Friday, June 27, 2008

Stand ye close and resolute

So, back to politics.

The BBC has had a couple of really good in depth reports recently, explaining just why it is Mugabe in Zimbabwe commands such support from his contemporary African leaders - and tellingly where the problem lies.

The correspondent this morning said Mugabe had been likely to give in on the election issue, but that his cotery, forged in the military struggle for power, were unwilling to let their positions go without a fight - they need him to protect themselves.

Significantly, and I suspect hopefully, the MDC have not turned to armed struggle themselves, as indeed they would be "justified" in doing now they have been beaten into submission - but that way would only replicate the tragedy of ZANU-PF.

Some might argue that the Zimbabwe situations shows the folly of electoral tactics like ours, the MDC have literally been beaten into submission. But, let's not forget, they have the majority in Parliament to protect, they have damaged Mugabe's legitimacy, and there are signs that Zuma in South Africa, closely allied with the trade unions there, may be more hostile to Mugabe.

Let's remember that Zimbabwe is an economic dessert, the Unions there are powerless, but the struggle for democracy continues.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

Update: via Harry Barnes comes this worthwhile effort from the TUC:

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bill in not being totally useless shocker!

OK, so I decided to try playing for myself. I'm pretty crap at kick-about-in-the-park-footy, but I wanted to see if I was capable of catching and throwing a rugby ball in anger.

So I signed up for Skolars tag, played on the Oz Tag rules (which one bloke said is a roaring success in Ireland atm: more power to them).

I joined as a single player, so I was allocated to a team of people who've clearly played rugby plenty (my one advantage, actually, as I didn't try to fend or break tackles out of habit like they did). I only dropped the ball once, knocked on once, and missed a catch (I wasn't expecting it, your honour). I did't complete a tag/tackle - but I did get in a couple of neat passes and one good run (which won a penalty coz the feller grabbed my shorts rather than the tag).

Great crack!

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Tories, new nickname...

From the Beeb.
Conservative leader David Cameron warned the government it was going to have to be "extremely tough" on unions to avert a wave of strikes.

He said Labour was "so reliant" on unions for funding they felt they had a "stranglehold" over the party and could "dictate terms".

And he backed tough action on strikes as they "rarely achieve their goal", he said.
Ah, so that's it, then. Wavey Davey* Cameron wants to stop us striking, for our own good. Don't you see, striking doesn't work, you're just hurting yourself and others (never mind that when we in Higher Ed. struck for higher London weighting, we won the principle that it too goes up with inflation annually - albeit we didn't get the maximum demand of £4K).

Of course, I've said it before, we only strike when we're losing, usually, it's no coincidence that strikes only happen when the employers aren't just backing down and paying out to avoid trouble - the best strikes never happen.

As it is, price are going beserk (note, this is not necessarily inflation, the media confuse this fact, prices rises due to real demand increases or natural rises in the cost of producing a good are not inflation, inflation is a monetary phenomena when money falls in real and thus relative value). The price of our labour should rise to cover that cost, else we're giving money to the capitalists. It's as simple as that.

The principle is clear, if you went into a shop and said "Can I have that oil please, I need it to make my car go" they'd ask for the folding stuff - no amount of pleading how necessary your job is, how that vehicle is needed for some essential public service, would shift the hardware store to give up their goods for free.

So long as the market system exists, we need to play by its rules - even if sometimes the rules of the system Wavey Davey supports leads to outcomes he doesn't like. Watch out for him and Wavey Davey Davis (if, chortle, he gets re-elected) and their cuddley libertarian Tories engaging in massive state intervention in the Labour market.

*As Reeves and Mortimer revealed to us in the early nineties, Wavey Davey is the devil.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Harlequins RL v. Leeds Rhinos






So, a glorious evening kick off. The Quins had come close to defeating The Best Rugby League Team in the World during their challenge cup play-off. Nearly, but not quite.

I had come along expecting to see The Best Rugby League Team in the World hand the London side their arses on a plate. Could I have been more wrong?

