Archive for January, 2006


I am fairly amazed that in the case of 3 news items I have heard this week there appears to be the strong impression at some form of surprise, as if many people cannot fathom why certain problems have manifested themselves. From my perspective I find this hard to believe as to me even a cursory examination would reveal uncomplicated explanations.

The first item was regarding euthanasia – always an emotive subject, but to the fore this week because it emereged a British woman with a terminal brain illness booked herself into a clinic in Switzerland to die. This has been seized upon by the media for its moral ambiguity that can be debated to death. What no-one ever seems to take into account is why is it so surprising that people in pain, be it physical or mental, seek to relieve themselves of this pain? Most of us in our lives have sought alleviation of some kind or other for any number of ailments, what if such medications and such were not available for our condition, what then? Or what if you were simply too tired to go on fighting, maybe you’ve been strong maybe you haven’t, everyone has a threshold in the end, what do you do when you reach it?

I think it is inconceivable to take this matter to debate without mentioning at all the fact that a vast swath of the world’s population are under the (mis)apprehension that the afterlife is going to be nirvana and a respite from the burden of this world. Why then shouldn’t people think that death is the answer to free them from their shackles? After all we are increasingly taught to go for the things we desire, what if what one desires is clearly not obtainable, or does not seem obtainable in this world? Now see for me this is not a quandry, I shall cling to life with every sinew in my body because I believe this is all you get and I’m too shit scared to go into the oblivion of non-existence thank you very much, I’ll stick around if it’s all the same. However I might feel differently if I were deprived of the ability to communicate and each day simply involved pain management.

So, on the one hand religion teaches us that if you are a virtuous person you’ll get your reward in heaven and that this world is a mere prelude for the next and then society attempts to put the ball and chain on you making suicide immoral and thereby telling you that no matter how shit things are now there’s no easy way out for you, Sunny Jim, you’ll stay here and like it. Doesn’t add up from what I can see, someone please explain.

The second piece of news which whilst not at first obviously conected was that Sven Göran Eriksson the embattled England football manager has added weight to recent claims that corruption is rife in football including a spate of managers receiving bungs from agents to transfer the right players. Eriksson joins Luton Town Manager Mike Newall and QPR boss Ian Hollaway who had already alleged the same thing. Interestingly Eriksson appears to carry a great deal more weight than the other two managers because now an enquiry is to be launched, whilst previously Newall and Hollaway’s evidence had illicited precious little active response from the game’s governing bodies on account, they said, on there not beeing any concrete evidence. Of course the Premier League has stepped manfully in to conduct the enquiry headed by…. itself. Hmm, no conflict of interest there then.

Again the question must be asked if the allegations are proven to be correct and I have little doubt that they are, why is anyone surprised? There is a huge amount of money involved with football these days, players at the top level command annual salaries that most of us will not earn in a lifetime, agents take their cut of this and rarely go short. Big businessmen get involved and pump large sums of money into football clubs, now correct me if I’m wrong but if they were looking to cultivate a philanthropic image my guess is that they’d pump this money into some worthy charity, museum or such like. The whole football system has become a large business venture for profit-making and money-laundering, thus rendering it entirely in sync with all the other modern day businesses.

And then there’s Big Brother which continues to feature heavily in newspapers. Whilst it may be slightly less directly covered in the more aloof broadsheets it is still a strong pull and no surprise that on the day many tabloids are running damming “exposees” etc. on Big Brother contestant George Galloway that The Guardian choose the same target but a different story, there’s being that the Serious Fraud Office have a lot of documents from the US Senate committee regarding allegations surrounding the Oil For Food program. It would of course be churlish to assert that if the Americans had proof of wrongdoing backed up by documentary evidence why did they not declare it when George was over there lambasting them. The point is that this Gaurdian article didn’t actually contain anything newsworthy other than the shipment of the documents here, there was no evidence of anything new coming out that may have an effect on any prosecutions just a lot of rumour, speculation and hypothesis. That sort of information is welcome in an editorial where the ‘what ifs…’ and ‘possiblys’ can be discussed ad nauseam but it is not news and should not be presented as such, the same way that a possible photo of George meeting a bad man at a time when he was not supposed to be a bad man and was being met by a lot of other bad men who are yet to be judged as bad men, is not news either.

Of course much has been made of Big Brother and certainly tempers have run high in what I have seen of it which does to be fair only correspond to a total of about 2 hours, much of which was primetime viewing where the events are suitably sensationalised. Would I like to chat politics with George Galloway, yes undoubtedly, would I like to live with him, I suspect not. But then I don’t like to live with anyone, I’m a miserable bugger and by the looks of it, so is he. Why should anything different be expected? Far from being an avuncular older statesman Galloway comes across as an aggressive, self-assured, querulous and opinionated man, but at the same time he comes across as passionate, committed, erudite and human. I can cope with Galloway the dogmatic, cantankerous politician precisely because I feel that he is exhibiting the traits that most people who aspire to high political office will exhibit. I don’t imagine any serious politician is the life and soul of the party anymore than I imagine that anyone who is the life and soul of the party makes a very good politician. Tony Blair has to be a prime example of someone who is totally obsessed with the spun image of him that he is careful not to leave a hair out of place or a smile faked badly and thus the substance of his politics is minimal. Would he make a Big Brother contestant that everyone loved? One can only speculate for such a politician would never allow his/her guard to be down in public like that.

Having been off sick of late I have had the misfortune to see parts of the Richard & Judy show, for those not familiar it’s the equivalent of Regis and Kathy Lee. Richard and Judy are hardly synonymous with the most refined or informed of debates, and yet they do seem to deem themselves fit to sally forth with some zeal in the character assasination of George Galloway. I am not saying this is necessarily a conspiracy but at no point have I heard anyone say anything about the political issues that George stands for which is after all his job. There has been much debate about George’s censorship by the Channel 4 directors team who have without question chosen to show the most ridiculous parts of George’s participation and his arguments especially when at their most petty. But again, why would I be surprised, their agenda is for this sort of thing and not for the swaying of the youth to an anti-capitalist message

Sadly I am totally underawed that the program has led to such vitriol. I think regardless of motivation George’s appearance on the show has done him precious few favours and done little to enthuse any of the audience to make them more inclined to listen to the message he claims to wish to propagate. In fact from where I’m standing he has given the media (one of the very greatest politcally reactionary forces in the country) adequate ammunition to riducule and besmirsch him in what will undoubtedly be the beginnings of a campaign designed to ensure he does not retain his seat at the next election. I cannot see how anyone will remember the substance of any of his arguments over the sight of him playing a cat or in a pink leotard. Personally I think his participation in these particular tasks was admirable in so far as I hardly think it would have done him any favours had he refused. The Hobson’s choice in this regard was one of his own making and one he could surely have seen coming unless he is unbelievably naive which I cannot believe, or too bothered about his ego to see it coming or think it’ll stop him. Again, I don’t judge too harshly on the ego point, to believe that you have a future in mainstream high-office politics you have to have an ego, otherwise how can you believe that you can ably represent the people you are standing for?

I guess the underlying message behind all 3 of these items is, once again, that you reap what you sow. This is not seemingly a message popular in the current world, cause and effect seems scarcely mentioned as the system and everyone within it blunder on like a juggernaut until such time as they run into something bigger and more immovable than them, hopefully we can get at least some people out before that happens.

Song Of The Day ~ Kingmaker – Armchair Anarchist

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It’s rare these days to get a salvo fired across the bows, sadly even rarer to get one with any substance. I shall leave any readers to judge what they will of Clive’s offering left on the Cyber Neo-Fascism entry.

“Oh great, Thought this blog was going to be someting diferent with more than the usual lefty bush bashing and hatred of anyone whos views are even slightly right of centre. But anyway if that email compelled you to make such an enlightened and wise response i to feel compelled to reply. well yes your knowledge on the historical foreign origin of british language and subculture seems well informed, but what about a contemporary view?i meen modern british culture is still british, regardless of foreign origins. the email you reply to sounds extreem ish but his/her views are no diferent to a lot of other peoples.why can a muslim girl wear a burka to school but alas, a christian cannot were a cross under his shirt?in your onslaught of criticism regarding the article you fail to adress why it has been written or the authors point of view regarding its writing thus not providing any form of balanced opinion meerly the type of leftist, neo communist crap most other blogers spout in the name of liberty and freedom of speech.which is in reality bullying and brutalising. earn yourself respect, balance your opinions instead of launching into “communist gulag opinion bashing mode”, ask yourself why it was made, then maybe, just maybe you might realise that not everyone except yourself and your admirers is a Nazi”

I’m not entirely sure what gives Clive the impression that I have an abject hatred of anyone whose views are slightly right of centre. I detest the right-wing bully boys and the neo-nazis etc. but I see most centre-right people to be at worst a little selfish and at best rather misguided, hate would be far too strong a word.

