ModernityBlog

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Archive for March 2009

Tibetans Attacked Again.

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The Chinese government continues to use all measures to suppress the Tibetans, that includes professionally hacking into their computers remotely, extracting private information then using it against the Tibetans.

The Independent has more:

“The Chinese government is under pressure to answer allegations that it is operating a huge cyber spy network that has hacked into classified files in computers in 103 countries and monitored secret correspondence sent by the office of the Dalai Lama.”

Meanwhile, the West is sucking up the dictators in Beijing:

“LONDON — China isn’t calling for a replacement of the dollar as the world’s main currency, the country’s ambassador to the U.K. said Sunday.

Speaking to the British Broadcasting Corp. ahead of this week’s Group of 20 industrial and developing nations’ summit in London, Ambassador Fu Ying said recent comments by Chinese central-bank Gov. Zhou Xiaochuan calling for a new global reserve currency were meant as a contribution to an old debate.”

Update: Jenny, one of my few readers, points us to an appalling article by Jack Elgin, which repeats many of the false and colonial arguments used to prop up British Imperialism (“When we found them, they were savages under feudal oppression, now they are liberated under our rule, much better off”) and some whatabouttery (“the rest of China is full of oppressed people, why are the Tibetans so special and deserving of freedom?”).

Of course, the question of who runs Tibet never comes up?

A single individual, an appointee from Beijing runs Tibet, not the Tibetans. And more importantly why is China in Tibet? To exploit precious raw materials.

So if like Jack Elgin, you have no problem with dictators (as long as they are far away) or the rape of the Tibetan countryside (the colonial destruction of environment is somehow acceptable, but not when it is close to home) then you might not see any problem with China’s oppressive rule in Tibet.

Just don’t get me started on China’s repression of Tibetans, with the full force of the State security apparatus, or the news blackout that it maintains concerning the seedier and more destructive side of China’s rule in Tibet.

Update 2:
Next, we have Michael Parenti, spouting stuff straight from Peoples Daily about how terrible the previous Tibetan rulers were, a rather old ploy.

But for the sake of the argument, let’s accept Parenti’s evidence and how a small minority ran Tibet, etc

How does that differ from today?

Not much, in fact it is even worse. The local Chinese Communist Party Secretary runs Tibet.

So from the rule of the few to the diktats of the one.

I wonder if Parenti’s book, Democracy for the Few, 2007. Now in its eight edition, a critical study of the U.S. political system.” should be expanded to cover Tibet?

Unless Parenti feels that Americans, but not Tibetans, are deserving of democracy? Which is a very colonial mindset.

Whatever the terrible deeds of Tibet’s past rulers, that does not excuse repressive Chinese rule and the occupation of Tibet.

That should be the starting place for debate on these issues, and not used as an excuse for denying Tibetans the same rights, freedoms and dignity that Westerners (Brits, Americans and Canadians) take for granted.

Written by modernityblog

30/03/2009 at 04:46

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Creme Of Anti-Israeli Boycotts?

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The saga goes on, Engage keeps us updated.

Readers might notice, that Chris of Cafe Creme’s argument, in a recent JC article, is that Creme’s boycott of Israeli products makes him look bad.

Not, that he was wrong, no, or that he hadn’t thought through the implications of his actions, just that it was bad PR for him and his business.

Well, I for one hope that pro-boycotters get all the bad PR they can take.

Later on, Chris of Cafe Creme posts his final rejoiner, which does not even attempt to address any of the points previously raised by commentors at Engage.

No, in fact rather than reflect on these complex issues Creme’s proprietor has become more entrenched, which speaks volumes for the irrationality of pro-boycotters, and in my experience, that’s par for the course.

I suppose that such an attitude is to be expected from pro-boycotters, as they often find it rather hard to justify their views when placed under any form of scrutiny.

