07 February 2011

07/02/11


Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities. Truth isn't. 
-Mark Twain

117 comments:

  1. Thanks to MsChin for filling in for me. Feeling like crap.

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  2. Hang in there Montana, Spring is on its way.

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  3. Get well soon Montana.

    Shocking news about Gary Moore.

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  4. He’s more often than not a bit of a contrary for the sake of it dick, but Brendan O’Neill is bang on the money here.

    Breathtaking comments by David Cesarani:

    “Professor Cesarani said that if one takes the “wholly pragmatic view”, then “the outcome of a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown is desirable and is predictable”. Because, he said, “if you allow this popular democratic movement to run on unchecked, you cannot predict what’s going to happen. But you can predict probably that after a short, sharp, massive clampdown at huge human cost, there will be a sullen stability.”

    Portillo was startled. “Quite a lot of people would be quite shocked to hear what you said – that a Tiananmen-style outcome would be desirable.” Cesarani responded that “the West is no longer weeping that much over Tiananmen Square because we’re doing a lot of business with China. So, many business interests would say, quietly, that, perhaps, well the way in which the Chinese managed their transition was preferable.”

    Another panellist, Matthew Taylor, former adviser to Tony Blair and now chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, later described Cesarani’s comments on Tiananmen Square as “incredibly brave” and said: “In a way, I can see his argument.”

    There you have it- Tiananmen square was acceptable because of today’s business interests. A totalitarian state is preferable to democracy as long as the business contracts keep rolling in.

    Taylor’s reaction as an ex Blair advisor is notable. It’s fine to launch ‘shock and awe’ leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths and installing ‘democracy’, but quite something else to support a popular movement in its own attempts to establish democracy. How dare the people try to create their own democratic state? Haven’t they thought about the impact on Western business?

    Grass roots democracy- bad.
    Muscular liberal Western democracy imposed from the top- good.

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  5. Your Grace

    The Egyptian uprising really has brought the shits out of the woodwork hasn't it and exposed them for what they are. But have to say that Cesarini's comments are amongst the worst, and most bare faced so far, at least in public.

    As O'Neill says at the end:

    This is one of the brilliant things about the inspiring uprising in Egypt: it has not only exposed the illegitimacy of the Mubarak regime, but also the BS behind recent Western campaigns to “deliver democracy” to the Middle East. Because the very same politicians and commentators who talked about “democratising” Iraq now stare in horror, mouths agape, at the Egyptian masses demanding their democratic rights.

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  6. Hello - anyone around? Very quiet here this morning.

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  7. 13thDukeofWybourne

    Given that the history of China has been one of warring faction defeating warring faction followed by invasion, butchery and looting by western and then Japanese armies, civil war, Mao's great leap forward and cultural revolution, you might conclude that the "Tiananman Square crackdown" was the better of two evils.

    Yesterday you were very careful not to condemn the terror of the French Revolution in order to save the revolution and I suspect many Chinese would take the same view of their "revolution", Deng Xiaoping's "opening up", namely the one that has seen China leap to third in the world today from 11th in 1989, rather than fall back to 21st as a result of yet another internal bloody power struggle.

    Having said that I was and still am on the side of the protesters although in almost four years living here only once has someone mentioned the events of 1989.

    Sheffpixie, you quote O'Neill:

    Because the very same politicians and commentators who talked about “democratising” Iraq now stare in horror, mouths agape, at the Egyptian masses demanding their democratic rights.

    Well yesterday Cameron said:

    On Egypt, our position should be clear. We want to see the transition to a more broadly-based government, with the proper building blocks of a free and democratic society.

    Now you and I can interpret that in a number of ways and time will tell us the truth, but it isn't a statement made staring in horror with mouth agape.

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  8. Bitey

    Some of them are, quite late in the day, making more acceptable statements for public consumption but I still think O'Neill is right when he says they're actually horrified at the effect the uprising may have on their strategic interests and would prefer the status quo - and continue to live with the utter hypocrisy of it all.

    If people like Cesarani are prepared to say what he did in public, over the airwaves of the venerable R4, it makes you wonder what they're whispering to each other in private.

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  9. "It is the justification of horrors like that by idiots like Zizek that give power to the argument that change will lead to things like the Khmer Rouge.

    He is the apologist for that sort of revolution and apart from what he says being evil in itself it also gives ammunition to the right."

    Spencer
    zizek isn't an apologist nor does he justify anything he actually explains the reasons behind terror and it's use and why it is considered inevitable in certain circumstances. He dissects the "logic" of its use and the "rationale" behind it.
    He is staunchly against stalin. I think your dislike for zizek is clouding your reading of him, he actually makes very valid points, if you willing to follow his discourse.

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  10. First, thanks everyone for the birthday wishes on Friday - I've been out of circulation since, so couldn't say until now.

    @Duke, sheff

    I'll need to listen to precisely what Cesarani said; from the quote, it seems unarguable that he was right 'if one takes a wholly pragmatic view', as - for example - Ted Heath did after Tiananmen Square. It is less clear whether he actually takes that 'wholly pragmatic view' himself. I'll listen and see, and report back, although I'd be disappointed if Cesarani intended what O'Neill implies.

    And although there has been some rubbish about 'stability' from some of the usual suspects, I pointed out the other day that some pure neoconservatives follow the logic of their position and support the demonstrators.

    You might say that they are secretly horrified by events while saying something different in public, but how can we know that? We can only know what they say, and wait to see, if they have any power, what they actually do.

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  11. Children are often pretty good at ideas but frequently lack the ability to keep them grounded in reality or wonder whether they have any practical, useful function.

    "Yeah, if we wanted to go on holiday abroad but didn't have the money, we could buy loads of balloons and tie them to a cloud and hang the car from them. Then we could catch an aeroplane and scoop ice-cream from the clouds to eat and cut the car free with massive scissors operated by flocks of birds..."

    ...and stuff...

    Common sense used to be something which was valued. You hardly hear the term even mentioned any more.

