Friday, January 29, 2010

What is a WMD?

I am not one of those who believes that you solve problems in politics by looking for "true" definitions. But there are times when clarity helps if we are to understand each other.

I, therefore, wish that these two questions had been pursued with Tony Blair at today's Iraq Inquiry - (1) "What did you mean in claiming Saddam Hussein held Weapons of Mass Destruction?" (2) "What did you think that other people thought you were claiming?"

I can appreciate the following point which appears in the Wikipedia entry "Weapon of Mass Destruction" .....the American Dialect Society voted "weapons of mass destruction" (and its abbreviation, "WMD") the word of the year in 2002, and in 2003 Lake Superior State University added WMD to its list of terms banished for "Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness".

My own reasons for voting against the invasion of Iraq was that it was highly likely to produce a humanitarian disaster - which is what resulted. I held to this view whatever WMDs were and whether or not Saddam Hussein held them. For if he did not hold them, then Tony Blair's legal case was empty and if he did hold them (and they were dangerous and nasty) then he would surely use them - invasion would be like prodding a mad dog with a stick.

I was, however, a supporter of regime change - as I am with many current regimes in the world. But I believed the best way to achieve this was via people supporting progressive clandestine forces in Iraq who also had support amongst Iraqi exiles. It has since been revealed that Saddam Hussein's hold on power was not as secure as Bush and Blair pretended.

30th January : Then there is this update from today's Daily Telegraph

Sunday, January 24, 2010

What Can We Do With Capitalism?

Today's Sunday Telegraph contains this important extract from Joseph Stiglitz's book "Freefall: Free Markets and the Sinking of the Global Economy" (Allen Lane, 2010). The book is due to be published on 28 January. The extract appears under the heading "Why We Have To Change Capitalism".

Stiglitz presents a Keynesian-style case for international and governmental controls, regulations and interventions over the operations of capitalism, especially in relation to its speculative financial activities.

There is a danger that numbers of socialists will reject Stiglitz approach on the grounds that we need to replace capitalism rather than trying to help it survive by reforming its operations. Such a reaction to Stiglitz's proposals would be mistaken.

For those of us who believe that socialism and democracy reinforce each other, the proposals which Stiglitz advocates would help to open up a space in politics where democratic socialist ideas would once more be able to live and breathe. Such an objective should be our priority. Always remember that our own economic crisis of 1931 and the immediate electoral collapse of Labour was eventually followed by the election in 1945 of a Labour Government with a substantial majority who produced a mixed economy with a welfare state and full employment.

For socialists who remain in doubt, please check this out.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

More On Easington Colliery.

Via my comment box on this item I have been contacted by "Barbara1895" who is interested in finding details out about her grandparents who at one time lived in Easington Colliery. She now lives overseas in Canada. I am using this current item as a convenient way of reproducing a map of Easington which has no date on it, but is about a decade or more old.

Click onto the map itself and it will be significantly enlarged.

In section D2 of the map there is a 90 degree turn in the red road. The streets of terraced houses shown in this area were colliery houses occupied by coal miners and their families when the pit was in operation.

There is a block of 16 terraced houses to the north of the red road before it turns to the south. These were 16 streets which all began with the letter "A". The area is known locally as "North". Barbara believes that her grandparents lived in Allen Street, which is probably where her father was born in 1926. This is the third street along from the eastern end of this block of houses. The pit was closed in 1993, but it had been situated in what is shown as a blank space on the map directly to the east of these houses.

"North" is made extensive use of in the film "Billy Elliot". See for example 1 minute and 30 seconds into this extract, until 2 minutes 23 seconds when it makes use of colliery houses in a different area. That area is the block of houses shown on the map as being to the east of the red road as it moves to the south. Here the terraced streets all began with the letter "C" and are known as "East".

A third block of houses (and the first to be built) is situated to the west of the red road, but is known as "South" - as it is opposite "North". These steets all start with the letter "B". At one time I lived at 18 Baldwin Street,

There were extra streets of colliery houses in this area, including Station Road and Office Street. Making some 900 colliery houses in all. Since the closure of Easington's pit in 1993, numbers of these houses have been knocked down and the ground cleared. Others have been renovated or replaced.

Barbara states that her grandfather became unemployed in the 1930s and eventually moved to Warwickshire. This is likely to have been a result of the economic depression, which led to the main coal seam at Easington being closed in June 1933. It led to many families leaving the area.

This link to three poems provides information on developments in both Easington Village and Easington Colliery. The central poem is by Mary N Bell who has considerable expertise about the history of the area. I will pass the exchanges between Barbara and myself on to Mary who might have knowledge about some of the individuals to whom Barbara refers.

This is by Mary on the "Wartime in Easington".

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Snow : In Case You Have Missed It.

Scenes from our house taken yesterday by my wife. The snow is now thicker. The first photo shows part of the view I look out upon over my computer. The second photo is taken from the kitchen doorstep. The final photo is what I look out upon when I do the washing up. The building in the background being the local Baptist Church built in 1871. It all looks fine if you use a walking stick and are housebound in such conditions. But its not so good for my wife who has just popped out to do the shopping.



NOTE 16 JANUARY : At last it has rained and much of the snow has disappeared.