Tuesday, March 29, 2005

We Shall See 

Tories are apparently looking to Blogging to save their electoral bacon by mobilising Social Conservatives. we shall see...

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Dog Licences
Harold Wilson threatended to take away the 'Dog Licenses' of bolshie Labour MPs in the late 1960s and of course the great Bennite re-selection rows of the 1980's racked Old Labour. Now we have the Howard Flight saga as our very own Newham North-West for the new millennium.
There is a serious point hiding around here if we could all stop laughing long enough to find it...

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Torture, hope and honour
An aside in another blog – and I can’t find the link now- got me thinking about what we need to do to uphold our better traditions.

It referred to the Abu Ghraib and torture scandals now afflicting us and quoted a German Newspaper from 1946 editorialising in wonder at the prosecution of British occupation troops for abusing German prisoners. This prosecution and the positive shock it gave to Germans played a real and significant part n the re-thinking of Germany, and so of all Europe.

I wonder if this is a report on something my Dad did?

He told me that some months after the war ended he came across a camp which seemed to have no guards at the gates or perimeters . He went into the camp and found German military prisoners crawling around in a state of collapse. In the guardroom were British troops. He asked the officer what was happening and why were there no guards. “They don’t have the strength to escape’ said the officer ‘we don’t feed them’.

My dad had them all arrested and they were tried and convicted. I wonder if that was the incident reported in the newspapers…

My dad was not an angel, but he was a man of integrity and what he did was an expression of our better human responses in bad times, and an example of the best patriotic instincts of the undefinable British.. When our government now apparently condones torture and mistreatment of prisoners they betray my Dad’s memory, and the honour and integrity of so many who have given rather a lot for this country. And deny some of the better things this country has done to set aside less admirable moments. I despise the British Government that wasels its way to this act of betrayal.

In this coming election maybe we should ask the question from Milton’s Areopagitica:

“ Lords and commons of England, consider what Nation it is whereof ye are, and whereof ye are the governors: a nation not slow and dull, but of a quick, ingenious and piercing spirit, acute to invent, subtle and sinewy to discourse, not beneath the reach of any point, the highest that human capacity can soar to.”

The Liberal Democrat’s hand on a copy of the Areopagitica as the badge of office for the Party resident, as a symbol of our values. I hope in this election we think what nation we are and how we hope to govern ourselves, and raise our sights to the highest our human capacity can soar to. If being a Liberal party means anything it means living and speaking fully at this moment. Taking a stance against the ‘dark congealment of wood and hay and stubble’ that frightened parties seem to hide behind at election times. I hope not to be disappointed.

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Friday, March 25, 2005

With hopes and trepiditions...

Latest heart in mouth peoples uprising in Kyrgyz. At the moment totally unclear which ways it will go. Kyrgyz like other of the High Mountain states ex the unlamented USSR has a border drawn to suite external manipulation.

Follow events on the Institute for War and Peace Reporting Kyrgyz roundup.

Good summary of events on Booman Tribune. Note the further links to the Kyrgyz Election series on that site (Soj's summaries one, two, three and four.)

Now this little place impacts on Russia, Tajikstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and China. So if it can emerge from all this with a more than half decent chance of freedom it will be of more than local importance...

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Friday, March 18, 2005

TA for that
Is it just my being hypersensitive or are there a lot more recruiting ads for the Territorial Army on TV in recent weeks? They do tend to show people in gliders and otherwise having a great time.... maybe more attractive than shots of Basra, which is where our Milton Keynes local TA unit is sending troops now... Maybe rumours of falling numbers have something to do with it? Or even open opposition in the ranks and amongst Military Families?

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

World Bunk
Some disconnected thoughts connecting.

Paul Wolfowitz (Currently US Secretary for Defence) has been nominated by Bush II to be President of the World Bank. There is no settled ‘constitutional’ procedure for appointing a World Bank head but by habit the US President nominates an US Citizen and the other World Bank trustees agree (even if the choice is pretty arbitrary and the president is clueless on the World Bank). By similar tradition the IMF is headed by a non-US citizen, I believe, but that gentleperson's agreement was scuttled by President Clinton who blocked a German nominee for IMF head. So should the EU for one feel free to object to Wolfies appointment? Would this act of international disobligation cause knock-on problems when the UN Secretary-General comes to the end of his current term?

The US National Debt is increasing by $2,270,000,000 per day (that’s $2.27 bn in mumblespeak) and counting...

I see nothing in Brown’s Budget planning for the consequences of economic meltdown in the US. Should we be doing this?

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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

MMM ... BBBB...
An audible frustration caused by inflation. It is impossible to lipread (or easily hear) the difference between Million and Billion. It is very helpful if people say 'Thousand Million' when they mean £1,000,000,000 and reserve the confusing mumble-illion for the times they mean £1,000,000 and this is especially helpful at budget times. Though nowadays it usually is the big-B that is talked about, of course.

