Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Keep True, President Obama

Today, Barack Obama starts his first day as US president, after being inaugurated yesterday 20th January 2009 as America's 44th president and its first black leader. He has pledged a "new era of responsibility" and many around the world are still celebrating. Others are questioning whether he will be able to live up to the expectations that millions have of him or whether he has set himself a challenge that can not be overcome.
I am neither political enough, knowledgeable enough of American history or intelligent enough to debate the issues deeply. I have listened to his inaugural speech and read of his background and policies. He appears to me to be honest and trustworthy and genuinely caring towards all, though this is usual with people when they begin office. Everything he proposes will take time and no one should expect immediate change. But if he succeeds in even a small amount of what he intends, then we should wish him well.
I have not been a believer in George Bush’s policies and have felt ashamed at our own leaders here in Britain, who have so often followed in his path. Hopefully, President Obama will be someone who presides well and Britain can feel proud to have the government and people of the USA as allies.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

More discussion on the "D" word

Following the cancellation of the Wentworth Valley Area Assembly meeting on 8th January, a further meeting was held on 15th January at Bramley Parish Hall to discuss the issue of “Democracy” as had been previously planned. At the earlier meeting, the new chairman, Cllr Chris McMahon and vice-chair Cllr Amy Rushforth, put in place as many say unethically and against the constitution, by Rotherham Labour Councillors, called a halt to the meeting amidst cheers and jeering.
The previous chairman Cllr Peter Thirlwall (who had the total support of the Assembly) was told he was out of order when he tried to speak and members of the public were told to be quiet when they tried to ask questions about the election of the new chairman.

The next week, the meeting at Bramley was of a completely different nature from start to finish. Everyone was welcomed by Rob Foulds, a well known council critic and campaigner from Bramley, who clarified the reason for the meeting. A vote was then taken as to who should chair it and Cllr Thirlwall was unanimously voted for.
He suggested that a motion be proposed so that a fair debate take place. The motion read :
“The Wentworth Valley Area Assembly believes that RMBC displays a cavalier attitude to local democracy and pays scant regard to the wishes of the community. RMBC has demonstrated their contempt of members of the Area Assembly by the removal of a popular chairman and their attempt to replace him with someone of little or no community support or political mandate.”
Councillors and members of the public from Maltby, Bramley and Wickersley were asked if they wished to speak. Some believed that RMBC does what it wants regardless of public opinion and that the elected council is a sham of democracy. It was reported that Mr Tim Mumford, head of Legal Services at RMBC, had been contacted by numerous people and that his responses were far from satisfactory or democratic.
A run down was given on how the Area Assemblies came about and how they have developed and a range of views was given on experiences in the past and hopes for the future. There were differing opinions on some issues, such as whether the Area Assemblies should be abolished or not, but throughout, views were aired and discussed in a civilised productive manner. This has been a characteristic of WVAA until recently, when the democratic approach seems to have been abandoned.
After the discussion a vote was taken on the motion, which was passed unanimously.

The future of WVAA and the other Assemblies in Rotherham area is uncertain. What RMBC decide to do, if anything, is anyone’s guess at the moment. Hopefully, the situation can be sorted amicably and more importantly democratically. That is, after all, the system that most of us believe we live in and expect RMBC to demonstrate.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Godwin's Law or God's Law?

Revd John P Richardson on his blog yesterday ( spoke of the increasing use of “Godwin’s Law” in discussions and reporting on the current situation in Israel. This law suggests that "As a Usenet (internet) discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches ." The rule does not say that any reference or comparison to Adolf Hitler or the Nazis might be appropriate, but only that one arising is increasingly probable.
John Richardson then goes on to substantiate his claims by quoting comments made most recently:
“Gaza is a ghetto, in exactly the same way that the Warsaw Ghetto was, and people are trapped in it.” - Ken Livingstone
“[The Israelis] will continue to create a Warsaw Ghetto in the Middle East.” - Brian Eno
“Those murdering [the occupants of Gaza] are the equivalent of those who murdered the Jews in Warsaw in 1942.” - George Galloway
Apparently , Cardinal Renato Martino the Pope's justice minister, likened the Gaza Strip to a "big concentration camp".

