Monday, January 29, 2007

The Jury's out

Well, as young Master Osler observes, they've gone and done it - they've abolished trial by jury. I do not exagerate.

Here's how it will go - having established a precedent by abolishing it for fraud trials, they'll wait awhile, and then when, say, a tricksey rape or murder case comes to court, or where a jury passes what ministers perceive to be a perverse verdict, they'll turn around and say:
Well, we can conduct trials like we do fraud cases. We've accepted the principle of juryless trials; and we can see they work, we're just extending a working model.
And there we have it, creeping abolition. All from the change management manual. Convince people the current system doesn't work (by breaking it if need be) and then implement the one you want.

This is already underway with ASBO's with their extension to organised crime - after all, ASBO's work don't they, we've already accepted the principle? Exactly.

Couple this with on-the-spot fines (a one way ticket to corruption is you ask me - "Would you like to pay an £80 fine, risk going to court and paying a £180 fine, or pay me £20 to forget all about it?" Sayeth the Rozzer).

The fact is, juries should be the jewel in the crown of the left - we don't like judges, can't trust the police, but can trust the honest decency of common folk to come to the right verdict. Any left worth its name should defend juries, and indeed make their greater use a central plank is winning the law'n'order vote - if it's confidence in the criminal justcie system people lack, real experience of jury service would do more to modify that than a million technocratic reforms.

The travaills of the Home Office tell the truth about technocracy and bureaucratic responses to social questions - incompetence and inefficiency will always out as people who know the truth of totalitarian states would tell you - they were crap, they could efficiently eprsecute someone but their dream of total control was beyond their reach.

Still, clear red water is available - a sensible left would build it's law'n'order strategy around juries, around getting more common folk ionto a justice system built on sound values.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

It's warrrrrrrrrrr!! And we're all gonna die! pt. 2

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh!!!!!! Chinese space commies have shot down an old satellite. Not sending any messages to the US there then, are they "We can knock out your satellite systems, gner gner gneh gner gner!"
"But China stresses that it has consistently advocated the peaceful development of outer space and it opposes the arming of space and military competition in space," he told a news conference.

"China has never, and will never, participate in any form of space arms race."
I'm so glad they would never publicly and ostentatiously develop weapons to challenge their political and strategic rvals - that would make me feel worried if they did.

So, that's the news today - Queer Chinese Commies from Space are going to steal your babies and send them into orbit with the help of Bushitler Bliar.

Sleep well, don't have nightmares.

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It's warrrrrrr! And we're all gonna die! pt. 1

OK, blitz of posts to make up for recent slackness.

Today on Today programme I heard that the Catholic church is threatening to close down it's adoption agencies if they have to hand over the little babies to those nasty queeahhhhs.

Apparently the Catholics place about 200 children a year - accounting for about a third of difficult placements.

The CHILDREN! Will somebody please think about the CHILDREN?

Anyway, bottom line - whatever happened to rendering unto Caesar, eh? Catholics are no more discriminated against than racists and sexists are by other equalities laws, they indeed do have the option of not placing children for adoption - they should indeed exercise their consciences if that's what they want.

Other people will come forward to organise that necessary social function, and the venemous holy mother church will be the onmly long-term loser (of course, some kiddies may well lose out in the short term, but hey, it's a matter of conscience, isn't it?). Nice to see where the bastard's priorities lie - and good to see just what a nonsense this makes of the idea of farming off welfare to faith-based groups.

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Book review

A review what I have just submitted to Amazon:

Missile Gap
by Charles Stross (Author), J. K. Potter (Illustrator)
Hardcover: 120 pages
Publisher: Subterranean Press (Jan 2007)
ISBN-10: 1596060581
ISBN-13: 978-1596060586

More of a long short story than a novella, this punchy and pacey story races through a typically Strossian tale of cold-war communist kitsch meets space aliens to arrive at the hiest of high science fiction endings. It interrogates the modernist teleological view - espoused most famously by the Posadists - that any inter stellar aliens must have achieved true communism before being capable of reaching Earth. Along the way it uses verrisimilitudinous names and characters to invoke the spirit of the seventies and revel in the human spirit of adventure and enquiry.

Potter's illustration explode into the text like the third dimension upon the second - strategically placed virtuality breaking out of the text world that advances as well as complementing the plot.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Return of the repression

Well, I reported ont he Goodyear tyre factory strike. Seems they won - Goodyear that is.

Money shot:
The world's third-largest tiremaker said Tuesday the multimillion dollar cost of a three-month strike by union workers is well worth the long-term savings Goodyear expects to see from the new labor deal.

