Monday, May 18, 2015

Bill and Hillary: Clintons Inc.


Clinton's Inc. earned $25 million the past year
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I normally go to my local coffee shop on weekend mornings and there I enjoy doing a crossword or two with friends.  We normally relax a bit and read the headlines before we settle down and get to work on the crossword. We are literally crossword nuts.

One of my friends there is a teacher. In fact, she gave us, us being her husband myself, and her, a name if we were to ever compete in a crossword or some sort of trivia contest. We are known as the Supercilious Posers.  My friend is an English teacher and we are aware that it’s not the most complimentary name for our team but we don’t care really; it sounds good., has a nice arrogant ring to it.

Anyway, I was reading the paper and my friend happened to mention that she has quite a few papers to grade, this was Sunday morning. There is another teacher that frequents our joint and I often see her grading papers over a cup of coffee on a weekend morning.

It sort of struck a chord with me at the moment because I happened to be reading about the Clinton’s wealth. There’s a lot about the Clintons and the Bush’s in the papers at the moment as both Hillary as a Democrat and Jeb Bush, the brother of George W. Bush, two cretins if there ever were any, are in the race for president of the USA.

The Clintons earned more than $25 million over the last year the WSJ mentions, not bad for a woman who claims she is a champion of the struggling middle class, (in the US that means working class). Last week I read that Bill earned $105.5 million from 2001 through 2012.  He earned that money giving speeches sometimes getting as much as $800,000 a speech. Hillary and Bill also earned $16.7 million in 2012.

Of course, they all do this.  After serving the 1% as president of their government, former presidents attract a lot of people who want to tap in to a good source of revenue, get a nice government contract or basically bleed the taxpayer a little.  And that includes heads of states. Obama will earn hundreds of millions when he’s done as will Ben Bernanke the former head of the Federal Reserve.  All these former bankers, lawyers, investors take this route after government service. The fed of course is not exactly government service as it’s a private institution.

Anyway, Bill Clinton has taken a bit of slack for continuing to earn millions of dollars giving speeches but being who he is he came out blasting. “I gotta pay our bills” he told NBC news earlier this month, “I work hard at this. I spend hours a day just doing the research. People like to hear me speak.”  Remember, he never had sex with Monica Lewinsky and he demanded from taxpayer funded attorneys a definition of the term, “sex”.

I would go so far to say that no one reading this blog has been to a Bill Clinton speaking venue so he’s not speaking to us. But that’s not what irked me.  $800,000 a speech for doing some research?  Ever heard of Google? I say that but I don’t even believe that this is the point, we all know they’re liars, it doesn’t phase them as they are the only political game in town. I am sure Bill has a whole host of people around him that do much of this work for him.

I know that research is hard work because I do a lot of it myself.  When I was active in my union and also part of a political organization I had to read whole books and articles and papers in order to give presentations on a subject, what we called “lead offs” and I am sure Bill does less research than I do and gets paid exorbitantly for it.  I do research every day in order to post to this forum, I spend 4 to 6 hours a day on this. So it’s not the research that people pay for, it’s access to the person and through that person access to money and influence in politics and our daily lives. 

Jeb P Bush is also on the money raising trail and his wealthy friends who got their dirty little hands in the public trough while Jeb’s brother was in the White House will cough up hundreds of millions of dollars. This alone speaks to the immense wealth that can be accumulated through political activity in the best democracy money can buy. Ambassadorships and other government posts are all given with future support in mind or as a result of past donor activity.

But we are supposed to believe teachers are destroying the education system and failing our children. How many times do we hear in the mass media that they get all summer off and that they get paid at the same time etc.  The reality for teachers is different. They not only give immense amounts of unpaid time they also spend a lot of their own money on supplies. They have to deal with children that come from broken homes, drug or alcohol plagued homes or just kids whose parents for whatever reason need a babysitter during the day. All the ills of a society in decline come in to the classroom.

Grading papers on a Sunday morning is what teachers do and they don’t get paid for it. Working people have the work ethic, not bankers and capitalists. A teacher’s contribution to society, just like a firefighter, social worker or any wageworker is far more valuable than the millionaires and billionaires who will be competing against each other for the opportunity to plunder the US treasury for the next four years.

Hillary Clinton's friends atop organized labor come to the rescue


Politics in the "free" world.
By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired
5-18-15

Once again we inch closer to national elections and the millions of Americans who are wageworkers, the American working class, have no viable option.

The hedge fund managers, investors and others of their class are as secure as the giant cable companies-------- no matter what, a representative of Wall Street and the 1% will end up in the White House.

The trade union leadership that sits atop a potentially powerful organization that could transform political life in the US is already making it very clear that nothing fundamental will change. The resources of the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win Coalition and the affiliated unions will be given to the Democrats and the monopoly that the 1% has over the process through its control of the two main political parties will continue.

The Wall Street Journal reports today that the labor hierarchy is cutting Hilary Clinton a lot of slack when it comes to the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) , the multi-national trade agreement that has caused such controversy and that the labor hierarchy itself has opposed.  The trade union leadership’s, strategy that has failed US workers time and time again will be dragged out once more.  Hundreds of millions of dollars in cash, the hard earned dues money of the trade union members on the job, as well as thousands of volunteers, many of them from the huge paid staff the hierarchy employs will be donated to the Democrats.

Hillary’s about the only person we’ve got who’s viable,” says one local trade union activist.  We have heard this time and time again as our wages and working conditions continue to decline to the point that US manufacturing workers are now an attractive option as they come so cheap and their unions very compliant. The Caterpillar factory in Ontario shut down, laid off its striking workers and moved to the US mid-west where wages are 50% lower.

Hilary Clinton has pretty much ignored the TPP issue as taking a stand on something controversial could open up a debate and negatively effect her chances of becoming president with all the lucrative deals that come with that.  Her husband Bill still commands around $800,000 a speech, Obama too will rake in millions when he’s finished his corporate service in the White House.

Hilary is a slick one, like most of them, certainly slicker than some of her right wing opponents in or influenced by the American Taliban types.  “Any trade deal has to produce jobs and raise wages and increase prosperity and protect our security,”

Who wouldn’t agree with that?

She then adds that, “We have to do our part in making sure we have the capabilities and the skills to be competitive.”

The “we” she is talking about is the 1%, the class that she belongs to.  There’s no doubt that many union members and non-union workers accept the “competition” argument without thinking it through. Union were built to protect us from competition not facilitate it. And all this is the Team Concept philosophy on the international level.  Competing with other workers, whether foreign or domestic, hurts all workers’ interests pitting us against one another for who can work fastest, cheapest and with the least impediments to profits, like safety regulations and unions themselves. It leads to a downward spiral, a race to the bottom and makes building national and international solidarity all the more difficult.

Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO helps divert criticism from the left and the right that Hilary is avoiding taking a stand (she’s smarter than Jeb Bush). He was asked if he thought she was “ducking on trade” and replied that “I think she started off by doing what every candidate” should do, the WSJ reports, and that is listening to voters.  Ho hum.