In his very interesting blog, John questions why people do this. Is it a case of tit- for- tat killings between Israelis and Palestinians or is it in fact a case of hatred, which is being aggravated or even incited by these comparisons ?

Perhaps it is not so much an issue of “hate” that some feel but more that most are so horrified and appalled at the situations that we become lost in our attempts to describe and find it easier to “liken”. Hate is a word that I try not to use (not always successfully, I admit) but try to believe that when hatred shows itself by who and in whatever way, it is hatred of the action itself and not of the person actioning. Idealistic, I suppose, but a philosophy that I would like to think I practice. A philosophy that does not rely on a particular religion or on secularity – but on a faith in humankind.
“He that hateth dissembleth with his lips, and layeth up deceit within him; When he speaketh fair, believe him not: for there are seven abominations in his heart. Whose hatred is covered by deceit, his wickedness shall be shewed before the whole congregation.”
(Proverbs 26:24-26)

Oh, that we could all somehow come to a faith in humankind and human kindness, to lose our hatred of others and our love for power. And for God’s sake let the horror in Gaza (and many other places in the world) end.

(see my blog "Sheffield V Beirut" for similar sentiments)

Thursday, 8 January 2009

More farmyard antics - Hee Haw, Hee Haw !!

What a splendid example of the "democracy" that is in process in Rotherham, was shown at today's Area Assembly meeting at Wickersley - where the main item on the agenda was DEMOCRACY. In other words - there IS none!
At a very well attended meeting, the "new chairman" (elected in a way that is against the constitution of the assembly itself) was asked by a member of the public to introduce himself, as he attempted to run a meeting with total disregard for public opinion and views - which is the whole idea of the Area Assemblies.

At today's meeting after refusing to acknowledge a part of the constitution that was read to him, the Cllr acting as Chairman told various people to "be down sat" (????!!!!) when they tried to voice their opinion on the situation, and then he closed the meeting.

Cllr Thirlwall suggested that those who wished to, remain and discuss the main item on the agenda. He was told that this would be an illegal meeting as the room was booked for WVAA.For those who DO wish to discuss democracy, a meeting at Bramley Parish Hall, Bramley, Rotherham, next Thursday 6.30pm.
"It is vitally important that you, as a resident of Wentworth Valley, have your say on what you want the council and its partners to focus on" WVAA website "Cllr Peter Thirlwall explained “IT IS YOUR MEETING” and therefore future area assembly meetings would be run on the basis of the public choosing the topics that they would like to see on the agenda for discussion" WVAA minutes 24th July 2008

"Councillor Thirlwall thanked the Area Assembly Meeting for all their support in trying to thwart his removal as Chair of the Area Assembly; an article had also appeared in the Star, Maltby News and the Bramley Advertiser.Darren Smithson also sent letters of support for Councillor Thirlwall to Councillors Roger Stone, Mike Cuff and Tim Mumford. He has received an acknowledgement from the Chief Executive Councillor Mike Cuff. Councillor Thirlwall went on to say that he thinks this will be his last Area Assembly meeting, as the next Council Meeting will take place on 8 October and this is the meeting where he believes he will be removed as Chair.Don Buxton thought that this would be a tragedy for the Area Assembly, Wentworth Valley and especially Bramley Village, after the way he has looked after the residents.A member of public thought Councillor Thirlwall should continue as Chair, as the Area Assembly was a public meeting and therefore it should be the public who decide who is going to be their Chair and not the Council.It was asked why a Borough Council member needed to be a Chair and suggested that a Parish Council member be considered Councillor Thirlwall went on to explain that the position is appointed each year in May, and is not usually removed during the year only under exceptional circumstances. He went on to say that “I appreciate your views, I will inform them of the wishes of the community, but it won’t change the constitution.”Councillor Thirlwall was thanked for chairing the meetings and supporting the community and went on to ask Councillor McMahon if he will support Councillor Thirlwall.Councillor McMahon replied that the constitution is that the Council appoint, but he said that he would support Councillor Thirlwall." WVAA 11th September 2008
A full vote of confidence in Councillor Thirwall as chair was made at this meeting.

