Sunday, August 20, 2006

Smart Bombs - a short story.

As he got on to the tube train, rubbing shoulders with the men and women, almost tripping over the push chair, his mind was filled with those other men and women; people stranded without food in the rubble of their homes, bearing bloodstained makeshift bandages, searching without hope for loved ones among the slain.

These people did not know what that was like. They were going to find out.

The train pulled out of the station. It was crowded, he had to stand. One or two people eyed his rucksack and then looked away. If they only knew.

Today his family were going back. They had no comfortable lives, no smart suits and mobile phones and ipods. They didn’t have to “imagine no possessions.” They had the clothes they stood up in and those needed a good wash. Their home might be there. Mr Blair and Mr Bush might have sent over one of their smart bombs to destroy it. How smart is that?

If it was gone they would camp near the rubble of their house and try to rebuild their lives, just like before…and the time before that. The smug faces around him hid minds which did not know what that was like.

This was a war of the rich against the poor. The rich have always been at war with the poor. And they conscript the poor to fight their battles.

And suddenly he realised there were men in flak jackets on either side of him. A gun to his head and the carriage was being evacuated. They pushed him to the ground and held him down. Then they were kicking him and shouting questions at him. The contents of his rucksack were strewn all over the carriage.

And then the policemen were laughing and they stood on the sheets of paper. “What the fuck is this? Bloody poetry? Do you think you can win a war with ideas?”

He didn’t say anything but inside his head he whispered, “yes.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Monday, August 14, 2006

Dispatches on PFI

Dispatches on Channel 4 on Monday 14th August was a detailed expose on the costs of PFI to the public services.

The government can borrow money cheaply, PFI means that the public sector has to pay a higher rate of interest. However once a hospital, road or school has been constructed a much lower rate of interest is possible. This enables PFI companies to refinance their loans and make millions, sometimes hundreds of millions. Under pressure they might sometimes pay back a fraction of this to the taxpayer.

Liam Halligan compared PFI to going on a shopping spree with a ludicrously expensive credit card. The amounts do not appear on the government’s books but there will be an almighty payback in the future. Any student with a loan will know just how that feels.

Financiers openly talk about “sweating” resources. Once they have a guaranteed income stream from the government they can seek to minimise their costs. The program showed one example after another of corners being cut in PFI projects. The public institutions can complain as much as they like, they are locked into 25 or 30 year contracts with the private sector willy nilly!

The program also showed in detail how companies like HSBC legally avoid paying UK taxes on public sector contracts. For example, they have transferred a £311 million Home Office contract into an offshore fund .

They also detailed how companies can manage to tell their shareholders they are making a profit and the taxman they are making a loss. The profits seem to disappear into subsidiaries which do not have any employees but manage to provide “management services.”

Some opf these companies are making an extortionate 123 percent on capital investments. Instead of locking them up for profiteering, New Labour award them further contracts.

Liam Halligan has done an excellent job exposing this public scandal. How interesting that HSBC and numerous other financial institutions refused to buy advertising space around this program!

It was not his job to provide a political alternative to PFI but this is all grist to the mill for the Campaign for a New Workers Party.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Relief at foiling of terrorist plot

There is a sense of relief that an apparent terrorist plot to blow up aircraft has been foiled. It will be a bit of a nuisance for people who have to carry GTN (which is actually nitroglycerine!) for angina. I do not look forward to explaining that one. However it seems a price well worth paying.

Unfortunately there has been an unsubtle focus on the muslim community which is irrelevant. Calling Osama Bin Laden a muslim is like calling the Rev'd Ian Paisley a Catholic. The constant linking of "terrorist suspect" and pictures of mosques is not subtle.

The Nazi newspaper, Der Stürmer used to show pictures of synagogues alongside pictures of rats for the same reason. What Der Stürmer did was to take every crime which was committed by a Jew and use it as a way to label all Jews as thieves, rapists and murderers.

And of course the old "innocent until proven guilty" palaver is replaced with a journalist muttering "alleged" occasionally.

The terrorists are making repression and the loss of civil liberties easier.

Terrorism is the other side of the coin from repression. The government can use terrorism as pretext to take away old fashioned "pre 9/11" concepts like freedom of speech or trial by jury.

If they didn't have terrorist plots then they would have to invent them. You can bet good money Dr John Reid will end up with much more power when all this is over and done with and he will be oh so reluctant to relinquish it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Fake "war on terror" in Lebanon

The "war on terror" happens to be a war of rich nations against poor nations, with terrorism as a pretext.

Bush and Blair have no objection to terrorism - for example the terrorism of the Contras or Posadas, when it serves their purposes. The rulers can claim no high moral purpose.

Now they must be laughing up their sleeves as they arm the Israeli Defence forces to the teeth and send them off to fight their battles for them. In this war there will be no embarrassing death tolls of American or British soldiers, no irate mothers camping out to demand to know why their sons have been killed.

