Friday, August 08, 2008

Brown's Foot Is Off The Gas

The gas companies pathetic excuses for obscene price-hikes is exposed once again, in a damning indictment by the head of a new consumer watchdog. It's a rip-off in light-touch, soft-touch Britain.

Ed Mayo, head of a new National Consumer Council, tells us nothing new. Foreign-owned gas companies are raising prices in the UK to subsidise customers in other countries. 

Unlike in the rest of Europe, these global foreign-owned energy companies know they can milk the UK consumer for all they're worth, without fear of EU or government intervention. 

It was Blair and Brown's New Labour which created the 'open market' and allowed these global corporations to flourish and put profits before people, in the first place. 

The big six energy suppliers - EDF, NPower, British Gas, E.On. Scottish Power, Scottish and Southern Energy - all have nice sounding, customer friendly names but they're owned by foreign companies and global investment banks. 

EDF by the French, RWE Power and E.on of Germany and Scottish Power by Iberdrola of Spain. 

Gas is traded by sharp operators on the international markets months in advance and stored in huge facilities on the continent. They know how to play the markets for big profits and the UK consumer is a soft-touch. 

They need to make huge profits for their directors and shareholders. They can't hike up prices back home in their in their own countries, so they make the UK consumer pay through the nose. 

MPs on watchdog committees and the industry watchdogs have warned about this before. And it has been highlighted here on a number of occasions. 

Selling off the gas and electricity industries was an idea of the Thatcher years.

But New Labour, Blair and Brown took it forward with so much enthusiasm and stealth and allowed these private UK companies to be sold off to foreign companies. 

We don't own the energy supply industry anymore - so the government keeps the whole thing at arms length and does nothing about it.

It's all part of a deeper malaise created by New Labour's 'light touch' and the spin and hype over a 'strong' economy. 

John Kampfer explores how the City was allowed to become the global capital of 'crooks and spivs' in today's Daily Telegraph

This light-touch has created a soft-touch Britain. This has left the fat cats in the City getting richer and the poor getting poorer.


Why Beijing Can Stuff Its Olympics

Peering through the pea-souper for today's opening ceremony at the Bird's Nest stadium, it's hard to see the sport for the politics and the poverty, as the Olympics gets underway in Beijing.

The games of shame, is the biggest act of political propaganda since Hitler highjacked the Olympics in 1936.

Bush is there for today's opening ceremony. Brown is due there and an army of freeloaders, outnumbering Team GB by two-to-one. All sucking up to the Chinese authorities. 

Unlike Bush, Brown sees China as an economic magic bullet. 

Brown needs the huge flood of cheap Chinese imports to artificially keep down the cost of living and create the false feel-good factor which has been the hallmark of his economy, And he needs China's cash to invest in our banks and industry. 

The result is cheap and throw-away products, workers forced to churn them out in appalling conditions, real poverty, massive industrial pollution and the decimation of the UK manufacturing industry.

China is happy to oblige and demolish people's homes while the country disappears in a thick blanket of industrial pollution.

Big profits and global corporate sponsorship are at the heart of the Olympics - all orchestrated by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

Sally Jenkins in the Washington Post is in no doubt what this Olympics is really all about: 

"It's about 12 major corporations and their panting ambitions to tap into China's 1.3 billion consumers. The International Olympic Committee is nothing more than a puppet for its corporate partners, without whom there would be no Games. These major sponsors pay the IOC's bills for staging the Olympics to the tune of $7 billion per cycle"

The robotic display at the opening ceremony ignores the thousands driven out of their homes to make way for the Olympic spectacle and a state police keeping the population under the oppressive rule of the regime.

The appalling human rights record and oppression in Tibet, is highlighted only by a few brave protesters.

The Beijing Olympics costs China an estimated £33 billion to stage. A small price for the authorities to pay for propaganda, to mark the emergence of China as a world player. 

In four years time, it's set to happen all over again, in London. But the UK cannot afford such extravagance and enormous security costs. London 2012, is set to become a crippling, financial disaster. Lessons should be learnt from Beijing - but probably will be ignored. 