The labor leaders are trapped by their own view of the world.  They worship the market, believe that only the private sector, capitalists, can govern society or manage an economy and that breaking from the lesser of two evils strategy, which is what a criticism of Hilary’s campaign would amount to, would mean organizing and mobilizing their members and all workers to act on our own behalf, both on the ground through strikes, occupations, direct action etc. and in the political arena by putting forward independent candidates based on this mobilization and working class communities. Small community businesses, equally savaged buy the corporate agenda of both parties could easily be drawn to such an independent movement. From the labor hierarchy’s point of view, this can only lead to chaos.

This false world view that the labor hierarchy adopts, is enforced through their inclusion on the various political bodies like competitive councils and other think tanks that the bosses’ set up or at their universities where they soak upthe so-called free market ideology like a sponge.

When you couple this environment with the moribund, myopic views of the consummate bureaucrat you get gems like this one from Thomas Buffenbarger, the president of the International Association of Machinists (IAM) who said of Hilary’s trickery, “Right now, personally, there’s no reason she should take a position on it……….She’s not a government official,”.

I hadn’t thought of it that way.  Why should a candidate for political office feel the slightest need to take a position on an issue that will have a huge affect on the people she is asking to vote for her?  He’s smart, that Bugffenbarger, it makes sense that the time for a candidate to take a position on a matter is after they get elected.

Another official, Yvanna Cancela whom the WSJ describes as the,  “political director of the Culinary Workers Local 226” says that although her union “stands” with other unions opposing the trade agreement, trade isn’t an issue that directly affect her members.
“We haven’t widely discussed it within the membership,” she said. “In prioritizing our political discussions, people want to hear about what affects them and their families.”

Well as wages decline through increased competition and as more manufacturing flees to cheaper climes it “will” affect her members.  Even her industry will be affected as workers overall lose disposable income and spend less money on vacations, eating out etc.  Not to mention the downward pressure on the wages of her members that will occur as wages in general continue to fall.

Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT(teachers) takes a similar line, “For us, an endorsement process is based on lots of different issues and lots of different variables,”  and that the AFT “has a long relationship with Hillary because of her long-standing support for working families.”

Well this “long standing” relationship has failed to halt the savaging of teachers’ livelihoods as well as public education in general.  What is not a variable is that one way or another a Democrat will be supported no matter what. Further demoralization and hatred of politics and all politicians will sink in among the ranks who can then be blamed for their “apathy” and selfish indifference.

As for Bernie Sanders he’s a poor joke.

As I have pointed out before, if the strategists atop organized labor were the heads of corporations they’d have been fired long ago for failing to produce results.  Their positions are relatively secure compared to those whose interests they claim to serve and they never have to work under the contracts they force on their own members. But the truth is that they can get away with it and union members face ever declining working conditions and wages because the rank and file are not stepping in to the ring. 

It is unfortunate that the union member is faced with a war on two fronts, one against the bosses and the other against the disastrous policies of the union hierarchy. But if we want change course and the continued downward trend, we have no alternative. We cannot avoid a major conflict with the bureaucracy and its considerable army of full time staff that opposes any movement from below that threatens the Team Concept philosophy and the relationship they have built with the bosses and the Democratic Party on the basis of labor peace.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Irish 16 year-old speaks out on same sex marriage


The issue of same sex marriage is on the table in Ireland and will be decided by popular vote this Friday.  As the Guardian points out quoting the reaction from Ursula Halligan a well known television personality,
"If carried this Friday, Ireland will be the first country in the world to pass marriage rights for same-sex couples by popular vote. “For me, there was no first kiss; no engagement party; no wedding,” wrote Halligan. “And up until a short time ago no hope of any of these things. Now, at the age of 54, in a (hopefully) different Ireland, I wish I had broken out of my prison cell a long time ago.” "
 
It has been reported than US Christians are pouring lots of money in to the "vote no" campaign. These are likely the same Christian Zionists whose money and influence help support the racist Zionist regime in Israel. US capitlaism exports not only military weapons but financial and ideological ones.
 
Facts For Working People reprints a statement below from a young Irish woman about the referendum and what the issue in general has meant for her growing up. It was originally published on the Bogman's cannon website.
Vote Yes campaign flier

16yo Lily Horgan speaks out on the Marriage Referendum

I don’t know what I was expecting. I’m young, sixteen, and for a while I was blind to the ignorance and prejudice in my country. I thought for a while that we were all equal, no matter what colour, gender or sexuality. It was nice being that oblivious. Then I grew up a bit and I noticed more, I noticed the snide comments and the sexist, racist, homophobic and transphobic remarks made by so many people. Too many people who had authority or who were respected and who got away with it. And it made me sad. And then it made me angry. And it’s making me angry now, because not only has our country prohibited same-sex marriage for so long but when we are finally suggesting it we still have ignorance and prejudice amongst us.

People who are still sitting and thinking “actually, I feel that voting no is definitely the right thing to do for our country and our people” and then they sit back and smile, satisfied at having made a decision. It’s sad really because these people are so very misinformed and it’s often not their fault, because even to this day we are not taught about sexualities in school until we are at least sixteen. I’m in my fourth year of secondary school and not once have I been told by my school that it’s okay to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. Let alone all the other sexualities/genders that I probably will never be taught about in school, including asexual, pansexual and genderfluid.

Statistically speaking, something like 1 in every 10 people do not identify as heterosexual. But I don’t like statistics like that, they put a line between “us” and “them” when really it is just “we.” We are all people, we all fit into some statistic and it is quite often irrelevant. I am in no way encouraging people to not be proud of who they are and to not celebrate their individuality, but I just wish that there was less of a divide.

I wish that when I was 12 and had “the talk” it was inclusive of all sexualities, that in primary school when I was told I might start liking boys soon, that I had also been told it was completely normal to like girls too, or both or neither. That we weren’t constantly alienating anyone different. Because now I’m sixteen, and no one in my school is openly gay.

Maybe that is because no one is sure yet, maybe it is because I just haven’t heard about it yet or maybe because people are scared. Scared to be themselves, scared to walk down our halls holding another girl’s hand. It’s hard because as students we look up to adults, though we don’t often admit it, and right now we are looking up to our country and seeing a decision about our future being made by others. The thing is, if you don’t want to get married to someone of the same gender as you then don’t, no one cares, but at least give people who do a choice. Let them make the decision because in the end, it is their wedding not yours.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Jeb Bush, another moron throws his hat in the ring

The comedy of errors

And they say the Iranian Mullah's are a threat to world peace.

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

You can sure understand why Americans hate politicians so much.  Bush the imbecile II, the younger brother of the war criminal George W Bush would like to keep the family dynasty going and increase the riches of the Bush family in the process.

Jeb Bush would like to be the next Republican president of the United States and he’s already got his knickers-----and no doubt his knackers------ in a twist. It’s nice to see them struggle when they have to face the public and the script has not been fully developed, but at the same time, it makes me seethe with anger as these insane market madmen wreak such havoc and violence on the populations of the world and the environment along with us.

