28 Feb 2008

Prominent British Figures Call on ExxonMobil to Respect Venezuelan Sovereignty

Over 50 prominent figures representing a wide section of British society have signed a statement raising concern over legal action taken by oil giant ExxonMobil to prevent the Venezuelan government from exercising its right to control its natural resources. They have urged ExxonMobil to work for “the amicable settlement” of its dispute with the Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA through international arbitration.

The statement is published as Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA goes to the High Court to appeal an English court’s decision to freeze its assets in England and Wales.

The statement points out that “The action by ExxonMobil was in response to the policy of the Venezuelan government to take back majority control of their own oil resources. Unlike other international oil companies, where some 30 out of 32 contracts have been successfully renegotiated and amicable agreements and compensation terms reached with the Venezuelan government, ExxonMobil refused the terms offered.”

The statement concludes “We further restate our support for Venezuela’s national sovereignty, including the right to determine its own policy in relation to its oil and natural resources in favour of the people of that country, rather than in the interests of multinational companies.”

Signatories to the letter included writer and film-maker John Pilger, veteran political activist Tony Benn, Bruce Kent, Vice President of CND, Ann Pettifor, founder of Jubilee 2000, Brian Wilson, Chair of the Scottish Venezuela Society, an MEP and many MPs from 5 parties, a number of leading writers, artists and academics and many senior national trade union leaders.

Colin Burgon MP, Chair of Labour Friends of Venezuela group of parliamentarians said: “Millions of Venezuelans are now benefiting from free healthcare and education thanks to the Chavez government's greater control over that country's oil resources. Government's must have the right to be able to put the interest of people ahead of company's profits”.

UNISON Deputy General Secretary Keith Sonnet, added that, “This sends a clear message internationally, including to the Bush administration, that Venezuela’s right to self-determination must be respected, rather than the wishes of multinational companies to make profits.”

Gordon Hutchison, Secretary of the Venezuela Information Centre, said “There are many voices in Britain who strongly oppose ExxonMobil’s attempts to undermine the right of Venezuela’s democratically elected government to control its own resources.”

The full text of the statement and full list of signatures is as follows:


We note with deep concern that on 7 February an English court granted an injunction to US multinational oil company ExxonMobil freezing the assets of the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA in England and Wales. The order covered assets to the value of US$12 billion.

The Venezuelan Government was given no notice of the case and was not afforded any opportunity to be represented at the hearing.

This week PDVSA will appeal the decision in the High Court and seek to revoke the injunction.

The action by ExxonMobil was in response to the policy of the Venezuelan government to take back majority control of their own oil resources. Unlike other international oil companies, where some 30 out of 32 contracts have been successfully renegotiated and amicable agreements and compensation terms reached with the Venezuelan government, ExxonMobil refused the terms offered.

We believe that the action by ExxonMobil, and the ruling by the court, contravenes the right of the democratically elected government of Venezuela to exercise sovereignty over its natural resources. The nationalisation of Venezuela’s state oil company, holder of some of the world’s largest oil reserves, under the government of President Hugo Chavez has allowed Venezuela to tackle a range of social inequalities, by taking back the oil wealth and redistributing it to benefit the Venezuelan people.

We urge the amicable settlement of this dispute through arbitration under the auspices of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, a body of the World Bank, as sought by the Venezuelan government in compliance with the terms of the contract signed between PDVSA and ExxonMobil in 1995.

We further restate our support for Venezuela’s national sovereignty, including the right to determine its own policy in relation to its oil and natural resources in favour of the people of that country, rather than in the interests of multinational companies.


Diane Abbott M.P (Labour)

Tony Benn

John Pilger

Bruce Kent

Prunella Scales

Caroline Lucas MEP

Gordon Hutchison, Secretary, Venezuela Information Centre (VIC)

Brian Wilson, Chair, Scottish Venezuela Society

Ann Pettifor, Fellow, New Economics Foundation

Neal Lawson, Compass

Graeme Smith, General Secretary. STUC

Keith Sonnet, Deputy General Secretary, UNISON

Ken Loach

Colin Burgon M.P (Chair, Labour Friends of Venezuela)

Jon Cruddas M.P (Treasurer, Labour Friends of Venezuela)

Mike Hancock M.P (Liberal Democrat)

Adam Price M.P. (Plaid Cymru)

Angus MacNeil M.P. (Scottish National Party)

Richard Harvey

David Hillman

Jon Trickett M.P (Secretary, Labour Friends of Venezuela)

Jeremy Corbyn M.P

Victoria Brittain

Graham Goddard, Deputy General Secretary, UNITE

Billy Hayes, General Secretary CWU

Owen Tudor, Head of European Union and International Relations, TUC

Rodney Bickerstaffe

Sue Branford, Chair, War on Want

Richard Gott

Doug Nicholls, National Secretary CYWU/UNITE

Derek Wall, Green Party

Cllr. Salma Yaqoob

Hazel Marsh, University of East Anglia

Andy Bain, President TSSA

Maggie Bowden, General Secretary, Liberation

Ruqayyah Collector, Black Students Officer, NUS

Marie Daley, UCU National Executive Committee

Michael Derham, Northumbria University

Bill Greenshields, Vice-President NUT

Chris Kitchen, General Secretary NUM

Matt Wrack, General Secretary FBU

Dr Mandy Turner, University of Bradford

Dr Kaveh Moussavi, University of Oxford

Paul Laverty

Gerry Doherty, General Secretary TSSA

Baljeet Ghale, President NUT (personal capacity)

Joe Marino, General Secretary, BFAWU

Dr. Francisco Dominguez, University of Middlesex

Doreen Massey, Open University

Martin McIvor, Editor, Renewal

Gerry Morrissey, General Secreary, BECTU

Linda Newman, President UCU

Diana Raby, University of Liverpool

Mick Shaw, President, FBU

27 Feb 2008

Westgate watch meeting in Oxford

westgatewatch has left a new comment on your post

There's now a campaign website called westgate watch at http://westgatewatch.wordpress.com made by people from Oxford who are opposing the westgate revdevelopment.

Also there will be a public meeting at 7pm, Thursday 28 Feb. Details:

Thanks for this Westgatewatch! Please sending me details and I will time and energy permitting flag them up.

Green politics is about supporting this kind of action and spreading the word....incidentally pleased that some of the Irish Green Party are taking a more critical view of Bertie Ahern...here

Protest on roof of Parliament

Well while I am out of action for a week or two other than a bit of blogging, etc, it is great to see other people are going for it in a big way....not that even in the picture of health I would be on the roof of the House of Commons.

Plane Stupid as I write are on the roof of the House of Commons protesting against Heathrow expansion...more noise, more climate change, more destruction but with 100% government support. More here

A bit of direct action is to be applauded.

A Plane Stupid spokesman said of the third runway plans: "Two million Londoners face increased levels of noise, while CO2 emissions from the airport would shoot up despite claims by Brown that he's committed to fighting climate change."

I can't praise these people too much....please support PLANE STUPID atwww.planestupid.com
Liberal democracy is too often about the god given democratic right of corporations to make cash. Democratic democracy would be an innovation welcome by me, until it occurs NVDA has to be part of the process of achieving change.

There is an excellent briefing from Greenpeace here on the protest:

In the absence of a genuine consultation with Londoners, the protest is a brilliant way to get the word out on the day the Heathrow 'consultation' ends. They've dropped banners reading 'BAA's HQ' down parliament's facade, and are enlightening the great and the good on their way to Prime Ministers' Question Time below by throwing paper aeroplanes - made from secret Whitehall documents that prove BAA has written parts of the consultation and the government has already decided to build a third runway - from the roof.

We should probably be getting used to our government being in bed with industry by now (see the recent revelations about the coal industry and the nuclear industry), but the amount of control industry has over government policy - usually to the detriment of the environment - still surprises.

Not only has BAA written parts of the consultation, it's also working with government in a body set up to ensure the third runway gets the go-ahead and to neutralise 'risks' to the planned expansion (that's the huge coalition of local residents, Londoners, environmentalists and all the major mayoral candidates opposed to airport expansion).

As a result, the document doesn't mention global warming, and opposition groups haven't been allowed to challenge data on noise and pollution (data supplied by BAA...).

Call me old fashioned, but maybe a better way of consulting with Londoners might be to ask them 'do you want a third runway?', instead of publishing a heavily spun document partly written by industry.

26 Feb 2008

Shelter workers strike needs your support

I think we should all support this, I think our support could help a lot...the alternative is using shelter to push down pay and conditions for public sector workers, all the usual nasty stuff.

This is from the Socialist Unity site:

Homelessness charity Shelter union shop’s ballot for industrial action ended last Thursday. Their dispute arises directly from the government’s policy of commissioning out public services to the “Third” or voluntary sector - Shelter management say they have to cut staff wages and conditions in order to win government contracts for projects previously provided by public sector workers.

The union got a 65.8 per cent turn out for the ballot, and a 76 per cent vote for industrial action — so they will be taking a series of strike days over the next few weeks.