Thursday, August 07, 2008

IOC Toady Ignores Beijing Pea-Souper

Beijing's air quality poses "no risk to athletes' health", according to Jacques Rogge, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). But he would say that wouldn't he?

Rogge said there was "absolutely no danger" to the health of athletes taking part in events that last less than one hour. Not much comfort for marathon runners and cyclists there, then.

The IOC is just a puppet for its corporate 'partners', without whom there would be no Games. There's a lot of money riding on this. These major sponsors pay the IOC's bills for staging the Olympics. 

Tell all that to ITN's, Mark Austin, who's been wandering round smoggy Beijing for the last couple of days, with a neat little air pollution monitor. And his readings show pollution is four times the WHO recommended levels. 

Rogge urged reporters to distinguish between fog and pollution (as if they didn't know). 

The Chinese authorities have a cute Orwellian way of masking the pollution - it's not pollution they say, it's just a misty, foggy day! 

London used to have one of those, before strict air pollution controls. It was called a pea-souper and it killed thousands.


Beijing Freebies At Public Expense

Politicians and freeloaders are descending on Beijing, in a £7m freebie at the public's expense. The Daily Telegraph has done the maths and disclosed the 'British' Olympic squad will be outnumbered two-to-one by politicians, civil servants, BBC staff and the like, at a cost to the public of almost £7m. 

More than 600 publicly-funded staff will be in Beijing, including government ministers, press officers, local councillors and policemen. The BBC takes the lions share, with a staggering 437 staff out there - not counting Huw Edwards.

39 police from the Met are on a fact-finding tour in Beijing. Dorset Police has four, finding out how to police the sailing event. Greenwich council is sending six officials at a cost of £14,000.

Brown is due to arrive tomorrow (or is it today in Beijing?), with a staff of 20. His department of culture, media and sport is sending 13 and other government departments another 11.

The politically unbiased Telegraph reports the Conservatives are sending just two, paid for out of party funds.

It's shaping up to be one big jolly - let's hope we win something.


US Kangaroo Court Sham In Cuba

Reports of a 'trial', a 'jury', a 'verdict' and a 'conviction', bandied about at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp show-trial, are highly misleading and make a mockery of justice. 

A US military commission, at the camp in Cuba, has 'convicted' Osama Bin Laden's former driver, Salim Hamdan, of supporting terrorism. The verdict is the first to be delivered in a 'war crimes trial' on the island.

Bin Laden's driver may be 'guilty' who really knows - but that's not the issue here. 

The prosecution had said Hamdan played a "vital role" in the conspiracy behind the 9/11 attacks. Defence lawyers said he was just a hired driver. Hamdan is due to be 'sentenced' today.

The pointless 'trial'' is being played up for all its worth by the US authorities. The White House said the trial was fair and looked forward to more tribunals, claiming it shows GITMO does actually work.

But the 'jury' was made up of US military personnel. The 'trial' was actually a kangaroo court under the guise of a military tribunal and the whole thing played out behind closed doors in a tiny corner of the island. 

The so-called 'reports' came from journalists watching carefully screened footage on CCTV, while holed up in an air-conditioned hotel round the block. 

Lawyers around the world say it's unfair. The whole case will be thrown out by the US Supreme Court on appeal, anyway. 

Guantanamo Bay is a mystery. A strange, eerie sort of place on the eastern tip of Cuba. Leased to the US back in the 1920s, it's surrounded by razor wire and surveillance cameras. 

Dozens of other inmates are due to be 'tried' there in the coming months. Some are bigger fish - men accused of plotting the 9/11 attacks.


Hillary Hedges Her Bets On White House

Presidential wannabe, Hillary Clinton, hasn't ruled out keeping her name in the hat in the race for the White House, as revealed in a remarkable video clip posted on YouTube.

The clip, disclosed by ABC News, was taken at a California fund-raising event.

