Saturday, June 30, 2007

Postal Solidarity - Being Part of the Union

Royal Mail management have endeavoured to counter the success of the psotal strike with claims that nationally 60% worked . I can only talk about Edinburgh area , and can confirm that it was overwhelmingly supported by well over 90% of postyal workers , at the Mail-Centre , at the town delivery offices and most of the outlying and rural areas .

From what i have been hearing and reading about the 40% who Royal Mail bosses claim to have crossed the picket lines they are a mere phantasm of Crozier's and Leighton's enfeebled imaginations . Just another blatant lie they have issued to hood-wink the public .

To be honest , i was expecting much more scabbing at the Mail-Centre than the handful that actually did ,due to the fact that it employs a high percentage of part-time Associate Grades who consider the job as a temporary stop-gap to help out with university fees and they therefore have no long-term commitment to the industry . Yet they too went out in support of the pay claim .

But no resting on our laurels . Keep the momentum going . The struggle has only begun .

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Friday, June 29, 2007

The New Opium Wars

In the 19th Century Britain went to war twice so traders could get the Chinese people addicted to opium .

Now i read with the decrease in the numbers of smokers in the West and increased restrictions where to smoke and how to adverise their cancer causing wares , cigarette companies are now expanding business in China , home to one in four of the world's smokers , a market of 350 million smokers .

"Even a small share of the market for any of the big multi-nationals would be quite considerable," admits Dave Betteridge, spokesman for London-based British American Tobacco (BAT), the world's second-largest cigarette maker.

"China remains a goldmine for tobacco companies; that's why foreign firms are keen to get into the market. The sky's the limit," Mary Assunta, chair of the anti-smoking group Framework Convention Alliance for Tobacco Control

In order to tap into this market, foreign tobacco firms employ a range of tactics, such as forming joint ventures with the China National Tobacco Corporation (CNTC), which controls the cigarette industry in the country. Philip Morris International signed a deal with CNTC two years ago to make Marlboro cigarettes in China. Imperial Tobacco and Gallaher, two other major tobacco firms, have pursued similar deals. BAT, which has tried to set up a joint venture in China, is still in talks with the Chinese about expanding sales there. Foreign tobacco firms have also been accused of encouraging the smuggling of their cigarettes into China .

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Australian Aborigines again


More on this racist onslaught on the Australian Aboriginal peoples and what is perhaps the real motive behind the undeage sex abuse scandals .
Was it an all-Aborigine problem ? One of the cases referred to in the report is an account of local police officers turning a blind eye to a “rampant informal sex trade” between young Aboriginal girls and non-Aboriginal workers from an unnamed mining company. Another case, which is currently facing the courts, involves a non-Aboriginal health worker who is assumed to have exchanged goods, drugs and attention to a number of local children for sex. The inquiry was told that a non-Aboriginal man took young Aboriginal girls from a remote community to Darwin where he traded sex with them for drugs. In onother town a non-Aboriginal man gave cannabis to young girls in return for them being taped doing sexual acts. The victims' hairs were tipped blond so they could be identified as "his girls". One community claimed that it took seven years before a known child-sex offender was arrested. "Because of the perception that he got away with it because he was white..."
Nor could all the sex abuse be classed as abuse . The inquiry was told that a high rate of sexually transmitted infections in teenagers aged between 12 and 16, and a high rate of teenage pregnancy, could be "attributed to the high rate of consensual sex between children".
So has there been another reason for the military occupation of aborginal land ?
Aborigines in the Northern Territory will be given the opportunity to buy their own homes when the federal Government's emergency intervention ends in five years Indigenous Affairs Minister Mal Brough said .
Indigenous people in Territory communities need not return to communal title -- the existing system under which all land is jointly owned by the local community. They would instead be given the chance to buy their homes on 99-year leases. The requirement for non-residents to obtain permits to enter public areas of indigenous communities was also lifted . The mining industry also yesterday agreed to expand a work and housing program for indigenous communities, jointly funded with the commonwealth, as part of the plan.


Former Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islnder Commission chairwoman Lowitja O'Donoghue said the move would force indigenous people to sign up to 99-year leases thinking it is the only way to obtain tenure over their properties.

"People will sign up thinking it's the only way to get better housing," she said. "They are trying to pull the wool over our eyes and the people in our community ... it is about a land grab ... eventually we will lose all our community title."


Ms Turner , a former head of the now defunct Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission and a former senior official in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, said “That's why the Prime Minister called it a national emergency. Because in the national interest he can move on the Northern Territory land rights Act. We are not stupid, we didn't come down in the last shower,” she said.

Asked why the PM would want the land she said: “For future development purposes and for Aboriginal ownership of housing on Aboriginal land which is absolutely totally ridden with problems. It hasn’t worked in America, it has not worked on Indian land and it will not work here.”


A United Nations expert has warned that the federal laws overhauling land rights in the Northern Territory are unwise and unworkable. The UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing Miloon Kothari says the laws could be unworkable. Mr Kothari, says the move is unwise. "I'm quite sure that it's not going to work," he said. Mr Kothari said home ownership arrangements for non-indigenous Australians were not necessarily suitable. "I think you have larger issues of self-determination, you have issues of community title, land titling, you have issues of just the sheer lack of family or community resources to be able to engage in the housing market," he said.
It’s been 0nly 40 years since the Australian Aboriginals were first recognized as official human beings – going from the ‘flora and fauna’ of Australia to it’s inhabitants now capitalism is indeed intent on co-opting the Australian Aborigines into the private property system and destroy whatever is still surviving of their ancient communist communal society .



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Food Adulteration 2

Posted before about food adulteration in pet-food contaminated with melamine, a chemical typically used in plastics and pesticides. , and since then we have had toxic Chinese toothpaste , contaminated with diethylene glycol, a potentially dangerous chemical used in antifreeze. Now , finally Chinese authorities have begun to act .

Chinese officials have shut down 180 food manufacturers so far this year after finding such potentially toxic ingredients as formaldehyde in candy, pickles, biscuits and other common foods.

"These are not isolated cases," Han Yi, director of the government's quality control and inspection department, was quoted as saying.

The government said it had seized 23,000 cases of fake and low-quality food valued at $26 million between December and May.

Inspectors found traces of dyes, mineral oils, paraffin wax, formaldehyde and malachite green chloride, an anti-fungal agent used in fish farming that is a suspected carcinogen. The various substances had been used in the manufacturing of flour, candy, pickles, biscuits, melon seeds, bean curd and seafood .There have been several scares involving food or other goods including stale rice snacks, diseased pork, potentially poisonous fish and other harmful or fake products.

The scandals are seriously hurting China's food-processing industry .which had an estimated value of just under $250 billion in 2005.
"They hurt very much," said Hu Xiaosong, vice president of food science and nutrition at China Agricultural University.

Hurt sales . Hurt profits .

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Money goes to money

The Wall St Journal reports that World-wide, the number of wealthy individuals climbed to 9.5 million in 2006, an 8.3% increase from 2005 .
The number of ultra-high-net-worth individuals -- those with at least $30 million in investible assets -- increased by 11.3% to 94,970 .

The combined wealth of high-net-worth individuals world-wide increased to $37.2 trillion, up 11.4% from 2005.


In 2006, the U.S. population of high-net-worth individuals -- those with at least $1 million in investible assets, excluding their primary residences -- rose 9.4% to 2.92 million.


The population of high net-worth individuals in Europe increased by 6.4% in 2006


The high-net-worth population in Canada, rose by 6.9% in 2006


China's population of high-net - worth individuals rose by 7.8%


Russia's increased 15.5%


The highest growth in high-net-worth populations took place in Singapore and India, where the increases over 2005 were 21.2% and 20.5%, respectively.


