Archive | December 2012

Gun Violence, Massacres and “Other Developed Countries” (by David Rovics)

One evening in the spring of 1993 I took a bus across San Francisco, leaving the troubled, largely impoverished neighborhood of the Western Addition, populated mostly by the descendents of African slaves, in which I lived (representing, I suppose, the artistic hippie beginnings of the gentrification process which has since pushed most of San Francisco’s Black population across the bay). My closest friend at the time was someone I met because we were housemates in a big apartment. He was a tall man with a long, thick red mane and beaming eyes named Eric Mark. A brilliant engineer with a promising career as such who quit his job and became a cab driver in the interest of experiencing life more fully. Eric and I, along with one friend and two of his acquaintances, were headed to the Mission District, another troubled, impoverished neighborhood, this one populated mostly by the refugees from the wars in Guatemala and El Salvador, generally known as “immigrants.”

Had we been just a clueless bunch of outsiders maybe we would have been fine, but two members of our party were of Mexican origin, and there was a gang war going on. It was the wee hours of the morning on May 1st and several of us were decorating a nearby abandoned building with political slogans appropriate for International Workers Day, while Eric and Alfredo were keeping watch, ostensibly for cops, on the sidewalk three stories below. A group of kids with a gun pulled up in a car and demanded the contents of Eric and Alfredo’s pockets, which were promptly delivered. One young man then pointed his gun at Alfredo, who looked suspiciously Latin but was apparently causing offense because he was dressed entirely in black, which was not either one of the gang colors. Eric stepped in front of the gun, asked the kids what more they wanted now that they had taken their money, and the kid pulled the trigger.

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The reality of shale gas extraction

(Letter to the South Wales Evening Post)

Dave Lees (‘Reality check over energy’, Have Your Say, 18 December) needs to be careful what he wishes for.

In praising the Chancellor’s signalling of a new “dash for gas”, Mr Lees should bear in mind that plans for exploiting shale gas cover the whole of the former South Wales coalfield, including the Swansea Valley.

The draft Local Development Plan (LDP) for Swansea includes a 10,000-hectare site designated as “Exploration and potential development site for coal methane and unconventional gas” (Candidate Site MA011).  This vast site is centred on Mawr, and covers the whole of Clydach.

A neighbouring Exploration and Development Licence area (PEDL214) covers most of urban Swansea.

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Getting our priorities right?

North Korean Rocket LaunchUK Foreign Secretary William Hague has joined the US and UN in condemning North Korea for launching a rocket to put a satellite into space.  (The US has confirmed that “an object has been put into space”.)

Quoted in today’s Metro ( ), Mr Hague said, “I deplore the fact that the [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea  – DPRK] has chosen to prioritise this launch over improving the livelihood of its people’ (my emphasis).

Earlier this week the UK Ministry of Defence announced the award of a £1.2bn contract for a new nuclear powered submarine to join the other three members of the Astute Class currently being built.  A further £1.5bn has been committed to the building of the first three.  (

Last month The Guardian carried a report on the first of this class, HMS Astute, which described it as “Slow, leaky, rusty” and “beset with design flaws”. (

HMS Astute Read More…

The parasites are circling.

At some point in history, most of the world’s major religions have condemned the practice of usury (loaning money with interest).  In the past it has been regarded by many cultures as sinful, and some still ban the practice today.

The earliest know condemnations of usury come from the Vedic texts of India, and similar condemnations are found in religious texts from Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The practice was outlawed in ancient China, ancient Greece, ancient Rome and many parts of Europe during the Middle Ages.

As the influence of religion has dwindled in the modern world, it has left a space that Mammon has gleefully stepped up to occupy; so successfully that for many the worship of Mammon (aka the pursuit of wealth) has become a religion in itself.

The strongest evidence for this being the widespread acceptance of usury, which is now central to our economies, to our lives and to our high streets.

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All smoke and mirrors

(Letter to the South Wales Evening Post)

You would expect Peter Black AM (‘AM claims 140,000 will get income tax cuts’, page 2, 7 December) to try to put a gloss on the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement.  The Lib Dems have, after all, pinned their political future on the fact that they are having a positive impact on the coalition government.

But no amount of spin can obscure the full impact of the further and deeper cuts that we now face.

What the Chancellor gave with one hand, he took away in greater measure with the other.

The 1% cap on increases to “working age benefits”, Child Benefit and Local Housing Allowance is a savage cut in real terms, not least given the prospect of ever rising fuel prices and the impact this will have on inflation.

Early indications are that the full impact of the Autumn Statement will see around 60% of working households loosing over £250 per year in benefits and tax credits, while those on the highest income will gain far more from the scrapping of the 50% tax rate.

Perhaps Peter Black can now outline how these aspects of the Autumn Statement will impact the “ordinary workers in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot”, many of whom rely on “working age benefits” to feed their families.


Three months is a long time in politics!

From the ‘Liberal  Democrat Voice‘, 22 September 2012.

Nick Clegg will veto George Osborne’s demands for a two-year freeze in most state benefits from next April and a further £10bn of welfare cuts…

The Deputy Prime Minister revealed he will block the Treasury’s demand for more cuts before the 2015 election to compensate for lower-than-expected growth. “Not a penny more, not a penny less,” he declared.

The message was reinforced by Danny Alexander: “A two-year freeze in benefits, which would freeze the incomes of the poorest people in this country, is not a place we should be looking at.”

Or as Vince Cable put it earlier in the same week:


My response to the Autumn Statement

I’ve changed the title of my blog to reflect my response to the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement delivered in Parliament today.

I’ll go back to being a beachcomber when we have rid ourselves of this wicked and deceitful government.

George Osborne tells us there is “no miracle cure”, but I’ve got one for him; or more precisely for his pals Danny Boy Alexander and Calamity Clegg – break this coalition now, and bring down this awful government before it’s too late.  Too late for the economy, too late for the environment, and too late to save the Lib Dems from oblivion at the next election that is.

If you won’t do it for the country then do it out of self-interest – but do it!

If David Cameron really believes that we are moving in the right direction then he’s a lot dumber than he looks.  Maybe he wasn’t paying attention during his Maths lessons at Eton, but the rest of us can read the numbers and the message is very clear.

“Osborne continues to ignore the growing chorus of advice that when you are in a hole you should stop digging. In deepening the cuts and prolonging austerity, in continuing investor uncertainty and taxation that favours the wealthy, he is sentencing more Britons to unemployment, more families to insecurity and debt, and more small businesses to death.” (Natalie Bennett, Leader of the Green Party of England and Wales) (Full statement at:

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More settlements to be built in the occupied territories

The day after the UN voted to upgrade the status of Palestine, Israel announces 3,000 more housing units to be built on occupied Palestinian territory.

Israel shows utter contempt for the will of the international community yet again, and the UK’s response is to tell their ambassador that they are very naughty boys!  (‘UK government warns Israel over settlements‘; BBC News, 3 December 2012)

Our government still doesn’t seem to understand that words mean nothing to Israel.  We need strong, effective and internationally co-ordinated sanctions to stop this obscenity.

Israel prevents building materials and other essential supplies from getting into Gaza.  We should respond in kind.

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