Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Turbulent Twins

Tony and Gordon In The Eyes of Capitalism.
Alan Greenspan was the head of the Federal Reserve in America from 1987 to 2006. He was the crown prince of world capitalism. He has written a book entitled "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World" (Allen Lane 2008).

Below I give an extract from a review of his book by Prem Sikka which appeared in Tribune. His quote from Greenspan's book confirms what democratic socialists knew all along.

"Greenspan was a key player in the expansion of Reaganomics and the rolling back of the state...He praises Thatcherite economic policies and offers his evaluation of former Prime Minister Tony Blair and present Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Referring to a meeting in 1994 he says: "It appeared to me that Brown was the senior person. Blair stayed in the background while Brown did most of the talking about New Labour. Gone were the socialist tenets of postwar Labour leaders...Brown espoused globalisation and free markets and did not seem to be interested in reversing much of what Thatcher had changed in Britain. The fact that he and Blair had arrived at the doorstep of a renowned defender of capitalism (namely, me) solidified my impression"

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Super Sunday At Sunderland

I saw Sunderland lose 1-0 at home to the Arsenal on Sunday. The last time I saw the equivalent was at the start of the 1957-58 season when Len Shackleton (left)
played his last game for Sunderland in another 1-0 defeat by the Arsenal. I hold a signed copy of the first edition of his autbiography "Clown Prince of Soccer" with its famous chapter entitled "The Average Director's Knowledge Of Football" which he left blank. The cover of the book shown here is from a similarly titled biography of Shackleton by Colin Malam.

All Roads Lead To The Modern Roker Park

With nothing at stake, Sunderland had their largest home crowd of the season for its final game on Sunday against the Arsenal. The turnout of 47,802 was only 553 short of the record for the Stadium of Light. It is a pity the Arsenal hadn't sold all its quota of tickets.

The Sunderland supporters had turned up to celebrate the fact that their team had already established their survival in the Premiership. It was great for them to go to a game where they did not need to bite their fingernails. The only downside was that we lost 1-0, but then they always were "lucky Arsenal".

Annual Pilgrimage

My son, Stephen and I were also making our first and only visit of the season. He travelled up via a direct train from Kings Cross, whilst I was obliged to change at both Doncaster and Newcastle for the shorter journey from Sheffield.

Remarkably, as I made my way along the platform Stephen's train arrived on the next line. I was now very much on home territory as I once worked as a railway clerk at Sunderland station. It was when standing outside the parcels office that I first caught a glimpse of Ann, whom I went on the marry.

First Stop, The Pub

Stephen (who is Steve to everyone but his parents) and I next walked a short distance along Fawcett Street to Yates' for meals and a shared taste in Guinness. Unfortunately, the forecast of sunshine and warm weather hadn't taken account of the mist rolling in from the North Sea. I was a fool for not anticipating this as I lived just down the coast at Easington Colliey for a quarter of a century. Mists were standard there, whilst the sun shone brightly a short distance inland at Easington Village.

Luckily I had a Sunderland scarf and cap in my bag and the protection these provided were more than adequate.

Mackem The Most Of It

After watching some of the Watford-Hull play off on the big screen, we undertook a classical walk. Back down Fawcett Street (I pretended that the town planners had not mucked it up in the 1970s), past where the late and great Len Shackleton ran a modest tobacconist when he packed up football (see above)and then onto the Wear Bridge. Crossing the bridge is still magic. It had to be crossed in the old days to get to Sunderland's former ground at Roker Park. Nowadays it is packed with Mackem's in Red and White striped shirts crossing the the River Wear. It is this which gives Sunderland its name as it is the land which is cut asunder by the river.

It was then off to the Stadium of Light which is just on the other bank, passing the end of the street where Ann once worked for what is now the huge firm of Edward Thompson. Yet she was its first ever full-time secretarial worker.

Into The Light

After a quick pint at the ground, Stephen and I made our way to near the back of the main stand, almost directly overlooking the half-way line. We had a great view. It was,however, somewhat disconcerting when wisps of cloud and seagulls floated past below us. Yet it all added to the atmosphere for "this is Sunderland, this is Sunderland".

At half time we discovered a supporter behind us from Chesterfield whom we had last met at Old Trafford when Sunderland typically lost to Millwall in an FA Cup Semi-Final.

All I will say about the game is that Sunderland played their reserve goalkeeper and dropped Kieran Richardson for bad time-keeping. I suppose that Keane wanted to see if he needed to keep Marton Fulop as cover for keeper Craig Gordon. Along with Jonny Evans the on-loan central defender whom the whole of Sunderland are desperate should be signed from Manchester United, Fulop was a man of the match. A full report for Sunderland fans is given here.

