Tuesday, July 16, 2002

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL COUNCIL WORKERS

More than a million council workers in England, Wales and the North of Ireland will be on strike tomorrow, 17th July. The votes in favour of industrial action by members of UNISON, the GMB and TGWU wetre absolutely decisive for an initial one-day walkout , and mark the biggest challenge to date against New Labour’s policy of public sector pay restraint.

A quarter of a million predominantly women workers on wages below £5 an hour are likely to be at the forefront of pickets and marches in many cities and towns across Britain.




There are rumours that the employers have made an offer of 4.5%. These are ABSOLUTELY UNTRUE. There has been no contact with them and they themselves are not meeting until 19 July - no doubt to assess the effectiveness of the strike. Let's show them we mean business.

Some councils are going to 'impose' a 3% pay increase on staff this month, with a promise to meet the difference after the settlement. Branches should resist such moves, but where they have happened, members should still take strike action on 17 July as we are still in dispute with the employers over the offer.

Th Local Government Association is just as adamant and has issued this advice to local authorities:-

"The National Employers' position is that these ballot results do not improve local authorities' ability to pay. 3% is the same as the average pay settlement in the economy as a whole, as calculated by an independent source (Industrial Relations Services)."

"...There is therefore no good reason for the Employers to reconsider their negotiating position. Solidarity among all authorities is most critical. The national Employers' position reflects the overwhelming message from this year's consultation. A firm message needs to be sent to employees that: 3% is fair and reasonable; it is all that the vast majority of authorities can afford; striking will not affect the position or result in an improved offer."
More info.

The LGA have also confirmed that participation in strike action would result in deductions from pay on the basis of 1/5th of a week's pay, a deduction that has dubious legality.

Local Government is staffed overwhelmingly by women. Take, for example, social services- thse are the people that do childcare, look after old peoople and the disabled, wipe bums, cook food, and do all the other shitty jobs -

Full-time Women employees 106,695 Part time: 155,384
Full Time Men 39,564 20, 593

Average male wage £390
Average £314

That means women are 63% of the fulltime Social Services workforce, and 87% of the part-time, but earn only 81% of the average male local government wage and 91% of the national average. (The national average wage is £17,880, or £343 per week.) The employers offer is 3%, an increase of £9.43 on the average woman's local authority wage.

Britain's top bosses enjoyed a 28% pay increase last year - six times more than the average wage rise. More on pay inequality.

I did try to find out what local authority chief executives and senior management are paid, but this has proved difficult. Again, from the LGA:
"Salaries, Earnings and Numbers Surveys: Chief Executives and Chief Officers - For more detailed information from the Chief Executives and Chief Officers database which is accessible to authorities on a confidential basis contact Mary Edge." Source

Too scared to say no doubt.

Taking a look at the Guardian's 'Society' section, it appears the average wage for management is around £60,000 a year. That's over a £1000 a week, or more than 300% of the average woman's wage in local government.

Surprise, surprise, 88% of senior executives in local authorities are men.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

NOTORIOUS FASCIST ATTEMPTS TO SHUT DOWN RADICAL BOOKSHOP- £14 DERISORY DAMAGES IN FIRST
OF BOOKSHOP LIBEL CASES

A High Court verdict on Tuesday 2 July could be a short-term deterrent to right-wingers using libel writs to attack small radical bookshops; but it still leaves two of London's last such shops with potentially crippling legal bills, and it exposes a major gap in defamation law which needs plugging.

The two-day High Court case was the culmination of an
action brought nearly 2 years ago against Housmans
Bookshop in Kings Cross, London,by someone currently
using the name Alexander Baron. The right-wing anti-gay litigant had been referred to as a plagiarist in one
sentence in a 136-page pamphlet stocked in the shop.
He had chosen to sue only the shop, not the author or
publisher concerned, becauseof his distaste for the sort
of material made available in radical bookshops.

Although he had at one stage demanded that the shop
pay him £50,000 to drop the case, the jury awarded him
just £14. Because he had already rejected a settlement
offer higher than that, he was also ordered to pay most
of the shop's legal costs; however, there is no expectation that he has the resources to do so.

Despite the jury's apparent sympathy with the
defendants, they clearly felt virtually compelled by the
judge's legal rulings to find against the shop. Following
this test case - the first occasion on which a bookshop
has tried to use the "innocent dissemination" defence
introduced in the 1996 Defamation Act - it seems that if
anyone suggests to a shop or library that an item on their shelves is defamatory, and they fail to remove it
immediately, then they cannot use this defence in any
proceedings later brought against them, irrespective of
whether it was reasonable to take thesuggestion
seriously.

