see the investment possibilities, and I'd much prefer to see more investment in such initiatives than drilling for more oil, but a lot of people will get rich on what is essentially a status quo technology, a 'less worse' solution.

To see these biofuels as some great rescue from growing emissions could be dangerous wishful thinking.

Easy now

A 50mph speed limit? Sensible, rational and forward thinking? (well, apart from the biofuels thing that is)

The road fundamentalists will hate it. The libertarians will fume against a reduction in their right to fuck up the planet.

The sooner some brave PM brings lower road speeds here the better.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

David's soul

In what's been tagged as an opening move for the top job in Britain, South Shields MP David Miliband wrote this missive in the Guardian, positioning himself and the Labour Party. It could be summarised as "We're Not Tories". It's more of the same oldskool NuLab tosh. I loved this bit:
"Every member of the Labour party carries with them a simple guiding mission on the membership card: to put power, wealth and opportunity in the hands of the many, not the few."
Labour have privatised and off-balance sheeted beyond even the most ardent Thatcherite's free market wet dreams. Much of our public services are being run now for private profit at a higher cost than if it had been run by the public sector. More is being prepped to go into private hands. Those membership cards must be so buried behind wads of cash that the "guiding mission" has been suffocated.

Anyhow, it's already been covered by Curly, but what has really interested me is the local angle.

First is the Gazette's coverage of the story. A massive front page splash reporting the article written for, hold on, it doesn't say where! Even the Gazette editorial could only just manage to strain itself so far to describe the source of the piece as "a national newspaper". If you're going to lift whole blocks of text from another newspaper then you should at least have the courtesy to give it credit. It's really bad show chaps.

Also in the Gazette, Alliance newbie councillor and former chairman of the South Shields Labour Party and former Labour councillor Geraldine White was quoted as saying:
"He doesn't promise anything unless he can deliver."
Whoa! Way to be opposition there Geraldine! But that's not all. On the Gazette website there's a fuller account, getting positively all moist over our own 'I'm David'. She swooned:
"David is a man of honour, and that is a quality which is highly prized in politics. He doesn't promise anything unless he can deliver. I endorsed him when he came to South Shields as MP in 2001, because he was open, honest and frank. On a personal level, he's very funny, he was [sic] a great sense of humour, and he adores his family."
It's kind of her to remind us that she endorsed the guy: friend and confidant of Tony Blair, who was parachuted into a safe Labour seat, and so close to former MP and waste of space David Clark's mysteriously timely ennoblement. Yay cronyism! And now she endorses DM for PM. Awww. It makes yer feel all warm don't it?

With enemies like Geraldine, Labour don't need too many friends. I think that's how it goes. Surely it can't be long before she's welcomed back into the Labour fold?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Burning money

Hot on the heels of Eddie Mac's silly statement on waste is the announcement that Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland councils have been successful in their bid for £73.5m cash to fund their waste strategy.

I say 'their waste strategy', because the consultation was manipulated to favour incineration, and the councils' Waste Partnership doesn't want us oiks to know the details of what's really going on behind the scenes. Meetings are held in camera and Freedom of Information requests hit the bureaucratic buffers.

Expect the council and it's mouthpiece Fiona Brown to crow over the funding announcement. Similarly, expect the council and DEFRA to keep their yaps shut about DEFRA’s assessment of the Expression of Interest (the bid document referred to DEFRA) being kept from public view.

The councils don't want it released under the excuse of commercial confidentiality (for the councils that is, not private companies) and DEFRA is only too happy to oblige.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

MacRubbish

Over on planet EddieMac, the councillor believes that rubbish incinerators produce "absolutely no emissions". That's quite a claim. The Hebburn councillor and cabinet member for U Turns And Sucking Up To Tesco must have missed the bits in the council's own reports that clearly say that incinerators produce shit loads of nasty stuff.

Watt for watt, incinerators produce about three times more CO2 than a gas-fired power station, spew nasty cancer causing dioxins in airborne particulates over the surrounding area and leaves a waste slag at the end of the process that's so toxic that its got to go to specialist landfill sites.

Minor pollution is monitored by local authorities, but major pollution emissions is within the remit of the Environment Agency. Domestic waste incinerators have to operate under the Integrated Pollution and Prevent Control (IPPC) system, which is evaluated and monitored by the Environment Agency. That means the EA certainly thinks that incinerators have a major emissions problem and they should keep an eye on them.

