Friday, May 28, 2010

Civil Liberties Under the Coalition

An article in the latest SchNews
Nick ‘Extra’ Clegg made much of civil liberties during his ‘big bang’ damp squib policy launch
last week.
However, it was an altogether more traditional Tory approach actually on the streets this week
(25th) as cops evicted the Democracy Village protest camp at Parliament Square (see Sch-
NEWS 722). Well you can’t have the hoy polloi mooching around looking untidy when the Queen’s coming for the State opening of Parliament. Not even when her speech itself promised the “return of the right to peaceful protest.” It seems cops sprung into action at the behest of London Mayor Boris Johnson, who’d clearly been rifling through Red Ken’s dusty old filing cabinets before finding some old GLA bye-laws to use to say bye bye to the camp which had successfully made the square home since May 1st.
But clearing away the anti-Afghan war protesters wasn’t enough - police also arrested and
detained more permanent parliament resident Brian Haw, and his right hand fellow anti-Iraq
war protester, Barbara Tucker.
Despite Brian having previously been arrested numerous times for no good reason - as well as
having his possessions illegally seized and trashed - before later being repeatedly vindicated in court (see SchNEWS 609, 607), cops were not at all hesitant when Brian asked to see a warrant and tried to fi lm them after they turned up fi rst thing in the morning demanding to search his tent. Despite Brian currently being on crutches, cops weren’t slow to roughly seize him for not getting out of the way quick enough – thus ‘obstructing police’ and they carted him and Barbara off for a pointless day of discomfort in the cells. Both were held for just over 24 hours before being unconditionally bailed til July. They are now safely back in the Square – but at least her maj’ didn’t haven’t to glimpse him from her car window as she went by...
Video of Brian’s arrest:

Wake Up!! It's Yer Way Off The Charter...

SchNEWS Issue 724, Friday 28th May 2010

Read this issue online (from noon Saturday):

We encourage you to print, copy and distribute the SchNEWS
wherever you can...

I've been forgetting to post this lately - not a deliberate thing you understand - just an oversight. 

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Principles or Power?

The LibDems need to make their mind up. They can't remain shackled to this right wing Tory administration any longer, surely?

It's taken less than two weeks for the first cracks to show. I'm pleased to see the increasingly smug LibDems crash and burn, but less happy for outlook of civil rights once the Tories are back in complete control.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Here Hair Here

"A grassroots organisation is leading a Facebook campaign calling for any spare hair to help stem the spread of the vast oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico.
American NGO Matter of Trust is calling on the world's hair dressers to donate their clippings.
Matter of Trust is stuffing the hair it receives into old tights and using these as home-made booms to contain the spill.
Although the low-fi idea may seem far fetched, hair - as well as wool and animal fur - is extremely effective at soaking up oil, this is why we have to shampoo it so often.
Mountains of hair have been used to good effect in the past to tackle spills - in 2006 inmates in Filipino prisons had their heads shaved to help mop up the worst spill in the country's history.
Matter of Trust says it has already received donations of tonnes of hair from all 50 US states and several other countries.
It has teams of volunteers working in warehouses along the coast stuffing hair into stockings while those keen to help along the Gulf Coast are hosting barber-cue parties where heads are shaved while they flip burgers.

Maybe all BP's employees should have their heads shaved.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The New coalition's Manifesto

OK - now we have an unholy alliance in charge - I guess it's time to make the best of what we've got. This - picked from the guardian's political blog - is what I see as the highlights of the new programme:

• A great repeal or freedom bill to scrap the ID card scheme and the national identity register and the next generation of biometric passports

• Extending the scope of the Freedom of Information bill to provide greater transparency

* Adopt protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database

• Protecting trial by jury

• Reviewing libel laws to protect freedom of speech

• Further regulation of CCTV and other items

• Measures to boost economy in key areas such as low-carbon industries and investment in infrastructure. A green investment bank, a smart grid, retention of energy performance certificates while scrapping home information packs.

Banking reform

• A banking levy will be introduced.

• Bonuses will be tackled.

• A "more competitive banking industry".

• More credit to flow to businesses. The proposals of the respective parties will be looked at before deciding which is the better one.

• An independent commission will be set up to consider Lib Dem proposals to separate retail and investment banking and the Tories' proposals for a quasi separation. An interim report will be published within a year.

• The Bank of England could be given control of macro prudential regulation and oversight of micro prudential regulation under proposals to be put forward.

