Friday, May 27, 2005

More controversy over the Koran and Guantanamo

I am an atheist and consequently more concerned about the documented abuse of people than the abuse of a book. OTOH people of my generation have an automatic reaction against abuse or burning of books, whether it is the Koran or The Satanic Verses. The church in North Carolina with a sign outside approving the abuse of the Koran is probably less than helpful. The pastor has finally been persuaded (apparently by God) to apologise.

Today Democracy Now has the following:

"Amid widespread accusations and documentation of US military desecration of the Koran, the Pentagon held a special news conference yesterday to address the allegations. The military says it has identified five incidents of what it describes as "mishandling of a Koran" by U.S. personnel at Guantanamo Bay. Brigadier General Jay Hood refused to specify the nature of the mishandling of the Koran, other than to say it did not involve placing it in a toilet. That runs contrary to information revealed in newly declassified documents. In one 2002 document declassified this week, an FBI agent quoted a detainee in as saying guards had thrown a Koran in a toilet. General Hood said yesterday that military investigators interviewed that man this month, but did not directly ask him whether he had seen U.S. personnel put a Koran in a toilet.

Here is General Jay Hood: "First off, I'd like you to know that we've found no credible evidence that a member of the joint task force at Guantanamo Bay, ever flushed a Koran down a toilet. We did identify 13 incidents of alleged mishandling of the Koran by joint task force personnel; 10 of those by a guard and three of those by interrogators. We found that in only five of those incidents, four by guards and one by an interrogator, there was what could be broadly defined as mishandling of a Koran." General Jay Hood speaking yesterday at a Pentagon press conference.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Citizenship: Omar Deghayes and Rosa Parks

I have encouraged my pupils to look into the case of Rosa Parks. There are a number of American websites which deal with her story. I liked
http://teacher.scholastic.com/rosa/


On the one hand it is about how one person can make a difference. "A brave woman who sat down on a bus and started a revolution"

On the other hand it shows the importance of a mass movement for justice which backed Rosa Parks and organised the bus boycott and changed the law and changed attitudes. We have brave individuals in this country and what we need now is that mass movement for justice.

In other news

Tory MP Nicholas Soames wrote to me today saying that he will certainly take the matter up with the home secretary. Well with Soames' weight behind it perhaps something will be done.

My pupils were surprised and delighted.

My review of "Remember Me Rescue Me" was published in Socialism Today today.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

I received the following this morning.

"I cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdgnieg
The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid Aoccdrnig to smoe rscheearch at
Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod
are, the olny iprmoatnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be in the
rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey
lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe. Amzanig huh?"

The person who sent it to me was not a teacher and not involved in the long debate on this issue. they just thought it was inertesting.

Reverting to more conventional spelling, I note that David Blunkett (and amazingly some people who claim to be practising teachers) believe that the only possible way to learn reading and therefore the only possible way to teach it is through phonics, taking each letter as it comes. It ignores the way people actually read.

The usual response of English teachers in England is to refer to the fictional Reading Reading Centre. Some British English words like the activity "reading" and the place "Reading" are spelt the same but pronounced differently. It is only from the context that you can understand the meaning or know the pronunciation.

The "phonic phanatics" reject each example of this as "irrelevant" until they reach the stage of rejecting virtually all the real experience of real children as "irrelevant" to their model of knowledge.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

If you support the war and genuinely believe this is an altruistic mission to liberate the oil (sorry the people) of Iraq.

Or if you oppose the war.

You can put a bit of html on your website.
you can get the necessary files from http://www.antiwar.com/casualties/counter.php

You can put a casualty counter on your own webpage.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Probe into Saddam's underwear photos

I now understand "a probe has been ordered" into Saddam's underwear. Don't American journos speak the same language as the rest of us?

I think people watching in Iraq, who have seen the photos from Abu Ghraib and heard of the allegations from the Red Cross and the FBI and testimony of inmates from Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and numberous other American torture camps may well be thinking that if this is how they can treat a big wheel like Saddam how much more can they get away with with ordinary people?

Friday, May 20, 2005

Abuse of the Koran and Saddam

According to the Red Cross, the abuse of the Koran at Guantanamo and other US torture camps has been an issue since 2002.

Today George W Bush pontificated about pictures of Saddam in his undies in the Sun and said "we will get to the bottom of this in as transparent a way as possible." I hope not!

Abusing books and tyrants are minor issues compared with the known, photographed and documented killing and torture of people though.