    Still, why would you need it if your destiny had always been to manage the filthy, stupid poor from the moment your bleary eyes saw the world and decided that all of it was yours?

    http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5j3mBHwwL1F-t6N6vboQCjlR43nVg?docId=CNG.0f5fb2732f951a0a700eccc1dd0b6b0c.241

    Volunteering 'destroyed' by cuts: charity chief

    (AFP) – 2 hours ago

    LONDON — Government spending cuts are "destroying volunteering" in Britain and undermining Prime Minister David Cameron's "big society" plan, a charity leader warned on Monday.

    Dame Elisabeth Hoodless, the outgoing head of the Community Service Volunteers (CSV), said the government had failed to provide opportunities for people to do more in their communities, despite Cameron's vision of citizens playing a bigger role in community projects.

    "We know we need to save money, but there are other ways of saving money without destroying the volunteer army," she told The Times.

    Hoodless, who is retiring from the charity after 36 years at the helm, said she had been "very excited" by the "big society" concept announced by the Prime Minister last year.

    But "massive cuts" to council funds had actually removed opportunities for people to get involved in local projects, she said.

    Cameron's advisers lacked a "strategic plan" for the big society vision, she warned, adding that the government had overestimated the level of responsibility volunteers were willing to take on.

    "Once you close a library, there is nowhere for a volunteer to help," she said. "Few people want to be responsible for the library. Most people want to feel there's an expert on the premises. They are quite happy to issue and re-shelve the books, but taking the final responsibility is a bit more than more people want to do."

    The comments from the so-called "Mother of Volunteering" will come as a blow to the Prime Minister amid mounting scepticism over whether his flagship initiative will get off the ground.

    ..........

    You can imagine the genesis of this wonderful idea, as two thick white men in suits come up with a slogan to con a nation.

    Dave: We need something to make people think we have a vision - that we know what we are doing, basically.

    Bloke: That's going to be fucking tough, you know that?

    Dave: If we keep it simple, it might sound more convincing. Something like "Happy Holidays" or "Get Rich Quick".

    Bloke: What about "The Big Idea"! You know, like: "What's the big idea?"

    Dave: We don't want anyone asking too many questions, though, do we?

    Bloke: Big...Wheel...Big Breakfast...Big Brother...Big Cheese. Big Cheese might work.

    Dave: I've got it - Big Society!

    Bloke: Brilliant! What does it mean?

    Dave: Who gives a fuck? As long as it it distracts people from what we are actually going to do.

    Bloke: Steal from the poor and give tax money to our mates?

    Dave: Exactly!

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  12. Not all politicians are mired in corruption and banality, though.

    Some are more blatant go-getters:

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-envoys-business-link-to-egypt-2206329.html

    US envoy's business link to Egypt

    Obama scrambles to limit damage after Frank Wisner makes robust call for Mubarak to remain in place as leader.

    Frank Wisner, President Barack Obama's envoy to Cairo who infuriated the White House this weekend by urging Hosni Mubarak to remain President of Egypt, works for a New York and Washington law firm which works for the dictator's own Egyptian government.

    Mr Wisner's astonishing remarks – "President Mubarak's continued leadership is critical: it's his opportunity to write his own legacy" – shocked the democratic opposition in Egypt and called into question Mr Obama's judgement, as well as that of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

    .......

    Write your own legacy, Mr Mubarak.

    (You could borrow some stuff from Tony Blair, if you want it to be in the same "thick as pig-shit and corrupt as fuck" mould).

    Write your own pay-cheque, Mr Wisner.

    Sounds like a real doozie.

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  13. @Duke, sheff

    OK, I've listened to Cesarani and I think O'Neill's shit-stirring. He removed a section of the quote about the 'wholly pragmatic view' referring to officials in the White House and in Whitehall, and truncated it too.

    Listen for yourself here; the Cesarani segment starts at about 11:00. Although the whole programme is interesting, in fact.

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  14. PeterJ,

    I did listen to it in my break. Hmmmmmm. Can't agree with you I'm afraid. Cesarani was tortuously slow choosing his words very carefully using the "pragmatic point of view" frame. When challenged by Claire Fox that he was using a "father like" paternalism in terms of dictating to the Egyptian people what was best for them, he had no comeback- revealing that the 'pragamtic frame' he was utilising was in all probability his own beliefs.

    Also, why would Matthew Taylor describe Cesarani's argument as "incredibly brave" if he was just playing devil's advocate?

    BiteTheHand,

    I wasn’t defending the Terror yesterday, I was putting it into historical context as a chaotic reaction to internal counter revolution and external war in order to save the democratic nation state. It wasn’t a cold, calculated plan of action undertaken by a psychopath and Robespierre is by and large undeserving of the popular interpretation of him.

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  15. PeterJ and others

    Cannot listen at the moment but will try to do so later.

    We all know that businesses and the governments they tend to control have no interest in how brutal or oppressive a regime might be, as long as it is sufficiently stable and predictable for them to plan and minimise risk.

    So, from the point of view of money-making pragmatism, this is true.

    The problem is often that when we have cartoon, cardboard-cutout and caricature people holding high political and commercial offices, we tend to think that they are simply thick and could, with sufficient training, be brought round to our way of thinking.

    They may be thick in a cultural sense and we may think that their views are untenable and reprehensible - but they are operating with ruthless efficiency and effectiveness within their own world-view and belief-system.

    We probably spend too much time thinking we are able, with enough patience and loving care, to change people whose view of the world is so very different from "ours".

    Prevention may be better than cure.

    On another note, now that David Cameron is setting himself up to be seen as slithering down the slippery slope of racism and it is perfectly clear that the LibDems will never limit or ameliorate the excesses of the Neo Nasty Party, how is all this playing out at Guardian Towers, does anyone know?

    The Guardian bravely came out in favour of the Yellow Peril at the eleventh hour, when even they could see that Toynbee's eleventy gazillion articles telling us how Gordon [fill in name here when you remember it] could win an historic thirtieth term if we all just followed the instructions came apart at the Blu-Tacked seams.

