Friday, August 31, 2012

"To the Russian people both these gentlemen are criminals and thieves."
Russian political analyst Andrei Piontkovsky on the Abramovich-Berezovsky court case over the division of the spoils.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Extracted from an article by Martin Kettle published in July 1209:
If you take nothing else away from reading this, please take this one amazing fact. Health spending accounts for 16% of America's GDP (the figure for the UK is 8.4%) and is projected by some to rise to 20% by 2017. Put another way, this means that health spending currently accounts for a sixth of the entire US economy and within a decade will account for a fifth. Since the US already spends around $2 trillion of its total annual wealth on healthcare this means that US health spending exceeds the entire annual GDP of nations such as Brazil or Italy. If the US healthcare system was itself a country, it would be a member of the G20 and probably even the G8.
The big difference between Americans and Europeans is not quality of health or quality of treatment but the difference in healthcare costs. In the US, hospital care, outpatient care and medicines all cost far more than they cost elsewhere

Shrewd geezer that Mo Farah.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

(Artwork by ATOS Miracles)
I learned from this morning's news that these abusers of the weak and vulnerable are sponsors of the Paralympics. Chutzpah to the Nth degree!

Monday, August 27, 2012

I cannot be the only person in the United Kingdom who is sick to death of seeing photographs of Mo Farah* making that ridiculous gesture while grinning like a wolf. Now that his wife has given birth in a British hospital, thereby saving him a fortune, isn't it time for him to return to his chosen home - the United States?
There were two photographs of the man making a tit of himself in my morning paper, and a bonus one of eminently slappable Frankie Dettori (or Frankie the Tory) going for the tit look.

*That's Mo for Mohammed, but let's keep it short in these Islamophobic times. Mo pimps for various multinational companies and is probably very rich, but those US medical bills can cause even a rich man to shop around.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Leave me alone; everybody takes drugs."
(Jacques Anquetil, winner of five Tours de France in the 1950s and 60s)

Friday, August 24, 2012

What a mess!

If Lance Armstrong is stripped of all of his Tour de France wins, what then? I agree with Gilbert Duclos-Lassalle, who rode the Tour in the seventies, eighties and nineties - too late, leave well alone.
"Ça arrive trop tard. Pour moi, c'est fini, c'est oublié. Je ne dis pas qu'il ne s'est pas dopé, je ne dis pas qu'il s'est dopé, je dis simplement qu'on le déclasse trop tard".
When the Irish government recognised clan chiefs (honorary status, no precedence or privilege), there were a couple of chiefs whose titles might be open to challenge from some long-lost kinsman. Their recognition was granted "with reservation". It might be better to retain Lance A's honours, but "with reservation". Otherwise, I repeat, what a mess.
As the author of this article points out, if Armstrong is stripped of the yellow jersey for the year 2000, then one must go back to the eighth-placed rider to find a competitor who hasn't been embroiled in one or another doping scandal - e.g., Puerto, Festina.
Jan Ullrich was second to Armstrong in 2000, 2001, and 2003, but he was later banned for life (after retirement) as a result of his involvement in such affairs.

Though one (i.e., I) must feel sympathy for a man who appears to be drawing fire that should be directed at a whole team, including its medical staff and management, it seems that Armstrong did little to make friends among his peers, or earn their support in his hour of need -
"Il a eu beaucoup de succès, beaucoup de talent et aussi une façon de pratiquer son sport qui n'a pas plu à tout le monde." (Laurent Jalabert)

Addendum, 25.8.12
It looks like the International body, UCI, is claiming that USADA has overstepped the mark on this, so the matter is not settled. Article here.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Some details of the Marikana strike from an IWW member in South Africa. We now know, of course, that many more than 18 strikers were killed.

I thought I'd put together some notes on the Marikana massacre that
happened today.