You would have thought a cabinet member would be clued up enough to know about that before talking shite.

If his reported statement is true, Eddie and Labour seriously suck donkey balls on this issue, and clearly shouldn't be let anywhere near anything as dangerous as a decision, never mind an unquestioning and pliant print media. He's a liability.

Let's hope he makes another u-turn.

Carbon campaign

A 10 minute film by Ecologist Films documenting how the government and its corporate whoremasters use propaganda, dirty tricks and rallies a police force with carte blanche powers against climate change protestors. The chilling use of anti terrorism laws by the police, and made up ones to stop people filming their actions suggest that the government is using the police in a secret war against protest.

In August there will be a demonstration at Kingsnorth power station in Kent against the plans to allow a new coal fired station. It will be interesting to see how the government, police and a willing right wing media will spin it.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Swindled

George Monbiot says it all.
The Great Global Warming Swindle, like Against Nature, had a huge impact, persuading many people that man-made climate change is not taking place. I attended a presentation by a pollster from Ipsos Mori who showed that there had been a decline last year in the number of people who believed that global warming was a real phenomenon — primarily, she said, as a result of Durkin's film.
Sound familiar?

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Cheeky blighter 2: behind the boss' back

The government is battling to keep to its CO2 reduction target to 60% (of 1990 CO2 levels) by 2050, whilst campaign groups like Friends of the Earth responded to the science and moved on from the 60% figure and are pushing for a more realistic 80% reduction by 2050 through their Big Ask campaign. When the Climate Change Bill eventually hits the books, we may be looking at something more like 100%.

The Climate Bill was taken up by South Shields MP David Miliband during his tenure as Secretary of State for the Environment, and could possibly be the only concrete contribution this government has made towards battling with climate change. Since the Bill started discussions, the government has dragged its feet over key issues, including the 2050 target, annual targets, ministerial accountability and 'carbon budget' reporting.

But in South Africa, David Miliband agreed to a target "in the range of 80% to 95% by 2050". He definitely played a blinder.

I find it hard to say this.

I like it.

Cheeky blighter 1: the cost of democracy

You've got to hand it to Ahmed Khan. Not many folk have the cojones to write a letter to the Gazette moaning about local election candidates using the letters page of the Gazette to offer their thanks to voters, and then himself use the letters page to offer those very same thanks.

But not only did he do this, he also took the opportunity to big himself up about his newsletters.

Talk about political opportunism.

It's an odd move which whilst mildly amusing to many will alienate some, particularly when some of his Alliance colleagues have used the 'letter in the Gazette' method of communication in the past. It's as if he's intentionally trying to bait his opponents into the open, daring them to publicly respond.

If you took his PR bullying seriously, you may interpret a suggestion that he thinks that every electoral candidate should have the cash resources that he so obviously enjoys. The implication is that if you can't afford to print thousands of thank you letters, you don't care.

Such a view is not unexpected, or inconsistent. Khan has already tried to claim the moral high ground from those who would receive reasonable recompense for their responsibilities as a councillor. His 2007 election material employed innuendo and untruth about the financial motivations of his electoral opponents for the Beacon and Bents ward.

Khan is no stranger to Gazette publicity. When the Pier's 'Dolly Plaque' was stolen, Khan offered a cash reward, "no questions asked", for its return. He may not have bought the plaque back, but I'm sure it didn't hurt his electoral chances. Add to this the legal bill for his failed legal challenge to last year's election result and it starts to look like Khan's road to election success was a very expensive business.

Since the Branleys have also publicly forgone councillors' expenses, there's a feeling that the leadership of the Alliance party has a rather paternalistic attitude that implies that only those rich enough to stand as councillor should do so.

The suggestion that democracy is the plaything of the well off is extremely disquieting.


However, I agree with Khan on the need to stay involved in local issues, whether you're standing for election or not. If you're interested in what happens in your town or local area you've got to stay connected. His "they suddenly reappear as if by magic" high horse surely applies to his Alliance colleagues as much as any other council hopeful.

