Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category
I’ve just been watching an edition of Quarks and Co., a German-language science magazine programme on WDR with the ever-compelling musician turned astro physicist, Ranga Yogeshwar (http://www.wdr.de/tv/quarks/). Yogeswar (left) is a true polymath with considerable charm. I watch this when I can as part of my German learning programme. The Edition on 3 September was all about time. Why does it feel different, depending on what we are doing? And what do we do with time saved as a result of taking a fast train, plane, etc.? The answer to the latter question it seems is that we work more. However, being on strike, as I have today over the erosion of pay in the higher education sector in the UK, frees up time - after first doing the picket line duties – to go to the cinema for the first time in what may be two years.
Was it worth it? No.
Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuarón, according to the Guardian’s three reviewers, Xan Brooks, the ever unreliable Peter Bradshaw and Catherine Shoad, is amazing. Sandra Bullock stars as the sole survivor of a disastrous US mission on the space shuttle after the Russians detonate a satellite that generates considerable debris that destroys the shuttle, the International Space Station and a mysterious Chinese craft that we did not know existed. All are in the same unfortunate orbit around the Earth.
George Clooney’s character makes an unexpected - though not real - return to the capsule in order to stop her suffocating herself out of sheer desperation. There is a lot going wrong and the Earth seems a long long way away. Bullock’s character comes back to life after a word with God – seemingly never needed before – and memories of her lost child.
I could go on. Others intelligently have: http://thepoliticsofexperience.net/tpoehome/?p=143
At least I did not squeeze this film into my normal free time. Had I done, I would have felt cheated. And lunch beforehand was most agreeable. Such is the nature of industrial action.
What is the normally thoughtful Michael White, assistant editor of the Guardian newspaper in the UK, doing calling for leniency for the marine who executed an Afghan man? The Guardian itself (8 November) reported the details of the story thus: “In the graphic footage, Marine A leans over and fires into the chest of the bloodied and moaning insurgent with a pistol. He then tells him: “There you are, shuffle off this mortal coil, you c***. It’s nothing you wouldn’t do to us.” A few moments later Marine A is picked up telling colleagues: “Obviously this doesn’t go anywhere fellas. I’ve just broken the Geneva convention.”"
The marine is unnamed to protect him. The Afghan man is unnamed because his name is not important.
The call for leniency is not restricted to Michael White. The Daily Mail, a notoriously partisan and reactionary newspaper, had a couple of days earlier made clear its position by making the quote of Major General Julian Thompson, a veteran of 3 Commando Brigade in the Falklands War, a front page banner headline: ”I won’t condemn him…”
We can all think of many cases where similar arguments could be used in the case of civilians. Would Michael White and others advocate taking evidence of victims of child abuse as mitigating circumstances when as adults they go on to do similar things, or worse, themselves? I think not.
There is a lot of talk at the moment in the UK media about Zero Hours contracts for employees. Seemingly – and to the surprise for some of the UK’s lawmakers – many high profile firms offer these contracts as standard. For example, MacDonald’s and Burger King Hamburgers, Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct clothing retailer (Ashley also owns Newcastle United football club), Domino’s Pizzas. Less high profile is how certain private firms that provide public services such as home helps for the elderly and handicapped use Zero Hours contracts for their ‘employees’ who are paid only for their contact time with ‘clients’ and not for travel time, fuel, etc; nor are they afforded national insurance contributions. Moreover, Zero Hours workers do not know how many hours they may be working from week-to-week. This builds in immense uncertainty and affects negatively things such as credit ratings. There are over 1 million British workers on these contracts according to a recent poll by the Chartered Institute of Personnel Development.
Oddly, Mike Ashley seems to be able to pay his footballers well and on long contracts. I assume footballers are well represented by agents who earn for themselves a nice percentage of any footballer’s transfer fee – a good case for organised labour if ever I heard it.
Now here is my link. I have been for many years a satisfied customer of Charles Tyrwhitt menswear. Until now. My last online order – few sale items including some shorts it being summer – was confirmed with the message that my order will be delivered by Hermes Couriers.