I am not quite sure what Clive means by taking a contemporary view of the “language and subculture” rather than the historical one which I mentioned and he does not dispute. Is this the sort of “contemporary” view that simply disregards any historical precedent? Modern British culture may well be British but one has to take that in its entirety and remember that many of the factors that make that culture up come from relatively contemporary immigrant sources like the West Indies, India, Pakistan, China, Ireland and now it will be Eastern Europe. Therefore the people who bring and enrich this culture are as much intertwined with Britain and the British as their lexical inluences, cuisine and clothing etc. As I have said culture just as language is not a fixed thing but a constantly evolving entity if you really want to put it in a box then go ahead, be a dinosaur, but don’t expect me to live my life that way.

Clive’s example of the Muslim children being allowed to go to school in burkhas whilst Christian children are not being allowed to wear crosses is not anchored with any evidence. I do not know of a specific case of this happening in this country, it is common to the sort of urban myths that the right are usually happy to propagate. I am aware of a ban restricting the wearing of the hijab in French schools, I do not know if this ban extends to Christian iconography, if not then it surely must to avoid inconsistency and discrimination. In my opinion there are only two ways to solve the matter. The first is to say there will be nothing of any religious significance worn in schools or offices for fear of causing offence, of course at this point people will start talking about an infringement of their human rights and perhaps they have a point, I’m not religious so what do I care?!!! (For non-regular readers I must point out that this was a joke!) The second solution is to say that there will be no restriction on the wearing of items that constitute ones of religious significance, regardless of what that may entail. There is no middle ground from what I can see it is just a varied level of discrimination.

As for why the author has written this email, oh I know exactly why they have written it. It is the same Christian White Supremecist krypto-fascist bullshit that the far-right has used for years. Pressing all the right emotive buttons to make out that there is always someone to blame for your life not going the way you want. It is full of easy no-thought answers none of which actually stand up to scrutiny if deconstructed, which is why I deconstructed it.

If there are so many bloggers out there spouting neo Communist ideals then I cannot help but be rather pleased though I’m sure that is not the intention of Clive’s point. I do not think my argument was bullying nor do I feel it was brutalising, I think I simply took the points in turn and refuted the argument that was being offered using actual historical fact rather than emotion-grabbing hyperbole.

The email was written to provoke mistrust and hatred, to ferment the idea that the multiculturalism which we have seen for centuries is somehow a new thing that is rending the fabric of “British” society assunder. Like all of the views of the far-right this does not stand up to scrutiny, but of course the far-right are not looking for people to do their research. However the politically correct lobby are wholly to blame for giving the right this ammunition, their ill-informed and crass attempts to create some form of homogeneity is as ridiculous as the right’s attempts to do the same by different means. Do not, however assume that the political correctness lobby is in any way affiliated to left-wing politics, it is the politics of the control-seeking middle classes who use the well-meaning but not very bright to carry out their work.

Whilst I firmly believe that the origin of the original email is seriously right-wing I do not feel that many who will be taken in by it are. Many people dissolutioned and disenfranchised will not have the time or the motivation to delve into the root causes of societal malaise. However I would be grossly derelict in my duty were I not to point out from my perspective what I feel is wrong and misleading. I try to be reasonably balanced and rational where possible but ultimately with the current media and popular bias severely to the right of me I do not feel it is really my job to show 2 sides of the coin, I am a left-winger that is the nature of the opinions I espouse and I make no secret of that. If you want the view from the right there is no dearth of places where you can find it. To water down my argument in some effort to provide balance would be a ridiculous dilution for no apparent purpose. Finally in the case of responding to racist bigoted nonsense why on Earth would I want to hold back, the world especially politically is so full of homogenised passionless cronies, I like to think that agree or disagree with my politics there is no ambiguity about what I feel.

Song Of The Day ~ The Duke Spirit – Cuts Across The World

Original Comments:


Mark Ellott made this comment,
Frankly, I wouldn’t have dignified the original SPAM letter with a response – kudos to you for taking the time. Perhaps the strongest argument against these SPAM chain letters is that they not only press all the emotive buttons, but that they rely on myth rather than fact. Clive falls into the same trap – where, exactly can children not wear a cross under their shirts? Evidence, please. The bans in France apply to all religious symbols. France is a secular state and religion has no place in the state’s business; in this case, schools. But that is France, not Britain. I am not aware of any cases in Britain where people are not allowed to wear crosses.
comment added :: 23rd January 2006, 18:10 GMT+01 :: http://longrider.blog-city.com
Pimme made this comment,
I just ignore the inflammatory stuff these days…a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still…
comment added :: 24th January 2006, 02:14 GMT+01 :: http://pimme.blog-city.com

On the evidence of what I have seen and heard I don’t like Abu Hamza much, I state that very pointedly because I know full well that any of the information I have about Hamza is subject to the agenda of the media source whence it came. However let me also put my comment into context, I believe Abu Hamza is a religious zealot and all such people make me decidedly uneasy. Hamza has very similar beliefs to a man like Nick Griffen of the BNP. They are men who believe that something they are makes them special and above others and that this same thing whether it be as arbitrary as the skin they’re in or the doctrine they believe in gives them the right to assume authority of those of a different ilk. It is for the same reason that I don’t like the Pope, I consider him to also be a dangerous reactionary bigot but amongst the leaders of religious institutions he is of course more the rule than the exception, it is not as if the Israeli administration are synonymous with sectarian liberalism.

I am also not generally a fan of the artwork of Gilbert and George, I do not find it usually aesthetic, being a little more conventional in my tastes but of course that is just me, beauty being in the eyes of the beholder and all that. However on this occasion I am pleased at their involvement, it highlights the hypocrisy within society when it comes to the question of religion. For those not down with the modern art scene you can find some details of their installation here. Whether for simple self-publicity or through some desire to make a meaningful statement the installation’s title: ‘Sonofagod Pictures’, and underneath, the subtitle, ‘Was Jesus Heterosexual?’ is guaranteed to inflame and outrage. There is no doubt that if Gilbert and George’s installation was deemed offensive to Islam or Judaism it would not be permitted. The public face of the outcry would be more vitriolic but I suspect the underlying rage from the Christian right is not to be underestimated, and one must be careful fo the according backlash.

It interests me that religion is subject to this curious forcefield with regard to any critique. If you speak ill of religion you are a blasphemer and even in the modern world you can be up for incitement to religious hatred. Whilst the cries of “Burn the Witch” have not been heard for some time the effect if you step outside the conventional religious box is becoming much the same and I cannot see how in any way this can be a good move. It is all very well to be on one’s guard against political fascism but of little consequence if religious fascism is let in through the back door. Why is it that religion can be afforded such protection in a society that thinks of itself as free to express and think. If religion is strong and the tenets on which it is held equally so then it should be able to withstand the strongest criticism and escape unscathed. After all, I do not have the same rights afforded to the beliefs I hold dear, if someone critcises Marx or Socialism I cannot seek a court injunction or claim that they have incited political hatred and rightly so. The onus is on me to defend my argument and I just happen to enjoy doing so. People may assert at this point some form of superiority of their religious ideals over my political ones but both require faith and belief and an adherence to a way of life that one believes will be better for everyone.

Whilst political ideology has become diluted and more transient the same has not been true of the religious, the Catholic church has become more hardened in its stance and the newest Pontiff is even more conservative than the last one. The Anglican church is being pressed more and more from it’s right-wing evangelical wing in the US and Africa and whatever the personal beliefs of the present Archbishop of Canterbury he is hamstrung to enact many of them. The rather embarrassing situation over the appointment of a homosexual bishop in New Hampshire and in this country the forcing of Canon Jeffrey John to withdraw from his application for the Bishopric of Reading because he was a homosexual both illustrate this point . Again the various religions stance on homosexuality is not commensurate with the situation in the rest of society, after all discrimination on grounds of sexuality is illegal in this country and yet in religious circles many are still allowed to say freely that homosexuality is a sin against God. There are very few religions where it would be prudent to declare oneself as openly gay.

