Monday, December 31, 2007

Google Earth

First, best wishes for 2008 to anyone reading this. I have a busy day ahead ending up at midnight at a hotel dinner. I had a quick, one hour, walk along the local canal. Just a pleasant day out there and not too hot.

I have added four photographs to Google Earth via the Panoramio website with some of the local sites I see on my walks. I would add many more except it takes so long for them to be accepted that it doesn't seem worth it. Hope Google can get this moving a bit. In the meantime I will stick

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Klong Ka Cha Saturday Walk

Only in Bangkok would you be walking down a suburban canal and come across a baby elephant camp with their mahouts in a abandoned half-built house and garden.

Baby elephant camp 2

My daughter was going to school at the old Hua Mak campus so I had her drop me off over there with the intention of walking home. I know very little about these canals closer to town so started my exploration walking west on Klong Ka Cha. Just after starting I found the elephants. They are probably in for the New Year and will be collecting money in some of the busier shopping and entertainment areas. Shame it's the only way the mahouts can make money. Not too long and the working elephant will be gone forever except for the cultural shows.

Baby elephant camp 3

The canal smelt a bit and the water colour was gray so I guess in the more built up areas quite a bit more human waste is entering the water. It would be good if the local authority could find a way of cleaning them up. Even an increase of water flow would help. Maybe they could open up the water gates more often to keep a flow going.

The walk was far longer than I planned, about 6 kilometers in total, and I'm suffering a bit of burning on my arms. That will teach me to be a bit more careful. I had to do about 2 kilometers along the railway under the new airport railway viaduct. The path I was walking on, head-down, was dusty and it was a midday sun. Having just seen the Lawrence of Arabia DVD I was expecting someone to shout Lawrence after me and I was thinking how I would blow up the rail track.

Also just finished watching John Hurt in the "Alan Clarke Diaries" and half way through BBC's adaptation of Le Carré's "A Perfect Spy". Both are new to me and I am enjoying this TV I never saw at the time. I have been picking off specials on Amazon UK recently and two series from Yorkshire TV of a spy thriller called "The Sandbaggers" came today. Arrived in five days over the Christmas period. Not bad.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Benazir Bhutto

I must admit I never had much time for Benazir Bhutto. She, along with her husband, was just one more Pakistani politician from a rich family emptying the country's coffers.

What is upsetting though is that it is a victory for religious extremism. Bhutto was a threat to the Islamic militants for two reasons. One, her party did take support from Pakistan's poor in competition with the extremists and two, she was a woman. It must have really grated with the mullahs to have a Western educated woman in Pakastani politics.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Charlton Athletic 1-1 Hull

Not a great result and the likelihood of an automatic promotion place seems to be getting unlikely. Problems seem to be throughout the squad. Anyway I live in hope.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

First Hitler Youth and now Tony Blair

The poor Catholic Church now has Tony Blair as a member. Just like the Labour Party it has swung to the right. The previous pope set it up so he would be followed by a conservative and we ended up with an ex-Hitler Youth member as the new pope. Well I guess if you are going to have that you may as well invite Blair to the party also.

The Labour Party Part 3

In the 1980s sitting Labour MPs found themselves in danger from the reforms the Constituency Labour Parties, CLP, were pushing through. The ability of the local parties to de-select their MP meant they could be pushed off the gravy train. (I heard Shirley Williams, no friend of left, describing how when looking for a constituency Tony Blair called the local party members 'comrade' to show what a good socialist he was. Re-selection does seem a good idea when faced with such blatant ambition and opportunism;-)

The Parliamentary Labour Party fought back against this attack on their job security and won. To win they had two big weapons. First a left-wing leader, Neil Kinnock, to take on the far left, and second, a good target for media in the Militant Tendency. He attacked them relentlessly and had them expelled from the party. From here on in the power of the CLP was drastically reduced and the PLP wrote the rules.