To start, though, the Leeds pack were massive, I mean, enormous, eight foot tall, in their stockings, each! And broad as a Yorkshire accent an'all.

The game opened with quick play, end-to-end completed sets. Leeds scored first, but Quins recovered. They did that again. As per previous discussions, the underdogs took the opportunity of a take-two from a panalty to gain an edge in this try swapping match - the psychological edge definitely proved useful.

By the start of the second half Harlequins had a lead to defend - and defend it they did with blood and guts. The West Yorks' side should have overturned that lead, but failed to convert their tries from the wing. This much, then, can be said, the Southerners prevented them from scoring through the posts.

The end quarter was marred by a fight on pitch between a newly returned from injury Louie McCarthy-Scarsbrook and Leeds' Senior. they were both, rightly, sent to the sin bin.

There were questions about the ref. - though, I suppose they did their job right, but because the cameras were there, we had a video ref. and maybe he was consulted unnecessarilly. To be frank, I found the tedium of waiting for a result not worth it, I suspect the ref. could have made his mind up for good or ill, and let the game get on. I don't think video reffing is an improvement in RL.

Harlequins RL 28 - 24 Leeds Rhinos

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Harlequins RL v. Warrington Wolves

A great match on a gloriously hot summer's day - the planes taking off from Heathrow cast sharp shadows on the pitch as the zoomed over the very packed stadium - the kids from Warrington were out in force and having fun - the East Stand was practically full - even the Lexus stand looked well attended, but there were plenty of Quins' supporters in the cheap seats, where I was.

Wolves had the better of the first half. Their first two tries were run in starting from their half - but neither was easy. Although by half time Quins had levelled to 12 all, their tries had been harder worked - and relied on finger tip chucking of the ball as they swirled through the Merseysiders' lines.

The second half was all Warrington - their pack was bigger, better, and they frequently found the spaces on the wing to smash through for successive tries to give them a massive lead. Although Quins rallied, the north western side began to waste time and take it slowly, and proved to be insurmountable.

The final score was one worthy of the match - despite the gripings of a few London fans that the ref had been unduly harsh - both teams were roughly equal in the table before the match, and Quins had narrowly won their away match of this pairing:

Harlequins RL 24 - 40 Warrington Wolves

Absolute smasher of a match.

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Labour and the unions

Young Master Osler has a wee defence of the Labour/Union link Here.

I reproduce a letter the SPGB sent to the Fire Brigades Union some while ago, when they disafiliated:

A letter to the Fire Brigades' Union:
Dear General Secretary,

At its meeting of 3rd July 2004 our Executive Committee asked me to write to you to express our welcome of your union's recent decision to reverse your historic mistake of affiliating to the Labour Party.

For nearly 100 years the Socialist Party has held a clear and consistent position that trade unions and political parties need to remain separate. We have considered it bizarre that trade unionists in public sector unions should hand over their dues money to their, effective, political employers. Feeding the hand that beat them.

We have observed that trade unions need freedom to manoeuvre and represent the interests of the membership – distinct groups within the working class. This freedom of manoeuvre means getting the best deal for their members within capitalism, often as against the general policy of a political party, which has to at least attempt to represent the general interest of its constituency. Political parties and trade unions only harm each other by shackling themselves to one another.

In the case of the Labour Party in Britain, it is clear that there have been numerous clashes between themselves and the Unions. The Attlee government used troops to smash a dock-workers strike. Wilson's government floundered over the refusal of the unions to accept the 'In Place of Strife' income controls policy. Your own union members were branded traitors and threatened with legislation to deprive them of their freedom to strike in your recent dispute.

This is not caused by individual wickedness of Labour ministers, but by the hard logic of administering capitalism. The same hard logic that saw Labour governments tear up railways and close down more pits than the Tories ever did. Capitalism is founded on the principle of no profit no production, and if a government is to keep capitalism running, it must obey this hard and fast law.

We thus wish to express our hope that your union will not seek to affiliate with any other political party, and most specifically, not try to recreate the Old Labour disaster that has blighted the workers movement for more than a hundred years. We hope you will use all your union's resources and funds to defend your members' interests, rather than those of your political employers.