How was the money all made ? Hard work and toil ?


Robert McCann, president of Merrill Lynch Global Private Client Group attributed the increased pace of wealth generation to gains in economic output and continued growth in the world's stock markets . More money went to real estate at the expense of alternative investments, such as hedge funds and foreign currencies, says Mr. McCann.


The report also found that high-net-worth individuals' passion for luxury is growing. Using data from Forbes's Cost of Living Extremely Well Index, it found that the cost of luxury goods and services rose nearly twice as fast in 2006 as the cost of everyday consumer products, signaling that demand for luxury goods is outpacing demand for everyday consumer items. Among "investments of passion," high net-worth individuals allocated the most money to luxury collectibles, including automobiles, boats and airplanes. They allocated 26% of their "investments of passion" dollars to luxury collectibles in 2006, 20% to art and 18% to jewelry, the report said.

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Thursday, June 28, 2007

Rio - Worse than a War Zone

Not so long after posting this blog about the emerging under-class in the rapidly growing mega-city slums , i now read about this .

Clashes between police and drug traffickers in a slum in the Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro have left at least 13 people dead , conflicting reports suggested up to 19 people had died. . Guns and grenades were used in the fighting, with armoured vehicles and helicopters backing police units. More than 30 people had been killed and 80 injured since the police first surrounded the slums in northern Rio known as Complexo do Alemao (the German Complex) on 2 May. The German Complex home for 130,000 people consists of 18 shantytowns with names such as Little Farm, Faith Hill and Happy Ending. Most residents earn less than 404 reais ($207) a month, the state's minimum wage. Wednesday's police operation was the biggest to date, triggering fierce fighting for several hours in the slums . Just next door, a smaller Vila Cruzeiro slum has been under police occupation for six weeks, clashes with drug traffickers occurring almost daily. Seventeen people have been killed and 60 -- mostly innocent bystanders -- wounded since May 1st .
Elsewhere in Rio there are plans to ring two slums in Rio de Janeiro with a 10-foot wall to help the security forces control the Rocinha and Vidigal favelas that overlook the city's richest districts and most fashionable beaches. Global Justice described the proposed barrier as "social apartheid"

A 2002 report concluded that more young people below the age of 18 are killed by guns each year in Rio de Janeiro than in many areas of the world formally at war. The study concluded that there are strong similarities between children involved in drug wars in Rio's slums and child soldiers elsewhere in the world. There are estimated to be between 5-6,000 armed children in Rio.

The report details how the gangs employ teenagers to guard their domains.
Sometimes they are even given ranks and called soldiers. The levels of violence are comparable to a war zone. In the last 14 years, for instance, almost 4,000 under-18-year-olds were killed by firearms in Rio alone. That compares, the report says, with just under 500 children killed in the fighting between Palestinians and Israelis in the same period.

The report only covered Rio de Janeiro but there are similar levels of violence in other Brazilian cities. In particular, areas of Sao Paolo have some of the highest murder rates of the hemisphere .

The cause of this recent outbreak of violence between the "haves" and the "have-nots" was the need for the Brazilian government to re-assert control over Rio , in preparation for the Pan-American games on 13 July. Some 5,500 athletes and around 800,000 tourists are expected to visit the city for the games which will , of course , accrue a lot of revenue for the "haves" . About 7,000 troopers from the National Public Security Force will guard the streets, aided by 18,000 state police .

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Going Postal

From the Guardian , Gregor Gall is professor of industrial relations, University of Hertfordshire , author of 2003 book, "The Meaning of Militancy? Postal Workers and Industrial Relations" writes:-

...Postal workers understand the link between decent working conditions and a decent public service. Through the Communication Workers' Union (CWU) they have organised to defend both, and the link between the two. So the battle is actually over both pay and jobs because this is about the quality of postal workers' working lives and the service they provide...

... it became clear to me how much pride postal workers invested in their jobs. Their ethos was to provide a vital universal service to all, and for them the issues of a sufficient number of workers necessary to provide a quality service became two sides of the same coin.

The current dispute...stems from a neoliberal agenda pursued by Tory and Labour governments alike...The public-service role, a universal service provision and fair employment cannot be provided by market mechanisms and private competition...

When i became a postman it was generally accepted that we were an organisation that existed to facilitate other businesses to make money , much like the provision good roads and they would share the cost out of the general taxation system. Later , however we were seen as a cash milk-cow to provide revenue for governments and once that was recognised we were then re-structured into individual enterprises to be sold off , a sale that failed to materialise. Yet we still remain packaged and parcelled into separate units stacked on the shop-shelf , ready to be sold and purchased when the political climate is judged right , and many of us believe that is the motive of the present Post Office mandarins in seeking conflict rather than resolution to the mail problem .

The once inter-connected unified postal system has not been integrated into the new world of the e-mail and the internet ( snail-mail may have become superfluous in many ways but physical delivery of goods has not ) , a commercial failure that cannot be laid at the feet of postal workers .

As much as i question Lenin there is a element of truth in this description

A witty German Social-Democrat of the seventies of the last century called the postal service an example of the socialist economic system. This is very true. At the present the postal service is a business organized on the lines of state-capitalist monopoly... But the mechanism of social management is here already to hand...To organize the whole economy on the lines of the postal service - State and Revolution Chapter 3

Kropotkin describes how a postal service should be organised and how decisions should be made :-

The Postal Union did not elect an international postal parliament in order to make laws for all postal organisations adherent to the Union...They proceeded by means of agreement. To agree together they resorted to congresses; but, while sending delegates to their congresses they did not say to them, "Vote about everything you like--we shall obey." They put forward questions and discussed them first themselves; then they sent delegates acquainted with the special question to be discussed at the congress, and they sent delegates--not rulers. Their delegates returned from the congress with no laws in their pockets, but with proposals of agreements. Such is the way assumed now (the very old way, too) for dealing with questions of public interest... Anarchism Communism , Its Basis and Principles

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The Future is Blight

Following on to the blog that for the first time in recorded history, the majority of the world's population is living in cities , it is reported that the urban population will have doubled by 2030 . The urban population will have risen to 5 billion, 60 per cent of the world's population by 2030 and young people will make up the vast majority .

The shanty towns that choke the cities of Africa and Asia are experiencing unstoppable growth, expanding by more than a million people every week, according to the U.N. It maintains that over the next 30 years, the population of African and Asian cities will double, adding 1.7 billion people - more than the current populations of the US and China combined. The majority of this urban poor will be under 25, unemployed and vulnerable to religious fundamentalism .

Mike Davis, a population expert, described this emerging underclass in his recent work Planet of Slums as:

"A billion-strong global proletariat ejected from the formal economy, with Islam and Pentecostalism as songs for the dispossessed."

More than 90 per cent of this underclass are in the developing world, with South Asia having the largest share, followed by eastern Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. In sub-Saharan Africa, growth has become synonymous with slums and 72 per cent of the population live in slum conditions. Asia's urban population will increase from 1.3 billion to 2.64 billion. Africa's population will rise from 294 million to 742 million, Latin America and the Caribbean from 394 million to 609million.

"It's pointless trying to control urban growth by stopping migration," George Martine , a demographer and the author of the report said. "It doesn't work. We have to change mindsets and take a different stance. We're at a crossroads and can still make decisions which will make cities sustainable. If we don't make the right decisions the result will be chaos."

As Socialists are oft to say - Either Socialism or Barbarism

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When will it ever end ?


I have previously drawn attention to the plight of the Australian Aborigines here and celebrated one of their rare victories here . The recent racist plans from Howard left such a bad taste in my mouth that i refrained from commenting . A socialist view on them can be found at the Official SPGB Blog .


