Thursday, July 27, 2006

Amartya Sen - Against Faith Schools

Nice article on Amartya Sen (Nobel prize winning economist and moral philosopher of note), on the government's policy in encouraging faith schools. While not going all out to call for completely secular education, Sen prefers the idea of christian schools rather than Islamic, Hindu, Sikh etc. What he seems to value in christian schools is tolerance, diversity of ideas and a tendency not to obviously indoctrinate. In other words what he likes most in christian schools is the lack of religion...

The values he supports are what you would expect from a secular education. There are certainly christian schools run by some of the more strict sects (no evolution, the bible is the literal word of God etc), which have all of the faults that he associates with Islamic and other faith schools.

Let's hope that someone, somewhere sees sense enough to put a stop to the continuing advance of divisive and dangerous faith schools.

Enough is enough - religion is poison, let's not forget that.

Israel's 'new Middle East'

Excellent article on the anarchist a-infos newswire on the current Israeli war on the Lebanon. Written by an Israeli, Professor Tanya Reinhart, it punctures the lies of the Israeli government and its allies in the US and UK.

Also worth pointing out is that unlike most other sections of the 'left', the class struggle stream of anarchism has not adopted the 'we must support Hezbullah' line. Sticking to class and secularist principles, they've instead attacked Israel for what it's doing, but also criticised the Islamist movements for their reactionary, racist and sexist policies. The contrast between groups as disparate as Class War and the French CNT on the one hand, and the different flavours of Leninists and Trotskyists is striking.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More Israeli war crimes

As if slaughtering hundreds of civilians and attempting to destroy the civilian infrastructure of the Lebanon is not enough... Israel attacks the and kills UN observers too.

Bush-Blair conference

By dint of some advanced technology, the Progressive Contrarian has managed to get hold of a transcript of a private discussion between George Bush and Tony Blair at Camp David. The following is verbatim:

Bush: Blair, that you?
Blair: Yes, Mr President.
Bush: How's it hanging, Blair?
Blair: Good, sir. And you?
Bush: Not good. This Lebanon thing is bad news.
Blair: Yes, sir, I agree.
Bush: I'm thinking we gotta make some kind of statement to world.
Blair: Absolutely, sir.
Bush: I'm thinking we bomb Iran till they agree to stop all that shit.
Blair: Iran, sir? But it's the Lebanon that's being bombed.
Bush: Ain't that the capital of Iran?
Blair: No, sir, Mr President. It's another country altogether.
Bush: Shit, this sure is complicated.
Blair: Perhaps we should issue some kind of verbal statement?
Bush: That's good, I like that idea, Blair.
Blair (blushing): Thank you, sir.
Bush: OK. How's this... We think, in this time of war, we need less bombs and missiles being used.
Blair: I think you mean fewer rather than less.
Bush: What?
Blair: The correct form of words should be 'fewer bombs and missiles'
Bush: Gee, you sure do talk like a girl, Blair. But OK. And we want all sides to get together and agree on doing whatever it takes to keep us happy. I mean, there's too much people getting killed in Israel...
Blair: Too many.
Bush: What?
Blair: Not too much, it's too many.
Bush: Whatever. What d'you think, Blair? That enough?
Blair: That's very good, sir. So long as you accept the substantive contributions that her majesty's government has just made.
Bush: Sure, you want to word it like a sissy I'm willing to go ahead with. By the way, my laundry done?
Blair: Yes, sir. Three shirts, two jackets and a pair of socks. Do you think we should involve someone else?
Bush: Like who?
Blair: Yes, that's a good idea.
Bush: What?
Blair: Getting Hu involved, excellent. And what about Kofi? And Putin?
Bush: What? Coffee? Pudding? What the hell you talking about Blair?
Blair: Nothing, sir.
Bush: Now that you mention it, some coffee and a cake is a good idea. And how about you give another foot massage?
Blair (blushing): Yes, sir. You want another toe job while I'm at it?
Bush: Sure, but this time wait till I take my boots off.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Thorium-powered nuclear reactors?

Very interesting article on the Australian cosmos magazine web site. It describes an alternative form of nuclear reactor that doesn't depend on Uranium or Plutonium, but which uses the element Thorium. Not only does the Thorium reactor not produce weapons-grade plutonium, it can also be used to burn plutonium, effectively getting rid of one of the most dangerous and long-lived substances known to man.

Furthermore, the waste produced by a Thorium reactor is relatively short-lived compared to plutonium (ie it has a half life of around 500 years compared to 10000 years for plutonium). Thorium is also more abundant, easier to mine and doesn't have to go through expensive and dangerous processing before it can be used in a reactor.

It all sounds too good to be true - if it's so great why aren't all new reactors thorium powered? Firstly there are still some technical issues to resolve - but they're being worked on. Secondly there's an entrenched nuclear industry that has a vested interest in continuing with current technology. And finally, of course there seem to be no military spin-offs from this technology.

For those of us who are against the current generation of nuclear power this new technology might seem like more of the same old same old. But there are real benefits, if this article is to be believed. Firstly thorium reactors can be used to get rid of plutonium from spent power rods or disabled nuclear weapons. Secondly it breaks that whole military connection and finally, it looks like it provides for the cheap energy that the developing world so desperately needs.

There's a lot of promise here. A mixed fuel economy that includes cellulosic ethanol, solar, wind, fuel cells and thorium nuclear reactors looks pretty sustainable to me.