Poor old Jeb has been in hot water all week for his in brain out mouth comments.  First, he was asked in a Fox News interview last Monday whether or not he would have authorized the invasion of Iraq given what we know now, that the claim Hussein had WMD’s was false. “I would have” said Jeb with all the confidence of someone who is sending someone else’s son or daughter in to conflict.

His handlers immediately had a word with him and the next day he responded that he, “Interpreted the question wrong, I guess,”. That’s better than wrongly interpreting the warning messages for incoming nuclear warheads I suppose. But he still never said whether he would have done anything differently than his imbecile brother did, regardless of the information that came to light.

The politicos in the other Wall Street party saw a weakness and waded in calling poor old Jeb the “Undecider”. Ouch!

So after his handlers tried again to steer him in the right direction Jeb came back Wednesday with more gobbledygook. He refused to deal with the issue again and hoped that an attack on Barack Obama might take the heat off. Better still, he would play the old patriotism and love for the troops card. “Going back in time and talking about hypotheticals, what would have happened, what could have happened, I think it does a disservice to them,”, he told an audience in Reno Nevada. (my added emphasis)

Bush added that, “What we want to be focusing on are the lessons learned.…I think the focus should be on that, on the future.”

The politicians of the 1% are in permanent campaign mode between bombing runs of course. The elections, between candidates representing the 1% and other candidates representing the 1% are a farce.  There are differences of course.  The Republican Party has fascistic elements in it and religious fanatics, a sort of US Taliban. The Democrats have their wishy washy whining about being fair and all that and their share of corrupt characters not to mention the Clintons, both of them bought and paid for by Goldman Sachs.   The trade union leadership also supply this party with lots of s’ money in return for a slightly less aggressive assault on their members, the source of the funds.

And we wonder why millions of Americans have abandoned the political process completely. Not only that, but there is a hatred fort all politicians and politics, no matter what the form or character of the participants which, while understandable given the pathetic choices we have, , is a serious mistake.

But nothing is more cynical than these politicians of the 1% claiming any love for working people. Bush says that he called, “…at least 100 people whose relatives have died” the Wall Street Journal reported this week.  What contempt these characters have for working people when we think about it.  They are launching an all out assault on living standards but Bush claims he doesn’t want to do a “disservice” to the families of young people killed in their corporate wars? 

As for lessons learned, it is us that should learn the lesson that neither of these parties represent the interests of American workers or the middle class. The reality is that those that have died in these wars have died for nought.  But of course, Bush can’t say that. He can’t admit to the families of slain Americans that we were conned, that US military ventures have nothing to do with defending our freedoms, the freedoms both parties are undermining.  And what would they say to the millions of victims whose children have been slaughtered, homes destroyed, country bombed in to antiquity in order to make the world safe for US capitalism?

The fact is that the world is less safe despite Bush and others claiming one million or so Iraqi lives are justified as the world is safer without the US’s old friend Saddam Hussein.

They do fool some though.  At the town hall meeting in Reno one attendee defends Bush, “He’s going to take a million questions, and there may be one or two that he flubs, but I’m not going to hold it against him,”, he adds that as far as he is concerned, “I think the jury is still out on Iraq.”

If he’s like most Americans he probably couldn’t point to Iraq on a map prior to the invasions. And what jury is he talking about?  The Iraqi jury is very clear that the US invasions have meant nothing but a horrific and violent experience for them. 

Another guy who confronted Bush in Reno didn’t let Bush off the hook, “Of course the war was a mistake,” he said. “Iran was the threat, and it’s still the threat.”, he tells the WSJ.  It’s not exactly rocket science to draw the conclusion that the Iraq invasion was not just a mistake but a war crime, but he then spouts parrot fashion the same US state department line on Iran.

We can prepare ourselves for a lot of personal slagging one another off and thirty-second sound bites over the next 18 months that millions of Americans will simply shut out. The candidates shirtsleeves will be pulled up, ties loosened, baseball caps will be dragged out of the closet as the representatives of billionaires, some of them millionaires in their own right aim to convince the electorate they’re just ordinary folk.  Bernie Sanders has no chance of getting the Democratic Party nomination for president and knows that. He taps in to the anger they all know lies beneath the surface of US society and hopes he can stir up the Democratic Party left wing enough to push Hilary to the left a bit. Sanders will be telling us to vote for the Democratic candidate in November.

Democrats and Republicans are very confident as the working class has nowhere to go politically. We have no party, no real alternative at all. The huge exodus from political life is actually a protest in itself. It’s not the best protest but it’s not simply apathy, or that Americans don’t care.  An important aspect of building a united national direct action movement against the capitalist offensive is a political force independent of Wall Street and the 1% arising out of it.

Meanwhile, after these elections are over, the process will begin anew in preparation for the next circus.

The Mysterious Murder Of A Nun Who Knew Too Much

This is a very long article and we have a link at the bottom to the rest of it.  We urge readers of this blog to read it all. It is yet another expose of the utter corruption of the Catholic Church, or Vatican Inc.  We have often pointed out that the Catholic Church is the only religion with its own state.  The Vatican has diplomatic representatives  in the legislatures of any country it has a presence.   This article also reveals how the Vatican Inc is connected not only to national governments and politicians but also municipal bodies, the police, the education system, the military.  It is complict and has been complicit throughout its existence, in murder, rape, theft and a whole ghost of other crimes. it is truly a horrific institution.

***********************

Buried In Baltimore: The Mysterious Murder Of A Nun Who Knew Too Much

by Laura Bassett 
5-14-15 
On a frigid day in November 1969, Father Joseph Maskell, the chaplain of Archbishop Keough High School in Baltimore, called a student into his office and suggested they go for a drive. When the final bell rang at 2:40 p.m., Jean Hargadon Wehner, a 16-year-old junior at the all-girls Catholic school, followed the priest to the parking lot and climbed into the passenger seat of his light blue Buick Roadmaster.

It was not unusual for Maskell to give students rides home or take them to doctor's appointments during the school day. The burly, charismatic priest, then 30 years old, had been the chief spiritual and psychological counselor at Keough for two years and was well-known in the community. Annual tuition at Keough was just $200, which attracted working-class families in deeply Catholic southwest Baltimore who couldn't afford to send their daughters to fancier private schools. Many Keough parents had attended Maskell’s Sunday masses. He'd baptized their babies, and they trusted him implicitly.

This time, though, Maskell didn't bring Wehner home. He navigated his car past the Catholic hospital and industrial buildings that surrounded Keough’s campus and drove toward the outskirts of the city. Eventually, he stopped at a garbage dump, far from any homes or businesses. Maskell stepped out of the car, and the blonde, freckled teenager followed him across a vast expanse of dirt toward a dark green dumpster.

It was then that she saw the body crumpled on the ground.

