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."

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.