It is all being done by proxy. The terrorists are doing the imperialists' dirty work for them by providing a pretext and the imperialists are boosting the terrorists. In Lebanon people could understandably see Hezbolla as a resistance movement, the only people apparently fighting back as the American proxies kill civilians.

At the moment Israeli and Lebanese civilians are the main victims. And Blair is enjoying a nice holiday.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Churchill’s Hour

Churchill’s Hour
Michael Dobbs
ISBN 0753124386

This is the third historical novel by Michael Dobbs in the Winston Churchill series following Winston's War and Never Surrender. Dobbs has mined the seam of Churchill’s larger than life personality, the cult which grew up around him during the war and added some rather fanciful conspiracy theories from his own imagination.

I won’t spoil it for you by detailing the clever and just-about-possible “inside stories” which exist in these books. What I will say is that the most incredible events in Churchill’s Hour are the landing of Hitler’s deputy in Scotland and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour – you really couldn’t make them up.

The intelligence or lack of it surrounding Pearl Harbour has always been a mystery and few people have been able to penetrate what was going on in Rudolph Hess’s brain at the best of times.

The truth in these books really is stranger than the fiction.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Tommy Sheridan 1 Rupert Murdoch 0

Rupert Murdoch, millionaire and muckraker, won't engage in an honest debate over the ideas of socialism. He prefers to concoct stories about socialists. He received a beating from Tommy Sheridan in court. The News of the World claimed their story was "substantially true" - which is a legal way of saying that it wasn't actually true but a bit like the truth. The verdict of the jury was that it wasn't even that!

The full text of Tommy Sheridan's speech after beating the News of the World in court follows.

"On behalf of my wife and I, can I first of all thank my two sisters and John Aberdeen, from Orkney, for being the best amateur legal team in the world.

"We have over the last five weeks taken on one of the biggest organisations on the planet, with the biggest amount of resources to pay for the most expensive legal team, to throw nothing but muck against me, my wife and my family.

"Well, brothers and sisters, what today’s verdict proves is that working-class people, when they listen to the arguments, can differentiate the truth from the muck.

"The working-class people on the jury who have found in our favour have done a service to the people of Scotland and have delivered a message to the standard of journalism that the News of the World represents.

"They are liars and we have proved that they are liars.

"I could never have conducted this case without the loyalty and support of my wife, my mother, my father, my sisters, my family and thousands upon thousands of working-class people in Scotland who want me to get out of this court and start fighting for the things that matter most.

"Against poverty and inequality in Scotland, and against war and against nuclear weapons.

"Those are the things that matter most, brothers and sisters, and I assure you we will retire for a few days to spend some quality time with our 14-month-old daughter, whom we have had to be apart from for most of the last five weeks, and that’s been the largest and most difficult thing to countenance.

"We’ll spend some time, quality time, with our daughter Gabrielle over the next few days but then I guarantee you, the people of Scotland who believe in their hearts in justice, who believe in their hearts in fighting poverty and inequality and who believe in their hearts in the need to fight against war, I’ll be back on the streets calling for the Israeli troops to stop killing innocent people in Lebanon, calling for the scrapping of nuclear weapons and to call for an independent socialist Scotland

"I want to finish, brothers and sisters, by saying one thing. Gretna have made it into Europe for the first time in their lives, but what we have done in the last five weeks is the equivalent of Gretna taking on Real Madrid in the Bernabeu and beating them on penalties, that’s what we’ve done."

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Against the slaughter in the Lebanon

National demonstration
Saturday 5 August: Assemble 12 Noon
Speakers Corner, Hyde Park, London
March to Parliament Square for rally

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

A game of chess

White Black
1. c2-c4 e7-e5
2. N-c3 N-f6
3. g2-g3 d7-d5
4. c4xd5 Nxd5
5. N-f3 N-c6
6. NxNd5 QxNd5
7. d2-d3 B-e6
8. B-d2 O-O-O
9. B-g2 Q-b5
10. N-g5 Qxb2
11. BxN b7xBc6
12. NxBe6 f7xN
13. Q-c1 Q-b6
14. Q-c4 R-d5
15. O-O B-c5
16. e2-e4 Bxf2+
17. RxB R-f8
18. Ra1-f1 R-d6
19. B-b4 RxRf2
20. RxRf2 R-d4
21. Qxe6+ K-b7
22. B-c3 Rxd3
23. Qxe5 Q-e3
24. B-a5 R-d6
25. K-g2 c6-c5
26. R-b2+ K-a6
27. Bxc7 R-d2+
28. RxR QxR+
29. K-h3 Q-h6+
30. K-g4 Q-g6+
31. K-f3 Q-f7+
32. K-e3 c5-c4
33. Q-c5 K-b7
34. B-e5 g7-g6
35. Q-b5+ K-c8
36. Q-c6+ K-d8
37. B-f6+