    Is Ms Handmade showing any signs of embarrassment - or just a sigh of relief that all this is out in the open now and we can all look forward to going back to open racism as well as poor-bashing and sick-kicking?

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  16. @Duke

    That wasn't the impression I got, but we can agree to disagree on that - I wish I had a transcript rather than the recording so it would be easier to analyse. Yes, Taylor's description was odd; it didn't seem to follow from what had actually been said.

    I'm sort of with you on Robespierre though. Not sure about Zizek's analysis of him, but I'm still hacking through those verbal thickets to figure out what old Slavoj's actually saying.

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  17. PeterJ

    Am with His Grace on this. Am with claire Fox when she said that is certain quarters it has

    already been decided they've been unleashed into a dictatorship

    I got the impression that people like Cesarani would prefer to live with autocracy and the hypocrisy that involves, rather than get behind the Egyptians taking the risks for freedom and social justice.

    CF also suggested that "it is something to celebrate - no 'ifs' or 'buts' " and I agree.

    I do realise that we can't make any assumptions about outcomes - but getting behind the people would be an enormous help to them and the unfolding process of change, making it clear to the regime and its fellow travellers that their time is over, rather than the hand wringing and scare mongering thats currently going on.

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  18. rather than the hand wringing and scare mongering thats currently going on.

    I get the feeling there are a lot of "Western" powers that be who wish that all those pesky brown people in all those southern countries would realise that their role in life is to STFU and do what's best for Europe & the US of A.

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  19. It wasn't Taylor whom you quote, Duke, it was Portillo. Just for the record.

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  20. PeterB,

    it wasn't Portillo, it was Matthew Taylor who said Cesarani's argument was "very brave".

    Listen from 41m 15s.

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  21. Yes, but he was quoting Portillo. There is a difference.

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  22. I see that Kenan Malik agrees with your interpretation, Duke. I'll have to do my own bloody transcript to see whether it really is me that's definitively wrong again.

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  23. Was Portillo calling it brave, just listened to it.

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  24. Thankyou Jay, and even Malik agrees PeterJ. I quote:

    "Portillo, while disagreeing with Cesarani’s stance, calls it ‘extraordinarily brave’."

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  25. Hi folks - some interesting discussion while I had a brief spell in hospital (I'm Ok just my heart beating too fast and otherwisw misbehaving - they've put me on yet another drug and it seems to be working ).

    Re Zizek - watched the video - engaging character, my take on his view of violence and revolution is that it comes from the determination of the powerful to remain in power and not initially from the revolutionaries. This sadly makes revolutions inevitably bloody. Talking nicely to a man wielding a big stick just gets you a sore head or worse. 'Self defence is no offence' js a justifiable slogan for individuals or for movements that aim for true democracy, human rights, social and economic justice.

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  26. @Anne:

    ”...Talking nicely to a man wielding a big stick just gets you a sore head or worse...”

    Yes possibly, but would you be prepared to shoot him, if you had a gun in your hand? And would you be prepared to get shot back at, for your trouble? And would you be prepared to watch him screaming on the ground as he bleeds out, being sick/shitting/pissing himself in shock, if you didn’t catch him cleanly the first time?

    That’s the thing with using violence – you’ve got to live with the whole of it, not just the quick, "easy" bit.

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  27. annetan42:

    This sadly makes revolutions inevitably bloody.

    Then maybe you need to tell the people of Poland, Hungary, East Germany, Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and Albania?

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  28. PeterB,

    I had a listen to it again and yes you are right, Portillo calls Cesarani's argument 'extraordinarily brave' which Taylor then echoes later calling it 'very brave'.

    However, revealingly Taylor then diverges from Portillo when he follows on by saying "In a way I can see his (Cesarani's) argument."

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  29. .

    13thDukeofWybourne

    "I wasn’t defending the Terror yesterday, I was putting it into historical context as a chaotic reaction to internal counter revolution and external war in order to save the democratic nation state. It wasn’t a cold, calculated plan of action undertaken by a psychopath and Robespierre is by and large undeserving of the popular interpretation of him."

    In which case do you not think you might have worded this to better convey the meaning you intended?

    "The Terror was not some well thought out plan of action plotted by a cold, inscrutable, incorruptible demagogue, but one created and applied to circumstance, namely the ferocious counter-revolution within France and the determination of the European monarchies to crush the revolution outside of France."

    Well whether it was a well thought out plan or an out of control killing frenzy, 16,000 to 40,000 people lost their lives, including the father of modern chemistry Antoine Lavoisier, so for me, your lack of criticism, while condemning the brutality of Tianamen Square seems somewhat odd.

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  30. @bitey

    Spartacus?

    Well I'm all in favour of slaves revolting against their captors


    So you support the slave revolt that Spartacus led. Since the slave army slaughtered, tortured and raped on its way across the peninsula, we can conclude that "from the safety of your armchair", you're an apologist of mass murder and rape.

    Annoying, isn't it, when people use the same sort of Poundland sophistry on you that you like to use on them?

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  31. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  32. .

    Spike

    If you think that's annoying then you've got a very low annoyance threshold.

    What is annoying is that despite there having been 5,945 fires nationwide, caused by fireworks, during the 32-hour span from the beginning of Wednesday, they're still letting them off here, with ear splitting explosions from 6.30 am until late at night.

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  33. Well PeterB - there's a turn up.

    Bitey - very different circs you're talking about. Can't speak for all those countries but my work involves me with Bulgarian issues - which is probably one of the most corrupt countries in Europe - where some quarters of government and gangsters appear to be interchangeable.

    Swifty

    I certainly bow to your experience - I think you're the only one on here (except possibly PB) who has any real experience on the pointy end. The best most of us can say and what I would say in the circs you outline is, I hope I would behave in the most appropriate way. Thats not really an answer but those of us who've never had experience of fighting can't know for sure how we'd respond.

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  34. I've just glanced at your last 20 posts on CiF Shallcross and for a leading light in the Drench Communist Party, you've got a strange way of bringing about the overthrow of capitalism.

