Inside the system
Keep it in the holy family?
THE HEAD of the Roman Catholic church in Scotland, Cardinal Winning, is being praised as a model for “family values” in his campaign to keep the anti-gay Section 28 law. This has led George Carey, head of the Church of England, to follow closely in his footsteps. But Winning’s supporters forget the Catholic church’s own “family values” and treatment of children in its care.
It has been rocked over the last few years by scandals involving child abuse and priests having sex with parishioners. Only last month a nun in Scotland appeared in court charged with a catalogue of child abuse at children’s homes. Sister Alphonso, alias Marie Docherty, was in court after an investigation into the Nazareth House centres in Aberdeen and Midlothian. It is alleged that numerous girls aged between two and 17 were subjected to cruel and unnatural treatment between 1962 and 1980. Three years ago the Catholic church set up a fund to be used across Britain and Ireland, not to compensate victims, but to drag them through the courts. Betty Thomas was one of over 200 people mistreated in Catholic-run orphanages in Scotland in the 1950s. She said in 1997, “When the compensation claims were first brought, the Catholic church said we were motivated by greed and self seeking materialism.” Are these the “family values” Cardinal Winning stands for?
THE PARENTS of a prison suicide victim were outraged to hear that the jail where their daughter died had been given a government award. Corton Vale women’s prison in Stirling was presented with an Investors in People award. Jim and Anne Bollan’s daughter Angela committed suicide in Corton Vale in April 1996. Angela was one of eight inmates who killed themselves at the prison between 1995 and 1998. The award “beggared belief”, said Jim Bollan. “The fact still remains that eight young people lost their lives at that prison, and by and large the officers involved in each case are still there.”
IT IS all very different in the “new economy” of e-commerce, we are told. Not much different, according to workers at Amazon, the Seattle-based internet bookseller. Amazon boss Jeff Bezos has a personal wealth of $4 billion. His workers have to answer an average of 12 e-mails an hour. Anyone who drops be low seven e-mails is then sacked. Former Amazon worker Richard Howard says talk of a revolutionary new way of working is nonsense. “We basically did drone work and had people breathing down our necks all the time. “How revolutionary is that?”
GEORGE Bush junior, who is fighting for the Republican nomination for the US presidential elections, has come up with a sick way of pleasing his hardcore right wing supporters. Bush, the governor of Texas, is intent on executing as many death row prisoners as possible. He has signed 122 death warrants since he gained office in 1995.
Last week he sent 62 year old grandmother Betty Lou Beets to her death by lethal injection despite an outcry from women’s groups. Betty suffered years of domestic violence. Now Bush is lining up 31 year old black man Odell Barnes for execution. Barnes, many law yers, and civil rights campaigners are arguing that he was set up by the police for a murder.
THE ERIKA oil tanker disaster before Christmas caused a huge environmental catastrophe on France’s Atlantic coast. An investigation by journalist Laurent Carroue in the left wing monthly Le Monde diplomatique has now exposed how that, and other such disasters, are the direct result of multinational oil companies’ drive for profit. The Erika had been chartered by the TotalFina oil company despite being 24 years old and regarded as unseaworthy by many other companies. Vessels between 20 and 24 years old are cheaper for oil companies to use.
However, older ships have a ten times greater chance of being wrecked than younger ships. Even the free-market- loving US government, under pressure after oil spill disasters like the Exxon Valdez in Alaska, has felt forced to take a stand. The government’s strict controls include banning all ships over 15 years old from its ports.
FRANK DOBSON’S running mate for mayor of London is Trevor Phillips. The Blairite television producer likes to present himself as “one of the people”. It has long been known that Phillips has his children privately educated. But it has now been revealed that he is on the fundraising committee for the North London Collegiate girls’ school.
It costs 6,500 a year to send your child to the school-about as much as a worker on the minimum wage gets in a year. On the fundraising board with Phillips are Esther That’s Life Rantzen and former jailbird Gerald Ronson. The board is trying to raise 2 million to replace the public subsidy lost to the posh school when the Assisted Places Scheme was cut.
SO MUCH for a “modernised” House of Lords. Labour-appointed peers to the Lords are eagerly adopting the “traditional” trappings of the duffers they replaced.
A record proportion of new peers have applied for “armorial bearings”. These are the heraldic insignia which peers can buy from the College of Arms at 3,000 a shot. Peter Dewer, a heraldry expert, says, “The garter king of arms is getting a higher take-up from Labour than from the Conservative life peers.”
Things they say
“LABOUR’S more and more out of touch with working class Britain. It’s all gone Henley-on-Thames, which is great for people who live in Henley-on-Thames, but not much good if you live in Springburn or Moss Side.”
“YOU GO on these taskforces and people want OBEs. I don’t even want to meet the f****** royal family, let alone get an OBE.”
“NEW Labour isn’t working yet. I have seen levels of poverty and human misery in some of our estates that would shame any government with a conscience.”
“THERE are consolations. Mozambique’s Mozal aluminium smelter has lost less than a week’s work. A toll road connecting Maputo with Johannesburg will still probably be completed on time. Coca-Cola’s factory should soon be working again.”
“THE POLICE hate me as well as the public.”
“HE DID not pretend when he flew into Santiago. The military music lifted his spirits and he simply got out of his wheelchair.”
“IT HAS become a bit of a joke that it would be cheaper to make a video to post to our viewers rather than broadcast it.”
Reballots have opened the way to bigger struggle