Saturday, 29 September 2007

Courage in Burma - Humbling

Today's Guardian carried, on its front page, an interview with a Burmese man who had taken part in this week's protests.

A small portion is appended below:

"Today was the first day I went to the protests on my own. All my friends were too scared to go out on the streets after being gassed and shot at over the last few days. I woke up feeling more depressed and less optimistic than I have all week, but I felt it was my duty to carry on protesting. I was frightened, but aren't we all? If everybody hid indoors, nothing would change, and we will never be able to draw attention to the hopeless situation our country is facing. I need to stand and be counted."

Whilst many of us witter on about left and right; Brown and Cameron, here is someone putting his life at risk for democracy.

How humbling to read of another's bravery whilst I am safe at home.

Unfortunately, I write this mechanically. I am moved but not uplifted as I should. I am consumed by the issues in my next post

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Do Our Heads Zip Up the Back?

No, of course they don't.

Why then do politicians - and those around them continue to act as though they did zip up? Why do they avoid telling the truth?

It's not as though telling the truth is difficult. It's easy: no stories to make up and remember; just tell it as it is. But still the half-truths, untruths ,evasions and lies come.

There's nothing new in this. We all know this happens and will continue to happen so why am I wound up now?

Yesterday, there were news reports - see for example the BBC - that rationing is rife within the NHS.

Again, there's nothing new here: we all know that rationing is part of the NHS - always has been and always will be regardless of the funding level.

The BMA and the NHS Alliance said respectively:

"There is not much honesty and openness about this. The NHS could spend whatever you gave it, but it obviously works wih a limited budget so we urgently need to have a debate about what can be provided. Trusts are already being forced into this but the political parties are not talking about it."


"Rationing is the great unspoken reality. The only people who refuse to mention the 'r-word' are the media and the politicians, who continue to want to promise everything for everyone in order to win elections."

A Department of Health spokesperson then said:

"The NHS had received an unprecedented funding boost in recent years but finance is not endless and hard decisions will always have to be made about which treatments to provide. Doctors and nurses make these clinical decisions with patients - not managers or politicians.

The last sentence is a downright lie. We all know that politicians and managers have a crucial role in determining funding and services with the health professionals working within the constraints imposed upon them by politicians and managers.

The truth - that's all we want. We can handle the truth. With the truth we can discuss what services to provide; we can push for increased funding in some areas. Hiding the truth denies us this opportunity. Hiding the truth denies us democracy.

The real problem is the politicians don't want us to have the truth; they don't want a true democracy; they want to retain the power for themselves.

They shy away from the truth like Dracula from sunlight.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Jena Six: More Thoughts

One of my sources for my first post on the Jena Six was Kevin at Life Has Taught Us. Kevin has posted again and I think that his post plus our interchange of comments is worthy of a separate post.

Kevin @ Life Has Taught Us
"..............My second concern with the increasing number of voices rallying in support of the Jena 6 is that there has been an increasing call to "Free the Jena 6" rather than for "Justice in Jena." These six teenagers stand accused of a violent crime. They are accused not convicted. They are innocent until proven guilty. However, if indeed they did commit this crime, there must also be justice for their victim. For no matter how vile the alleged racist taunts of their victim may have been, we as a society cannot accept violence as a cure for hatred. Violence only creates more violence. Once again, in the words of Dr. King, "The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.

What we should strive for in Jena is justice. Yes, there should be justice for the white teenager who was beaten in this case. If the Jena 6 committed this crime, it would be an extreme injustice to allow them to go free. But, there also needs to be justice for the accused. They must be treated equally under the law. The charges against them must fit the crime and must not be biased by race or any other discriminating factor. If found guilty, their punishment must also fit their crime.

Up to this point, there has been little justice in Jena. The teenagers who started this recent outbreak of violence by hanging nooses in their schoolyard never received a punishment that fit their crime. The subsequent incidents of violence perpetrated by both white and black teenagers have been treated unequally by the justice system. And, now, six teenagers stand accused of crimes that appear disproportionate in light of the actual incident and in light of these previous incidents.

But, there is hope. And, we can make and we have made a difference."

"I understand your disappointment at the call to "Free the Jena Six". I too believe they should face and receive justice for their actions but I can also understand why so many are calling for their freedom.

There are , as you describe, two aspects to justice: firstly the "six" must receive justice in terms of the charges faced, the case itself and the sentencing and secondly others who have committed similar crimes must be treated similarly.

Therefore, even if the "six" receive justice in terms of their own actions, if others are treated more leniently for similar actions then overall the "six" have not been treated justly.

I imagine that this is the perception among many: that the white youths involved have been treated more leniently. Under these circumstances where justice is seen not to have been done; where some have either not been charged or been charged for minor crimes demanding that the "six" be freed is not unreasonable.

Both aspects of justice must be seen to be done. Without that, I imagine, the calls for "freedom of the Jena Six" will continue and with some justification."

"I do understand where you are coming from, but I can't accept that we repay one injustice with another.

I think that it would be an injustice if in fact the youths did commit an assault and they would not be punished for it. It would be unjust to the victim in spite of how vile his words may have been.

We need to push for equality under the law and that is what we have to uphold or else we are going to start an unending spiral of correcting injustices with other injustices.

I strongly support justice for the Jena 6. That is, in the charges against them, in their having fair trials, and in a fair punishment if they are guilty or in freedom if they are innocent."

"I find this issue difficult. I believe the "six" should receive justice for their actions. It would be unjust if they were guilty but were freed.