This action against Housmans was one of a series,
dating back to 1996, brought against Housmans,
Bookmarks (also in London) and others by people
criticised in anti-fascist magazines. This was the
first to end up in court, but one of the earlier cases -
against Bookmarks and Housmans, and involving the
magazine Searchlight - is still extant. It is due in court
this autumn unless a settlement is reached first - either
course is financially costly.

The Bookshop Libel Fund is calling for urgent
financial support for the shops to cover their costs
in these cases, and for a change in the law to stop
bookshops being targeted in this way.

See the appended earlier release for the background
to these cases.For further details about this week's case, contact Albert Beale, tel 020-7278 4474


DONATIONS:
Donations to the appeal fund should be made out to
"Bookshop Libel Fund"
& sent to Bookmarks, or Housmans, (addresses below.)
On-line credit/debit card donations can be made at
www.apoogee.com/Housmans
BOOKSHOP LIBEL FUND
update JULY 2002 newsletter

c/o HOUSMANS BOOKSHOP
5 Caledonian Road, London, N1 9DX, UK 020 7278 4474
c/o BOOKMARKS BOOKSHOP
1 Bloomsbury Street, London, WC1B 3QE, UK 020 7637 1848

About Alexander Baron:

Alexander Baron is a racist and anti-semite with close ties to neo-nazi groups in Britain and Europe. He also writes juvenile, execrable poetry, plays and prose. He can also be found like a particularly purulent rash all over usenet, on uk.legal, talk.politics.mideast, de.soc.studium.verbindungen, soc.politics.marxism, soc.culture.usa, uk.current-events.general and countless other newsgroups. His website is easily found by googling.

The guy is scum, and plagiarist scum. If he doesn't like my saying so, he can sue me.

Thursday, July 04, 2002

I know I said I was gone, but I can't go off without pointing out todays Mark Steel Independent column on the US bombing of an Afhan wedding. When Bart Simpson Goes To War .

".......I can see how, when you're flying at 20,000 feet, a bloke on the ground with a 50-year-old rifle could make you jumpy. These things have a range of over 80 yards so with a ricochet-or-two they could have your eye out."
That's me done now 'till next Friday, unless I can blag PC access during the coming week. I'm off to Marxism at ULU with my sweetie, who's over from NL. He's bringing me a Palestinian flag. Romance is not dead....


PLYMOUTH, CHERNOBYL OF THE SOUTHWEST

Well, it's been a few days since I updated the blog - sorry about this, but I've been involved with the public meeting on on nuclear safety with John Large , an independent nuclear engineering consultant whose company helped Russia salvage the submarine Kursk.

If you read my earlier post re DEVPUBSAFE and my comment 'We're all going to die' - well after hearing what John had to say, I regret that flippancy. I should have been a lot more vehement.

OK, there's 11 Trident nuclear subs here for refit(including the one Gibraltar kicked out because it had a containment fault and was leaking). 11 separate nuclear reactors, plus large numbers of nuclear war heads, plus containerised nuclear waste. They are at Devonport Dockyard, slap bang in the middle of a city of 270,000 people.


The area around the Dockyard, showing high-density housing


The area around the Dockyard, showing high-density housing.


Even a very minor breach of a reactor container on a sub would affect people within a 2km radius... DEVPUBSAFE allows for a 550m radius. Co-incidentally this is the average radius of the Dockyard.

Most likely to be affected in a minor accident are children. There is a primary school 440 m from the Dockyard. I've been told by a local NUT rep that teachers have been ordered that if there is an incident, they must lock the doors and not let any parents in or children out. DEVPUBSAFE says "Don’t try to collect children from school. Their teachers will make sure that they are looked after." If your children were in danger from by a nuclear accident, would a locked door stop *you*?

A major incident, ie a total hull breach, fire/explosion and leakage of fissionable material, could potentailly affect an area of 50km circumference. That's Devon, Cornwall, and Dorset.



Responsibility for any emergency response to any such incident lies with the City Council and local authorities. Total budget for such emergency plans? £10,000. Words fail me.

DML, the subsidiary that runs the Dockyard and Trident refitting facilities, is deeply embedded in the life of the city. DML is owned by Brown & Root, a subsidiary of the giant multinational Halliburton Inc., which has close links to both Cheney and Bush .