According to the RNID over 9 million people in the UK have a serious hearing loss. That's 9 million people who might be grateful for clarity between bumble-illion and mumble-illion. I remember feeling quite warmly disposed to Arthur Scargill (not an automatic response on my part) when he consistently said 'thousand million' to mean just that. So much more comprehensible. Who knows if the LibDems say 'Thousand Million' as appropriate maybe it would be worth a few votes...

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Seeing the woods for the firearms
Intelligent pre-election panic it might be but let’s welcome the sudden radicalism of two Government statements of intent. The international plague of small arms trading is a tragedy especially for poorer people caught up in conventional conflicts. Its good that the government pays this some attention. And there is a real problem with illegal logging stripping the rainforests so the proposals for international timber trade regulation are a step into the right arena. Government tackling either or both these issues would get my support on these issues, there’s no doubt it is a good electoral ploy, electorally attractive to people like me. And the fact that the current US administration will be unhappy with these initiatives is no electoral liability in the UK.

Neat time to float these ideas too, just before the Budget hogs the news so the radical feelgood has a chance to be noticed. Two thoughts. Just possible that the election may be called this weekend caching a new political momentum. And a memory of Harold Wilson on the stump in the 1964 election and asking ‘why do I stress the need for a strong Navy?’ and a heckler shouting ‘because you are in Portsmouth’.

Let’s hope we have better luck with trees (more of) and small arms (less of) than with that (ahem) pledge to get NHS dentistry available to all by 1991.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Odd thoughts on the hightly enjoyable Shameless TV series. Lots of laughs and hoping for a third series. But after all the over-the-top mistrepresentations of Social Work practice, Police proceedures, and the licensing laws the last episode had me muttering 'but it isn't like that!'... Because there was a local election involved and, well, campaigning in pubs, putting up posters on licenced premises, and talinkg about 'planning committee', it just takes it all too far from the real world even for a fantasy. We all know it is 'Development Control' nowadays don't we?

TV drama of course can't deal with real local politics. Take Brookside of late unlamented memory. All those decades of daily details from a Merseyside housing close and they never once had a FOCUS leaflet through any letterbox.

Still I do hope that the vigorous negative reaction in 'Shameless' to the racist rant of the sitting councillor would be mirrored in real life.

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Tuesday, March 01, 2005

It's not just getting the Courts involved...

A great and typically British hurried uproar to pass repressive emergency legislation on the run. There is Liberal Democrat solidarity in opposition to the Governments repressive instincts, thankfully. However the grounds on which we are fighting – for a central involvement by the Courts –is a little shaky when we look at some foreign examples.

Take the Canadian ‘National Security Certificates’ for example. These seem to allow for indefinite detention without trial and without the incarcerated having access to all the evidence alleged against them. And to be under the supervision of Courts.

The Certificates are in the news today because of the long-expected deportation of Ernst Zundel from Canada to Germany where he faces prosecution for spreading hate. Zundel was detained as a security risk in 2003 and has been deported after evidence was presented to a Judge by Canada’s spy agency, that evidence not being revealed to Zundel or his Lawyers. By the sound of it this would not be an acceptable model for an UK Security procedure, the Judicial involvement regardless. I trust our LibDem Parliamentarians are aware of these ramifications and are prepared to resist if a Canadian solution is proposed.

Zundel of course is one of those people sent to try Liberal souls as tests of principle in procedures. An iconic Holocaust denier, author of ‘Did Six Million Really Die’ and of ‘The Hitler We Loved and Why’. The secret evidence before canadian Courts related to associations with White Supremacist Groups which have been involved in violence.

His Holocaust denial rantings implied (amongst other far more serious things) that my father, a Liberator of Belsen, was a liar, so I have personal reasons to reinforce my generalised contempt and anger for his position.

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Dydd Gwyl Dewi hapus!
A cold wet day which would have suited, no doubt, 'Dewi Ddyfrwr' (David the Water Drinker) as the Saint was known. To which theme there is a family twist. My Great-Uncle Thomas Bedford Richards, a colleague of the composer Parry (think 'Jerusalem') was a Baptist lay pracher and a friend of Daniel James. James wrote the words for the Hymn 'Calon Lan' one Sunday at a social occasion, and T.B Richards composed the original music on the spot. Recall this was the end of the 19th Century when Wales was 'Dry' on a Sunday and only 'bona fide' travellers could buy a drink in a hotel. So... this soaring hymn was written by a bunch of Baptist dignitaries in a Hotel in Wales on a Sunday afternoon, on the back of a cigarette packet. David the Water-Drinker might have choked on his watercress sandwiches.

The music we are most familiar with now is the tune composed later by John Hughes however and I have never actualy heard the Family Version sung by a choire. And this last Sunday I had a bit of a jolt. Switched on the TV and got Songs of Praise on screen, and they were singing Calon Lan according to the subtitles. But my hearing aid batteries were dead so I couldnt hear the music. From what I could lipread they seemed to be singing to a different beat than to the 'Hughes' tune. Raced to find a new battery but they had finished siging before I could get it in. Did I miss a singing of the T. Bedford Richards Music? Not even Google can get me an answer to this...

Happy St Davids Day anyway.

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