On Friday (10 August) a wildcat strike began at Lonmin's Marikana
platinum mine (Marikana is a small mining town - population under 1000 -
in the North West province, about 60km West of Pretoria). This strike
was started by some 3000 rock drillers, miners who are in the lowest pay
grades at the mine and who have been left out of a recent pay rise.
Currently rock drill operators earn R 4000 a month, and the strikers are
calling for an increase to R 12 000. By Monday night some 10 people were
dead: six miners, two police officers and two mine security guards. The
workers continued with their strike, attracting increasing support. By
today there were some 4000 strikers gathered on a hilltop that had
become their "base". Police - including the SWAT-like Special Task
Force - tried to violently disperse the striking miners, and opened fire
on them with live ammunition. Many were killed - some media sources
report 18 dead. The strikers have apparently regrouped in an informal
settlement near the hilltop they occupied.

Background to this is tension between the National Union of Mineworkers
(NUM), the COSATU-affiliated mineworkers union (membership 300 000) and
the Assocation of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU). AMCU is a
more radical union that split off from NUM and now has some 50 000
members. At Lonmin AMCU claims 21% of the company's 28 000 employees,
and is the majority union at some of its operations (e.g. the Karee
mine). AMCU's strength is mostly in the lower pay grades. AMCU did not,
however, officially call Friday's strike and the extent to which they
can speak for the strikers (or call off the strike) is not clear.

NUM's role has been extremely reactionary. On Monday NUM General
Secretary Frank Baleni "call[ed] for the deployment of a special task
force or the SANDF to deal decisively with the criminal elements in
Rustenburg and its surrounding mines". Today NUM denounced a Lonmin plan
to make a deal with rock drill operators, offering a R 750 a month
"allowance": - presumably this (pittance of a) deal
was an attempt to deflect anger at not being included in the recent pay
rise that NUM negotiated.

Lonmin is a 100 year old company (incorporated in 1909) with nearly $ 2
billion in annual revenue. Even in the 1970s they were denounced by UK
Conservative Prime Minister Edward Heath as the "unacceptable face of
capitalism" (presumably because of their role in Rhodesian sanctions
busting). Their headquarters are in London:

Lonmin Plc
4 Grosvenor Place

Tel: +44 (0)20 7201 6000
Fax: +44 (0)20 7201 6100

and their SA headquarters are in:

1st Floor
34 Melrose Boulevard
Melrose Arch
Republic of South Africa

Tel: +27 (0)11 218 8300
Fax: +27 (0)11 218 8310

Friday, August 17, 2012

A statement of the striking miners in Marikana, South Africa. The inter-union killings reported by the British media are attacks by the National Union of Miners on the strikers who have formed a breakaway union to defend the miners in a way that the NUM does not. The NUM is tied in with the ANC government, and the killers, like the police, are doing the ANC's bidding.
The emphasis in the statement was added by me, as I recall protesting over Sharpeville.

Abahlali baseMjondolo Press statement

Solidarity with Mine Workers at Marikana Platinum

Abahlali baseMjondolo are deeply shocked by the murderous cruelty of the South
African police, and those that give the police their orders, at the Marikana
Platinum Mine in the North West. The killing of more than 40 mine workers
yesterday by the SAPS is immoral and brings great disgrace on our country.
There were other ways and much better ways to handle the situation. Yesterday
will always be remembered as a dark day in the long history of oppression in
South Africa.

We wish to express our solidarity to all the families of the workers that have
been killed and injured. We share your sorrow. You are not alone. We carry our
pain together. Your children may not grow knowing their fathers but they will
not grow alone. We have to care for each other and stand together as we
struggle for a world that puts human beings first and treats all human beings
equally. We wish to express our solidarity to all struggling workers. We face
the same system that makes some people rich and others poor. We face the same
government that refuses to recognise our humanity, which tries to force us to
the margins of society and which represses us when we resist.

The ANC have shown no regard for the people of this country. They are putting
us in transit camps and trying to keep us in bantustans. They are leaving us
to burn in our shacks every winter. They are beating us in the police
stations. They are shooting us in the streets. Millions of us cannot find
work. A government that kills its citizens is immoral and must be opposed by
everyone. A government that kills its citizens has lost all moral right to
govern. What happened yesterday is no different from the killings of the
apartheid government. This is no different to the Sharpeville massacre in 1960
which claimed 69 lives. It is no different to the Boipotong massacre in 1992
which claimed 45 lives.

