Tuesday, March 28, 2006

BBC anti-union stance.

The BBC coverage of today's public sector strike was a disgrace and echoes their worst efforts on behalf of Margaret Thatcher during the miners' strike.

They portrayed the strike as a battle between the public and private sector and continually repeated the refrain that "the public will have to pay for this" and while grudgingly accepting there was massive public support for the strike they insisted "this will not last."

The government is unilaterlaly breaking an agreement with public sector workers and their proposal is daylight robbery.

The head of the CBI who pontificated against the strike looks forward to a golden farewell worth millions while bleating that the country cannot afford to honour the agreement.

And what aout the vaunted superiority of the private sector? Not in terms of pensions obviously.

Everybody knows that if the public sector workers just accept this theft of their pensions the government will only squander the money on war. There was no talk about "and the taxpayer will have to pay for this" when the bombs were falling on Baghdad.

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Tao of Pooh

Benjamin Hoff
The Tao of Pooh

Tao (the way) is too complicated to admit of a thumbnail definition. The book explains the concepts of Taoism in familiar terms of the Winnie the Pooh characters.
It is a novel approach and a good introduction. First rule of teaching – explain the unfamiliar in terms of the familiar.

It suggests among other things that when we find out something we do not like about ourselves we are better off trying to turn it into a more useful channel than trying to eliminate it. I am lazy and selfish and I drink too much. I wonder if there is a use for these characteristics somewhere.

The book is highly critical of Western Science and Philosophy and correctly castigates a tendency to worry too much, overintellectualise things and strive too hard.

On the other hand I remain wedded to Western Science because of my medical condition. After all Western Science is what is keeping me alive.

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

I read this as a result of watching the TV program The Lady Chatterley Affair. It is not the best book in the world but rereading it after all these years the notorious sex scenes do seem more human than a lot of writing on the subject. You find sexism, racism and homophobia in what Mellors says, but his conversation is very human if some of his ideas are weird.

It could have been called “When Ollie Met Connie” because the first 119 pages feel a bit empty and listless because they show how empty and listless Constance Chatterley’s life is and the story comes alive when she gets together with the gamekeeper. He is referred to as Mellors and “The Gamekeeper” more often than by his first name.

“When John Thomas met Lady Jane” would make a nice title too – these are the pet names for his cock and her cunt :)

Of course it was the idea of one of the lower classes having sex with an aristocrat which was really immoral to the prosecution in the court case. I mean you wouldn’t want your wife and your servant to get ideas!

Sunday, March 26, 2006

New discussion group on Yahoo

Teachers at the launch conference of the Campaign for a New Workers Party have put together a discussion group on Yahoo. Information about the launch is available here: http://cnwp.org.uk

You can join here

Post message: CNWPteachers@yahoogroups.com

Subscribe: CNWPteachers-subscribe@yahoogroups.com

Unsubscribe: CNWPteachers-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com

List owner: CNWPteachers-owner@yahoogroups.comI

It is open to everybody and there is a sign-up link on the Socialist Teachers' webpage. here. The only memberships which will be terminated are those which are seriously off-topic or advertising.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Norman Kember

From Democracy Now:
The recently freed kidnapped members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams are enjoying their first full day of freedom and preparing to head home. On Thursday British, U.S. and Canadian troops raided a home in Baghdad and found the three peace activists. The men -- Norman Kember of Britain, and Canadians James Loney and Harmeet Singh Sooden - were alone in a house and reportedly in good condition. It was only after their release that the men learned that their colleague Tom Fox had been killed two weeks earlier. The four men were kidnapped together in November. Following their release, the Christian Peacemaker Team organization vowed to stay in Iraq and continue their efforts in helping the families of jailed Iraqis. In a statement the group said "During these past months, we have tasted of the pain that has been the daily bread of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis... We renew our commitment to work for an end to the war and the occupation of Iraq." Officials estimate an average of 30 Iraqis are kidnapped every day.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Free games for your pupils to use

Pupils will use any games available on the net so adding educational ones is a surefire winner.

Teachers can add games to free software moodle program as follows:

So far the only way I have found to do this is:

1) Make a fling the teacher (I like free software and it is all I will use at home on principle!) game
2)post it to a website. For example atspace will allow ad-free websites and it has to be ad-free (see point one)
3) upload it as a link to moodle in this case http://learning.sackville.w-sussex.sch.uk/

There really ought to be an easier way!

If voting changed anything they would make it illegal?

I sympathise with people who don't vote under the present circumstances.