Still, I do wish Engage well, but I feel they are a mite overly optimistic that mere arguments can win over those filled with irrational hatred towards Israelis. I am reminded of the quote attributed to Jonathan Swift:

“It is impossible to reason someone out of something that he did not reason himself into in the first place.”

So it is with many anti-Israeli boycotters.

Written by modernityblog

29/03/2009 at 19:28

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Taken In By Jenin.

with 9 comments

I confess that I was alarmed at the offensive in Jenin of 2002, at the time I thought that the media stories of a massacre were true, such was the forceful attention of the Press and TV.

Six years later on I have become more careful and less quick to judge, such is the feeding frenzy around this conflict, that accusations are often false, exaggerated and misleading. Evidence is sometimes slow to emerge and in the battle for the media agenda, real facts get lost.

The AJC’s clip highlights many of these issues and is well worth a viewing.

I was shocked to find out that there are 340+ conflicts are going on in the world, not one, as reading the Western media would frequently suggest. The video is a bit too American and in your face for my taste, but I think its point is ultimately right.

Absorb it and please, think about the Western media’s portrayal of events.

And if you get the chance, try the AJC Jewish IQ Quiz on Anti-Semitism, it is harder than it seems, I only scored 4, so obviously I need to read more books.

Update:
One of my few readers was kind enough to supply a link to an article which illuminates the problem:

“The so-called pro-Palestinian “junta” on the campuses has nothing to offer other than hatred and de-legitimization of Israel. If these folks really cared about the Palestinians, they would be campaigning for good government and for the promotion of values of democracy and freedom in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Their hatred for Israel and what it stands for has blinded them to a point where they no longer care about the real interests of the Palestinians, namely the need to end the anarchy and lawlessness, and to dismantle all the armed gangs that are responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent Palestinians over the past few years.

The majority of these activists openly admit that they have never visited Israel or the Palestinian territories. They don’t know -and don’t want to know - that Jews and Arabs here are still doing business together and studying together and meeting with each other on a daily basis because they are destined to live together in this part of the world. They don’t want to hear that despite all the problems life continues and that ordinary Arab and Jewish parents who wake up in the morning just want to send their children to school and go to work before returning home safely and happily.

Written by modernityblog

25/03/2009 at 02:41

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Art And Racism.

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Whilst reading iKibbitz I noticed this piece on Seven blonde Europeans.

Howard Jacobson comments on the play:

“Quite simply, in this wantonly inflammatory piece, the Jews drop in on somewhere they have no right to be, despise, conquer, and at last revel in the spilling of Palestinian blood. There is a one-line equivocal mention of a suicide bomber, and ditto of rockets, both compromised by the “Tell her” device, otherwise no Arab lifts a finger against a Jew. “Tell her about Jerusalem,” but no one tells her, for example, that the Jewish population of East Jersusalem was expelled at about the time our survivors turn up, that it was cleansed from the city and its sacred places desecrated or destroyed. Only in the crazed brains of Israelis can the motives for any of their subsequent actions be found.

Thus lie follows lie, omission follows omission, until, in the tenth and final minute, we have a stage populated by monsters who kill babies by design – “Tell her we killed the babies by mistake,” one says, meaning don’t tell her what we really did – who laugh when they see a dead Palestinian policeman (“Tell her they’re animals… Tell her I wouldn’t care if we wiped them out”), who consider themselves the “chosen people”, and who admit to feeling happy when they see Palestinian “children covered in blood

Anti-Semitic? No, no. Just criticism of Israel.

Only imagine this as Seven Muslim Children and we know that the Royal Court would never have had the courage or the foolhardiness to stage it. I say that with no malice towards Muslims. I do not approve of censorship but I admire their unwillingness to be traduced. It would seem that we Jews, however, for all our ingrained brutality – we English Jews at least – are considered a soft touch. You can say what you like about us, safe in the knowledge that while we slaughter babies and laugh at murdered policemen (“Tell her we’re the iron fist now”) we will squeak no louder than a mouse when we are abused.”