The strikers included about 2,000 workers at a plant in Fayetteville, N.C.

During a conference call with analysts and reporters, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. chief financial officer Richard Kramer said the strike that began Oct. 5 and ended last week drained between $30 million and $35 million a week from the company.

At 12 weeks long, that means the work stoppage by the United Steelworkers union representing some 15,000 workers could cost Goodyear between $360 million and $420 million, most of it in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31.

Kramer and Goodyear Chief Executive Robert Keegan cushioned the news by saying the company plans to save $610 million over three years because of the agreement reached with the union two weeks ago and annual savings of about $300 million after that.
That's a hell of a balance sheet, losing $420 million to make $610 million - but the point is, they won.

The Kansan lists the trophies:
INCREASED PRODUCTIVITY: $300 million, including $60 million in overtime cuts and $90 million by paying new hires a lower starting wage and benefits package.

REDUCED CAPACITY: $75 million through cutting jobs, including closing unprofitable Tyler, Texas, plant that employs 1,100 people and reducing the number of tires made by about 21 million.

CUTTING RETIREE COSTS: $275 million by eliminating Goodyear's future obligation to health care for retired union workers by making a one-time $1 billion contribution to an independent Voluntary Employees' Beneficiary Association trust fund.

These are the stakes we are fighting for, this is what we are against - seems its a day of wine and roses for the bosses, no bread and roses for the workers. Wages down, health protection cut, unemployment - the scrap heap, the scrap heap.

Got that - the workers and the capitalists have nothing in common, and their conflict of inetrests results in a Class War. Never forget.

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It seems to be spreading....

Via the Ingrate:
IWW in NYC retaliates against warehouse workers mass firings
Submitted by tmalchi on Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:39am.
Members of the Industrial Workers of the World, organizers at New York warehouses were sacked over the festive period, in retaliation for their successful unionising drive...

This week owners from four different warehouses illegally threatened to call immigration or terminate union workers due to their immigration status in clear retaliation for the workers' union activities. Tuesday's march and picket will target Amersino Marketing Group, 161 Gardner Ave, Brooklyn, NY.

Over the last year and half, food distribution warehouse workers in northern Brooklyn and Queens have organized a union with the IWW. The campaign has met with resounding success: workers have organized in five different warehouses, several of which have been certified in National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) elections, they have forced their bosses towards full compliance with wage and hour laws, and they have won several major wage and hour violation cases while still other complaints totaling more than $100,000 have been filed with the Department of Labor.

Thanks to the efforts of the Food Industry and Allied Workers Union, workers have witnessed an increasing number of bosses abide by minimum wage and overtime laws across the food distribution industry. As a result of their successes, workers have met escalating employer opposition. While this week's coordinated threats by warehouse owners regarding workers' immigration status may be their trump card, it represents only the latest in a series of unsavory maneuvers designed to hamper the union drive.

Last year, Amersino owner Yu Q "Henry" Wang, who has robbed workers out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in wages, responded to workers exercising their lawful right to organize by threatening workers, deceitfully rigging an NLRB union election, and firing union leaders.

Lester Wen, owner of the restaurant wholesaler EZ-Supply, refused to bargain in good faith after workers won an NLRB union election almost a year ago. In response, the union has put pressure on EZ-Supply by targeting its customers ­ restaurants in park slope, the upper west side and the village ­ and convincing them to switch to other companies. At the end of November, the union and Mr. Wen's lawyer reached a tentative agreement on a landmark contract, with workers winning wage increases, a grievance procedure, paid time off and much more ( On December 26, 2006, in a shockingly crass maneuver, Lester "the Grinch" Wen and his lackeys reneged on the agreement reached in negotiations and illegally threatened workers regarding their immigration status. In response, workers walked off the job in a wildcat strike and only returned after the union assured them that legal action would be taken.

The IWW Food Industry and allied Workers Union calls on the owners of EZ-Supply, Amersino, Handyfat, and Top City Produce to cease its anti-union activities, reinstate fired workers, and to negotiate contract with the union in good faith. The legal institutions in NYC must act immediately to secure the rights of workers to organize and protect workers from the unlawful retaliatory activities of employers in the food industry.
There could be a bit of a barny brewing at my work too, they've just fundamentally altered redundancy rules (without consultation, which is de facto derecognition in my book). I'll keep you posted...

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Shabby Co-op

Old 'Ric Hobsbawm wrote in one of his tomes, some place, that one of the earliest form of workers' self-organisation was the funeral co-op. They were an expression of the fundamental concern for dignity and self-esteem of the working class.