Friday, July 21, 2006

10 Good Reasons Why Margaret Beckett Is An Excellent Foreign Secretary

10 Good Reasons Why Margaret Beckett Is An Excellent Foreign Secretary

1. She does as the Prime Minister tells her.
2. She can point to the United States on a world atlas, unaided.
3. She has been on holiday abroad.
10. She's not John Prescott

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Israeli War Crimes

If it was any other country our government would have been talking about war crimes and ethnic cleansing. Apparently Israel can pretty much do as it pleases and get away with it. Destroying the civilian infrastructure, killing hundreds of civilians and generally trying to wreck a sovereign state can be justified on the grounds that two of it's soldiers were kidnapped.

For starters Israel's attack will strengthen Hizbullah, not weaken it. It will also probably lead to the collapse of the secular authorities. Perhaps a sectarian civil war is what Israel really wants for Lebanon.

Hizbullah and the Israeli state, they're made for each other.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

God Hates Shrimp

What a perfect riposte to the fascist godhatesfags campaign...

Guaranteed to offend the religious - particularly those who like to quote Leviticus against the 'abomination' of gay sex.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Clean coal technologies

Good 30-second intro to clean coal technologies at the BBC.

Coal can be a clean technology - but what it depends on are miners to get at the coal in the first place. Given that one of the big reasons that mining was downplayed was because of the militancy of the miners, it remains to be seen how much a government is going to want to go back to mining.

Yet again nuclear is attractive to governments for non-technical reasons - it's easier to control and there are no pesky class war militants to deal with...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Tony Blair - Energy policy

That Tony Blair energy policy statement in full:

Yes, we've gone for the nuclear option. The world has changed radically since the last energy review. At that time the situation was very different. Today it's different again. And tomorrow it might also be different. But. For the sake of our children we need to face the facts. Climate change. Global warming. Environmental change. Energy security. Climate change. We can't ignore the unpleasant realities. So. This government, my government, has to be bold and take the decisions that only we can take.

There are some who will claim that this policy change is a U-turn. Nothing can be further from the truth. Our commitment is to renewables. Solar. Wind. Wave. Nuclear. There are those who claim that we have reneged on our ideals. I say, what ideals? There are those who say that we are going for the nuclear option because it affirms my virility. They say that governments like big projects, wars, mass destruction. But I ask you, all of you, do you really think that a government that's invaded Iraq, and which is at war in Afghanistan, really needs nuclear power stations to make it seem tough and in control? It's not as if we need to resort to having senior government politicians romping in cowboy suits, is it?

No. We remain committed to do what's best for this government. The nuclear option will be part of my legacy. A bunch of windmills are for pansies. New Labour. Are not afraid. You probably should be.

Friday, July 07, 2006

John Prescott - The Truth

There's so much rumour and innuendo floating around John Prescott that the man is in danger of being simply dismissed as a waste of space. This would be as unfair as suggesting that this government has no coherent strategy beyond responding to the latest set of headlines.

The truth of the matter is that John Prescott plays vital role for British industry. It was in this capacity that he visited the ranch of American billionaire Phillip Anschutz. Mr Anschutz, an extremely rich billionaire, has a wide range of business interests: oil, film, casinos, telecommunications and lard. It is in connection with the latter that he consulted with John Prescott, who has single handedly kept the British lard industry alive in recent years.

Mr Anschutz, who in addition to being extremely rich is also a billionaire, refuses to be interviewed on the subject of lard, but many in the industry believe that he is keen on developing one of America's largest natural resources. John 'lardy' Prescott is a world expert on the subject, and was said to be discussing the aphrodisiac qualities of lard with a number of lady friends.

Sources at Downing Street refused to rule out the option of officially making Prescott the country's 'Lard Tsar'. They also categorically stated that Mr Prescott is not interested in milking his job for all it's worth. 'John Prescott', an unnamed spokesman declared, 'is rolling in cash already, why would he be sniffing around a billionaire? Have you seen his expenses claims recently?'

Any suggestions of impropriety have been by firmly denied. When quizzed, Downing St spokesmen pointed out that the strange whiff emanating from government is not the whiff of decadence or sleaze, it's just plain old fashioned bullshit.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Crime and Punisment (Part 1)

Where are the fresh thinking and innovative ideas on crime and punishment? All of the political parties are making big plays on crime at the moment, but for the most part it's just posturing. Yes, chaps and chapesses, we all know that you're tough on crime. Yes, we all know that it's the other side who are soft on crime. But come on, where are the new ideas coming from?

As a starter here's some fresh thinking on crime, direct from the Progressive Contrarian:

1. Young muggers, vandals and other miscreants should have their expensive designer trainers confiscated and replaced with Tesco Value trainers. Anyone sentenced to this punishment and caught wearing other trainers will be further sentenced to wearing a complete Tesco Value outfit.

2. Muggers who steal mobile phones should be fitted with a collar containing a mobile phone jamming device for a specified period. In order not to impinge on their human rights, and in order to give them access to the phone network in emergencies, they will be issued with a BT phone card.

3. Young male sex offenders should be forced to wear pink outfits, wear lipstick and stilletto heels. Furthermore they should be forced to leave the house every day wearing this outfit. Serious offenders should be sentenced to prison wearing this type of outfit.

4. Vandals should be forced to build a replica of the Eiffel Tower using matchsticks and super glue. They will be given detailed instructions and a set time to build it (say two hours). If the period expires without the model being completed it will be trashed by an OAP and the process has to begin again.

Hopefully these suggestions will set the ball rolling. If it's true that prison doesn't work then perhaps it's time to look at some punishments that will really strike fear into the heart of a machismo youth culture that sees 'respect' as everything.