29 October 2007

Miscellaneous Matters

This blog entry contains a number of remarks on a mixed bag of matters.

Inquiry into torture

A serious enquiry, i.e. one not run by by a security insider with his hands tied, would almost certainly reveal a great deal about the Blair and Brown governments' involvement in torture.

Yet, it seems to me that there is already sufficient evidence in the public domain to put Blair and Straw on trial for their involvement in torture. But the call to "lets find out more" seems to substitute for actually doing anything..

How can we even take today's Labour Party seriously when it is still happy to accommodate Blair and Straw in its ranks?

British rendition to Libya

To me it is inconceivable that the British security services could send people for torture to a "politically controversial" country like Libya without ministerial approval, or indeed without primeministerial approval.

The claims by Blair, Straw and some others that they did not facilitate torture have been fully disproved. It's time The Guardian stopped pulling its punches.

Scottish Tories

If the Scottish Tories become a separate party, its effect in Westminster terms will be minimal with one MP.

More of interest is whether such a move would put pressure on Labour to break up along national lines. It would be hard to imagine a future Labour government in London not needing the participation of their junior coalition partner, Scottish Labour.

The attraction to Scottish Labour of acquiring such enhanced influence must be tempting indeed.

Britain as a property owning democracy

It is wrong to believe that after 1979 the Tories were attempting to build a property owning democracy.

The "right to buy" policy was mostly a populist sledgehammer to smash Britain's would-be social democratic state. The same point could be made with the myth of a share owning democracy resulting from the Thatcherite privatisations.

What is unfortunate is that it has taken three decades of mounting public and private debt for these points to receive public recognition.

Middle-Class Homelessness

What is this nonsense about middle class homelessness? Homelessness is homelessness whoever is suffering from it.

The right to a roof over your head (granted even to prisoners) is a fundamental human right. That a country as rich as Britain can’t even guarantee that minimum to its citizens amply shows the dysfunctionality of the political and economic system in the UK.

Banning marches

What can be more short-sighted than the left asking the coalition government to shut down political freedom as a means of curtailing the EDL?

A better example of cutting off your nose to spite your face you will not find.

Politicians Britain

Most politicians today in Britain are self-serving careerists who willingly change their hats according to the weather. The dominant climate is established by money, corporate interests, the Murdochs, the policies of the US government, etc; and politicians accommodate themselves accordingly,

The only two skills modern politicians seem to need is to be sound-bite apologists for the interests of the rich and powerful – and, if in office, to be bureaucratic trouble-shooters without principles.

scrapping GCSEs

First, GCSE’s are a first rung on the exam ladder. Take them away and the A-level stress, already massive, only becomes worse.

Second, sixteen-year-olds are old enough to decide to leave school, and rightly so. No sixth form benefits from having young people there who don’t want to be there. Without GCSE’s many sixteen year olds would have no qualifications at all.

And finally for mid-teens you need an exam to check that they can do basic maths and English before giving these subjects up.

Injustice after the riots

Zoe Williams writes a piece which describes how two pathetic people received injustice at the hands of the British state for minor misdemeanours.

The first comment is from mikeeverset who writes:

Five dead. Shops burned to the ground. Homes burned to the ground. Dozens jobless. Dozens homeless. Dozens mugged. Dozens beaten. Thousands terrified.
Who speaks for them?

His comments defy sense. How do injustices of the type described by Williams do anything to help victims of riots?

Hitherto, the threats of terrorism and paedophilia were the pretexts for restricting justice and building a police state. To those we can now add the prevention of riots and the need for the exemplary punishment of rioters.

School uniforms

It is really hard to believe that we are reading this kind of nonsense about school uniform in 2011.

The ideology of the age is that the right of individual to make choices for him or herself is paramount. Yet all of that is junked with this plethora of petty rules about uniform and dress codes. They serve no educational function, but merely seek to humiliate the young.It is very seldom that I ever feel proud or patriotic towards England. The reason is that at least from Thatcher to Brown, Britain has invariably been on the wrong side of most international disagreements (ranging from the invasion of Iraq to opposing a convention of human rights for the EU). Added to that, the internal politics of Britain has been characterised – a least compared with our continental neighbours – by more pro-capitalist policies and by more hostility to civil liberties and freedom.

Pride in Britain

The only time I do feel a tingling of pride is on the very rare occasion when Britain is in dispute with the US over a matter of principle. The norm, though, is for London to play a reflexive sycophantic role to Washington. Nowhere was that more obvious than the detention yesterday of Shahid Malik the British minister for International Development at a US airport. Had one of Her Majesty’s Ministers been detained and searched by say Russia – or indeed by any EU country – there would have been an outcry of protest at such a breach of diplomatic protocol from London. As the breach was committed by the Americans, respectful silence is the order of the day.

Britain, Libya, Bahrain

British foreign policy is formed according to the needs of Britain, not foreign countries. And in Britain the most powerful interests are those of business, which are reflected in foreign policy decisions.

When the balance of advantage lay with coopering with Gaddafi, arming him sending people to his torture chambers, then that is when happened. When the opportunity arose to back one side in a civil war and establish a totally pro-Western government, in Libya that option was pursued.

In Bahrain it has always been in Britain’s interest to support the repressive ruling family.

There is total consistency in Britain foreign policy.

When Blair, Brown and Cameron spoke about promoting human rights, it was a means legitimising the military action, never an end in itself.

Liberal Education

The only way humanistic education can be “saved” is to maintain a clear distinction between education and training; the latter being about teaching someone how to do something. In terms of this distinction, TEFL is 90% about training.

Actually training interests me far less than does education.

I do not dissent from the purpose of education being the self-realisation of the student. What has always disturbed me is how “totalitarian” are some of the methods of allegedly bringing that about. When teachers “personalise” and delve in the psychological space of their students (all with supposed purpose of teaching them to learn as individuals) in their striving for student autonomy they are in fact removing it.

It has often struck me as ironic that the old mug-and-jug approach, teacher talks and students listen, in fact gives the student the power to listen or ignore.

I do not wish to restore traditional education at all, but merely want to suggest that we should be critical of the assumptions that lie behind some allegedly liberal education techniques.

Pantomime opposition

One of the features of the market fundamentalism which has ruled for the last three decades through different governments is that it has coincided with the near total collapse of the political left.

Today, market fundamentalism rightly suffers from a crisis of legitimacy, but there is no opposition which involves or connects with the mass of ordinary working people in the struggle for meaningful social reform. Instead, we have pantomime opposition which is good therapy for those involved. The most it can achieve is to bring about is a small rise in public consciousness.

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