    From a political standpoint they're about as inconsequential as the Teletubbies.

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  35. 've just glanced at your last 20 posts on CiF Shallcross and for a leading light in the Drench Communist Party

    Oh bitey - only you...! And the Drench CP? Does sound rather wet...I'll give you that.

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  36. Sheffpixie

    Doubtlessly so, but the peaceful overthrow of former Stalinist dictatorship was still a peaceful revolution. It might not have resulted in the outcome you or I wished for, but that doesn't deny the historical importance of the what happened in 1989.

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  37. No one can say for certain how the Egyptian (and other) revolutions are going to pan out, but surely to God the western powers that back various regimes, from autocratic to despotic, must have noticed a pattern?

    If the western government prop up the rich and powerful, it tends to be the theocratic groups (Muslim Brotherhood etc) who make their pitch to the poor. It creates a broad Us (poor and devout) and Them (rich, decadent and westernized).

    This is fine as long as the regimes hold (who care what millions of people living on a pittance with no influence think?), but you can see the problem once democracy is introduced.

    This isn't to say that Egypt will necessarily fall into theocracy. It seems that a lot of different groups, many unattached to religious fundamentalism are agitating for Mubarak's overthrow. But then there are a lot more voters than protestors. There are still about 80m people whose views and sentiments remain largely unknown.

    The problem is that the pitch by fundies to ordinary people - "Governments backed by Western governments make a few people rich and leave the rest of us poor" - is going to ring true for an awful lot of people.

    Propping up the Sauds and Mubaraks of this world is almost asking for popular sentiment to react strongly towards models of government and organization of society (i.e. theocracies) indigenous to the Middle East. To them, "liberal democracy" results in Egypt, not Sweden. And then western observers wonder why people don't want it.

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  38. @Sheff:

    Don’t get me wrong, I can’t (and wouldn’t ever) claim a monopoly on the “violence” thing – any town centre late on a busy Saturday is bursting to the seams with lads (and lasses!) who seem to have no compunction at all about dishing it out... and I certainly wouldn’t deny there’s a place for discussing it in a “theoretical” way (in the same way I can happily spout off about why I’d be the best football team manager in the world ever! without actually ever having done it in practice)... but there’s a limit to the amount of theory you can talk before the “practice” question comes niggling its way in...

    I just lose patience a bit sometimes... it seems to me that it’s a bit pat, a bit easy, to talk about “violent revolution” when it’s some other mother's son or daughter doing the fighting, and the killing, and the dying.

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  39. 'former' is the operative word bitey - bit of water under the bridge between 1953 and 1989 - and there was glasnost and perestroika.

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  40. I can’t (and wouldn’t ever) claim a monopoly on the “violence” thing

    I didn't think you were swifty - but you do have some experience and can speak at first hand. There's a lot of difference between a saturday night pissed up ruck and an all out battle in the streets between 'the people' and the police/mukhabarat.

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  41. @Sheff:

    ”...There's a lot of difference between a saturday night pissed up ruck and an all out battle in the streets between 'the people' and the police/mukhabarat...”

    Heh, Sheffield must’ve quietened down a bit since I was last there, then.

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  42. @bitey

    I've been recovering from a rather nasty illness for the last two months and haven't felt inspired to get seriously involved in any CiF threads, just a little drive-by sniping on occasion. Oh yes, there was one prolonged I/P exchange but pretty much all my posts got wiped.

    Anyway, my Boycott Israel meetings and one or two Party meetings have been as much as I can handle on the political front.

    Well, there you are. It must be nice for you to find me so fascinating.

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  43. Oh and "leading light"? Heheh. I know you like to look up to me, bitey, but I'm afraid I'm just a humble rank-and-file activist.

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  44. I just lose patience a bit sometimes... it seems to me that it’s a bit pat, a bit easy, to talk about “violent revolution” when it’s some other mother's son or daughter doing the fighting, and the killing, and the dying.

    I agree with that sentiment Shiloh.

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  45. Interesting discussion from Al Jazeera between some Arab luminaries

    Democracy in the Arab World?

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  46. Very good article on CiF by Salwa Ismail called "A Private Estate called Egypt". It lays out in detail the systematic carving up of the country by the elite as ordinary people drop deeper and deeper into poverty.

    Unfortunately, the point of all this - what lies behind popular discontent in Egypt - seems to have evaded many commentators, who immediately dive into "Sod Egypt, take a look at the UK/US/Dunstable."

    And even as the Mubarak regime let people slide into hunger, the Muslim Brotherhood were setting up hospitals and schools in their name, just as Hamas have done.

    If you were an Egyptian living on £2 a day, who would you vote for?

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  47. Aww, I have a soft spot for Highland coos.

    Hope you are feeling better, Montana.

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  48. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/wikileaks-founder-threatens-to-sue-the-guardian-for-libel-2206330.html

    The Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is threatening to sue The Guardian for libel after claims in a book published by the newspaper about its collaboration with him. [...]

    The Australian is believed to be upset at a claim that he initially refused to remove the names of informants mentioned in Afghan war documents, allegedly saying they would "deserve it" if they were killed as a result of the leaks. Last week, the WikiLeaks Twitter account, which is understood to be written by Mr Assange, posted a message which read: "The Guardian book serialisation contains malicious libels. We will be taking action."

    Guardian News & Media, the publisher of The Guardian, said it had not received any official notification of action against it by Mr Assange. A spokeswoman added: "The irony of an organisation dedicated to the free and open flow of information threatening to sue a newspaper will be lost on no one."

    ...

    Is it just me or does the comment from the Guardian's spokeswoman seem a bit of a non sequitur rather than a killer insight?

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  49. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak will travel to Germany as a patient as part of an exit strategy proposed by the US, the online version of German newspaper Der Spiegel reported Monday.

    --- From JPost.

    Hello All - just flying visit.

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  50. Atomboy - no, it's not just you.

    Assange is quite rightly pissed off with the Guardian. Not only did they renege on their promise not to share the embassy cables with the NYT, but apparently, when they published the exposé on the rape allegations, they also redacted all of the exculpatory information contained in the documents they had received.