But I now read that the Australian government are now deploying troops to be stationed in the Northern Territories outback to enforce Howard's crack-down . The first soldiers will start arriving in remote desert settlements in the sparsely populated Northern Territory starting Wednesday, backed up by police, social workers, and government officials. One of the 60 communities to which troops and police reinforcements will be deployed is Mutitjulu, located in the shadow of Uluru, also called Ayers Rock.


"I fear there will be another case of Stolen Generation children because they will be taken away from their mothers and fathers and aunties and uncles," said Aborigine Barbara Swan from the Tangangera Council in Alice Springs . The Stolen Generation refers to the forced removal of Aboriginal children from remote communities so they could be brought up in white homes. The failed assimilation policy ran for decades until the late 1960s. The movie Rabbit-Proof Fence depicts true events of those legally kidnapped youngsters .


"We believe that this government is using child sexual abuse as the Trojan horse to resume total control of our lands," said Pat Turner, who represents 13 central Australian community groups


Howard said he sent soldiers to Afghanistan to save Afghans from Afghans , troops to Iraq to save Iraqis from Iraqis , now he sends the army to save Austrialian Aborigines from Australian Aborigines . It is no wonder we all question the sincerity of his motives .

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Monday, June 25, 2007

American hunger (2)

Further to this

Often described as the richest state in the richest country California has more than 2.5 million residents can’t afford to adequately feed their families, according to a new report by the Center for Health Policy Research at UCLA. 30 percent of poor people experienced food insecurity in 2005 up from the 29 percent reported in 2001. .

Merced County ranks third-worst in the state for the percentage of poor adults who have trouble putting food on the table (Only Kings and Napa counties had higher rates of food insecurity) . 25,000 low-income adults living in Merced have trouble getting enough food to eat. For about 9,000 of those people, the problem is so severe that they consistently experience hunger.

George Manalo-LeClair, one of the report's authors and director of legislation for the California Food Policy Advocates. "So much food is produced there, yet we see a ton of families struggling just to put food on the table."

Merced County Rescue Mission now serving between 8,000 and 11,000 meals per month countywide.

Meanwhile on the Eastern Seaboard the Philadelphia Inquirer reports that some estimates put the number affected by hunger in the USA at 35 million. 7,000 infants and toddlers live in Philadelphia households that are at risk for hunger.

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Royal Mail Preparing for Lock-outs ??




Royal Mail will permanently close sorting offices and delivery centres if industrial action, due to start on Friday, begins to bite, sources close to the company told Financial Mail.

And the company has drawn up plans to isolate pockets of militancy by relocating sorting work in London from offices where there are strikes to those unaffected by the action.


With more than 5,000 executives [and reportedly many of the 20,000 non-union members -aj ] working in depots, disruption is expected to be kept to a minimum... the longer the dispute lasts, the less will be the impact...Royal Mail is confident it will have the full support of the Government, which so far has decided to leave the handling of the dispute to the company.


The Observer reports Royal Mail executives are preparing for months of strikes .A Royal Mail source said: "It will go on for months and then people will realise it is serious. What happens is the turnout for the first strike will be high but by the time you get to the fourth it will fall. We don't mind having three to six months of disruption "


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We are all criminals


Nearly two-thirds of Britons regularly break the law if they think they can get away with it, research shows.

It found : "The 'law-abiding majority' which politicians like to address, is a chimera. The law-abiding majority not only do not abide by the law, they also do not believe in the value of laws and rules, shrugging them off in pursuit of their interests and desires. They even regard law-abidingness as a disadvantage."

Professor Karstedt, said: "Contempt for the law is as widespread in the centre of society as it is assumed to be rampant at the margins and amongst specific marginal groups. Anti-social behaviour by the few is mirrored by anti-civil behaviour by the many.

Dr Stephen Farrall said : "What we find in our research is a strong tendency amongst consumers to "hit back" when they feel treated unfairly by big and small business, even by illegal means."

Socialists claim that people are neither inherently good , nor inherently bad , but will behave according to the norms of the prevailing society .

And as one of the researchers says: "The values and the behaviour of those at the centre of society are indicative of the moral state of our society"

Socialists would assert that people recognise that present society condones legalised theft and that the capitalist class maintain a privileged lifestyle whilst the rest of us endure varying degrees of poverty, both relative and absolute . The way in which wealth is produced and distributed will determine the ideas of the people; in other words, material conditions dominate and form the basis of all the legal, ethical, moral and religious superstructure of society.

"...buying and selling is the great cheat that robs and steals the earth from one another. It is that which makes some lords, others beggars, some rulers, others to be ruled; and makes great murderers and thieves to be imprisoners and hangers of little ones, or of sincere hearted men" said Gerrard Winstanley in 1649 - "A Declaration from the Poor Oppressed People of England"

Law and crime here , here and here and here

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Saturday, June 23, 2007

Bay City Politics


The bete noir of us Scottish dead-heads in my younger days was the teeny -pop , Bay City Rollers .

Lo and behold , one has risen fro the ashes and appearing at Glastonbury as a politicalised protest singer .
Eric Faulkner will appear on Glastonbury's Left Field stage tomorrow in support of Tony Benn.


"Even when I was in the Bay City Rollers I used to talk about issues," he says. "But it didn't fit the agenda. The record company and management just wanted the boy-next-door thing. Now I do stuff by Pete Seeger, Ewan McColl and my own songs. It's not a soap box but I want to challenge the apathy in music and help bring back the protest song."


His father was a senior official with the Boiler Makers' Union, forerunner of the GMB.
Oh , well , i really shouldn't be a musical fascist and put him down . He is trying -very trying .


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Friday, June 22, 2007

Snakes in Suits

From the BBC

Psychopaths are defined as a person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behaviour without empathy or remorse.


We normally associate psychopaths with death but they're not always in prison but they could be in your office right now.


You can spot them quite easily in the workplace - so you may want to think about people you know . They interview well, they get into organisations by using people as pawns, sweet talking patrons and creating conflict. They can learn to use ordinary words and to reproduce the pantomime of feeling but the feeling itself does not come to pass.


Professor Hare, along with colleague Dr Paul Babiak, has developed a questionnaire which can enable people to identify which desks those smooth-talking, manipulative colleagues might be hiding behind.


Is your boss a psychopath? Here are just some of the tell tale signs :-


They are :-
manipulative
lack specific goals
have superficial relations with people
are impulsive
are irresponsible
crave power and prestige
lack empathy
lack remorse
lie easily
have predatory instincts
are cool under pressure
seek excitement and thrills
take credit for the work of others
fly into rages


"I don't see any difference between the people I meet in prison and those in business," according to Professor Hare


Nor do i see too much difference either when i think of most of my bosses in Royal Mail .
( i remember one boss who claimed that you are not a real manager unless you have papered a member of your family )

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Out !!


The first national postal strike in 11 years will take place on Friday 29th June. It is a 24hour strike (3am -3am ? ) and will involve all workers in Royal Mail and Post Office Limited which includes people who work on counters and cash services .


Also agreed is further strike action within in two weeks from the 29th June that is designed to maximise the impact on Royal Mail but at minimum cost to the CWU members.


I'm hoping that the planners of the strike have learned from the chaotic experience from the Way Forward mid-90s when the selection and times of the one day actions led to bizarre situations of local union officials being at work while others were out on strike and on the picket line , of union activists being spat upon by the public for being scabs because their shift were not called out in co-ordination with the rest .


Also union members in Romec and Quadrant must be pressed to not cross picket lines , as they were instructed to do so in our last wave of official action .