Also see Radio 4 and Seven Jewish Children.

Written by modernityblog

24/03/2009 at 00:07

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Maps, Guns and Butter?

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No, not a follow up post to my previous one about gun nuts, but rather questioning how otherwise smart people can be taken in by Hamas?

If you think about it, since taking power Hamas have achieved zero for the Palestinians. Hamas have not build any schools or Universities, not built a single road or even clear the rubble from the streets of Gaza. Rather than offer Palestinians any hope, any butter, instead Hamas have spent their time accumulating arms and perfecting weapons.

So Hamas do have one minor point of acclaim, whilst in power they have managed to increase the range of their rockets, as the map below shows:

Hamas rocket range

Hamas prefer guns to butter, the question is, do their Western supporters and sympathisers?

Written by modernityblog

23/03/2009 at 01:13

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Gun Nuts And The BNP

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Lancaster Unity exposes how loopholes in gun laws allow BNPers to acquire deadly weapons:

“To circumvent the legislation, the guns are equipped with longer barrels and wire stocks at the back which together extend their length to 2ft. Only “short” firearms are banned. Another loophole is for the barrel of the .357 to be kept short and the six-shot cylinder adapted to take “front-loading” bullets. Although the guns take longer to reload, they are in most other respects identical to Hamilton’s.

Both types of gun derive from a .357 made by Taurus which is almost identical to a Smith & Wesson. They are readily obtainable in the UK at prices starting at about £500.

Confusion among police forces about how to interpret the law has turned the issuing of firearms licences into a “lottery”, campaigners claim.

Those who have kept up their interest in guns since the ban include Stephen Fyfe, who is standing for the British National party at a by-election for North East Lincolnshire council this Thursday. Fyfe, 34, owns six guns including a seven-shot pump-action shotgun and a long-barrelled .44 handgun. He said that bearing arms was a “right”, adding: “Guns are one of the reasons I am standing for election. I take deep offence at being assumed to be a psycho just because of what someone else has done.” “

Written by modernityblog

22/03/2009 at 18:24

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Sri Lankan

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Radio France Internationale reports:

“The UN’s children’s fund Unicef issued a strong warning on Tuesday that the number of children being killed and injured in the fighting in Sri Lanka is being compounded by a lack of access for aid agencies to areas hit by the fighting.”

Written by modernityblog

21/03/2009 at 01:54

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What A Pile of Bankers!

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Max highlights how Barclays dodged paying a lot of taxes, and when the Guardian wanted to spill the beans then Barclays blocked it via a Court order.

Max has more

Oh and the documents are here.

Sunny breaks the leak.

I would encourage all bloggers to link to Sunny’s Liberal Conspiracy and carry this story.

Written by modernityblog

20/03/2009 at 21:05

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Boycotted by Cafe Crema?

with 3 comments

Over at Bob’s there is a discussion of Cafe Crema’s decision to play at gesture politics and boycott Israeli products.


Update:

A longer discussion is taking place at Engage.

Update 2:

This contribution made me laugh:

” Jonathan Hoffman Says:
March 19, 2009 at 3:01 pm

Chris

You need to be consistent about boycotting Israel products. I’d like to make it easy for you. Please sign this form, print it off and give a copy to your physician. You should also provide one to your next of kin and keep one about your person, in case of a medical emergency. Where about your person you might wish to secrete it is up to you, but suggestions can be provided.

PS this is a free service so send it to your friends who feel the same way about Israel.