Alex Salmond said on Question Time last night on the BBC in the UK, the only people to face accusations in this country over the war are George Galloway, the editor of the Daily Mirror and functionaires of the BBC. Bush and Blair, Straw and Rice are all above the law apparently.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Mathematicians do not do jokes

Mathematicians do not do jokes as a rule.

x = 1

Therefore: x² = x

x² - 1 = x -1

Factorising x² - 1 we get

(x - 1)(x + 1) = x - 1

Dividing both sides by (x - 1) we get:

x + 1 = 1


Substituting 1 for x we get:

2 = 1

The Forgotten Arm

Aimee Mann's new album is The Forgotten Arm. The title refers to a boxing trick of feigning weakness in one arm which is then used to deliver the knockout.
I have written about "Dear John" and the earlier "Jacob Marley's Chains" today.

I used the website http://www.songmeanings.net which I like because as a former English teacher the lyrics of songs interest me as poetry. My analysis is not very deep on this site though.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Debate on TES website on Uzbekistan

It is unsurprising that the democratic leaders who sanction imprisonment without trial and torture at Guantanamo favour the same methods in Uzbekistan.

Whilst Saddam was a tyrant and "regime change" the order of the day, the regime in Uzbekistan was supported.
According to a Guardian report:
" In April 2002, a special UN rapporteur concluded that torture in the country was "systematic" and "pervasive and persistent... throughout the investigation process". In the same year, Muzafar Avazov, an opposition leader, was boiled alive for refusing to abandon his religious convictions and attempting to practise religious rites in prison. In 2003, Bush granted a waiver to Uzbekistan when its failure to improve its human rights record should have led to its aid being slashed. In February 2004 the US secretary of defence, Donald Rumsfeld, visited the country's dictator, Islam Karimov, and said: "The relationship [between our countries] is strong and growing stronger. We look forward to strengthening our political and economic relations."

Two faced or what?

Curiously the response I got on the TES website was someone who thought I shouldn't raise controversial issues on the website. He or she did not make the same response to the right wingers who responded to me. I cannot see why. :)

Condemnation by accusation

New Labour has introduced imprisonment without trial. It comes as no surprise that they have also used condemnation by accusation.

I do not know all the ins and outs of the George Galloway case. I do know that a fake accusation was made by the Daily Telegraph and disproved.

Now another accusation has been made. And who are the people making the accusation? The same people who told you there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq posing an imminent threat to the UK and the US. The same people who said Saddam was linked with Al Quada when clearly Al Quada and Saddam hated each others guts. Yet we are expected to condemn Galloway on the basis of an accusation from them?

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Iraqi Oil is the new Russian Gold

Bush and Blair think that by tarring George Galloway with their accusations of taking Iraqi oil they can achieve the same result the right always sought when denouncing "Russian Gold" as the source of any left wing movement.

This is hypocrisy beyond belief. They invaded Iraq, secured the oil supply and let the people of the country go without basic necessities like water. They accuse others of being interested in Iraqi oil when it was the main motivation of their bloody war.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Concert for Omar Deghayes

Musicians for justice for Omar Deghayes, Guantanamo Bay detainee

An Impromptu Fundraising Concert at the Friend’s Meeting House, Ship Street, Brighton

Friday 13th May 2005, 7.30pm - 9.00pm

Music from: Matt Kemp (singer songwriter), Jackie Chase (piano), Matthew McGrath and Ben Lockwood (Ba’hai songs), James Fairbrother (cello) and friends , (Black Sufi) , Azi and Parsa (Iranian songs)

Tickets £5 on the door
Concs. and advance tickets £3

From Jackie Chase 07796 478421 or jackie.chase@virgin.net

Monday, May 09, 2005

A new workers party

I resigned from the Labour Party when it ditched clause four. We were told at the time this was merely a question of wording and did not make any difference. We can see now that it meant a complete change of tack with Labour embracing privatisation.

In my own union we came very close to establishing a political fund, explicitly *not* tied to New Labour but devoted to pursuing the union's aims. Within a year that vote could be reversed. It is in public sector unions that the move against affiliation to New Labour is strongest but such movements also exist in general unions like the TGWU.

It is also the case that popular campaigns against specific abuses by the government can gain votes - fights against hospital closures or again against the war. The next few years will see some false starts (I count the SLP and Respect as false starts, especially as Respect was achieved at the expense of the Socialist Alliance) but there is a real chance of a new workers party coming out of this.

