Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Les Miserables

Les Miserables

(Queens Theatre London)

To go and see Les Miserables, like any walk through London’s streets, means running the gauntlet of people asking for money. “Les miserables” ( a powerful word inadequately translated as “the poor”) People so poor in many cases they have given up hope.

Inside the warmth of the theatre you are surrounded by comfortable and respectable people watching a brilliant colourful musical about the poor people outside in the street.

And the musical, based on a two-volume 19th Century novel by Victor Hugo, is not miserable at all because it contains within it a message of hope that things can be changed.

It is worth comparing the revolutionaries in Les Miserables with those other revolutionaries in a 19th Century novel – the bloodstained monsters depicted in Dickens’ “a Tale of Two Cities.” Although the revolution of 1830 was defeated, Victor Hugo sees the revolutionaries as human beings and evokes sympathy for the cause for which they are fighting.

To say it is a revolutionary musical would be pushing it. It is a musical about revolution and about the appalling injustices of society but the message of the musical and the book is about individual salvation through love.

The central character Jean Valjean is imprisoned for five years for stealing a loaf of bread, then another 14 for trying to escape (not an exaggeration of the penal code of the period). On release he is condemned to carry a yellow passport – an ID card which is as effective as a brand – even outside the prison he is not free.

A priest who takes the message of Christianity seriously (and thus has no future in the Church!) seeks to redeem him with an act of kindness and (without retelling the whole story) the narrative rests on the consequences of that act of kindness.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the original story is the casting of a policeman, a perfectly respectable upholder of the law with no sympathy for the poor, as a villain. We are accustomed to seeing “crooked cops” but he isn’t crooked, he is as straight as he can be according to his lights. He simply enforces an unjust law because it is not his place to change it. He would be at home in the modern Labour Party wouldn’t he?

The most powerful scenes involve the street fighting in Paris during the 1830 revolution and the idealism of students and young people who are depicted as simply and selflessly fighting for the poor of their own city.

“Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!”

Without the music the words give you some idea of the emotions stirred by the powerful song. I am aware that people talk cynically about “not a dry eye in the house” but it really is an accurate description of how people in the audience respond to this.

In the final scene the selflessness is rewarded when with Les Miserables they ascend to heaven. Dickens, for all his compassion, would have had them going to the other place!

And at the end of the play you walk back to the tube station. There are people bedding down for the night in cold wet shop doorways. It would take a revolution to put an end to this injustice.


“At the end of the day there's another day dawning
And the sun in the morning is waiting to rise
Like the waves crash on the sand
Like a storm that'll break any second
There's a hunger in the land
There's a reckoning still to be reckoned and
There's gonna be hell to pay
At the end of the day!”

By Derek McMillan
Tuesday, 27 December 2005

Monday, December 26, 2005

Technophobia is ignorance

MSN and Technophobia

There was an interesting exchange of views on the TES website triggered off by a teacher who asked for advice on using the instant messaging system MSN with her pupils.

One of the first responses was from a teacher issuing dire warning about a teacher who had been dismissed on the spot for using MSN with a female pupil. When I questioned him further on this improbable story he admitted “I really don't know many more details - second-hand gossip by the time it got to me.”

My point was that you could be dismissed on the spot for speaking to a pupil of either sex – it depends what you say! MSN is not the culprit.

Another objector was a head teacher who expected to control every aspect of “his” staff’s behaviour and believed that any activities they undertake without his express permission ought to be punished. Everything which is not compulsory is forbidden.

The sensible advice offered by other teachers included the idea of using the facilities of an instant messaging system to do the following:
1. Keep a complete record of all conversations automatically. No parents (or control-freaky heads) can then take issue with what you have been saying.
2. Block any undesirable callers or keep a list of the only people allowed to access the system – again automatically.
3. Set up a separate email address and messenger identity specifically for this purpose so it is only when you want to chat with pupils about work that you go online with that identity.

For technical reasons Yahoo messenger or ICQ or one of the family of open source messengers which can communicate with all three may be better. I think teachers often need advice on using new technology. They do not need the cold dead hand of technophobia holding them back.

Technophobia is another word for ignorance. Teachers are against ignorance.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Aunty Polly

Every Christmas we retell this heartwarming story:

During the war my family received food from relatives in Australia. Memorably they received a letter and ingredients for a Christmas pudding., Due to a lack of consideration by U boats the letter and the parcel did not arrive at the same time.

Consequently they received the parcel, part of which was separated off in a cardboard compartment and seemed to contain a grey powder. Nothing daunted this was stirred into the pudding and nobody thought anything more about it.

The letter arrived in the new year and contained news of the family, who were all doing well apart from Auntie Polly who had sadly died, "we are returning her ashes for burial in the UK."

Enjoy your Christmas pudding everybody and remember Auntie Polly.

(I was told when I was older that Auntie Polly was an urban myth, but the same brother who told me also said Santa wasn't real so could I trust him?)

solstice

The solstice, yes I know it's officially tomorrow. With our ancestors we celebrate the rebirth of the sun - believe me when you are "freezing your ass off" that takes real faith. In the UK the sun is often veiled in mist and mystery.

("freezing your ass off"? Is that as bad as the fate of the proverbial brass monkey?)

Without any accurate clocks it must have been a bugger knowing when the solstice actually was. Well you could always pop down to stonehenge to check but it is an awfully long way. So people just celebrated for days and days (sound familiar?)

And then somebody decided lets celebrate it on Dec 25th - presumably Virgin trains were writing their timetable.

Whatever you believe you can't help wanting peace on earth, "war is over.... if we want it" and right now we could all do with a bit of goodwill. As I tell my kids, goodwill does not just mean being nice to people you liked in the first place :)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Battleship Potemkin

Battleship Potemkin was on BBC4 last night. I thought
they were pushing the idea of having repeats for
Christmas to the limit with a 1925 film. Then I
watched it for a bit and ended up watching the whole
thing.

It was a film Hollywood could not have made and couldn't make today. The corporations would not be happy with the whole idea. Eisenstein could experiment with
technique and make a silent black and white film come alive. The actors (and they were not all actors, some were members of the public roped in by his enthusiasm)
have to express themselves without words and put across a story which can be understood in any language.

And what a story! The sailors have to suffer appalling conditions and lack of food; their officers lie to them and meet discontent with brutal repression. In the end the sailors outrage finds a focus when the vicious Tsarist officers put a tarpaulin over the heads of some rebel sailors and orders the marines to shoot them. This is too much for the sailors and they appeal to the marines to think about who they are shooting and they rebel. The leader of the revolt is killed but his death becomes the focus of solidarity and revolution in Odessa.

Even eighty years after the film and a century after the events it depicts it is still a moving tribute to the men and women who took the first faltering steps towards the revolution of 1905 and it the last reel accurately portrays their apprehension and anxiety and then their joy and enthusiasm at their successes.


It was the last time Eisenstein had complete cotrol over one of his films. His next film October was cut by about a third as Stalin sought to rewrite history so that Trotsky did not appear and Lenin was made to sound like a Stalinist!

I doubt if they will show it on American TV, but you can download it from the internet and there are various sites which have streaming video which let you watch the film for free.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

working class representation

An open meeting to discuss the crisis in working class representation
Saturday 21st January 2006, 12 - 3pm. Friends House, Euston Road, London. The 2005 RMT Annual General Meeting passed a motion calling on the union to organise a conference to discuss working class representation. Speakers include: Bob Crow, RMT General Secretary, Tony Benn, John McDonnell MP, Colin Fox SSP, John Marek AM & Cllr Dave Nellist. All are welcome.



RMT website

Saturday, December 10, 2005

We do not torture suspects - Condoleeza Rice

According to Democracy now (www.democracynow.org) the US radio and TV show:

"New details are emerging in the case of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi -- the detainee whose faulty claims on links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were used to justify the invasion of Iraq. The New York Times is reporting government officials have acknowledged al-Libi fabricated his claims to avoid harsh punishment while in Egyptian custody. Al-Libi was handed over to Egypt by US agents in January 2002. The Times notes the disclosure provides the first public evidence that bad intelligence on Iraq may have resulted from the administration's heavy reliance on third countries to carry out interrogations of detainees."

Torturing suspects may not give you the truth, but it will give you the answers you want to hear.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Chestnuts roasting by an open fire

A poster on the TES website has resurrected the old chestnut about pupils not spelling properly because they do not talk proper like what we does!

Darling if you don't talk properly how can you possibly spell properly? Probably because our spelling does not accurately reflect the way we speak

dahling if u dont talque properlee howe kann u possiblee spel propperly? Proberbly becos hour spelling duz not akurately reflekt the weigh wee speek.

I am not sure it is possible to resurrect a chestnut now I think about it.

Season of Goodwill !

On December 6 at Valley Heights Mall, a shopper flew into a violent rage, claiming that the mall's Santa Claus, insulted her. He told reporters: "I was greeting the children with my traditional ho ho ho, and some deranged woman went off on me."

She shouted "Who are you calling a ho? Fat man!" and attacked him with a giant candy cane until restrained by a couple of elves. And the woman's name? Gina Crank. You couldn't make it up.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Union Learning Rep

I went on a training course at the NUT training centre Stoke Rochford 28 November to 02 December. The course was demanding but excellent.

Union Learning Rep is a new role and hopefully a useful one which involves organising lifelong learning for people who are teaching. If teachers don't believe in learning for its own sake then who does?

Too often the courses organised for teachers are punitive - "you
are failing, this CPD will put you back on track for the government's latest wheeze". As you would expect *our* training courses are very different and aim to
empower teachers and bring back some of the joy of teaching.

Organising CPD for teachers (the initials stand for Continuing Professional Development not some method of artificial respiration) is an additional way to involve them in the union and continues and extends the role of the trade unions as educational bodies and advocates for education.
Details here

The other strands to the role are lifelong learning, learning things which are of use or interest to the learner rather than directly to the employer; and of course promoting the training of union health and safety reps and other union officers.

All the government waffle about excellence is just boasting. Teaching is more about doing the best for your pupils in difficult cicumstances.

Anyway I have now been "certified" - many say it should have been done long ago!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Reported libel on usenet

AIR has reported vicious personal attacks appearing on psi.psychology.psychotherapy. I have never come across this but I have noticed groups of posters (who for all I know could have consisted of one person!) have hijacked usenet newsgroups for the purpose of posting irrelevant material in vast quantities and swamping the group. This was on top of all the spam.

I have shifted to using moderated boards like the education forum rather than usenet now because of this.

I have never been personally attacked although my views have attracted vigorous criticisms - I particularly remember a heated exchange with fascists in Kent whose main issue was they hated people from Sussex!

Friday, November 25, 2005

An unusual thanksgiving message

I received this from a friend:
George Bush has started an unwarranted and disastrous war under
false pretenses by lying to the American people and to the Congress;
he has run a budget surplus nto a severe deficit; he has
consistently and unconscionably favored the wealthy and
corporations over the rights and needs of the population; he has
destroyed trust and confidence in, and good will toward, the United
States around the globe; he has ignored global warming, to the
world's detriment; he has wantonly broken our treaty obligations;
he has condoned torture of prisoners; he has attempted to create a
theocracy in the United States; he has appointed incompetent cronies
to positions of vital national importance.


Would someone please just give him a blow job so we can impeach him?

I am inclined to agree with Bill Hicks. "I wasn't against Bush because of his foreign policy or because of his domestic policy. It was just that I thought he was a child of Satan bent on destroying the earth."

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Cholesterol tests

I have got the information on cholesterol tests from the NHS website. It is as follows
Cholesterol is a body fat, or lipid. It is an important part of a healthy body, being a building block for steroids such as the sex hormones, and the hormones of the adrenal cortex. It is also the basis of the body’s manufacture of bile salts.

Cholesterol is mainly produced in the liver, and has a further use in forming cell membranes and other needed tissues.

Cholesterol is carried in the blood by special molecules called lipoproteins. The three main forms of lipoproteins are:

* Low density lipoprotein (LDL). This is often known as ‘bad cholesterol’ and is thought to promote arterial disease. It carries cholesterol from the liver to the cells and can cause harmful cholesterol build-up if there is too much to be used up by the cells.
* High density lipoprotein (HDL). This is often referred to as 'good cholesterol', and may oppose arterial disease. It takes cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver, where it's either broken down or excreted.
* Triglycerides.

The amount of cholesterol present in the blood can range from 3.6 to 7.8 mmol/litre. A level above 6 mmol/litre is regarded as high, and is a risk factor for arterial disease. Government advice recommends a target cholesterol level of under 5, but on average men in England have a level of 5.5, and women a level of 5.6.

Evidence strongly indicates that high cholesterol levels can cause narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), heart attacks, and strokes. The risk of coronary heart disease also rises as blood cholesterol levels increase. When other risk factors, (such as high blood pressure and cigarette smoking), are present, this risk increases even more.

In atherosclerosis, deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium and other substances build up in the inner lining of an artery. This build up is called plaque, and it usually affects arteries of small and medium size. The flow of blood through these arteries is restricted as the inside diameter is reduced. Clotting of the blood, which often happens in the coronary arteries during a heart attack, is most likely to develop when arterial walls are roughened by such plaques.

I also found out that the reason for the starving lipids test is that it detects triglycerides accurately which a test from Boots presumably cannot do. So although the Boots test is not inaccurate it does not give the whole picture.

Who says the Internet is all porn?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The offensive charm of Ruth Kelly

Ruth Kelly is engaged in a charm offensive following Blair's defeat over imprisonment without trial, New Labour is keen to "consult" with backbenchers to remove their "misconceptions" of the privatisation agenda for schools.

This is a typical New Labour consultation. "We will listen to your views but the policy is not negotiable." Schools will be handed over to private profiteers and religious zealots. LEAs may not be perfect but even the final vestiges of democratic accountability will go.

After all privatisation has done such a good job on rail safety and hospital cleaning.

It is of course no accident that Opus Dei's acolyte is keen to hand schools over to religious zealots so all that nonsense about teaching evolution can go.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Phosphorous grenades

The army cadets were recruiting at school today. They didn't have any phosphorous grenades on show. The whole situation relating to these grenades is bizarre.

International agreement prevents their use against personnel but the US is not a signatory of the agreement. The British army uses them but claims not to use them against civilians but rather spoilt the effect by adding that they do not use any weapons against civilians. We can only assume the 100000 Iraqi civilians dead as a result of the war committed suicide.

In any case it is hypocritical to applaud indiscriminate bombing of hospitals at the Fallujah massacre and the torture of suspects at Guantanamo Bay and imprisonment without trial in mainland Britain but draw the line at phosphorous grenades. Why are they suddenly so squeamish?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Comments

There have been some anonymous comments on this blog and I intend to let them stand but in future there will only be comments from people to whom I can reply. The individual who commented anonymously was obviously a sneering Blairite capable of nothing but insults.

Comments which are obviously advertising something will also be deleted.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Socialism 2005

For an "old bolshevik" like myself it was encouraging to see so many new young members and supporters gathered together for Socialism 2005. It is also the first time we have had the general secretaries of two trade unions on our platform. An indication that there is some impetus for trade unions to break from New Labour and move towards a new workers' party. Mark Serwotka was keen for his children to have a better choice than Tory or Tory. Matt Wrack talked about the ridiculous position of firefighters being vilified and attacked by a Labour government whilst still paying money into the Labour Party.
It is fair to say that the most moving event of the evening was to listen to the relatives of Jean Charles de Menezes who have campaigned for justice. Their natural shock and sorrow has casued them to campaign tenaciously for justice and for a world where such things cannot happen.

I have never heard Joe Higgins (Irish Socialist Party TD) speak before and his speech and the footage of the Gama workers campaign was an eye-opener and an inspiration.

And Peter Taaffe has lost none of his fire either. He quoted Tony Benn's prediction that the betrayal of Tony Blair like the betrayal of Ramsay MacDonald will be succeeded in 15 years by a new Labour Government with radical policies akin to 1945. Referring to the young members in the audience he said, "This generation cannot wait 15 years." and referring to people of our age he repeated to thunderous applause "This generation cannot wait 15 years."

Friday, November 11, 2005

Blair says he is in tune with public opinion because the Sun instructs its readers to write in and support him. Some public opinion polls support imprisonment without trial for 90 days. And of course he was "doing the right thing" and "being a strong leader" when public opinion was against him on the Iraq War.

In Tony Blair's mind he can do no wrong. Fortunately the rest of us do not have to live there.

Detention without trial is convenient for the police. They no not need any proof before they lock people up. That does not seem a good reason to bring it in.

Prize for cheeky blighters of the day goes to the Tories for saying that New Labour is politicising the police. It was Margaret Thatcher who made it impossible to trust the police by using them as a battering ram against the miners.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

90 days "not negotiable"

Blair has been roundly defeated over the draconian measures he proposed but at the price of an extension of the period for which anyone can be locked up without trial to 28 days.

It was worth it to witness the look of incredulity on his arrogant public-schoolboy chops when he ranted and raved about it after the event.

"Not negotiable", "the only game in town", "inevitable" this is the authoritarian language of New Labour and it has been dented by this event. The changes in public sector pensions "not negotiable" until the threat of widespread industrial action forced a partial retreat.

I agree with Marian Darke about this. Things are only "not negotiable" if we let them be.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Jonathan Porritt lickspittle to the House of Windsor

Jonathan Porritt Lickspittle to the Prince of Wales
According to the Observer "In a book to be published this week, Jonathon Porritt describes the green movement as 'too narrow, too technical, too anti-business, too depressing, often too dowdy'. Porritt, now a government adviser, claims the campaigners must take some blame for the continued failure to stop climate change and habitat destruction, because their overly negative approach has alienated politicians and the public."

The newspaper also described him as "The founding father of the British green movement " and described his attack as "startling."

I am not a member of the Green Party but I must say that calling Porritt "the founding father" is a little excessive. His main role has been to tone down the criticism of the corporations and divert green activists into safe channels.

It is hardly "startling" or even mildly surprising to see that he believes green campaigners should not be anti-business. He probably genuinely believes that cosying up to the corporations will do more than campaigning against them. After all BP now has adverts to convince the public how "green" they are. Green is also a slang term for "naive".


The most that can be expected is a few cosmetic changes for purposes of advertising and of course a few sinecures for former green campaigners...like Jonathan Porritt who now works for Mr Tony Blair as a "government adviser" to polish up Tony's "green" image. This is in addition to the day job as Lickspittle in Chief to the Prince of Wales.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Bush's church condemns war

President Bush and Dick Cheney are facing more opposition about the war in Iraq - this time from their own church. Last week the United Methodist Church passed a resolution calling for the U.S. to withdraw from Iraq. The resolution read in part "As people of faith, we raise our voice in protest against the tragedy of the unjust war in Iraq. Thousands of lives have been lost and hundreds of billions of dollars wasted in a war the United States initiated and should never have fought." The church board also called on Congress to create an independent, bipartisan commission to investigate U.S. treatment of detainees overseas.
(from Democracy Now! this morning)

I am an atheist now but I went to Sunday School as a lad and I must say that is more my idea of what a Methodist ought to be :)

Rome

I saw 'Rome' on BBC2 last night, the most expensive BBC production ever. It seems to be the tabloid version with a lot of sex and violence but then Rome was a violent place in the last days of the Republic.

The history from Julius Caesar onwards is the most interesting and that is what they have concentrated on. Centuries of peace do not make interesting TV - though no doubt they are the best time to actually live in. There is an ancient curse my mother taught me - "may you live in interesting times!"

Monday, October 31, 2005

New Workers' Party

New mass workers' party:

Conference for action needed

IN THE first of two articles, PETER TAAFFE, general
secretary of the Socialist Party, says that the time
for stepping up the campaign for a mass workers' party
in Britain is not just ripe - it is rotten ripe.

THE RECENT Labour Party conference has once more
underlined how the New Labour leadership is completely
disconnected from the problems and concerns of
ordinary working-class people. This was highlighted by
the thuggish treatment meted out to 82-year old Walter
Wolfgang, a refugee from Nazi Germany, who dared to
shout "Nonsense!" in response to Jack Straw's
statement that opponents of the Iraq War were like
pro-Nazi sympathisers!

Walter Wolfgang was held and questioned by police
under Section 44 of the Prevention of Terrorism Act.
The attack on civil liberties by the New
Labour-dominated state is mirrored by its
authoritarian and intolerant approach towards its own
party's members.

Even worse was the brutal restatement in Brighton by
the New Labour leadership - Gordon Brown as much as
Tony Blair - of their neo-liberal mantra of no
concessions to the trade union clamour for the
abolition of Thatcher's law preventing 'secondary
solidarity action' by fellow trade unionists.

Further privatisation, particularly in the NHS and
schools, which will have calamitous consequences, was
promised. No action on the desperate housing problem,
support for big business to get its clutches into
children's education through a massive introduction of
academies; all of this was spelt out in Brighton. In
other words, more of the same, only worse, for
working-class people was the unmistakeable message.

Those who hoped that Gordon Brown, like a 'socialist'
St George, would slay the New Labour dragon once he
was in the saddle were dashed by his interviews and
speeches at the conference. He re-stated his
enthusiastic support for the New Labour 'project'.

Despite this, the trade union leadership and the Lefts
who remain within the party continue to believe, in
the teeth of all the evidence to the contrary, that
New Labour is redeemable and can be transformed in a
socialist direction. They point to the conference
decisions against further privatisation of the NHS, on
housing and even on 'secondary action' against the New
Labour leadership as proof of this.

But nothing could be further from the truth. No sooner
had the hypocritical singing of the 'Red Flag' died
down at the end of the conference than Blair spelt out
bluntly his view of his own party. He said on Sky TV
that those trade unionists and constituency delegates
- who voted 99% and 40% respectively in favour of
'secondary action' - were "crazies". This for daring
to defend the democratic rights of trade unionists!

Incredibly, Blair or Brown are less likely to repudiate
this and the other ten pernicious
anti-union laws introduced by Thatcher than the
Liberals were in 1906. The Liberal government, under
pressure from the newly created Labour Party, did
repudiate the House of Lords' anti-union Taff Vale
judgement, which allowed heavy fines - 'damages' -
against unions taking industrial action.

Yet the equivalent of Taff Vale today is precisely the
prohibition of 'secondary action' which effectively
neuters workers from taking industrial action in
support of their brothers and sisters fighting against
pernicious bosses and slave-like conditions and wages.
This has been amply demonstrated by the Gate Gourmet
dispute and its outcome, which was unfortunately not a
total victory for the working class.

Big business party

THE LABOUR leadership's stand on this issue alone is
enough for serious trade unionists to decide that this
party now represents big business and is always on the
side of the employers on decisive issues.

This is further underlined by the government's stand
on the retirement age of public-sector workers: "Work
till you drop." Forced to retreat from raising the
retirement age of the present workforce, it still
intends to create a 'two-tier' workforce for all new
entrants to the public sector.

On top of this, we have the obscenity of the Iraq War
with a majority - 51% at least - calling for the
withdrawal of British troops, while Jack Straw said on
Newsnight they could be in Iraq for another five or
ten years.

Is there a chance that all of this could be stopped by
a resurgent trade union movement together with
indignant Labour Party members? About as much chance
as a snowball in hell. A fervent and slavish supporter
of Blairism in the past such as Polly Toynbee
confessed: "Brighton has exposed Labour as a sham
deserted by its members." [The Guardian]

Even Blair admits that party membership is down from
400,000 in 1997 when Labour came to power to an
"official" 200,000 today. In reality, its only
'activists' at local level are usually a dejected
collection of demoralised councillors. These cling to
the battered wreckage of the Labour Party in a stormy
sea because there is no other lifeboat present to pick
them up.

A new mass party, even the first steps towards the
creation of one, would attract those who still 'hope
against hope' that in some undefined way Labour can be
transformed, because no mass alternative yet exists.
It would win greater numbers from young people.

Walter Wolfgang was courageous to raise his voice
against Straw's lies but not one other delegate on the
floor of the conference joined in, so politically
backward, cowered or intimidated are they by the
Blairite machine.

He stated that the party had been "taken over by a
gang of political adventurers. I will remain a member
for the simple reason that we can outlive them."
[Daily Mirror 29 September.] The courageous Walter
deserves full marks for his perspectives on his own
longevity but not for the Labour Party itself.

The Campaign Group of MPs also entertains the forlorn
hope that the Labour Party can be transformed. It has
been suggested that they put up a 'stalking horse'
against Blair that could trigger an electoral contest
for the Labour leadership in 2006. Even if successful,
the victorious candidate that could emerge is likely
to be Brown, the replacement of Tweedledum by
Tweedledee.

The disappointment of the last eight years of Blairism
will be compounded by an epoch of Brownism. It could
pave the way for the return of the hated Tories,
perhaps given a facelift by some kind of
Cameron-Clarke duumvirate. At the same time, the daily
drip-feed of attacks on the working class, which can
be enormously aggravated by a new world economic
recession or slump, will continue apace.
Campaign

NO! THIS is not the time for false hopes or
prevarication. Bob Crow, who has courageously
planted the flag for a new mass working-class party,
has suggested recently that the RMT could call a
conference in early 2006 of organisations and parties
to discuss this idea.

The Socialist Party supports all steps of this kind
which bring together genuine left, fighting and socialist
forces to discuss the programme and character of a mass party in
Britain, or even, in the first instance, a serious
step towards such a party.

If Bob Crow is unable or frustrated in calling such a
conference, then the Socialist Party will explore -
through a campaign with trade unionists,
environmentalists, young people, community activists
and leaders - the idea of calling a conference on the
issue of a new mass party.

The campaign would involve testing out the support for
a new party, the programme, structures and
organisation that would be necessary with, possibly, a
consultative conference next spring.

The Socialist Party has championed the idea of a new
party for more than ten years. In this time we have
had the experience of the Socialist Labour Party, set
up by Arthur Scargill, heroic leader of the miners in
their battle against Thatcher. However, he
unfortunately insisted on exclusive conditions for
membership and activity in this party. Consequently,
it has been sidelined.

That unfortunate experience was repeated in the
Socialist Alliance - which Militant Labour (now the
Socialist Party) originally helped to set up - when
the Socialist Workers' Party (SWP) entered it. Instead
of opening up, they actually narrowed the structures
of the Alliance, so only those who marched to the
drumbeat politically and organisationally of the SWP
could remain.

They have, unfortunately, repeated this experience
with 'Respect' in alliance with George Galloway. The
basis of this party is too narrow, appealing in the
main to one section of the population, some Muslims,
many of whom have deserted Labour because of the Iraq
War and have cast around for an alternative.

At the height of the antiwar movement the Socialist
Party discussed with George Galloway and expressed our
preparedness to launch with him and other left
organisations a broad, left party, so long as it was
open, democratic and specifically socialist. Such a
party could, at the height of the antiwar movement,
have attracted broad swathes of left forces.

In discussions with us George Galloway indicated that
he was thinking of the Albert Hall - which holds 6,000
people - for its launch. Nothing came of this project
but after his expulsion from the Labour Party,
together mainly with the SWP he launched Respect.

Contrary to the impression he has given in some of his
public speeches, the Socialist Party did not turn its
back immediately on this initiative but waited, as
some other leftward-moving workers also did, to see
what this formation's political character was and,
crucially, what kind of structures would be set up.

Our suggestion, shared by others, for the setting up
of a loose federal structure that would allow
discussion, debate and action was rejected by Respect.
In particular, at the national conference of Respect a
proposal to allow 'platforms', as is the case in the
Scottish Socialist Party, was also refused when it was
suggested by some lefts who looked towards Respect
initially.

These are amongst the reasons why Respect is unlikely
to make a significant breakthrough amongst broader
layers of the working class. It is not excluded that
in George Galloway's own constituency of Bethnal Green
and Bow in Tower Hamlets council a number of seats
could be gained. However, this is unlikely to be
repeated on a similar scale outside of areas with a
high concentration of Asians or Muslims.

It is vital that any new party appeals to this section
of the population, amongst the most alienated and
oppressed layers. But nowhere can a viable mass party
be built on just one section of the working class.
Fighting programme

HOWEVER, THE urgency to create such a party is
underlined by the success of the Left Party in Germany
with 8.8% of the vote and 54 MPs following the general
election. The repercussions of this development will
be felt throughout Europe and not least in Britain.

The difference in the objective situation in Britain,
compared to Germany, is only one of degree. Blair and
Schroeder - despite the latter's protestations to the
contrary - had a shared agenda of Thatcherism,
neo-liberalism.

The main difference was that in Britain these policies
have been introduced over time - Thatcher first, then
Major, then Blair - whereas the German workers have
experienced 'fast-track Thatcherism'. The shock and
consequent political reaction, therefore, has been
more immediate in Germany. However, the same
underlying conditions exist in Britain.

The crucial subjective difference is that no major
left figure or trade union leader in Britain - apart
from Bob Crow - has called for or taken action to
create the conditions for a real new mass party. It is
urgent for the working class that such a step is taken
and is the reason why the Socialist Party intends to
energetically pursue this campaign.
Basic fighting demands for a new party

The programme and structures which will emerge out of
a process of discussion cannot be fully anticipated in
advance. We would, however, suggest that agreement
could be reached on a number of basic fighting
demands. The most important of these include:

The immediate abolition of the legal ban on 'secondary
industrial action' and the repeal of all Thatcher's
anti-union legislation.

* No to privatisation in schools, hospitals, the
civil service, etc.
* For a fully funded, democratic socialist health
service and for the immediate taking into public
ownership of the pharmaceutical monopolies,
compensation being only on the basis of proven need.
* A living national minimum wage at the level of
at least the European decency threshold and a living
pension for all, as well as opposition to the
government's programme to raise the age of retirement
for public-sector workers.
* For a socialist, democratic housing programme
and a crash programme to build cheap, 'social housing'
for those most in need.
* For a democratic socialist plan to save the
environment, both in Britain and worldwide, with
concrete measures to undo the environmental damage
done by unrestricted capitalism.
* For the public ownership of the 'commanding
heights' of the economy.

These are just some of the demands around which a
discussion could unfold.

In relation to structures, as we will explain in an
article in the socialist next week, it is vital that
the most democratic, federal and loose type of
organisation is adopted in the first instance. Above
all, the acceptance of the right of all trends and
tendencies to participate, including the right to
publish and distribute material such as newspapers,
bulletins and journals, as well as the right to form
platforms.

These proposals are made in order to set the
discussion in motion, which we hope will take place at
all levels of the working-class movement, amongst
young people in universities and colleges, in the
workplaces and union branches, in the environmental
movement and amongst all of those dissatisfied with
ailing British capitalism and searching for an
alternative.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

How the other half lives?

In Antibes, where I was just on holiday, there is a marina full of yachts of all shapes and sizes, including one which looked a little the worse for wear and had the name "Ca Suffit" up to the million dollar variety which looks like it comes from a James Bond movie.

Within five minutes walk of the marina there are people begging in doorways. On the last day I was putting out the rubbish and an old woman told me she left any food left-overs in a bag on top of the bin "for the unfortunates".

But it isn't "misfortune." The poor are begging in doorways *because* the rich are living the life of Riley at their expense.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Name and Acclaim

One of the uneducational and threatening terms which have become current thanks to politicians and journalists is "naming and shaming." The West Sussex Teachers Association is happy to name and acclaim schools which adopt a TLR model which satisfies staff rather than slavishly following the flawed non-statutory guidelines of RIG and alienating them. The same applies to schools which refuse to replace teachers with unqualified staff.

The comprehensive advice to reps is available for download from the NUT website http://www.teachers.org.uk . This advice is better than the non-statutory guidance provided by RIG which is wrongly being used as if it were carved on tablets of stone in some schools.

Although the TLR proposals are described as "not an assimilation exercise" this simply means that there is not a given formula by which schools automatically assimilate teachers from MAs to TLRs. It does not mean that sensible heads cannot make it an assimilation exercise to minimise the disruption and ill-feeling which would be generated by pay cuts.

Retreat on pensions

Preview of this week's Socialist article by Martin Powell-Davies of Lewisham NUT

FACING THE possible threat of the biggest strike movement since 1926 it appears that the New Labour government has partially retreated from some of its plans on public-sector pensions - such as increasing the retirement age of existing public-sector workers from 60 to 65.
The government has outlined a framework agreement where existing members of the civil service, health and education schemes have their current conditions protected. This is a significant retreat by New Labour and has come about because of the threat of strike action.
Yet, the underlying fear and anger workers feel over their future pension rights will not go away on the basis of the deal. In the private sector many workers still face huge cuts in their pensions. The lesson that the threat of militant, industrial action brings concessions will not be lost on them.
The government has no doubt also looked at the strike action of workers in France and Belgium against pension changes and thought better of taking on public-sector workers at this stage, despite Blair’s confrontational statements at the TUC.

DESPITE THE government’s partial retreat, it still appears to be the case that the government want to introduce a two-tier pension system throughout the public sector, with new entrants working till they are 65. And changes to the local government and fire service pension schemes – including raising the retirement age – still remain.
Last week the local government sector executive of UNISON, the largest local government union, took the decision to ballot for strike action if the government goes ahead and imposes the changes by 3 November.
The TUC says, however, it hopes to “see the same progress made in local government.”
The deal for health, education and civil service workers is now “being recommended to public-sector unions for endorsement.”
Members of unions in those sectors will be keen to see the details of the proposed deal and how it affects not only them but future generations of entrants into those sectors.
They will also want to consider the consequences of accepting what will effectively be two-tier conditions for the public-sector workforce, and in particular what it implies for possible future battles over job cuts and spending cuts.
According to the TUC, “the government has accepted that today’s public-sector staff should not have their pension promises broken and need suffer no detriment in their pensions arrangement”. But it’s clear that this will not apply in the same way to the next generation of public-sector workers.
Union members in the civil service, health and education will need to ensure that the full details of any deal are given to all the members for consultation and put to special conferences or members' meetings or ballots.
Possibly the cabinet may have done its sums and decided that, despite Blair’s intent to take on public-sector unions, that the savings it hoped to make by increasing the retirement age did not merit facing the threat of a virtual general strike of public-sector workers. Even the pro-Labour Daily Mirror said in its 18 October editorial: “It would be a serious mistake if the government tried to impose a higher retirement age on public workers.”
Yet, with the Turner Commission reporting at the end of November and flagging up possible increases in the state retirement age to 67 or 70 then the TUC Congress decision to call a national pensions demo – uniting public-sector workers, private sector workers and pensioners – is still an urgent necessity.
And the government still want to make huge savings in cutting pension entitlements for all workers and future generations of pensioners. The trade union movement still has the responsibility to conduct a struggle that ensures working-class people as a whole suffer no further detriment to their pension entitlement – now and in the future.
That means mobilising the latent strength of the workers’ movement to fight for decent pensions for all through struggle to end the nightmare of insecure retirement that the capitalist system means for most working people in this country.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

TLRs Bucks NUT advice

The following has been posted to the blog
http://nutbucks.blogspot.com/
Other news about TLRS will appear on http://socialistteachers.blogspot.com as we get it.

STOP PAY CUTS

STAY UNITED TO STOP PAY CUTS

By now you should have seen the heads proposals for the change over to TLRs at your school.
The NUT has urged heads and governors to follow a minimum change model where no one suffers a pay cut. This is what is happening in most schools we know about - most headteachers value their staff and don't want to cut their pay.
But if that isn't happening we want to help:
The NUT is urging teachers to stay united to say no to any pay cut - and wants to ballot for action in every school where cuts are proposed.
The NUT will conduct an indicative ballot if:
• You are being refused consultation - or
• Consultation is being unreasonably delayed - or
• The heads draft proposals suggest any NUT member suffers a pay cut - or
• The Governors final proposals suggest any member suffers a pay cut.
We will go back to the head after we have the indicative result to try to persuade them to change their proposals.
If that persuasion doesn't work we will ballot formally for "sustained, discontinous" action. That means we will pay you to be on strike - and that we will call you out for action say for a day a week until the school backs down. We will also help you to submit a grievance and if possible lodge an employment tribunal appeal.
We can win and stop the pay cuts if members in schools stick together.
But the union has to know what's happening if we are to help. If there are any pay cuts threatened at you school please get in touch a.s.a.p.

http://socialistteachers.blogspot.com

Monday, October 17, 2005

TLRs - pay cut for teachers

The next two months see the introduction of TLRs (Teaching and Learning Responsibility allowances) in schools which are intended to result in a lessening of the pay bill for schools over the long term.

At the moment some teachers receive Management Allowances for co-ordinating subjects in schools or for pastoral work. All this is to be swept away with the introduction of TLRs. This change is only opposed by the National Union of Teachers.

Most are unaware that a pay cut is proposed. The government can be expected to stand up on TV hand on heart and claim the new system is "rewarding good teachers" implying that the thousands who will lose out are bad teachers. In many cases they are just unlucky to be in schools which are strapped for cash.

http://socialistteachers.org.uk

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Halliburton

Is Halliburton an agency of the US state or is the US state a branch of Halliburton? An analysis released by a Democratic senator found that Vice President Dick Cheney's Halliburton stock options have risen 3,281 percent in the last year. That is rather more than one percent for each American life lost.

“Halliburton has already raked in more than $10 billion from the Bush-Cheney Administration for work in Iraq, and they were awarded some of the first Katrina contracts," Lautenberg said in a statement. "It is unseemly for the Vice President to continue to benefit from this company at the same time his Administration funnels billions of dollars to it. The Vice President should sever his financial ties to Halliburton once and for all.”

Cheney continues to hold 433,333 Halliburton stock options. The company has been criticized by auditors for its handling of a no-bid contact in Iraq. Auditors found the firm marked up meal prices for troops and inflated gas prices in a deal with a Kuwaiti supplier. The company built the American prison at Guantanamo Bay."

(Source http://rawstory.com/news/2005/Cheneys_stock_options_rose_3281_last_1011.html)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

General Teaching Council

General Teaching Council Fraud
I received news of the latest appointment to the General Teaching Council. The individual Robert Millea is a chartered accountant.

There are several bodies for Chartered Accountants. For example, the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England & Wales was incorporated by Royal Charter in May 1880 and as far as I know it does not have any teachers on its governing body. Its governing body, unsurprisingly, is elected by Chartered Accountants.

Bl**dy cheek.

However, this is typical of government thinking. New Labour is wary of an independent body representing teachers as a profession and insists on having it tied to government's apron strings. It is also packed out with cronies. Its first leader was a film director with no classroom experience whatsoever but impeccable New Labour credentials.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Bushisms

I remember Naomi Klein using Bushisms as one of her reasons for crossing the picket line and voting for the Democrats. She argued that the low level of political debate under Bush would come to an end under a more wily representative of the capitalist class!

So on the whole I do not pass on Bushisms, but this is a very special compilation:
http://www.badmash.org/videos/videos_flv.php?v=george_bush_512K_Stream
of all your old favourites with a new twist.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Bullying at work - teachers shouldn't put up with it.

Briefcase
Bullying and Harassment

The text of Briefcase can be found here
http://wsta.org.uk/briefcase2005.doc

It details (anonymously of course) cases of bullying and what can be done to deal with the problem. The union is doing something about it but can only do it with your help. Whether you want to help or you need help, ring up the union, the number is on your card.

"Unteachable" pupils and manic teachers!

One comment on the TES website about the TV program "The Unteachables": "I preferred the original verison with Eliot Ness."

Apart from David Blunkett I doubt anyone thinks there is one right method of teaching. Actually it is a pretty poor teacher who has *one* method of teaching. Some methods work better for some pupils. The most "unteachable" pupil for me will respond to someone else who finds some of my pupils "unteachable."

And not all pupils respond to manic teachers, although they make more interesting TV.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Bush has a direct line to God

Palestinian Prime Minister Abu Mazen and foreign minister Nabil Shaath describe their first meeting with President Bush in June 2003. Shaath quotes Bush as saying at the time "I'm driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, "George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan." And I did, and then God would tell me, "George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq …" And I did. And now, again, I feel God's words coming to me, "Go get the Palestinians their state and get the Israelis their security, and get peace in the Middle East." And by God I'm gonna do it,'" Shaath quoted Bush as saying. The White House denied Bush made the comments, calling them "absurd."

I wonder if anyone has told Bush that the only reason God sends people to the Middle East is so they can be crucified.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Rally for Socialism in London 12 November

A socialist world is possible



Rally for Socialism



6 - 9 pm Saturday 12 November 2005

Friends Meeting House
173 Euston Road, London NW1 2BJ
(Nearest tube and station: Euston)

The evening will include:

Footage from G8 make poverty history & Gleneagles protests

Speaker from International Socialist Resistance (ISR)

Jean Charles de Menezes campaign

Gate Gourmet workers

Mark Serwotka (General Secretary of the PCS, civil servants’ union)

Tommy Sheridan, Scottish Socialist Party MSP

Film footage from struggle of the Gama Workers in Ireland

Joe Higgins, Irish Socialist Party TD (MP)

Peter Taaffe, general secretary of the Socialist Party

and more…

Get tickets from

http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/socialism/socialism.htm

Straw Poll

I do not know if Straw's big speech made any converts to the war, judging from this morning's Observer it at least caused Colin MacCabe to tear up his party card. The fact that there was no debate at a political conference about the major foreign policy issue was symbolised by Walter's ejection from the conference.
Walter and Colin were among those who opted to stay in the Labour Party despite Blairism, perhaps the time has come to call it a day.
Anyone who wants socialism will have to seek elsewhere. One wonders how long the union leaders can resist the pressure to start running candidates against New Labour (against war and against privatisation).

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Some consolation

It is some consolation to Walter Wolfgang after being manhandled out of the Labour Conference that nobody will remember what on earth Straw thought he was talking about but everyone will remember this vivid demonstration of how the last vestiges of democratic debate are being crushed in the Labour Party.

Perhaps the most telling comment came from Kevin Maguire in the Mirror

"The rows of empty red seats suggested they should have been hauling people in off Brighton's streets instead of chucking them out. Fears are growing Blair will leave a demoralised, divided party and unintentionally open the door a few inches to the Conservatives."

All serious political debate in the Labour Party is stifled. Workers' opposition to the war and privatisation agenda is shrugged off as irrelevant.How long can union leaders go on propping up this sham? It is time to build a party of the working class.

Separated by a common language?

George Mikes once advised new immigrants to Britain that it is traditional on entering a railway carriage to shake hands with everyone and introduce yourself. This wind-up article appeared recently in an American magazine. I am unreliably informed that it was taken seriously by a lot of people...

MONEY
The Brits have peculiar words for many things. Money is referred to
as "goolies" in slang, so you should for instance say "I'd love to
come to the pub but I haven't got any goolies." "Quid" is the modern
word for what was once called a "shilling" - the equivalent of
seventeen cents American.

MAKING FRIENDS
If you are fond of someone, you should tell him he is a "great
tosser"- he will be touched. The English are a notoriously tactile,
demonstrative people, and if you want to fit in you should hold
hands with your acquaintances and tossers when you walk down the
street.

CUSTOMS
Since their Labour government whole heartedly embraced full union
with Europe the Brits have been attempting to adopt certain
continental customs, such as the large midday meal followed by a two
or three hour siesta, which they call a "wank." As this is still a
fairly new practice in Britain, it is not uncommon for people to
oversleep (alarm clocks, alas, do not work there due to the magnetic
pull from Greenwich). If you are late for supper, simply apologise
and explain that you were having a wank - everyone will understand
and forgive you.


FOOD AND WINE
British cuisine enjoys a well deserved reputation as the most
sublime gastronomic pleasure available to man. Thanks to today's
robust dollar, the American traveller can easily afford to dine out
several times a week (rest assured that a British meal is worth
interrupting your afternoon wank for). Few foreigners are aware that
there are several grades of meat in the UK. The best cuts of meat,
like the best bottles of gin, bear Her Majesty's seal, called the
British Stamp of Excellence (BSE). When you go to a fine restaurant,
tell your waiter you want BSE beef and won't settle for anything
less. If he balks at your request, custom dictates that you jerk
your head imperiously back and forth while rolling your eyes to show
him who is boss. Once the waiter realises you are a person of
discriminating taste, he may offer to let you peruse the
restaurant's list of exquisite British wines. If he does not, you
should order one anyway. The best wine grapes grow on the steep,
chalky hillsides of Yorkshire and East Anglia- try an Ely '84 or
Ripon '88 for a rare treat indeed. When the bill for your meal comes
it will show a suggested amount. Pay whatever you think is fair,
unless you plan to dine there again, in which case you should simply
walk out; the restaurant host will understand that he should run a
tab for you.

TRANSPORTATION
Public taxis are subsidized by the Her Majesty's Government. A taxi
ride in London costs two pounds, no matter how far you travel. If a
taxi driver tries to overcharge you, you should yell "I think not,
you charlatan!", then grab the nearest policeman (bobby) and have
the driver disciplined. It is rarely necessary to take a taxi,
though, since bus drivers are required to make detours at patrons'
requests. Just board any bus, pay your fare of thruppence (the heavy
gold-colored coins are "pence"), and state your destination clearly
to the driver, e.g.: "Please take me to the British Library." A
driver will frequently try to have a bit of harmless fun by
pretending he doesn't go to your requested destination. Ignore him,
as he is only teasing the American tourist (little does he know
you're not so ignorant!). For those travelling on a shoestring
budget, the London Tube may be the most economical way to get about,
especially if you are a woman. Chivalry is alive and well in
Britain, and ladies still travel for free on the Tube. Simply take
some tokens from the baskets at the base of the escalators or on the
platforms; you will find one near any of the state-sponsored Tube
musicians. Once on the platform, though, beware! Approaching trains
sometimes disturb the large Gappe bats that roost in the tunnels.
The Gappes were smuggled into London in the early 19th century by
French saboteurs and have proved impossible to exterminate. The
announcement "Mind the Gappe!" is a signal that you should grab your
hair and look towards the ceiling. Very few people have ever been
killed by Gappes, though, and they are considered only a minor
drawback to an otherwise excellent means of transportation.

AIRPORTS
One final note: for preferential treatment when you arrive at
Heathrow airport, announce that you are a member of Shin Fane (an
international Jewish peace organization-the "shin" stands
for "shalom"). As savvy travellers know, this little white lie will
assure you priority treatment as you make your way through customs.
Safe travels and Bon Voyage!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

On Marxism

I was asked by the education forum to make a comment about my political philosophy. It is as follows:

My main political message would be to read about political ideas and compare what you find with your experiences in real life.

Jack London in "The Iron Heel" suggested this approach. He got Avis Everhard to follow up the case of a worker "Jackson" badly treated by his employer. Which political analysis actually dealt with his problem and which just protected his employer from the consequences of wrongdoing?

Corporations exercise power without responsiblity. I think that keeping track of what they are doing now and seeking alternative sources of information from the corporate media will probably lead you to similar conclusions to those of the acclaimed thinkers of socialism: Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.

The very fact that British academics will tell you that the ideas of Marx and Engels (usually called Marxism) are irrelevant and then expend gallons of ink in "disproving" Marxism will tell you all you need to know. Why such an effort? Why is so much money spent opposing an idea which is so "irrelevant"?

They will tell you Lenin was a dictator and then explain in great detail how *they* would have led a successful revolution...perhaps.

They will tell you that Trotsky's ideas have no validity but then oppose any call for social justice with a "what about Russia then?" To answer that question you would have to have a working knowledge of Trotsky's ideas.

I would not ask anyone to idolise Marx, Engels, Lenin or Trotsky. I would just ask that you *read what they wrote* before accepting without question the biased opinions of the university professors paid good money to discredit them.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Bringing democracy to Brighton

BRIGHTON (Reuters) - Stewards ejected an 82-year-old man from the Labour Party's conference on Wednesday after he heckled Foreign Secretary Jack Straw over the Iraq war.

Walter Wolfgang shouted "liar" and "nonsense" at Straw as he said British troops would remain in Iraq.

Stewards grabbed Wolfgang and physically removed him from the conference hall, prompting another delegate, Steve Forrest, to shout out a complaint about his treatment.

Forrest was also ejected from the hall and the conference centre on Brighton's seafront.

So while Bush's gunslingers are busy bringing democracy to Iraq, New Labour thugs are bringing democracy to Brighton

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Journalists poncing off each other

Without making any effort to check the facts, journalists at the Telegraph and the Times have copied uncritically Vanessa Allen's sloppy and inaccurate story. The reason? Teachers as a group cannot be libelled. McDonalds with their million dollar lawyers can drag their critics through the courts and criminals like Jeffrey Archer have made a pretty penny by suing for libel.

However there is some consolation. Opinion polls like the one by Mori http://www.wsta.org.uk/mori.htm show that people regard teachers, doctors and nurses as trustworthy whereas politicians and journalists come out at the bottom of the list. The same is true in polls conducted in Canada and Australia.

The differences are startling with 85% believing a teacher would tell them the truth, 13 percent believed the same about journalists and 19 percent about politicians.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Sloppy journalism

An article in the Daily Mirror begins as follows:
"TEACHERS NAME KIDS THEY FEAR
By Vanessa Allen
CHILDREN called Liam, Paige and Chloe are likely to be troublemakers at school, according to teachers."


The headline and the first sentence contain the same lie and it is all downhill from there.

Was Vanessa Allen quoting a survey of teacher opinion? No. She was quoting from a facetious thread on a bulletin board. This is not exactly scientific. Anyone can post on a bulletin board. Vanessa Allen does not know whether a single one of the posters is actually a teacher. Vanessa Allen does know that this does not represent the views of "teachers" but of a few posters.

It is sloppy journalism designed to denigrate teachers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Basra

I can remember - it seems like only yesterday - when the Iraqi police were praised as the heroes who would take over the policing of Iraq and enable to colonial powers to have an orderly exit strategy. I can remember when attacks on the police were condemned as the acts of cowardly terrorists.

And today it is the British army attacking the police on the grounds they have arrested British soldiers and have been infiltrated by the insurgency. The exit strategy is in tatters. To watch the British media turning somersaults in its assessment of the situation in Basra recalls the rally in George Orwell's 1984 in which the Party switches from denouncing Eastasia to denouncing Eurasia in mid-speech.

Also the term "insurgency" is used rather than "resistance." It is illegal to refer to the Iraqi resistance as a resistance in the Iraqi newspapers - the ...erm... democratic government has put a stop to all that free press nonsense.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

The three balloons

There were once three balloons. Mummy balloon, daddy balloon and baby balloon and they bought a new bed. It turned out the bed was too small so baby balloon let a bit of air out of daddy balloon but it wasn't enough, so he let a little air out of mummy balloon but it still wasn't enough so he let a lot of air out of himself so they could fit into the bed and get a good night's sleep.

However in the morning mummy balloon pointed her finger at him and said, "You've let your father down, you've let me down, but most of all you've let yourself down!"

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Live journal and IMDB

I am investigating Live Journal but I really cannot keep on changing my blog address as it will just get confusing. However LJ is open source which is attractive.

IMDB
http://imdb.com/user/ur1635081/comments
have put together a collection of my movie reviews. Which is nice.

Smoking

I have uploaded some resources to http://homepages.enterprise.net/sackville/activit1.htm
and http://homepages.enterprise.net/sackville/badverts.htm and pupils are making interactive webpages using "Hot Potatoes" software.

Hotpot seems to be hooked on Windows but the resulting quizzes work with any computer as they are designed to be uploaded to the web.

A friend mentioned to me that girls smoke so they can lose weight...and smell like an old ashtray!

Naomi Wolff in "The Beauty Myth" compared adversely the amount of food in a diet
program in the states with the (and this is grotesque) rations in a concentration camp. She also pointed out that the average figure of frequently photographed female figure in the media was that of a profoundly unhealthy teenager. Teenagers who aspire to such a model will make themselves ill.

I don't hit my pupils with anything so heavy (oh dear) as that, the aim of the course is to enjoy learning and whatever they think about smoking they can have fun putting together a quiz and at the same time learn a bit about interactive web pages. However the facts rub off on them in the process and they can take a decision for themselves about smoking based on the facts.
I hear pupils repeating to each other facts from the Ash link in the activity when they are chatting.

And seriously what is the point in teaching them ICT or Math or poetry if they smoke themselves into an early grave? If I dissuade one of the pupils I teach from smoking then my time will have been tolerably well spent.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I C T in schools

I think ICT has three purposes:


1) Pupils should enjoy using ICT, it is potentially the most exciting subject and provides access to a great deal of accurate information they can use (and inaccurate information they have to learn to detect!). Importantly it is a source of knowledge not filtered by Rupert Murdoch.

2) Pupils should experiment with ICT, they are not just recipients of knowledge they should be creating and sharing their own webpages.

3) They should evaluate ICT. And that means realising that a book is better for some kinds of activity (I don't take a computer to bed with me, ignore the rumours!) and that a computer is better for others. *ICT means realising the limitations and the dangers of the technology as well as its benefits.*

The only reason to teach anything to anybody is if it is interesting and/or useful to them.



(For the benefit of readers overseas, ICT is what they call IT in the UK. They thought changing the name every couple of years would be better than having a coherent policy.)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Pat Robertson's hand in the till?

Pat Robertson's hand in the till?

After FEMA suggested that people who want to help the victims of Katrina should give money to Pat Robertson's charity "Second Blessing", Juan Gonzales of Democracy Now revealed the following facts:

"Interestingly enough, when I checked their latest 990 for the fiscal year ending of March of 2004, they give hundreds of grants for a few thousand dollars to churches all around the United States, but the single largest recipient of assistance from Second Blessing is Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network. It received $885,000 in grants from the charity. For what purposes, I'm not quite clear.

"But the other part of it is also that Second Blessing has had a less than stellar record. Back in the mid-1990s during the Rwandan genocide, Robertson appealed for assistance for Operation Second Blessing on his 700 Club for money to fly relief supplies to the Rwandan refugees in Zaire. An investigation later by the Virginia Attorney General's office revealed that the planes that were bought by the charity were actually ferrying mining equipment for a diamond mining operation, the African Development Corporation, and lo-and-behold, who is the principal shareholder of this private corporation? None other than Pat Robertson himself. So, he eventually had to reimburse his own charity $400,000 for the fact that these planes were being used, not for charitable work, but for his own enrichment.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Alison Goldfrapp

Alison Goldfrapp's Ooh La La is a bit over the top but
that is like saying gin is a bit alcoholic - OTT is
what she does superbly.

"Dial up my number now
Weaving it through the wire
*Switch me on, turn me up*
Don't want it baudelaire
Just glitter lust
*Switch me on, turn me up*
I want to touch you you're just
Made for love
I need la la la la la
I need ooo la la la la
Calls up and round me
Teasing your poetry
*Switch me on, turn me up*
Oh child of venus you're just
Made for love
You know I walk for days
I wanna waste some time
You wanna be so mean
You know I love to watch
I wanna love some more
I'll never be the same
A broken heel like a heart
I'll never walk again."

Friday, September 09, 2005

Colin Powell

Colin Powell, (I wonder if he has some political ambitions left?) said in an interview with the American ABC network:

"There have been a lot of failures at a lot of levels - local, state and federal,"

Political figures from both major US parties have assailed the slow response to the hurricane's assault last week on the Gulf Coast.

He said he did not think that race was a factor in the slow response but that many of those unable to leave New Orleans in time were "trapped by poverty which disproportionately affects blacks."

That is a bit of doubletalk of course. After all why does poverty disproportionately affect black people? Nevertheless this is an interesting development. Powell lied his head off over Iraq. As the American writer Frank Herbert used to say, "the truth is the best lie of all if you can use it." Powell's new-found concern for the poor is just a pose. He will require the backing of the corporations to achieve his political ambitions and a fat lot they care for the poor.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

According to the Guardian
"Huntingdon Life Sciences, the controversial animal testing company, has been forced to postpone a listing on the New York Stock Exchange after animal rights extremists stepped up their activity in the US."
Amd what did these extremists do? Apparently they exercised their right to freedom of speech to contact the New York Stock Exchange and tell them what Huntingdon Life Sciences do. Not exactly terrorism but the British media portrayed it as such.

And Barbara Bush's comment on the poor blighters from New Orleans?
"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."
Or to put it another way it does not matter what happens to the poor, hey they were poor to start with.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Venezuela

On its website, FEMA lists a series of possible
charities. The top three charities are: the Red Cross,
Operation Second Harvest .......and Operation
Blessing, which was founded by Christian televangelist
Pat Robertson.
Of course Pat Robertson is the terrorist who wanted
them to kill ("take out") the president of Venezuela.

Venezuela was the first country to offer help to the United States in dealing with the effects of Hurricane Katrina. On Wednesday, August 31st, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced that Venezuelan state-owned CITGO Petroleum Corporation had already pledged US$1 million for hurricane aid. "It's a terrible tragedy that our North American brothers are living through," Chavez said. "We have a battalion from our Simon Bolivar humanitarian team ready in case they authorize it for us to go there, if they give us the green light." He offered humanitarian workers and fuel to help. "We are willing to donate fuel for hospitals, for public transport, everything we can do," Chavez said.

But at the same time Hugo Chavez sharply criticised US president G W Bush for his handling of the Hurricane crisis. "As more information comes out now, a terrible truth is becoming evident: That government doesn't have evacuation plans," Chavez said. Putting words to what many in the US must be thinking, he added that Bush, "there at his ranch, said nothing more than 'you need to flee'; he didn't even say how - in cowboy style." He also pointed out that the lack of a clear strategy on the part of the government hit the poorest sections of the population hardest. "We all saw the long lines of desperate people leaving that city in vehicles, those who had vehicles," he said, noting that the areas worst affected are amongst "some of the poorest in the United States, most of them black."

In contrast with the lack of action on the part of the US government, the Venezuelan government was able to help hundreds of Louisiana residents. CITGO, a company in the US owned by the Venezuelan oil company PDVSA, has a network of refineries and gas stations in the United States. One of these is based in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and was opened to give shelter and aid to some 2,000 residents of the area.

New Orleans 2

As an Englishman I really only know New Orleans from the music and the Anne Rice novels but the top journalists - real journalists - from the UK have been out there and universally critical of the response of the authorities.

I watched John Snow on the news yesterday. For a newscaster he can get very angry while delivering a report and his comments on Bush arriving in New Orleans were very bitter. They were probably coloured by talking to people on the ground who have lost loved ones, not to the "natural disaster" but to the incompetence of the state.

Perhaps the saddest sight was the car park with hundreds of buses under water. The buses that could have gotten poor people out of there but didn't. You need something like a "Dunkirk" response to tackle such a massive crisis. Bourgeois Politicians (politicians in the pockets of the corporations) can only rally the enthusiasm for war not for rescuing the poor.

Friday, September 02, 2005

New Orleans

The news is awful and the US government seem to have been napping at the wheel (again) and to have all their resources in the wrong place (again). There are thousands of national guard who could have been helping out in New Orleans but of course they are all bogged down in Iraq.

They can't even transport people out of the city when they tell them to evacuate. If you haven't got a car you haven't got a chance. People are starving so they want to crack down on looters. FFS if my family were starving I'd be a looter.

If government want to destroy a city (like Fallujah) they can spend billions on it, but when it comes to helping poor people in a crisis they do too little and too late.

Chavez of Venezuela has offered a million dollars to help the poor in America. This is the guy they want to kill off. Venezuela is a lot poorer than the US - everybody is a lot poorer than the US!

Friday, August 26, 2005

Tom Whipple

It is not merely the tabloid press and the frankly obscurantist Daily Telegraph which has been attacking the "soft subjects".

On behalf of the Guardian Tom Whipple sat the three-part sociology AS-level within a fortnight. It was meant to be an investigation into whether exams are getting easier. This is not "proof" of anything. As a mathematician Tom Whipple can calculate the statistical relevance of this evidence. It is zero.

Child prodigy Ruth Lawrence achieved a starred first in Mathematics at Oxford University at the age of 13 (the youngest British person ever to earn a first-class degree and the youngest known graduate of Oxford University). Ruth got an A in Maths A-level aged nine. Nobody said this was a comment on the nature of mathematics but a comment on Ruth's abilities.

Tom Whipple was described by teachers as a smart a** with a taste for self publicity. That is the only thing which was proven.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

1,864 dead

Bush did not admit to the death toll of 1864 in Iraq, he boasted about it. His answer to Cindy Sheehan was "We will finish the task that they gave their lives for. We will honor their sacrifice by staying on the offensive against the terrorists, and building strong allies in Afghanistan and Iraq that will help us win and fight -- fight and win the war on terror."

We have thrown away nearly 2000 lives, the only solution is to throw away more.

And the Iraqi dead? He didn't count them because for him they don't count.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Brazil!

Bloody hell Brazil (with their reputation!) are sending over cops to investigate *our* death squads. Human rights groups estimate 14000 people were bumped off by police and death squads in Brazil in 1999.

A lot of people would accept: "the police were on high alert. They panicked. This should never have happened. It must not happen again." Instead Blair and Blair have lied and lied to try to cover up and they have been caught out. The latest lie "there was no cover-up" when the CCTV footage went mysteriously missing.

Oddly enough ITN have been behaving like real journalists and "seeking out the stories those in power don't want told". It is clear that whatever the Blairs might say the police are capturing suspects alive now and have clearly changed their rules in a backhanded recognition of their guilt.

They need the support of the public to combat terrorism and this is not the way to win hearts and minds!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

"Come Back to Me Again, Sadako"

I heard the story of Sadako Sasaki many years ago when my children were Woodcraft Folk and they remembered Hiroshima by folding paper birds (cranes). I was reminded of it today when my son came back from Japan after visiting Hiroshima and the memorial to Sadako.

I found the following letter on the website http://www.sadako.org/

Letter From Sadako's Mother

Come Back to Me Again, Sadako
A Letter from Sadako's Mother, Fujiko Sasaki

No one is lovelier for a mother than the most miserable child. I have four children and I feel very sorry about Sadako most. Already eight months have passed since Sadako died. She was really a miserable child. When she was born during the war, there was not enough food and she weighed only 2250 grams, but she was fine except when she got pneumonia when my husband was drafted. You may laugh at me if I praise her (Translator's note: it is not Japanese custom to praise your family in front of others;), but she was so considerate and thoughtful that I relied on her. She helped me a lot in every possible way. When I can't go to sleep, I often remember my child who got worn out and died and wish I could hug her to my heart's content only once more. In my dream, Sadako says to me, "Leave it to me, mom" and I wake up calling, "Sadako!"

Then I realize it was a dream and I wonder how she is. For a while, I'm lost in my sad thoughts and join my hands in prayer before the tablet of the deceased.

I remember January 9th last year. She showed me a lymph node behind her ear saying "Mom, I think that my lymphatic glands were swollen a little." I thought it. But when she had a check up at ABCC(Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission) in June, 1954, she was told that she was fine, and she was really vigorous and everyone knew she loved doing exercises.

I once thought, "If she has to suffer like this, she should have died that morning on August 6th" (which was the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima), but I now think, "I wish she were alive and could be with me no matter how handicapped she was and how heavy her sickness was."

I remember Sadako like I remember yesterday. What I remember most is the time when she was hospitalized.

It was a rare and fine morning at the ground of Nobori-cho elementary school on February 10th, 1955. I remember vigorous children playing, jumping an elastic string. Sadako was enjoying playing it though I thought, "Sadako! You are sick with an atomic bomb disease called leukemia. Oh, no! Why you?"

My husband and I took her to a hospital though she went to school happily with a bag as usual.

Sadako looked fine without knowing that her doctor said she would die in a few months.

After he told us this, my husband and I cried hard near Sadako, who was sleeping peacefully. We were choked with tears and spent the night thinking, "Oh, we wish something could be done. We wish here was something to save her against this illness of Atomic Bomb disease." I squeezed Sadako's hands thinking "If a medicine which could cure this incurable disease in the world existed in the world, then I'd like to borrow money even if it is ten million yen. Or, if possible, let me die for her..."

But we were so poor that we could barely live. I decided to do my best as a mother and love her as much as possible. But eight months after she has passed away, my heart is still choked with sorrow because I couldn't do anything for her.

I appreciate her doctors' efforts, caring for her day and night. When I heard that she would die soon, I bought silk fabric with a cherry blossom pattern and at night I made her a kimono. When I gave it to Sadako, she kept back her tears and said, "Mom, you did too much for me." I asked her to put it on saying, "Sadako-chan, this is my wish, so please put this on." She wiped her tears and wore it and looked very happy.

She knew we were poor though she didn't say anything. She used to say, "Mom, I'm not a good daughter because you have to spend so much money for my sickness..." I'm sure sure she had many things she wanted to buy as a teenager such as new clothes, but she didn't say anything to me and kept it to herself because she knew we were poor.

I coundn't stop my tears when I saw Sadako wearing the kimono because she looked so nice. She watched me saying, "Why do you shed tears? You did too much for me..." We had a dream to buy kimono for her after the war because she had helped me so much. Our dream was realized finally.

One of her classmates, Miss Chizuko Hamamoto, wrote her reminiscence of Sadako as follows;

Sadako looked more beautiful in her kimono because her swollen lymph nodes made her appear as if she gained weight. She wore her beautiful kimono with cherry blossom patterns today. When I said, "You look nicer with Kimono than a dress, Miss Sasaki," she said, "Is that so? Isn't it nice?" But she looked sad. I don't know how Sadako felt about her friend's words, but the kimono became a keepsake.

She believed in a saying that if you fold a thousand cranes, you'd get over your sickness. She folded paper cranes carefully, one by one using a piece of paper of advertisement, medicine and wrapping. Her eyes were shining while she was folding the cranes, showing she wanted to survive by all means.

When my husband and I went to see her, she said, "Dad, I've folded just four hundred paper cranes." He was considerate to her, keeping back his tears.

"How hard her fate is, though she wants to live so much! How pitiful she is though she wants to live so much! Sadako, I want to do something for you by all means," I thought, but there was nothing I could do and I thought tenderly of her.

Looking at the folded cranes which Sadako made innocently on her bed, I almost cried my heart out thinking of Sadako's feelings. I wondered why she was born.

I gave folded cranes that she made sincerely to her classmates and put the rest of them in her coffin as well as flowers so that she could bring them to the next world.

Why didn't you thousand cranes sing? Why didn't they fly?

Sadako, please forgive me. How hard and uncomfortable it was every day. I wonder if you live in comfort in the heaven.

Her classmates, the members of Association of Kokeshi, come every 25th, and are kind to us.

I cried reading letters of reminiscence of Sadako which will be published in a book the other day. I really respect children for their strong love and wish for peace because they made a plan to create a Statue of an Atomic Bomb Child with Sadako's death as a start.