The week prior, Sister Cathy Cesnik, a popular young nun who taught English and drama at Keough, had vanished while on a Friday-night shopping trip. Students, parents and the local media buzzed about the 26-year-old’s disappearance. People from all over Baltimore County helped the police comb local parks and wooded areas for any sign of her.

Wehner immediately recognized the lifeless body as her teacher. "I knew it was her," she recalled recently. "She wasn’t that far gone that you couldn’t tell it was her.”

                             “You see what happens when you say bad things about people?”


Cesnik was still clad in her aqua-colored coat, and maggots were crawling on her face. Wehner tried to brush them off with her bare hands. "Help me get these off of her!" she cried, turning to Maskell in a panic. Instead, she says, the priest leaned down behind her and whispered in her ear: “You see what happens when you say bad things about people?”

Maskell, Wehner understood, was threatening her. She decided not to tell anyone. “He terrified me to the point that I would never open my mouth,” she recalled.
Jean Wehner
Jean Wehner in 1970. (Photo: Jean Wehner)
Two months later, the police announced that a pair of hunters passing through a dump outside of Baltimore had stumbled upon the body of the missing nun. Cesnik had choke marks on her neck and a round hole about the size of a quarter in the back of her skull. An autopsy confirmed she had been killed by a blow from a blunt object, probably a brick or a ball-peen hammer. But no one came forward with information about the murder, and the police never solved it.

Over the past year, however, Wehner and other Keough alumni have begun piecing together their memories and talking openly for the first time in decades about the traumatizing things that happened to them in high school ­— events they believe are connected to Cesnik’s murder. And a group of them has launched their own investigation in hopes of answering the questions that continue to vex the police: Who killed Sister Cathy -- and why?

Gemma Hoskins set a bowl of Doritos and a plate of sugar cookies on her dark wooden coffee table and passed out typed copies of the January meeting agenda. One by one, her guests took their places around the oriental rug in her pale-yellow living room. “I’ll start by introducing everyone, because we have a few new faces here,” Hoskins said.

Tom Nugent, a former Baltimore Sun reporter, secured a prime spot in the wooden rocking chair in the corner. A retired Baltimore police detective the group calls “Deep Throat” settled into an armchair next to him. Teresa Lancaster, a Keough alum and Baltimore-area attorney, sat next to her husband, Randy, on the oatmeal-colored sofa. Hoskins and another former Keough student, Abbie Schaub, pulled up chairs from the dining room to form a circle.

Hoskins, 62, is spirited and irreverent, with cropped, dyed red hair and a tendency to carry around snacks for people -- a habit that's lingered since her days as a Harford County "Teacher of the Year." Today, she lives with her labradoodle, Teddy, in a duplex in Halethorpe, Maryland, a working-class suburb of Baltimore. Hoskins was a senior at Keough in 1969 when Cesnik disappeared. Now, she is at the center of the effort to find out who killed her. “I think I’m Nancy Drew,” she joked recently.
Gemma Hoskins (right), is a retired elementary school teacher who attended Keough from 1966-1970. She leads the amateur detective group investigating Cesnik’s murder. Abbie Schaub (left) is a retired registered nurse who attended Keough from 1966-1970. She is working with Hoskins to investigate the murder. (Photos: Abbie Schaub and Gemma Hoskins)

Cesnik was like a real-life version of Maria, Julie Andrews’ character from “The Sound of Music,” Hoskins recalled: warm, exuberant and strikingly beautiful. The nun played guitar and wrote musicals for the girls to perform on stage. She took her students to see the 1968 movie version of “Romeo and Juliet” after they read the Shakespeare play. She invented creative vocabulary games to push the girls to teach each other new, obscure words.

Cesnik lived in a modest apartment in Southwest Baltimore with another nun, and her students would occasionally drop by in the evenings or on weekends to chat, sing and play music. “She was the reason I became a teacher,” Hoskins said. “I’ve never met anyone like her.”

Around 7:30 p.m. on November 7, 1969, Cesnik told her roommate, Helen Russell Phillips, that she was going to swing by the bank and then shop for an engagement gift for her cousin. According to media reports from the time, she cashed a $255 paycheck at a bank in Catonsville, Maryland, then drove to the Edmondson Village Shopping Center, where she bought buns at Muhly's Bakery. When she hadn't returned home by 11 p.m., Phillips called two priest friends, who drove to her apartment and called the police. Later that night, Cesnik's brand-new green Ford Maverick was found unlocked and illegally parked a block from her apartment, even though she had a designated parking spot behind the building. There was no sign of the nun anywhere.  Continue reading at  Huffington Post Politics

Friday, May 15, 2015

BB King: The King of the Blues Moves On.

I was one of those English kids brought up on the blues and the American blues greats that came over to play blew us away.  Big Bill Broonzy, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, and of course, BB King.  Alexis Korner and Long John Baldry are two of the early names in British Blues.  Baldry has a short 20-minute interview on the British Blues on his CD “The Right to Sing the Blues” it’s worth listening to.

BB King was like royalty when it came to the blues.  By the 70’s and 80’s he was a major attraction at concert venues and all the major British blues guitarists pay tribute to him. Like all of the black blues artists that came to England he was a historian.  The blues is a historical art form as it tells the story of the beauty and love and life as well as the pain, horrors and brutality of it.  The blues performers from the US, both male and female, like Billie Holiday and Big Mama Thornton gave working class or common folk if you like, a purer history lesson about life in America than the professors and other so-called experts. Anyone who's listened to Big Bill Broonzy’s Black, Brown and White couldn’t help but learn a powerful history lesson about the US South.

BB King once said he’d,  “put up with more humiliation than I care to remember.” And that, Touring a segregated America - forever being stopped and harassed by white cops hurt you most 'cos you don't realize the damage. You hold it in. You feel empty, like someone reached in and pulled out your guts. You feel hurt and dirty, less than a person.

Of course, racism or whipped up hatred of people because of their color is not specific to the US but it must have been some surprise to the US blues folks like BB King that they could stay in the same venue they might be playing in. 

This is not much of a tribute to BB King, he deserves much more but I felt the need to say something and for this blog to not let his death pass unnoticed.  I have many friends who could write a tribute to the man that would be more deserving but, as is always the case, getting the idea to become real takes time.

Despite all of the poison and violence that people like BB King faced growing up in the Jim Crow South, King said: “When people treat you mean, you dislike them for that, but not because of their person, who they are. I was born and raised in a segregated society, but when I left there, I had nobody I disliked other than the people that'd mistreated me, and that only lasted for as long as they were mistreating me.”

BB King, 9-16-1925----5-14-2015

Here is a tribute to BB King from Charles Shaar Murray in today's Guardian. RM

Friday 15 May 2015 02.58 EDT Last modified on Friday 15 May 2015 08.06 EDT

Very few 20th-century musicians were able to combine the roles of game-changing, creative, innovative virtuoso and beloved popular entertainer. Within this tiny elite group, BB King ranks second only to the late Louis Armstrong, who not only charmed the world with his jovial, winning personality but virtually invented the concept of the jazz soloist, and on whose broad shoulders all successors stood. Who else is there? Bob Marley, Stevie Wonder, Frank Sinatra and, of course, the Beatles in general and Paul McCartney in particular.