Art of War

It seems that Harry Windsor cheated on his art exams and the teacher who helped to fake the results consequently got the push from Eton. What one wonders is exactly how much use an A level in Art will be for an army officer.
"Just a moment Sergeant Major, before you start torturing the prisoners I want to run off a quick water colour of them."
Judging by Abu Ghraib, photography would have been a more relevant course.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Blunkett is back

There is a lot of sympathy for Blunkett on the grounds that he was sacked for the wrong reasons. His private life is no business of the media or the prime minister and there is a perception that Blair is in no position to complain about people lying. Blunkett's disingenuous mendacity was trivial compared to Blair's

However the fact remains that Blunkett was probably the most ignorant secretary of state for education the country has ever had. His policies were wrong but most teachers would say that about many of the secretaries of state for eductation. They are all more concerned with making a name for themselves rather than leaving decisions about what to do with 3B to 3B's teacher on the grounds she probably knows more about 3B than some Mandarin in Whitehall.

No the problem with Blunkett was the appalling ignorance which went hand in hand with his arrogance and duplicity. One of the most basic things pupils learn is reading and Blunkett was alone in thinking that there was one way of teaching reading. Most teachers use a variety of approaches based on observation of the needs of pupils. Nobody apart from Blunkett believes that a regime of testing to destruction is the way to make pupils motivated to read.

As Home Secretary he was the most right-wing repressive Home Secretary in living memory bringing in many measures copied from the South African Bureau of State Security including imprisonment without trial. He also applauded the suicide in custody of a convicted murderer thus giving the wink to prison guards that they had no responsibility for preventing prisoners from committing suicide.

He is now in charge of work and pensions. Look out anyone with a job or hoping to get a pension!

Begun transfer of webpage

So far I have created


http://socialistteachers.org.uk for the Socialist Party Teachers (is there a clue in the name?


http://wsta.org.uk for West Sussex NUT


and this morning


http://www.derekmcmillan.com


I thought of org.uk but I am not exactly an organisation :)

I have to have something free of adverts, as Bill Hicks put it:
By the way if anyone here is in advertising or marketing... kill yourself. No, no, no it's just a little thought. I'm just trying to plant seeds. Maybe one day, they'll take root - I don't know.



"You try, you do what you can. Kill yourself.


Seriously though, if you are, do. Aaah, no really, there's no rationalisation for what you do and you are Satan's little helpers, Okay - kill yourself - seriously. You are the ruiner of all things good, seriously. No this is not a joke, you're going, "there's going to be a joke coming," there's no fucking joke coming. You are Satan's spawn filling the world with bile and garbage. You are fucked and you are fucking us. Kill yourself. It's the only way to save your fucking soul, kill yourself. Planting seeds. I know all the marketing people are going, "he's doing a joke... there's no joke here whatsoever. Suck a tail-pipe, fucking hang yourself, borrow a gun from a Yank friend - I don't care how you do it. Rid the world of your evil fucking machinations. I know what all the marketing people are thinking right now too, "Oh, you know what Bill's doing, he's going for that anti-marketing dollar. That's a good market, he's very smart." Oh man, I am not doing that. You fucking evil scumbags! "Ooh, you know what Bill's doing now, he's going for the righteous indignation dollar. That's a big dollar. A lot of people are feeling that indignation. We've done research - huge market. He's doing a good thing." Godammit, I'm not doing that, you scum-bags!

Quit putting a godamm dollar sign on every fucking thing on this planet!

"Ooh, the anger dollar. Huge. Huge in times of recession. Giant market, Bill's very bright to do that." God, I'm just caught in a fucking web! "Ooh the trapped dollar, big dollar, huge dollar. Good market - look at our research. We see that many people feel trapped. If we play to that and then separate them into the trapped dollar..." How do you live like that? And I bet you sleep like fucking babies at night, don't you?"

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Provisional new blog

The adverts on tripod got beyond a joke so I am transferring my blog here provisionally. I am in the process of transferring my whole webpage also. The blog is mainly politics and education. I run http://socialistteachers.org.uk as well.

George Galloway a lost opportunity

George Galloway - an opportunity lost?
All those opposed to the Iraq war will have celebrated the defeat of the pro-war Oona King and the victory of George Galloway.

Tony Banks (usually called "Blood Banks" for his support of war and torture) made a fool of himself insisting to the BBC that Galloway only won because he was a white male...like Tony Banks!

Galloway's immediate response was broadcast around the world. "Mr Blair. This is for Iraq: all the people you killed, all the lies you told, have come back to haunt you. The best thing the Labour Party could do is sack you tomorrow morning,"

What a golden opportunity George Galloway had to call for the unions to break from New Labour and fight for a new workers' party. Instead his remarks look like an appeal for Labour to ditch Blair - and replace him with Brown?

Respect has the opportunity to participate in the creation of a new workers' party not to act as constructive critics of New Labour advising them about their leadership.