We further hope that your members will come to understand that any resolution of a pay-deal within capitalism means their continued exploitation by the tiny capitalist class, and that their best interest lies in joining their fellow workers in a movement with the express and single aim of "the abolition of the wages system" and its replacement with common ownership and the free association of producers.
And append this sample of a form:

Cut out the coupon below and send it to your work’s wages office. You can send a copy to your union’s HQ.


I hereby give notice that I object to contributing to the Political Fund of the union and am in consequence exempt, in the manner provided by Chapter 6 of the Trade Union and Labour Relations (consolidation) Act 1992, from contributing to that fund.


Union Membership No........................................






From the IWW

I think that's answer enough.

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Thursday, June 05, 2008

Marketing poverty

So, according to the according to the FAO:
Per capita food production has declined in Africa for the past 30 years and farm productivity in Africa is just one-quarter the global average. Today, more than 200 million people are chronically hungry in the region, and 33 million children under age five are malnourished.
and we hear from the BBC, Kofi Annan:
Attending the Rome conference in his new role as the chair of Agra, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, he said the African farmer was the only farmer in the world that still took all the risks, often operating without financial support, expertise or safety nets.
AGRA makes an interesting point:
Markets can play an important role in improving the incomes of poor farmers. However, markets in Africa are generally poorly organised and volatile, and often inaccessible to small-scale farmers. Also lacking is the market information that farmers need to negotiate good prices for their produce. Even such basic information as current wholesale and retail prices is rarely available. Therefore, building efficient and well-integrated input markets (through which farmers can buy supplies), and output markets (enabling farmers to sell their harvest) is key to encouraging farmers’ adoption of sustainable agricultural technologies.
All of which is to highlight two things - firstly, that most of the world does not play by market rules when it comes to food - food security is national security, and security of food prices stabilises labour markets (food soars, we strike). Secondly, the state of Africa's markets shows that people left to themselves do not just create functional markets.

Now, I seem to recall reading one African post-liberation leader, discussing how traditional African markets were inherently socialist (I can't remember who) - but the fact of the matter is that the sharing of information is a necessary prelude to socialism - if, as I heard on the radio last night, after a bit of investment Malaw has trebled its food output, there is reason to hope that this programme will work, and the horror of starvation may be obliterated. but, mark you, it isn't sponanteous markets that will be doing the work, but conscious investment, and co-operation. The capital markets have failed in Africa.

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Monday, June 02, 2008

London Skolars v. Workington Town

Listening to the commentary on the Bradford Bulls v. Hull FC Challange cup quarter final, I overheard the commentators discussing whether both teams had been wise to opt to kick for goal when awarded panalties in the opponent's half, rather than taking the set to push for a try.

The near certainty of 2 points, versus the possibility of 6 is a tough call.

Workington gave a master class answer to that question at Skolars' on Saturday.

Skolatrs scored first in a tit-for-tat run of tries in the first half; but Town stole the advantage before half time, and went into the second half ahead by one try. Early in that next half, they chose to kick for 2, and got it. That meant Skolars' needed and additional score to make back the deficit - and taking two would cost them a re-start kick and more time. It was an excellent call to add pressure on the home side - a neat way of consolidating a lead.

The London side put on a spirited show, clawing their way back to near the Cumbria side's score, when they opted to knock in a cheeky drop kick for a point to retain their edge.

The tries were too easy on both sides, running through their opponents line, and often through or next to the posts. Workington clearly had the edge on that, and exposed Skolars' tackling on occaision. Towards the end, the Skolars' were let down by a couple of dropped passes.

Once sad point, a fight broke out on the pitch, during the tense closing part of the match, leading to one player from each team being sent off, after an unecessarilly rough tackle.

Skolars kept the score close enough to gain the point for a near loss, and to gain on Hunslet in the division - further, they proved that at least they belong in the same divison as their victors.

London Skolars 38 - 45 Workington Town

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