One of the things that turned me off organised religion was very much the problem of the oxymoronic policies within it. Now you may say that there is a diversity in our species and it is only natural that this should be reflected within the clergy and religion, you’re quite right, I’m glad you brought that up for it hits the nail on the head, why is it that some diversity is good and other diversity isn’t and who decides and why do they decide? Why is it that you are born a murderer but you learn to be homosexual. After all religions believe in the concept of evil and some latency of that, why is it that if homosexuality is considered evil is this not something that people are born with and can do nothing about? No this is a paradox of religious ideology. Personally I think to have a concept of evil means that there is a glass ceiling approach in religious hierarchy just as their is in the social one. Some people are deemed better, more worthy than others. Whatever happened to “the meek shall inherit the Earth” and the “first shall be last and the last shall be first” and “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven”? Sorry did I miss something, I mean I’m basing this on the Christian teachings I was subjected to at school but perhaps I missed a subsequent upgrade to Christianity 2.0 part of the Religion 2000 suite of applications, only licensed to run in Western Europe and subject to US Federal control!

Don’t get me wrong, there are good clerics, some are well-known and pivotal to the struggle and plight of communities and countries like the assasinated Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and Bishop Carlos Filipe Ximenes Belo of East Timor, whilst most will never be known outside the community and region in which they serve, some of these men and women have entered the church because they feel a calling and wish to do good. To be a principalled cleric though is not without its dangers. To carry out the epitomy of a Christian message may in fact serve to have you assasinated by one of the most fundamentalist Christian nations on the planet the US like Oscar Romero because perhaps that brand of Christianity you are peddling isn’t the right flavour. After all upon reading of the teachings of Jesus who could possibly believe that he had any leanings towards socialism?!

Furthermore it must be remembered that whilst many seek to do ‘good work’ within the church many others with such urges go on to become doctors, nurses, vets, social workers, teachers and other altruistic professions, it is not therefore something exclusive to those who work in the church.

I am not against people having their own spirituality, nor their need for a comfort blanket to explain some of the mysteries of life, perhaps their is good cause for some of that opium now and again, after all I would dearly cling to such myself had I that option. The problem is the religious institutions because they represent but an interpretation of a group of texts which are by their very nature full of ambiguity. This prevents any evolution of the texts, the language etc. and results in a fixed dogma that cannot cope with the rigours of the modern world. Its response to change is not to bend like the reed in the wind but to stand firm against it like the tree and as such it will become uprooted but not without taking up a huge clump of the land with it.

Song Of The Day ~ Editors – Open Your Arms

2nd_birthday.jpg
It’s that time again. My blog has survived its second year and I sally forth into its 3rd term with I think as much vigour as I did the first. You can judge for yourselves if you like, my opening salvo to the blog world was this one.

It has been a fairly packed 2 years looking back on it. I have come to know many people in some way shape or form, some have come and gone both physically and figuratively and others like you obviously have remained, we’ve sadly lost Chris Mann on the way but Cass may have been granted a reprieve so I guess honours are even for the time being. It has been vital for me that people interact with me, it fashions and sometimes hardens my opinions and my resolve. I do not think I would be bereft of ideas without audience participation but by the same token I don’t think I would have been able to address such a breadth of subjects. I am grateful for that.

Statistics-wise I have in this 2 year period written 463 entries at an average of 0.63 a day, at a guess I think around 430 of these have been published and I wouldn’t like to guess how many words that is likely to be. Occasionally I have had to grind out an entry or two but these are rarely published I tend to leave it to see if I recapture any lucidity later down the line, but by and large the writing has been easy and enjoyable from my end and I hope the same can be said now and again at least from the perspective of the reader. I have mustered a total of 169,465 hits (231.83 per day) and of these have garnered 1,356 comments. There are 10 hardy souls who have subscribed to my mailing list, scholars and gentlepeople every one I’m sure.

My most read blog of all time was the review of the fairly recent U2 gig in the summer which has received 478 reads and gets more every day. Next is my dodgy LPs entry, one I was especially chuffed with and itself is about to clock 450 reads. The golden age for commenting was definitely Summer 2004 with both Short but Sweet and illblog clocking up 22 and 21 comments respectively. I guess the political stuff doesn’t illicit quite as much response but hey ho I do derive much pleasure from writing it. I periodically reset my referrer log because I find it strangely compelling to see what Google searches have led to people landing here but the links on Longrider and my twin Sarah‘s blogs have always proved fruitful and recently my response to the krypto-fascist email I received has been cited on both a Manchester United supporters club forum as well as one in Aberdeen. I also like the Blog City tags feature and it is of no surprise that my links have been from Capitalism, Imperialism, War, and Politics wouldn’t have seen that one coming eh?!

Finally thanks to Alan and Ceri at BC who have always sought to answer my, often inane and ridiculous, questions swiftly and succinctly, it has made the user experience by and large a painless one, and that has prevented detraction from the job in hand which, for me, is the writing itself. And thanks to everyone who has read and/or contributed at any point, I hope you’ll feel enthused enough to stick around and help me with the next 463 entries.

I’m on 2 weeks sans the booze at the mo’ so you’ll have to do the honours and raise a glass on my behalf, make it a large one, go on, we’ve a lot to get through.

*Reproduced by kind permission of Lynne

Song Of The Day ~ Cut Copy – Going Nowhere

Original Comments:


Rina made this comment,
You make me smile! By the way, I felt very smart yesterday thanks to you. Remember you were saying how the only time to get things done and projects and stuff as work is during the summer? Well I work in the IT dept. at school and one of the reall (full-time) guys and I were talking about breaks and I got to say that. I felt smart, at least smarter than usual as I never know what to say around all the techies.
Anyway that was babble. Hope you’re doing well.

comment added :: 18th January 2006, 16:23 GMT+01 :: http://sugarbowl.blog-city.com
John made this comment,
Blimey ! Is it two years ? I don’t know how you do it Baron, but keep at it mate.
comment added :: 18th January 2006, 17:35 GMT+01 :: http://bigjohn.blog-city.com/
:ynne made this comment,
Happy Blogday to me favourite Baron (even if you *have* nicked my brithday-blog title, you bar steward!) Two weeks on the wagon, eh? And just as I was about to offer you some o’ this lovely mead wot I brought back from Scotland too. Shame, I’ll have to drink it by meself now 😉
-Redbaron responds – Hahahaha, When the title came to me I thought that’s a good title, it sounds a bit familiar but I couldn’t place it. It was stolen inadvertantly and in good faith but I shall credit you with it accordingly! Mead, mmmmmm, I love mead, drank it in Cornwall all the time. Nearly at the end of me abstinence as well!-

comment added :: 18th January 2006, 22:20 GMT+01 :: http://raingoddess.blog-city.com
:ynne made this comment,
Oops! Gremlin alert! Didn’t mean to comment _that_ many times!! Sorry
comment added :: 18th January 2006, 22:27 GMT+01 :: http://raingoddess.blog-city.com
Kristie made this comment,
Happy Blogday, Baron. You keep me honest and aware and thinking.
Damn you! ;o)

comment added :: 20th January 2006, 08:29 GMT+01
moog made this comment,
happy late blog day mate!!! not really around at the mo, and i miss you. i can still sometimes get emails, just not my blog quite so much… i hope that you are cool.. and im glad that the U2 review is the one peeps go to, it was a mad day 😉
comment added :: 21st January 2006, 14:14 GMT+01

To the casual observer General Pervez Musharraf has played a deft diplomatic game since seizing power via a military coup in 1999. Whilst condemned at the time by the USA, albeit not with the same fervour that they have condemned many others, the Bush presidency has been more than happy to allow Musharraf to remain in power whilst he plays their tune and Musharraf has duly obliged, as a result no criticism has been levied as to Musharraf’s failure to step down as the country’s President in January 2005 as he had promised months earlier. For the US it really has been a better the devil you know, Musharraf is not from the usual Punjabi stock and whilst a muslim he is considerably more inclined to secular rule than any potential sucessor.