• Referendum to bring in some form of alternative vote system. Coalition members will be subject to three-line whip to force the legislation for a referendum through, but they will be free to campaign against the reforms before referendum.

• Reducing the tax burden on low earners. This could go some way towards the Lib Dem aim of lifting tax threshold to £10,000.

• A wholly or mainly elected house of Lords.

From the No 2 ID website

NO2ID comment:
By midday on 7th May 2010, as we write this, who will form the next government of the UK is unclear, but the popular mandate on ID cards is unanswerable. Of 622 seats declared, 370 have MPs who stood on a manifesto commitment to scrap the ID scheme. The popular vote is even more decisive: those parties opposed to the scheme took 19.1 million votes in those seats where we know the results. That is 70% of the poll. [source: BBC]
All that is without counting those on the Labour benches whom we know to be skeptical of or outright opposed to the assault on liberty and privacy presented by the National Identity Register.
This Parliament has been elected with a mandate to repeal the Identity Cards Act 2006. Implicit in that is a promise not to let any alternative scheme grow up. MPs must also block any Home Office attempt to use 'passport modernisation' to create a de facto national database.
Whatever you voted, please help NO2ID ensure that this mandate is respected.
UPDATE, 8th MAY 2010: With just one seat left to declare, 384 constituencies across the UK are now represented by MPs who stood on a manifesto commitment to scrap ID cards. Parties opposed to the ID scheme took almost 20.7 million votes, or 69.7% of the poll. [source: BBC]

So - it looks like ID cards are on the way out. I wonder - it could be naivety on the part of the Lib Dems here; have they considered the international ramifications. ID cards and the Database State are being driven by Europe...I wouldn't be surprised to see ID cards come back in a new guise.

Also - the coalition, especially the Lib Dems - would do well to remember that civil liberties that only benefit the well off are not civil liberties at all. If the rich poor divide is not reduced then they are worthless reforms. The opposite in fact - while the wealthy exert their rights the poor will be left even further behind. Civil liberties are worthless if you live trapped on a crumbling council estate without work or prospects of improving your education; or for those working long hours and getting deeper in debt every day that passes, barely able to afford to pay your bills and feed your children, never mind finding time to become an active citizen.

I remain a socialist in that respect - unless we make society more equal then all other reforms are a waste of time.

And nowhere do I see the biggest injustice of all being challenged - the mighty rule of the corporation, which gives us such benefits as an extremely biased media, dumbed down popular culture, corrupt politicians, an eternal war for oil and gas, dodgy arms deals, monoculture on our high streets and in our cities, gradual creeping privatisation of common resource, massive tax avoidance and syphoning off of wealth to tax free havens, the imperative for a dumbed down easily exploited work force, etc. etc.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Good Point Well Made

"The puzzle was that so few had seen it coming. Seemingly every pundit and reporter had spent the day either quacking that the Con-Lib negotiations were looking very positive, or warning that we must avoid upsetting the markets – prompting one esteemed colleague to remark that if we were take this mollycoddling of the markets' obsession with stability to its logical conclusion, perhaps we shouldn't have elections at all."

It has been irking me somewhat, especially that the BBC have been relating every event in this election back to what the markets think as if this doesn't actually scare people into voting for what they know rather than what they want.

Anyone who reads Chomsky will know what happens when the market gets precedence over democracy - read Germany, Italy in the 1930s, Spain until the 1970s, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, any number of neo-Nazi states, some still in existence around the globe, who allowed private profit to come before democratic rights.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Goodbye Gordon

Glad to see Brown resigning. This is a strategic masterstroke in my opinion. With Brown out of the way there is nothing to stop the Lib Dems from working with Labour - and ensuring the 64% majority in the UK who voted for progression and not the Tories are represented by a government who broadly represents their views.

Maybe with a new leader and some popular policies, Labour might just win an election outright in 6 months time.

Add to that those - like me - who felt that no party met their needs - and did not vote - about 35% of the population did not vote and I would expect that many old Labour supporters found themselves unable to vote for Brown, but also unable to vote for anyone else.

If I knew Brown was going I may well have voted Labour.

BP Greenwash Spoof

Very amusing.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

South Devon

A little ride today around the south Devon coast - Bigbury, Salcombe, Slapton Sands and then back to Plymouth.

It brought back flashes of memories from when I used to cycle round this area back in the early 80s. Very little has changed.