Genius and popularity alone are not enough: despite their brilliance, Bob Dylan and Miles Davis were too taciturn, too mysterious and too sharp-clawed for an audience to feel entirely comfortable and relaxed in their presence. BB King’s impact on the way blues guitar – and, by extension, rock guitar – is played to this very day is immeasurable. It is impossible to imagine how Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Guy, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Albert King, Freddie King (both of whom dropped their birth surnames in favour of BB’s), Stevie Ray Vaughan, Gary Moore or Joe Bonamassa, to name but a few, might have played had BB King never existed.

Yet his instrumental virtuosity and the seamless interaction between the liquid, vocal tone he conjured from the numerous Gibson semi-acoustic guitars that have borne the nickname “Lucille” over the past six-and-a-half decades and his warm, chesty singing (“First I sing and then Lucille sings”) was only one part of the reason for his pre-eminence not only in his chosen field of the blues but in the broader expanse of the past musical century’s popular mainstream. BB King was also one of the planet’s consummate entertainers; his expansive stage presence, enveloping generosity of spirit, patent willingness to drive himself into the ground for his audiences and ability to put virtually any crowd at their ease took him from the backbreaking labour and harsh racism of the rural Southern states to the biggest stages of the world’s capital cities. As an old man he would duet on Sweet Home Chicago with Barack Obama at a gala blues concert in the White House. Along the way, he collected enough awards, trophies and honorary degrees to fill a small warehouse and was the subject of a biographical documentary feature, The Life of Riley, narrated by Morgan Freeman.

And, for what it’s worth, that “nice guy” bit was no mere act: 65 years in the business and absolutely no-one ever had a bad word to say about him. His generosity to peers and protégés alike was as much the stuff of legend as his manifest talents. For much of his performing life he averaged 300 shows a year and devoted any energy left over after each performance to meet and greet his fans until utter exhaustion set in. No wonder he was taken to the world’s collective heart in a manner unlike any blues artist before or since; no wonder he was called “The Chairman of the Board of Blues Singers.”

And yet, and yet, and yet … it was perhaps unsurprising that a man in his 80s who was drastically overweight and struggling with type 2 diabetes should have to slow down and acknowledge a decline in his once-formidable powers. For some time, he had been seated on stage rather than standing up; his concert schedule, which would have been intimidating for a performer half his age and weight, had been reduced to a mere 100 or so gigs a year, and he had not released a new album of fresh recordings since 2008’s One Kind Favor.

When he played the Royal Albert Hall in June 2011, I wrote: “As his 86th birthday looms, BB King remains King of the Blues, with Buddy Guy, at a mere 75, as his heir. No surprise, then, that a long line of distinguished guests showed up at the Al to pay affectionate tribute and help the ancient titan shoulder the weight of a two-hour show: please meet and greet Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Ron Wood, Slash and (to sing some of the lyrics BB can no longer remember) Mick Hucknall

“Also no surprise: the set is no longer a stately procession through 60-odd years of greatest hits, but more a combination of party, informal jam session and family visit to a mischievous, cantankerous but benevolent granddad. Forgetting lyrics (and even the names of some of his long-serving band-members) and occasionally starting a lick on the wrong fret of his guitar, BB’s immaculate comic timing turned each potential embarrassment into an endearing gag … The voice is still miraculous, once it’s cranked up, and that guitar tone is still authoritatively unmistakable. He roared through The Thrill Is Gone, Sweet Sixteen and Rock Me Baby, caught all the rock guitarists out with the tricky chord changes of the glutinous Vegas ballad Guess Who and made his triumphant exit to – shades of Louis Armstrong – When the Saints Go Marching In. “Losing the plot? Maybe. But he’s still BB King ... and nobody else is.”

Despite all attempts to put the most positive possible spin on the evening, the occasion was still somewhat dispiriting. The Big B had become a magnificent ruin, like the Coliseum or the Sphinx: a monument to be visited not in the hope of seeing it as it was in its halcyon days, but to marvel at the fact that it was still here and, indeed, that such something so marvellous existed in the first place. Last year, a concert at St Louis’s Peabody Opera House disintegrated into an outright debacle, with BB actually getting heckled as he rambled and stumbled through a formless attempt at recapturing former glories.

BB had always claimed that he would continue to perform as long people still wanted to see him, but by the end it had come to seem as if neither mind nor body were any longer equal to the task. He had the admiration of his peers, the affection of much of the world and an eight-figure bank account, none of which were anything less than fully deserved and thoroughly earned. Maybe he should have made the decision to take it easy at last: to rest on his considerable laurels and spend his last years taking pleasure in a lifetime’s achievement: a job well done.

In 2010, he and Buddy Guy recorded an affecting duet entitled Stay Around a Little Longer. If only he could have been able to take his own advice: then he might have celebrated his 90th birthday this September by putting his feet up, secure in his extraordinary legacy and enjoying the knowledge that what he has left us is, for all practical purposes, immortal.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

WikiLeaks' Collateral Murder US Soldier Ethan McCord Speaks



I have seen this a few times but this is the first time I've heard this brave US soldier's description of events.Sharing this video with the world is what got  Chelsea manning (formerly Bradley Manning) 35 years in prison after torturing her for a year or more.  American' workers owe Manning a debt of gratitude for doing what she did.  RM

Original source: Anonymous

Ethan McCord, one of the soldiers seen in the “Collateral Murder” video released by Wikileaks, has come forward to talk about the incident, calling the rules of engagement in Iraq a “joke”. For those who are unfamiliar with the footage, it should be noted that there are some disturbing images, however as Collective-Evolution points out, “it’s a powerful tool to let people know about something that is commonly covered up, leaving the Western world oblivious to the reality of the situation.”

By now, most are aware of the controversy behind certain terrorist groups and possible ties to United States intelligence agencies, a good example being Al Qaeda. It seems this belief had originated from a 2004 BBC article entitled “Al-Qaeda’s Origins and Links” in which it was stated: “During the anti-Soviet jihad Bin Laden and his fighters received American and Saudi funding. Some analysts believe Bin Laden himself had security training from the CIA.” Four years later, in June of 2009, former FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, stated in an interview on The Mike Malloy Show: “I have information about things that our government has lied to us about. I know. For example, to say that since the fall of the Soviet Union we ceased all of our intimate relationship with Bin Laden and the Taliban—those things can be proven as lies, very easily, based on the information they classified in my case, because we did carry very intimate relationship with these people, and it involves Central Asia, all the way up to September 11.” Government officials deny these allegations; however, if it is true that these terrorist groups are a Western creation, it brings to mind a few questions.