When will the next Area Assembly be, and more importantly, who will be the Chairman ? Who knows…….
RMBC and it’s puppets have made it plain that they will do what they want, when they want.
Are we going to let them continue with this ?

For more examples of comments and agreements made, then totally disregarded by those who supposedly "govern" us...visit

Friday, 2 January 2009

Follow up from yesterday

Since posting yesterday's blog, I have had a few emails from people saying...ok, what can we do ?

I appreciate that this is a valid point. It's no good proclaiming what's going on and saying that it is wrong, without a suggestion of what to do. For that I apologise.
For those who did not receive a maill from me regarding this situation, this website gives details of what some are trying to do to help in the UK. (The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) aims to raise public awareness about the occupation of Palestine and the struggle of the Palestinian people. PSC seek to bring pressure on both the British and Israeli government to bring their policies in line with international law. PSC is an independent, non-governmental and non-party political organisation with members from communities across the UK)

It is not an incitement to demonstrate, unless one feels the need to , but it does give some other suggestions for action that can be taken for those who are concerned and wish to voice/share their views. For example -
Write to your MP urging them to insist that Prime Minister Gordon Brown acts to ensure:
An immediate end to Israel's military assault on Gaza
An immediate end to the blockade and siege on Gaza
An end to Israel's violations of international law
An end to Israeli occupation

Personally, I do not believe that this is a battle only betweeen Palestinians and Israelis anymore- the situation has gone way beyond that. But that fact that innocent civilians are being killed daily is surely a humanitarian cause for all of us to act upon, if possible.

Thursday, 1 January 2009

So, today a new year, 2009 has arrived, and many of us I am sure, are wondering what changes, for the better, there will be.
Some new laws have come into being in this country but whether the majority of us will be affected, remains to be seen.
From today, coastguards around Britain will not be able to fire flares during night rescues. This is apparently in line with changing rescue practices and more use of night-vision goggles. Crews still with flares will have to hand them to the Ministry of Defence or face prosecution. I wish they would bring in a similar law to this about fireworks

Still on the medical scene, cancer patients will get free prescriptions from today, (in Northern Ireland patients will get slightly cheaper prescriptions, for some reason) This is good news at least. And 13year-old girls may be vaccinated against HPV, the sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cancer of the cervix. I suppose that is good news too, but it’s a little disturbing (to me) to say it.
“Extreme pornography” images become illegal. (I thought they already were)
The Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association have introduced new health screening practices for animals so that they will be certified for glaucoma. More good news. And it is now 20p cheaper to drive a car or motor caravan across the Severn bridge.
But amidst this, the headline “Gazans fight cold and hunger as supplies run dry” scream a little more loudly at me. Yes, far away from us, and not our concern maybe? Get our own back yard sorted before we start on someone elses?
I don’t think so.
Smashed windows in the middle of winter caused by bomb blasts from Israeli air strikes, mean people are huddling together in one room trying to keep warm and find something to eat. Medical supplies have almost ran out and more attacks are expected.
There has been no electricity for days, pumps have failed and water supplies have run dry. Toilets and showers are unheard of now even for the most war-hardened Gazans .Just staying alive is the main priority. Even before these recent hostilities, a friend of mine, like so many others, struggles to survive on about £160 a month – if they get sick, even if the hospitals would take them, which they won’t at the moment only taking seriously wounded…they would not have the money for medicines. Nobody knows what the next target will be. No one really knows if their neighbour is a sympathiser with Hamas or not – but if they are and you are found out, chances are your house will be blown up.
Many belive that Arab countries are the ones who have left them to their fate.without any support. Civilians, with no hand in political disputes are the victims of the siege and of the politics.. And innocent people continue to be killed, mercilessly.

Is this really 2009 ?