Monday, January 23, 2006

Impeach Bush?

This is a link to a rather nice video.
Bush video

The movement to impeach Bush is quite strong in the US but unfortunately there is no political alternative to back it up. The democrats are too scared to oppose most of his policies. Kerry's attitude to the war and the Patriot Act could be politely termed ambiguous.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Ruth Kelly

A teacher went to the DFES and asked to talk to Ruth Kelly.
The receptionist said 'Mrs Kelly is no longer Secretary of State for education.'
The next day, she went to the DFES and asked to talk to Ruth Kelly.
The receptionist said 'Mrs Kelly is no longer Secretary of State for education.'
The next day, she went to the DFES and asked to talk to Ruth Kelly.
The receptionist said 'Mrs Kelly is no longer Secretary of State for education.' and added, "I told you that yesterday."
"I know, I just love to hear you say it."
The problem is that subsequent incumbents will probably have some teachers harking back to the "good old days" of Ruth Kelly. During the writing of this, I hesitate to tell you how many times I had to use “Find and Replace” for the Secretary of State. And of course it will be out of date by the time you read it. They don’t get any better of course because they each have to make a name for themselves and bring in“the biggest shake up in education for a century”. As this happens every two years it must be inaccurate but “the biggest shake up in education for two years” does not have the same cachet.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sussex police and criminal renditions

I received a letter from the Committee against Criminal Renditions (a group based in Sussex) which was addressed to the police authority. "Rendition" is the euphemism used by new Labour for subcontracting out torture.

The committee expressed concern that the Authority establish, clearly and directly, what had been going on at Gatwick.

In particular, it asked:

1: Was a deliberate policy of co-operation with the United States Government established by the Sussex Police?

2: Was this policy sanctioned and authorized by the Sussex Police Authority? If so, by who, and on what date?

3: Was the matter of Sussex Police being possibly involved in illegal renditions at Gatwick ever known to any Members of the Police Authority? If so, by whom, and were any discussions held by the Authority, with respect to this? In particular, did you, yourself, as the operational Executive of the Authority, know?

4: At any point, did anyone else at the Authority, whether Members or Officers, know about this matter, and if so, what did they know, and when did they know it?

5: Was the Authority prepared to take effective steps to ensure a clear and binding policy was established that prohibited the Sussex Police from any involvement whatsoever in these illegal renditions, in the future?

6: The committee asked, very specifically, if the Authority would carry out this requested investigation within 28 days. Also, asked, was would it publish for public distribution, it’s report?

All of these very clearly stated questions, submitted previously, in this committees letter of 16th December, 2005, have been completely and utterly ignored by the Authority.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dawkins

The Root of All Evil

Richard Dawkins two-part program on religion on Channel 4, “The Root of All Evil” has provoked a massive over-reaction from the religious right who show no sign of turning the other cheek and forgiving him.

Marxists support the right of people to practise their religion without imposing it on others, but that would include the right of scientists like Dawkins to put a contrary view.

Dawkins does not confine his strictures to the soft targets of Militant Islamic Fundamentalism. He draws attention to its mirror images on the fringes of Judaism and in the religious right in the United States.

“Hellhouse movies” as they are called are a new growth industry in the USA today. Graphically filmed, they quite literally “demonise” abortion and homosexuality with the explicit aim of scaring the viewers. Pastor Keenan Roberts explains that the aim is 'to leave an indelible impression on their lives that sin destroys and Jesus saves'. He is quite happy for children to have nightmares after watching because otherwise they might commit sins like homosexuality.

The result, says Dawkins, is a mindset which can justify the murder of a doctor like Dr. Barnett Slepian who carries out abortions on the grounds that he is destroying a being created in God's image! There are websites in the USA which openly advocate the murder of doctors who carry out abortions.

It is easy for a British audience to ridicule this kind of thing in the United States but the government’s proposals for education will include the takeover of swathes of the education service by organisations of the religious right. More than half of New Labour’s City Academies are to be run by far-right evangelists

Evolution will be out. The “one-sided cult of Darwin” will be replaced with a more rounded view in which the creation of the Earth in six days is taught as an equivalent theory.

Presumably the biblical view in 2 Chronicles, chapter 4 that Pi is equal to 3, will be given equal prominence with the godless Mathematical view which just happens to correspond with reality!

Physicist and Nobel prizewinner Stephen Weinberg describes religion as an insult to human dignity. 'Without it,' he says, 'you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.'

Dawkins programs on Channel 4 are a valuable contribution to the debate and very timely in the light of the crusade against science being mounted by the religious right.

I noticed there were not many adverts in the breaks in the program: one wonders if the pure Christian souls were trying to use the power of mammon.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Why is "selection" a dirty word?