Management were able to do large business collections , process through the machines and have yorkies ready for despatch when we returned to resume work .

Machines faults had been repaired by Romec and those strike breaking CMA staff - i remember 60-odd being brought up from Chesterfield to Edinburgh to scab- being fed and watered by Quadrant .


Lets make life hard for them this time . Lets make sure the strike bites .


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Justice

"In America, you do not convict people for being rich," said Edward Greenspan,

He is right .

They convict you for being poor .

'nuff said .

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Hippies and Diggers


Further to this forty years a band of non-conformists are reviving the Sixties spirit giving away everything free.


In a park in the west Coast city, the group has been gathering every month for a "Really Really Free Market." Here nothing carries a price tag. "No Cash, No Ads, No Barter, Everything is Free!"


Back in the spring of 1967, along San Francisco's Haight Street, a group calling themselves "The Diggers" opened several "free stores" to clothe the influx of flower children drawn to the neighborhood for the Summer of Love. No cash needed, just take what you need and leave the rest.Diggers cooked up huge stockpots of stew and baked bread in old coffee cans to feed the new arrivals in Golden Gate Park.They took their name from a short-lived 17th century movement in the English countryside which temporarily reclaimed land for the commoners, spurning all forms of buying and selling.


The spirit of the Diggers has found new life in the monthly market.


More on the original Diggers here

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

Neil Young -The Restless Consumer



Once again that veteran Canadian troubadour brings home some truth in his music and in a very effective video to boot .

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Contractors = Mercenaries

US private security companies are reportedly getting increasingly involved in military action in
Iraq fighting insurgents, suffering attacks and taking hundreds of casualties that have been sometimes concealed. The security companies are funded by billions of dollars in US military and State Department contracts . House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Henry Waxman estimates that $4 billion in taxpayer money has so far been spent in Iraq on these armed "security" companies like Blackwater--with tens of billions more going to other war companies like KBR and Fluor for "logistical" support. Rep. Jan Schakowsky of the House Intelligence Committee believes that up to forty cents of every dollar spent on the occupation has gone to war contractors.


The majority of the more than 100 security companies operate outside of Iraqi law . Blackwater USA, a North Carolina firm that protects US Ambassador Ryan Crocker, and several other companies have not applied for Iraqi licenses . There is absolutely no effective system of oversight or accountability governing contractors and their operations, nor is there any effective law--military or civilian--being applied to their activities. They have not been subjected to military courts martial (despite a recent Congressional attempt to place them under the Uniform Code of Military Justice), nor have they been prosecuted in US civilian courts--and, no matter what their acts in Iraq, they cannot be prosecuted in Iraqi courts. Before Paul Bremer, Bush's viceroy in Baghdad, left Iraq in 2004 he issued an edict, known as Order 17 . It immunized contractors from prosecution in Iraq . Only two individuals have been ever indicted for crimes there. One with stabbing a fellow contractor, another for the possession of child-pornography . While dozens of American soldiers have been court-martialed--sixty-four on murder-related charges--not a single armed contractor has been prosecuted for a crime against an Iraqi. In some cases, where contractors were alleged to have been involved in crimes or deadly incidents, their companies whisked them out of Iraq to safety.


The US military uses 20,000 to 30,000 contractors [ read mercenaries ] . According to the Government Accountability Office, there are now some 48,000 employees [ read mercenaries ] of private military companies in Iraq. Armed contractors [ read mercenaries ] protect all convoys transporting reconstruction materiel, including vehicles, weapons and ammunition for the Iraqi army and police. They guard key US military installations and provide personal security for at least three commanding generals .


One in seven supply convoys protected by private forces has come under attack this year.


One security company reported nearly 300 "hostile actions" in the first four months .


The logistics directorate reported that 132 security contractors and truck drivers had been killed and 416 wounded since fall 2004. Four security contractors and a truck driver remained missing, and 208 vehicles were destroyed. Only convoys registered with the logistics directorate are counted in the statistics, and the total number of casualties is believed to be higher. Other estimates are at least 770 contractors [ read mercenaries ] have been killed in Iraq and at least another 7,700 injured.


Blackwater protects the US ambassador and other senior officials in Iraq as well as visiting Congressional delegations; it trains Afghan security forces and was deployed in the oil-rich Caspian Sea region, setting up a "command and control" center just miles from the Iranian border. The company was also hired to protect FEMA operations and facilities in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina . At present, it has forces deployed in nine countries and boasts a database of 21,000 additional troops at the ready, a fleet of more than twenty aircraft, including helicopter gun-ships, and the world's largest private military facility--a 7,000 acre compound near the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina. It recently opened a new facility in Illinois ("Blackwater North") and is fighting local opposition to a third planned domestic facility near San Diego ("Blackwater West") by the Mexican border.


The man behind this empire is Erik Prince, a secretive, conservative Christian, ex-Navy SEAL multimillionaire . Among Blackwater's senior executives are Cofer Black, former head of counterterrorism at the CIA; Robert Richer, former Deputy Director of Operations at the CIA; Joseph Schmitz, former Pentagon Inspector General; and an impressive array of other retired military and intelligence officials. Company executives recently announced the creation of a new private intelligence company, "Total Intelligence," to be headed by Black and Richer.


Even if the "official" U.S. military presence shrinks and if there is an American-UK withdrawal" from the war , Bush's use of military security contractors [ read mercenaries ] would , as Erik Leaver of the Institute for Policy Studies points out "...allow the President to continue the war using a mercenary army."

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Friday, June 15, 2007

Agent Orange

While the USA had taken such a moral superiority about how Saddam had used chemical weapons , they had conveniently forgotten their own use of such weapons in Vietnam .

This report is an apt reminder .

30 years after the Vietnam War ended, the poisonous legacy of Agent Orange has emerged anew with a scientific study that has found extraordinarily high levels of health-threatening contamination at the former U.S. air base at Danang. Soil tests found levels of dioxin, the highly toxic chemical compound in Agent Orange, that were 300 to 400 times higher than internationally accepted limits.

"They're the highest levels I've ever seen in my life," said Thomas Boivin, the scientist who conducted the tests this spring. "If this site were in the U.S. or Canada, it would require significant studies and immediate cleanup."

Blood tests found elevated dioxin levels in several dozen people who regularly fished or harvested lotus flowers from a contaminated lake on the site. Tests also confirmed that rainwater has carried dioxin into city drains and into parts of a neighboring community that is home to more than 100,000 people .

The Human Cost

Vietnam says up to 3 million of its 84 million people have birth defects or other health problems related to dioxin.

Nguyen Van Dung, 38, and his family have lived just outside the air base since 1990. Dung used to bring home fish he caught in Lotus Lake.At about age 2, his daughter began manifesting grotesque health problems. Now 7, Nguyen Thi Kieu Nhung's shin bones curve sharply and appear to be broken in several places, as though smashed with a hammer. Her right shoulder bone protrudes unnaturally, stretching her skin. She has only two teeth, her right eye bulges from its socket and she has sores on her face. She can't walk; she can only slide around on her rear end. When her mother, Luu Thi Thu, changes her daughter's shirt, Nhung screams in pain.

Nguyen Thi Thuy Lieu, grew up next to the base and used to enter it regularly to get candy from the U.S. troops. The family fished in Lotus Lake and drank water from a nearby well.
Now her daughter , Nguyen Thi Trang Ngan, 17 , can't speak, sit up, walk, feed herself or get dressed. She makes strange, uncontrolled grunting sounds and sucks her thumb.

"War always brings suffering," her mother said. "I don't blame anyone for it. This is my fate."

I am afraid i cannot share this woman's acceptance of her situation . There is blame to be placed . War brings suffering , but who brings war - Politicians and business magnets to satisfy end of the year share-holder reports .

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Thursday, June 14, 2007

war drums 2

Just in case people think i have misread the situation concerning the alleged Iranian involvement in supplying the Taleban with weapons when later these statements were made

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says "substantial" quantities of Iranian weapons are flowing into Afghanistan.

"I would say, given the quantities we're seeing, it is difficult to believe it is associated with smuggling or the drug business, or that it's taking place without the knowledge of the Iranian Government," he said.

BUT he goes on to say he has not seen specific intelligence of Iranian involvement but the latest analysis is based "on the weapons themselves and the explosives that have been seized".

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Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Equity

A 25-year veteran of private equity and chairman of SVG Capital, the biggest investor in Permira’s record €11billion ($14.8billion) fund with a commitment of €3.8billion, Mr Nicholas Ferguson, one of the most prominent figures in Europe’s private equity industry , said

“Any common sense person would say that a highly-paid private equity executive paying less tax than a cleaning lady or other low-paid workers, that can’t be right,”

Nicholas Ferguson, one of the most important figures in UK private equity business, has criticized rules on capital gains tax that allow executives at private equity firms and some hedge funds to enjoy tax rates as low as 10 percent. "I have not heard anyone give a clear explanation of why it is justified," said Mr. Ferguson

Private equity general partners are paid a base salary but earn most of their money from “carried interest” – typically a 20 per cent share of any profit from selling portfolio companies after a certain threshold. So-called “taper relief” rules allow the tax paid on this income to be reduced from the top capital gains rate of 40 per cent down to 10 per cent as long as the private equity firm holds the company for two years before selling it.

Dictionary meanings of equity :
1. The difference between the market value of a property and the claims held against it
2. The ownership interest of shareholders in a corporation
3. Conformity with rules or standards
4. Fairness

Fair ? Capitalism is never fair . And for the standard it conforms to , it is greed and accumulation .

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

War drums continue to beat

from todays newswire :-

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, speaking to reporters in Paris, said Iran was funding insurrections across the Middle East - and "Iran is now even transferring arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan."

Yet elsewhere we have read :-

Defence Secretary Robert Gates told a press conference on Jun. 4, "We do not have any information about whether the government of Iran is supporting this, is behind it, or whether it's smuggling, or exactly what is behind it." Gates said that "some" of the arms in question might be going to Afghan drug smugglers.

The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan McNeil implied that the arms trafficking from Iran is being carried out by private interests. "When you say weapons being provided by Iran, that would suggest there is some more formal entity involved in getting these weapons here," he told Jim Loney of Reuters June 5. "That's not my view at all."

It is well known that Afghan drug lords who command huge amounts of money have been able to penetrate the long and porous border with ease. They have undoubtedly been involved in buying arms in Iran with their drug proceeds for both themselves and the Taliban, which protects their drug routes. Smuggling is relatively easy because of the money available for bribery of border guards.

Noted by former Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Rustam Shah Momand in an interview on Pakistan's GEO television Apr. 19, is that the Taliban now controls areas on the Iranian border for the first time. Momand said the Taliban, which is awash in money from the heroin exports to Iran, buys small quantities of weapons in Iran and smuggles them back into Afghanistan. But the Iranian government itself is not involved in the trade in arms, Momand insisted.

Tony "The Liar"Blair, of course , added his tuppensworth to fan the flames of war
"In Afghanistan it is clear that the Taliban is receiving support, including arms from ... elements of the Iranian regime," Blair wrote in the May 31 edition of the Economist. Nothing about the weapons from Pakistan . A Nato report on the Taliban's military capability states clearly that Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence (ISI) is involved in supplying it. Blair along with Bush is too busy downplaying Pakistans nuclear missiles programme and Musharraf's attacks on democracy .

But what does the Afghanistan Prime Minister say :-

“There’s no reason that any of our neighbours should support the Taliban,” Mr Karzai said. “We don’t have any such evidence so far...”

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The Roma

An article in The Herald reminds us that the Holocaust was not limited to the Jewish population .

An estimated 1.5 million were murdered in Nazi-occupied Europe, an episode that has come to be known in the Romani language as the Porraimos (the "devouring"), or Romani holocaust.

In communist eastern Europe after the war, the state set about targeting Roma, with social policies aimed to settle them forcibly and to eradicate "anti-social traits".

The number of Roma in the whole of Europe could be between 10 million and 12 million, according to a recent EU report .

The history of the Roma in Europe is a tragic one. Migrating from northern India to Europe in the eleventh century, most Roma live today in eastern and central Europe, particularly in Romania and Bulgaria, with many large communities in other European countries. In the parts of the Ottoman empire today located in modern-day Romania, they have endured persecution and enslavement at the hands of landowners and clergy since the middle ages, being emancipated from slavery only in the mid-nineteenth century.

Despite efforts to socially engineer their assimilation, the vast majority of Roma remained marginalised and discriminated against by both state and society. Anti-Roma racism across Europe remained rampant, and some governments in western Europe organised programmes of forced sterilisation of Roma women .
In many countries, segregation in schooling and housing is still a fact of life, social attitudes towards Roma are poisonous and pogroms are not unknown. Negative social attitudes and disastrous state policies toward the Roma has resulted in the reinforcement of the very conditions that contribute to their continued marginalisation, including low literacy levels, poverty, poor housing, poor health and low life expectancy.

Throughout their history the Roma have had good reason to be mistrustful of authorities, and have survived at the absolute margins of society.

Selling the Big Issue in Scotland may not be everyones idea of escape but for those Roma seen on Scottish streets doing just that , it is may be a lot better than where they have come from .It would be nice to be minded of that and how they have suffered in the past and become the forgotten victims of Nazism .

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Monday, June 11, 2007

American Hunger Pains

From the richest country in the world if we are led to believe the propaganda , that is .

A recent study by the Food Bank For New York reveals that the city's hunger problem, far from diminishing, is getting steadily worse. According to the report, since 2003, the first year data were available, the number of city residents who experienced difficulty affording needed food in the previous 12 months has increased tremendously.

While in 2003 the number of people struggling to put food on the table was about 2 million, in 2004 it already was 2.5 million, in 2005 2.6 million and last year it went up to almost 3 million - an increase of 48% .

According to the study, while the cost of food, housing, fuel and other basic expenses has gone through the roof in the last few years, real wages (what you can actually buy with the money you make) have decreased more than 10% since 2003.

Aine Duggan, the Food Bank's vice president of government relations, policy and research said.

"These numbers refer to people who are experiencing hunger and also to those who have trouble affording the food they need or the right type of food..."

Nor is it the poor and the homeless and the hobos who suffer .

"More middle-income people are joining the ranks of those struggling to put food on the table.The shrinking middle class is real."

The percentage of New Yorkers with household incomes as high as $50,000 to $74,999 that are having trouble affording the food they need went up to 28% last year from 14% in 2003, the study found.

"This study shows that there is a certain misconception about what it means to be struggling and hungry in New York. It is more widespread than people think. People working full time, the guy who cleans your building at night, the school guard - they all can be having trouble putting the food they need on the table." said Councilman Eric Gioia .

The number of those who lack savings to fall back on if they lose their jobs or become ill has increased dramatically. Among New Yorkers with annual household incomes ranging from $25,000 to $49,999, for example, the percentage of those not able to afford food immediately after a loss of household income rose to 26% last year from 16% in 2003 .

Nor is it in the big soul-less city that people go hungry .

