Monday, February 28, 2011

Layer 450 . . . Class War, Economic Fundamentalists, The City's Mafiosi, Pambazuka, Changing the World and Blessed Unrest

It seemed strange to be blogging about the competing economic theories of Keynes and Friedman recently (Layer 447) - as if anyone's really interested? However, Michael Tomasky wrote this piece for the Guardian last week -

So this is the Tea Party's endgame. No government
In 1995 Clinton and Gingrich were always going to deal. But these economic fundamentalists don't want compromise
As the liberal commentator Jonathan Chait observed last year, America is in a new culture war, but "this culture war is not over social issues – it is over economic ones".
Over the last 30 years – during which time overall union membership has gone from about 25% of the workforce to barely 11% - the richest 1% have seen their pre-tax incomes nearly quadruple while median earners have stayed flat.
Were the Democrats cleverer and braver, citizens would broadly know these facts. But most Americans have no idea of the massive class war – stealing from the bottom and the middle and giving to the very top – that has been waged over the last three decades. Instead, they appear to know, or "know", that Barack Obama has governed from the hard left, that unions are piggy, and that an uprising of Tea Party patriots has been all that stands between the good old US of A and a kind of Muslim-Marxism state.
In such an atmosphere, the right can move with impunity.


Why omerta still suits the City's mafiosi
Banks will begin the process of reform when their employees aren't penalised for speaking out
by Nick Cohen

'Why are we so hated?" the City asks with increasing nervousness as it begins to realise that its gaudy allure is fading. "Because you wrecked our prosperity and then stole our taxes," is the short answer it will hear during the coming weeks as bankers pick up £6bn in bonuses.
The national consensus holds that the City is being "rewarded for failure" and, for once, the national consensus is right. Most understand, too, that in the cases of RBS, Halifax and the other bailed-out banks, the financiers are engaged in a theft of public money beyond the dreams of a mafia crime family. What we must grasp if there is to be serious reform is that the bonuses are rewards for cowards as well as for failures.
Inside Job opens this week and the title of Charles Ferguson's intelligent and quietly angry documentary on the causes of the crash hints at the destructive effects of fear and secrecy. The world does not experience a financial meltdown without insiders realising that the system is going haywire.
We need to break up a system that rewards those who bite their tongues because it suits their private interests and punishes those who speak their minds in the public interest. We need to recognise that we live in a half-free country, where we have freedom of speech at home but not at work; where people pride themselves on their freedom to criticise politicians, but dare not criticise their employers.
A minimum programme would include the outlawing of gagging clauses in redundancy settlements, the lifting of the limits on the compensation whistleblowers can receive from employment tribunals, a ban on financial institutions using the libel law, the appointment of compulsory worker-directors to corporate boards and the establishment of a statutory regulatory body that can punish bankers who fail to protest against misconduct.
The banks are as great a threat to our national security as a foreign enemy. We collect intelligence on hostile powers. Why should we not collect it on the hostile City?


Pambazuka News

Egypt and the revolution in our minds

by Nigel C. Gibson - activist and scholar

Egypt: How to overthrow a dictator

by Samir Amin


How to Change the World: Marx and Marxism 1840-2011 by Eric Hobsbawm

[Review in the LRB by Terry Eagleton]

How to Change the World is the work of a man who has reached an age at which most of us would be happy to be able to raise ourselves from our armchairs without the aid of three nurses and a hoist, let alone carry out historical research. It will surely not be the last volume we shall be granted by this indomitable spirit.

Eric Hobsbawm, who was born in the year of the Bolshevik revolution, remains broadly committed to the Marxist camp – a fact worth mentioning as it would be easy to read this book without realising it. This is because of its judiciousness, not its shiftiness. Its author has lived through so much of the political turbulence he portrays that it is easy to fantasise that History itself is speaking here, in its wry, all-seeing, dispassionate wisdom. It is hard to think of a critic of Marxism who can address his or her own beliefs with such honesty and equipoise.

You cannot speak of what free men and women are bound to do in certain circumstances, since if they are bound to do it they are not free. Capitalism may be teetering on the verge of ruin, but it may not be socialism that replaces it. It may be fascism, or barbarism. Hobsbawm reminds us of a small but significant phrase in The Communist Manifesto which has been well-nigh universally overlooked: capitalism, Marx writes ominously, might end ‘in the common ruin of the contending classes’. It is not out of the question that the only socialism we shall witness is one that we shall be forced into by material circumstance after a nuclear or ecological catastrophe. Like other 19th-century believers in progress, Marx did not foresee the possibility of the human race growing so technologically ingenious that it ends up wiping itself out. This is one of several ways in which socialism is not historically inevitable, and neither is anything else. Nor did Marx live to see how social democracy might buy off revolutionary passion.