Musharraf has played a risky but personally effective strategy in preventing the US army from much operations within his territory whilst at the same time retaining the semblance of being a ‘vital ally’ in the US’s ‘war on terrorism.’ This is a neat trick and there are many who have sought to play this double agent strategy against the US and failed, just ask the Taliban, once great friends of the US. Indeed yes, the US is not so bothered about imposed Sharia law in countries through which the lucrative Caspian gas pipeline is being built, not bothered that is until the Taliban started having a problem with US T’s & C’s and then miraculously the Americans feign amazement at their being Al Queda training grounds in Afghanistan – you’d think they’d remember them since they helped build and fund them of course! When you are the US though you don’t let a messy little thing like the truth stop you. Quite the contrary, you go blazing into the country and replace the government with a ‘safe pair of hands’ in the case of Afghanistan it was former Unocal advisor* Hamid Karzai (*Le Monde 9/12/01) who was entrusted with the ball.

To ensure diversity in the fossil fuels department the US decided to pick on another former ally in the form of Saddam Hussein, the reasons for the Iraq attack were numerous: first, foremost and most obvious was the safeguarding of some cheap oil in the wake of potential difficulties in the attempted removal of Hugo Chavez from Venezuela, second was the continuation of a job, the ‘sins of the father’ if you like. Sources have shown that Bush Jnr was looking for whatever excuse to change the regime in Baghdad and having failed to pin any Al Queda link on the Iraqi leader and obviously being unable to accuse him of Islamic fundamentalism they decided a bit of Jackanory ought to sort the issue. So armed no doubt with the receipts of the chemical weapons agents from transactions at the time when Saddam was welcome to bomb and gas the shite out of the Iranians, the US decided that the evidence was unclear that he had used up his chemical arsenal on the Kurds and therefore took a gamble. The British, always happy to oblige in an obedient dog sort of way, made the mistake many dogs do of being a little too exuberant and completely fabricated a claim that the weapons, which didn’t exist, could be fired on British troops who weren’t there in 45 minutes. Even the US government decided not to use this one, which shows just how ludicrous a claim it was because the US themselves in their time have invented some fair old shit to suit their ends. Another reason it was important to go into Iraq was that the failure to find Osama Bin Laden was all well and good, after all one didn’t want to capture him because then the world would be bereft of a bad guy for the Keystone cops to track down, but it made the US look bad, so they wanted to have their cake and eat it. Perfect plan, they thought, let’s hunt down a geezer who isn’t even on the run, we can’t lose, and into the bargain there’s a country to destroy and then rebuild again, so the US defence industry is quids in, the military is occupied for a while, the country rallies round for a good war shortly before an election and then the contracting companies come in and rebuild everything and they’re quids in too. Oh, and there’s the oil reserves, that’ll enable us to keep the Gas station prices down as well as keep our supply going if that left-wing spic Chavez can’t be bumped off.

And it all pans out perfectly, exit strategy, what exit strategy? Ever feel you’ve been had?

Now the US has a problem, it hasn’t bombed anyone for a while and erstwhile target Iran may possibly have the capability to bite back a little harder than hitherto anticipated. North Korea is out of the question because they’d think nothing of nuking the shit out of the Eastern seaboard. So Bush decides if in doubt and the Generals are getting restless bomb a ~stan, after all it worked last time and if a country is a ~stan it must be full of darkies and ay-rabs not forgetting some of the black stuff. Ally, hell what does that matter, after all the US invaded British sovereign protectorate Grenada back in 1982 and they got away with that.

So Pakistan gets bombed because apparently there might have been a baddie there. Staggeringly there is no outcry in the West, The Independent has only just reported it today (Sunday) here, the Mirror devoted a mere 2 paragraphs to it, dwarfed by a large advertisement for gambling in the same column here whilst The Guardian remains entirely silent as unsurprisingly does The Sun. The BBC does run an article about it here but curiously it is listed in the South Asia section rather than the Middle East section.

Ayman al-Zawahiri, the man on the hit-list is profiled, but the actual dead all 18 of them are just more anonymous collateral damage. What is known of them or the families they leave behind, who is accountable for this? In spite of this the newspapers prefer to continue to talk about whether the Education Secretary has lost the plot or stirring up fervour in Bethnal Green amongst George Galloway’s constituents desperately attempting to interview someone who’ll say he isn’t doing his job on account of Celebrity Big Brother. One cannot blame George Galloway for his having relegated the Pakistan story to the inside pages though many will seek to try, were it not George it would unquestionably have been something and someone else. After all what constitutes news in this day and age is nothing more than the informational equivalent of a rusk designed to taste sweet and give your teeth something to do so as not to bite into anything dangerous!

What interests me is if US Intelligence is anything more than an oxymoron what good do they feel they have actually done. The CIA have failed to kill the person they were allegedly after, however they have undoubtedly added further fuel to the detractors of Musharraf’s decision to support US action of which there are many. Is it therefore US policy to galvanise popular opinion against any support for US military action? I thought that was our job on the left, I feel strangely redundant now as if the rug has been pulled from under me!

Song Of The Day ~ Garbage – The Trick Is To Keep Breathing

Original Comments:


Pimme made this comment,
Well, our government’s own stupidity brought on that cause-and-effect. The Liberals don’t have to try too hard anymore to convince the population that Bush screwed up bigtime!
comment added :: 15th January 2006, 03:12 GMT+01 :: http://pimme.blog-city.com
jamal made this comment,
A good interpretation of events. I think Musharraf could have avoided this if he had not bowed to USA initially.
comment added :: 15th January 2006, 21:36 GMT+01 :: http://opinionated.blogsome.com/
John made this comment,
I was amazed at the lack of press coverage on this story. Apparently a CIA ‘drone’ dropped the bomb. An unmanned aircraft ? One bomb ? Seems a bit restrained for the Americans. Unfortunately they got their usual result…dead civilians.
comment added :: 16th January 2006, 13:27 GMT+01 :: http://bigjohn.blog-city.com/

“David S made this comment,
So how do you feel about George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green using his time for shameless self-promotion instead of working for his constituents like 95% of other MPs. He is a crook, a joke and a disgrace.”

I am not surprised to be answering questions as to George Galloway’s participation in Celebrity Big Brother, I am even less surprised to have the first one on this blog levelled by long-time political ostrich Glasgow Dave who appears to have completed his transition into New Labour pastiche mode. Sadly, rather than criticising with any factual-based remarks he chooses to rattle off a short invective full of vitriolic style but more than a little lacking in substance, it is however I guess rather endemic of the political mainstream these days and if Glasgow Dave is seeking to emulate the Tony Blair/David Cameron homogeity he is indeed to be congratulated on his success.

My initial reaction to the revelation that George would be going into Big Brother was not a favourable one. I dislike the program and the format intensely and it appears to be systematic of the proof that many people would genuinely watch paint dry were there to be a sniff of a celebrity endorsement or the chance to win some money betting on which wall might dry first! The fact that George’s fellow house-mates included vacuous non-entities like Jodie Marsh, Dennis Rodman and Traci Bingham did not lead me to believe that the program would be a hotbed of scintillating conversation.

Upon reflection and having read and digested the statements and initial media reaction I recognise that George’s reasons, however, are at least valid, he cites firstly that some of the proceeds of the premium rate phone number that viewers will be calling on will go to charities of the participants choice and his choice is Interpal that works in Palestine, this has the effect of forcing the Palestinian agenda at least into the partial mainstream whether Channel 4 like it or not. Secondly the point that he will be able to reach a large audience that is at best ambivalent and for a large part utterly apathetic towards politics and politicians is no less crucial. It is a statistic often trotted out that more young people vote in Big Brother nominations than in General Elections but it does serve to underline the general disenfranchisement of the new generation of voters in this country.

George claims in a bulletin sent to party members and published on the Respect website “I will talk about racism, bigotry, poverty, the plight of Tower Hamlets, the poorest place in England sandwiched between the twin towers of wealth and privilege in Canary Wharf and the spires of the City. I will talk about war and peace, about Bush and Blair, about the need for a world based on respect.” Perhaps mere noble words indeed, but one cannot doubt the validity of the ironic geographical position of his constituency, whether or not one doubts his ability to represent it.

At this point I ought to say that whilst I have marginally softened to the idea of his participation I have far less faith in the media and do not believe that any attempt at a political message will be broadcast on the program as Channel 4 use Big Brother for the gossip and titilation powers rather than as a vehicle for any information, education or debate. I believe the more political George is in the Big Brother house the less he will be seen on the Channel 4 highlights program thus rendering his message largely pointless. This has been borne out by the first week’s programming so far. I believe Channel 4’s motivation to get George in the house was purely for the shock value of his initial entry rather than any subsequent participation. He has for them served that purpose and is thus surplus to requirements in their eyes, I would now in fact be astonished if he is not in fact the first evictee from the house. It is principally for this reason that I doubt very much if any tangible political good will be done to George’s reputation or the interests of Respect as a party.