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Hung Parliament

I suppose I have to comment on this at some point. I've been having lots of thoughts since the election campaign began - none of them easy to resolve or set to paper unfortunately - but to keep things simple - my thought today....
I agree with Tony Benn - my immediate belief is that the Lib Dems cannot do a deal with Cameron that means they stand by and prop him up in power while they slash and burn public services. It will destroy the Lib Dems - and I'm sure they will split down the middle and be effectively finished for a generation - or two.
their only chance is to support Gordon Brown - keep a labour party in power, and by their support ensure that Labour's policies vis a vis the economy, banks, big corporations is a bit more enlightened than it has been since 1997.
The rows going on between Brown and Clegg - raised voices etc. - are presumably because the Lib Dems are asking for a bit too much for a party who came third.
If they get electoral and bank reform - without a massacre being committed against the public sector they should be happy - I know I will be.

Andrew Collins has Moved

but I've only just noticed //

It's not an utterly rivetting blog (not like mine I mean ;) - but it can be interesting - and worth reading regularly especially if you're into not quite popular culture like I am.

Also new today - the world's largest beaver dam.

Oh - and something about a hung parliament and no government or something.....

Friday, May 07, 2010

Dartmoor Two

Woke up in empty YH - ate yesterday's lunch for breakfast.
My legs ached but I felt better this morning than yesterday when I set off. Had to first of all hand my keys in to the main YH building by the station then off onto the Granite Way.

Sunny - no wind. Glorious. Made my way to Lydford without incident. Castle (below).

- by the way - click on the photos and they SHOULD become bigger.

Soon after Lydford I was on Dartmoor proper again. to my right the little church on the hill. See panarama's below for an idea of the rather marvellous view to be had along this stretch of road.

Stag beetles. I saw two. I also saw lots of rabbits and a stoat running along beside me for a bit - till he realised I was there and panicked, diving into some undergrowth.

The off road routes were variable - this is a stretch between Mary and Peter Tavy. Who they?
Peter Tavy = proper chocolate box west Dartmoor village. All the years I lived round here and I never knew such places really existed...although my family on my mother's side originate from around here...they left these villages behind in the 19th century. Plymouth drew people in from miles around - the promise of jobs and decent living standards acted like a magnet.

It was upwards and upwards as I headed on towards Godsworthy - on a dirt road through fields of sheep with newly born lambs.
The locals weren't happy about my being there, especially with their lambs about.
I turned right through a farm, deserted, and yet so clearly working with materials and equipment scattered about in the yard...two men in the distance driving quad bikes around a field, apparently to steer the sheep into the upper field...and it was working...who needs sheepdogs these days? Then it was a steep climb up a muddy road through another deserted yet working farm - this time with dogs - and up and up finally onto a proper tarmac road, with a visitor's car parked and an impatient horse rider who'd stopped her horse and was waiting for me to pass.
The hill in front of me was Cox Tor and I followed the road around its contours - relishing the flatness and having the wind behind me I sailed along passing ice cream vans and car parking areas until I reached the main road between Tavistock and Princetown.
It was a relatively steep climb, wind against me once more, miltary helicopter flying overhead, I stopped for some food and a quick piss. Then onwards towards Princetown on what was probably the most inhospitable road on dartmoor - not even able to freewheel downhill thanks to the tremendous wind - I kept on pedalling. Finally, it was a steep downhill to Merrivale, which sounds like it's straight out of the Shire, where the hobbits live in Lord of The rings, but in reality it's a couple of rundown farms and a shop. I decided instead of continuing in this icy wind all the way to Princetown, I took a right turn onto a public bridleway heading south. It was reasonably easy at first but became harder as I went on...eventually I had to give up on any fancy ideas of actually off and walked it pushing the bike along.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Dartmoor One

I set off from Plymouth at 10 am and headed up the Sustrans path from Marsh Mills to Clearbrook. The weather outlook was poor, it was that sort of relentless drizzle that wears down the most hardened cyclists eventually. The path to Clearbrook is a professional job - very well executed, smooth, very pleasent to cycle along.

Princetown - French kids. I bought a map "Dartmoor and Surrounding Area for cyclists".

I took a wrong turn after Princetown and ended up heading towards Dartmeet. I could have turned back but instead decided to take off on an off-road route marked as difficult on the map.

Paths had eroded quite badly - I'm not sure that even the most experienced mountain biker could have passed along much of this path. After carrying the bike across stepping stones, and waded through a river, trudged through a cow field, I made it back to a tarmac road.

The rain never relented. I kept going - often having to get off and push up the steeper hills in the Chagford area.