The opportunity exists to run alternative candidates even without the backing of the millionaires who own the main parties body and soul.

Whatever you might think about Richard Taylor or George Galloway (or Ken Livingstone before he rejoined New Labour), they do provide evidence that candidates from outside the main parties can be elected.

In Germany the new left party gained 8 percent of the vote and 54 seats. You don't have to endorse every dot and comma of their program to realise this shows there is a potential for an alternative. An alternative which is not a "Labour Party Mark 2"

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Campaign for a New Workers' Party

The Campaign for a New Workers’ Party conference, meeting in London on 19 March, was attended by some 450 people.

Former Labour MP and current Socialist Party councillor in Coventry Dave Nellist chaired the conference, which debated nine resolutions about the future shape of the campaign and elected officers and a steering committee to take the campaign’s work forward.

An overwhelming theme of the conference was that after previous false starts in trying to establish a new party to represent working people – such as Arthur Scargill’s Socialist Labour Party – any new party would have to be democratic, open and inclusive. At this stage the delegates at the conference felt it should take a federal approach to bring in as many supportive organisations and groups as possible, with no one group or individual dominating.

Dave Nellist, elected as the chair of the new steering committee said after the conference: "Today has been a very good start to our aim of preparing the way for a new party based on trade unionists, anti-war campaigners, community and environmental activists and particularly young people.

"With PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka speaking at the conference, along with other supportive messages from leading trade union figures, then this shows we have a strong base in the unions. A key objective now will be to get the unions to break from Labour and support our campaign."

Over 300 of the delegates at the conference were active trade unionists, including many members of trade union national executive committees and leading representatives at all levels of the trade unions. The new Campaign has a structure that allows trade unions to affiliate it and over half of the new steering committee were elected by trade union commissions on the day..

Dave Nellist added: "I think the timing of our launch has been just right. The sleaze allegations surrounding Labour, along with talk of state funding of the political parties which will further break the unions’ now tenuous links with Labour then I think we are well placed to see our campaign go from strength to strength.

"The Conference clearly concluded that Labour was no longer an option for working people. The CNWP needed to become the clear option for the working class, but it must first be rooted in communities and within the left, and that will be our task in the months ahead"

Although this was an initial conference of the CNWP it agreed a number of immediate tasks aimed at popularising the idea of a new mass workers’ party amongst as wide a section of the working class as possible.

This included:

* Actively supporting any initiatives towards the development of a new party. In particular encouraging those trade union and trade union leaders that no longer believe that New Labour can represent their interests to take active steps towards founding a new party.
* Reaffirming support for the declaration for a new workers’ party and aiming to have at least 5000 trade union, community and anti-war activists signed up by the end of 2006.
* Establishing affiliation to the CNWP. Affiliation for national organisations will be £50 and for local community, trade union and campaigning organisations £25. All national affiliated organisations with 100 or more members would have a seat on the steering committee.
* To get CNWP speakers to address local community, trade union and campaigning organisations meetings.
* Organise a CNWP speaking tour in May which aims to develop local CNWP campaigns in those areas where they don’t yet exist.
* Organise CNWP fringe meetings at as many trade union conferences as possible.
* To give support to genuine socialist and anti-cuts, anti-privatisation campaigns in the local elections.
* The steering committee will call a second national conference, by the end of March 2007 at the latest, to assess the progress made and look at how to further take the campaign forward.

The new officers of the campaign elected at the conference are:
Position Nomination
Secretary Roger Bannister (member of UNISON national executive – personal capacity)
Chair Dave Nellist (Socialist Party councillor, Coventry)
Vice-Chair Kevin Kelly (vice-president PCS national executive – personal capacity)
Vice-chair Jeremy Dewar
Press Officer Pete McLaren
Treasurer Fiona Pashazadeh
Trade union liaison officer Glenn Kelly (UNISON national executive – personal capacity)
Assistant Secretary Hannah Sell

Below is a link to pictures of the conference

Images from the "CNWP Conference".

You can review the images by clicking on this link.


Further information contact:

Pete McLaren on 07881 520626

Or Dave Nellist on 07970 294237

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Chatterley Affair

The Chatterley Affair
A victory over hyprocrisy

"Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?" In 1960, prosecutor Mervyn Griffith-Jones tried to persuade an Old Bailey jury to ban DH Lawrence's novel Lady Chatterley's Lover. The victory for Penguin Books was a turning point in recent history and represented a massive defeat for the ruling class.