With the US Democratic Convention just three weeks away and Obama's star starting to fade, on Tuesday the Orange Party asked if Clinton was still in the race for the White House?

Many of Clinton's supporters feel she was 'cheated' out of the nomination. Clinton has always maintained that while supporting Obama, she has only suspended her campaign.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Bill Backs Down on Backing Barack

Twice Bill Clinton was asked if he backed Barack Obama for president and twice he refused to give his approval, according to the Daily Telegraph. Sour grapes, or just hedging his bets? 

Or could this be anything to do with the fact that wife Hillary hasn't pulled out of the race for the White House - she's just suspended her campaign, as reported here yesterday?

Under the headline, 'Obama stalls in public polling', Politico is today quoting ABC News Polling director Gary Langer, who is asking: "If everything is so good for Barack Obama, why isn't everything so good for Barack Obama?" 


Cabinet Needs Rethink Not Relocation

Brown will hold his first cabinet meeting after the summer break in the West Midlands. What a cheap publicity stunt.

Ministers reckon the move will give them an opportunity to "engage" with the public. Yeh, sure.

The Orange Party has already made a case to "Cut The Cabinet Down To Size' and holding stunts for photo-ops is not the solution.

Instead of moving the meeting, instead of focussing on personalities and rewards, the cabinet should be about who's best for the job and what kind of cabinet we should have for effective government.

The present cabinet of 23 (with a further seven who can attend cabinet meetings), is a huge unwieldy mass. No organisation would dream of having a senior management team of that size.

Any tradition of collective cabinet responsibility was removed during the Blair years. He simply ignored the cabinet, sidelined the cabinet secretary and preferred his sofa government.

Like peerages to the Lords, the cabinet is used as a device to give out favours to the chosen ones and a big stick keep them in their place or take away their power.

The cabinet has no real influence but it does enable cabinet ministers to hide behind the excuse of not been accountable or responsible.

A radical rethink of the organisational structure of cabinet is needed to make it an effective part of government.

Cut the cabinet down to size. Instead of the present unwieldy 23 plus, reduce it to just seven key areas of responsibility, which reflect major areas of policy.

Chancellor, home secretary, foreign secretary, health, education, environment and a new cabinet post of social welfare.

The present departments, ministries and agencies would be shoe-horned into the responsibilities of the big seven. With just seven, it would be easier to find the right person for the job, among that limited pool of talent so needed for effective government.

Political anatomist, Anthony Sampson, in Who Runs This Place?, summed up the situation well:
"The more the prime minister exercised his power directly, through Number Ten and Whitehall, the less was the influence of the cabinet, which had been seen at the heart of Britain's democracy."

"The cabinet has been weakened, not just by the ambitions of prime ministers but by the declining quality of their colleagues."


Heavy-Handed China Hits Tibet Protest

Heavy-handed oppression by the Chinese authorities was thrust into the spotlight again today, with two Britons held in Beijing, in a banner protest over Tibet. The group, Students for a Free Tibet, said four activists from the UK and the US were arrested after unfurling banners close to the Olympic stadium.

The protest happened before the Olympic torch's arrival in Tiananmen Square as part of a day of protests by the pro-Tibet activists in Beijing.

The Chinese authority's propaganda machine is going into overdrive for the opening of the political Olympics on Friday.

Politicians and freeloaders sucking up to Beijing would do well to remember the horrific images of Buddhist monks beaten up in Tibet, monasteries mysteriously cleared of their occupants and the way Chinese track-suit thugs threw a ring of steel around the Olympic Torch relay around the world. 

Welcome to Beijing 2008, the home of appalling human rights, oppression in Tibet and Tiawan and a people under the thumb and too scared to speak out.


Filthy Hospitals A National Disgrace

Filthy conditions of NHS hospitals in England are under attack again, this time by an invasions of rats, fleas, bedbugs, flies and cockroaches. The sorry state of hospital cleanliness is just the latest disgrace that exposes the unhealthy National Health Service.

