Monday, 30 July 2012

The Pogues - Danny Boy

'Oh Danny Boy' tells me the story of an old Irish mother, very likely alone with only her memories with which to hold on to life. All her children are gone, long departed from Ireland to the far flung places destined for the Irish Diaspora. 

Kept warm by the hope that one day her Danny Boy will gladden the glens and her heart with his presence she carries on. Yet, if he doesn't make it, hopefully, he'll visit her grave to reaffirm his love for her. 

Or, is it just a sentimental old tear-jerker, one that is sure to bring a tear to the eyes of the Irish Diaspora and their descendants whenever we congregate with a glass in our hand and a desire for sadness in our soul.  

Whatever, I do like this song; and I like edge given to the song by Shane McGowan.  

Monday, 23 July 2012

Let's Have Some Crip Power Salutes at These Paralympics

In the summer of 1968 two African Americans sent out a powerful message to the world at the Mexico Olympics. The message invested in their colour, bare feet and raised black-gloved fists spoke of the poverty, iniquity and democratic deficit endured and faced by millions of Black Americans.

Tommie Smith, centre, and John Carlos,
on the right sending out a message
that shook the very heart of the
American establishment
Earlier in the day Tommie Smith had won the 200 meters and John Carlos had finished third. Later in the day they climbed the podium to pick up gold and bronze medals respectively. When the Star Spangled Banner began, instead of fists beating hearts and heads thrown back to sing the anthem, both athletes dropped their heads as if in mourning while raising arms in a black-gloved salute.

To me this was a powerful message. A message that says the human spirit is indomitable; and we as human being can rise above and defeat even the most cruel of suppressors.

I sincerely hope that amongst the athletes about to compete in the Olympics and Paralympics there are some Smiths and Carlos's who will mount the podium, eschew the baubles of these capitalist games whilst ignoring the maudlin music that celebrates inequity and anachronism. Why shouldn't disabled athletes make political statements against the tyranny of flawed medical assessments; why not throw the medals back into the faces of pitiless profiteers who cheer them on while impoverishing the rest of us.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

For God's Sake Amend the Second Amendment, USA

Oh come on, guns don't murder people; people murder people. However, the easy acquisition of guns in the US is the major cause of so much gun crime, and especially death.

James Homes, the alleged gunman, is a highly intelligent young man. A young man with excellent qualifications, a BSc in Neuroscience. According to colleagues he is a personable man, if "...a bit socially awkward...not to a dgree that would warrant suspicion of mass murder or any atrocity of this nature."

Sadly, the recent killing of 12 people and injuring of a further 60 by a lone gunman, apparently, using automatic weapons legally bought and held is a recurring theme in the land of the free. Time after time presidents have appeared on TV screens after such incidents - there are an average 20 mass shootings every year in the States.

However, in recent times this figure seems to have exploded. Apparently, there have been some 60 mass shootings in the USA since the 2011 massacre in Arizona where 19 people, including the gunman, died in a supermarket car park.

The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution may well state that "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." However, laws are not written in stone; nor are laws passed in order to remain unchallenged in perpetuity.

With the passage of time comes change; and the 'well regulated militia' of some 220+ years needed to be ready to suppress and defend the State against tyrant European Princes is no longer needed.

It is not needed, nor has it been, for a long time. The USA has a national structure of armed forces as well as diverse law enforcement agencies. The idea that a European power, or any other power coming to that, will begin imposing unfair taxes and laws upon a modern US is not feasible. The very reason for the existence of the Second Amendmet, and for the right of ordinary citizens to bear arms is an anachronistic freedom; it is a indefensible freedom claimed by those of a conservative leaning, particularly those on the political right.

While amending the Second Amendment in order to put greater regulation on gun ownership would not necessarily stop people killing one and other; nor would it entirely stop people murdering others with guns. What it would probably achieve is to put an end to these senseless mall, cinema and high school massacres that occur with too great a regularity.

Friday, 13 July 2012

The Right to Access Buses

Ray Bellisario (pictured) has endured terrible treatment at the hands of some bus drivers.

Ray Bellisario in the 'offending' mobility scooter
However, people such as John Murphy who responded in an ill-informed way on Facebook do not help the situation:

"Ok everyone's saying poor this poor that, time to throw a spanner in the works, he could have arranged a private ambulance to his hospital appointment with ease, the bus drivers were following the correct procedures, after the wake of the 7/7 bombings they have to be more stringent when it comes to Health and Safety! Also they mobility scooters are a monstrosity to say the least, saying to sack the drivers for following the correct procedures just shows the ignorance surrounding this. 

He is also eligible to the mobility scheme! Which he can easily purchase a car from if not he can get it for his primary carer.

Again this is the PC police out in force as well."