Millions of people have suffered in their shacks and millions have suffered
with work and without work year after year. Some shack dwellers are also
workers and sometimes shack dwellers are too poor to be workers. But we have
all suffered enough at the hands of the police, at the hands of politicians
and at the hands of the rich. It has always been our call that real freedom
and democracy are still a dream for the poor and the working class. All we see
is politicians enriching themselves by stealing public funds that are meant to
better people’s lives. All we see is that the new government keeps on with
many of the worst policies of the old government. All we see is that our
struggles are criminalised and repressed. The progressive middle classes are
struggling to defend the freedom and democracy that they received in 1994. We
are still struggling for freedom and democracy to come.

More than twenty five people have been killed by the police during protests
since 2000. Tebogo Mkhonza in Harrismith, Monica Ngcobo in Umlazi and Andries
Tatane in Ficksburg are just three of the people that have been murdered in
the streets by the police. Activists have been tortured and assassinated. Our
movement, like the Landless People’s Movement and the Unemployed People’s
Movement, has been attacked in the night by armed men representing the ruling
party. For months after our movement was attacked in the Kennedy Road
settlement in Durban in 2009 the homes of our leading members were openly
destroyed every weekend while the police refused to intervene. Last year Nigel
Gumede, the Head of Housing in eThekwini, publicly said that the ANC was at
war with our movement and threatened to kill S’bu Zikode. Senior people in the
ANC have set a clear tone for the rest to follow. Poor people have been
encouraged to attack and kill each other in the name of ethnicity and
nationality. It is time to say enough. It is time to say no more. It is high
time that all progressive forces join hands to curb this carnage. It is high
time that all progressive forces join hands in a struggle for real justice and
real democracy.

We have to recognise that there is a war against the poor in this country. We
did not want this war but it has come to us. Today no one can deny that a war
is being fought against the poor. The red ants and the police are not here to
serve the people. They are here to drive the poor out of the cities, contain
us in the human dumping grounds and repress our struggles. We have to stop
pretending that the politicians are our comrades when they have chosen to make
themselves our enemies. We have to fight the war that has come to us. And we
have to fight it in a way that puts human dignity and the equality of all
people at the start of our struggle and at the heart of our struggle.

We are aware of the dangers of the South African politic when struggling
citizens demand real freedom and democracy. Activists are living under serious
threats all over the country. We are aware of the time bomb that the shack
dwellers in this country are sitting on. We have always warned, from the time
when we first started to organise, that the anger of the poor can go in many
directions. The dangers that we face can come from how people respond to
oppression as well as from oppression itself.

There is more protest in South Africa than in anywhere in the world. But the
government takes no notice of the people. It responds by militarising the
police. It responds by talking about third forces. The local party structures
send out armed men in the night. The government wants to make the anger of the
people criminal and treasonous. It works behind the scenes to support the
armed men that invade our homes and threaten us and our families. We have to
accept that this government does not care about us. We do not count to it.
When we ask to be heard we are treated as criminals and traitors.

Abahlali baseMjondolo of the Western Cape will march to the National
parliament in Cape Town at 3:00 p.m. this afternoon together with comrades
from other organisations. In Durban we will hold conversations with different
structures of our movement and our comrades in other organisations, as well as
the churches, to plan a way forward. Global Peace and Justice Auckland in New
Zealand will be marching to the South African embassy in Auckland at 1
Kimberly Road at 2pm today. Our comrades in Cape Town and New Zealand march
with our solidarity.

We all have to stand together. A war has come to us and we must fight it in a
way that makes sure that we never turn into our enemies. We must fight this
war in a way that puts humanity against brutality and never in a way that puts
one brutality against another. Once your struggle starts to make you like your
enemies everything is lost. A politic of war has come to us. We have no choice
but to resist. But we must resist with our own politic which is a militant
people's politic that starts and ends by honouring the dignity of all people.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Striking cleaners win victory against John Lewis
"Cleaners at the flag ship John Lewis store on Oxford Street have won a fantastic victory against job cuts and low pay. The management have now agreed to withdraw, totally, plans for mass compulsory redundancy, and to give cleaners 10% pay rise, backdated to March – following a strike by staff who had organised themselves within the IWW."