Their first strike day will be Wednesday 5 March, and they will be picketing Shelter’s offices ( at 88 Old Street London EC1V 9HU)

They will be picketing from 7.45 am .

The stewards are appealing for people to come on the picket line. They think that one day of strike action will probably not change management’s
mind — and suspect they will be out the following week for two days of strike action, and possibly the week after for three days — so if you can’t make it on Wednesday 5 March, you will probably have another opportunity.

More details here:

Strike on at Shelter housing charity

25 Feb 2008

Workers at national housing
charity Shelter are to strike on Wednesday March 5 over management
plans to scrap their pay and grading structure and force them to sign
new employment contracts.

Members of Unite the union decided by
211 votes to 78 in a secret ballot to take strike action to secure a
rethink by the charity's management following months of fruitless
negotiation over the issue.

"There has been an overwhelming
vote for industrial action, and that must send a clear message to
Shelter managers that it is time to change track," said Unite regional
industrial organiser Alan Scott. "Dedicated Shelter workers are
legendary among homeless people across the UK and those who are
affecting by housing issues because they work selflessly for justice,
and will always go the extra mile for those in need.

"But they
can't live on dedication alone; they need to bring home a wage based on
their union's employment agreements with Shelter, rather than have
their contracts scrapped and replaced with inferior conditions.

members are saddened that they have been forced into strike action. We
are particularly concerned that some of our members feel that they are
being intimidated into signing the new, inferior, terms and conditions.

our members recognise the funding difficulties that the charity is
experiencing, they regard the solution as being disproportionate and do
not accept that there was no alternative to management's proposed
solution. In recent times Shelter has spent at least half a million
pounds on refurbishing its head office, has employed six new change
managers and ensured that senior management pay is in line with 'the
market'. Our members believe that some of this money could have been
used to protect their agreed terms and conditions of employment."

hope that the strike action will not be necessary, and that at this
late stage Shelter management will work with us to resolve the dispute
through negotiation. But our members have made it clear that they are
not prepared to see their rights and working conditions destroyed."

Unite the union was formed on May 1 last year through a merger of amicus and the Transport and General Workers Union (T&G)
Further information: Unite media office 020 7611 2550 http://www.tgwu.org.uk/Templates/News.asp?NodeID=94144&int1stParentNodeID=42438&int2ndParentNodeID=42438&Action=Display

25 Feb 2008

No to Heathrow

Stop Heathrow Expansion

End-of-Consultation Rally

Central Hall, Westminster

corner of Tothill St and Storey’s Gate (Westminster and St James’s Park tube stations)
25th February 2008, 7pm

The rally to come to! It is a great chance to show the breadth of opposition there is to the expansion proposals. Bring yourself! No charge! Bring your friends!

Be part of the thousands of voices saying ‘No’!

A wide range of speakers! Live Music! Campaign videos!

We have now arranged for a Lobby of Parliament for the same day – see below

Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg will be speaking at the Rally

Speakers already confirmed include:

Mark Lynas, climate change specialist and author of three books on the subject

Peter Ainsworth MP, Shadow Secretary of State for the Environment

Caroline Lucas MEP, Principal Speaker for the Green Party

John McDonnell MP, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington

Brian Paddick, Liberal Democrat candidate for London Mayor

Councillor Barbara Reid, Hounslow Council cabinet member, representing the 2M group of local authorities

Leo Murray, Plane Stupid

Geraldine Nicholson, Chair No Third Runway Action Group

John Stewart, Chair HACAN

Chair of the event: Baroness Jenny Tonge More details here

I thought I would flag up tonight's rally against Heathrow expansion, good to see the banner hangers flagging it up as well today...jets from Heathrow to Manchester are a product of inflated rail fares...we have no joined up policy for climate change, trade and leave to the market, this simply does not work.

Greenpeace report:

Four Greenpeace climate campaigners have just climbed on top of a Manchester to London plane after it parked at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal One. They are now covering the tailfin with a huge protest banner that reads “CLIMATE EMERGENCY – NO 3rd RUNWAY”.

The Greenpeace volunteers – two women and two men – waited until all the passengers had disembarked from the one hour flight before walking through double doors at Terminal One, crossing an area of tarmac and climbing stairs onto the fuselage of the British Airways flight.

This is from Green Party candidate and Green Left activist Ann Gray:

I oppose any further expansion at Heathrow.

1) The battle against climate change must logically lead to severe restrictions on air travel within a few years, whether by regulation, tax or pricing. So the investment will be wasted and many homes destroyed in vain

2) Public funds should be spent on a second Channel Tunnel, rail improvements and revival of ferry services to the continent instead

3) My home in Haringey is seriously affected by flight paths to both Heathrow and Stansted. Already I cannot sleep well during the peak tourist season (July-August) because of early morning aircraft. Two or three million people in west London are far,far worse affected and their health is destroyed by Heathrow as it is, with a huge incidence of lung disease in Hounslow, Staines etc. The noise and pollution of expanding air traffic are just not acceptable nor are they justified by the supposed benefits of air travel.

4) In continental countries even business executives accept long train journeys (3- 5 hours or overnight on sleepers) as a fact of life. Why can't British travellers do the same ?

5) The proposed Heathrow expansion anyway takes up far more space than it need do for FLIGHTS - it is designed as a shopping centre for the profit of airport operators, cross-subsidizing flights with rents from shops. This is a crazy way to plan an airport.

Anne Gray

24 Feb 2008

Ralph Nader will run for President

You heard it first here and the official announcement will come in an hour or two, if I am wrong..hey I am wrong but this is the way I read the geese entrails. I am still backing Cynthia McKinney but which ever of them gets it, a strong Green Party challenge is needed.

Obama is still part of the pro growth, pro capitalist, pro war, pro nuclear establishment...A challenge from outside is near impossible but remains necessary.

Obama praises Reagan and takes cash from the nuclear industry and still provides support for an imperial foreign policy.

23 Feb 2008

Morning Star

The Morning Star provides an increasingly satisfactory antidote to the Guardian, its morphing into a non sectarian left daily newspaper which is essential reading. It used to be the in house journal of the Communist Party of Britain but it is fair to say that it gives the Green Party excellent coverage, for example, it was the only national newspaper to send a full time reporter to our conference last week.

I often get phoned for a comment by the Morning Star and they run lots of the stories the Green Party press office sends out. Caroline Lucas used to have a column with them and I now write for them once a month.

Well so far so biased but even if they ran none of my stuff I would say this is a long way from the tractor factories of the past, they run stuff from pretty much every section of the British left George Galloway, John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn, even the excellent Keith Flett (who is member of the SWP) and John Lister (who I think is involved with Socialist Resistance).

They run interesting material, some of which I disagree with pretty vehemently, which they see as advancing left debt...I think their trajectory from being I guess a fairly rigid party organ to an interesting source of idea provides a good lesson of how all of us 'leftists' 'progressives' or whatever could strike together without losing our souls.

One big draw back is you need a subscription, well I think they should go open source but I have sent them a subscription...I guess it is use them or lose them.

The story of the British Communist Party, formed by Lenin despite some protest from the grassroots and its division between pro-Soviet and pro-post modern Euro communists around Marxism Today is a post for another day.

I guess I never would have thought myself calling Morning Star a resource but it is an increasingly good one...I think the more grass roots model of socialism from Latin America is having a ripple effect even back here in blighty.

Well I guess they still run pro GM stories but the fact they give anti- GM a hearing is progress in my book.

Any way here is a story that ran from Darren Johnson a couple of days ago, good illustration of where all Green Party members agree on the dangers of privatisation:

Metronet contractors could face charges
(Wednesday 20 February 2008)

LONDON Assembly Green Party member Darren Johnson warned contractors for failed Tube privateer Metronet on Wednesday that police could be called in over "phantom work."

Mr Johnston said that London Mayor Ken Livingstone had responded positively to a suggestion that he should "name and shame" Metronet contractors if evidence emerges that they were paid for work which was never done.

Mr Livingstone also promised to present any such evidence to the fraud squad.

This follows an admission to the London Assembly last week by Transport for London Tube managing director Tim O'Toole that it was unclear whether work which had been paid for had actually been done.

The Metronet contractors were all shareholders of the company and Mr Johnson is pressing Transport for London to establish whether any benefited from "padded contracts."

Mr Johnson added that the way that Metronet was run was a "scandal," saying: "I welcome the mayor's pledge to call in the fraud squad if he finds any evidence that money was paid for work which didn't get done.

"It is bad enough that the taxpayer is being landed with the bill for the collapse of the government's disastrous public-private partnership, but Londoners will be demanding justice if TfL uncovers clear evidence that Metronet's shareholder companies benefited from padded contracts and profited from pocketing money for work which didn't get done.

"Opening the books on the Metronet disaster is the best way of convincing the government to stop pursuing a policy of privatisation."

Mr Livingstone responded that he would be happy to name and shame such people.