*****************

“I, Chris, declare that if admitted to hospital I do not want to receive any Zionist medical treatment developed in Israel or by Israelis, wherever in the world they may reside. This includes in particular the miniaturised, self-propelling, self-navigating and disposable colonoscopic camera called the Aer-O-Scope. This Zionist technology was developed by Ben Goldwasser who founded the Israeli startup company GI-View in 2003. The Aer-O-Scope uses a balloon and air pressure to carry a miniature camera though the bowel. The camera boasts a feature called Omnivision – which enables 360 degree viewing of the colon, including inside hard-to-see folds where polyps tend to grow. A study, published as the cover story in the March 2006 issue of the medical journal Gastroentology, reported that in trials conducted in Croatia, the device made it through the entire length of the colon in 10 of 12 people. According to Professor Nadir Arber, head of the Department for Cancer Prevention at the Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center, and president of GI View’s scientific advisory board, the Aer-O-Scope provides images comparable with those of a standard colonoscopy, but with virtually none of the discomfort. The idea of using a camera in a device that moves through the colon is not new, according to Goldwasser, who trained at Duke and the Mayo Clinic before becoming professor and chairman of the department of urology at Tel Hashomer Medical Center in the 1980s. “The reason others failed is because they tried to think of motion in a classical sense – as motion created by traction – whether it’s traction on the ground when you’re walking or traction on the road,” he explained. “The colon is covered with mucous – which makes it slippery, much like ice. And like walking on ice, you have to glide. So the idea of the motion balloon came to us. If you have a balloon that can change its shape and diameter according to the changing shape of a colon, it could work like a piston inside an engine’s cylinder. Just like a cylinder is driven by the air pressure, if you take a balloon that accommodates to the size and shape of the area it’s in, it can be driven forward.” The device consists of a disposal unit with a rectal introducer, supply cable and scope contained within a scanning balloon, plus an automated console that directs the action under the guidance of a technician. The operator introduces the device into the rectum, and presses the forward button on the control panel. First the rectal balloon is inflated and then the scanner balloon with the embedded electro optical capsule is inflated. Pressure sensors within the workstation continuously measure the pressure inside, in front of and behind the scanner balloon. The console computer automatically controls the pressure in all three compartments and ensures that the balloon moves forward at the lowest possible pressure. At any time during the forward or reverse motion of the scanner balloon, the operator may press the pause or stop buttons. Pause can be used to gain a better look with the camera or to change the direction of balloon motion. Stop can be used to instantly deflate all compartments, for instance if the patient requests a rest.

Should I need a colonoscopy, I wish it to be known that on no account should this Zionist procedure be used for me, painless though it is. I would like instead to have the former procedure used on me, namely a cold, large (2 feet long) and painful (made of steel) anal probe shoved up my rectum. If the pain gets too much, just give me some painkillers – provided they were not made or developed by Zionists

Yours sincerely
Chris”

(signature + date)

I hope other anti-Israeli boycotters fill in that form, just in case.

Written by modernityblog

19/03/2009 at 16:06

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Gilad Shalit – One Forgotten Israeli.

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I was recently reminded that Gilad Shalit has been in captivity for a thousand days, but if you read much of the European or British media you wouldn’t know that.

In fact, if you manage to question international bodies, such as the UN or the International Red Cross, you wouldn’t even know that he was kidnapped from Israeli territory.

Most of us will remember when a British journalist was abducted outside a cafe in Gaza some years back, and the indignation of Alan Johnson’s colleagues was all too evident, yet even though Hamas and their allies have admitted kidnapping and holding Gilad Shalit, that’s about it.

Outside of some Israeli or Jewish groups there is no evidence of concern, acknowledgement of his captivity, or news of Gilad Shalit’s fate.

As far as international organisations and the Western media are concerned Gilad Shalit is a nonperson.

This attitude or apathy shouldn’t be surprising, but the very least the International Red Cross should be lobbying Hamas for access to Gilad Shalit, but is there any evidence of that? No.

Then again were frequently told that the West should recognise Hamas as the democratically elected government (that’s leaving aside their coup d’etat in Gaza), however, there is little reciprocity.

There is no pressure, no following of accepted conventions concerning prisoners of war, when they are Israelis.

