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Showing posts from November, 2012

SCUM OF THE EARTH

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‘FRANCO’S FRIENDS’ PETER DAY * Biteback Publishing Ltd 2011
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In 1940 Arthur Koestler, who had just escaped from the advancing German army in France, produced a book about his experience of being detained by the French authorities; he called his book ‘Scum of the Earth.’  I recommend the book to anyone interested in twentieth century history, particularly anyone interested in what became of those who had fought so heroically for Republican Spain. Trotsky famously coined the phrase ‘dustbin of history,’ Koestler describes what it is like to live there. It is a painful read for anyone, like me, who has felt something of the nobility of the Spanish revolutionaries of 1936.

Mr Day has written about the British citizens who backed the other side in the Spanish struggle, who were overwhelmingly drawn from the British establishment. It is I think not unfair to describe them as being representative of the thinking of the elite who ruled Britain in the 1930’s.  If patriotism is love of and loyalty…

OBAMA, THE COOL PRESIDENT

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I feel a mix of weary déjà vu and despair every time I hear politicians warn Israel of the consequences of ‘alienating world opinion.’ It should be clear to all now that Israel doesn't give a toss about ‘world opinion.’ The only opinion it cares about is the opinion of the US administration, an administration that provides both the vital diplomatic clout and dollars to enable Israel to continue to flout UN resolutions and resist whatever pressure - painfully little as it happens- the rest of the world cares to exert. After Israel ‘withdrew’ from Gaza it sought to create an imprisoned and impoverished ghetto,[1] a slum beside the sea, quarantined from the rest of the world with the Israeli state as jailer. The world watched, the world did nothing; what protests were voiced was dismissed by the Israeli state with a shrug. Whenever the trapped citizens of Gaza sought to hit back they have been subjected to a prolonged and merciless bombardment. Now the people fighting back in Gaza ar…

NOTES TO VISITORS

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WELCOME TO BOTH OLD AND NEW VISITORS TO THE SITE.

I have now made it easier to comment on any of the blogs by disabling the word recognition security, I will monitor this but if no significant problems arise will leave it disabled, this will make it easier to post your comments with the click of a mouse.

I welcome all comments however if you do decide to be abusive please try to do so imaginatively.

You can also still e-mail me at the address above.

 I hope to hear from you.



'ISLAMAPHOBIA' AND THE LEFT REVISITED

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It is now several years since I wrote 'Islamaphobia And The Left' and as the ideas expressed in it seem if anything even more pertinent today. I am now reproducing it here, with some minor editorial changes. Needless to say, I welcome any comments, just click on comments.

Islamaphobia And The Left.
I was fortunate enough to come of age politically in the late 60’s and early 1970’s, influenced by the likes of Orwell, AJP Taylor and Michael Foot; in short by the tradition of anti-Communist Democratic Socialism. I associated with the left of the Labour Party. In those days it was still possible to call yourself a socialist and be active in a branch of the Labour Party that owed a little more to Marx that to Methodism. To be on the left was to be with the tide of history, was to stand with universal values, equality, freedom of speech, sexual freedom, feminism, freedom of discourse and anti-totalitarianism. Solidarity represented the primary tool of this struggle.
Those coming of age …

WHOSE WATCHING YOU TODAY

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After I left school I worked in a variety of low paid jobs. At work I had no power, no status and no meaningful control over my working day; so in the case of my employer Timpson’s they represented the dictatorship under which I laboured, from 9 00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. six days a week.[1] It would not have occurred to Mr Timpson to attempt to control my activities outside of these hours. For him to seek to control what I thought or what I said to my friends or the people that I met. Those days are gone. We now live in the age of the totalitarian employer. Many many years later, really in another life, I began to notice clauses in contracts of employment about ‘bringing’ my employer ‘into disrepute’ and promoting equal opportunities ‘at all times’!’
As your average right on Joe I didn't worry too much about signing such contracts; however as time progressed I became more and more concerned about the implications for civil liberties of such clauses. Stories began to emerge of people loo…

LETTER FROM LONDON NOVEMBER 2012

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What a depressing few days, with the debacle at the BBC dominating the headlines characterised by the ludicrous sight of BBC reporters standing outside the BBC, as if to distance themselves, pointing at the building to indicate that this organisation was in a mess. Not since the reports of Mark Twain’s death has a state of affairs been so greatly exaggerated. The most tragic aspect of the whole affair, surely perplexing to anyone outside the UK, has been the damage inflicted upon the whole issue of the sexual abuse of children by men, often men in positions of power and authority. Now anybody accused of such acts and therefore appropriately named to the police can simply refer to the Newsnight debacle and claim that they are victims of mistaken or malicious claims. Already on the BBC we have witnessed the malodorous ex Tory MP David Mellor feel confident enough to characterise one of the victims at the North Wales Children’s home, who was systematically abused, as a ‘weirdo.’
The most …

HSBC THE WORLDS LOCAL BANK

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Few things have cheered me up quite as much recently as the phenomenon of whistle blowers in the banking system, most recently in HSBC,[1] blowing the cover on numerous British tax avoiders and in some cases evaders, seeking to salt their money away in offshore accounts. I love to picture the faces of the senior management team at the bank, a similar hue to, I imagine, piss pot pink.
In his Book ‘You Can’t Read This Book,’ Nick Cohen explores the tyranny of the workplace including the rewards, none, for whistle blowing. We live in a culture where people who blow the whistle on wrongdoing are at best liable to render themselves unemployable at worst to find themselves faced with prosecution.
The true heroes of contemporary life are the corporation whistle blowers. Whistle blowing, to quote Julie Biden[2]‘....is a brave act by those who are willing to give solid information to the authorities while running the risk of being pilloried or punished for doing so; the whistleblower is motivat…

THOUGHTS UNDER THE DUVET COVER

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Should Obama win the US Presidency for a second term today many satisfying possibilities arise. Second terms are always more liberating, the burden of having to campaign for re-election being lifted. One particular option for the President will be to exact revenge on Benjamin Netanyahu[1] who has so shamelessly campaigned for a Romney presidency, violating all protocol. Obama also once re-elected will no longer have to bow to pressure from the Israel lobby. One can just imagine Netanyahu’s face as Obama signals, albeit subtly, payback time. The beneficiaries will be the Palestinians; we may in this way get some progress toward an equitable peace settlement in the region. The big question will be, does the president have the balls?

The other extremely satisfying outcome will be the discomfiture of the religious right. The Republicans will surely have to realise that being allied to these zealous fruitcakes has now cost them two elections. Moreover the demographic is now moving against t…

BLACK DOG

Ed Miliband made a highly principled speech this week concerning the stigma of mental health. Principled as a) there are no votes in it and b) it is something of a taboo subject and is about as politically un-sexy as it gets. Advanced capitalism has transformed the western world bringing about a level of material comfort in the lives of most working people hitherto unknown. The great social democratic welfare states of the post war period sought to harness the energy of capitalism, whilst curbing, what Edward Heath called, its ‘unacceptable face.’ Across Western Europe the mixed economies of this period sought to create societies that addressed the material needs of the population whilst protecting the most vulnerable. To a great extent they were extraordinarily successful. However by the 1980’s the consensus behind the welfare state came under a sustained assault. Big corporations and the money markets were finding that welfare provision, employment protection and the power of the tra…