22 Feb 2008

Fear of the other

had this from Mumia, Thanks Mumia

The Costs of Crime War Myths
[col. writ. 2/14/08] (c) '08 Mumia Abu-Jamal

I caught a brief snippet of the news a few days ago, of Delaware Senator
Joseph Biden's apology for writing, introducing and sponsoring passage of a
1986 Crime Bill which heightened federal penalties for crack usage and

Sen. Biden said he recognized now that the bill was based on myth. Much
of it hyped by the daily press, which in turn fed the National phobia about
drugs, and pushed politicians to support more and more draconian methods of

While Biden should be applauded for his rare political honesty, one
can't help but wonder about the tens of thousands (if not more), who are still
stuck in what are essentially life bits, based on fear and myth.

For crack cocaine, despite its fearsome reputation, differs little from
powder cocaine, except in how the users and possessors of both are treated by
the law.

But fear and myth are the seed corn of American politics, and its prison
system. From the very inception of the American prison, foreigners,
activists and the poor were targeted for imprisonment. As researchers Laura Magnani
and Harmon L. Wray have written in their Beyond Prisons: A New Interfaith
Paradigm For Our Failed Prison System (Minn., MN: Fortress Press, 2006):

In 1797, 70 percent of the prisoners in the Walnut
Street Jail in Philadelphia
were immigrants. The first line of action against the
waves of immigrants
who have come to the United States has always been the
criminal justice system.
Prison was used to make "gentlemen" out of offenders who
were largely
immigrants. In other words, our prison system was used
to acculturate these
people whose behavior was not accepted by the dominant
culture. Immigrants
who were active in the labor movement were specifically
targeted for criminal
charges. [p.108]

Magnani and Wray add that we saw similar usages in the state's repressive
machinery after the close of World War II, and more recently, in the wake of

Fear. Myth. Fear of the Other.

Sen. Biden, unfortunately, wasn't alone in the business of making laws
out of myth. Former US President William J. Clinton's Crime bill added some
60 offenses punishable by the death penalty: and his Prison Litigation Reform
act (PLRA), which essentially slammed the doors shut for millions of
prisoners who sought to file suits in Federal courts, was similarly based on myth.

But myths are powerful tools for politicians; the question becomes who
can successfully manipulate these myths to one's political advantage.

And, while a politician may get elected and even re-elected by such
methods, the lives of countless thousands are cheapened and wasted by such myths.

Myths, and press-hyped fear shouldn't be the sources of the law. Reason
should prevail.

But as long as we have the system we have, and the politicians we have,
thousands will suffer from myth and fear.

--(c) '08 maj

Subject: Siân censored!

Subject: Siân censored!

From Gary Dunion, Chief Press Officer, in the Green campaign office

See the uncensored version of Siân's broadcast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSSjGnj6g7k

Hi all,

Channel 4 have just screened our Political Slot film - sort of.

In the original film, Siân explained how Greens on the London Assembly won a big pay rise for cleaners in the Fire Brigade by using their power of the Mayor's budget to create the London Living Wage Unit.

But Channel 4 didn't want you to see that. So they cut it out.

They were happy to let us tell you about how we've introduced a scheme to provide advice on greening your home, and how we've won funding to increase the amount and quality of green space in East London. And those are great achievements - but why is it that we're not allowed to tell you that there's more to Green politics than the environment?

We don't know. But it has left us asking how many cleaners at Channel 4 are on poverty wages.

You can see the full, uncensored broadcast at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sSSjGnj6g7k
-- and please help get the word out by sharing it and posting it on your profile.

Fortunately, not everyone wants to stop us fighting poverty pay - organisations including the NUS, Unite, UNISON, the Fawcett Society, and Oxfam have made Siân a Patron of the new Fair Pay Network, to be launched on Monday. Keep checking http://www.sianformayor.org.uk from next week for more details on that campaign, and on how to join in.

Thank you for all you do,


21 Feb 2008

My health news

Well been to see nice Dr Dass at Green Meadows who has told me to take a week off and I have got an appointment with the fracture clinc at Heatherwood Hospital, I guess if I had anything really severe I would have been strapped to a board but having a cracked piece of Thoracic spine is not encouraging. Got hit by a car two years ago, so it may relate to this.

So I am taking a week away from work and politics. Vince who is my eldest came round with Peter Nicholas who is my ex father in law to cheer me up and I had a nice phone call from Clive who I work for who is always a great support.

So if I teach any of you reading this, normal service will be ressumed next week, apologies but taking care for a couple of days seems the best idea...likewise politics.

Goodness blacking out side Waitrose..eclair in hand, how surreal...still can nearly laugh about it.

Blogwise...when I have energy it will be cut and paste for a while.

20 Feb 2008

Cuba Regrets ‘Past Error’ of Homophobia

Cuba Regrets ‘Past Error’ of Homophobia
by Gerardo Arreola

December 15, 2007

Cuba considers the official homophobia of the past decades “an error” but this period still needs discussing: ”what happened has to be analysed,” says sexologist Mariela Castro Espín. The director of the National Centre of Sex Education (Cenesex) announced at the start of last year a legal initiative to recognise the rights of the transsexuals to identity and to clinical attention, a proposal that has been reformulated through discussion. The project, which still awaits legislative passage, has incorporated among other points the rights of free sexual orientation… and of adoption for same sex pairs, comparable to heterosexual unions. Mariela (is) daughter of the stand-in President, Raúl Castro, and Vilma Espín, the late defender of gender rights.

A controversy broke out last January about the ‘quinquenio gris’ (refers to a gray period, variously interpreted as being of five to fifteen years), as the censorship and homophobic discrimination of the Seventies is remembered. Mariela, who participated in the debate, was asked if the discussion would have to extend to other aspects of the past like penalisation of “ostentatious” homosexuality or the agricultural camps where people of that orientation were interned.

She points out that “in the history of a human being, errors are made and one has to go on learning and taking lessons from those mistakes. But institutions also commit errors and have to be capable of recognising why it was a mistake and what it is going to do so that the mistakes are not repeated, what laws have to be established, which values have to be instituted”.

“The errors which Cuba committed were very similar to those that were and still are committed in many countries. Cuba was a reflection of the world. The same happened here that happened in other places, only that much more got out because it was expected that a Socialist revolution could not commit those errors because it was a revolution for the emancipation of man. The ideology at that time was permeated with homophobia and prejudices. The Communist parties were very homophobic. It is recently that they have more inclusive attitudes.”

Reviewing the achievements and obstacles in overcoming the decades of discrimination, Mariela considers that the Cuban media “still timidly approaches” sexual diversity. “They are losing the fear”: last year a telenovela which tackled male bisexuality caused an intense social controversy; the newspaper Juventud Rebelde (Rebel Youth) has a section on sex; television approaches the theme in a comedy programmes and a short drama was broadcast about a lesbian pair.

But prejudice is still deep-rooted in society and in the government: “There still are institutions that take the right to decide if a lesbian, gay or transsexual person can or not occupy a post.” In the educational sector “we have achieved very little”: schools turn down transsexuals who wish to dress according to their real sex… they are vulnerable to mockery and rejection and abandon studies. Cenesex speaks with the police about how to behave in public spaces with homosexuals or transsexuals: “there are people very grateful for that conversation though others are not so receptive”.

A group of transsexuals work at the centre getting ready to become health promoters “ so that society sees them that way and not as a curse”; there is another group of lesbians and in both cases they discuss common problems, at times with the participation of families. Hoping that the initiatives with reach their legislative passage, at a still to be determined date, Cenesex works to “educate the public that deserves to be informed before a thing like this is set on them from the blue. Because if not, the people will feel upset and broken”.

Published in La Jornada, Mexico, on December 10, 2007.

Slightly abridged and translated from Spanish by Supriyo Chatterjee


19 Feb 2008

Castro resignation letter

Message from the Commander in Chief

Dear compatriots:

Last Friday, February 15, I promised you that in my next reflection I would deal with an issue of interest to many compatriots. Thus, this now is rather a message.

The moment has come to nominate and elect the State Council, its President, its Vice-Presidents and Secretary.

For many years I have occupied the honorable position of President. On February 15, 1976 the Socialist Constitution was approved with the free, direct and secret vote of over 95% of the people with the right to cast a vote. The first National Assembly was established on December 2nd that same year; this elected the State Council and its presidency. Before that, I had been a Prime Minister for almost 18 years. I always had the necessary prerogatives to carry forward the revolutionary work with the support of the overwhelming majority of the people.

There were those overseas who, aware of my critical health condition, thought that my provisional resignation, on July 31, 2006, to the position of President of the State Council, which I left to First Vice-President Raul Castro Ruz, was final. But Raul, who is also minister of the Armed Forces on account of his own personal merits, and the other comrades of the Party and State leadership were unwilling to consider me out of public life despite my unstable health condition.

It was an uncomfortable situation for me vis-à-vis an adversary which had done everything possible to get rid of me, and I felt reluctant to comply.