Figures released by the Conservatives, show that vermin was found in wards, clinics and even operating theatres. 

Rats in a maternity unit, wasps in operating theatres, a children's A&E infested with flies and wards crawling with mice, silverfish, biting insects and beetles.

If the superbugs and hospital food don't make you ill - the vermin will. 

The much-vaunted government plans to 'Deep Clean' hospitals was a total waste of money. Even cleverly changing the reporting methods, couldn't hide the rise of the superbug menace. 

It's all down to cleanliness. And cash. 

The government has created a hospital culture which is more concerned with balancing the books, chasing targets and trying to pay off the crippling PFI debt, than getting on top of the cleaning. 

Contracting out services to the highest bidder just results in a shoddy service. 

Appalling hospital food is another area that suffers but has been brushed under the carpet of government complacency and hype. 

Cleanliness is low down on the list of priorities. Patient health suffers. 

Commenting on this latest hygiene scandal, a Patients Association spokesman said: "How can patients be safe amid bedbugs, fleas and rats? These findings reveal what happens when money is taken away from where patients expect to see it spent."


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Heads Should Roll In Rock Scandal

Calls for legal action against Northern Rock directors doesn't go far enough. Members of financial watchdog, the FSA and government ministers who just sat back and allowed the whole sorry mess to happen, should be forced to quit in shame. 

The scandal is beginning to unravel, with a staggering half a billion pounds loss announced by the now nationalised Northern Rock and £3 billion of taxpayers cash to be pumped in to shore up the company.

The bank and building society's big wheeze to make a fat profit from mortgages and loans started years ago.

The government, Bank of England and the FSA turned a blind eye, while the money lenders changed the way they dished out the money. 

Instead of traditional financial checks on income and what you could afford, they switched to a risk assessment. 

Anyone could have a mortgage. The risks were bundled up and sold off. Big profits all around. Until the money to buy the bundled debt dried up. 

Northern Rock had given loans worth as much as 125% of home values, to some customers. 

But Northern Rock was just the tip of this iceberg. The financial mess was about to go pear-shaped. 

LibDem, Vincent Cable, has called for legal action against the private directors and warned the £3 billion of taxpayers' money is at risk.

The Rock also revealed customers in arrears and being repossessed, had risen sharply. Last week it announced 1,300 jobs were to go.

It was all an accident waiting to happen leaving taxpayers, now to cough up, pay for the greed and clear up the mess.


Wall-To-Wall Olympics Pandas To China

Welcome to Beijing 2008. Home to big profits, corporate sponsorship and state propaganda. That in a country with an appalling human rights record, ravaged by pollution, its people under the thumb and too scared to speak out.

Spies everywhere, internet access blocked, Thousands have been forced out of their homes for the carnival. But the media doesn't give a toss.

The TV teams and anchors are now in place for the most highly politicised Olympics since Hitler and his henchmen tried to use the 1936 Berlin Olympics for their own propaganda.

Last night, Huw Edwards for the BBC, Mark Austin for ITV and Alex Thompson for Channel 4 News blocked out the bulletins with wall-to-wall Olympic coverage. All trying to see through the smog for stories that will capture some interest back home.

Brown will be there for the opening ceremony on Friday. So will Bush, the first US president ever to go abroad to the Olympics. Both reinforcing the oppressive rule of China's communist regime. Thousands of hangers-on will be there for the freebie.

After the TV pictures of the nice opening ceremony and fireworks display, seen through the pollution, what are you left with?

According to an estimate by the Beijing Olympic Game Organising Group, the total cost of the Games is around £33 billion. Five times the cost of the 2004 Athens Olympics and enough cash to feed the whole population of China for a couple of months. So much for communism.

Political leaders, Olympic committees and athletes, try to play down the politics and play up the sport. But the Olympics is politics, and none more so than in China right now.

The political Olympics does sometimes backfire.

Hitler had his Aryan superiority propaganda thrown back in his face by US black athlete Jesse Owens, who won four gold medals in the Berlin Olympics.