A thread on the TES website has the title "Why is 'selection' a dirty word." This kind of formulation, "why is profit a dirty word" or "it's not racist to hate black people" is becoming increasingly common with the Daily Telegraph readership and it bespeaks a certain whining tone. "Oh everybody picks on me because of my sensible right-wing views. It's not fair....etc"

One aspect of the inefficiency of the 11+ is the fact that there is a lot of change on the borderline between the ages of 11 and 16. If you use a test to sort the metaphorical sheep from the goats at age 11 then about tenpercent of your sheep will be with the goats, so to speak.

Another is that intelligence testing itself is a flawed and questionable method with ethnic and class bias built into it.

And another is that whatever method of selection you use, I do not envisage teachers queueing up to teach in Secondary Modern or equivalent schools. Do they Daily Telegraph readers want Grammar schools back so you can work in a secondary modern school or so that their children can go to one? Or is it because they think working in a grammar school might be nice and perhaps their children might benefit from a grammar school education?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Guantanamo Doctor

Today, Friday 13th, Dr David Nicholl informs me that lawyers
for some of the Guantanamo detainees (Allen & Overy) are asking the San
Diego Superior Court to compel the Medical Board of California to initiate
an investigation that Dr. John Edmondson (the doctor in charge of
Guantanamo) is engaged in unprofessional conduct.

He says "I believe this case is extremely important and essentially boils down to
whether the US medical establishment will be prepared to investigate serious
torture allegations or are US military doctors beyond the rule of law in
Guantanamo, just like the detainees?"

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Beaten to death

I received this from Jackie Chase in Brighton:
Criminal Charge Dropped Over Afghan Beating Deaths


January 8, 2006

In December, 2002, Mullah Habibullah and a man named Dilawar died while being held for interrogation at Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan. Their deaths were ruled homicides, caused by blunt force trauma. In other words, they were beaten to death.

An investigation ensued but the military would not release the details. Subsequently it was revealed that both died while shackled to the ceiling of their cells, after repeatedly being kneed in the legs. (More details of their beatings and deaths are below.)

Capt. Christopher M. Beiring, then the leader of the military police company guarding the prisoners, was charged with lying to investigators and being derelict in his duties. He was the only officer charged in the deaths.

Friday, the military announced that charges against Beiring have been dropped.

"The collapse of the case is the latest and most embarrassing of several setbacks for the team of Army prosecutors that has been working for more than a year on the deaths, which occurred at the military detention center in Bagram, 40 miles north of Kabul." "Captain Beiring is the third member of the 377th Military Police Company, based in Cincinnati and Bloomington, Ind., to have had charges dismissed before trial. Four enlisted soldiers in the unit have been acquitted, two others pleaded guilty to assault and one was convicted of assault, maiming and other charges."

How did Dilawar, the 22 year-old father of two, die? The New York Times reported, having reviewed the FOIA documents obtained by the ACLU:

The prisoner, a slight, 22-year-old taxi driver known only as Dilawar, was hauled from his cell at the detention center in Bagram, Afghanistan, at around 2 a.m. to answer questions about a rocket attack on an American base. When he arrived in the interrogation room, an interpreter who was present said, his legs were bouncing uncontrollably in the plastic chair and his hands were numb. He had been chained by the wrists to the top of his cell for much of the previous four days.

Mr. Dilawar asked for a drink of water, and one of the two interrogators, Specialist Joshua R. Claus, 21, picked up a large plastic bottle. But first he punched a hole in the bottom, the interpreter said, so as the prisoner fumbled weakly with the cap, the water poured out over his orange prison scrubs. The soldier then grabbed the bottle back and began squirting the water forcefully into Mr. Dilawar's face. "Come on, drink!" the interpreter said Specialist Claus had shouted, as the prisoner gagged on the spray. "Drink!"

At the interrogators' behest, a guard tried to force the young man to his knees. But his legs, which had been pummeled by guards for several days, could no longer bend. An interrogator told Mr. Dilawar that he could see a doctor after they finished with him. When he was finally sent back to his cell, though, the guards were instructed only to chain the prisoner back to the ceiling.

"Leave him up," one of the guards quoted Specialist Claus as saying. Several hours passed before an emergency room doctor finally saw Mr. Dilawar. By then he was dead, his body beginning to stiffen.
It would be many months before Army investigators learned a final horrific detail: Most of the interrogators had believed Mr. Dilawar was an innocent man who simply drove his taxi past the American base at the wrong time.


28 U.S. soldiers faced charges over the deaths, but only three have been held accountable. One is James P. Boland, charged with assault and dereliction in the deaths. Another, Pfc. Willie V. Brand, was charged with striking Dilawar 37 times and maiming him. He was convicted, after which his rank was reduced to private. (This NYT article reports that even if Dilawar had lived, both his legs would have had to have been amputated.)