Later, in my necessary retreat, I was able to recover the full command of my mind as well as the possibility for much reading and meditation. I had enough physical strength to write for many hours, which I shared with the corresponding rehabilitation and recovery programs. Basic common sense indicated that such activity was within my reach. On the other hand, when referring to my health I was extremely careful to avoid raising expectations since I felt that an adverse ending would bring traumatic news to our people in the midst of the battle. Thus, my first duty was to prepare our people both politically and psychologically for my absence after so many years of struggle. I kept saying that my recovery "was not without risks."

My wishes have always been to discharge my duties to my last breath. That’s all I can offer.

To my dearest compatriots, who have recently honored me so much by electing me a member of the Parliament where so many agreements should be adopted of utmost importance to the destiny of our Revolution, I am saying that I will neither aspire to nor accept, I repeat, I will neither aspire to nor accept the positions of President of the State Council and Commander in Chief.

In short letters addressed to Randy Alonso, Director of the Round Table National TV Program, --letters which at my request were made public-- I discreetly introduced elements of this message I am writing today, when not even the addressee of such letters was aware of my intention. I trusted Randy, whom I knew very well from his days as a student of Journalism. In those days I met almost on a weekly basis with the main representatives of the University students from the provinces at the library of the large house in Kohly where they lived. Today, the entire country is an immense University.

Following are some paragraphs chosen from the letter addressed to Randy on December 17, 2007:

"I strongly believe that the answers to the current problems facing Cuban society, which has, as an average, a twelfth grade of education, almost a million university graduates, and a real possibility for all its citizens to become educated without their being in any way discriminated against, require more variables for each concrete problem than those contained in a chess game. We cannot ignore one single detail; this is not an easy path to take, if the intelligence of a human being in a revolutionary society is to prevail over instinct.

"My elemental duty is not to cling to positions, much less to stand in the way of younger persons, but rather to contribute my own experience and ideas whose modest value comes from the exceptional era that I had the privilege of living in.

"Like Niemeyer, I believe that one has to be consistent right up to the end."

Letter from January 8, 2008:

"…I am a firm supporter of the united vote (a principle that preserves the unknown merits), which allowed us to avoid the tendency to copy what came to us from countries of the former socialist bloc, including the portrait of the one candidate, as singular as his solidarity towards Cuba. I deeply respect that first attempt at building socialism, thanks to which we were able to continue along the path we had chosen."

And I reiterated in that letter that "…I never forget that ‘all of the world’s glory fits in a kernel of corn."

Therefore, it would be a betrayal to my conscience to accept a responsibility requiring more mobility and dedication than I am physically able to offer. This I say devoid of all drama.

Fortunately, our Revolution can still count on cadres from the old guard and others who were very young in the early stages of the process. Some were very young, almost children, when they joined the fight on the mountains and later they have given glory to the country with their heroic performance and their internationalist missions. They have the authority and the experience to guarantee the replacement. There is also the intermediate generation which learned together with us the basics of the complex and almost unattainable art of organizing and leading a revolution.

The path will always be difficult and require from everyone’s intelligent effort. I distrust the seemingly easy path of apologetics or its antithesis the self-flagellation. We should always be prepared for the worst variable. The principle of being as prudent in success as steady in adversity cannot be forgotten. The adversary to be defeated is extremely strong; however, we have been able to keep it at bay for half a century.

This is not my farewell to you. My only wish is to fight as a soldier in the battle of ideas. I shall continue to write under the heading of ‘Reflections by comrade Fidel.’ It will be just another weapon you can count on. Perhaps my voice will be heard. I shall be careful.


Fidel Castro Ruz

February 18, 2008

5:30 p.m.

More Gay SEx

Collapsed and got carted off to hospital yesterday, now out but I need a day or two to mend, so cancelling my engagements, generally taking some rest for a change and when blogging just using stuff from others.

I have heard Peter come out with the idea that sexuality is more fluid than straight/gay for decades....I think he is correct and this is something that needs recognising and celebrating....see what you think.

Sexing the future.
The evolution of human sexuality is likely to involve more people having gay sex but fewer people defining themselves as gay By Peter Tatchel.

The Guardian – Comment Is Free – 14 February 2008

February is LGBT History Month, with hundreds of events taking place across the country to promote awareness of the contribution to society of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people. In a culture that has, until recently, persecuted queers and suppressed us from public life, this reclamation of hidden LGB T history is a welcome and much needed historical correction.

But history is about the past. What about the future? As we progress towards a post-homophobic society, how will this transition to understanding and acceptance affect the expression of human sexuality? If we evolved into an enlightened society where the differences between hetero and homo no longer mattered, what would this mean for the future of same-sex desire and queer identity? We already know, thanks to a host of sex surveys, that even in narrow-minded, homophobic cultures, many people are born with a sexuality that is, to varying degrees, capable of both heterosexualand homosexual attraction: witness how same-sex relations flourish insingle-sex institutions like schools, prisons and the armed forces.

Research by Dr Alfred Kinsey in the USA during the 1940s was the firstmajor statistical evidence that gay and straight are not watertight,irreconcilable sexual orientations. He found that sexuality is, infact, a continuum of desires and behaviours, ranging from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality. A substantial proportion of the population is somewhere in the middle, sharing an amalgam of same-sex and opposite-sex feelings. In Sexual Behaviour In The Human Male (1948), Kinsey recorded that 13per cent of the men he surveyed were either mostly or exclusivelyhomosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55.Twenty-five per cent had more than incidental gay reactions orexperience, amounting to clear and continuing same-sex desires. Altogether, 37 per cent of the men Kinsey questioned had experienced sex with other males to the point of orgasm, and half - yes half! -had experienced mental attraction or erotic arousal towards other men(sometimes transient and not physically expressed). Kinsey's research has since been criticised as out-of-date and unrepresentative.

The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (2000) found that around 9% percent of UK men and womenhave had a sexual experience with a person of the same sex; althoughthe survey authors admit this is probably an underestimate because many people are still reluctant to reveal their homosexuality.http://www.data-archive.ac.uk/doc/5223%5Cmrdoc%5Cpdf%5C5223userguide.pdf The possibility that individuals could share a capacity for bothhetero and homo feelings is an idea supported by the anthropologistsFord and Frank Beach. In Patterns of Sexual Behaviour (1965), they noted that certain formsof homosexuality were considered normal and acceptable in 49 (nearly two-thirds) of 76 tribal societies surveyed from the 1920s to the1950s. They also recorded that in some aboriginal cultures, such asthe Keraki and Sambia peoples of Papua New Guinea, all young menentered into a same-sex relationship with an unmarried male warrior,sometimes lasting several years, as part of their rites of passageinto manhood. Once completed, they ceased all homosexual contact and assumed sexual desires for women. If sexual orientation was totally biologically pre-programmed, these men would have never been able toswitch to homosexuality and then to heterosexuality with such apparent ease. This led Ford and Beach to deduce that homosexuality is fundamental to the human species, and its practice is substantially influenced by social mores and expectations. The evidence from these two research disciplines - sociology and anthropology - is that the incidence of heterosexuality and homosexuality is not fixed and universal, and that the two sexual orientations are not mutually exclusive. There is a good deal of fluidity and overlap. What's more, although sexuality may be significantly affected by biological predispositions - such as genes and hormones – other causal factors appear to include childhood experiences, social expectations,peer pressure and moral values. They channel erotic impulses incertain directions and not others.

An individual's sexual orientationis thus influenced culturally, as well as biologically. We know that even in intensely homophobic cultures, like Nazi Germanyand fundamentalist Iran, a sizeable proportion of the population experiences both same-sex and opposite-sex arousal. This evidence comes from research that records consciously recognised desires. At the level of unconscious feelings - where passions are often repressed, displaced, sublimated, projected and transferred - it seems probable that very few people are 100 percent straight or gay. Most are a mixture, even if they never physically express both sides of the sexual equation. This picture of human sexuality is much more complex, diverse andblurred than the traditional simplistic binary image of hetero and homo, so loved by straight moralists and - more significantly – by many lesbians and gay men. If sexual orientation has a culturally-influenced element ofindeterminacy and flexibility, then the present forms of homosexuality and heterosexuality are unlikely to remain the same in perpetuity. As culture changes, so will expressions of sexuality. In a future non-homophobic society, more people are likely to have gaysex but less people will identify as gay. This is because the absenceof homophobia makes the need to assert and affirm gayness redundant. Gay identity is largely the product of anti-gay repression. It is aself-defence mechanism against homophobia. Faced with persecution for having same-sex relations, the right to have those relationships had to be defended – hence gay identity and the gay rights movement.