Marx was an artist of sorts. It is often forgotten how staggeringly well read he was, and what painstaking labour he invested in the literary style of his works. He was eager, he remarked, to get shot of the ‘economic crap’ of Capital and get down to his big book on Balzac. Marxism is about leisure, not labour. It is a project that should be eagerly supported by all those who dislike having to work. It holds that the most precious activities are those done simply for the hell of it, and that art is in this sense the paradigm of authentic human activity. It also holds that the material resources that would make such a society possible already exist in principle, but are generated in a way that compels the great majority to work as hard as our Neolithic ancestors did. We have thus made astounding progress, and no progress at all.


Blessed Unrest


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Layer 449 . . . Dignity, Justice, Human Rights, Protests and Peaceful Revolutions

One of the Egyptian protesters said, "This is not just a revolt to topple the regime. This is a revolt for our dignity and for justice."

Meanwhile, on TV yesterday, a reporter said, "Outside Tripoli he (Gaddafi) has no control whatsoever."

When people start to demand the right to some dignity and social justice, then it becomes more unlikely they will replace one set of ruling bastards with another set that's pretty similar, as has happened in Britain. If people have overcome apathy and fear, and come out on the streets to demand the right to be the rulers and not the ruled, they have reached a different level of consciousness. Awakening a higher level of consciousness is like letting a genie out of a bottle. What sort of trickery (or power) might be required to persuade it to go back in the bottle?

This past month has been amazing. Last weekend the Gaddafi regime lost control of all areas of Libya apart from the capital city. What's it going to take to put that genie back in its bottle? Incredible. At the same time the regime in Bahrain, of all places, was forced to withdraw from the central square and allow the protestors to occupy it. It was also a symbol of what's now happening that the regime was also forced to cancel its forthcoming Grand Prix - a lucrative part of the biggest capitalist circus on the planet, the benefits of which reach NONE of the Bahraini people, except maybe a handful employed at the racing circuit on minimum wages.

The previous weekend had seen the beginning of the challenge to the regime in Algeria.

The weekend before that we saw, of course, the downfall of Mubarak in Egypt.

From protest to revolution
Anger at inequality isn't confined to Tunisia or Egypt - where uprisings give a blueprint for other nations.
by Dan Hind
The popular uprising in Egypt is still less than three weeks old. We still cannot know how it will end - whether the ruling party will make some concessions and cling on to power within a new government - or whether a united opposition will sweep away Mubarak's apparatus. And we cannot tell what kind of regime will emerge.
The revolutions that overthrew the Soviet system in Central and Eastern Europe did not always empower the dissidents who risked the most in the struggle for freedom. Former secret policemen and their allies in organised crime often proved more adept in the years that followed than the idealists they once tormented.
But for all the uncertainty, Egypt has already shaken the region and the world. For those watching in Europe and the US, it has put an end to any lazy notion that the alternative to corrupt dictatorship in the Middle East is chaos or Islamic extremism. The worldly realists, with their regretful talk of the need for moderation, now stand exposed as power-worshipping fantasists. The Christians and Muslims crying "one hand, one hand", as they call for an end to Mubarak's tyranny have made a farce of decades of Western commentary and analysis.
Standing as one
The regime itself did all it could to encourage sectarian tension in the country, while its supporters in the West pretended it was a bulwark against religious violence. But, despite all the efforts to destroy civil society through torture and the organised suspicion of a police state, people have found each other.
Millions are being transformed by the experience of a public life without fear. In the words of one of the protestors, Wael Gawdat: "At Tahrir Square you see different Egyptians from the ones you see on the subway or the bus. No fights and no discomfort from the crowded setting. In short, Egypt is more beautiful in Tahrir Square."
The decision of the Egyptian people to take responsibility for their future - their decision to become citizens - enlivens, even delights. This is a movement that isn't being orchestrated by leaders in the way we have been led to expect. People are acting as though they are free and so becoming free. 
The Egyptians, like the Tunisians - like people all over the world - want a share in the vast wealth that their rulers and a handful of insiders have hoarded for themselves. They want dignity and a life they can call their own. For the moment they are not afraid and they are united. They are showing us the truth of David Hume’s remark that our rulers 'have nothing to support them but opinion'. The Egyptian people no longer believed the Mubarak regime was as good as any other that might be established. They have seen for themselves that there can be stability without torture.
Rejecting injustice
They do not believe that the distribution of property is just and they do not accept the legitimacy of their government. They have changed their opinion of what is possible and right. Every day of freedom they enjoy is a message to the rest of us; things do not have to be as they are.
So the Egyptians and the Tunisians have swept away the prejudices that have so long confused and corrupted the understanding of people in the West. More than that, they have also reminded Europeans and American what political action can achieve - and what it feels like to be free.
We have long been entranced by the idea that shopping and voting once every four years for one wing or other of the pro-business party would be enough to give us the good life. Vast public relations campaigns fostered the sense that a better future could be had, if only we chose wisely from the list of approved candidates. All the while the rich have taken more and left the rest of us to struggle with insecurity, anxiety and mounting debts. The people in Cairo didn't look to charismatic politicians or party machines to do the work for them. They moved faster than their leaders.
You can do it, too
In the West, there have been stirrings of dissent as the scale of the economic crisis becomes apparent and the reassurances of the mainstream media - that good times are just around the corner, come to sound ever more threadbare. Students, and young people in particular, have already shaken off the wishful passivity of the previous generation. But for the most part the outrage and sense of betrayal have expressed themselves in ways that pose no real threat to the governing establishment or the opulent minority who control it.
The Tea Party in the United States and Conservatives in Britain promise change while working to ensure that everything that matters stays the same. The right in both countries has benefited from the failure of their centrist opponents to address the fundamental causes of recession, unemployment and social breakdown. It is as though the entire political establishment has adopted the stultifying uniformity of a one-party state. There is a bankruptcy of policy and of principle that will, perhaps, finally compel us to take matters into our own hands.
In the presidential campaign of 2008, Barack Obama never tired of telling voters they were the change they had been looking for. The people of Tunisia and Egypt have turned a clever slogan into an undeniable fact. They did not wait for permission to take action. If we want another world we must all learn from them.
Can we look beyond the stereotypes offered by our media, and see that the Egyptians and the Tunisians are now daring us to be free?
Yes, we can.