BUT - a big "but" - it is unjust if the "six" receive the deserved punishment and others get off virtually scot-free for similar actions. I imagine that it is this injustice which will drive the protest and it is understandable if this were the case.

The protestors would have a stronger moral case if they were to ask for justice for all but, if I were in their position, I would want justice for all now. The option of justice for me now but with a long wait until all received justice would be unacceptable.

Justice for me but not for all is injustice for me and is worthy of protest."

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Jena Six

I was thinking about posting on the Jena Six but Ruthie's post on this subject prompted me to read more deeply and to write with a different slant.

The facts of the case and of the background are not clear cut – see the list of articles / blogs at the end of this post – and so an objective assessment is virtually impossible.

What can be said is that many believe the Jena Six to have suffered injustice and racism.

An ACLU publication carries the following quote from the Executive Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union:

The racism and injustice endured by the Jena 6 has all the hallmarks of the Jim Crow era: school officials complicit in racism; prosecutors treading lightly when it comes to whites while throwing the book at black youth; and an all white jury convicting a black teen now facing decades in jail."

Is this statement true?

I don’t know. I can’t know.

But if people have suffered racism and/or injustice themselves they are likely to believe that the Jena Six suffered similarly.

If people believe the Jena Six to have suffered racism and/or injustice then they have every right to protest. That some or all of the Jena Six may be guilty of assault is irrelevant to the charges of racism and injustice.

The Jena Six don’t measure up to Martin Luther King’s standards but they don’t need to. However unworthy the six may appear, their case has grabbed the attention and if this helps in the fight against racism and for justice then that is an excellent outcome.

Ruthie says “These students are not martyrs or heroes. I agree entirely that the judicial process was (and is) flawed, but this doesn't excuse or justify the assault.

I agree with Ruthie here but just as we condemn the alleged assault we must condemn the alleged racism.

Ruthie also says, “This is just another example of the media-drenched, racially hypersensitive climate that we live in. Just another point of contention. Just another excuse to stir up divisiveness on all sides.

Is it wrong to be outraged at racism? Surely not!

Is it being hypersensitive to react against racism? Surely not!

Were the Jena Six subjected to racism and injustice? I don’t know, but, unlike Ruthie, “I am not tired reading about it”.

Racism and injustice must be confronted even if those subjected to it are deemed unworthy.

Background Reading:

Ruthie’s post

Wikipedia entry

Wkipedia discussion re the above entry

ACLU article

ACLU background info

Common Dreams article

Help the Jena 6 article

Blog by Life has Taught Us

Cheerful Iconoclast blog Part 1

Cheerful Iconoclast blog Part 2

Cheerful Iconoclast blog Part 3

Houston Chronicle article

Washington Post article part 1

Washington Post article Part 2

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Cameron: Foot in Mouth

David Cameron must be getting desperate to land a blow on Brown. Yesterday, before even the strain of the latest foot and mouth outbreak was known, Cameron came on very strongly. He said:

"I think there is a real question of government competence. We learnt that the first outbreak came from a government laboratory, last week the government told us the foot and mouth outbreak was over, and now we know that this is not the case." (


"The PM took pesonal control of this and now it looks as though it is getting out of control." (

Too easily the government can state that guidelines were followed, that 30 days had elapsed since the last case which, given the incubation time of 2 - 14 days, meant that there should not have been a recurrence.

There may well be examples of government inefficiency to be uncovered with this latest case but, with his very early intervention, Cameron did not allow himself the opportunity for those shortcomings to be uncovered. Instead Cameron has demonstrated a burning desire to put pressure on the government - nothing wrong with that - but not the judgment required to do so effectively.

Cameron needs to relax and wait for his opportunities: they will come.

A desperate Cameron will continue to miss.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Day Without End

If only today wouldn't end:

I wouldn't need to go to bed

I wouldn't need to go to sleep

I wouldn't need to switch off the TV

I wouln't need to switch of the video recorder

I would live and relive and relive and relive the game and the best result Scotland has ever achieved.




But I will go to bed.

And in the morning this will still be the best result Scotland has ever achieved.

And I will and relive and relive and relive the game.


Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Dancing Lessons for Brown?

Gordon Brown seems to have the measure of David Cameron but Alex Salmond is dancing around Brown.

Salmond's most recent wheeze to rename the "Scottish Executive" as the "Scottish Government" produced a plodding and so predictable response from Brown.

There is no doubt that the name change does improve clarity: there is a government in Edinburgh which governs Scotland albeit with fewer powers than the UK government and so "Scottish Government" is appropriate whereas the meaning of "Scottish Executive" is unclear.

The change was needed - and had been proposed previously but I don't doubt that the change was made primarily for political reasons.

Brown was on a loser from the start. If he accepted the change he believed he was giving credence to the SNP's determination to increase the profile and powers of the Scottish Parliament. If he rejected the change he would appear as being petty.

He chose petty.

According to the Times "a senior British Government source said, 'It's a confidence trick - an attempt to imply there is a government which doesn't exist.'"

It's a petty and stupid response which indicates how out of touch is the London government. Senior Scottish Labour figures have already talked about the "Scottish Government: Wendy Alexander - according to The Times - and Jack McConnell the previous First Minister.

McConnell stated in a First Minister's address to the Scotish Parliament in 2004, "This is a perfect example of devolution working at its best in partnership with the UK government. ..... And the Scottish government will ....".

So using the new name wasn't even an SNP idea but they've got political mileage because Labour have, as yet, no workable strategy for countering Salmond's deft touches.

Perhaps Cameron should give Alex a call.

Perhaps Brown should learn tap dancing!