Only last year, two unpaid volunteers from South Tyneside Friends of the Earth were putting the last nails into the coffin of the Fellgate business park plan at the Local Development Framework inquiry. Lined up against them for South Tyneside Council was a barrister and a host of council planning professionals. It was a very empty hall, with only two people turning up to offer encouragement for the FOE Fellgate challengers. George Waddle, Steve Harrison and Geraldine White were nowhere to be seen.

I'm sure that Alliance councillors provide a great service to their wards, and given such a rousing letter from Mr Khan, I really do hope that the Alliance will stop sleeping and missing things like the LDF, and see the bigger picture and start to really get involved.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sats static

After last week's announcement that the Key Stage 2 SATS results would be delayed due to poor management, parents all over the country have been waiting for their childrens' results. South Tyneside has been no different. However...

Some South Tyneside junior schools in the borough have used their initiative and introduced their own ways to tackle this, some having already released their Sats results. Others haven't.

For example, Boldon and Ridgeway junior schools already have passed the Sats results to parents, presumably by going through the returned papers and collating the information for themselves. But Harton junior school is holding off until they receive the electronic results and will be releasing them on Tuesday 15th July, a matter of just three days before the end of term. One day if the Unison strike goes ahead.

For children who are moving from schools like Harton Juniors to senior schools in the next term, this means that some parents will be attending parent's evenings next week without knowing what their child's results are.

Good on Ridgeway and Boldon, but it's unfortunate that this issue couldn't have been grasped at an executive level in the council to ensure a consistent approach. True, the Sats problem isn't the making of the schools or the council, but some schools have found a way round the difficulties.

The more I'm exposed to how South Tyneside administers it's education, the more convinced I become that the structure is riddled with incompetence and ambivalence.


Note: South Shields MP David Miliband's chum Scott 'Duffers' Duffy is at the helm of Harton Juniors governor's board.

Slip of the tongue

No, not the mediocre Whitesnake album, but Councillor Jane Branley's description of her faux pas in the describing the Alliance. She said:
"I'll say once again that we are are not a party."
Well, it's not the first time the Branley tongue has slipped. During the election, Branley presented an election statement for the Gazette on behalf of the Alliance where she referred to herself as:
"leader of the largest minority party which are the independents on South Tyneside Council"
It's a pity the Gazette missed this and failed to call her on it. But of course,
"I'll say once again that we are are not a party."
But really, what is the Alliance so scared of? As local bloggers and David Potts have pointed out, the Alliance is to all intents and purposes a political party. The key difference is that in their current non-status, their funding, advertising and spending slips into a grey area of regulatory scrutiny, when real parties (which includes the Progressives) are fully exposed to electoral checks. That should give any voter some cause for concern.

David Potts makes a fair comment - why don't they register as a party? But instead of a clear explanation of why they shy away from registering, the Alliance goes straight on the attack. And not just one, but two Alliance councillors sick em. Hardly being open and honest with the electorate are they?

Perhaps the Alliance should register themselves with the Electoral Commission before someone else does. It shouldn't be too difficult for a former Alliance member to register himself as such under Electoral Commission regulations.

But let's not forget that another independent grouping who enjoyed the Gazette party political broadcast, the 'Real Independents'. They've been left out of this debate. Perhaps they should show a fine example and their moral superiority and register themselves? I hope Cllr Potts does the right thing and calls them to task too.


In the article, I also found Mrs Branley's description of the Alliance party rather interesting:
"like-minded individuals who've come together to organise politically against the Labour group that has dominated local politics for decades"
Hold on, if I remember correctly, Mrs Branley and her husband Allan are both former Labour councillors. Also, Geraldine White, the new councillor for Fellgate who cruised in on an anti-Labour ticket, was herself a Labour councillor. She also enjoyed the dizzy height of Chairman of South Shields Labour Party at the same time the council was devising the plans to concrete over the Fellgate green belt.

So they, and their supporters and families, helped Labour dominate local politics. Funny old world, isn't it?


Ironic quote of the day goes to opportunist politician Ahmed Khan for this beauty:
"This is typical of an opportunist politician like David Potts."
It's the way he tells 'em!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The forests of Easter Island

A timely piece from George Monbiot, on the fishermen fighting for their own extinction. Despite their technology, the last of the hunter gatherers of our society are dying out, an industry eating itself, gorging on rapacious fishing. This is a failure to live sustainably, and a visible manifestation in our time of what happens when ecological and resource limits are ignored.