The birth of New Labour comes out of this destruction of the traditional balance of power within the party. It was not that much later that the power of the unions was also reduced. (The outcome of this we see today with all sleaze related to the major financing of the party by wealthy individuals instead of the unions.) With no opposition within the party the PLP was able to turn its back on Labour's history and any socialist ideology.

There are a few myths around that don't really stand up to scrutiny. First that Kinnock, Smith, Blair and Brown were making the party more democratic. In fact they made it more centralized and self-serving for the leadership. That the unions were somehow to blame when in truth they were never that far to the left. And lastly that it needed this move to the right to be able to take on Tories and win. The truth was that the Tories beat themselves in the end with internal fighting and sleaze.

Were the Militant Tendency to blame? Partly, as they gave Kinnock and company the target to destroy the CLP's power. As revolutionary socialists they saw nothing wrong with the strategy they used, but in hindsight all they did was open door to the right. Probably the most important lesson to be learnt was that most Labour MPs were, and are now, there for things other than socialist principles. Britain's main socialist party was and is represented in parliament by people who were not socialist in the slightest.

The Labour Party Part 2

Up until the 1980s Labour was controlled from the centre or the right of the party. The balance was usually in favour of the combination of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) and the trade union leadership. The Constituency Labour Parties (CLP) leant more to left as they were run by local activists.

This balancing act did run into trouble under Wilson when two of the major unions, the transport workers and the engineering union, did swing to the left. Even here though the unions were more interested in pay and conditions than forcing the whole party to left. Hugh Scanlon of engineers was not especially political although along with Jack Jones of transport workers he was an ex-Communist Party member.

The campaign for more democracy inside the party was not started by the right and New Labour. It had been going for a long time initiated by the left to make the party more responsive to the activists in the CLP. Nye Bevin had relied on the constituency parties as his power base. It reached its peak in the 80s as the local parties tried to bring in rules allowing them to re-select their local MPs. Although often blamed, it wasn't the unions who would have been responsible for a left swing by the party if it had been successful, it would have been a new left leaning PLP teaming up with the CLP.

This was a slow moving process. At the beginning we saw the 'Gang of Four' leave the party to form a new social democrat party. It could well have succeeded as there was a move to left by many inside and outside the party against Thatcherism. The problem was that there was such a good target for the right and centre of the party to aim at in the Militant Tendency.

The Militant Tendency was practicing a strategy used by other Leninist groups of 'entryism'. This where the revolutionary group takes control of an existing, usually reformist, party. Before the war the communist party tried it at one time and after the war various Troskyist parties also used it. Gerry Healy had taken control of the party's youth wing, the Young Socialists, until they were expelled. For the non-revolutionary left the Militant Tendency supplied the bodies needed to gain control of the local parties. I guess Tony Benn and others must have thought they could control them after they had power.

In part 3 we can look at why the reaction of the MPs of PLP to the CLP campaign for democracy gave us what we have today.

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Labour Party Part 1

The Labour Party has always been a broad church. Its members beliefs range the spectrum from neo-liberal, social democrats, Christian socialist, Fabians, to revolutionary socialists. Usually the balance of power in the party favours the centre or the right. In the eighties when the left tried to take control the party swung in the opposite direction. This move to the right was the furthest it had ever gone and probably peaked with the unopposed election of Gordon Brown as leader of parliamentary party. Now we have a Liberal opposition party to left of Labour.

For a long time power in the party resided in three sections, the parliamentary party, the constituency party and the trade unions. Trade unions tend not to be revolutionary as they serve a more defensive role in protecting workers rights. Two of these sections together could outvote the other. The unions and the parliamentary party usually held the party to the right or centre while the constituency party tended to be more to left.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

West Bromwich Albion 4-2 Charlton Athletic

Well this was one I guess most Charlton supporters suspected we might lose. Annoying that Marcus Bent who is loan to Wigan got a hat-trick yesterday. If he could have done that for us we might still be in the top division. A very interesting season. I almost wish I was back there except it's 36C here today and London is 3C.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Pro-Business Government

Many governments, including the UK's, claim to be pro-business. Pre-Blair I doubt a Labour government would have claimed this but the Tories have always been there. What many people never realize is that pro-business can mean different things to different people.