In Rhode Island we read more people are going hungry than before :-

Michael Cerio, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Community Food Bank, said. "People's wages are just not keeping up with cost of living and, because of that, hunger is now affecting one out of every eight households,"

In 1998-1999, when a study was done, the number of households affected by problems providing food was one in every 10. Each year, according to the statistics provided, the number appears to be increasing .This increase is due to a number of things, according to Cerio, such as the increased cost of fuel, home heating costs, rents, mortgages and utilities and other costs of living. Wages are increasing, he said, but it may not be enough.

"For the calendar year 2006, we fed 13,698 people," said Dan Sylvester, president of the West Warwick Food Pantry. "When they come, we give them three meals for three days, so that was a total of 123,282 meals last year."
And this year ??
Sylvester said, there has already been "higher totals than the same months last year."

"It just seems to get worse every year as rents get higher, the cost for fuel gets higher, the cost for electricity gets higher, and many people just can't do it," Sylvester said.

In neigbouring Warwick according to Jean Gattegno, president and CEO of Westbay Community Action said :-

"There has absolutely been an increase in people requesting food," she said. "As the costs of rents have increased along with medical costs and utilities payments, people just do not have enough money to make it through the month...We see a lot of people in crisis, but the underlying effect of the crisis is that they just do not have enough money to make it through the month .We see so many young people and young families who are working that are just not able to make ends meet. It really says a lot about the economy of the state." - It actually says more about the economic realities of the Capitalist State

The increased numbers the pantries are seeing are coming from more working families requesting help. The number of working poor accessing food pantries for assistance in this state, according to Cerio, is at almost one third (32 %) of the households served by the Food Bank Network. This number is up from 29 % on 2001 and 25% in 1997.

Pat Shurtleff, the human services director for near-by Coventry, said she is seeing an increase in the number of people accessing services from the food bank as well.

"We are seeing an increase in the number of families," Shurtleff said. "Many people are living paycheck to paycheck, so that when they have that extra unexpected cost come up - whether it be an increase in medication cost, a car that breaks down and needs to be fixed - it can really throw people off because they just cannot afford to put that reserve in the bank for things like that."

Doesn't really reflect the image we see of American capitalism on our TVs , does it ?

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Living in a box



Just how low can the capitalist class go ....and how far will the working class let them go before we say enough is enough .

An eight-foot aluminium box is being touted as the solution to the housing shortage. At £50,000 (fully installed and functioning), it could be a starter home for someone struggling with today's house prices .

The most obvious use , which was not even mentioned by the BBC reporter , would be that of temporary emergency accommodation in a disaster zone .

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

It's a Yes - YESSSSSSSS

YES 66,064 - 77.5%

NO 19,119


67.06% Turn Out , 52.02% of those eligible to vote , voted Yes to industrial action .


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It Must Be Coke


The Coca-Cola company has been charged with illegally seizing lands communally owned by small farmers and indiscriminately dumping sludge and other industrial hazardous waste onto the surrounding community. The San Francisco-based India Resource Center, an environmental health non-profit, further charged Coca-Cola with releasing untreated wastewater into surrounding agricultural fields and a canal that feeds into the Ganges River in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The charges are based on the results of a fact-finding mission led by the group to a Coca-Cola bottling plant in the region.


In 2003, in response to a growing campaign against Coca-Cola, the Central Pollution Control Board of India surveyed eight Coca-Cola bottling plants in the country and tested the sludge at all these facilities. The Board found all the sludge at all the Coca-Cola bottling plants it surveyed contained high levels of toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and chromium. At the time, it ordered the Coca-Cola company to treat its sludge as industrial hazardous waste.


On Tuesday, the soft drink giant announced at the annual meeting of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Beijing its own environmental plan, pledging to spend $20 million to conserve seven of the world's most critical river basins. Coke's announcement did not mention any measures to conserve water basins in India,


"We call this 'greenwashing,'" said Srivastava of the India Resource Center. "An attempt by the Coca-Cola company to manufacture a green image of itself that it clearly is not, as their practice in India shows."


"...it as largely a tactic to divert attention from other areas," Patti Lynn of the watchdog group Corporate Accountability said , adding ,"Coke is just trying to get some public relations points. They're using this as a diversionary tactic,"


Coca-Cola distributes three bottled water brands: Dasani, Dannon, and Evian. Consumers spend about $100 billion on bottled water each year. By comparison, experts estimate that just $15 billion per year, above and beyond what is already spent, could bring reliable and lasting access to safe drinking water to half a billion people worldwide -- fully half of those who lack it.


The annual volume of bottled water purchased and sold in the United States has increased by over 7,000 percent. Yet the bottled water industry operates with little or no regulation.
"Tap water is better regulated, and often safer," said Lynn, quoting a 1999 study by the National Resources Defense Council on bottled water sold in the United States, which found traces of arsenic, chloroform, and other impurities; chemicals that would be illegal if found in tap water and also adding adding that bottled water costs 3,000 percent more to produce than safe tap water .
Social needs will always take second place to the need for capitalism to accumulate profits .

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

House-keeping

“The cost of living continues to outstrip growth in pay, household finances are being squeezed and there is an increasing reliance on the equity in property values to support consumer spending habits.” according to The Financial Times

In other words , we earn less and are having to borrow more to make ends meet .

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We are mostly city folk now

For the first time in recorded history, the majority of the world's population is living in cities.

An urban population of 3,303,992,253 last Wednesday, exceeded that of 3,303,866,404 rural people.

1 billion urban dwellers -- or approximately one sixth of the world's total population -- currently live in "slums," defined as areas where people cannot secure key necessities such as clean water, a nearby toilet, or durable housing.

In the United States, only 21 percent of the population is rural, the tipping point from rural to urban occurring in the United States nearly 100 years ago, in the late 1910s.

"A lot of people would prefer to live in rural areas or small towns instead of cities but basic technologies like clean water and electricity are not necessarily readily accessible. Health care is not as accessible; public transportation and education are not good. There's not the investment in infrastructure and opportunity in rural areas. So people have no choice but to move to the city."

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Anarchist Football

Football for Anarchists ( A Theoretical Approach )

We think that team sports provide valuable social learning experiences , and that therefore there are certain social values inherent in football. In fact , it is especially in football ( opposed to other team sports , like American football or baseball ) that an individual performance can hardly be separated from a team effort ( penalty kicks would probably be the only exception ). Any apparent individual achievement , lets say a long dribbling , can only be successful when your team mates open space for you , lead opponents astray etc . In the same vein , even a direct free kick involves the team mates’ blocking and/or distraction of the opponent’s defence . As great as your individual skills might be , they will count for nothing if they are not accordingly supported and strengthened by your fellow players . The fact that the individuals bring different qualities to a team ( a defender needs different skills than a striker , etc ) does not change this - if anything it strengthens the necessity of working together because players need their team mates to make up for the skills they themselves are lacking .

The success of a football team depends on how well the team’s individual complement each other as a collective . It is a known phenomenon that teams of no names can beat teams full of great individual players simply because they make the better collective while the great individual players don’t work together .And it is a known phenomenon that a lot of football players who look great in their respective clubs disappoint in the national squad ( or the other way around ) because they don’t get to display their full abilities in the context of a specific collective setting.


None of this means to diminish the importance of the individual performance for the team . The individual performance is very important . If a player on a football team doesn’t fulfil his or her role , of course , this has an immediate negative effect on the team as a whole . We are not saying that the individual performance loses its importance in football . What we are saying is that the individual performance doesn’t have any meaning outside the team’s performance - the bottom line is that in a true teams sport the individual performance can’t be separated from the collective . “ Playing football together regularly can provide a concrete sense of affinity .It’s a beautiful thing when a few people together make an impact greater than the sums of their parts” says comrade Fernandez . Agreed .