Until July 25 2000 it employed Dick Cheney as chairman of its executive board and CEO. Cheney has used his association with Halliburton and Brown & Root to enrich himself and gain political power. Halliburton gave Cheney a retirement package worth more than $33.7 million. That came on top of more than $10 million Cheney has earned in salary, bonuses, and stock options at Halliburton since 1995. In return for his pay, Cheney has helped the company attract US and UK government contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

So what this boils down to, yet again, is the pursuit of profit at the expense of people. A true picture of the safety issues at the Dockyard would horrify the public, with a consequent effect on share value.

Halliburton has been fined over $1 billion for safety incidents at nuclear facilities it controls. That nuclear emergency response budget again? £10,000.

Sunday, June 30, 2002

SORRY GRANDMA, YOUR GRANDSON LIKES A TOKE, SO YOU'RE HOMELESS

The US Supreme Court has upheld a law which allows Housing authorities to evict tenants if any guest or relative uses drugs, REGARDLESS of whether the tenant had any knowledge of the actvity.

The legislation passed by Congress is known as the 'First Strike' law, and was intended to cut down down on drug-related actvity in public housing projects.

From the Christian Science Monitor:-




PACKING UP:
Washington public- housing resident Joyce Lewis packs up after being evicted for her teenage grandson's drug possession.

Picture copyright EVAN VUCCI, AP

This has got to be one of the crueler side-effects of Bush's so-called 'War' on drugs.

Will the grandparents of Congressional offspring lose comfy retirement homes, due to their offsprings' anti-social behaviour? Given that the Bush Family live in public housing, does this mean they're outta there?

After all, the Bush girls, not to mention other relatives, are hardly strangers to substance abuse...

The real crime in America is to be poor - poverty is Un-American. Woe betide you if, to take your mind off your poverty, you take something to get you through and ameliorate your misery... then you'll lose everything, as will your family. If you're Dubya's niece, however, taking drugs will just get you a $51.25 fine and a cameo in 'Friends'.

"Children needs a heart of love. I know. I are one," said George W. Bush. When told the teenager involved was his daughter, Jenna, a bewildered Bush said, "Jenna..which one's that? That Yale one or.. the wild..or.. didn't she have her kidney removed? Or.. is there a third one? Wait.." NOT The White House

Thursday, June 27, 2002

WORTH EVERY PENNY?

Channel 4 news this evening, reviewing the release of last year's Civil List expenditure, points out that the use of the Royal Train costs an average £45 thousand per journey. £45,000 , coincidentally, approximates to the average salary of a Deputy Headteacher in a London borough. Vacancies for teachers and headteachers in London at the start of this school year are 880.


EQUAL OPPORTUNITY...?

On a related note,UK Education Secretary Estelle Morris now says that the comprehensive system is failing.

I wonder who instituted that system?

Apparently there should be more specialist schools, but 'it will not lead to increased selection'. However there will still be SAT's and League Tables for school performance. Is she being disengenuous or is she just plain stupid?

1 SAT results determine a schools place in league tables.
2 A school's place in the league tables is the deciding factor on how many parents choose it, how many pupils it has, and how much money it is allotted.
3 Clever pupils get good SAT results.

Therefore, to get good SAT results, a good ranking, more pupils and hence more money, the school must choose talented pupils. If it gets a good ranking it attracts parents, and other local schools lose.

Add into this specialisms in sport, music etc....

Does Morris, and by extension Tony Blair, really think that a specialist school, that needs good results to get more money, is going to pick children who are untalented in the school's specialism? What will happen to the less talented, or just plain ordinary, or those who don't have pushy knowledgeable parents to manipulate the appeals system in their favour?

Parental choice is just a con - this is a return to the Grammar School/Secondary system by the back door.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

BLOODY HIPPY TREE HUGGERS

Okay, so we (the local Socialist Alliance, of which I am chair) are organising a very large national demo in conjunction with CND in September. This is a collective, mass action of workers and residents against leaky Trident Subs being based in the middle of a city of 200,000 people, and against the storage and transport of nuclear waste here. So what do I get in the mail this morning?

'A Festival of Peace and Hope... Protest, Music and Song, Fancy Dress etc. Bring Loud Clothes, Literature, Music Instruments and Enthusiasm'

Bloody Trident Ploughshares - middle-class individualistic hippy treehuggers. I can just see them, sitting there in the Peace Garden, playing tomtoms and wearing ethnic jumpers knitted by Guaracha indians from the foothills of the Andes, eating vegan salads and discussing their lactose intolerance and how wonderful their cranial osteopaths are.