The International Red Cross couldn’t give a shit, the UN neither and Hamas will probably use Gilad Shalit, whose health was weak, as some bargaining chip, that is forgetting any international conventions concerning prisoners of war, humanitarian concerns or even humanity, and no international organisation will dare disagree with them.

In complete contradiction to international conventions no outside medical staff have visited or cared for Gilad Shalit since his kidnap, some 1000 days ago. They have done nothing. Zip. Nada

So next time when you wonder why the Israelis sometimes appear a bit belligerent, a bit stroppy and seemingly unconcerned with what international organisations think of them, ponder the fate of Gilad Shalit and ask:

Where was the International Red Cross?
Where were the UN?
Where was the Western media?
Would they act like this, if the PoW wasn’t an Israeli?

And you know the answer already.

Written by modernityblog

19/03/2009 at 02:51

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Chrome for Linux.

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I am in the market for a new browser, after Firefox 3.1 Beta 3 managed to zap my saved passwords. It was my own fault, as they detailed it in the release notes, but how such an elementary failure crept into the Beta 3 when Beta 2 didn’t have that it, annoys me.

I would go back to the standard Iceweasel/Firefox under Sidux, however, it leaks memory like a holed bucket and 97% CPU usage is becoming silly.

So I had a thought,why not use Google’s Chrome?

I briefly played around with a Crossover version a few months back and I assume that much progress would have been made. It has, there is an open sourced version called Chromium. Seems to work on Ubuntu, I haven’t tried the Debian version yet.

Being adventurous I thought I would give Wine and Chrome a go, and it partly worked, as long as you follow the instructions on the Wine HQ’s applications database:

wget http://www.kegel.com/wine/winetricks
# make a backup of .wine
# then execute winetricks
sh winetricks msxml3 corefonts firefox flash winxp

Get a copy of ChromeSetup.exe and execute with Wine, taking the defaults.

Chrome seems to have been installed correctly under Wine and I’ll give it a go.

A word of warning, if you are using Wine and installing new applications please take a copy of your .wine directory first, for example, tar cfz winemar09a .wine

And if all of that doesn’t work, I’ll wait for Firefox 3.5!

Update: Chrome under Wine seemed to work but it didn’t. I suspect it is probably more to do with Sidux’s old (experimental) version of Wine and the setup of fonts, etc rather than anything intrinsic to Wine.

Still Codeweavers CX version of Chrome works well, even editing WordPress pages.

Written by modernityblog

18/03/2009 at 19:30

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Left Handed Pope ?

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Jim takes on the Pope, and I dare anyone to read that last paragraph and not laugh.

Written by modernityblog

18/03/2009 at 15:32

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When Is Public Domain Not Public Domain?

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When Google say so?

Techdirt discusses
the issue of documents already in the public domain and the wording often attached to them by Google:

“Computer scientist Steven Bellovin notes a troubling trend: companies that republish public domain works are increasingly trying to use contract law to place restrictions on their use. For example, Google is apparently in the habit of “requesting” that people only use the out-of-copyright works they’ve scanned for “personal, non-commercial purposes.” Even more troubling, works like this one that were produced by the US federal government—and have therefore never been subject to copyright—come with copyright-like notices stating that any use other than “individual research” requires a license. Fundamentally, this is problematic because copyright law is supposed to be a bargain between authors and the general public: we give authors a limited, temporary monopoly over their works, in exchange for those works being created. But in this case, the restrictions are being imposed by parties—Google and Congressional Research Services, Inc., respectively—who had nothing to do with the creation of the works. The latter case is particularly outrageous because taxpayers already paid for the works once, through our tax dollars.”

Written by modernityblog

17/03/2009 at 22:53

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Bits and Links.

with 2 comments

Whilst I remember, some links and bits:

Firefox 3.1 Beta 3 is out. I can’t recommend it yet, because whilst it hasn’t crashed on me, FF31B3′s ability to forget passwords is downright annoying.