It is here where we believe that football can have relevance for radical political activists . We can see a football team as a social microcosm - a microcosm that demands that individuals get together and form a collective in order to achieve something . In this process it is both necessary to excel as an individual ( since a good individual performance will boost the team’s performance ) and at the same time , to take oneself back as an individual to fit the collective’s needs . Success in football depends on this unity of individual and collective pursuit and ability . Challenge to this success comes from both sides : too much individualism will neglect the necessity of team play ; and too much focus on the team will hinder individual players to express their full potential . What is needed is to find the right balance between individual liberty and collective responsibility . Very much like in a self-determined community . Comrade Fernandez ties the collective learning experiences to tactics of resistance : “ On the field , a player supports others by putting herself where her team-mates can pass to her in order to keep the ball away from defenders or to advance it up the field . This technique involves awareness of where your comrades are and what they might do . During extra-legal work , such skills make actions faster , tighter and safer” . Overly optimistic or not - these are neat ideas for any anarchist football fan .


Ideally , the sense of collectivity earned from football goes beyond one’s own team . First of all , it encompasses the players on the opposing side : ‘sportsmanship’ ( despite all its patriarchal overtones and the hypocrisy commonly associated with it ) in its genuine sense is very much about the consideration and respect for those you are playing against , who are essentially not your adversaries but your comrades in exercise , challenge and fun , and hence ought to be treated as such . Opposing teams expressing kinship after a tough game provide an example for what social relations should be like under any circumstances - as do players who care for injured opponents or speak up in defence against abuse or criticism . The both symbolic and concrete educational dimensions of this should not be underestimated . How to respect each other and how to get along despite difficult circumstances , or despite finding oneself pitted against each other at times , must be an important exercise for people aspiring to be involved in creating and maintaining anarchist communities .


Secondly , the sense of collectivity experienced in a football team can extend to the supporters. Originally , football clubs , particularly in Europe and in Latin America , were very much integrated into their socio - geographical surroundings , and the people supporting the team were often times very literally that : supporters ( and not jut ‘fans’ ) : they would come to practice , talk to players , boost their morale , cheer for them accompany them on the away games etc. This is where the football phrase that speaks of the supporters as the “twelfth player” comes from and the notion should not be dismissed too easily. ( Not that the supporters have historically been much rewarded for this of course . The capitalist club owners were always pigs : “All around the country , supporters clubs were busy raising money on behalf of their football clubs , and receiving little or nothing in exchange in the way of representation . Whilst the money that they provided was gratefully received , this did not entitle them to recognition , or to any sort of say in the running of their club” ).


Of course the just presented notions are all idealistic . In today’s professional football few of these ideals remain tangible .Most players are so concerned with their individual careers that their individual performances mean more to them than their team’s achievements , and in general there is very little loyalty to a team and its fate . There is also a lack of kinship amongst and respect for other players, and these are hardly any concrete relationships left between the players and their fans . However , all of the above -mentioned elements of collectivity remain a part even of the professional game ( there are still moments of solidarity between players of the same or opposing teams; or let’s look at the attempts of the radical fan projects to revive a less mediated and more concrete supporters culture ) , and it will be up to us to strengthen them within the context in which we want to follow , play and organise football . In the end , the state of professional football is not our concern here . Our concern are the values of team sports as such, their specific expressions in football, and what good they ca ( at least potentially ) do for anarchist communities .


Besides , there are more aspects of football culture that seem to be encouraging right here and now . In the game’s left-wing critique , there is a lot of focus on its dividing features …However , there are many unifying aspects of the game at the same time. They play out at different levels , from football - like laughter or music - being a ‘global language’ ( any travelling football fans will have innumerable stories of getting into pick-up games with people they’ve never met before , whose language they don’t speak and whose social and cultural background might be very different from theirs - yet who they instantly make friends and share moments of joy and community with ) , to it being ‘a universal theme’ ( you can have a passionate discussion about whether David Beckham should stay with Real Madrid or move elsewhere with kid in Kuala Lumpur , Malaysia , Banjul , Gambia , or Kingston , Jamaica - how many other topics are there that transgress national , cultural and social boundaries so easily ? ) , to notions of global fan culture ( and one of the most ignored and overlooked aspects of football fan culture is that at all big football tournaments you will see fans from different countries socialise and have a good time with each other - in far , far bigger numbers than they’d ever clash violently ; football fans have done much more to open borders , create international friendships and alliances , and overcome prejudice and bigotry , than the media and the upper-classes wanna make you believe )


On a more general note ( speaking of football’s social values ) , what we consider one of football’s most important benefits for community life lies in sports being able to alleviate social conflict ( much more so than it could ever fuel it ) : Football can play a role as a substitute for real-life conflict in which aggressions can be vented , tensions eased , or disputes solved in a socially sound manner . We think that such a social mechanism proves beneficial in any community . We need social mechanisms that allow to address tension and conflict and that help ease it , but in a socially acceptable ways that do not jeopardize balanced community life. For example , it seems better to let people project resentments into games than allow these resentments to hinder their ability to co-operate in daily life. The notion that no conflict will ever arise in an anarchist community simply seems unrealistic . We think that in its cathartic role , football can help maintain a healthy poise of community spirit by controlling social forces that could pose a threat to that spirit otherwise , and by directing them elsewhere . In this sense , football can add to the mental and emotional health of a community - and since it seems hard to deny that sports already add to a community’s physical health , this doesn’t seem so bad , does it ? Furthermore , football in its pure form is simply play; aren’t we anarchists all about that


Anarchist Football in Praxis


One of the biggest problems football-critical anarchists seem to have with the game ( and most sports in general ) is the competitiveness that’s allegedly intrinsic to it ; you have two sides that are trying “ to beat ” each other ., and you end up with winners and losers . And true , in general , there lies nothing too anarchistic in such an endeavour , we suppose . But we think that there are possible solutions to this ; one consists of finding less competitive ways of plying the game ; another of finding a more unperturbed attitude towards competition .
In regard to the first option , four main possibilities come to mind :-


1. Juggling [ ‘keepy uppy’ ] , passing , dribbling , kicking the ball around , rather than playing matches . They can definitely be fun , but the question remains if this is really still football , rather than a version of hackie sackin’ with a bigger ball . If for certain soccer ball aficionados this suffices great , but we guess it wouldn’t work for the majority of football fans .


2. Open-ended pick -up games : You have a certain group of people who start a match by forming two teams , and you play and try to score goals , but no one really keeps track of the score , and you neither play until a certain time is over nor until a certain score is reached but basically just till people are too tired or too few to continue playing a reasonable game . The advantages of this type of play are obvious : you have the thrill and motivation of trying to score and defend your own goal while playing , yet it doesn’t translate into winning or losing . Especially if the game is long and new arrivals join in and/or certain players switch sides during the game , etc. In the end neither side will be clearly defined , nor will certain individuals closely identify with a certain side , and so the notions of ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ becomes irrelevant. This is one of our personal favourite ways of playing . Especially since we are big advocates of pick-up games generally , since to us the social etiquette that surrounds pick-up games has definite anarchic dimensions. In our experience as people who’ve always been into all kinds of sports , and hence as people who have participated in pick-up games of numerous sports on numerous occasions and in numerous places , the smoothness and ease in which this usually happens seems remarkable: no-where you go is there ever any particular written code or table of rules as to how pick-up games should be set up and organised , as to how they should be refereed . Or as to who has the right to play when and how long and with who . The ‘rules’ are always unspoken ; sometimes they are inspired by a region’s or a country’s general social consensus on how to go about things , sometimes shaped by a social history and reality very specific to the site of play , but no matter ; the outcome is almost always very simple , very clear , and very accommodating for everybody . Usually , following the unwritten rules of the site , everyone gets to play in a spirit of mutual respect . And we neither want to romanticise football nor come down on other sports , but we believe that this spirit is particularly strong in the case of the former . While particularly certain basketball courts know of folks who ( while mostly still respecting pick-up game etiquette) can be rather territorial when it comes to ‘their’ court , we have hardly run into football pick-up games that appeared uninviting or unwelcoming ; and this goes for many place spread out across many social , cultural , and political lines .