Censorship has been used by privileged elites throughout history. For instance, the works of Milan Kundera were banned by the Stalinist regime in Czechoslovakia. They said the works were offensive to Czech women. Anyone who reads them finds them much more offensive to the Stalinist regime itself!

The Chatterley Affair on Channel 4 mixed fact and fiction to bring this story to life. Two members of the jury fall in love under the influence of the novel. The progress of their affair is shown interspersed with extracts from the case based on the court record.

The novel uses language which even today has shock value and would be out of place in The Socialist. However, Lawrence recontextualises the language and transforms the four letter words from obscenities into the language of love.

It is not the best novel in the English language. The first chapter for example is one long “miaou” about women’s rights. Nevertheless the stand which the jury made against hypocrisy threatened the very right of the ruling class to decide what we can read.

Andrew Davies’ play which was shown twice on BBC4 is well worth the time taken to view it. And let your wife or your servants watch too!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Stop messing about!

A lot of my childhood was spent lying in front of the wireless
listening to Round the Horne or Hancock's Half Hour or watching Carry On films. Probably the most famous line in comedy "Infamy! Infamy! They've all got it infamy!" still makes me laugh.

"Fantabulosa" on BBC4 last night is a rare insight into the man behind the comic figure and the whole production is a brilliant mix of tragedy and comedy right down to the final quotation from the coroner's court read in four different
voices by Michael Sheen. He was brilliant in the role. Most of the
other members of the Carry On team were so-so and their Kenneth Horne
was very good but Michael Sheen carried the show and there should be an
award of some sort for him.

It left me feeling "wow". To quote Kenneth Williams, to the cynic who
says 'life is a joke' the only response can be 'Yes, well let's make it
a good one.'

The mother who yearns for her son (Written by Omar's mother)

The mother who yearns for her son (Written by Omar's mother Taher Deghayes) Omar is a hunger striker at Guantanamo tortured with the knowledge and complicity of the British Labour government. The campaign is only asking for him to be tried or released.

Dear Sir

Whenever I try to express my feelings of sadness due to my beloved son’s absence, I find my brain incapable of doing so. Whenever I remember him in my mind or in my soul, the tears pour out of my eyes and I cannot stop them at all. The tears feel as if they would go on for eternity.

How can I tolerate my existence in the house without him? I find his smell in every corner of the house where he lived. How do I cope with the knowledge that we eat everything we like while he does not eat even a little; or the fact that we sleep on our comfortable beds while he does not even get to sleep. Instead he is tortured to prevent him from sleeping!

Every morning when I get up and wash my face with clean warm water and perform the ritual ablution in order to pray, I remember him and how he does not even have water. So how do you think I feel thinking of my son in a cold narrow cell without sunshine or fresh air? I cannot sleep at night because of the sadness I feel when I think of my son, (and when do I forget?) It breaks my heart to think that my handsome, well-groomed son who took such pride in his appearance does not even have clothes to wear. It breaks my heart that he has not had a comb to brush his hair in three years. He told me how sad he was to see that his hair had turned grey from all the stress. Worst of all it breaks my heart when I think of his milky white eye which has been blinded so deliberately and callously by the American guards. My late husband was so determined that Omar does not lose his eye when Omar was accidentally poked in the eye by another child. The advice in Libya was to remove Omar’s eye but my husband refused and took Omar to Switzerland as it had the most advanced eye treatment at the time. Omar underwent extensive and repeated treatment and numerous surgeries to ensure that he keeps his eye functioning as well as possible. He has had to visit his eye Professor every year since then to receive painful laser treatment. Alas, all that effort, pain and money is completely destroyed in such a brutal way.

Sometimes I cannot tolerate staying in the house because of his absence from me as he was my best companion. How can I tolerate my existence in the house while I see the room of my dear son closed and empty, so empty of my beloved son? My cheerful, vivacious son who never left me alone particularly in the absence of his brothers. However, now I only have his shadow in my imagination.

I am absentminded and distraught and every place becomes narrow for me whenever I remember him which is all the time. He is in this cursed jail for so many years in conditions which are not even fit for animals. I pray to Allah during every prayer that he is released and that he finds people who treat him kindly and compassionately. My heart is ruptured with sadness. I swear that if I could express what I feel properly even tens of papers would not be sufficient. However, this is all I could express. So what shall I say and what do I say when his little son Suleiman comes to me and asks me, “where is my daddy? Where is my daddy and when is he coming so I can meet him?” When he asks me, I feel the world is pulled from under my feet. I pray to Allah that he comes back to me and to his son soon before I die so that I can feel happy and embrace him while he is in a good condition.