We've seen the impact of this kind of behaviour already destroy the Grand Banks cod fishing.

There is no shortage of solutions: protect spawning grounds from fishing, create reserves, stop beam and reef net trawling and even perhaps paying fisherman not to fish to allow fishing grounds and stocks to recover.

And say goodbye to cheap fish.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Poshes for Porsches

Well, BoJo had his chance, but as promised he's indicated who he's really representing as Mayor of London - the toffs.

Okay, it's cheap class shot. But if you want a real indication of where the Tories are over climate change then here you have it. They're all over the place.

I had some hopes for Boris. Despite being a professional buffoon and a Tory, he ticked some green boxes. A cyclist; against Heathrow expansion. It looked quite promising.

Personally, I was in two minds about the CO2 levy. On the one hand it would help London reduce it's transport CO2 emissions by encouraging some people to move over to lower emissions vehicles, whilst at the same time raising money for the authority to adapt to climate change. Those new flood plans will have to be paid from somewhere.

On the other hand though, the congestion charge was about congestion, not emissions, and it seems unfair to target one sector of society (albeit one which is rich enough to afford to run fuel guzzlers) when any initiative to reduce emissions should be equitable.

But the real issue at stake, in which Boris rolled over, is a matter of real principle and democracy: the concept of who decides how London (and by extension our society) should be run. Porsche said they knew what was right for London, and took the Mayor to court. It should be beholden on any mayor to challenge Porche's arrogant presumption of superiority. But once in Ken's office, Boris couldn't wait to let the German toff-mobile makers win and sign them a cheque for £400k. He didn't even negotiate a suitable compromise.

Boris' unconditional surrender to Porsche's legal blitzkrieg couldn't be much clearer - the rights of a luxury car manufacturer and its customers come before action on climate change and the concept of the primacy of the office of the state to run state affairs.

It should keep the CBI happy for a nanosecond though.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Bush and irony

GW Bush praises his fight for freedom and free speech, as hecklers are escorted away by goons.

Wanker.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Desert power

An Early Day Motion has been raised to urge the government to support the DESERTEC concept. A low carbon technology that is here and now, not like the imagined fancies of nuclear and carbon capture. What TREC needs is investment, not just in power generation technology, but in a new super-grid, which we will need anyway if we want a balanced and diverse power supply system.

The government has been banging on about disconnecting from fossil fuels, and here is one of the renewable energies that can form a valuable part of a diverse renewable energy solution.

The details of the EDM are here. Go on, bang off a quick email or letter to your MP.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

150 years ago today


Papers by Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace on Natural Selection where presented publicly for the first time. The low-key event was a precursor to the release of Darwin's The Origin of Species 18 months later, which had been 20 years in the making.

It's probably the single most important theory in biology, but also had the unintended consequence of putting a very big nail in the coffin of religion by erasing the credibility of pretty much any creation story.

I raise a glass to them.

Okay then, two.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Meet the FOCAs

You couldn't make it up. A group of religious fanatics came up with a name for themselves. No-one in said group thought it would be a good idea to check with the Ministry for Silly Acronyms just in case the name came up a bit, well, asshatish. Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans. FOCA.

It just invites crude and childish mockery from the likes of me. Excellent.

I'm mystified about this "militant secularism" thing. It seems to be one of these buzz phrases used by religious at the moment, along with "militant atheist". There must be some naming convention: Bad Things must be prefixed with the title 'militant'. It's not as if we have legions of suicide atheists or a secular paramilitary wing of the Richard Dawkins Foundation stirring up all kinds of trouble. The phrase is slightly ridiculous, and utterly dishonest. Propaganda.

If there is a whiff of militancy, it's from these very separatist fundamentalist nut jobs, who are miffed at not being as authoritarian as Muslims, even emulating the Muslim propagation structure by planning to set up their own Madrasa style theological schools, thrashing out their own extremist views of Christianity.

Normally, as a non believer, I wouldn't care less about an ideological schism in the Anglican church. Get on with it. But this new cult of intolerance and bigotry with its missionary zeal will try to take its (largely homophobic) message far and wide, and will, like the Catholic Church, try to trespass into secular life and the business of the state, championing Iron Age supernatural myths as a basis for a moral philosophy.