To John Murphy, yes he could have opted for transport to the hospital, most London hospitals offer such a resource. However, arranging such transport is not at you put it, easy. When using this form of transport you often have to be ready to travel hours before your hospital appointment time. For people with chronic pain conditions, or for someone like me who has a neurogenic bladder, being without the means to use a toilet for more than 40 minutes creates a crisis.

Your contention that post-7/7 wheelchairs or mobility scooters, that fulfil the measurement criteria, are not allowed on buses is simply untrue. Calling an aid such as a mobility scooter a monstrosity, a piece of equipment that helps someone who cannot walk without great difficulty and pain, sums up your humanity.

Your knowledge of the Motability scheme is also lacking. In the first place you don't purchase the vehicles, they're leased for a three or five -year term; secondly how do you know he can afford to run the vehicle; and third, you are assuming the man in question has a primary carer.

Finally, I do agree to a some degree to your defence of drivers. Calling for people to be sacked in such circumstances is not always the most helpful way to go. Most bus drivers are decent people; and will go the extra to help out elderly and disabled passengers. Some, sadly fall short of proper disability awareness, and need training.

However, the answer to the problem of bad drivers lies with trade union organisation within the industry. Where there is poor organisation in garages you are more likely to have drivers who are intimidated by management and who will follow bad instructions and advice from managers whose only concern is the maximisation of company profits.

Therefore, the sooner we get 100% organised bus garages, especially in large conurbations such as London, the sooner we will see all drivers fully trained in disability awareness training. In fact we could go one better and bring the buses back into the hands of the public sector; bring back bus conductors and dignity for all travelling on our buses.  

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Remploy Strike Details

Dear Comrade

As you are now aware the government has published a list of 27 Remploy factories it intends closing within the next few weeks. Our Comrades in Remploy would appreciate any and all support from sisters and brothers across the trade union movement, as well as people from their own communities.

The two dates for strike action already planned are Thursday 19th and Thursday 26th July. Though I don't have actual times of the actions (I imagine from 7.30 am to mid afternoon) I will get actual times out when I'm informed.

Please try to get to one, or more of the sites (see below for addresses) on the given days to show our Comrades in Remploy that they are not alone in this struggle; that their fight is indeed everyone of our fights.

Remploy Acton
2 Portal Way
W3 6RT

Remploy Barking
Long Reach Road
IG11 0JW

Unit 14
Crusader Industrial Estate
167, Hermitage Road
N4 1LZ

In Solidarity


Sunday, 8 July 2012

Remploy Workers Vote to Strike!

Remploy strike dates set, as ministers wield axe on 54 factories

Remploy workers faced with the dole queue are to stage two 24-hour strikes as the coalition gears up to close or sell-off the 54 factories that provide employment for disabled workers.

Unite, the largest union in the country, announced today (5 July) that its members will stage the strikes on Thursday, 19 July and Thursday, 26 July. A continuous overtime ban starts on Thursday, 12 July.

Remploy workers, members of the Unite and GMB unions, voted by large margins to take industrial action.

The workers are devastated by the coalition’s plans and have voted to strike because they believe the proposed closure negotiations were ‘a sham’; in protest at the intention to make disabled people compulsorily redundant for the first time at Remploy; and that the redundancy pay will be less than previous voluntary redundancies.

Unite members voted 59.7 per cent in favour of strike action and 76.1 per cent voted in favour of industrial action short of a strike.

The GMB members voted 79.5 per cent in favour of industrial action, including strike action and 87 per cent for action short of strike action.

Unite’s national officer for the not-for-profit sector, Sally Kosky said: “This vote for strike action demonstrates our members’ disgust at the way they have been treated by the government’s policies which are designed to throw them on the dole queue at a very difficult economic time.

“Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith - the uncaring face of the coalition – has provoked this strike at Remploy by refusing to listen to the economic arguments. His decision is based on right-wing dogma.

“Our members are desperate to work in an environment that takes account of their disability and where they can make a valued contribution to society and pay their way.”

Phil Davies, GMB National Secretary, said: “The government's intention to destroy thousands of disabled workers jobs in Remploy has given rise to an overwhelming vote for strike action against the proposed closures of their 54 factories.

“These closures are going ahead without any consideration of the feelings and needs of these workers and their families or their future job prospects. To close a factory that employs disabled people in the present economic climate is a sentence to life of unemployment and poverty."

Unite and the GMB have been campaigning to keep the Remploy factories open as viable businesses and cite the recent upbeat assessment of Remploy’s future prospects from Alan Hill, Managing Director, Remploy Enterprise Businesses who wrote that: “We have grown our sales by 12.2%, a fantastic achievement.”

A total of 36 Remploy sites are due to close or be sold off in the near future, with the remaining 18 due to close or be sold-off next year.

The 27 factories where Unite has members can be viewed on the link: