Thursday, June 27, 2002

WORTH EVERY PENNY?

Channel 4 news this evening, reviewing the release of last year's Civil List expenditure, points out that the use of the Royal Train costs an average £45 thousand per journey. £45,000 , coincidentally, approximates to the average salary of a Deputy Headteacher in a London borough. Vacancies for teachers and headteachers in London at the start of this school year are 880.


EQUAL OPPORTUNITY...?

On a related note,UK Education Secretary Estelle Morris now says that the comprehensive system is failing.

I wonder who instituted that system?

Apparently there should be more specialist schools, but 'it will not lead to increased selection'. However there will still be SAT's and League Tables for school performance. Is she being disengenuous or is she just plain stupid?

1 SAT results determine a schools place in league tables.
2 A school's place in the league tables is the deciding factor on how many parents choose it, how many pupils it has, and how much money it is allotted.
3 Clever pupils get good SAT results.

Therefore, to get good SAT results, a good ranking, more pupils and hence more money, the school must choose talented pupils. If it gets a good ranking it attracts parents, and other local schools lose.

Add into this specialisms in sport, music etc....

Does Morris, and by extension Tony Blair, really think that a specialist school, that needs good results to get more money, is going to pick children who are untalented in the school's specialism? What will happen to the less talented, or just plain ordinary, or those who don't have pushy knowledgeable parents to manipulate the appeals system in their favour?

Parental choice is just a con - this is a return to the Grammar School/Secondary system by the back door.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

BLOODY HIPPY TREE HUGGERS

Okay, so we (the local Socialist Alliance, of which I am chair) are organising a very large national demo in conjunction with CND in September. This is a collective, mass action of workers and residents against leaky Trident Subs being based in the middle of a city of 200,000 people, and against the storage and transport of nuclear waste here. So what do I get in the mail this morning?

'A Festival of Peace and Hope... Protest, Music and Song, Fancy Dress etc. Bring Loud Clothes, Literature, Music Instruments and Enthusiasm'

Bloody Trident Ploughshares - middle-class individualistic hippy treehuggers. I can just see them, sitting there in the Peace Garden, playing tomtoms and wearing ethnic jumpers knitted by Guaracha indians from the foothills of the Andes, eating vegan salads and discussing their lactose intolerance and how wonderful their cranial osteopaths are.

It's all very well doing sit downs and peace camps and being nice: HOW THE FUCK IS THAT SUPPOSED TO GET RID OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS? SEND POSITIVE GODDESS VIBES TO HALLIBURTON INC AND DICK CHENEY WILL SUDDENLY HAVE A CHANGE OF HEART?

Sorry for shouting but they make me so angry. A giant multinational, with connections to the US Vice-President and his mega-rich family, not to mention a hand in the pocket of every Senator and Congressperson, *and* its own private army, is hardly going to look at a bunch of untidy dreadlocked trustafarians with dogs on strings drumming for peace and say to themselves " Oh dear, I'm doing a bad thing. I'd better stop". TP talk a good fight, but they simply don't seem to see the connection between capitalism and nuclear weapons - they seem to think that if they can appeal to people's morals, make them be nice, all the nasty weapons will go away.

No, the only thing that works is strong collective action towards a truly socialist system and concerted opposition to US imperialism. Actions such as Trident Ploughshares', while they may make them feel better, do nothing useful.

Anyhow, just to see what the authorities have planned in case of a nuclear disaster, look at This . Oh dear, we're all going to die.
I was reading Paul Levy's 'Penguin Book of Food & Drink' and came across these dishes, invented at the Rattlesnake Club in Denver Colorado:-

Calamares Atacados Por Piranas Bidemensionales
Aquarium Vacio Encostalado y Frito con Lava
Explosion Nuclear en el Campo de Calabezas

Go and Babelfish.
How dare George 'I Stole The Election' Bush tell the Palestinians to get rid of Arafat - with all his faults he is their legitimately elected representative. Can Bush say the same?
LOCK UP THE LOONIES' SAYS BLAIR....

Under draft legislation proposed by New Labour,mentally ill people are to be detained without legal process, and treated compulsorily.without having committed a crime.
Here.

Currently it is necessary to 'section' the mentally ill under the Mental Health Act before they can be detained at a hospital: this is a judicial process and subject to appeal. The new proposal is for a 'Community Treatment Order' which will allow doctors quasi-judicial powers of compulsory detention. People with ( ill-defined) 'personality disorders' will also fall under the new legislation.
'Reforming The Mental Health Act' : full text and summary documents.

This legislation is a typical New Labour response to sensational stories in the Express and Daily Mail that schizophrenics are roaming the streets and will attack us all in our beds... harsh, inhumane, ill-thought out, inimical to all notions of human rights and common humanity, and impossible to enforce.

The legislation also contains a clause which will force mentally ill people to take their medication. How do they propose to do this? Jail them if they don't? Ram the tablets down their throats? Forcibly inject them? This goes against every principle of human rights- the right to self-determination, the right to have control over one's own body: I cannot see doctors or nurses complying willingly with this.

For all their fine talk of patients' charters and independent tribunals, New Labour has again abrogated further sweeping powers to the state.This is unprecedently hugely wide ranging legislation and dangerous to individual liberty. It is symptomatic of New Labour's authoritarian approach to social issues-treating sick people as inherently dangerous and as an issue of public order. It makes mentally -ill people 2nd class citizens who have fewer rights than the allegedly 'sane'.