Hermes is a German company, part of the Otto group (German readers will know about Otto), that came to the UK in 2000 in what seems to have been a joint-venture with Speedlink. Its business model is based on sub-contracting the delivery to ‘self-employed’ drivers. My attention was brought to this company by chance watching a TV documentary made by Germany’s national broadcaster ARD. (http://programm.ard.de/TV/daserste/ard-exclusiv–das-hermes-prinzip/eid_281066630812527)
This sub-contracting was found to involve sub-sub contractors all earning progressively less as the parcels moved down the food chain. The sub-contractors are effectively paid piece rates, often having to work very long hours to deliver the requisite number of parcels to cover costs. When the man or woman from Hermes arrives at 2100 it is not because it is convenient, but rather that the sub-contractor needs the delivery to make a living.
Here is the package (left) that arrived from Hermes a couple of days ago. Fortunately in this box is a shirt, tie and a pair of shorts. On the whole not fragile. One must ask, however, what kind of operation is it that does this to a humble box of clothes? Actually, we do not need too much imagination.
So, what I thought was a reputable retailer – Charles Tyrwhitt – uses a disreputable courier to squeeze out profit. Oh, and while we are at it, those very same lawmakers who are so surprised at Zero Hours contracts want to privatise the Royal Mail – a state-owned parcel service that has organised workers who earn a living wage.
Hermes van: Musikmichi1407
This picture is scanned from the Südeutsche Zeitung (Monday, 15 July 2013). It is copyrighted RTR, but it one of the most chilling pictures I’ve seen in recent times. On the right is George Zimmerman, acquitted of murder in a Florida court on Saturday. The smiles demonstrate the ‘success’ of the defence in evading justice. Knowingly. Even if it is a job well done – which it is not – the smiles seem to demonstrate some perverted sense of ‘citizenship’. Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed 17 year old black man, Trayvon Martin, in what can only been seen as vigilante justice defending a gated ’community’ against the threat of robbery. ’Stand your ground’ laws permit lethal force in Florida and other states. Using such force against an unarmed teenager brandishing sweets from a local shop has been demonstrated in a court to be legitimate. It is also seen to be a cause for celebration. Shameful.
There are many who are more eloquent and informed than I am on this case and the implications. The Südeutsche Zeitung (below right), for example, pulls no punches. There is no attempt to ‘explain’ the Jury’s decision, only to describe what happened (black man shot) as a mixed race white man ‘feared’ for his life after having stalked the young man and been told by the police to stop following him. Zimmerman’s 911 call can be heard here
Gary Younge’s first paragraph in the Guardian newspaper on 15 July says enough: “Let it be noted that on this day, Saturday 13 July 2013, it was still deemed legal in the US to chase and then shoot dead an unarmed young black man on his way home from the store because you didn’t like the look of him.” http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/jul/14/open-season-black-boys-verdict
The President – increasingly becoming illiberal and reactionary – could only say: “The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Not just for his family, or for any one community, but for America. I know this case has elicited strong passions. And in the wake of the verdict, I know those passions may be running even higher.”
“But we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken. I now ask every American to respect the call for calm reflection from two parents who lost their young son.”
“And as we do, we should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities. We should ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to stem the tide of gun violence that claims too many lives across this country on a daily basis. We should ask ourselves, as individuals and as a society, how we can prevent future tragedies like this.”
The short answer surely is, convict racist killers. Guns, compassion, understanding and the other apparent platitudes are red herrings.
Every picture tells a story. This one more than most. It is credited to the RAF (Royal Air Force), MoD (Ministry of Defence) and the Press Association. Though it is presented as though it was taken secretly by a photographer keen to alert the world to an important event. In the event, it was stage managed.
Abu Qatada is now in Jordan having for eleven years fought extradition from the UK where he faces no charges. In Jordan he was wanted in connection with a “terrorist bombing conspiracy”.
The British Government has spent a lot of time and money trying to deport him. But attempts to deport him have been consistently adjudged to be in contravention of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights. This Article relates to the prospect of a free and fair trial, something which the European Court and the UK Supreme Court both concur is not possible in Jordan for this case.
The solution is threefold. Leave the jurisdiction of the European Court in order to deport people to places where they may be tortured or ‘evidence’ arising from confessions of others under torture is admissible; change the law and agree a Mutual Assistance Treaty with said country; or both.