In Mexico City, in 1968, two African-American medal winners raised their fists in a black power salute.

Instead of sucking up to the Chinese authorities, our politicians, athletes and the vast media army should have the guts to show up the Chinese regime and its blatant propaganda for what it really is.


Is Clinton Still In Race for White House?

It may not be all over for Hillary Clinton. The US Democratic convention (DNC), in Denver, is just three weeks away and everyone assumed this would be a coronation for Obama. That was before the Chosen One's star started to fade

Obama's European 'Audacity of Hype Tour' signalled a change in opinion. This was just a presidential hopeful not the President nor even the official candidate. The talk was of a "presumptuous" rather than the "presumptive" candidate.

Obama called it for himself in the US primaries and for a while was riding high on the adulation. Up until then, the McCain camp had been happy to sit back and let Obama and Clinton slug it out.

With Obama putting himself in the spotlight, the McCain campaign had a focus and started in earnest. And it's not going according to the Obama plan. Both candidates are now neck and neck in the polls and the Republicans haven't really got started!

But Clinton has not actually conceded defeat, Sure, she offered support for Obama but only suspended her campaign.

So the DNC delegates are chewing over the options. Have we picked the right one? There's talk of Clinton keeping her name in the hat for the DNC.

Clinton's supporters have been noticeably quiet in their support for Obama - particularly the strong female lobby. Many of Clinton’s reported 18 million supporters felt she was ‘cheated’ out of the nomination. There's talk of an $18m war-chest.

If Clinton did take the ticket, she would bring a huge number of voters with her. 

This would make a formidable force to be up against McCain and their chance of winning the Big Prize, more of a certainty.


Monday, August 04, 2008

The Truth Behind Blair's Leaked Memo

Brown will have to watch his back, while away watching the Olympics in Beijing. Blair and the gang are on the move. The leaked Blair memo, accusing Brown of "dissing the Party", exposes the stranglehold the original New Labour gang has on power and explains Brown's sudden U-turn after his short-lived honeymoon as prime minister. 

Brown was part of the original group which plotted to take over the Labour Party in the late 90s but he was never one of its main architects.

That dubious honour belongs to Tony Blair, Alistair Campbell, Philip Gould, the tight clique of advisors and the master of dark arts, Peter Mandelson. 

The original memo, a watered down version of Blair's views and written in the third person, has Mandelson, Campbell and the top Blair advisors written all over it. 

Flushed with success after taking over the Party and giddy with power over the last ten years, the architects of the New Labour Project were angry at any suggestion of changes and now will stop at nothing to keep alive their pet Project.

The memo revealed in the Mail on Sunday explains a lot. 

Brown, in the first few weeks of his leadership, publicly distanced himself from the Blair years. 

He famously renounced spin and promised to be honest. Ditching the supercasino, rethinking Blair policy on health and education, distancing himself from the Iraq War and hinting at troop withdrawal, was going too far. On that, Brown "dissed our own record", said the memo.  

Then suddenly it all stopped. He came back on-message. Brown spent the rest of the year following the agreed Blair agenda.

The memo was written last autumn, after a disastrous Labour conference which saw Brown 'bottle' a general election.

Brown just wasn't living up to their expectations. They can see disaster in the shape of Cameron, waiting in the wings. Brown is now too much of a liability for The Project. 

Blair has a world agenda and sights on the EU presidency. Mandelson is showing his support for Miliband as the heir to Blair. Campbell is still lurking in the background. 

It's no coincidence this leaked memo came just days after Miliband’s extraordinary challlenge for the leadership. A challenge not dismissed by Mandelson.

Blair recently has been popping up all over the place. So has Mandelson, who is reported to been holding regular talks with Miliband. 

This latest salvo in the Blair plan to keep their grip on power, may prove too strong for the handful of Brownites or the True Labour voice in the Party.

One MP said: “Tony should tell his friends to stop causing trouble and let Gordon get on with the job.” 

Fat chance. Blairite ex-ministers and the back-room team are already plotting their next move.