As Collective-Evolution has pointed out: Why? Where exactly are these terrorist groups coming from, and to what purpose? Here are some quotes by McCord taken from the video:

“If you feel threatened in any way, you’re able to engage that person. Many soldiers felt threatened just by the fact that you were looking at them, so they fired their weapons on anybody that was looking at them because they (I) felt threatened. We were told if we were to fire on anybody, and if it were to be investigated, that ‘officers will take care of you.’” “We were told by our battalion commander to kill every m***** f****** on the street. Many soldiers would not do that, we decided we were going to shoot into the rooftops of buildings because, if you didn’t fire, the NCOs in your platoon would make your life hell.” “This happens on a daily basis, destroying vans full of children, the destruction of the Iraqi people happens on a daily basis.”

Understanding the UK Election Defeat

The following commentary was originally published by The Socialist Network

Understanding the UK Election Defeat

Collage
Published: 13 May 2015.
Author: Ian Ilett (member of LRC and Labour Briefing) & Pat Byrne (TSN Editor).
Intro by: TSN Editor.


As soon as it became clear that the big business Conservative Party was going to win the UK elections outright, the pound sterling rose and the stock market jumped for joy. And not surprisingly with the bankers Party continuing in power, bank stocks showed a particularly large rise. In the article below we analyse the election result and the reasons for it.


Most Forecasts Proved Wrong
The most remarkable thing about the UK election was the failure of the opinion polls. The pre-election debate was dominated by unanimous polling predictions that no party would have a majority, with the clear implication that the Conservative/Liberal Democrat Coalition government was on its way out, to be replaced by a minority Labour Government. Consequently, the final result with a Tory overall majority of eight in parliament came as a massive shock which has significantly shaped reactions since.

Virtually the only commentator to resist the media consensus and predict a Conservative victory was Michael Roberts in his blog The Next Recession He commented in a characteristically speedy response:
“As I write on Friday morning after the 2015 general election, the incumbent Conservative party is heading for an outright majority in the new parliament. As I keep saying ad nauseam, this is what I predicted back in 2009 before the Tories (Conservatives) won the 2010 election and formed a coalition with the Liberal Democrats. The main reason for the victory , I think, was as I pointed out in a recent post, that the economic recovery since the Great Recession has reached a peak in the last year, with UK real GDP growth picking up from near zero in 2012 to 2.5%-plus in 2014 and with real income per head finally turning up.”

The Economic Cycle Benefited the Conservatives
Michael Robert’s accurate forecast of the election result was based on analysing past elections. He identified a clear pattern that showed that many voters tend to vote for the existing government if in the immediate run up to the election they have experienced a rise in living standards, sometimes for as little as six months beforehand. This is exactly what happened in Britain before this election. After four years of falling living standards, the upward turn of the economic cycle in Britain had finally started to deliver some small gains for sections of the workforce. This tied in with a long trend in falling unemployment levels – which despite being based mostly on the creation of low-paid self-employed work – allowed the Government to boast that their economic programme was a great success, especially in comparison to the rest of Europe.

Moreover, the emergence of another housing bubble with rising house prices and low mortgage interest rates meant that homeowners began to feel more prosperous. Such factors are undoubtedly temporary but they gave just enough credence to appeals by the government and media for the Conservatives to stay in office and complete their economic ‘recovery’ programme.

The Centre Demolished
In a similar result to the last national elections in Germany, the biggest loser in the election was the junior partner in the Coalition Government, the Liberal Democrats. Like the Free Democrats of Germany, the British Liberal Democrats took the blame for the pain and betrayals of the Coalition Government. The Liberal share of the national vote in this election dropped by nearly half, from 15.2% in 2010 to 7.9% today, while their presence in parliament collapsed from 56 to just 8.

The wipeout of the Liberal Democrats is further evidence, if any was needed, that much of the centre ground of politics in Europe is disappearing in the face of the great economic crisis and the continuing harm that is being inflicted on everyone but the super rich. Large sections of the population are now looking for more radical solutions either to the Left or Right. In some of the hard hit countries of Europe this has led to the emergence of mass radical alternatives to the traditional social democracy. Thus we see the rise of Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, the Socialist Party in the Netherlands, and Sinn Fein in Ireland.

However, in Britain, among other factors the electoral system has played an important role in barring the development of a credible left-wing alternative to Labour.

Unrepresentative Electoral System
The ‘First Past the Post’ electoral system in the UK does not accurately reflect the national votes cast or voters’ preferences, but how they are distributed geographically. In this election, the system produced some very skewed parliamentary results. For example, Labour actually increased its share of the vote more than the Conservatives – Labour’s share went up by 1.5% while the Conservatives rose only by 0.8% and between the two parties there was a small swing to Labour. Nevertheless, such was the local distribution of the votes that the Conservatives substantially increased their number of seats in the House of Commons while Labour’s fell considerably.

Overall, the Conservatives now have an outright majority in the UK parliament and form a government on its own despite having won only 36.9% of the vote.

Even more unfair was the way that electoral system treated the Green Party. Despite receiving 1.15 million votes and 3.8% of the overall vote, the Greens ended up with only one representative out of the 650 elected to Parliament.

More dramatic was what happened to the anti-EU right-wing populist United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP). UKIP was the biggest vote gainer in the election – it took nearly 3.9m votes, 12.6% of the total – but because its votes were not concentrated heavily enough in certain local areas, it won only one seat in Parliament. In fact, this was a reversal as it meant that UKIP actually lost one of the two they had previously gained from Conservative defections in the last couple of years.

One of the few crumbs of comfort from election night was that UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage, failed to win a seat and has since resigned his position. This may prove only a temporary departure but is a big victory compared to him entering triumphantly into the new parliament with all the publicity and prominence he might have gained there. But it is a salutary warning that at this election UKIP became the third biggest party in terms of votes.

A Scottish Tsunami
The other factor in the election outcome was the unprecedented success of the Scottish National Party. The SNP swept the board gaining 56 out of 59 Scottish seats. Most of these gains were from Labour including throwing out Jim Murphy, Labour’s Scottish Leader, and Douglas Alexander, their Foreign Affairs spokesman. From holding 41 Scottish parliamentary seats Labour now has only one. Yes, in Labour’s historic stronghold, it has just one seat! In addition, the Scottish Nationalists also removed many Liberal Democrats including their Treasury minister in the coalition government.

It should be pointed out that the success of the Scottish Nationalists was greatly exaggerated by the UK’s electoral system. Thus the SNP was able to win 56 seats in parliament with less than one and a half million votes. Compare that to only one seat for the Greens with 1.15 million votes or even more to UKIP’s single seat with nearly four million votes.

That said, after years of voting Labour the Scots went over to the SNP on a scale far beyond what the result of last year’s independence referendum would have suggested. This was because of the opportunist but brilliant strategy of the SNP which successfully undermined Labour among its core vote. Instead of trying to revive the Independence issue, the Scottish Nationalists posed as the radical anti-austerity Party, recognising how fed up working people are with Austerity and the cuts, as confirmed in one opinion poll after another.

However, any careful analysis of the SNP’s election programme and its record in office in Scotland would quickly reveal that it is a pro-business Party which accepts the key tenets of neo-liberal ideology. But presentation and image is important in an election, and the SNP were able to convince Labour voters that it was serious about ending the austerity programme and the cuts.

The SNP went further, claiming that it represented the “old Labour Party” compared with the modern Labour Party which they correctly pointed out had abandoned and betrayed its roots.

To complete the strategy, the Scottish Nationalists were able to overcome the tendency of the two-horse British voting system which had excluded them from much success in previous UK-wide elections. In the past, Scottish voters who wanted to vote against the Conservatives tended to vote Labour as the only viable alternative. This time around, the SNP pledged that its Members of Parliament would vote to keep out a Conservative Government and gave a categorical commitment to support a Labour administration. In this way, existing Labour voters could feel reassured that a vote for the SNP was almost the same as a vote for Labour, but with the added bonus of supporting a radical anti-austerity platform which is what they wanted from Labour but were not getting.

The Lesson of Scotland
The obvious lesson here is that if Labour had adopted a decisive anti-austerity position and consistently campaigned for it in Scotland and across Britain as a whole, they would have won a big majority in this election. The Labour leadership are themselves aware of this, but they know that to break with austerity and the neo-liberal ideology behind it, would also mean to break with big business and the media which promote it. This is something that the existing Labour leaders are not prepared to do. Instead Ed Miliband, Labour leader for the last five years, repeated Neil Kinnock’s old mantra of “refusing to make promises that we can’t keep”. Thus Labour refused to promise to stop and reverse the cuts, accepting the capitalist propaganda about the need to cut back on government spending and to ‘balance the books’.

All Labour offered instead was merely a slower, ‘liter’ and less vicious version of austerity. This position made no sense at all and conceded the main argument to the Conservatives, robbing Labour of any potential to defeat the propaganda of the government and the media.

Similarly, Labour failed to effectively counter the other arguments of the Right, more often conceding ground to them and bowing before the reactionary capitalist media. As TSN supporter Will Howley succinctly put it: “the ‘narrative’ on the banking collapse, the economy, Europe and immigration was set by UKIP & the Tories years ago, and not clearly challenged nor an alternative clearly made.”

Left Challenge to Labour Fails Miserably
Apart from in Scotland, the main challenge to the Left of Labour came from the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC), with Left Unity standing joint candidates with them in a few areas. TUSC is supported by the CWI’s Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and others including significant support from the RMT railway trade union. Although TUSC stood in 135 of the 650 constituencies they only received 36,000 votes out of 31 million cast which in percentage terms was only 0.1% of the total. Not only did they lose their deposits in each constituency where they stood, in many seats their vote was not much more than those received by joke candidates such as the Monster Raving Loony Party!

Compare this pathetic outcome to the explicitly anti-austerity Green Party whose 1.15 million votes and 3.8% share represented a trebling of support in this election.

To round up the rout, the only non-Labour left-wing member of the British Parliament, former Labour MP George Galloway, who was elected in the last parliament in a bye-election for the Respect Party, was easily defeated in Bradford West by the Labour candidate.

Once again these results demonstrate that trying to build a Left alternative to the Labour Party in England and Wales within the current election system offers no prospect of success.

The Issue of the Labour Leader
An additional question in the election was the personality of Ed Miliband, the Labour leader. Despite coming from a radical socialist background – his father was Ralph Miliband a prominent émigré marxist academic – Ed Miliband typified the modern middle class aspiring social democratic leader, graduating from elite Oxford University and working in media research and then as policy researcher in parliament. Not long after spending two years in the US, Miliband, like so many of the new breed of career politicians, was effectively parachuted into a safe parliamentary seat, the rock-solid working class constituency of Doncaster North, an area he had no connections with. After being elected to parliament in the 2005 election he was fast tracked into ministerial office reaching the position of Energy Minister just three years later. Move two years on and he was elected leader of the Labour Party. In the leadership election he stood as a candidate of the Left, promising to return internal democracy to the Party and to put the New Labour era behind us. But once elected he chose to abandon his promises of internal democracy and instead to compromise with the Blairite wing of the Party and pursue a centrist course within the Party which satisfied no one.

With a history behind him entirely restricted to a life in the cynical and manouvering world of parliamentary politics, it is not surprisingly that Miliband failed to connect with the working people of Britain. He came across as stiff, distant and intellectual, lacking the common touch expected of a Labour leader. This was undoubtedly a negative factor in the electorate’s perception of the Labour alternative, especially in this era of highly personalised, image-conscious presidential-style contests.

As it turned out, Miliband performed much better during the election campaign than he had in the previous period of his leadership. Likewise, Labour’s election campaign came across as more radical than expected, with the emphasis of Miliband’s speeches being on the need to address inequality and raise workers living standards. But it is not possible to overcome a poor image or an inadequate platform in the space of a few weeks. It needs years of consistent campaigning to explain a genuine alternative and to win the trust of the masses of people. Thus the election period was a largely dispiriting affair, with little enthusiasm among the population at what they saw as a choice between the main parties with only marginal differences between them and limited issues in dispute. No wonder then at the relatively low turnout of 66%, only a shade higher than in 2010 when working people were disillusioned with the ruling Labour government..

Labour Leader Resigns After Defeat
Once the result of the election became clear, Miliband resigned taking “full responsibility” for the defeat. The media immediately launched a series of interviews with old and present “New” Labourites denouncing the campaign run under Miliband and attacking the trade unions for helping him win the leadership against his super Blairite brother.

Now the Labour right-wing are moving fast to lay the ground for the election of one of their number to lead the Labour Party, and for a reversal of the marginal shifts away from New Labour which had taken place under Miliband.

TSN supporter Rob Holt in his blog captures the anger which many activists will be feeling at this attempt to rewrite history and switch Labour even further to the right:
“The whole Labour Party implosion and soul searching thing really is bonkers. I mean, 7 days ago the polls were showing Labour in a strong position. Everyone was confident and calm. Then on election day, a shift of a few % points takes place for a host of complex reasons and suddenly Labour is in turmoil and now destined to spend 10 years in the ‘wilderness’.

…It’s the same party today as a week ago. It’s % share of the vote WENT UP!
The only difference being external pressure from assorted hostile media, pundits and other anti-Labour morons have imposed a completely false agenda on the party – one which dictates years of naval gazing and a move to the right.”

Recovery Will Be Difficult
It will be hard for Labour to find its way back in Scotland. Whilst its 24% of the vote is not small it has only one MP and the momentum is all with the SNP. What role the SNP and Labour will play in the anti-austerity struggles to come in Scotland remains to be seen and will determine the fortunes of both.

Meanwhile the Left inside the Labour Party is weak and we will have to mobilise better than before to withstand the onslaught of the coming period.

In reality, this painful defeat in 2015 was forged in the new ‘New Labour’ years under Blair and Brown when they lost 4.5m core working class votes. And by Labour’s role in the 2007-9 crash – a disaster that has never been confronted by the leadership nor heard of by the public.  For all the nonsense being peddled that this election defeat is a failure of “old fashioned socialism”, the approach of Labour leader Ed Miliband and Ed Balls, his shadow Chancellor (economics minister), was hardly radical. Despite some valuable promised reforms and occasional populist rhetoric, they never answered the lie that Labour created the deficit by spending too much, choosing instead to mumble about not having enough bank regulation in the lead up to the banking crash. Instead of proposing a real economic alternative to the austerity programme of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, they offered just a little less austerity than the Tories. They never effectively fought the Tories on welfare or UKIP on immigration. Instead they tail-ended their arguments. Incredibly, the Blairites want to go further in that direction.

Relations with the European Union
A major issue in the run up to the election was the role of the European Union. An important part of the media’s strategy was to divert the anger of British workers away from the bankers and the super-rich by blaming the European Union for the crisis and the suffering being imposed through the austerity programme. Linked to this was the issue of the role of immigrants from the EU. The British media gave massive publicity to the reactionary United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) as a safe haven for the disaffected. And the final outcome was perfect for the establishment – with UKIP securing nearly 4 million votes but only one seat in parliament – with discontent being channeled away from Labour but without undermining the position of the Conservative Party in parliament.

With the failure of the challenge from the anti-EU right, Conservative leader David Cameron will feel much more secure in campaigning to stay in the European Union in the In/Out Referendum planned for 2017. This means that a comfortable majority is likely in the Referendum and Britain will remain in the EU.

However, to achieve this the Conservatives and the majority of the media will have to argue some of the merits of the EU and point to positive improvements in Britain’s relationship to it. This will make it more difficult to play the ‘EU card’ in the near future and thereby to funnel discontent away from Labour towards UKIP.

A More Confident Ruling Class
There can be no doubt that the election outcome of May 2015 will embolden the political representatives of Britain’s ruling class. After having imposed deep and unpopular cuts in living standards, welfare benefits and public services, the Conservatives have managed through their control of the media and an ineffective Labour opposition to set workers against each other and present their economic programme as a success. As a result they have increased their position in parliament emerging with an overall majority without the need for coalition with any other parties. Now they will be feeling immensely confident in their ability to pursue a reactionary agenda and to persuade the public to go along with it. Already Conservative MPs have demanded an end to the bashing of the banks, calling for tax incentives for the finance industry. The Conservative Home Secretary has refused to accept any of the migrants being rescued from the Mediterranean, and the Tory Prime Minister has called for the repeal of the Human Rights Act.

On the economic front, we have a future of cuts and more cuts. Many of the reductions in welfare spending are still in the pipeline. And with the next economic downturn not far off this will be the basis for a further round of cuts and falls in the living standards. But there is only so much that working people will take.

Collage 2
A Future of Struggle
Elections are important but they are not the end of the story. Indeed, only 24% of the electorate actually voted for the Conservatives so this is hardly a ringing endorsement of neo-liberalism. Now resistance must move into our workplaces, communities, schools and streets.

Already the day after the election there was a demonstration against the new government held near the Prime Minister’s residence. Our first response to the emboldened Tory attacks on all fronts must be a big turnout for the People’s Assembly anti-austerity march on June 20th in order to build a mass fightback against the current and forthcoming attacks.

Likewise, we need to make sure that the Labour Right does not succeed in winning the leadership of the Party, and in the process build a much stronger left-wing movement with all sections of the labour movement.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Brendan Behan: The Anglo Irish



by Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I post this short commentary from Brendan Behan mostly for my own pleasure.  The Irish were colonized by the British long before India and Africa. They became, like the Native Americans here in the USA, landless and without rights in their own country, on their own land.

Oppression breeds great art simply because human creativity and yearning for freedom cannot be suppressed in the real sense, it comes out in any way it can. The jackboot's heel can be on the neck and the face thrust deeply in to the mud but the drive for dignity and for expressing it cannot be eradicated. Brendan Behan was a great Irish writer.

I worked for years on road gangs with mostly Irish immigrants. They were, like the Mexicans and other Latino's from our US southern border, rural people and this was in the 1960's.  They were often illiterate or semi illiterate the men I worked with.  Many had never left their villages in Ireland before being driven abroad to find work.  They were not sophisticated and liked the drink.  I used to make breakfast in the wagon we towed as we laid sewer pipe through the English countryside. I heard so may tails at that table I learned of bacoon and even bacooneen and sometimes bacooneenadn.  "Where does it stop?" I wondered to myself.

Their language, or should I say, their English language which is not their native language was littered with the most colorful and beautiful expressions, some of the most beautiful English I have ever heard spoken.  Like the old black blues guys who came to England and told the history of their existence in the apartheid US South through song, country blues, Mississippi Delta blues, the "Black White and Brown" that Big Bill Broonzy sang about, those Irish workers I worked with taught history through tales of life back home and humor.  The blues, what are often political songs and the tales and humorous anecdotes I heard every day are, historical accounts of life whether in the US or Ireland or as immigrants in a foreign country.

Doherty, who operated the backhoe or JCB as we called them, said maybe two or three times a day to himself but for us all to hear, "Have you ever been to Manchester?"  We waited with baited breath for the reply, "No, but I passed through it with a cable." This was a reference to those who worked laying cable and working so hard pulling that line that you could go through a major city and not notice it. "Up with the shlack" was another expression describing this line of work.

We were re-sodding a lawn we had damaged as we laid pipe through this village.  It was a fancy home, the residence of some rural petty bourgeois.  The ganger man was impatient.  The backhoe operator was taking his time bringing us new sod we had to lay pretty quick as it was pissing down rain.  Suddenly Doherty appeared on his big yellow machine.  The ganger man was no happier, "Look at Charlie shnailing along." he says to me.  Shnailing, now that's pretty slow, such descriptive power.

Behan once described himself as , "a drinker with a writing problem" and is also said to have commented, "I only drink on two occasions—when I'm thirsty and when I'm not". Alcoholism is a tragic disease but it doesn't always suppress artistic genius.

Not thought much about this post just watched Borstal Boy though, a film based on Behan's book of the same name. I preferred the book which is usually the case.  Watching it reminded me of those days laying sewers through the English countryside and the craic that kept us going.

Ireland has changed dramatically since the sixties and it should not be forgotten that it is the 500 year occupation of the Island by the English that prevented Ireland from developing a modern capitalist economy up to that point.

That work was hard and very unsafe as there was no hint of unions. I was young it was not so bad. I was strong enough then.  The Irish have songs about building up and tearing England down like this verse from a song of the same name:

In the tunnel underground
A young Limmerick man was found
He was built into the New Victoria Line
When the bonus gang had past
Sticking from the concrete cast
Was the face of little Charlie Joe Devine
A ganger named McGirck
Made Paddy hate the work
When a gas-main burst he flew off the ground
Oh they swore he said gone slack
I won't be there until I'm back
Keep on building up and tearing England down