But if one sexuality is not privileged over another, defining oneself as gay (or straight) will cease to be necessary and have no socialrelevance or significance. In plain Tatchell-speak: the need tomaintain sexual differences, boundaries and identities disappears withthe demise of straight supremacism. Homosexuality as a separate, exclusive orientation and identity will begin to fade (as will its mirror opposite, heterosexuality), as we evolve into a sexually enlightened and accepting society. The vastmajority of people will be open to the possibility of both opposite-sex and same-sex desires. They won't feel the need to label themselves (or others) as gay or straight because, in a non-homophobic culture, no one will care who loves who. --

Peter Tatchell is the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East www.greenoxford.com/peter and www.petertatchell.net

PETER TATCHELL HUMAN RIGHTS FUND Donations are requested to help fund Peter Tatchell's campaigns promotinghuman rights, democracy and global justice. Peter is unpaid andreceives no grants. To continue his human rights work, he depends on donations fromfriends and supporters. Please make cheques payable to: "Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund". Send to: Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund, PO Box 35253, London E1 4YF To download a donation form or a standing order mandate, go to Donations at:www.tatchellrightsfund.org To email PTHRF:info@tatchellrightsfund.org Thank you. Richard Kirker, Treasurer PTHRF For information about Peter Tatchell's campaigns:www.petertatchell.net

18 Feb 2008

Greens welcome homophobe Paisley Junior resignation



Greens welcome homophobe Paisley Junior resignation: Northern Ireland assembly- now sack this homophobe!
Review of Northern Ireland’s hate crime standards and policy needed now


In the aftermath of the Resignation of Ian Paisley Jnr from the Stormont Government, Greens want all Members of Northern Ireland’s Assembly to be put under pressure to comply to fair and equal treatment for LGBT people.

Paisley Jnr is the son of the infamous DUP Leader, Ian Paisley, who as the leader of the Free Presbyterian Church attempted to stop the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Northern Ireland and coined the bigotry, ‘Save Ulster from Sodomy’.

In welcoming the announcement earlier today, Phelim Mac Cafferty, media spokesperson for LGBT Greens stated: “I welcome Mr Paisley Jnr's resignation from the Government and I want to call for his sacking from the Assembly. After an outrageous outburst last summer where Mr Paisley stated that he was ‘repulsed’ by gay men and lesbians Mr Paisley should have been sacked- what way is this for someone who is supposed to represent all people to act? The reality is Paisley Jnr wasn’t sacked and appeared on Radio 4 later last year to defend his views.

Phelim continued:
“To add insult to injury Paisley Jnr was appointed to the department which oversaw equalities issues- just what message does this send to the homophobes in Northern Ireland?”

“Paisley Jnr will continue to represent North Antrim in the Assembly which given the appalling and documented high rate of suicide among Northern Ireland’s young LGBT population- including the shocking suicide in July 07 of Mr Gay Derry 2003, Eamon Johnston- sends all the wrong signals to people committing or about to perpetrate hate crimes against LGBT people. Paisley Jnr should be sacked for his continuous hate crimes against Northern Ireland’s LGBT population.

“Like his father before him, Paisley Jnr represents every attempt in Northern Ireland to drag it back to the days where if you were LGB or T you had to leave- isn’t it about time we asked Paisley Jnr to leave instead?”

17 Feb 2008

Green Party passes Justice for the Palestinians motion

Here is the motion:

Justice for the Palestinians

Conference believes that the plight of the Palestinians is an issue that is central to the ongoing instability and violence in the Middle East. A just and durable peace in the Middle East is impossible without a just resolution to the dispossession of the Palestinian people.

For forty years Israel has colonised Palestine while steadily ethnically cleansing the land of its indigenous population and for forty years has illegally occupied the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights.

Israel is in violation of dozens of UN Resolutions, including Security Council Resolution 242 of 1967, calling for Israeli withdrawal from the lands occupied in the Six Day War.

There are more than 200 settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, all of them illegal under international law. Approximately 400,000 settlers live in the West Bank, including over 220,000 in Occupied East Jerusalem.

Settlement areas, bypass roads and military areas account for more than 79% of the land in the West Bank. Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land and appropriation of water resources constitutes a theft without compensation for Palestinians. Settlements consume more than 80% of the renewable water resources in the West Bank and Gaza.

About one million Palestinians are citizens of a supposedly democratic Israel, but they are denied many rights of citizens, including the right to acquire land or property. 92 % of the land falls under the administration of the Jewish National Fund, and cannot be sold to non-Jews. As a result the Israeli Arabs who make up 19% of the population own only 4% of the land.

Israeli law allows Palestinian areas to be designated ‘state land.’ In all, there are 38 statutes in force enabling the Israeli state to expropriate Palestinian land.

In order to render already substantial ‘facts on the ground’ irreversible, the Apartheid Wall the Israeli Government is now building snakes deep into the West Bank to effectively annex the illegal settlement blocs into Israel. When finished, the separation zones could leave on the ‘Israeli’ side up to 60% of the West Bank.

Therefore we resolve to:

* Work towards a just solution based on international law and an end to Israeli occupation of the Occupied Territories
* Demand that the blockade on all Occupied Palestinian Territories be lifted and freedom of movement guaranteed
* Campaign for the release all the elected Palestinian parliamentarians kidnapped by the Israeli Army
* Reiterate our call on Israel to allow Palestinians and their families to return to their former homes, or to compensate those unable or unwilling to return.
* Support the Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions made by more than 170 Palestinian civil society organizations and community groups.

Loan shark finance for the post-modern age

Derek Wall addresses conference, Reading 08

16th Feb 2008

By: Dr. Derek Wall

Dr. Derek Wall addresses conference on economy and democracy

Dr. Derek Wall addresses conference on a Green alternative to the faltering capitalist economy

Lets talk about economics. Bill Clinton said, "Its the economy stupid," but I prefer to quote a more radical voice

"A society in which consumption has to be artificially stimulated in order to keep production going is a society founded on trash and waste, and such a society is a house built upon sand".

That's from Dorothy Sayers, the detective novelist who wrote the Lord Peter Wimsey books in the 1940s.

The present economy drives ecological destruction and unless we find an alternative to it, it will sub-prime mortgage the near future.

We have to win the economic arguments and put forward alternatives that work.

On the environment we know that business as usual is suicide. From incinerators - I fought the monster in Slough, that spews deadly mb -10 particles - to the car culture: we have to change.

Nonetheless the first concern for most voters is the economy.

The global economy is on the edge of a cliff. Recession is on its way, which could mean a return to millions of unemployed, widespread house repossessions and growing poverty. The reasons for this crisis are complex in some ways, simple in others but the jargon of the economists mystifies.

I will try and cut through misleading appearances and get to the essence of the matter.

1% of American families were involved in some stage of home repossession in 2007. That's 2,203,295 individual cases.

9.5 million Britons currently have debt problems.

As we know, a French trader lost $3.6 bn a couple of weeks ago, enough to have paid off the credit card bills over here.

Northern Rock collapsed, in the first run on a bank in decades.

The British government has spent £40bn bailing out Northern Rock and has acquired liabilities of £100bn. This has pushed government debt beyond his golden rule sum of 40% of GDP limit set by Gordon Brown.

It started with the sub prime market, and free market globalisation is pushing it in our direction. Sub prime is jargon, and economics is all about jargon which hides simple truths.

Sub prime mortgages are simply high interest rate mortgages for the poorest American homeowners - those who risk not being able to pay.

Loan shark finance for the post-modern age.

Northern Rock went under partly because of securitisation - more jargon - it means debt that has been split up into bits and sold on. In this case sub prime debt.

Increasingly, everything is financialised. Private pensions, endowment mortgages, insurance policies - you name it - is based on shares, bonds, bills, options, derivatives and securitisation.

Who's heard of credit-default swaps? You will soon.

One commentator noted, "Credit-default swaps are a kind of insurance against default, arranged between two parties. One party, the seller, agrees to pay the face value of the policy in case of a default by a specific company. The buyer pays a premium, a fee, to the seller for that protection.

"This has grown to be a huge market: the total value of all CDS contracts is about $450 trillion. Some studies have put the real credit risk at just 6% of the total, or about $27 trillion. That puts the CDS market at somewhere between two and six times the size of the U.S. economy."

To survive economically, all of us are, although most of the time unaware, caught up in an increasingly mysterious and esoteric financial web. With privatisation and an increasingly economically insecure society, financialisation is likely to accelerate. If you put money into Northern Rock as a saver did you expect it to be tied up with mortgages in Florida?

George Soros, the billionaire financier, a man often more critical of capitalism than myself, believes that there is a 50/50 chance of the British economy moving into recession. Soros is also saying that the present crisis is the worst since the 1930's.

To keep the increasingly risky and unreal economy afloat we have to keep on consuming. If we spend less then unemployment rises, homeowners who lose their jobs can no longer keep up with mortgage payments, houses are repossed, credit card debt cannot be paid, and the vicious spiral of negative economic growth leads to poverty and mass unemployment. The system eventually rebounds but with a huge cost in insecurity and human misery.

To keep the system afloat we have to exploit each other and our environment.

A healthy modern capitalist economy is like a system of hard drug addiction. We have to work harder and consume more, to avoid the pain of economic cold turkey. The only solution, it seems, is to increase the dose. But increasing doses only brings relief in the short term. Long term it increases tolerance, which can only be met with larger doses.

The economic approach of Gordon Brown is to simply up the dose with more privatisation, more insecurity, more consumption and more free market globalisation. New Labour's approach- inherited from the Tories - is to make the interests of the City pre-eminent.