The new Linux Kernel (2.6.29) offers a lot of goodies.

Wolvix is out on Beta.

Polish Linux has a good review of Arch.

Zenwalk is at 6.0, just a shame they can’t put together a LiveCD and an installable version all as one, as Wolvix does. I like Zenwalk.

Silverlight is a pain, I am glad someone else thinks so.

Finally, bloggies.com are having their award ceremony, handing out plaudits to various blogs (no, I am not in there, and why would I be!). I suppose I should have heard of them, but I hadn’t, not that it makes much difference, but you might find some enjoyable reading material here.

Written by modernityblog

16/03/2009 at 21:42

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Another Reason to Avoid the Guardian.

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Thanks to Jim at the Daily (Maybe), otherwise I wouldn’t have read Peter Lazenby’s excellent letter rebutting the misleading leader article in the Guardian, and it reminds me why I have long since stopped reading the Guardian, that is leaving aside their appalling coverage of the Middle East or pandering to anti-Jewish racism on CiF, their Daily Mail coverage dressed up as angst liberalism is incredibly tedious.

Peter Lazenby should be congratulated for correcting the Guardian’s Tory-lite leader:

“As a rewriting of modern industrial history, your leader on the miners’ strike and its aftermath (A war no one deserved to win, 7 March) takes some beating. “Public opinion never wavered in opposition to the strike and its tactics,” you claim. In reality, tens of thousands of people across Britain mobilised in support of the miners’ fight to defend their pits, their jobs and their communities. Hundreds of organised support groups were established to raise funds and collect food for miners and their families.

Your article also says “the mass labour movement of the 1980s did not lift a finger on the miners’ behalf”. Despite enormous pressure other workers did in fact support the miners, including the rail workers who refused to carry coal by train. Indeed the combination of union and community support was arguably the most sustained civilian mobilisation in Britain since the second world war.

And while you claim that “It was Mr Scargill’s ruthless intransigence … which prevented the dispute from ending”, as Arthur Scargill points out in the same edition (‘We could surrender – or stand and fight’, 7 March), on four occasions a settlement was agreed by the National Union of Mineworkers and the National Coal Board which, on each occasion, was sabotaged by the Thatcher government.

Perhaps most absurd of all is the claim that “The miners were on their own in a Britain that found it could get along without either coal or communities – and increasingly without unions too.”

Get along without coal? Closure of the coal mines did not mean an end to burning coal in Britain. In 2007 Britain imported 43m tonnes, half of it from Russia, at a cost of more than £2bn to our balance of payments. The Tory government abandoned Britain’s leading place in the development of clean coal technology. Meanwhile, we sit on an estimated 200 years of abandoned reserves.

Thanks to the coal industry’s destruction, Britain is at the start of an energy supply crisis that can only worsen. As predicted in 1984-85, the burning of North Sea gas to make electricity has wiped out 200 years of gas reserves in less than 30. We now import gas from, or across, some of the world’s most unstable regions. As a result energy prices have soared, and will continue to do so.

Get along without communities? Communities are at the heart of civilisation. The effect of their collapse, as a result of pit closures, is well documented and easily seen in many of Britain’s coalfields.

Get along without unions? The destruction of the NUM led to an unprecedented attack on Britain’s trade union movement. Membership fell from 13m to 6m. It has steadied since, helped by Labour’s restoration of union members’ rights to workplace recognition in 1999.

The current recession has also provoked growing resistance across Britain. Today I will enter my fourth week of industrial action at the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post in Leeds, where 140 National Union of Journalists members are resisting compulsory redundancies, demanding fair severance, and most importantly defending quality provincial journalism.

I don’t know if we will win. I do know that, like the miners, we will fight.

• Peter Lazenby is chairman of the Leeds branch of the NUJ and was the Yorkshire Evening Post’s industrial reporter during the 1984-85 miners’ strike”

Written by modernityblog

15/03/2009 at 18:43

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