    WikiLeaks' latest accusation of libel seems to fit with a pattern.

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  51. Thanks, thauma.

    So, for anyone looking for patterns in how things operate, they might see similarities between - what shall we say, for the sake of argument? - oh, I know, The Guardian and The Daily Mail and The Sun and The Express.

    The person might see that they are all newspapers which are not especially concerned with the truth, but just operate to chase the fast buck.

    Then pretend to be the affronted champions of freedom when caught out.

    Perhaps JezzaBella was right when she said they didn't do campaigning journalism.

    Who would want to campaign with them anyway, though?

    OK - better get on.

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  52. thauma
    indeed a "nice vendetta" / smear campaign from the good ol' graun just before assange's hearing last december......talk about prima donnas in graun towers...nick davies being one of many....

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  53. I get the sense that the Guardian (and also the NYT) felt that Assange should be honoured that they had agreed to work with him, and that noses were seriously put out of joint when Assange indicated that he wasn't going to bow down and worship them.

    So - time to show the little upstart who's boss.

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  54. Shiloh
    I just lose patience a bit sometimes... it seems to me that it’s a bit pat, a bit easy, to talk about “violent revolution” when it’s some other mother's son or daughter doing the fighting, and the killing, and the dying.

    I don't just propose this for 'some other mother's son or daughter'. If someone approached me with a 'big stick' in any circumstances including a revolutionary one, if I could I would grab a stick if I could and fight back - the odds are I'd come of worse being 68 with heart failure but I claim the inalienable human right to defend myself with appropriate force.

    I know a lot of socialists having been one for over 30 years and I've never met anyone who could shoot a wounded person, who was incapable of defending themselves in cold blood, in panic maybe...

    My point is that, in a revolutionary situation the question of seizing power in the name of human rights democracy etc does rather imply that you want those things for everyone, not just the people who agree with you. But if you really believe in something its worth fighting (and dying) for.

    OK?

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  55. Rapid

    I read that Salwa Ismail piece - agree, she laid out the issues very concisely. But what she does demonstrate are the very powerful interests they're up against. In Tunisia they've got rid of some of senior police already and I believe some senior military figures too. What you do about powerful business/family/clan interests that appear to own so much, god knows. Nationalise?

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  56. anne

    hope you're feeling better.......

    and agree everyone has a right to defend themselves with appropriate force....I've just been watching a programme about the rubbish in naples where there are 100's of hectares of untreated rubbish piled up 10 metres high leaking toxic substances into the ground where vegetables are grown and animals graze, where €8 million has been spent on nothing apart from lining the pockets of local politicos and mafia, where people are dying of cancers caused by toxic waste.......here the police beat up protesters, fire tear gas and bullets at them.....the people of naples have been remarkably restrained considering they are being poisoned to death by the state.......

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  57. Evening all

    Flying bloody visit again. Work has racked up to an almost unsustainable volume at the moment and I am knackered already and it's only Monday. Meh.

    Montana - get well soon! Loving the coo.

    Re freedom of information and libel - two entirely different things. Freedom of speech does not include freedom to publish lies about people, and Assange is right to consider his legal options if the Graun have been telling blatant porkies.

    Newspapers declaring they want to reform the libel laws is like burglars declaring they want to reform the Theft Act...

    Speaking of proposed reforms, I loved the bit about how the government have got one of their friendly think-tanks to report what they want to hear i.e. we should derogate from the ECHR. Hilarious. Haven't read the "research document" yet but I am looking forward to a good old chuckle.

    ECtHR "not fit for purpose" - also hilarious. Their purpose is to step in and clarify points of Human Rights law when the domestic governments are incapable of/unwilling to do so.

    Anyhoo, hugs to all, off to browse a bit, then a cup of tea and bed for me xx

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  58. Tea, BB? Steady on, that's a bit drastic!

    Gandolfo, is that related to the 'Mafia tomatoes' I just read a headline about?

    Some good news in today's Guardian ... will post linky in a mo.

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  59. Here's the link.

    George Bush calls off trip to Switzerland
    Plan cancelled amid fear of violence at demonstration by human rights groups over the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay

    We are all Pinochet now.

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  60. thauma

    mafia tomatoes? well various mafias control supply and harvesting of veg....pretty old news here, they also traffic people to pick the veg and fruit and "pay" them €20 week if they're lucky....the camorra and 'Ndrangheta have their feet firmly in the transportation of toxic waste from all over italy but also europe. They link it up with illegal trafficking of arms, drugs and people....they use to dump off the coast of africa.....hence the pirates who originally appeared to stop the fuckers doing it.......now they just dump it off the italian coast...

    the naples rubbish crisis has been going on since 1994....strangly coincides with berlusconi's entry into politics.......
    coincidence...me thinks not.........fucker wants to build a park on top of untreated toxic waste and plant a few tree.....i'd just bury him up to his neck in it and watch him melt.....

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  61. thauma
    think BB's is that kind of tea winks and nudges......

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  62. Gandolfo, here's the story about the mafia tomatoes. Haven't yet read it properly.

    Can't believe Berlusconi is still in power. Italians seem nearly as inept as us at kicking out corrupt bastards.

    that kind of tea - what, you suspect the Long Island variety? ;-)

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  63. I have taken your suggestions on board, Thaum and Gandolfo, and have poured myself a wee Jameson's with a splash of water.

    It will help me sleep better than tea will... that is my story and I am sticking to it... :p

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  64. Well done, BB, you were letting the side down there. ;-)

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  65. didn't hear about that episode but then i've given up watching tv.....it's such trite......and didn't hear it on the news....no surprise there.....

    thauma i've given up with trying to understand those that support berlusconi....however, the majority don't want him in power.....remember that italy is a very old population and they are traditional right voters, added to this is the complete inability and ineptitude of the left to actually do anything.....staggering they distance themselves from practically every protest and offer no solutions.......they have as much dirt on their hands as the right.....it's nothing other than a fucking mess.......also don't forget the majority of italians are a little corrupt not paying taxes, fines, ducking and diving all over the place....they are masters of it......so corruption is a touchy subject.....
    also italy is still a super macho culture so getting your end away is "ok" albeit with 17year olds.....well it's women's choice innit......

    thauma whilst we're talking of >tea pass me a mint one and make it a double.....


    oh you missed fantastic weather this weekend!!