Hopefully it won't get that bad. Perhaps they'll implode under the critical mass of their own hate.

Silly FOCAs.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Deja vu

The previous post stirred some memories...

Dead-end legal action; scrounging to pay the costs; petition padding.

It sounds all so familiar...

Breaking voice

After trying to crush free speech and losing, religious fundamentalist blowhard Stephen Green has announced that he doesn't have the money to put where his mouth is and is threatening to declare himself bankrupt to avoid paying the £90,000 costs awarded to Mark Thompson and Jonathan Thoday during the frivolous 'Jerry Springer - The Opera' legal action.

Graciously asking for the costs to be dropped, Green said:

"For these rich, powerful men to pursue me into the bankruptcy courts over money I don't have would be vindictive."

Bless his magnanimous humbleness.

Green and Christian Voice have also put their faith in an online petition to try and gain support for their cause. Apart from the hilarity of some of the petition comments, the carbon copy nature of a number of them suggests some petition padding.

So far he's collected 451 online signatures. By my reckoning if these deeply religious folk really back Green, they could chip in £200 each, save their souls and Green from martyrdom.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Voting away democracy

Another step towards a Britain not in the hands of it's citizens, but in the hands of big money. It's a return to feudalism in all but name.  

Whilst the government justifies the gutting of the planning laws on the basis of planning for climate change, the new system will not recognise climate change, the environment or people.  It will, however, recognise what's good for the CBI and its chums.

This move has put planning firmly into the hands of a free market economic fundamentalism that subordinates our society to the demands of big business. Gordon Brown has managed to smash our right to speak out against developments, and turn into another one of his pet pfi projects. Privatising democracy.

And who did this?

The very fuckers we voted for.

Want to stop a nuclear power station on your doorstep? An incinerator next to your kids' school? What about your house being demolished for that new motorway?

Now citizen, there's fuck all you can do about it, and you can thank your MP for that.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Keep thy religion to thyself

George Carlin. Another loss. Fiercely intelligent and challenging. Mercilessly funny. An irreverent foul mouthed funny man, who in the US was also the voice of Thomas the Tank Engine. And he was Rufus in the Bill and Ted movies. Cool.

Here's his breakdown of the Ten Commandments.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Sad news

Of the death of Norman Fay Snr over the weekend in a terrible road accident. He was just 72 so it's come as a real shock.

Norman had a well deserved reputation for fine craftsmanship and engineering, and had an infectious love of all things cycling. His bikes have been many people's introduction to cycling and his experimentation with different cycle forms appealed to hard core enthusiasts and occasional riders alike. I've been the lucky owner of a couple of his bikes, one of which I bought when I was 18 and I still have but is sadly gathering dust in the hut.

Both Norman and his late wife Marion were both founding members of South Tyneside Friends of the Earth.

Whilst he died relatively young in modern terms, his continued cycling proved that you're never to old to get on your bike. Maybe it's time I dusted off mine.

A true local hero.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

With knobs on

The Rev Martin Dudley said:
"Nor is it the first time there have been prayers, hymns or readings following a civil partnership. It may be that this ceremony had rather more knobs on. It may also be the only one we know about."
That's the Church's problem with gay marriage - too many knobs.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Men of honour

Perhaps I was a bit hasty this morning in targeting Murdoch alone for his attempts to manipulate UK politics by media proxy. He's been doing it for years, with impunity.

If MacKenzie did stand, and win, he would merely join a long line of MPs who have received earnings from external employment in addition to their MP salary or enjoyed the the attentions of corporate lobby groups. Possibly the difference with MacKenzie is that he is being honest about who is giving him the instructions.

Rosebud

The news that former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie may stand against David Davis should cause great concern. In a by-election which looks like it's going to be fought over a principle of civil liberties, another ethical issue which must come under examination is the media power which can be wielded by one of the possible candidates.

If MacKenzie stands, it will be for the Sun, and ultimately the Rupert Murdoch party.

As we've seen in the past, the Murdoch empire will swing into action in support of its chosen candidate. Such a cheapening of our electoral system, bankrolled by a foreign media mogul, leaves a bad taste and is incredibly worrying.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Make your bloody mind up!