Three news stories that have recurred throughout my lifetime - or the last sixty years, at least -

i) Archeologists have uncovered the remains of Noah's Ark on Mount Ararat.
I've read this one four times over the decades.

ii) A cure for cancer will be found very soon (usually within months).
Cynics claim that this one is trotted out when the donations toward research are drying up.

iii)Hunger will be eradicated from the planet within x years.
We wait, and wait, and ...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

(Mike Peters the artist, lifted from facebook)
As some smartarse pointed out, Goldman Sachs is not a sentence. No, that should be life without parole.
I'm reminded of another classroom exchange, fictional, from my boyhood -
Teacher: Construct a sentence containing the words 'analyse' and 'anatomy'.
Pupil: My analyse over the ocean, so bring back my anatomy.

"In the parlance of our times" the word 'pupil' has been replaced by 'student'. I strive to preserve my old world charm.

Monday, August 13, 2012

On a local website the question was asked, "Is Luke Campbell's the first Olympic gold to come to Hull?" Not being a member I couldn't comment on the query, so I'll write something here. You never know, once it's out there some interested person might find it.
It has been mentioned (often) that Luke's is the first medal for Britain at bantamweight since London 1908. Well that same year was the one that saw a Hull resident win Olympic gold.
Con O'Kelly, born in Ireland but serving in the Hull Police Fire Brigade, won gold wrestling at freestyle heavyweight. Natives of Ireland were officially British at that time, so there was no Irish squad, and Con's medal was a British win. 'Big Con' as he was known, was the father of Young Con O'Kelly, an Olympian at the 1924 games in Paris. He boxed at heavyweight but didn't progress. Con turned pro that same year and boxed until 1938, after which he entered the priesthood (now there's a turn-up!).

I'd like to give an honorary mention here to Roger Tighe, not an Olympic champion but a gold medallist at the 1966 Commonwealth Games, boxing at light heavyweight. Roger went to my old school, as, incidentally, did Young Con O'Kelly.

The photograph was lifted from wikipedia, where (I've just learned) Big Con has an entry. Full details of the careers of the O'Kellys, father and son, are recorded along with many photographs, in the book "The Fighting O'Kellys" by Michael E. Ulyatt (Hutton Press, 1991).

Any town that produced an Olympic gold medal winner can have a gold painted post box, courtesy of GPO, or whatever they call themselves nowadays. But only Hull can have a golden telephone box. This is because our kiosks don't belong to BT, or whatever it calls itself nowadays. They used to belong to the people of Hull until Thatcher forced us to sell it off to the privateers. Now it belongs to God knows who. Last time I heard some French outfit owned it, not, one hopes, criminals such as ATOS (who cull Britain's weak and helpless), or Veolia (the poisoners of Palestinian land).
The story of the Hull area telephone system is an interesting one. The city was a pioneer in the field, and continued in the forefront ("the cutting edge") of telecommunications until fairly recently. Now it's just another moneygrubbing outfit with shareholders to pacify and customers to fob off. Still independent of the national network however.

There may be something on the Hull Telephone Service/Kingston Communications on wikipedia.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

BRAVO! BRAVISSIMO! Luke Campbell, Olympic gold medalist*, and he did it in style. It was a close fight though, the Irish lad kept up the pressure.

More later, I don't feel well enough at the moment.

*So, medalist or medallist? As a resister of the wholesale adaption of American-English this side of the Western Ocean I should know better. I blame my lack of vigilance on illness (I might get away with it).

Friday, August 10, 2012

Well done, young Luke!
The Campbell boy done good, guaranteed silver and a shot at gold. The final bout, against John Joe Nevin, will be a lot tougher, I fancy. When they met last year the result was a tied score leading to a countback which gave the West Hull lad the edge.

Thursday, August 09, 2012

(A Friend of Jeremy Hunt. Let's hope he hasn't forgotten the brown envelope)

Energy firm ditches occupation profiteer G4S
(Link below)

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

I want my
I want my
I want my MP3
(Apologies to Mark Knopfler)

I do miss that little gadget. I got it for my 70th birthday, so it lasted almost four years. It has helped me through those nuits blanches (ever more common) when a decent quota of shuteye escaped me. Instead of blundering about the house, or trying to concentrate on crosswords and cocking them up, I could lie in bed waking and dozing, listening to a random selection of music on a very low volume; it stopped me thinking about all my problems.
No more.