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  66. Gandolfo

    oh you missed fantastic weather this weekend!!

    Damn ... the boys looked a bit warm ... I am putting their near-defeat down to that!

    *passes Gandolfo the drink of her choosing*

    With that, I am off very shortly - knackered!

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  67. Hello everyone; whilst Channel 4 is broadcasting "Tabloids' Dirty Secrets" under its "Despatches" thread, right now, you can bet your sweet arse that most of the people who buy the News of The Screws or the Sun will be watching Eastenders and then after that will press the remote button to catch up with what is going on at Coronation Street.

    Thereby missing out on Panorama also.

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  68. ohhhhhhh ta thauma.....that's going down nicely!

    dog threw himself in the river so hot with his winter coat.....on of the rivers that flow through the park (nature reserve)is in fact toxic, also today i met the park guards looking for camps...last night 4 roma children(3-11 years old) burnt to death in their shack about 3km from here...their parents had gone to get water and food and a stove set fire to the plastic and wooden walls.....great living in one of the richest countries in the world and people still live in such appalling inhuman conditions.i've seen slums in asia that are comparatively decent....

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  69. Anyway, continueing my previous line of thought (which was interrupted by getting the bairn into bed) since Eastenders and Coronation Street tap into the working class culture, how come the writers can't lob a character into the mix who turns up at the Rovers Return or the Queen Vic with a copy of the "Groan" or the "Indy" or , heaven forbid, the "Morning Star" and see how that pans out?

    There is plenty of evidence of working class intellectuals shoving their oars into the political debate.

    Why does this no longer happen?


    BTW; I don't watch soaps so apologies if this has been tried before but judging by the results I suspect not!

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  70. chekhov

    Actually, there is a tiny bit of good news on the Coronation Street front.

    One of the characters is asking around locally for a job. He goes to the Job Centre and comes back to say there is nothing available. (To contextualise briefly, he has fought in Afghanistan but been kicked out of the army after hitting a policeman - due to PTSD and fear of being locked in van/cell - while back recovering from injury).

    His girlfriend says everyone is looking for work but there are no jobs to be found.

    His mother says, yes, that's true, but her son has fought for the country and still nobody will take him on.

    His father says all of that is true - and the government will still blame them for being scroungers.

    I agree with your general thrust but I think more minds will be influenced by popular culture if it turns against the government than by documentaries.

    Everything plays its separate and collective part.

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  71. Chekhov, has Ken Barlow stopped reading the Guardian, too? Bloody Rusbridger!!!

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  72. Interesting article in Der Spiegel about how much Israel might fear democracy in Egypt.

    The article is more sincere than this extract would suggest, I promise you. It's just that it made me giggle.

    "A recent incident involving the vice governor of the Sinai Peninsula reveals how many Egyptians think about Israel. After a shark attack off the coast, the official said that it could not be ruled out that the deadly fish had been released by Israeli intelligence to harm Egypt's tourism industry."

    Not times for laughing, I know.

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  73. Not sure these things have much effect, but hey...
    Vote of No Confidence

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  74. Handbags on waddya! An inconsequential and inane comment from kizbot on waddya, just one among the 20 or 30 trivialities she posts every day, is immediately jumped upon by meerkatje.

    Oi, Ms Kizbot. Why does my 'working' get inverted commas around it? :-p
    I'm working like a demon. Marked a bazillion papers, written about 30000 words (I think some of them were even coherent), and I'm now a bit tired.


    Am I the only one who suspects that the egotistical and patronising meerkatje scours the Cif threads to find out if anybody else is talking about her? And then uses the opportunity to talk about herself.

    And does anybody else find that just a little bit sad?

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  75. It was a lighthearted joke, Luke. Kizbot would have understood it as such.

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  76. By the way, Luke, how's life on the frontlines? What important political acts have you been engaged with today?

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  77. Meerjatje, I threw a stale stuffed olive at a Jewish settler in east Jerusalem. How goes the violent struggle in Islington?

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  78. @Heyhabib; does Ken Barlow read the Grauniad?

    Should I start watching Coronation Street to find out the consequences of this earth shattering revelation?

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  79. I wouldn't know, Luke. I've never been to Islington.

    I'm a bit amused though by your claims to 'simply not care' about the goings on on CIF. It's all just beneath you, isn't it? But you appear to notice within seconds when I post something that, as you note, is completely inconsequential, and then race over here to report on the breaking news....

    Small life much?

    I can't be arsed with these petty squabbles, though, to be honest. Let's strike a deal. You post your rabid, inane vitriole about me as much as you like. And each time you do so, just imagine me saying 'fuck of you pathetic twat'. It'll save me the trouble of having to write it out long hand, and others the hassle of reading it.

    And before your little mate penny and any other hangers on arrive to join you in your incomprehensible and frankly silly vendetta against someone you know next to nothing about, let's just say that response counts for them too.

    I'm sure we both have more important things to do than this. I'm sure that others on the board find your constant pointless sniping at least as tedious as I do. To indulge further your egotistical need to growl and stir impotently as you do would be really very rude. And ultimately futile. So have fun frothing at the mouth. I'm sure someone, somewhere, cares what you think about them. I really don't.

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  80. chekhov, Ken used to. Haven't seen Corro for years, though.


    meerkatjie,
    "just imagine me saying 'fuck of you pathetic twat'. It'll save me the trouble of having to write it out long hand"

    I'm often short of things to do, if you're looking for volunteers to take up that role...

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  81. gandolfo

    i've seen slums in asia that are comparatively decent....

    Apart from the oxymoron of a slum being comparatively decent, care to name one?