Time To Reflect

When the game was over I dashed as fast as my walking stick would take me for the Metro to start my journey home via Newcastle, where the Arsenal fans would speculate on what a local Derby with the Geordie's must be like. Like nothing on earth!

I left Stephen heading for the Club shop as he had time to spare before returning home, non-stop to Kings Cross. Luckily for me, I had a copy of the fine fanzine "A Love Supreme" to read on the Newcastle to Doncaster leg of my return home. I particularly enjoyed the "Review of the Season", then a well assessed section on who should stay at the club and who should go, plus a piece stressing the need to find a top line and authoritative club captain - a Keane on the park. I hope that the Keane on the touch-line takes these items to heart.

Keen On Keane

I then moved on to study the 80 page Sunderland programme and was soon into calculating. In the first half of the season we gained only 14 points from 19 games. The equivalent in the second half of the season gave us 25 points. The first half of the season spelt early relegation. The second half of the season spelt solid mid-table. A main difference was the arrivals of Phil Bardsley, Andy Reid and on-loan Jonny Evans.

There is another astonishing statistic. We lost all ten games against the top five teams in the League, scoring only 3 goals against them and conceding 25. Only Derby County equalled this miserable record. But it means that against the remaining 14 teams we held our own - winning 11, drawing 6 and losing 11; with 33 goals in our favour and 34 against.

Our problem against the top teams is that we have invariably played against them with a loan striker, hence our only goals in these games have been one in a 7-1 drubbing by Everton and two in a unique second half revival at the Arsenal when we lost 3-2. Perhaps there is a further tactical lesson here for Keane.

But we dare not complain too much in case he takes the huff and leaves us. For he has filled the ground again with an average Premiership crowd of 43,344 (the 4th highest) compared to 33,904 (10th) in our previous Premiership season of 2005-6. Although some of us see facilitator Neil Quinn as the quiet power behind the throne - as they say "Quinness Is Good For You".

Roll on next season's pilgrimage.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Meeting Maliki In Baghdad

Dave Anderson MP, Joint President of "Labour Friends of Iraq" (LFIQ) and its Director Gary Kent were part of a small delegation which have just returned from Iraq after meeting with Prime Minister Maliki and others in Baghdad. The case for Trade Union Rights in Iraq was high on their agenda. As Vice-President of LFIQ I will keep readers posted on the feed-back. Here is an initial report.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Bob Pele

Here is a reply to this comment from Bob Piper. On the left is the model for the "Bob Piper T-shirt". The source is that fine fanzine "A Love Supreme"

Saturday, May 10, 2008

E I Addio

I don't know what Alec Ferguson would have made of it, but in the two months between 8th March and the 8th of May, Sheffield FC played a total of 22 League, Play-Off, Cup and Friendly games. The pressure took its toll last Saturday, when they missed out on promotion to the Unibond Premier League. But they bounced back in their final game on Thursday to win the Sheffield and Hallamshire Senior Cup against Worksop Town at Hillsborough.

It was a great festive evening for Sheffield FC fans. On a fine and warm evening, the 583 spectators were quite reasonably confined to the main South Stand. Janet, Dave and I had fine seats at a great vantage point near the back of the stand.

As the game started it looked as if we were in for the same treatment we had seen when our team lost in the play-off final at Nantwich. Worksop dominated initially and at that stage our star players were our goalkeeper James Holmshaw and the woodwork. But after the first quarter of an hour the tide turned completely. Worksop never got back into the game except for a 5 minute spell at the start of the second half. I was soon able to shout at the three empty sides of the ground "its all gone quite over there!"

Striker Rob Ward was again drafted into central defence and was as solid as a rock. Matt Lowton was in his element in the mid-field ensuring that we were normally on the attack. Smudge (Paul Smith) ploughed forward from the left back position, whilst Jon Boulter acting as a central defender moved across to cover for him.

Gavin Smith our right-back and acting captain was more cautious, yet he was the one who struck from the edge of the six yard box in both the 27th and 69th minutes to clinch the match 2-0.

Worksop Town are in the League we had been seeking promotion to. To be in control of a game against them indicated that we would not have disgraced the Unibond Premier League if we had succeeded in moving up from Step 4 to Step 3 of the Non-League Pyramid. Our performances in this and other cup games we have undertaken against Unibond Premiership teams give us high hopes of being able to grasp promotion next season and then to hold our own at that higher level.

This season has been impressive. Promoted from Step 5 we made the fourth spot in the League, had good cup runs, won the above Senior Cup, had a fine set of 150th Anniversary Celebrations including games at Bramall Lane against Inter Milan and Ajak with respective crowds of 18,471 and 5,173 whilst signing up Pele and a host of other high profile football figures as members - not least Bob Piper.