ONE IN FOUR PEOPLE IN THE UK WILL SUFFER A MENTAL HEALTH PROBLEM AT SOME TIME DURING THIS YEAR.
The Mental Health Foundation
RMT THUMBS NOSE AT NEW LABOUR

Excellent news from the RMT Annual Conference: Bob Crow, General Secretary, has called for the sacking of 13 RMT sponsored MP's, including such New Labour luminaries as John Prescott and Robin Cook.
Read about it here

John Prescott, particularly, will be damaged by the RMT's actions - he has had overall responsibilty for transport policy, and also rents a flat from the RMT in London at a much reduced rate.
More details

RMT members voted for money to be switched to a fund for an 'RMT Group' of left-wing MPs including Diane Abbot and Jeremy Corbyn, to campaign for policies supported by the union.

In addition conference voted for funding to New Labour to be cut to £20,000. They have done this because of New Labour's continued implementation of Tory policies on transport, their refusal to renationalise the railways, and their plans to privatise the London Underground.

A poll commissioned by the trade union from the pollsters Taylor Nelson Sofres found that 61 per cent of the electorate backed the re-nationalisation of the railways; 63 per cent believed PPP should be scrapped, and 88 per cent backed the right to strike where rail employees thought conditions were unsafe.

On BBC Radio 4's 'World At One' , Labour MP Tony Wright branded the RMT's actions as "Disloyal" , " A disgrace" and "Money for policies".
Listen here

"Not only this" he said, but the RMT's actions are "A path which end in severing the link between the unions and the Labour Party". Quite - why feed the hand that bites you?

Bob Crow, interviewed on the same programme, when asked to comment on Wright's statement,said " So what is Bernie Ecclestone putting in money to New Labour for? .... MP's have attacked RMT workers exercising their right to strike... I'm more concerned about what thousands of workers whose jobs are being privatised think."

Not the total victory hoped for, which would have been the absolute divorce of the union's poltical fund from New Labour, but nevertheless a good start - not least it's an indicator that the unions are prepared to put their support behind the left. Public sector union Unison is to vote on the Political Fund next year ( though it should have been this year - motions were put to conference, which has just ended). A similar motion
is to go before the Communication Workers Union (Post Office and Telecoms) conference.

This has to be good news for the Socialist Alliance - nevertheless it's not all joy. Note that the RMT's campaign fund is still going to Labour MP's, no matter how left wing. As an anonymous MP put it, those MP's should be campaigning within the Labour Party to keep left wing activists within the party (the great unsaid being "...and out of the SA"). Giving RMT funds to these people will help them in this aim.

TRADE UNION ACTIVISTS MEETING
Saturday 29 June
12 noon - 4.00pm South Camden Community School, Charrington Street, London NW1
Conference fee: £5

The Socialist Alliance has called this meeting for all trade union activists interested in democratising the trade union political funds, following up the very successful conference held in February.
Details

SOCIALIST ALLIANCE- FOR A SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE TO NEW LABOUR

Monday, June 24, 2002



I had a heated argument, as you do, with a fellow socialist yesterday ( actually it was my partner, but one leaves these considerations aside in pursuit of a good row).

We started by having one of those speculative discussions , over the morality of immortality - should it be pursued as a goal? I said no, based on the grounds that the planets resources are not infinite: he said immortality would hasten the revolution, and somehow, it would all be OK in the end. Anyhow, he wanted immortality if it was available, so sod all other considerations.... I ended up shouting and calling him a loony libertarian utopian. So much for reasoned political debate.

Anyhow, browsing through the BBC News website I came across this little nugget, which backs up my position.

A claim that we are exhausting the planet's resources is made by an international team of authors in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), published in the US.

Their paper, Tracking The Ecological Overshoot Of The Human Economy, uses existing data to translate human demand on the environment into the area needed for producing food and other goods, and for absorbing wastes.



It seems to me that the pursuit of a lengthened life, let alone immortality, is a luxury we cannot afford given the strain we already put on the Earth's resources. (I don't mean medical treatment, I mean the extension of the natural human lifespan, by means of gene therapy for instance) That's withoout consideration of the continued ability to reproduce of those people with lengthened lives... to paraphrase a much-loved sofa-bound UK celebrity, Immortality my arse!.
OKAY! LET'S GET THIS BLOG ON THE ROAD!

And why not start as I mean to go on, with a rant?

Sometimes it seems from here as though the entire population of the United States has gone deaf and blind, and willfully so. What the hell is wrong with you people? Are you so desperate to hang onto your stuff, your buckets of popcorn and your giant 32 oz cokes, your air-conditioned malls and your gas-guzzling RV's that you'll let such a bare-faced bunch of liars, crooks and hypocrites rob you blind, tyrannise the rest of the world and line their own pockets while they're doing it? I like Americans, hell I like America, I've been there and I've lived there. That's why it breaks my heart to see it roll over and allow itself to be ass-fucked.

Nice to see not all our friends in the US have fallen for the totalitarian tactics of George Bush and his associates:here's an alternative 'State of the Nation' address from James Lafferty, Director of the US Lawyers Guild LA Chapter-:

"I believe that, metaphorically speaking, this nation now finds itself standing at the entrance to a dark cave; a cave filled with war and repression and xenophobic nationalism. Just how deep--and full--that cave is, remains to be seen. But if the actions of this government since September 11th are any indication, that cave of war, repression and nationalism, may be the deepest ever experienced by the American people. Am I right? Well, let's review the evidence so far.

It began with the massive round-up, arrest and detention without charges, of well over 1,100 people whose only crimes appear to have been their apparent nationality and religious background, or, at worst, an expired student visa, or bad check charge. And still hundreds are being held indefinitely, in solitary confinement, without benefit of counsel and without any charges having been filed against them. And still more thousands are being called in for questioning by the FBI simply because of their national origin.

These round-ups, carried out with little protest from the general public or the politicians, are reminiscent of the Palmer Raids of 1919-1920, when thousands of aliens across this country were rounded up because of the fear that they might be anarchists or communists, and hundreds were summarily deported."
full text here