Is the Alliance a political party or not? Curly's covered the Alliance's shenanigans several times in the past, and he returns to mystery of the real status of the Alliance in his coverage of the departure of councillor Tom Defty. It seems the Alliance don't know what they are either.

Ahmed Khan said:
"Comparing us to the Labour party is a nonsense. We're not a party, and any attempts to make us into one are swiftly quashed."
Nonsense eh? We'll ignore the number of old Labour bodies in the Alliance, but the term "swiftly quashed" sounds oddly like a whip.

Jane Branley said:
"Everyone's got to find an excuse to leave a political party, and it seems that Coun Defty has found his."
What? Khan just said you're not a party! Someone's out of the loop here.

To add to the confusion, the Gazette has referred to the Alliance as a party several times, even giving their 'party leader' Jane Branley the opportunity to voice her party's position before the last election in an on-line video broadcast. In her on-line pre-election address, she said that she was:
"leader of the largest minority party which are the independents on South Tyneside Council"
Uh-oh, there goes the P-word again. But hold on, the Alliance website says in big red letters:
"The Independent Alliance is NOT AN ALTERNATIVE POLITICAL PARTY"
So there we have it. They are a political party, and they're not a political party. I hope that's cleared things up.

The Alliance piously made a lot of capital out of the peculiarities of last year's Beacon and Bents voting, so it seems a tad hypocritical that they don't apply the same rigorous electoral expectations to themselves.

As Curly pointed out, to all intents and purposes the Alliance is a party. Why don't they stop hiding behind ambiguous electoral rules and do the right thing and register as one?
I've complained in the past about Labour members having lost a sense of principle after their party's warmongering and steady walk towards a police state. However, some of them still have the moral courage to stand by their principles.

Brown's desperate attempt to bolster his leadership, embodied in raising the pre-charge detention limit for terrorism suspects to 42 days, rallied most of the pliant troops who put party politics before the protection of our civil liberties. But not without some last minute horse-trading.

I've never often had an occasion to agree with Diane Abbott, but she rightly accused the government of:
"trading ancient civil liberties in a grubby bazaar"
Every concession Brown gave the wavering backbenchers was bought with another scrap of our freedom.

Kudos to Jim Cousins (Newcastle upon Tyne Central) and Chris Mullin (Sunderland South), the only Tyne/Wear Labour MPs with the cojones to stand up against Brown. Respect to all who voted against this disgusting charade.

PS - the Unionists where whores under the Tories. They're still on their back - but taking Brown's shilling.

Monday, June 09, 2008

DUP d'oh!

Free speech is great. It lets you know who the bigoted asshats are. Like the DUP's Iris Robinson, who has suggested that homosexuality is a psychiatric disorder and that gays should seek counselling. And yes, you guessed it, religion has something to do with it.

What a complete fruit loop. Perhaps someone should offer counselling to the bigoted dysfunctional shit shower that is the DUP.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Goodbye Tesco

MPs flocked to vote to stop toffs fox-hunting, but turn a blind eye to the daily poor treatment of millions of chickens in the UK.

The campaign for improved poultry welfare has been picked up by the likes of Compassion in World Farming and various celebs, as unfortunately we are dependent on retailers and the ethical concerns of consumers to drive a humane farming policy which should really be addressed by Government.

The MPs who voted for their furry fox friends aren't the only hypocrites.

I've shopped at Tesco. It was a poor compromise of sorts - they led the way in organic food in terms of supermarket retailing, but I was unsettled by their sharp approach to planning and crushing local competition, known as 'Tescopoly'. The fact that their type of business is dependent on, and encourages, growth in burning fossil fuels, burns too.

Pushing the trolley around their stores, it's hard to reconcile the comfort of the nice shiny clean surroundings with the ethical dilemmas inherent in the business models of the big food retailers.

I'm aware that there's constant compromise with any purchase choice, but sometimes, enough is enough.

I can't stomach Tesco's behaviour any more: their refusal to recognise the impact of the type of chicken farming they profit from and dirty tricks they're using to keep it that way.

If Tesco took steps to take their chicken supply to a higher standard of animal welfare like the RSPCA Freedom Food standard it would be a start, and the rest of the retail grocery sector would follow.