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!