Usually when a politician talks about business he is referring to the big boys, not to the lady who owns the corner shop come post office. Small to medium sized business does not have the same needs as the giant global companies but government policy is seldom framed for their benefit. The big boys are the ones writing the cheques.

As a boy I worked for a GEC company. GEC back then made almost all its money from government contracts which were guaranteed not to lose money. In fact Harold Wilson supplied the funds for GEC to gobble up many other electrical and electronic companies. By the 70s it was sitting on a mountain of cash which it certainly wasn't re-investing into UK industry. Lord Weinstock had very little in common with the small businessman.

If you are supporting a political party for being pro-business it might be best to find out what sort of business it is pro;-)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Charlton Athletic 3-1 Ipswich Town

This is certainly not a boring season. Last year we were a mediocre team trying to stay up in the Premier League. This year we are on a roller coaster ride, winning a couple and losing a couple. If we won and lost equally through the season without drawing we would average 1.5 points a game. This wouldn't be enough to get an automatic promotion place so the boys will need to get a bit better.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

A Career in Politics

I guess everyone going into politics fulltime must look on it at as career as well as a means of taking their beliefs to the public. Of course younger people probably see themselves on a path that leads to being prime minister. Amongst the British upper class a career in politics has always been a respectable occupation. Churchill, for example, followed his father into it.

With the Labour Party you would hope that balance of beliefs and career would tilt towards the beliefs side. I suspect the majority of pre-WW2 Labour MPs were like this. Before the 1945 election Herbert Morrison brought in more university educated candidates as he felt some of the older industrial and mining Labour MPs couldn’t do the job in Parliament. With the massive win in 1945 Labour ended up with not only the most MPs it ever had but also the best educated. Morrison was later to regret what he had done when these new labour MPs voted for one of their own, Hugh Gaitskell, as leader instead of him on Attlee’s retirement.

I suspect that beliefs were driving force in the likes of Ernie Bevin, Nye Bevan and even Clem Attlee although what they believed in may have been quite far apart. Most of today’s Labour MPs I could quite easily imagine being in another party. In other words the balance has moved in the direction of the career.

I guess the Blairs are my best example. Both came into politics via the law. Whereas John Smith had a strong christian socialist belief. Tony seems to be far more vague in what he believes. As we watch many of Labour leadership being hounded for sleazy financial donation scandals the lack of belief in ideas comes out strongly.

Until Labour can get back to having leaders and MPs that actually have an ideology it might just as well be a Tory or Liberal government in power. Maybe a walk in the wilderness will do the party good. For me the ideology of the Labour party is socialism. It comes in many forms and the left and right can argue about it forever, but it is the base of the party. If Gordon Brown and his MPs can not believe in socialism in some form they should leave and join another party.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Monday's Walk

More a chance to upload a few pictures. My daughter dropped me off near Pravet police station and I walked home in about 90 minutes. Went west along Klong Prawet Burirom then north on Klong Thap Chang and finally cross-country to home. A good walk as I haven't been doing that many recently. Below are some pictures you might enjoy.

Banyan Tree
A good looking banyan (fig) tree on the banks of Klong Prawet Burirom. There is another directly behind it. The canal is to the left of the footpath.

New house with boat crane

Unusual to see a new house on a estate with access to the klong. This one even has a boat crane.

Good looking roof

A splendid roof on this moslem family's home on a side canal off Klong Thap Chang

Cardiff City 0-2 Charlton Athletic

Can't make out this team. At least they aren't predictable. They can't win a game at home and then they go off to Wales and bring back all 3 points.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Charlton Athletic 1-3 Burnley

Saturday's result wasn't the ideal start to the month. Another home loss. Nothing more to say on that I think.