It isn't just human beings who feel the pain, its the rest of nature, as well.

Which is where rainforests come in.

More consumption, more free trade and fewer barriers to corporations means the forests come tumbling down - cut for palm oil for biofuels and processed food.

Every time you eat margarine you risk killing a monkey, and all in the name of oil exploration and mines for new minerals and metals.

Oil addiction means that our leaders are going to be tempted to the likes will Iraq and, increasingly, Iran, causing more chaos.

But hey, the arms industry likes to have their products tested!

We have an economy which is irrational and unecological, which increasingly no one understands and is, increasingly, no fun.

The psychologist Oliver James shows that with higher GNP, mental illness rises, and we catch a disease called Affluenza.

We have to create an economy that gives access to things we all need, from warm homes to healthy food to secure pensions, and creative good work in secure posts without the ever increasing overuse of resources.

At this conference, we are going to debate recession and policies to deal with it. Yes, you can pump up the economy with spending on good things like renewables, but we also have to make our economy more stable.

We need to reduce the dose, improve security and put people and nature in charge of society. At the moment we act as if were part of some insane religion that makes us sacrifice our children for a golden idol covered in dollar signs.

We need to tackle housing, and stop the attack on social housing. We ceased building council houses in the 1980's, and that has created speculation in the housing market and a new sub prime rental sector where landlords prey on homelessness. The British economy is fueled by housing insecurity - homes are no longer primarily considered places to live in, but now thought as financial instruments.

From cutting super-bonuses that inflate house prices in London, to dealing with empty homes - 870,000 last time I looked - to building low impact homes that don't sacrifice the environment, we need to creating greater council housing capacity. We can take the pressure out of the housing market,give people security and make the economy more stable.

Not easy but essential.

And we have the policies.

We need proper pensions and welfare so people feel secure.

Our revolutionary basic income scheme would help massively. Well where would the money come from?

Trident is £70bn.

The billions spent on nuclear power.

The billions spent on war in Iraq.

Then there is all the waste, from ministerial limos to lack of insulation.

£40bn on Northern Rock was money down the toilet but there was no question the government simply paid it. New priorities are necessary.

We need an economy that is based on what is good and useful, and not on simply piling up piles of money.

Why not make goods to last longer? Why not cut advertising? Why not create sustainable energy? Why not have local economies? Less is more.

We need work-sharing and democratic control of the economy. Democracy used to be dismissed as mob rule and was condemned by the 18th century equivalents of the Daily Mail and Express as a recipe for chaos.

We need a democratic economy.

Companies can instead of issuing shares and having by law to maximise profit, whatever the consequences, can be run by mutuals with the cash going to workers. The best example of this is the staff policies of the John Lewis Group, who own Waitrose.

What about ZOPA - a peer to peer bank, where borrowers and lenders pick their own interest rates? How far away is that from sub prime.

In Venezuela I met workers who run their own factories and saw massive permaculture city farms. We need to put ordinary people in control of the economy, we need to think rationally about what to produce. The economics of free software and social sharing is sweeping the world.

In the 1970s the visionary trade unionist Mike Cooley, together with fellow workers from Lucas Aerospace, produced detailed plans to build road rail buses, kidney machines and renewable energy systems instead of weapons. We need such green plans for people-orientated production.

You know this. Its all in the Manifesto for a Sustainable Society.

The 1980s could have been about this kind of grassroots economics Instead we had Thatcher who, fueled by oil wealth, embarked on an economic experiment that has made Britain technically richer but socially poor, more unequal, less democratic and more insecure.

I am, as you know, an out-of-the-closet socialist, but if socialism means central-control then count me out. Its inefficient and undemocratic.

Whatever you call it, we can have an economy that meets human need and not the greed of a few. It's about being on the side of ordinary people, and not about making the economy more market-based that ultimately only benefits the super rich.

And I suppose, unless they go into space with Richard Branson in his biofuel tourist rockets, will even destroy their future.

It is about a different kind of property rights. Property rights are the long DNA of any social system. We need property rights that preserve ecology and local control.

So, there is much to do, but to achieve what we want we can't simply dream.

We need to win. As I constantly say, it's a battle of ideas - to show that radical green politics is asking the right questions and coming up with solutions.

We need to use direct action to slow and reverse the damage.

We need to elect greens.

It's about reclaiming space, ideas, direct action, and elections.

I am going to be working to elect our first Green MP Caroline Lucas in Brighton. This year I will be at the climate camp again. I am going to be opposing the Lisbon treaty which will impose a more neo-liberal Europe, and I am going to be fighting biofuels and climate change.

Time is very, very short. We need to be working with others, to take the wider view.

I have been talking to John McDonnell, the Labour MP. He's going to the climate camp and supports direct action, and that's good. I have been asking Trade Union leaders like Matt Wrack and people like the Venezuelan Ambassador, Samuel Moncada, to speak to us. And they tend to say yes.

We need dialogue and the big vision to save planet earth. We all need to get stuck in and build a bigger, stronger, more realistic but more radical Green Party.

15 Feb 2008

Obama first Green President?

Having now outstripped Clinton in delegates the Obama band wagon could deliver America's first black President. After Bush Obama seems like a radical change, he is widely seen as a progressive. However to win in the American system big dollars are needed and the corporations are piling into the Obama campaign now that he looks like the front runner. One of his biggest backers has been Exelon one of the US's biggest nuclear power companies (http://www.counterpunch.org/stclair07042007.html). He has also supported a Liquid Coal bill opposed by environmentalists http://www.huffingtonpost.com/glenn-hurowitz/burning-tires-and-liquid-_b_52857.html. The highly toxic bill sought to turn coal into automobile fuel. It doesn't end there, despite recent environmental friendly sounding rhetoric, Obama voted for George Bush's 2005 energy act that paid $27 billion to energy corporations.

Obama is also pro war, he wants to keep the troops in Iraq and believes in beefing up the military to take on perceived threats around the globe. In short despite feel good inspirational words, it is going to be largely politics as usual if he wins.

More than ever for real progress on climate change, civil liberties and against war, the Green Party looks attractive. Ok as a prominent member of the Green Party here in Britain I am biased. I do think Greens in both Canada and the UK could learn something from the likely US Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney. She is a former Democrat member of Congress who has called for troops out of Iraq, for justice for Palestine and for real action on climate change. Last year she toured Britain, I met her and was very impressed. She is a keen supporter of Hugo Chavez and the emerging Latin American left, she is the only candidate who is on the side of the poor rather than the corporations. On fossil fuels she simply states 'keep the oil in the soil'.

Could she be the first black president, the first women president, the first Green Party president, well its a tall order in the far from democratic US two party system, run by and for billionaries. What is clear is that she is a candidate that represents radical common sense rather than the capitalist media spectacle.

You can find out more about her on her campaign website. Nader may make another run but has not yet declared, I think even if he does go for it again, the Greens will pick Cynthia and even if I am wrong she is surely a shoe in for VP candidacy.

14 Feb 2008

Green Bans are the way to stop motorways, etc!

Jack Mundey being removed by Police 1973

There are some nice photos on the Green Party Trade Union blog here

These are some thoughts from me, see some of you in Reading in a hour or two for Green Party Conference.

Over the weekend the first world's first trade union climate change conference was held in London with input from trade union leaders like Matt Wrack from the FBU and Frances O’ Grady who has been TUC Deputy General Secretary since January 2003. The usual suspects like Caroline Lucas MEP, John McDonnell and myself spoke as well. A healthy 300 delegates came and a trade union climate campaign has been launched

This red green alliance might seem unlike, after all isn't it a choice between jobs and the environment? Certainly the Green Party have held frank discussions with trade unionists who want to expand Sellafield and build a new runway at Heathrow, we have to be frank about disagreement http://gptublog.blogspot.com/2008/02/meeting-with-mick-rix-gmb.html.

Yet there is common ground. There is potential for creating huge numbers of jobs in renewable energy, insulation and green transport schemes. Likewise as one wag once put it, if work was that good the rich would keep it all for themselves...a green future has to involve worksharing and social equality. In Britain we work the longest hours in Western Europe which brings no benefit to workers or their families. Environmental damage hits workers first, Engels 'The Condition of the Working Class in England' written in the 1840s showed how workers were harmed by pollution in the factories. At the weekend conference Matt Wrack told us how call outs to heathland fires were increasing with rising temperatures including the destruction of 90% of Ilkely Moor

One idea that I urged the conference goers to adopt was eco industrial action. In the 1970s the Australian Builders Labourers Federation refused to build environmentally damaging projects.

Jack Mundey their leader argued:

"I think the Green Bans were probably the most exciting innovation that the Builders Labourers became involved in. There was so much development taking place and at the outset there was this feeling that 'all development was good - it was progress'.

"But as historical buildings, and buildings worthy of preservation were knocked down, and whole neighbourhoods were disrupted - for example all the working class people in the Rocks were going to be thrown out for high-rise development - a segment of the population said 'well, we should be concerned about our vanishing heritage'. http://www.cfmeu.asn.au/construction/history/green.html

In the 1980s the National Union of Seamen, now the RMT, blocked all sea dumping of nuclear waste http://archive.greenpeace.org/comms/97/oceandump/radioactive/reports/history.html. Now is the time to work with unions to preserve that planet and eco industrial action is part of the process.