    Last week in South West China a 4.8-magnitude earthquake forced more than 60,000 people to evacuate and toppled more than 3,000 homes. I doubt whether any of the residents would have considered them to be slum dwellings. Not as good as modern brick and concrete dwellings which wouldn't collapse in an earthquake of that magnitude, but not slums.

    I think a sense of proportion is required.

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  82. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  83. @Atomboy;

    "I agree with your general thrust but I think more minds will be influenced by popular culture if it turns against the government than by documentaries."
    Well I sincerely hope you are right about that but all the evidence so far suggests otherwise.

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  84. Re the Assange v Guardian spat, The Independent reported yesterday, Monday 7th:

    The Australian is believed to be upset at a claim that he initially refused to remove the names of informants mentioned in Afghan war documents, allegedly saying they would "deserve it" if they were killed as a result of the leaks. Last week, the WikiLeaks Twitter account, which is understood to be written by Mr Assange, posted a message which read: "The Guardian book serialisation contains malicious libels. We will be taking action."

    Guardian News & Media, the publisher of The Guardian, said it had not received any official notification of action against it by Mr Assange. A spokeswoman added: "The irony of an organisation dedicated to the free and open flow of information threatening to sue a newspaper will be lost on no one."


    Perhaps MrsB could enlighten us on the term "malicious libel" and how it might differ from other kinds of libel.

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  85. What a bitter, pathetic excuse for a human being you are, Luke. All you ever do -- all you ever do -- is snipe and sneer at others for their alleged shortcomings. You try to effect an air of moral & intellectual superiority in doing so, but you're just showing yourself to be a sad little motherfucker.

    Fuck off is the only response you deserve from anyone here.

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  86. meerkatje,

    1, "I'm a bit amused though by your claims to 'simply not care' about the goings on on CIF."
    I have never claimed 'not to care'. I comment here on what goes on with Cif precisely because I do think that it matters in the wider scheme of things. And in the sense of how Cif sets the rules of discourse and what can be said and what can't be said. And who can comment and who is not allowed to comment, and what should be deleted. You're just a willing shill to this nonsense because it's more important for you to get your name on a comment than it is to have any principles.
    2. "I can't be arsed with petty squabbles". Is it only petty because you deem it so? Although you participate anyway. And you call it a 'vendetta'. Such arrogance, such victimhood - if someone doesn't agree with with your tired, intellectually lazy, totally unoriginal assertions about everything from kettling to kefaya, then they must be 'pathetic twats'. This seems to be the basis of all your rebuttals both here and on Cif.
    3. Your mode of discussion/debate seems to be entirely based on the assumption that you are completely correct on all issues, and this must not be challenged. If someone disagrees, you try to belittle them, mock them and insult them. This has no intellectual basis - it makes you look like an arrogant (although hopelessly deluded) bully. If you have a case to make on any particular point, are you completely incapable of making a logical argument without being patronising and abusive?

    Anyway, feel free to dismiss any dissenting voices (such as mine) to your perceived 'wisdom' as tedious futile sniping if it makes you feel better. Even the dullest of commenters on this site will eventually recognise you for what you are - a faux liberal clipped out of cardboard along the dotted lines who conscientiously ticks boxes and makes some provocative grunting noises and has ultimately absolutely nothing of interest to say . And appealing as that is to many people here (some of whom cheerlead 'violent revolution' as long as it doesn't involve the possibilty of them getting their own noses shattered by a truncheon or a rubber bullet), I'm fairly sure that they'll eventually get bored with your repetitive solipsistic play-acting.

    I won't be commenting here again. The site is not what I expected it be. Bye.

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  87. "I won't be commenting here again. The site is not what I expected it be. Bye."

    Ok bye then, you won't be missed!

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  88. Did anyone see this? So unbelievably vile:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/feb/07/spain-salad-growers-slaves-charities

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  89. Atomboy 20.46-- " I agree with your general thrust but I think more minds will be influenced by popular culture if it turns against the government than by documentaries.

    I wish I knew more , but I suspect you're right.

    Most documentaries are seen by the already-convinced, while the Archers or Coronation Street are heard/seen by millions, so the propaganda impact must be greater?

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  90. Hi Chekhov

    I don't watch Soaps but I suspect they might be able to convey certain messages to millions of viewers. I hope the story you mention is accurate and informative.

    I have watched a recent Welsh drama on a workers buy out of their local bakery - this was a bit soapy with extramarital naughtiness etc - which probably reflected part of what goes on in all communities.

    Follow up programme tonight on Owen and the cooperative movement. I was disappointed that they described this as BS rather than nonstate socialism - it came across as support for BS.

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  91. I have just read the piece on immigrant workers (slaves) exploitation in salad growing region of Spain.

    So much for the EU!

    I feel I should boycott Spanish goods - the problem with this is that sales and profits decrease the workers will be even more at risk.

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  92. Mr Shig-- I read it, on your recommendation. Truly awful. I know that the English situation is not very very much different with gangmasters , going back some time. Well what do you expect in UK when even the natives don't automatically always get a written contract?

    I really don't know about here in France, have heard isolated extreme cases, but nothing so systematic.

    For many years now I just will not buy toms,aubergines, peppers, anything veg from Spain.

    Full stop. I don't buy processed shit-food either, so no way I'm getting it unknowingly.

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  93. Morning all

    The exploitation of agricultural workers takes place here in the UK as well.As DAVE has pointed out some of the gangmasters-i hate that word- are guilty of exploitation especially of those who they know are illegal immigrants.I remember watching a programme about the work of the UKBA and seeing them raiding a farm which hired illegal workers.Most of them were from the subcontinent and getting on a bit.And the conditions they lived and worked in defied belief.So i think we should get our own house in order before we start passing judgement on the Spanish.

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  94. Paul

    I agree - where are the inspections and prosecutions ?

    Allowing slavery to creep in unnoticed across EU is part of the process which results from the pursuit of profit rather than the building of a caring and responsible society.
    The more I read on a daily basis about the lives of so many people the more I think I have been transported backwards in time.

    The migrant workers are our potential allies in the fight for some kind of social justice.