Everyday I wait for a letter or some news from him but they are so hard to come by. My anxious feeling choke me up as I wait for the arrival of anything from him that comforts me.

Even when I receive a letter from him, I find half or more of the letter erased. They have begrudged me even the pleasure of hearing his news but Allah never neglects those who are in his custody.

I swear by Allah that my son is innocent of all these charges. Omar loves all people and loves helping people. Have mercy on those on Earth and God will have mercy on you.

The mother who yearns for her son.


Friday, March 10, 2006

Press release about force-feeding.

I received this press release today.


The letter, published today in The Lancet medical journal, is signed by more than 250 distinguished medical experts from the UK, the USA, Ireland, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy and Australia. Co-authors include Dr Oliver Sacks (author and neurologist), Dr Holly G Atkinson (President of Physicians for Human Rights) and Dr John Kalk (who oversaw hunger strikes in apartheid-era South Africa). A number of the experts are American medics, including from Harvard and Yale.

Dr David Nicholl, a consultant neurologist at the City Hospital in Birmingham, who coordinated The Lancet letter said:
“This letter really shows the strength of feeling amongst the world’s leading medical experts – they are saying with one voice that force-feeding of hunger strikers by medical staff at Guantánamo is unequivocally wrong.”

Local Brighton GP, Dr Christa Beesley said:
"As doctors we have an ethical duty to respect the human rights and dignity of our patients, whatever their circumstances or beliefs. Working in a multi-cultural town such as Brighton, I think that it is particularly important that I do not alter my standard of care based on a patient's background or religion. I was therefore happy to be a signatory on the letter to the Lancet."

The letter states that international medical-ethics standards forbid force-feeding of hunger strikers who make an informed decision to mount a hunger strike. It specifically condemns the actions of the former commander of the hospital at Guantánamo, Dr J S Edmondson, who instigated force-feedings at the prison camp.

The letter also attacks the use of “restraint chairs” to immobilise prisoners before forcibly inserting feeding pipes into detainees’ nasal passages. The letter calls on the US government to “ensure that detainees are assessed by independent physicians” and that “force-feeding and restraint chairs are abandoned forthwith in accordance with internationally agreed standards”.

One of the hunger strikers, Omar Deghayes, a long-term UK resident who has been detained for four years at the US prison camp, explained why they were taking such desperate action: "We are dying a slow death in here. And you have to remember that we have not been charged with any crime”.

Omar and other British residents detained in Guantánamo are the subject of a judicial review, challenging the British Government’s lack of action on their behalf. The challenge is led by lawyer Gareth Peirce and is to be held on the 22nd March, 10.30am, at the Royal Courts of Justice (Strand, London).

Jackie Chase from the Save Omar campaign said: “How can a civilised country tolerate the cruelty being meted out to these people? The force-feeding at Guantánamo amounts to torture and is yet another humiliation and abuse of detainees. Guantánamo Bay needs to be shut down and the British Government need to exert their influence to make it happen.”

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Cheeky Jowell 2

I was initially reassured by the Guardian headline: "Mills linked to mafia go-between". I had thought he was linked to Berlusconi but if it is only the mafia....

However reading the article he seems to have been linked to both Berlusconi *and* the mafia through a Mr Dell'Utri, which is a little disconcerting. "Mr Dell'Utri was convicted in 2004 and given nine years. He is appealing against conviction, and is not in prison. Central to the prosecution case was that he mobilised the mafia vote for Mr Berlusconi in 1994, before he became premier."

Can we expect a lot of this kind of thing in the next election? We'll make you a manifesto you can't refuse?

Friday, March 03, 2006

Cheeky Jowell

I see from the BBC that "Tony Blair said she (Tessa Jowell) had not been "in breach" of the ministers' code of conduct as her husband did not tell her about a £344,000 gift he had received."

I have to say that the cover story is worse than the original offence. To say to millions of ordinary Labour voters that a 344 000 pound gift, whoever it may be from, could go unnoticed by a family is adding insult to injury.

"Darling we've had hundreds of thousands of pounds I forgot to tell you about for the last four years."
"Really, and here am I searching for special offers at the co-op!"

New Labour came to power in 1997 on a wave of public indignation about the disgusting corruption of the Tory Party. Well that same wave needs to sweep away the New Labour canaille now.

And the very fact that it is Tony Blair who decides the guilt or innocence of his favourites is laughable.