Conversion plans to green production first develop by shop steward Mike Cooley in the 1970s at Lucas Aerospace also need to be put into action http://www.rightlivelihood.org/cooley.html.

'Lucas workers threatened with unemployment organised across factory and union boundaries to draw up their own plan for socially useful production, detailing 150 products which they and Lucas could make, including kidney machines, heat pumps, a road-rail bus and airships.'

Greens need to seriously address union concerns and we need legislation to restore the power of unions before Thatcher gutted them. Unrestrained neo-liberal globalisation will wreck the planet and massively increase inequality, strong unions are part of the process of taming the beast. Any one for organic beer and vegetarian sandwiches, greens and trade unions need to talk more.

The photo at the top is from a Green Ban protest at the Rocks in Australia:

In the early 1970s ‘Green Bans’ were imposed on the redevelopment of The Rocks, to be lifted only when residents were to received assurance from the Government that local people would be rehoused in the area.

In 1973, protesters clashed with police in what is now The Rocks Square, when non-union labour was engaged to demolish shed to make way for a theatre.

In 1975 a compromise was reached and the bans were lifted. All buildings north of the Cahill Expressway were to be retained, conserved and restored.

The Green Bans had far reaching political repercussions as well. In that year the Australian Heritage Commission Act was passed. It set about the identification and protection of both built and natural items considered important to the people of Australia.

The Red Ban Add by SCRA 1973. By 1977 the NSW Government had passed its own Heritage Act which is still regarded as one of the strongest legislative controls for managing heritage items in the world.'

Read more here.

13 Feb 2008

Motorway link to go ahead.

Just got mailed this, thought I would share it...climate change do they give a flying fuck...one suspects not, lets go on driving, building roads, cutting down forests, draining marshes, and carbon trade are way to avoidance...

From today's Guardian - M6 Link Road gets go ahead.

Emissions? What emissions?

Just in case anyone doubted the government's commitment to sorting out climate change, we need look no further than the Heysham M6 link road, or Lancaster northern bypass, which was approved by transport secretary Ruth Kelly last week. Kelly thinks that the 24,000 tonnes of extra CO2 each year that this road will produce is a "significant adverse impact", but that the road should go ahead anyway. Just think: if we had no scientists, or targets or climate change law to encourage us to reduce emissions, we would never have to decide to ignore them.

Also a transport debate on today's You and Yours, featuring John Whitelegg:
Spain are having another new high speed rail link - you can already travel a 300 mile journey for £21. So what about the UK?


Emergency appeal against destruction in Hebron

Just had this from Gwen Backwell...please pass it on.

Dear Friends

I'm forwarding an urgent action appeal to you from Jerusalem to ask you to take the action requested. It's from the CPT (Christian Peacemakers Team) in Hebron whom I visited just 4 days ago. They are an extremely committed group of mainly American Christians who have a long term but very small presence in the centre of Hebron. They live communally in a house surrounded by barbed wire and military installations in the heart of Hebron old city which has been cut in two because 400 of the most violent, armed settlers have taken over Arab houses and shops around the old souq and have forced out the native population. Hebron is the city most affected by the daily violence of settlers and army (2000 soldiers "protecting" 400 armed settlers against an unarmed population, whose presence even the Israeli government does not encourage (though allows). Several international organisations, including an official European presence of monitors, have a permanent presence in Hebron to protect Palestinians going about their daily business and especially helping children to get to school. For more information please look at the website of the CPT (www.cpt.org/work/palestine)

I say all this by means of a very personal introduction to the appeal that has just come from the CPT for the world to take action to prevent these imminent demolitions. If I go there myself or receive any further appeals I'll be in touch again. A quick letter will do to the authorities to ask them to put pressure on the Israelis to stop this aggression of demolitions. Everyone in government will be familiar with the dire situation in Hebron - you won't need to explain much (you can always give your MP this website anyway if in doubt.) If you can send it to your own church authorities in Britain it would also help.

Many, many thanks

To: cpthebron@yahoogroups.com
From: cptheb@palnet.com
Date: Sun, 10 Feb 2008 23:20:47 +0200
Subject: [cpthebron] Urgent Action


Israeli Civil Administration set to demolish a clinic and 11 homes near Hebron, in the Beqa'a Valley, this week

10 February 2008

HEBRON Palestinian residents of the Beqa'a Valley are in danger of losing twenty homes and their health clinic. The clinic is currently under construction. The Israeli Civil Administration issued orders to the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) to demolish the homes and clinic by the end of the week.

Residents in the valley have been building this clinic without governmental or outside funding, even though many have little or no paid employment. The Israeli Civil Administration refused to grant a building permit despite the difficulties residents encounter in reaching other health facilities outside of the valley. Between 600 and 700 people, mostly women and children, will use the new clinic for routine medical care, including prenatal checkups and vaccinations. Palestinian Relief and CARE International currently provide these services one day a week in other existing facilities. The residents decided to build their own clinic as the facilities they are now using are inadequate. Some patients are currently receiving care in part of one resident's home.

(To view pictures of Beqa'a Valley residents using an existing home as a clinic, visit http://www.cpt.org/gallery/album233. )

Twenty other buildings also have demolition orders. Six of these are homes that the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD) rebuilt after previous demolitions.

Atta Jaber, a resident of the Beqa'a Valley, told CPTers (members of Christian Peacemaker Teams), "We want the world to know that with our new clinic that has the demolition order, if there was an automobile accident on the Bypass Route 60, and Israelis were injured and could not get to a hospital, we would give them medical treatment right here in this Palestinian clinic. Tell the world." Israeli authorities demolished Jaber's home in the Beqa'a Valley three times.


Please call, e-mail or write to the Israeli Defense Forces. Urge them to rescind the demolition orders and allow residents to complete the clinic in the Beqa'a Valley.

Send appeal electronically: http://dover.idf.il/IDF/English/Contact+Us/

Public Appeals Officer Phone: (country code 972) 03-5691000

Public Appeals Officer Fax: (country code 972) 03-5699400

In addition, please call, email or write to your government officials. Urge them to send a strong message to the Israeli government to rescind the stop work orders and allow residents to complete the clinic in the Beqa'a Valley.

Below is a suggested list of contacts for this Urgent Action.


Embassy in Tel Aviv – The Canadian Embassy, PO Box 9442, Tel Aviv 67060, Israel. Fax: (011 972 3) 636-3380. Email: taviv@dfait-maeci.gc.ca
Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Office of the Prime Minister, 80 Wellington Street, Ottawa, Canada, K1A 0A2. Fax: 613-941-6900 or Email: pm@pm.gc.ca

Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, Maxine Bernier, House of Commons, Ottawa ON, Canada, K1A 0A6. Fax: (613) 995-0687 or Email: Berni M @parl.gc.ca.
You can mail your MP at the House of Commons address, or find their email address at http://www.parl.gc.ca/information/about/people/house/PostalCode.asp?Source=SM

Embassy in Tel Aviv – British Embassy, 192 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv 63405, Israel. Tel: (+972 3) 725 1222; Fax: (+ 972 3) 527 8574. Email: webmaster.telaviv@fco.gov.uk
Prime Minister Gordon Brown, 10 Downing Street, London SW1A 2AA
To email the Prime Minister go to http://www.number10.gov.uk/output/page821.asp

Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH. Tel: 020 7008-1500

To email MP, MEP's, MSPs, or Northern Ireland, Welsh and London AMs http://www.writetothem.com/

Contact details for UK Members of Parliament and House of Lords:


Contact details for UK Members of Parliament:


Contact details for the Members of the Scottish Parliaments:



Contact PM Fredrik Reinfeldt , Phone: 46 8 405-1000, email via senior registry clerk –


Contact Minister of Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt, Phone: 46-8-405-1000, email via senior registry clerk – www.sweden.gov.se


Embassy in Tel Aviv – US Embassy, 71 Hayarkon Street, Tel Aviv 63903, Israel. Email: Mary Glantz, Human Rights, glantzme@state.gov Or Michelle Schohn,schohnjm@state.gov Or ac5@bezeqint.net

President George W Bush, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC20500

Register your message with the White House Comment Line 202-456-1111.


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, 2201 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20520

Matthew S. Rosenstock Office of Israel and Palestine Affairs in the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs in the State Department. Email: RosenstockMS@state.gov, phone 202-647-1461. Met with Abduhadi when he was in the States.

To contact your Senator go to http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm

To contact your Representative go to http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/

Or call the Capitol Switchboard at (202)-224-3132 and ask for the appropriate Congressional office.