Even columnist Zoe Williams in The Guardian has acknowledged that Channel 4’s policy in removing any political reference is one that will only add to the problem of the disinterest in politics amongst the 16-24 year olds. Her article makes interesting reading and alludes to an attempt by the paper to smear Galloway upon his entry by suggesting that he was derelict in his duty to constituents because he had not responded to their attempt to contact on the day he entered the Big Brother house. Williams points out that she is still waiting for another MP to return contact from November.

I think it was Spike Milligan who first said 88% of all statistics are made up and I think we must apply that to Glasgow Dave’s assertion that 95% of MPs are working for their constituents whilst George Galloway is in the 5% that do not. It is very easy to level criticism at George Galloway for his constituency acts when one doesn’t know anything about what they may be. Glasgow Dave is not resident in Bethnal Green, I do not know if he has ever been there, he is therefore somewhat unqualified to comment but a brief look at the facts may allow us to determine whether his accusation holds any water. In the 8 months that George Galloway has represented Bethnal Green and Bow he has campaigned alongside Defend Council Housing, and as a result the New Labour council was recently defeated in five of the seven ballots it held to give away council housing to private landlords and called off another three in the face of certain defeat. Furthermore the New Labour proposal for PFI privatisation of the Royal London Hospital has been criticised for its potential to cost the taxpayer over £4 million per bed, even the government have now taken this proposal back under review. There is a list of all of the public engagements that George Galloway has attended within the bounds of his constituency, I would certainly defy anyone to find 95 MPs that have a better record let alone finding 95% of them. As to any statement regarding constituency work whilst George in in the house one must bear in mind that Parliament is in recess and many constituency MPs are in fact on holiday, this means a great many local MPs will not have constituency surgeries taking place. You will find a surgery taking place this Friday in Bethnal Green just as last Friday.

I would seriously question what any of the Labour cabinet or the Tory shadow cabinet do on a regular basis for their constituents or for that matter the many MPs who have other jobs outside the House of Commons. It is no secret that many frontline MPs do not return to their constituencies after politics but take up lucrative directorships in the city or non-executive directorships where they can work from the golf course home. Where do we assess whether or not an MP works for his constituents, what are the criteria and how do we determine if an MP has met them. To my mind the only measure I can see is that if an MP has, after consultation with the people s/he is elected to represent, put his/her own personal views and party loyalties to one side to vote according to the wishes of his/her constituents then s/he can be regarded as having worked for the good of the constituency. I would contest that such an MP is a very very rare beast indeed. This is however the nature of modern politics, by taking representatives and moving them to a legislature far far away from those whence they have come a degree of detachment is inevitable. The only method of doing anything about this that I can see is the original soviet (please note, soviet with a small ‘s’, if you don’t know what that means please ask, rants regarding mid to late 20th century Russia will be frowned upon!) method of devolving down to local assembly level in every area and there is still much to be sorted out in terms of how this would work.

Glasgow Dave appears to have a problem with “shameless self-promotion” and on this point we can agree, I have long since been a critique of the socially devisive “Celebrity” culture but I have not noticed Comrade Dave being especially vociferous on any of these points. I have not heard a Glasgow Dave diatribe about Tony Blair appearing on Des O’Conner tonight or the Prime Minister’s cynical and woeful attempts to ingratiate himself with the “Britpop” scene or England’s victorious crickets after the Summer Ashes series. And whilst I no longer visit Glasgow Dave’s site I did check through his archives to attempt to ensure whether I was in fact doing him a disservice. I have highlighted the link to allow any readers to search for themselves. Whether Glasgow Dave likes it or not current politics is a business now that involves media coverage, this has been exploited mercilessly by the New Labour media machine who have sought to ensure that they remain ingratiated to The Sun and its influential owner, media tyrant Rupert Murdoch, by pandering to the politics of populism. If one compares the time or column inches devoted to George Galloway and Respect compared with those devoted to the last series of “I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here” he may draw a conclusion as to why George has sought to broaden his audience. If Glasgow Dave wishes to join us and fight for a world where politics is not simply about which section of the elite a party represents then I for one would be more than happy to put past disagreements behind us and welcome him, I’m afraid until such time I must question his commitment and thus treat his less than constructive comments with the degree of disinterest with which he appears to treat the huge disenfranchised population of this country and the wider world.

If nothing else this rant has garnered Respect a little more vociferous support from me than I had been inclined to give them over the past few months! For my part I would far rather have politicians who are fervently committed to their ideals even if I do not agree with all of them, than a group of faceless spin machines acting like marionettes controlled by some parliamentary Svengali. I will leave readers to make up their own mind as to which category George Galloway fits into. What a pity Glasgow Dave did not choose to come and debate actual political policy a subject that might have served interesting debate but instead fell into the trap of indulging in personality politics.

Song Of The Day ~ The Kooks – You Don’t Love Me

Original Comments:


jimmy sunshine made this comment,
I can’t argue with you on George’s constitutional commitment RB – I don’t get to Befnal Green much myself – but I never had any doubts about George Galloway outside of Celebrity Big Brother. Still, your considered argument hasn’t assuaged my doubts about what he’s doing in there – not the lack of constituency work but the damage he must be doing to the party and to his own media image. To imagine for one minute that his political views would be aired on C4 is madness. Tony Benn figured out the media twenty five years ago and George would’ve done well to consult him before going in – it’s called editing. The charity money going to Interpal is invaluable but again there is no way this is going to put Palestine on the mainstream agenda, even for 30 seconds. I’ll eat my hat if Interpal gets a single mention. So without any credible intervention by George on the popular political front (if there is such a thing), what is left? George playing pussy cat to Rula Lenska’s jumbo (yes, I did see it), or, even more disturbing, joining an angry mob of scapegoaters literally bullying Jodie Marsh into tears? I just can’t see the use of it. To show a human side? Well, that may have been a possibility if the house was populated by humans, instead of space cadets and super-egos. This fact could’ve come as no surprise to George – who else would put themselves into that situation but narcissists, egotists, and desperate self-publicists? Which begs the further question, which one is George? Now I feel more politically disenfranchised than ever before, perhaps because there was a moment when finally the left had a proper party again, with a proper leader. I know politics has to modernise, we live in a different world, politicians – leaders – have to win votes, support, attention by means attractive to a degenerate, brain-dead generation, but is this not just pandering? Does this challenge our apathy? Ken Livingston going back to Labour I can accept – it was his whole life, that is who he is. But this? I just don’t get it, RB.
comment added :: 12th January 2006, 23:39 GMT+01
jimmy sunshine made this comment,
And another thing – that damn frog on the left is f**king annoying. I’m sure it took me three times as long to write that last comment because of the distraction…
comment added :: 12th January 2006, 23:45 GMT+01
Red Baron made this comment,
Well, I can only concede that in terms of what will be the outcome I share your concerns jimmy my friend. But equally I am a cynic and long-time critic of the mass media and I have the luxury of sitting back and sniping whether or not it is constructive. A prominent member of a new political party with the hopes of large swathes of the radical left resting on them does not have the same luxury and perhaps must take risks in case such a gamble may finally chip a hole in the media blackout.
The lack of media coverage of Respect in general has been a frustrating factor, those of us broadly in support of the party have for a long time known that the establishment will not willingly allow such a challenge to its authority but how much ground can one gain by the preaching to the converted?

There is no doubt that George basks in the limelight, but that is exactly why he had enough of a public profile to be irresistable to the media who were expecting him to fail. After all Tam Dalyell, Alice Mahon, Jeremy Corbyn and George himself who had been long time opponents of New Labour had been long since marginalised to obscurity in terms of media coverage. Had Tam Dalyell a principled and eminently able politician of the left stood for Bethnal Green there would have been no media furore and he would probably have lost.

Jodie Marsh is more a product of the vacuous celebrity society rather than the embodiment of it but I think were I locked in a house with her I might well be inclined to verbally knock seven shades of shite out of her!

I agree my faith has been shaken, but one must remember that Respect remains the only show in town. I still have severe doubts about Respect’s agenda to be left-wing enough for my mind but I am mindful of the collapse of the Socialist Alliance which brought much damage to the left in general and its ability to work together.

