Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Matter by Iain M Banks

Iain M Banks' Sci Fi novels novels are a romp through the ideas of Science Fiction – always interesting and always surprising. In that he resembles E E Doc Smith for the sheer exuberance of his writing. Fortunately he does not have Smith’s obsession with projectile weapons.

Banks’ novels often centre on a socialist society – known as “The Culture”. It is a society of abundance in which there is no poverty or war. "Matter" concerns how The Culture relates to the rest of the galaxy where war and poverty have not been abolished.

The Culture is a society where artificial intelligence has reached its highest expression and is regarded as equivalent to human beings – or vastly superior depending on your viewpoint! The wit and wisdom of the AIs and their relationship with the human members of the culture is part of the novel’s attraction.

The Shell Worlds are a theme of this novel. They are artificially created worlds which host a variety of life forms. One character from a shell world joins The Culture and then returns home to the relatively primitive society into which she was born when her father is assassinated. However in her absence she has become a member of the part of the Culture called “Special Circumstances” – an organisation of humans with enhanced powers. Special Circumstances alternately upholds and violates The Culture’s principle of non-interference with other life forms at every turn.

Instead of going back to grieve for her father she ends up with a mission to save the world. This is a book for science fiction fans and socialists. Iain M Banks is always good value for money.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

God for Harry, England and St George

The high street looked very festive with all the flags
flying this morning. For a minute I thought the National
Front had taken over but then I realised it was St
George’s day.

The right-wing writer Evelyn Waugh said the typical English
response to a catastrophe was to "put out more flags". Well
we certainly have the catastrophe and Gordon Brown with his
blather about lessons in Britishness and flags on public
buildings seems to be following Waugh's prescription.

I stopped believing in saints and dragons some years ago but
at least in the myth St George killed the dragon. These days
he would given him billions of pounds and made sure he got a
big fat bonus.

I was amused to see a local shop advertising “celebrate St
George’s day” with a special offer on German lager. I
didn’t know St George was into binge drinking in a big


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Have supply teachers been sold down the river?

The phrase "sold down the river" comes from the days of slavery in America when escaping slaves were sold back into slavery by those who were pretending to liberate them.

So when we saw that an unholy alliance of the SWP, CDFU, STA, the right wing and possibly the people's front of Judea were arrayed against the interests of supply teachers in the debate on the West Sussex amendment then supply teachers could legitimately feel they had been sold down the river. The policy the STA et al were advocating was that cover supervisors should be "used for no more than the first three days of absence in secondary schools and no more than the first day of absence in primary schools." Imagine how heads in schools where the members have held the line over teaching on the cheap will crow at that news. "Your own union says you have to accept (the criminal exploitation of) cover supervisors"

During the conference the president interrupted precisely two delegates - supporters of Classroom Teacher who were speaking in that debate.

"A teachers' job on a cleaner's wage" was how the conditions of cover supervisors were described at NUT conference.

The WSTA amendment which would have outlined a strategy to end the exploitation of cover supervisors and seek to reinstate teachers' pay and conditions for supply teachers was not carried.

This will not stop WSTA and Classroom Teacher seeking to support supply teachers. We will use email, facebook and more traditional methods to contact our supply teacher members. We will publicise the conditions of supply teachers to the rest of our membership. We will continue to seek alternatives to agencies and the scandalous policy of "teaching on the cheap."

Friday, April 10, 2009

Euro Elections

I am aware that merely mentioning the Euro Elections can send most audiences to sleep in short order.

However there is a concern that the BNP of all people may use the Euro Elections to gain a "respectable" platform from which to propagate their sick doctrine of hate.

And the only alternative in the past has been to vote for the Tories (come off it) or New Labour (Now I did say come off it!) - the very parties responsible for the mess in the first place.

That is why I welcome the initiative of the RMT in standing candidates in the Euro Election.
The No2Eu - yes to democracy campaign does at least give someone to vote for in the Euro Elections. If their vote is greater than the BNP vote then voting for them will fulfil the NUT policy of keeping the racists out.

Their website:

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Ian Tomlinson died inside a police cordon - no confidence in the police complaints authority

Ian Tomlinson died yesterday inside a police cordon, witnesses are calling for information about his death and for an independent public inquiry. He died inside a police cordon. He was supposed to be under the care of the police and the police have a responsibility for the people they cordon in.

We can't accept that people can die inside a police cordon and for us to receive no information about it.

The police have a habit of surrounding protestors and then insisting that they disperse - how? - this was an inevitable consequence.

The official complaints procedure cannot be relied on. That official procedure pronounced the killers of Kevin Gately and Jean Charles de Menezes "not guilty".