    I don't know what more to say - just verbally protesting can seem like an empty gesture - and generally is to be honest - I am horrified by what is happening to people .

    We should pass judgement on ourselves, on Spain and everyone of us who tolerates these things.

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  95. Since the Gangmasters Licencing Authority was set up four years ago it is widely acknowledged that it has made an impact on protecting the most vulnerable workers and stamping out rogue operators. Its web site gives details of, among other things, prosecutions, several each month and a database of gangmasters that employees can check.

    http://www.gla.gov.uk

    Supermarkets should be pressurised to get Spain to set up a similar body, in the same way as they were pressurised not to sell clothes from suppliers who employed children.

    Of course it will mean that the produce will cost more, which is fine by me and employers will be obliged to check workers so they don't employ illegal immigrants which will be bad for those who are prepared to struggle through the bad years with the hope of something better in the longer run.

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  96. .

    Since the Gangmasters Licencing Authority was set up four years ago it is widely acknowledged that it has made an impact on protecting the most vulnerable workers and stamping out rogue operators. Its web site gives details of, among other things, prosecutions, several each month and a database of gangmasters that employees can check.

    http://www.gla.gov.uk

    Supermarkets should be pressurised to get Spain to set up a similar body, in the same way as they were pressurised not to sell clothes from suppliers who employed children.

    Of course it will mean that the produce will cost more, which is fine by me and employers will be obliged to check workers so they don't employ illegal immigrants which will be bad for those who are prepared to struggle through the bad years with the hope of something better in the longer run.

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  98. Hi Leni

    I can't remember whether it was you or Anne who once mentioned that this country used to have Agricultural Workers Boards or something like that which regulated the pay and conditions of agricultural workers.And i think Thatcher got rid of them in the 80,s.

    But going back to the gangmasters there are real connotations of slavery in that name alone.And wasn't it the gangmasters who were responsible for sending out illegal chinese workers to collect cockles(?) for £1 a day on Morecambe Bay.And despite numerous protests from the locals the authorities did nothing about it and many ended up being drowned.And if memory serves me correctly one of the excuses given for not intervening earlier was that illegal chinese workers are difficult to deport because China often refuses to accept them back.So they left them to be exploited and then die on Morecambe Bay.

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  99. Paul

    the Chinese workers were under the control of a gangmaster.

    I used to know a lot of people in the Chinese Community in Liverpool. They had stories to tell of Chinese seamen jumping ship and staying here. These men were exploited by wealthy Chinese business men who had, for the most part, been wealthy business men in Shanghai prior to the revolution. Many of the seamen had second families here while still sending money home to their wives and children there.

    Slavery has never been abolished - it persists globally. That it is allowed to operate here today is beyond shameful but we all know it serves a purpose for some and will be overlooked - particularly when it is immigrants who are seen as having little claim on human rights by so many people.

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  100. @Paul

    The Agricultural Wages Board and its associated regional committees are due to be abolished any time now, following Caroline Spelman's announcement in July last year. Their functions, along with those of the Agricultural Dwelling House Committees (tied cottage control) will instead come under minimum wage legislation and (I think) local councils.

    The Gangmasters Licensing Authority, set up in 2004 after the Morecambe cockle pickers' deaths, is being retained.

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  101. Thanks for that Peter.Not sure why i thought the AWB's had been abolished under Thatcher although given her track record in eroding workers rights i think i can be forgiven for thinking she had.

    The GLA may be retained but i have no idea as to whether it makes a jot of difference as far as the plight of illegal agricultural workers is concerned.Like so much in this country the setting up of the GLA sounds good in practice but are the resources available to ensure that gangmasters remain within the law?

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  102. I should have answered my final question by saying 'probably not'.

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  103. Paul

    I will repeat your own answer - sadly probably not.

    Off to bed.

    NN x

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  104. @Paul

    The GLA is one of those things that's good in theory, but might not work so well in practice. In particular, it tends to work in partnership with the Borders Agency in enforcement operations, which is a big drawback in working with vulnerable migrant workers. There's a decent piece about it here.

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  105. Message for Hank: Have you seen Monibot's article on Cif: To us, it's an obscure shift of tax law. To the City, it's the heist of the century? Very interesting - it gave me cause to revisit your UT2 piece posted on another part of this site way back in October 2009 where you had the prescience to say:
    "The UK itself is arguably a tax haven, though it might not feel like it for us poor wage-slaves. The IMF, not exactly a refuge for bleeding heart liberals, has had the temerity to apply the tag to us, thanks to the City's burgeoning role in providing tax avoidance schemes and resisting international calls for greater financial transparency."

    just wanted to acknowledge Hank for that.

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  106. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  107. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  108. I have un-spammed several comments.

    Some of which are repeat posts, so the posters may wish to delete the surplus themselves.

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  109. Thanks for de-spamming my comment - I'll clear the double posts.

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  110. @MsChin

    Shouldn't you be in bed at this ungodly hour?

    @parallaxview:

    For all my (apparent) dragon lady reputation, I'm actually fairly good at burying hatchets. Shall we?

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  111. @Montana - as long as we don't divulge where the bodies are buried

    ok, done :)

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  112. My pleasure, parallax.

    And my pleasure also to acknowledge hank for the insight he shared with us in his tax haven piece.

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  113. Montana

    Hope you and Joe are both feeling better. And that you don't mind me inviting Arec over on Waddya to write a piece on ATOS for the UT.

    Went to bed early and woke up a little while ago, no idea why, but thank the sky pixie for the internet!. I'm going back to bed now as I have to get up again in 2 hours.

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  114. @parallax:

    :-)

    @MsChin:

    Joe's been good for awhile now. I'm not feeling on the verge of flu any more, but the weather's been bouncing around between 0° and -20° or so and temp swings like that always make my asthma flare up. It's -18 now and supposed to stay like this most of the week (daytime, too). I'm told that on Saturday, it's supposed to get up to about 6°. Hmph.

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  115. Oh -- and no problem at all with inviting Arec over.

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