It's all very well doing sit downs and peace camps and being nice: HOW THE FUCK IS THAT SUPPOSED TO GET RID OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS? SEND POSITIVE GODDESS VIBES TO HALLIBURTON INC AND DICK CHENEY WILL SUDDENLY HAVE A CHANGE OF HEART?

Sorry for shouting but they make me so angry. A giant multinational, with connections to the US Vice-President and his mega-rich family, not to mention a hand in the pocket of every Senator and Congressperson, *and* its own private army, is hardly going to look at a bunch of untidy dreadlocked trustafarians with dogs on strings drumming for peace and say to themselves " Oh dear, I'm doing a bad thing. I'd better stop". TP talk a good fight, but they simply don't seem to see the connection between capitalism and nuclear weapons - they seem to think that if they can appeal to people's morals, make them be nice, all the nasty weapons will go away.

No, the only thing that works is strong collective action towards a truly socialist system and concerted opposition to US imperialism. Actions such as Trident Ploughshares', while they may make them feel better, do nothing useful.

Anyhow, just to see what the authorities have planned in case of a nuclear disaster, look at This . Oh dear, we're all going to die.
I was reading Paul Levy's 'Penguin Book of Food & Drink' and came across these dishes, invented at the Rattlesnake Club in Denver Colorado:-

Calamares Atacados Por Piranas Bidemensionales
Aquarium Vacio Encostalado y Frito con Lava
Explosion Nuclear en el Campo de Calabezas

Go and Babelfish.
How dare George 'I Stole The Election' Bush tell the Palestinians to get rid of Arafat - with all his faults he is their legitimately elected representative. Can Bush say the same?
LOCK UP THE LOONIES' SAYS BLAIR....

Under draft legislation proposed by New Labour,mentally ill people are to be detained without legal process, and treated compulsorily.without having committed a crime.
Here.

Currently it is necessary to 'section' the mentally ill under the Mental Health Act before they can be detained at a hospital: this is a judicial process and subject to appeal. The new proposal is for a 'Community Treatment Order' which will allow doctors quasi-judicial powers of compulsory detention. People with ( ill-defined) 'personality disorders' will also fall under the new legislation.
'Reforming The Mental Health Act' : full text and summary documents.

This legislation is a typical New Labour response to sensational stories in the Express and Daily Mail that schizophrenics are roaming the streets and will attack us all in our beds... harsh, inhumane, ill-thought out, inimical to all notions of human rights and common humanity, and impossible to enforce.

The legislation also contains a clause which will force mentally ill people to take their medication. How do they propose to do this? Jail them if they don't? Ram the tablets down their throats? Forcibly inject them? This goes against every principle of human rights- the right to self-determination, the right to have control over one's own body: I cannot see doctors or nurses complying willingly with this.

For all their fine talk of patients' charters and independent tribunals, New Labour has again abrogated further sweeping powers to the state.This is unprecedently hugely wide ranging legislation and dangerous to individual liberty. It is symptomatic of New Labour's authoritarian approach to social issues-treating sick people as inherently dangerous and as an issue of public order. It makes mentally -ill people 2nd class citizens who have fewer rights than the allegedly 'sane'.

ONE IN FOUR PEOPLE IN THE UK WILL SUFFER A MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEM AT SOME TIME DURING THIS YEAR.
The Mental Health Foundation
RMT THUMBS NOSE AT NEW LABOUR

Excellent news from the RMT Annual Conference: Bob Crow, General Secretary, has called for the sacking of 13 RMT sponsored MP's, including such New Labour luminaries as John Prescott and Robin Cook.
Read about it here

John Prescott, particularly, will be damaged by the RMT's actions - he has had overall responsibilty for transport policy, and also rents a flat from the RMT in London at a much reduced rate.
More details

RMT members voted for money to be switched to a fund for an 'RMT Group' of left-wing MPs including Diane Abbot and Jeremy Corbyn, to campaign for policies supported by the union.

In addition conference voted for funding to New Labour to be cut to £20,000. They have done this because of New Labour's continued implementation of Tory policies on transport, their refusal to renationalise the railways, and their plans to privatise the London Underground.

A poll commissioned by the trade union from the pollsters Taylor Nelson Sofres found that 61 per cent of the electorate backed the re-nationalisation of the railways; 63 per cent believed PPP should be scrapped, and 88 per cent backed the right to strike where rail employees thought conditions were unsafe.

On BBC Radio 4's 'World At One' , Labour MP Tony Wright branded the RMT's actions as "Disloyal" , " A disgrace" and "Money for policies".
Listen here

"Not only this" he said, but the RMT's actions are "A path which end in severing the link between the unions and the Labour Party". Quite - why feed the hand that bites you?