The disenfranchisement is one of the greatest weapons of the current establishment, to breed despair and apathy and perpetuate that there is no other way and one person cannot make a difference. I do not know the answer mate, all I can think of to do for the moment is to keep in close touch with others who, like me, believe that the current system is bullshit and cannot be allowed to continue unfettered.

I have through chance managed to gain an education and a roof over my head and food in the fridge, there are many who through no fault of their own were less fortunate, if I do not fight for them, those even less powerful than I am, who the hell is going to?

comment added :: 13th January 2006, 00:11 GMT+01 :: http://redbaron.blog-city.com/
Pimme made this comment,
I never watched Big Brother in America. There was even a local guy on once, but that still didn’t entice me.
-Redbaron responds – I think that’s the safest way to manage it. On the whole you never missed much, as anthropological observation the first series was interesting but that was the full extent of it really.-

comment added :: 13th January 2006, 02:28 GMT+01 :: http://pimme.blog-city.com
Glasgow Dave made this comment,
I admit I was probably a little hasty in judging George Galloway on work as an MP although from what I have read he does not attend many commons votes and does not ask many questions. Surely he was elected and was being paid to represent his constitents in Parliament not just locally.
According to the http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/ george_galloway/bethnal_green_and_bow#votingrecord , quoted on on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Galloway “Since being elected in 2005, his participation rate has remained low. At the end of 2005 he had participated in only 15% of votes in the House of Commons since the general election, placing him 634 out of 645 MPs – of the MPs below him in the rankings, five are Sinn Fein members who have an abstentionist policy towards taking their seats, three are the speaker and deputy speakers and therefore ineligible to vote, two have died since the election.” Which according to my maths makes it that 98% of MPs vote more often than him, seems you were right about my statistics, they were way out. As for it being recess, according to the House of Commons website recess ended on the 9th of January. I have not been to Bethnal Green but don’t forgot GG was a Glasgow MP for many years. I have not attacked Tony Blair on this site or any other I visit because thankfully very few are vociforous supporters of the PM. I am not saying that George Galloway was the only bad MP he is just one of many

I accept I am biased against George Galloway because experiences that close family members have had with him. My father was an active member of the War on Want charity, that was the charity George Galloway charged £21000 for expenses in one year (85-86 a lot of money in those days)of which he paid back £1720 due to contested expenses http: //www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/20 03/04/24/ngall124.xml Oh and I didn’t like his praise for Saddam Hussein or his friendship with Tariq Aziz.

By the way I’m not a Labour supporter,I do not like Tony Blair or David Cameron, I did not support the war

-Redbaron responds – I would be very careful basing any argument on the statistics at theyworkforyou.com, the statistics can be misleading, not intentionally but as I found in the case of my own MP one has to be rather careful on the interpretation.

For Independent MPs or members of very small parties there is often far more good that can be done for constituency members in the constituency rather than attending a series of meaningless votes by a government that still holds a large enough majority to generally steamroller anything through. One could argue the pros and cons of national versus local politics but ultimately you are likely to either favour one or the other. You actually orignally said that he was in the 5% of MPs not working for his constituents and not what you have now changed your story to that he is in the 2% not voting in the House of Commons, there is a huge difference in those 2 statements.

I cannot obviously comment on the family dealings you have had with him as I don’t know the facts but as to the Iraq issue one must bear in mind many people were “friends” of Iraq including the Americans, Rumsfeld has visited Saddam more times than George. Many people on the left retained links with the Soviet Union in the vain hope that it may still be the saviour of socialism. Remember the Ba’ath party’s full title is the Ba’ath Socialist Party. Do you offer the same criticism for those in support of the current Burmese administration, or Pinochet or Suharto. Have you castigated the war criminals Bush and Blair or is it merely an intent to pursue a personal agenda?

Regardless of any of this to allow what is a cogent message to be diluted because of a personality or personalities that one disagrees with vexes me greatly because it plays into the hands of the apathy makers and that’s how we are in this mess in the first place. It is all very well to be against the war(s) but if you yourself do nothing about it other than the occasional snipe at those who are standing up to it, it undermines the credibility of your critique somewhat. I would very much like a proper revolutionary left-wing party that is faceless in terms of the public profile of those within but that hasn’t happened since 1902 and isn’t likely to happen again for a while one suspects. Let’s talk about politics not personalities.-

comment added :: 13th January 2006, 12:37 GMT+01 :: http://glasgowdave.blog-city.com
Jimmy Sunshine made this comment,
On Jodie Marsh: http://www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,,16854 98,00.html#article_continue
-Redbaron responds – yes I read the article, one musn’t forget the Germaine herself, generally regarded as someone with more than a modicum of intelligence elected herself to go into the Big Brother house even if she left it some time later. I would not question her judgement of the events but I would question whether or not she has seen an accurate reflection of everything that has gone on in the house since Channel 4’s editing has been something akin to a Sweeney Todd haircut. To produce footage showing strife, bullying and disharmony is sensationalist and exactly what the programers want and the viewers expect, they are being shown the physical and mental titilation they crave and the producers will ensure that this does not get contaminated by anything so high-brow as politics.

comment added :: 13th January 2006, 16:08 GMT+01

I have never exactly shied away from my critique of the fiasco that is current transport policy in this country, and I am fully aware that this country is not on it’s own in that regard. The government’s current stance on the 4%-9% increase in rail fares is a prime example of how the present strategy is simply going nowhere. According to the government’s transport secretary Alastair Darling “It has all got to be paid for and we’ve got to strike a balance between the amount of money that the taxpayer puts in and the amount that the fare-payer puts in as well.” Which is interesting because of course that would appear to suggest that the profit-making company doesn’t put any in at all.

Regulated fares, which cover season tickets and saver tickets, are going up by an average of 3.9%, whilst unregulated fares, including cheap day returns, are rising by an average of 4.5% but with this being a mean figure obviously some rises are much higher, anything up to 9% on some lines and these particularly effect tickets bought on the day rather than in advance. The organisation which speaks for the train operators Atoc said all railways on long-distance routes were winning business back from the airlines. I’m sorry but I don’t see it. Last year I costed up my trip to the G8 Summit in Edinburgh. I wanted to travel by train because I find it the most conducive way to travel both for my conscience and my comfort. The price of a return to Edinburgh would have been well over £100 (luckily I was not planning to travel through London or in the rush hour or on a Friday!) and I would have had to change trains at least twice, the journey taking around 5-6 hours approximately. This compares very poorly to travel by air. I was able to obtain a return ticket from an airport half an hour away from me direct to Edinburgh for £45 including taxes and the journey took 45 minutes. How was I able to justify being a climate criminal in this regard? Simple really, had I had to go by train I would not have been able to afford to go at all. It is rather ironic really. The situation now after the fare increases cannot be any better. For example a standard return ticket bought from Edinburgh to London will now cost £220, that’s hardly a very tempting prospect since I suspect most of the people who could afford to spend £220 for such a journey can easily afford a more luxurious and probably quicker method of transport so I fail to see what demographic is likely to be enticed by such a pricing policy.

Likewise cash fares on the London Underground have gone up to £3 for a single journey. This whole situation is not integrated and it makes a mockery of the government’s claim to Kyoto quotas and luring people out of their cars. For instance in Central London the congestion charge is now £5 but that covers the car for the day and whilst you would not buy a succession of single tickets on the Underground a Travelcard which would provide unlimited travel on trains and buses costs between £4.30 for off-peak not including the Central London zone to a staggering £12.40 for all zones that include travel in the rush hour. How does this compare with other cities? Let’s see:

  • New York: $2 (£1.16)
  • Paris: €1.40 (96p)
  • Russia: 13 roubles (26p)
  • Madrid: €1.15 (79p)
  • Tokyo: 160-300 yen (78p to £1.48)

Is London worth it? Well, for those of you who can come as tourists and enjoy for a finite period of time perhaps, but for those of us who had to live there, no, definitely not, salaries in London are not so appreciably higher to allow for all the excess amount that one has to spend on the cost of living.

On the other hand I have travelled on the very German-like Park and Ride system in Nottingham which involved free parking just off the M1 and a £2.20 ticket which entitled me to tram travel for the whole day. The journey to the city centre was effortless and efficient and took around 15-20 minutes. The journey back was in the rush hour but I still got on the tram, when I used to commute in London I was often not so fortunate. The Nottingham system is a relatively new one that has been in place less than 5 years as part of a limited resurgence in trams in English cities. Most cities here have not operated trams since the 1960s and there are still plenty that do not operate an efficinet park and ride system using the bus services.