Sadako! The peace you wished for will be realized in the form of a statue of An Atomic Bomb Child, with the help of your classmates such as Masako and Chou as well as children from Hokkaidou in the north to Kyushu in the south.

The statue of An Atomic Child will be built as the symbol of peace on the lawn near Atomic Bomb Memorial Tower in Nakajima where Sada-chan went with father!

Sadako! Listen! Can you hear your friends' strong voices for peace? As the mother of a child who passed away when she was only twelve and a half years old, I'd like to appeal to mothers not only in Japan but all over the world that I don't want such a horrible thing to happen again. So many children are looking for peace.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Victoria Beckham never read a book

The former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham has never read a book in her life, she has told a Spanish magazine. In the article, she said: "I haven't read a book in my life. I don't have the time. I prefer listening to music, although I do love fashion magazines."

The admission may surprise fans who bought her alleged autobiography "Learning to Fly." She is probably not telling the truth. It is unlikely that she never even read "The Cat in the Hat" or Janet and John.

However it does show an attitude to books which is widespread and which the mechanistic approach of the Literacy strategy has encouraged. The only reason to read a book is if there is a test on it. Pupils routinely throw away, tear up or burn books when the exams are over - "I will never have to read a book again." is a common response at this time of year.

And I think we all know that book-burning never ends well.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

MSPs persecuted for supporting G8 protests

On the 30 June 2005 four Scottish Socialist Party parliamentary representatives were summarily suspended and stripped of their pay and parliamentary allowances for the month of September. The financial suspensions will also mean 28 members of staff, not involved in the protest, will also not be paid.

Their crime? Mounting a peaceful, silent protest, lasting five minutes, at First Minister's question time. SSP members Colin Fox, Frances Curran, Rosie Kane, and Caroline Leckie held up placards demanding that First Minister Jack McConnell carry out the will of the parliament by defending the right to protest peacefully against the G8 leaders at Gleneagles on the 6 July.

Five months earlier the Scottish Parliament had passed a motion supporting the right of people to protest at the G8 summit. Yet, just, six days prior to the planned protest, official permission had still not been granted for the protest to go ahead. This was deliberately done by the authorities, in order to cause confusion and undermine the planned demonstration.

This unprecedented and draconian penalty was imposed through a process which makes a mockery of natural justice. The SSP MSPs were tried in their absence, without any kind of due process, right of appeal or any of the basic human rights that are enshrined in law.
This attack is not only targeted at the SSP representatives. By banning them for the month of Spetember, 130,000 voters will be denied a voice in the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Socialist Party has a record of supporting workers in struggle and has been at the forefront of opposition to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. In 2003 they received a 130,000 votes and six Scottish Socialist Party MSPs were elected to the Scottish Parliament. The SSP, as the only party in Scotland consistently opposing the neo-liberal agenda, has earned the enmity of the mainstream political parties and the political establishment.

Messages of support have been pouring in from all over Europe and the world, from members of the European Parliament, from trades unions and from individual workers.


You can contact
presiding.officer@scottish.parliament.uk
if you consider this to be a violation of democratic rights.

and you can also contact scottishsocialistparty@btconnect.com
if you support their stand.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Don't mention the War

My week in France: it is soon told, sunshine, swimming, Sauvignon and lots of things beginning with s. However I did go Riems and to the "musee guerre et paix" which chronicles the three occasions upon which Germany has invaded and enslaved the people of the Ardennes. "Enslaved" is not an exaggeration.

Germany: Bernkastel-Kues birthplace of Nicolaus Cusanus. The owner of the house was amazed that I had never heard of him. Apparently he was a really clever bugger around the 15th century whose works on theology and Maths laid the basis for our current view of the universe.

He was a polymath and a humanitarian. Extraordinarily, the locals will tell you that the American General given the job of bombing the area in the war (it is OK to talk about the war btw but I would let them raise the matter first!) spared the Cusanus library for future generations. An odd memorial to a humanitarian to bomb people instead of books but there it is.

The summary: more sunshine, less swimming and a concert with a Ukrainian pianist, Olga Monakh.

And before I left I had a tart and a cup of tea in the Channel Tunnel terminal. The tart was absolutely superb as you might expect in France. The tea unfortunately was also as one might expect in France (Jesus wept!)

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Suicide Bombers

The NY Times has cast doubt on whether the London bombers of 07/07 were suicide bombers or duped into thinking they were leaving the bombs - they bought return tickets for example.

Mr Tony Blair has made an issue of "suicide bombing". In his speech yesterday, he was keen to make the point that "nothing, including Iraq, can justify suicide bombing." Surely the point about this bombing was that it was indiscriminate and killed civilians not combatants.

For some reason Mr Blair did not want his soundbite for the day to be a condemnation of civilian bombing. Why would that be?

Moral High Ground on music downloading

Democracy Now! reports today:
"Sony-BMG Settles Payola Lawsuit
One of the world's largest record companies -- Sony/BMG -- has agreed to pay a $10 million settlement in a major payola case. New York's Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sued the company for illegally paying radio stations thousands of dollars to play certain artists including Jennifer Lopez and Franz Ferdinand. Spitzer said "Contrary to listener expectations that songs are selected for airplay based on artistic merit and popularity, air time is often determined by undisclosed payoffs to radio stations and their employees." Spitzer also criticized the radio stations for accepting the payment. He said the Federal Communications Commission should consider stripping the licenses of the stations. On Monday FCC commissioner Jonathan Adelstein called for an immediate federal investigation of payola practices."

This is very interesting given the decisions of big business to prosecute teenagers for downloading music and their contention that a teenager who downloads music is robbing them of much needed cash....cash needed to pay fines for illegal activities presumably.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

"Ninety days" law

My brother was imprisoned in South Africa and spent a period in hospital immediately afterwards as a consequence.

In South Africa at that time they had the Suppression of Communism Act known as the "Ninety Day Law" this enabled the Security Services to imprison people for ninety days without charge or trial. In practice they could imprison people indefinitely because they could rearrest them for a further ninety days.

Today Tony Blair, using the terrorist attacks in London as a pretext, held meetings with the chiefs of the police and they have raised the spectre of a "Ninety Day Law" in England.

The claim has been made that this will only be for terrorist suspects. I do not believe that imprisoning people like myself or my children who are anti-war and anti-capitalist activists will help prevent further terrorist outrages.

I wait to see how that hypocrite Peter Hain will respond to this. He was famous as an opponent of the Apartheid regime but he has kowtowed to every erosion of democratic rights in the UK using the figleaf of the war on terror. (If it is possible to kowtow using a figleaf!)

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The name's Campbell, Alistair Campbell

It really is tough on James Bond. I think we all know that he could
sort the masterminds of the Al Qaeda out within two and a half hours. He could obtain the secret plans, possibly delving beneath the burhkas of a couple of improbably sexy and statuesque Al Qaeda agents in the process. He would find the evil Osama Bin Laden in his cave provocatively stroking a milk-white pussy (cat). A spectacular
set-piece confrontation would blow, shoot and karate him and his cohorts to kingdom come.

IRL James would obtain the information only to be told that it was the wrong information:

"007, this report is excellent. A first class piece of work and really first rate information. Just a couple of things: could you just change the words 'Saudi Arabia' to 'Iraq' and 'Pakistan' to 'Afghanistan'. And all this evidence that the war helped Al Qaeda recruitment: just lose it will you. I want a revised report on my desk tomorrow morning.

"Oh and just one other thing 007, when I say I want your reports sexed
up I don't expect you to turn them into soft pornography."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Oh my God - religion in education revisited

The issue of religion in education rages on in the TES.

So far we have been offered:
"religious belief underpins morality" - I notice there is no attempt to explain the moral behaviour of people who are atheists: an apparent impossibility if we accept the premise.

"religion is the underpinning of society" - which suggests the need for a study of history or sociology rather than the teaching of religious belief. The underpinning of the conflict in Sri Lanka or Kashmir or Northern Ireland would be an interesting object of study would it not? If "those are really geopolitical disputes" then that does not make much of a case for the need to study religion.

The fake idea that the moral behaviour of atheists "stems originally from Christianity" has already been refuted but to reiterate the obvious: if atheists do not require Christianity in order to behave in a moral way then religious values have no place in school.

You could just as easily stand the argument on its head. If Christians agree with many of the moral values of atheists they might as well acknowledge their debt to atheism.

The Christianity of Bush and Blair has not saved them from grievous errors has it?

Saturday, July 16, 2005

USA promoting democracy worldwide?

Well, look here at these recipients of US Military Aid, then click on the link for the human rights records.

A tad mixed vis a vis promoting democracy and freedom, is it not?

Then a little further probing reveals such bastions of democracy as Georgia, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan as doing rather nicely in receiving the means to oppress their own peoples.

And one of the first things Condoleeza Rice did as Sec of State was to certify Indonesia for IMET military training. I quote G.W.Bush, on the aid to Indonesia:

"We're really pushing for normalisation of full military ties."

Saudi Arabia $1,169,436,000
Egypt $1,046,709,000
Israel $845,562,000
Taiwan $646,775,000
Turkey $523,488,000
Singapore $169,014,000
Kuwait $153,236,000
Thailand $139,576,000
United Arab Emirates $110,130,000
Bahrain $97,052,000
Jordan $70,556,000
Venezuela $34,819,000
Uzbekistan $33,971,000
Philippines $26,416,000
India $26,158,000
Mexico $24,676,000
Colombia* $22,378,000
Brazil $18,925,000
Afghanistan $17,143,000
Malaysia $13,509,000
Dominican Republic $11,813,000
Morocco $10,717,000
Oman $8,102,000
Nepal $6,697,000
Nigeria $4,690,000

http://www.worldpolicy.org/projects/arms/reports/WatWTable1.html