Recently I read in Tribune that Co-operative Funeralcare had unilaterally derecognised the GMB. I was shocked, and appalled and stunned and disgusted, etc.

Digging around for confirmation, I found this GMB Press release:
Paul Kenny, GMB General Secretary said, "This unilateral action by the Co-operative Group, which they press released to the media, is disgraceful, outrageous and unworthy of the co-operative movement. It is indicative of a senior management lacking the principles upon which the co-operative movement was founded.

GMB will continue to represent its members in the Co-operative FuneralCare. GMB will now consider the Co-operative Group to be an anti-union employer and we will act accordingly, industrially, politically and economically."

According to the Morning Star (Subs only, I found this via LexisNexis):
A Funeralcare spokesman claimed that the GMB had the smallest membership of its three unions and, unlike both the T&G and USDAW, it had no significant representation in other Co-operative businesses.

"We value our trade union relationships, we actively encourage our staff to join unions and trade union membership within the business is at an all-time high," he claimed.

"If we are to maintain our position, then it is vital we maintain constructive partnerships with unions which have a broad grasp of the group's business interests."
What a shabby excuse for cutting away a troublesome union, it reminds me of the Pnensyvania Quaker who derecognised unions because they interfered with the personal relationship between employer and employee (kinda casting himself in the role of God there). Co-ops are about co-operations and partnership, but that doesn't mean union busting, not by a long chalk.

Good luck to the GMB.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Preeching the Peace

A book review the Ingrate may well enjoy - David Peace's The Damned United (see write up from the Absurder).

It's Peace's account of the 44 turbulent days for which Brian Howard Clough (Cloughie, old Big Mouth) was manager of Leeds United back in the '70's (Dirty, dirty Leeds). I've recently read peace's Red Riding Quartet - a story set around and between a fictionalised account of the Yorkshire Ripper (to my chagrin, after I read it I thought, well, nowt like that's happened for a few years, and then Ipswich). He also wrote a fictionalised account of the '84 Miners' Strike, GB84.

Anyway, Peace's prose style is very much of the post-modern bent - sparse internal monologues (daringly, even, written in large part in the second person). We experience a stream of consciousness from his id driven screaming, shitting, terrified and obsessed protagonists. God is very much dead, there is no meaning, and no narrative, just fragments from which the reader must wrestle meaning.

In many ways, that is the theme of The Damned United - as the ambiguous, punning title suggests - Clough believes in nothing and no-one other than Brian Howard Clough - not luck, not superstition, no God. Only Clough. Clough and football. Obsessive, drunken, monomaniacal one slip and you're gone football (literally for Clough, whose playing careering was cut short by a severe knee injury).

This is appropriate for the modern secular religion - the real sectarian divide in the UK. This is no boy's own stuff of last minute reversals, but a battle of ego and meaning in a chaotic world in which an individual is seemingly powerless - Clough's determined egoism being driven into superstition as the environment of Dirty Dirty Leeds coupled with a shaky start to the season starts to get to him. Peace's Old Big Mouth is a worth sucessor to Coriolanus. Boro lad done good.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007


So, a bloke in a hat walks into a pub. It's a black hat, and he doesn't shave - you can see where this is headed, can't you? Yes, your favourite under-cover gentile has once again been subjected to anti-Jewish racism.

An Irish pub, in Willesden (I'll not name it, due to the helpful response of the majority of patrons).

I walked to the bar, and this drunk old Irish feller shouts at me (he was a shouting drunk, I dunno, maybe alcohol turns up the volume). Anyway, he asked where I was from, and I replied Teesside, he looks blank for a second and then barks Are you one of them cunts who blew up me life?.

I was taken aback, I didn't know, maybe I was one of those cunts who'd blown up his life. Was it anti-British? Was he being anti-IRA, had he literally experienced an explosion. Maybe there is a secret league of life exploders who I give regular subsriptions to. Then, though, he indicated he thought I was Jewish. The penny dropped, and I attempted, in a friendly way, to defuse him.

At this point other regulars began to ask him to leave me alone He's entitled to a drink one said. I grabbed my drink, smiling pleasantly, and found a seat.

I drink there reasonably often, a swift half or so on the way to me mates' home. Previously, I've been taken for a Mayo man (aparrently on account of my Red/Green scarf), and subjected to drunked ramblings passim.

Still, nevertheless, it was an encounter with the old school of anti-semitism, and the third incident I've reported on this blog since it's foundation. Draw whatever conclusions you will.