In my view there are 2 specific reasons why the transport system here does not and cannot work if things continue the way the currently are. The first is that ownership is currently often in private hands meaning that investment must come second to profit, and the second reason is that there is no significant sign of genuine concerted investment from the Government, in fact quite the contrary if one considers quotes like that of Mr Darling above which suggest that the incumbant administration is as inclined to allow the public transportation system to fall into disrepair as the Conservative administrations of the 1980-90s were. This usually preceeds a move toward privatisation, although New Labour are well-aware of the negative significance of such a word and prefer the term PPP or Public-Private-Partnership. The end result is much the same.

My idea is that all public transport, which should be primarily electric-based and therefore low emission at source such as trams, electric buses/trolley buses and electric trains, should be in public hands. This way it can be run as a service rather than for profit, this means there may be instances where a service is run at a loss because of the necessity of its continuation as a facility. To this end I would advocate the entire renationalision of the entire rail network, tram systems, bus companies etc. This would require a large financial outlay which should be done on a government compulsory purchase order. The less money outlayed at this point the more can be plunged into direct immediate investment into service provision. It is no use having a transport card type system where the transport infrastructure is not already in place to cope with a massive increase in demand.

There should be a levy raised from gross income in percentage form which should be for the transport card. This should be a sum equivalent to basic costs of transportation for necessary purposes based on travel by public transportation. This should be paid by everyone with no exceptions and should be a percentage of income. There should be no charge for public transport at the point of usage tho’ people should be required to have their card read when using public transport. The lack of charge should make public transport an attractive option and have the advantage of providing a fixed defined income for the transportation network and a way of assessing the usage by means of the card.

Everybody’s needs for transport should be evaluated and that amount be put on their transport card. Needs mean just that, for work, school and shopping etc. There should be an ex gratia amount over for use for trips out at weekends and for holiday purposes. There should only be a restriction on private transport methods not on public methods.

Private transport should be thus heartily discouraged, that there may be the need for certain people to have certain access is unquestionable and such allowances can be made on the transport card, enabling the purchase of fuel at a low rate. Other fuel purchases should be heavily taxed so as to make it financially imprudent to have cars that are fuel inefficient. Fuel should only be sold on production and processing of the transport card. Of course fraud in terms of the card and selling of illicit fuel would have to be addressed. To my mind the state must control supply of the fuel in the first place. This is not going to happen with convention oil-based products as the current oil companies have too much lobbying power. Thus less traditional means of fuel need to be used, and this is concurrent with the fact that the oil will run out anyway. I don’t know what would be the best method in this instance, my knowledge of the market is not sufficient but the Brazilian use of alcohol, or electricity, gas, biomass, bio-diesel or some such, should be explored.

People who live in areas not covered by public transport should be given the necessary dispensation on their transport card to allow them enough fuel to get to the nearest park and ride point whence they can continue their journey. The system of park and ride works well in Germany where it is rare for most people to commute all the way to work by public transport. Of course ideally the public transportation system should be expanded to include as many remote areas as possible and if there means of transportation is in public hands there should be no reason why the services cannot be provided.

Transportation of goods should be carried out by train and lorries should only be used when necessary for short haul trips from rail depot to final destination. This would have a catastrophic effect on the haulage industry and I’m sorry for those that would be affected by this but I’m afraid the catastrophic effect that will occur on a pan-global scale if we do not drastically change things far outweighs the needs of the lorry drivers and haulage company workers, they can be retrained, the Earth cannot.

This may sound all very draconian and nanny state but I’m afraid there has to be a paradigm shift in how we look at the energy we consume and we are not simply going to do all the work ourselves, we will have to be prodded to do so. At least if the state is in control and governing properly it should be doing so for the good of the people rather than for profit purposes as if in private hands. Naturally for that a different form of government and perhaps completely different form of governmental system needs to be in place, and we’d have to tackle that in another post.

Song Of The Day ~ Bloc Party – Helicopter

Original Comments:


Jimmy Sunshine made this comment,
leyton orient?
-Redbaron responds – La la la I can’t hear you!-

comment added :: 8th January 2006, 17:09 GMT+01

David S made this comment,
So how do you feel about George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green using his time for shameless self-promotion instead of working for his constinuents like 95% of other MPs. He is a crook, a joke and a disgrace.
comment added :: 10th January 2006, 11:37 GMT+01

Mark Ellott made this comment,
Years ago an editor of a motorcycle magazine suggested that all long distance freight should travel by train (we’re talking 1970s). He was castigated by… the road haulage lobby (quelle surprise). I agreed with him then and I agree with him now. Rail is a sensible method of long distance haulage and there are still miles of usable paths on the system.
As for the underground in London – even with my preferential rates (being a rail worker) I decided shanks’ pony was the better option between Paddington and Euston.

As for restrictions on private transport, I’d rather see a concerted effort on alternative energy sources. Now, an alcohol burning motorcycle – I’d be interested…

comment added :: 10th January 2006, 20:19 GMT+01 :: http://longrider.blog-city.com

jimmy sunshine made this comment,
RB what the fuck is George doing? I’m embarrassed and disillusioned. How do you feel about all this?
-Redbaron responds – you’ve just beaten me to it mate I’m finishing off an entry on it.-

comment added :: 11th January 2006, 22:56 GMT+01

Frans van Anraat may count himself a little unfortunate to have been given a 15 year jail term for complicity to war crimes particularly in the current geo-political climate. Of course Meneer van Anraat seeking to profit from the sale of constituent components of chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein’s regime is something that he should rightly stand trial for and yet this beacon of world justice seems misplaced and hollow in the light of so much that has been going on in the last 50 years.

The weapons created using the components obtained from van Anraat were part of a “a political policy of systematic terror and illegal action against a certain population group,” namely Saddam’s repression against the Kurds in the Northern areas of Iraq in 1988. A crime widely reported that the US and the rest of the world chose to ignore at the time. Of course one must add the context here that Iraq was the US’s choice in the Middle East power struggle of the 1st Persian Gulf War between Iran and Iraq which ran from 1980-88.

Hmm, interesting, ok fair enough, so how does the van Anraat ruling square with “It is in Britain’s interests that Indonesia absorbs the territory [East Timor] as soon and as unobtrusively as possible, and when it comes to the crunch, we should keep our heads down.” (Former GB ambassador, Sir John Archibald Ford). British Aerospace Hawk aircraft sold to the Indonesian air force were observed on bombing runs across East Timor every year from 1984 until the Indonesians eventually withdrew from the territory after General Suharto (whose regime originally began purchases of the plane from the Wilson government in 1978) was no longer in charge.

How does this ruling square with U.S. covert operations between 1968 and 1975 to destabilize the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende in Chile and, after the violent 1973 coup, to bolster the military regime of Augusto Pinochet, a regime responsible for ‘the disappeared’ accused of state terrorism and genocide and the definite killing of 3,000 people and probably disposal of a further 1,100+ who remain unaccounted for?

How does this ruling square with the Nicaragua contra funded operations of the US that resulted in the destruction both of government and economy in Nicaragua and the loss of 60,000 lives? The Sandinista government had won international acclaim for its gains in literacy, health care, education, childcare, unions, and land reform. The US paid $178 billion to destabilise and eventually bring down the government in 1990.

van Anraat is not the first in the US-led succession of kangaroo trials. Taking things from Nuremburg on, it is worth analysing the actual numbers of those Nazis convicted. It is hardly surprising that Simon Wiesenthal, the Nazi hunter, had enough work to keep him going until his death more than 50 years after the Nuremburg trials. The end of the Second World War maked the shift of the US’s enemy from Fascism to Communism and thus a principle of the enemy of my enemy is my friend has been applied. Hence coutless Nazis were simply overlooked in the quest to rebuild West Germany as a buffer against the emergence of a Soviet-influenced Eastern Europe.

In more recent times one need look no further than the trial of Slobodan Milosevic another case of victor’s justice. The Milosevic trial has gone remarkably silent since the defendent decided he was going to actually stand up for himself and not wallow in the dock in contrite fashion. Time was it was in the news every day and yet a couple of sucessive days of Milosevic’s defence and he was micraculously dropped from the schedules. I can only suspect that the trial of Saddam will go much the same way should the bearded one attempt to put up any sort of cogent fight. It is rather coincidental that his defence team seem to have a life expectancy akin to First World War pilots and yet the prosecutors who one might think would be the targets of the remaining insurgents appear to be either anonymous or adequately protected.