As to Captain Beiring, the same New York Times article reported:

An Army report dated June 1, 2004, about Mr. Habibullah's death identifies Capt. Christopher Beiring of the 377th Military Police Company as having been "culpably inefficient in the performance of his duties, which allowed a number of his soldiers to mistreat detainees, ultimately leading to Habibullah's death, thus constituting negligent homicide."

At Captain Beiring's Article 32 hearing in December, this was some of the testimony:

Maj. Jeff Bovarnick said that after a detainee known as Habibullah died in December 2002 he ordered Beiring to make sure his MPs stopped chaining detainees with their hands above their heads, a common practice that he said was not illegal. He did not think his order was followed, Bovarnick said. "I had 0.0 percent confidence that Captain Beiring had done anything or told anyone about this, so I went over his head," Bovarnick said, referring to a conversation he had with a higher-ranking commander after a second detainee, a man known as Dilawar, died at the Bagram detention center.

Why were charges dropped against Captain Beiring? The Washington Times has this quote from the Article 32 hearing findings of Lt. Col. Thomas S. Berg, who made the recommendation:

I see no evidence ... that Capt. Beiring failed to perform his duty to the best of his ability. As a newly classified MP, newly assigned to command MP guard company that was going off to war to do an ill-defined mission for which it was not designed for or even notionally trained, in a crud-hold like the [Bagram Collection Point] in 2002 with [military intelligence] calling the shots, Capt. Beiring was sorely challenged at every step."

Bagram was a torture facility. The New York Times had more horrific details here.

Still, President Bush tells us, the U.S. does not torture. And thanks to Sen. Lindsay Graham and Carl Levin who effectively gutted the McCain torture amendment, detainees can no longer bring cases involving conditions of confinement, including torture, to federal court.

This is beyond shameful. Dilawar and Habibullah and who knows how many others deserved better. So do Americans, in whose name these disgraceful acts have been committed.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Crusades

Harold Wilson said "socialism is a crusade or it is nothing." Victor Hugo referred to the fight of the poor for justice as "a crusade". Our local church youth group are even called "crusaders"

It was hard for those educated in the UK to realise just how offensive Bush and Blair's call for a "crusade" in Iraq was.

TES Staffroom correspondent Zahra has written about the Crusades and her work provides an explanation of why the words Crusade and Crusader have completely different meanings to different people.

It is available here

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Kennedy and Churchill

The main story in the UK media atm is the admission by Charles Kennedy (Liberal) that he has a drinking problem and this is being treated by doctors. He is seeking re-election as party leader.

A drinking problem does not preclude someone from being a political leader. Churchill freely admitted his drinking habits and depression. When he was defeated it was on political not personal issues.

Kennedy however opposed the war and even marched with us against the war right up until the point at which it started. THAT is what he should be pilloried for, not his admission of a drinking problem.

That admission makes him more honest than a large number of politicians and 99 percent of the journalists who are hounding him!

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Omar Deghayes

 
Omar Deghayes' family still live in Brighton and have a lot of support in the local community.


There is outrage that New Labour continues to support imprisonment without trial and torture at Guantanamo.
There are copies of the leaflet for the demonstration to download and print out here

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

British residents in Guantanamo Bay

I received this information from the Save Omar campaign.
It clashes with the RMT meeting but if Tony Benn can make both
perhaps other people can too.

NATIONAL DEMONSTRATION FOR THE BRITISH RESIDENTS IN GUANTÁNAMO BAY
BRING THEM HOME.
Sat Jan 21st,
Assemble 12 noon, Tothill St
(nr St James Park tube) map

Support the Hunger Strikers
Shut down all illegal prisons
March via Downing St to the American Embassy, Grovesnor Square
Speakers include Tony Benn and Anas Al-Tikriti (MAB)
Supporting Families of the British Residents in Guantánamo Bay
Coach tickets from Brighton £6/£4 (Jackie - 07796 478 421 for tickets)
For more details contact info@save-omar.org.uk

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year honours

The New Year Honours List has triggered the annual discussion of who "deserves" to be honoured.

Benjamin Zephaniah got more credit for turning down an honour than anyone ever got for accepting one.

I still think it is not an issue of who deserves one of these (dis)honours, I wouldn't wish them on my worst enemy.

Roger McGough once wrote a poem entitled Conservative Government Unemployment Figures. It has three lines:

Conservative Government
Unemployment
Figures.

Then he went and took an OBE from the bastards, which rather invalidates his work. If he was creeping up the a** of the establishment the whole time his rebel stance was a fake.