Sheffield Wednesday did a fine job for us at Hillsborough. Not only did I obtain my fine seat at the £3 concessionary rate, but we were all given free programmes as we entered the ground. It didn't, therefore, matter that much that the pre-match and half-time pints were at League Club prices. Besides Janet, Dave and I made our way back to the Dronfield Contact Club afterwards to celebrate. It has the advantage of cheaper prices for drink, continuing good company and it hosts many of our local Labour Party activities. What more could you ask for - apart from promotion.

For other reports of the game see here and here.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Trade Unionists Arrested For May Day

Wellington Chibebe (opposite) and Lovemore Matombo (see this video) are respectively General Secretary and President of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions. They have been detained in Harare for exercising their rights to make May Day Speeches.

Here is the letter of protest to Zimbabwe's Ambassador from our TUC, dated 9 May.

"Dear Ambassador

Detention of Trade Unionists

On behalf of the TUC General Council, I write to express our deep concern over the detention of the leaders of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) on 8 May 2008 in Harare.

Our information is that Mr Wellington Chibebe, General Secretary of ZCTU and Mr Lovemore Matombo, President, were both detained at the Harare Central Police Station in connection with the speeches made by them on May Day. We have also learnt that they have been charged with inciting people to rise against the government and spreading falsehoods about the current political crisis in your country.

The detention of trade unionists for organizing activities relating to the exercise of their legitimate rights constitutes a gross violation of the ILO Declaration of Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Moreover, your country, which ratified Convention 98(1998) and Convention 87 (2003), is obliged to observe the workers' rights enshrined in them. This incident will, no doubt, tarnish the image of your country and further aggravate the current problems, making national dialogue and reconciliation even more difficult.

We urge you to pass on our deep concern over the safety of the colleagues to your Government, use your influence with the authorities to secure their immediate release and ensure that all Zimbabweans are allowed to exercise their democratic rights without interference from the State.

Yours sincerely
Brendan Barber
General Secretary"

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Who Will Be Obama's Running Mate?

Here is Eric Lee's strong recommendation (trawl down to 7 May) for John Edwards (left) and how you can support it. He states -

"John Edwards set the agenda for all the candidates in the early stages of the primary battles. He came up with the first and best comprehensive health care plan. He raised the issue of poverty as no leading politician has done for 40 years. His charisma, his abilities and his appeal to those voters Obama must win in November are beyond dispute."

See also here.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Whose Side Are You On In Iraq?

Whose side are you on in Iraq? Try Madeeha Hasan Odhaib (opposite). The following is from Time Magazine on the 100 most influential people in the world.

Madeeha Hasan Odhaib
By Queen Rania

"It's not every day that success stories echo out of Iraq into the halls of power, but Madeeha Hasan Odhaib defies the norm. Armed with her sewing machine, unflinching stoicism and determination, Madeeha, 37, is mending the fabric of Iraq.

Four years ago, this mother of two and seamstress turned district council member took three sewing machines, leveraged them into 60 and built a business sewing hospital sheets and flags. She now employs 100 women. That figure may seem insignificant compared with the accomplishments of other achievers on TIME's list. But in a country with more than 60% unemployment and rampant poverty, such efforts provide a lifeline. Each woman Madeeha employs returns home with an invaluable sense of self-respect, money in her purse, food for her children and optimism for a daughter desperately seeking a role model amid mayhem. Madeeha also treads—or, rather, threads—the line between activism and heroism. She has coordinated with the Red Crescent, Red Cross, Hands of Mercy and Iraqi army to distribute food around Baghdad. And despite threats, she says she'll never give up.

Iraq is suffering one of the worst humanitarian crises we have ever seen. While Madeeha rightly makes Time's list, women like her are found throughout Iraq, sewing hope one stitch at a time. Through Madeeha, we celebrate all of Iraq's courageous women, whose resilience and resourcefulness hold the promise of a new dawn."

Queen Rania of Jordan is a champion of women's rights in the Middle East

Hat Tip - Treasure of Baghdad

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Bewitched By Nantwich

This is the Weaver Stadium, home of Nantwich Town FC.

Sheffield Of Derbyshire

On Saturday I had a fine day at Nantwich near Crewe. Although I was with fellow Labour Party activists Janet and Dave, we did not go to canvas for the Bye-election which has arisen because of the sad death of Gwyneth Dunwoody. We went to a football match instead. Our local team is the "Derbyshire-based, Sheffield FC", who were in a play-off with Nantwich Town to see who would be promoted to the Unibond Premier League.

Non-League Millionaires

Nantwich have an impressive new ground, which they moved to at the start of the season. It cost £4 million. They were assisted by a grant of over a million from the Football Foundation and sold their old ground for a housing development. I assume that Barratt's were the purchasers as they now sponsor Nantwich Town.