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. To learn more about CPT's peacemaking work, please visit our website at www.cpt.org. Photos of our projects may be viewed at: www.cpt.org/gallery

Christian Peacemaker Teams is an ecumenical initiative to support violence reduction efforts around the world. To learn more about CPT's peacemaking work, visit our website www.cpt.org Photos of our projects are at www.cpt.org/gallery A map of the center of Hebron is at http://www.reliefweb.int/rw/fullMaps_Sa.nsf/0/5618737E38C0B3DE8525708C004BA584/$File/ocha_OTS_hebron_oPt010805.pdf?OpenElement The same map is the last page of this report on closures in Hebron: www.humanitarianinfo.org/opt/docs/UN/OCHA/ochaHU0705_En.pdf

some notes on Earth First!

Wrote a whole book on these people...a big thing and a radical one in the UK.

here are some notes...critical suggestions as oppose to troll abuse (unless witty and sharp) welcome

Earth First! UK and the British anti-roads movement

During the 1990s British environmental activists used direct action in an attempt to halt road construction. A loose network of radical environmentalists Earth First! were central to the anti-roads campaign, Earth First! were originally founded in the USA and projected a philosophy of deep ecology combined with direct action using the slogan 'No compromise in defence of Mother Earth'. Particularly in the 1980s when it was first established in the US, Earth First! often advocated ecologically motivated sabotage including the highly controversial tactic of tree spiking (Lee 1995). In Britain it was far less interested in projecting a philosophy and focussed instead simply on the need to use direct action, based usually on mass mobilisation, to tackle environmental and other ills (Wall 1999).

Protest against road building predates the upsurge of activity in the 1990s. During the early 1970s Homes not Roads campaigned against motorway construction in London by squatting buildings and running anti-road candidates for the Greater London Assembly (Charlesworth 1984). A variety of local conservation societies and environmental groups have opposed and continue to oppose road construction on environmental grounds. Since the 1990s concern over climate change has fed into the sentiments of anti-roads protesters. Militant non violent direct action surged in the 1990s both because of the inspiration of Earth First! and because of an upsurge in road construction by Prime Minister John Major's government.

While there had been several abortive attempts to create an Earth First! Movement in the UK modelled on the US Earth First! Movement created in 1980, two Hastings based students Jason Torrence and Jake Burbridge set up an Earth First group in 1991. There first action was a blockade of the Dungeness nuclear power station in Kent, Torrence and Burbridge were able to tap into local peace networks to carry out the action. George Marshall, a British activist, who had been involved with the Australian rainforest movement, joined them in the early 1990s. Earth First! Focussed its early efforts on rainforest protest, attempting to block the import of rainforest timber. In 1992, an action at Liverpool docks attracted over two hundred activists including members of the Green Student Network. Another early Earth First! Action saw the occupation of a Timbet depot outside Oxford by several hundred activists

Torrence and Burbridge had been active in Greenpeace, the Green Party and Friends of the Earth but had become disillusioned with all three and want to create a more participatory and direct action orientated movement. They quickly recruited activists from these groups, the Green Student Network, the peace movement and animal rights movement. 1992 saw an Earth First! Roadshow with US activists touring Britain to pick up new recruits.

Earth First in the UK has never had a formal membership. It remains an almost invisible network with little or no national organisation. Although local groups continue to exist, there is no establish constitution or set pattern. Earth First has two enduring features, the Earth First Action Update, a newsletter which contains details of direct action and a national summer gathering. Earth First far from being marked by a deep ecology ideology spends little time debating philosophy or constructing a formal ideology. Its key feature is direct action together with organisational informality. It has and remains part of a wider network of green activism

During its early years some attempts were made to formalise the network and an often divisive debate continued between advocates of non violent mass action and those who supported ecologically motivated sabotage. During the Earth First! Gathering in Sussex in 1991, more militant activists sympathetic to Earth First! (US), anarchism and the animal rights movement came up with the term Earth Liberation Front. Acts of ecologically motivated sabotage have been carried out under this banner. Earth First! (UK) does not condone or condemm criminal damage.

Anti-car actions became important with the creation of a Armageddon campaign and the first reclaim the streets action which saw the blocking of Waterloo Bridge in London. After being contacted by activists at Twyford Down, Earth First!ers became involved in the campaign to prevent the M3 from cutting through downland near the city of Winchester. The Twyford Down campaigners had been active for several decades fighting the motorway through the planning process. Prior to the arrival of Earth First!ers both Friends of the Earth and new age travellers had camped on Twyford Down in protest at the motorway. Earth First! Involvement helped accelerate the creation of dozens of anti-road camps across Britain.

In East London the M11 campaign saw an impressive urban occupation of Claremont Road, despite defeat activist created Reclaim the Streets which carried out an increasingly ambitious series of road occupations. One street party in 1996 saw 7,000 participants occupy the M41 motorway in west London (Wall 1999:87).

In Scotland protest against an urban motorway in Glasgow brought in in socialists and community activists who had previously fought against Mrs Thatcher's poll tax. Major road protests continued in Preston.

Earth First activists have also been involved in anti-gm protests, against peat digging, in defence of migrants and asylum seekers and against war.

Earth First still publishes the action update /, runs a website http://earthfirst.org.uk/actionreports/ and has a national gathering http://www.earthfirstgathering.org.uk/. Earth First activists were centrally involved in the 2007 climate camp which was created to resist the expansion of Heathrow and to protest against the contribution of flying to climate change.

Earth First!s most militant sympathisers wrote in a journal Do or Die produced by South Downs Earth First in Brighton Earth First has strongly influence the wider Green movement, the Green Party, environmental ngos, socialists and anarchist in the UK. Its emphasis on direct action encouraged the Green Party to renew its own commitment to non violent direct action with Party members supporting anti-roads protest. Friends of the Earth partly due to the influence of EF became more committed to social justice issues and urban ecology under their new director Charles Secrett (Wall 1999: 90). Greenpeace created a network for its previously passive members to contribute to direct action, this wing was headed for a time by Earth First! Co-founder Jason Torrence. Socialist and anarchist groups including the Scottish Socialist Party were encouraged to become more conscious of ecological issues by the creation of Earth First and the wider roads movement.

Earth First! Remains both an unusually loose and invisible social movement network and one which is of enduring importance. Roads protest using non violent direct action has become less frequent since the 1990s. Although the protest movement can only be said to have directly prevent the construction of two road projects the Thames Crossing and a bypass near Guildford, it contributed to the creation of new construction projects in the 1990s. Earth First! and the British anti-roads movement is an interesting example of a protest mobilisation organised on highly informal and temporary lines, one that largely rejected the production of a detailed philosophy or political programme but focussed instead on activism. Earth First! still exists at the date of writing but is almost invisible but at the same time curiously influential.

Charlesworth, (1984) A History of British Motorways. London: Thomas Telford.
Lee, M. (1995) Earth First! Environmental Apocalypse. New York: Syracuse University Press
Wall, Derek Earth First and Anti-Roads Movement. London. Routledge,1999

12 Feb 2008

Tara challenge



ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley faces a potentially embarrassing High Court challenge over a decision made by his predecessor to allow the M3 motorway to be built over an historic site near the Hill of Tara.

I am very sad that a Green Party is in a government that builds motorways through prehistoric monuments, I mean the SPD only supported the first world war! This is not what I have put the last 27 years of my life into achieving.

Disobedience is the first commandment according to Erich Fromm, count me on this...I will not commit sin.

Tara challenge



ENVIRONMENT Minister John Gormley faces a potentially embarrassing High Court challenge over a decision made by his predecessor to allow the M3 motorway to be built over an historic site near the Hill of Tara.

I very sad that a Green Party is in a government that builds motorways through prehistoric monuments, I mean the SPD only supported the first world war!


INTERNAL NEWS: Green Party of England & Wales
For immediate release 12 February 2008


Green Party Principal Speaker Dr. Derek Wall has added his support to
the cross Parliamentary campaign that is trying to persuade the
Government to set a binding target of an 80% cut in Britain's CO2
emissions by 2050, rather than the 60% that is currently contained in
the Climate Change Bill.

Dr. Wall said

"The Government's targets are too low to seriously address climate
change. We need much stronger and firmer action so I am urging all
Green Party members, friends and supporters to join this campaign.
Protest gets results."

Later in the year MPs will be able to vote on whether to replace the
60% target with a tougher 80% target, which is supported by
environmental groups and leading scientists.

This group has two aims:

(1) to show the Government the strength of support for an 80% CO2

(2) to encourage people across Britain to contact their local MP and
report back to the campaign every time an MP signs up to support the
80% target.

You can get more information and updates about the campaign by joining
the Facebook group at


To contact your MP, email them through http://www.upmystreet.com/commons/l/
, or write to them at House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA

As soon as you get a response from your MP saying that they will (or
won't) support the 80% target, let the campaign know by emailing a
copy of their reply to Steve Webb at webbs@parliament.uk

or post at

Steve Webb, House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA

or fax it to him on 020 7219 1110 .

Imperialism Is the Arsonist: Marxism’s Contribution to Ecological Literatures and Struggles

Derek Wall ’s article entitled  Imperialism Is the Arsonist: Marxism’s Contribution to Ecological Literatures and Struggles , argues that Ma...