The treatment of Edward Snowden and those who might give him asylum, tells us as much as we need to know about in whose interests states act and where the current balance of power lays. In the name of anti-terrorism, we are all being monitored. They say that they are only collecting “meta data”; i.e. data about who ’citizens’ contact rather the content of that contact. The usual guff comes from politicians – ‘if you have done nothing wrong, then there is nothing to fear’.
The vilification of Edward Snowden – the whistleblower – is clear. The US state brands him as a traitor, a fugitive from justice guilty of treason and much of the media is aligned with this position. The latest post from Medialens gives Snowden their usual treatment: http://www.medialens.org/index.php/alerts/alert-archive/alerts-2013/737-snowden-surveillance-and-the-secret-state.html
And then there is the Latin America situation. The denial of Evo Morales’s plane access to key parts of European airspace on 2 July is extraordinary. Morales, let us not forget, is President of Bolivia and was attending a legitimate energy conference in Moscow. Clearly pressure had been put on European states from the US. But it is interesting that ‘they’ – whoever they are - thought that Snowden was on the plane; he may well have been stupid with respect to whistleblowing and his own safety, but he is not, surely, going to do the obvious (as he demonstrated by not being on the plane to Cuba a couple of weeks earlier)?
The refuse collectors have been working to rule over the past few weeks and the uncollected rubbish is noticeable (see below). Coastal towns suffer particularly as the gulls are constantly scavenging. But that is not for the refuse workers who, by definition, earn relatively low wages for their ‘unskilled’ but essential work.
What is going on? It is clear that the Council sought to bust the strike using agency workers. The leader of the Council – a Green – has withdrawn this threat after protests within and without of his party – including Brighton’s Green MP, Caroline Lucas. At first, I thought the strike was purely about austerity cuts – managing a budget being squeezed by declining Central Government grants and limited scope for local tax raising. But seemingly not. It is about ‘equality’. As one observer put it, the policy that led to the cut was “a noble attempt to equalise pay between male and female staff leading to up to £95 a week income reductions for the (largely male) CityClean workers” (Josiah Mortimer, http://tinyurl.com/kv6bea4). Equalising pay down is neither progressive nor right.
The GMB union, which represents the refuse workers, reports the origins of the strike thus: “The dispute began in January when the Council’s Green Party leader, Jason Kitcat, gave full authority to its £150,000 Chief Executive, Penny Thompson, to negotiate and implement a revised pay and allowances package without any recourse to councillors. This led to a final offer being made in April, which included cuts of up to £4,000 a head from some of the council’s lowest paid employees.” (See more at: http://union-news.co.uk/2013/06/brightons-bin-men-begin-week-long-strike/#sthash.2YLfD9oB.dpuf).
In my small way, I want to lend my support to the refuse workers. I am a former member of the Greens in Brighton and Hove. I left the party on a point of principle regarding Caroline Lucas’s nomination as the candidate for the parliamentary seat of Brighton Pavilion which she went on to win. In light of these events, I am pleased to see her on the picket line and in solidarity.
Donations to the fighting fund can be made from the following link: http://www.gmb-southern.org.uk/no-to-green-cuts-at-brighton-hove-city-council/
At face value, the violence surrounded a small park (Gezi) in the central district of the European side of the City. The park is being destroyed to make way for a shopping mall and a reconstructed ‘barracks’ that was once on the site. That does not explain the extreme violence meted out to the protesters.
The Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is not known, seemingly, for tolerance and accepting criticism. Secularists in particular seem to be under pressure from the Government. There were violent clashes also on May Day. The Government has also instituted legislation against the consumption of alcohol raising fears of increasing desecularisation, something which has been defended since the establishment of the secular state by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923. He also seeks to establish an executive presidency by changing the constitution.
I’m struggling to download any pictures, but in the first instance please go to http://imgur.com/q3XfOFf from where I have extracted the following pictures and captions. There are many disturbing images.
Additional video footage can be found here: http://webtv.radikal.com.tr/Turkiye/3653/yorumsuz.aspx
The Guardian newspaper in the UK now has a photo strip of demonstrations in Istanbul and Ankara: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/gallery/2013/jun/02/protests-istanbul-ankara-pictures?picture=409969309#/?picture=409969309&index=0
The Prime Minister seemingly now blames the opposition and ‘social media’ for the unrest.