Whilst the world allows one single country to prosecute all others whilst it itself refuses to even subject any of its citizens to international legal scrutiny there can be no justice.

I know there will be many Americans remain in the belief that the US is a force for good in the world. Whatever one thinks of the motives and however naive one may be regarding the involvement take a closer look at US involvement across the globe since WWII, you may find the following a good starting point for research. Take one of these conflicts and research why it happened. Look at why it has been “necessary” for the US to bomb over 50 countries since WWII. Look at how it has been possible for the US to in fact invade a British sovereign territory in 1983 when Thatcher was still in charge. If you choose to you will find twice as much again between the years of 1798 and 1948 so it is hardly a recent phenomenon.

  • 1946 – Iran – troops deployed in northern province.
  • 1946 – 1949 – China – Major US army presence of about 100,000 troops, fighting, training and advising local combatants.
  • 1947 – 1949 – Greece – US forces wage a 3-year counterinsurgency campaign.
  • 1948 – Italy – Heavy CIA involvement in national elections.
  • 1948 – 1954 – Philippines – Commando operations, “secret” CIA war.
  • 1950 – 1953 – Korea – Major forces engaged in war in Korean peninsula.
  • 1953 – Iran – CIA overthrows government of Prime Minister Mohammed Mossadegh.
  • 1954 – Vietnam – Financial and material support for colonial French military operations, leads eventually to direct US military involvement.
  • 1954 – Guatemala – CIA overthrows the government of President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman.
  • 1958 – Lebanon – US marines and army units totaling 14,000 land.
  • 1958 – Panama – Clashes between US forces in Canal Zone and local citizens.
  • 1959 – Haiti – US Marines land.
  • 1960 – Congo – CIA-backed overthrow and assassination of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.
  • 1960 – 1964 – Vietnam – Gradual introduction of military advisors and special forces.
  • 1961 – Cuba – failure of CIA-backed and trained Bay of Pig invasion aimed at deposing Castro.
  • 1962 – Cuba – Cuban Missile Crisis, Nuclear threat and naval blockade (US aggressive tactics met with stonewall from Kruschev who refused to sanction retalitory actions)
  • 1962 – Laos – CIA-backed military coup.
  • 1963 – Ecuador – CIA backs military overthrow of President Jose Maria Valesco Ibarra.
  • 1964 – Panama – Clashes between US forces in Canal Zone and local citizens.
  • 1964 – Brazil – CIA-backed military coup overthrows the government of Joao Goulart and Gen. Castello Branco takes power.
  • 1965 – 1975 – Vietnam – Large commitment of military forces, including air, naval and ground units numbering up to 500,000+ troops. Full-scale war, lasting for ten years.
  • 1965 – Indonesia – CIA-backed army coup overthrows President Sukarno and brings Gen. Suharto to power.
  • 1965 – Congo – CIA backed military coup overthrows President Joseph Kasavubu and brings Joseph Mobutu to power.
  • 1965 – Dominican Republic – 23,000 troops land.
  • 1965 – 1973 – Laos – Bombing campaign begin, lasting eight years.
  • 1966 – Ghana – CIA-backed military coup ousts President Kwame Nkrumah.
  • 1966 – 1967 – Guatemala – Extensive counter-insurgency operation.
  • 1969 – 1975 – Cambodia – CIA supports military coup against Prince Sihanouk, bringing Lon Nol to power. Intensive bombing for seven years along border with Vietnam.
  • 1970 – Oman – Counter-insurgency operation, including coordination with Iranian marine invasion.
  • 1971 – 1973 – Laos – Invasion by US and South Vietnames forces.
  • 1973 – Chile – CIA-backed military coup ousts government of President Salvador Allende. Gen. Augusto Pinochet comes to power.
  • 1975 – Cambodia – Marines land, engage in combat with government forces.
  • 1976 – 1992 – Angola – Military and CIA operations.
  • 1980 – Iran – Special operations units land in Iranian desert. Helicopter malfunction leads to aborting of planned raid.
  • 1981 – Libya – Naval jets shoot down two Libyan jets in maneuvers over the Mediterranean.
  • 1981 – 1992 – El Salvador – CIA and special forces begin a long counterinsurgency campaign.
  • 1981 – 1990 – Nicaragua – CIA directs exile “Contra” operations. US air units drop sea mines in harbors.
  • 1982 – 1984 – Lebanon – Marines land and naval forces fire on local combatants.
  • 1983 – Grenada – Military forces invade Grenada.
  • 1983 – 1989 – Honduras – Large program of military assistance aimed at conflict in Nicaragua.
  • 1984 – Iran – Two Iranian jets shot down over the Persian Gulf.
  • 1986 – Libya – US aircraft bomb the cities of Tripoli and Benghazi, including direct strikes at the official residence of President Muamar al Qadaffi.
  • 1986 – Bolivia – Special Forces units engage in counter-insurgency.
  • 1987 – 1988 – Iran – Naval forces block Iranian shipping. Civilian airliner shot down by missile cruiser.
  • 1989 – Libya – Naval aircraft shoot down two Libyan jets over Gulf of Sidra.
  • 1989 – Philippines – CIA and Special Forces involved in counterinsurgency.
  • 1989 – 1990 – Panama – 27,000 troops as well as naval and air power used to overthrow government of President Noriega.
  • 1990 – Liberia – Troops deployed.
  • 1990 – 1991 – Iraq – Major military operation, including naval blockade, air strikes; large number of troops attack Iraqi forces in occupied Kuwait.
  • 1991 – 2003 – Iraq – Control of Iraqi airspace in north and south of the country with periodic attacks on air and ground targets.
  • 1991 – Haiti – CIA-backed military coup ousts President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.
  • 1992 – 1994 – Somalia – Special operations forces intervene.
  • 1992 – 1994 – Yugoslavia – Major role in NATO blockade of Serbia and Montenegro.
  • 1993 – 1995 – Bosnia – Active military involvement with air and ground forces.
  • 1994 – 1996 – Haiti – Troops depose military rulers and restore President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to office.
  • 1995 – Croatia – Krajina Serb airfields attacked.
  • 1996 – 1997 – Zaire (Congo) – Marines involved in operations in eastern region of the country.
  • 1997 – Liberia – Troops deployed.
  • 1998 – Sudan – Air strikes destroy country’s major pharmaceutical plant.
  • 1998 – Afghanistan – Attack on targets in the country.
  • 1998 – Iraq – Four days of intensive air and missile strikes.
  • 1999 – Yugoslavia – Major involvement in NATO air strikes.
  • 2001 – Macedonia – NATO troops shift and partially disarm Albanian rebels.
  • 2001 – Afghanistan – Air attacks and ground operations oust Taliban government and install a new regime.
  • 2003 – Iraq – Invasion with large ground, air and naval forces ousts government of Saddam Hussein and establishes new government.
  • 2003 – present – Iraq – Occupation force of 150,000 troops in protracted counter-insurgency war
  • 2004 – Haiti – Marines land. CIA-backed forces overthrow President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

Of course that’s the price of freedom isn’t it? World’s police force eh? Or perhaps more the actions of a country that is hell-bent on completely safeguarding its interests at all costs despite the price in human terms.

Song Of The Day ~ Big Audio Dynamite – E=mc²

Original Comments:


fiordizucca made this comment,
happy new year Barone 😉
comment added :: 4th January 2006, 15:43 GMT+01 :: http://fiordizucca.blogspot.com

John made this comment,
I believe that it was the British who invented ‘gunboat diplomacy’ but the Americans are now the masters of ‘gunpoint democracy’.
comment added :: 7th January 2006, 17:09 GMT+01 :: http://bigjohn.blog-city.com/

The Fat Boy made this comment,
RedBaron, I don’t agree with your political opinions, but you write well. Do you write for newspapers? Have you considered it?
-Redbaron responds – Thank you for the compliment, I do not write for newspapers at least not on politics or the like because I have a fundamental aversion to doing what I am told. I have written on more boring stuff but it isn’t nearly as fun!-

comment added :: 9th January 2006, 13:12 GMT+01 :: http://spongeblog.blog-city.com