3. Mixing up sides: If you have a group of , say , ten players , you start with two teams of five , but every so often , individuals will change sides . This can be either done spontaneously , or following an agreed upon pattern , for example ,along the lines of a traditional Amazonian game where after each goal the scorer automatically switches sides . Again this approach would maintain a competitive ( ‘motivating’ , ‘exciting’ ) element in the game , yet would avoid clear cut outcomes of winners and losers .


4 . Substituting sides . You form three teams (or more) , two of them play till one scores , and whoever gets scored against has to clear the pitch for the waiting team , and so forth . Once again , you will have the rush and excitement of ‘competing’ , but in the end there are no real winners or losers , only people who have played longer and others who have played shorter. This is another option we personally like a lot , the obvious problem being that some players will always end up rather impatiently on the sidelines - especially unpleasant in cold Winter months .


Finally , lets look at the possibilities to lessen the competitive dimensions of playing the game . We think that they mainly lie in accepting the winner - loser pattern as one of its necessary aspects , while simply not playing too much attention to it or allowing it to play too much of a role . The prospect of ‘winning’ ( or , in less martial terms: scoring more goals than your opponent ) might just be that little extra incentive that we weak humans need sometimes to summon that extra motivation and inspiration ‘to give our best’ , or simply to give the game an element of suspense and excitement …But given the right social surroundings , it doesn’t have to translate into anything more , meaning : conceit , or special recognition or respect . Winning and losing could just be seen as aspects of playing certain games that make them a little more fun to play . As long as there are no social rewards for winning or social punishments for losing , as long as the win or loss concerns nothing but the game , as long as both sides follow original sports notions of mutual respect , we don’t think that the fact that someone wins or loses , can do much harm .


To further ensure that the games and their outcomes don’t take too much meaning in themselves , community activities and events could be organised around them . A game can prelude/follow a political workshop , tournaments can be accompanied by gatherings or conferences , and the teams united in a league can pursue political campaigns together , meet for projects , or have regular discussion/art/whatever groups running alongside the league . We believe that embedded in a conscious anarchist community and enjoyed in a context of community work , football will always be a fun game to play in which scores and standings matter little …


Extracts from the Anarchist Football Manual by the AAP Collective

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Parasites Pay-day

According to a report in the Times Royal Mail has awarded its chief executive hundreds of thousands of pounds in bonuses which will be revealed in Royal Mail’s accounts and financial results for the past financial year but in an attempt to minimise publicity during the present dispute publication has been delayed and Royal Mail has not set a date for them to appear.


Adam Crozier is understood to have received a bonus of up to £370,000 and further benefits, taking his total package to more than £1 million which makes him the highest-paid civil servant in the country.Mr Crozier is entitled to a bonus of 60 per cent of his salary, which last year was £615,000, if targets are met, and 100 per cent if they are exceeded substantially.

Allan Leighton, the postal group’s chairman, is also expected to have received a bonus of more than £100,000.

Royal Mail is also expected to reveal a substantial pay-off to the former head of its letters division who left after just over a year with the business. Ian Griffiths, who earned £500,000, left at the end of March.

Scum always rises to the top .

Also reminds me that Post office bosses is like smoking pot - the more you suck ,the higher you get .

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Friday, June 01, 2007

Room with a View and Something to view

Another example of Capitalism's obscenity . India's richest man , rupee trillionaire , Mukesh Ambani is building himself a room with a view . His skyscraper home in the city will be over 170m tall and will have an army of 600 staff to manage it. Its 27 floors on a 4,532 sq metre plot will provide a panoramic view of the entire city of Mumbai . Mr Ambani - the chairman, and largest shareholder of Reliance Industries, India's largest private sector company - wanted to enjoy a "full view" of the Arabian Sea. So his architects came up with the idea of a 27-storey home and is reportedly spending $1bn on his new home.

SIX FLOORS FOR PARKING: Space for a total of 168 imported cars
ENTERTAINMENT FLOOR: The eighth floor will have an entertainment centre comprising a mini-theatre .
BALCONIES WITH GARDENS: The rooftop of the mini-theatre will serve as a garden, and immediately above that, three more balconies with terrace gardens.
THE HEALTH FLOORS: While the ninth floor will a 'refuge' floor - meant to be used for rescue in emergencies - two floors above that will be set aside for health. It will have facilities for athletics and a swimming pool, while the other will have a health club.
FOR GUESTS: There will be a two-storeyed glass-fronted apartment for the Ambani family's guests above the health floors.
FAMILY: The four floors at the top, that will provide a view of the Arabian Sea and a superb view of the city's skyline, will be for Mukesh, his wife Neeta, their three kids and Mukesh's mother Kokilaben.
AIR SPACE FLOOR: Two floors above the family's residence will be set aside as maintenance areas, and on top of that will be an 'air space floor,' which will act as a control room for helicopters landing on the helipad above. There will be three helipads there.
STAFF: Nearly 600 are expected to work in the building.

If Mukesh is in need of an ornament for the mantlepiece , he can of course purchase Damien Hirst's latest bauble - a platinum cast of a human skull encrusted with three times the number of diamonds on the Imperial State Crown - 8,601 diamonds, including a large pink diamond worth more than four million pounds in the centre of its forehead. It cost £14 million to make , of which £12 million being the diamonds , and has a £50 million price tag . Mere spare change for Mr Ambani

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No news is bad news

I thought i share another blog's comments on another family's individual painful misfortune , in this case , the abduction of Madeleine McCann .

How , indeed , the world's media forgets the wider picture and turns a convenient blind eye to the suffering of many others ,and concentrates its attention upon the one story , often for the simple mercenary reason of circulation figures rather than true compassion.

How must it feel for those who are dismissed as a non-story , not worthy of a news report .

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Callous Capitalism

One of the main news stories in New Zealand is the turning off the electricity for an unpaid bill of NZ$168.40 to a woman on an oyygen machine and her consequent death . Needless to say the heartless actions of Mercury Energy has resulted in outrage and condemnation .

Folole Muliaga, a 44-year-old mother of four, died within two hours of the electricity being switched off at her home in the northern city of Auckland .Mrs Muliaga , a schoolteacher, had been off work since February with a heart and lung condition and because of this she had fallen behind with her energy bills. She was being treated for a cardiomyopathy and was hospitalised with the condition for about a month and just discharged three weeks previous .

A company representative arrived at the house to disconnect the supply and the family said they impressed upon him her dependency on the machine to stay alive yet Mrs Muliaga's son Letitaia, 20, said the employee showed no compassion.

"He said he is here doing his job and he's here to cut the power off,"

Where have we heard that one before "...i was just obeying orders... " .

Almost immediately Mrs Muliaga started to suffer breathing difficulties and collapsed and died within two hours of the power being cut off .

The executives of Mercury Energy are endeavouring to weasel themselves out of criticism , of course but what would you expect .

While in now way wishing to distract from this individual tragedy and this family's pain and suffering , the events are simply just one example of Capitalism's brutality where the possession of money is indeed a matter of life and death , nor just for one person but for millions around the world .

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