The ground is fronted by a huge car park, has a stand which seats some 400 and has all sorts of impressive mod-cons. The crowd of 1,342 was a record for the season. Although their post-war record is 1,536 last season when they were visited by the well-supported FC United of Manchester.

After travelling to Nantwich on a pleasant sunny day through captivating Derbyshire and Cheshire countryside, we had a pleasant pub-lunch and saw a chunk of the Manchester United - West Ham game on a large screen.

A One-Sided Draw

At the Nantwich ground in the blazing sun and with a refreshing breeze, we found a vantage point opposite one of the penalty spots. Unfortunately, much of the game was dominated by the home team. I gave my excuses to the locals. This was our 20th game in 8 weeks and some of our key players were out through injury. So it was no surprise when Nantwich took the lead just after the half-hour. Yet when we moved into first-half added time, Smudge (Paul Smith) produced one of his magical free-kicks to put us on level-terms. A pile of home supporters had by then made it into the club-bar, ensuring that the rest of us would be left outside. So Smudges curler was poetic justice.

Nantwich's continued domination put them back in the lead after 71 Minutes. But thanks to heroic work by both our goalkeeper (Jamie Holmshaw) and the woodwork, our hopes were still alive when 5 minutes added-time was announced after the 90 Minutes. Robert Ward our normal striker, had been drafted into central defence due to our injury crisis. He had played a solid game. But with the announcement that the game was approaching closure, he threw caution to the wind and rushed up the field and headed an equaliser. That put us into extra-time.

Paying The Penalty

Nantwich's spirits at last dipped and Sheffield did more attacking in extra-time than in the rest of the game put together. But an unlikely victory wasn't to be ours. It was 2-2 after extra-time and we were into the penalty shoot out, which occurred from the penalty spot opposite us. Yet the result had an inevitability about it. In cup games this season Nantwich had already won 3 penalty shoot outs. They now added their fourth, winning 4-1 from the spot.

So whilst the home supporters stayed behind to celebrate, we made an early break for the car-park. All the apprehension had been thirsty work so we stopped off for a pub-break. Now we watched most of the second-half of Bolton against my team Sunderland on the big screen, with the Mackem's losing 2-0.

Things Can Only Get Better

But the beauty of football is that it can always be better next time. So I am lined up for a visit to Hillsborough on Thursday when Sheffield FC play Worksop Town in a cup final. Then its on to the Stadium of Light next Sunday to see Sunderland change its fate against a top team. So far this season we have lost all the 9 games we have played against the top 5 teams. The 10th match is against the Arsenal. Smudge, Ward, Holmshaw and the woodwork have shown that anything is possible outside of a penalty shoot-out.

Added Here is a link to a report with photos. If you then click onto the photo of the penalty to bring up its large version and trawl to the right, then from right to left the last three people are Janet, Dave and me - honest.

Monday, May 05, 2008

A Thought On May Day

Given his interest in the Workers' Party of Ireland, this is mainly for Johnny Guitar. It is from the Northern People of 3/2/1989. Sorry it is cut short. In full it said -

"Mr. Harry Barnes, Labour MP for North Derbyshire gave a full and frank analysis of "Thatcherism" and how it could be combated. Mr. Barnes received resounding applause when he said that "megaphone marxism" was not the way to defeat the Tories nor could it build a conscious working class. Dealing with the everday needs of the people was, he said what the Labour Party were about"

Mind this was said well before the days of Blair and Brown. Of course, I am no longer an MP and it used to be North EAST Derbyshire I represented. This was on my first visit ever to the Island of Ireland. I was then fully involved with its politics for the next 16 years before I retired. Iraq now seems to have taken its place in my priorities.

Sunday, May 04, 2008

May Day In Baghdad

I am always amazed by the complexities of life and activity in Baghdad. We can now give a new meaning to the notion of its "Red Zone". Link here to over 50 photographs of the People's Flag in Baghdad on May Day (including the one above).

The Iraqi Communist Party celebrated May Day with a rally in Firdos Square in central Baghdad, followed by a march to the headquarters of the party. The rally and march were attended by leaders of the party, including the Secretary of its Central Committee, Comrade Hameed Majid Mousa. Thousands of trade unionists, members of democratic organisations and other people participated, carrying banners greeting the Iraqi working class on International Workers' Day.

Hat Tip - General Federation of Iraqi Workers

Friday, May 02, 2008

Out For The Count

It has taken almost 5 weeks for the Electoral Commission in Zimbabwe to declare the results of their Presidential Elections. As there is now to be a run off between Tsvangirai granted 47.9% and Mugabe given 43.2%, how long will it take for this next vote to be announced? It will, of course, depend on who wins, or whom the Electoral Commission dare declare has won.