Bob Crow, interviewed on the same programme, when asked to comment on Wright's statement,said " So what is Bernie Ecclestone putting in money to New Labour for? .... MP's have attacked RMT workers exercising their right to strike... I'm more concerned about what thousands of workers whose jobs are being privatised think."

Not the total victory hoped for, which would have been the absolute divorce of the union's poltical fund from New Labour, but nevertheless a good start - not least it's an indicator that the unions are prepared to put their support behind the left. Public sector union Unison is to vote on the Political Fund next year ( though it should have been this year - motions were put to conference, which has just ended). A similar motion
is to go before the Communication Workers Union (Post Office and Telecoms) conference.

This has to be good news for the Socialist Alliance - nevertheless it's not all joy. Note that the RMT's campaign fund is still going to Labour MP's, no matter how left wing. As an anonymous MP put it, those MP's should be campaigning within the Labour Party to keep left wing activists within the party (the great unsaid being "...and out of the SA"). Giving RMT funds to these people will help them in this aim.

TRADE UNION ACTIVISTS MEETING
Saturday 29 June
12 noon - 4.00pm South Camden Community School, Charrington Street, London NW1
Conference fee: £5

The Socialist Alliance has called this meeting for all trade union activists interested in democratising the trade union political funds, following up the very successful conference held in February.
Details

SOCIALIST ALLIANCE- FOR A SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE TO NEW LABOUR

Monday, June 24, 2002



I had a heated argument, as you do, with a fellow socialist yesterday ( actually it was my partner, but one leaves these considerations aside in pursuit of a good row).

We started by having one of those speculative discussions , over the morality of immortality - should it be pursued as a goal? I said no, based on the grounds that the planets resources are not infinite: he said immortality would hasten the revolution, and somehow, it would all be OK in the end. Anyhow, he wanted immortality if it was available, so sod all other considerations.... I ended up shouting and calling him a loony libertarian utopian. So much for reasoned political debate.

Anyhow, browsing through the BBC News website I came across this little nugget, which backs up my position.

A claim that we are exhausting the planet's resources is made by an international team of authors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), published in the US.

Their paper, Tracking The Ecological Overshoot Of The Human Economy, uses existing data to translate human demand on the environment into the area needed for producing food and other goods, and for absorbing wastes.



It seems to me that the pursuit of a lengthened life, let alone immortality, is a luxury we cannot afford given the strain we already put on the Earth's resources. (I don't mean medical treatment, I mean the extension of the natural human lifespan, by means of gene therapy for instance) That's withoout consideration of the continued ability to reproduce of those people with lengthened lives... to paraphrase a much-loved sofa-bound UK celebrity, Immortality my arse!.
OKAY! LET'S GET THIS BLOG ON THE ROAD!

And why not start as I mean to go on, with a rant?

Sometimes it seems from here as though the entire population of the United States has gone deaf and blind, and willfully so. What the hell is wrong with you people? Are you so desperate to hang onto your stuff, your buckets of popcorn and your giant 32 oz cokes, your air-conditioned malls and your gas-guzzling RV's that you'll let such a bare-faced bunch of liars, crooks and hypocrites rob you blind, tyrannise the rest of the world and line their own pockets while they're doing it? I like Americans, hell I like America, I've been there and I've lived there. That's why it breaks my heart to see it roll over and allow itself to be ass-fucked.

Nice to see not all our friends in the US have fallen for the totalitarian tactics of George Bush and his associates:here's an alternative 'State of the Nation' address from James Lafferty, Director of the US Lawyers Guild LA Chapter-:

"I believe that, metaphorically speaking, this nation now finds itself standing at the entrance to a dark cave; a cave filled with war and repression and xenophobic nationalism. Just how deep--and full--that cave is, remains to be seen. But if the actions of this government since September 11th are any indication, that cave of war, repression and nationalism, may be the deepest ever experienced by the American people. Am I right? Well, let's review the evidence so far.

It began with the massive round-up, arrest and detention without charges, of well over 1,100 people whose only crimes appear to have been their apparent nationality and religious background, or, at worst, an expired student visa, or bad check charge. And still hundreds are being held indefinitely, in solitary confinement, without benefit of counsel and without any charges having been filed against them. And still more thousands are being called in for questioning by the FBI simply because of their national origin.

These round-ups, carried out with little protest from the general public or the politicians, are reminiscent of the Palmer Raids of 1919-1920, when thousands of aliens across this country were rounded up because of the fear that they might be anarchists or communists, and hundreds were summarily deported."
full text here