I travel more than I could ever have thought possible in my youth. I recently visited Istanbul as a tourist. Events there yesterday are shocking in their own terms; the fact that I have been to the city and the locations of the police violence against citizens makes it particularly so. My ignorance about the politics of Turkey and Istanbul reflects the nature of tourism.
The covering of this story by the British media has been shameful. Readers of this blog know that I have no time for religion, and if there is a religious dimension to this killing, then I have no time for it. No God is a justification for killing. But if it is about ‘an eye for an eye’ and British State’s contempt for people in other countries in which an occupying army is present – as indicated by the perpetrator - then there is something to hear. And we are not hearing it.
The BBC, again, leads the charge. The Today programme on 24 May wasted time first on the ‘radicalisation’ debate of young men and then getting muslim religious leaders again to condemn what has happened. And any equivocation is pounced on as tacit endorsement for the act. Wrongly. And now it is reported that one-hundred British imams have signed a letter condemning the Woolwich attack in the name of ‘our’ religion.
BBC Newsnight on 23 May interviewed ‘radical cleric’ Anjem Choudary and – not surprisingly – he refused to condemn the killing despite repeated requests by presenter Kirsty Wark. According to the Guardian newspaper “he said he was “shocked” by the murder of Lee Rigby who was killed on Wednesday afternoon but pointedly refused to say he “abhorred” the attack.” What is the point in this kind of questioning?
Radio 5 Live employs a gang of inept journalists to cover the ‘latest’ from the story. ‘The streets of Woolwich are eeriely quiet, but one can sense a change in attitude in the last few minutes’ – excuse my paraphrasing of nonsense heard on Wednesday’s blanket coverage. (This particular ‘journalist’ is skilled in this respect.); David Cameron is cutting short his visit to Paris to chair a meeting of COBRA. He leads us in condemnation and facing up to the ‘threat’ posed by terrorists.
The vocal man with the bloodied hands – Michael Adebolajo (right) - makes his case pretty coherently. He uses all of the sources open to him – in this case the ability and willingness of witnesses to use their mobile phones to record the aftermath. It seems clear to me what the motive was; but I have yet to hear a discussion on the grievance and how that translates to killing in the street. I have heard no parallel news stories dealing with the carnage in Iraq and Afghanistan; made all the more surreal with President Obama talking on the same day and almost in the same breath about drone strikes – soldiers in the USA attacking citizens of far-away countries from the safety of a military base on the US mainland.
The British public respond with a tacit endorsement of Fascists who are quick to get onto the streets to stir up unrest. They also then give the charity ‘Help for Heroes’ their best fund-raising day since establishment.
Politicians and journalists revel in these kinds of stories. There’s capital to be made.
Since writing this post, Mehdi Hassan in the New Statesman has written a piece drawing on the link between foreign policy and violence. This piece – which is not available on the New Statesman Website – has elicited a response suggesting that it is half right. Readers of this blog can access this argument here: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2013/06/why-mehdi-hasan-half-right-and-half-wrong-foreign-policy-cause-terrorism; It is right to point out that there are many different groupings within Islam and one may not be able argue that violence against Shia muslims in Iraq equates with violent reprisals by Sunni muslims in the UK.
Unfortunately, I am out of the country at the moment and will not be able to celebrate as I had hoped. I suppose the good thing about being out of the country is avoiding the wall-to-wall appreciation.
Now, which opposition politician is going to be brave enough to say what most British people feel about this woman? George Galloway has Tweeted: “Tramp the dirt down” – presumably a reference to the very fitting Elvis Costello Song from his Spike album. Just watched again. Brings tears to the eyes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-BZIWSI5UQ
Update from 10 April: I abhor the idea of a ‘state’ funeral with full military honours. The recall of parliament is an affront to the institution and I applaud those MPs that are staying away and find Ed Miliband’s pleading to be ‘respectful’ inappropriate and misguided. One cannot be disrespectful to the dead. If Labour MPs speak, they need to be clear about the legacy. But they may find themselves in a double bind having slavishly followed her doctrines whilst in power.
Picture: Ruddyell, Wikipedia