Funny thing -
I had the music on one night just before the thing let me down, half listening, when I got a surprise - the Inkspots were serenading me with "If I didn't care". THE INKSPOTS. Where did they come from? I looked at the little screen and it informed me that I was listening to Dobie Gray singing "Drift Away". Now I know that that track is on there, but it too must be sailing under false colours, as there was only one track under that name, and it was the Inkspot impostor.
Nothing against the Inkspots, but they were gatecrashers and had to go. But I still don't know how they got there.
Now they've all gone, and I'm back blundering and staring bleary eyed at messed up crosswords.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Young Luke Campbell through to the semi-finals in the Bantamweight class at the McDolympics, and guaranteed a medal.
That's Luke Campbell of the St. Paul's Boxing Club in Hull.

Or, as Junk food salesman Lineker put it, "the young Scot".
Or, as the BBC sport website had it, Luke Campbell of Liverpool.
Or, as someone else claimed, Luke Campbell of the St. Paul's Club, Great Yarmouth.

The Liverpool gaffe has since disappeared from the BBC website, and Lineker reckons the young fellow has "a Hull of a chance" of winning gold. So, one assumes, these people have heard of Kingston upon Hull, just don't like to mention it.
The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب: The New York Times confuses `Alawites with Alevis: ""Many Turkish Alawites, estimated at 15 million to 20 million strong and one of the biggest minorities in this country, seem to be solidl...

The New York Times and Hasbara is not alone. I've yet to learn the difference between these two secretive sects that are known by the same name, Alevi (Turkish) or Alawi (Arabic). Their reluctance to reveal their beliefs to outsiders is understandable, as they are regarded as heretics by Sunni Muslims. Heresy carries a death sentence in the Umma, though few Muslims would be willing to enforce that penalty.
The heretical sects of Islam practice taqiyya, which involves eschewing outward display of their beliefs, and making no attempt to promote their faith to non-adherents. Naturally they prefer to live under a secular government, the alternative being Sunni domination, and the possibility of persecution and pogroms. As is well known the Syrian rebel forces include an al-Qa'idah militia, and the main rebel force is backed by the Wahhabi Saaudis. Neither of these forces would have any qualms about massacring heretics, they would consider it their religious duty.

On the difference between Alevi and Alawi: as both sects are secretive there can be no discussion of differences or similarities in beliefs. So if they were two branches of the same religion that had grown apart over the centuries, how could they know?

Thursday, August 02, 2012


I miss the old fellow already. I feel like I've lost a relative. My favourite American, ahead even of Noam Chomsky and Muhammad Ali.
I admired and enjoyed his non-fiction, essays and memoirs. I also liked his political historical fiction - Burr, 1876, Lincoln. What little I know about US history I learned in great part from Vidal (plus some from Dee Brown, Philip S. Foner, and FW Fred Thompson).
It is his television interviews and other small screen excursions that bring the man to life; magisterial, patrician, erudite, witty. "Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn." Well, he pulled that off, though much of that style was, I believe, a pose. He developed a character, the cold, contemptuous aristo; wrote his own script, and delivered it word perfect. All pour épater les bourgeois, and he certainly succeeded in that endeavour. The outraged comments tagged on to articles remembering the man record the snarls of rabid rightists and heretic-burners. They are out in force. "Light the faggots and burn the faggot". Too late for that, but not too late to attack his reputation.
I also enjoyed his film appearances: the doomed liberal president in "Bob Roberts"; the Episcopalian cleric and exasperated headmaster in his nephew's film "Igby Goes Down" (great film, by the way).

"The great unmentionable evil at the centre of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric bronze age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved – Judaism, Christianity, Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal – God is the Omnipotent Father – hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is in place not for just one tribe but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good. Ultimately, totalitarianism is the only sort of politics that can truly serve the sky-god's purpose." (Gore Vidal)

I bet that played well in Gainesville, Florida. The Quran burning pastor will be stocking up on lighter fuel. I suppose Gore had no qualms, believing as he did that Americans don't read. In fact he once claimed that his compatriots were " ... the worst-educated people in the First World."