Dan Hind has worked in publishing since 1998 and is the author of two well-acclaimed books: The Return of the Public and The Threat to Reason. He is also a regular contributor to The Guardian.
Follow him on Twitter: @danhind



Social networks, social revolution 

Youtube, Facebook and Twitter have become the new weapons of mass mobilisation.

Information is power, but 21st century technology has unleashed an information revolution, and now the genie is out of the bottle.

Youtube, Facebook and Twitter have become the new weapons of mass mobilisation; geeks have taken on dictators; bloggers are dissidents; and social networks have become rallying forces for social justice.

As people around the world challenge authorities, from Iran to Tunisia, Egypt to Yemen, entire societies are being transformed as ordinary citizens see the difference, imagine the alternative, and come together to organise for a better future.

So, are social networks triggering social revolution? And where will the next domino fall?


Reflections: Egypt Revolution

Egypt's Uprising is only the first in many steps,the challenge ahead is to build a society on fair principles.


What makes a revolution succeed?

While the aspirations are different, Egyptians could take five lessons from Iran's 1979 revolt.

On February 12, 32 years this week, Iran proclaimed its revolution a success: the Shah was gone, the military had been decimated, and a new era could dawn.

Although what followed turned out very differently than what the Egyptians are hoping for, Iran's was one of the great revolutions of the 20th century, and Egyptians might well look to it for inspiration in their effort to oust an entrenched regime and gain new rights.

Today, the Egyptian military has assumed command, with promises of free and fair elections. Does this mean the demonstrators can go home and trust their army? Egypt and Iran are very different, their aspirations and media eons apart, and, one hopes, the future the Egyptians construct will be more democratic and safe for those reaching for popular victory.

Nonetheless, for those along the Nile facing quickly changing events, the Iranian revolution offers some useful lessons.

Lesson one: Revolutions take time


Egypt's revolution has just begun

The transition to civilian rule will not be easy - if the military are capable of delivering on their promises.

"Whatever happens, nothing will ever be the same again" – Tahrir Square demonstrator.

Mubarak has fallen. February 11, 2011, has inscribed itself on the page of world history. Now the struggle for the 'heart and soul' of the revolution begins. It's a testing time, and all will be tested.

Test 1: Procedural and institutional change – the establishment of legality

At what point will the uprising be sufficiently secure from counter-revolution to begin construction of a truly transformed democratic polity? What are the minimum security requirements for its immediate defence and subsequent extension? What structural changes will have to be demanded - and fought through to a successful conclusion – in order to neutralise and dis-articulate the still formidable powers of the Mubarak state and its - temporarily silenced - backers?

Test 2: The shape and boundaries of revolutionary democracy – the contours of freedom and the struggles surrounding inclusive or exclusive participation 

How will the emergent revolution realise itself, consecrate itself? What shall be its core tasks, boundaries and limits? Who is to be included, who excluded? And on what basis, what grounds?

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Layer 448 . . . The Magic of Music, Education, Beatles, Chords, Phonics, Egypt, Dignity, Courage, Death and Tax Avoidance

All You Need Is Love - The Beatles

Sky Arts 1 is re-running the Tony Palmer series of classic documentaries - All You Need Is Love: The Story of Popular Music. Last week it was the programme about the Beatles - their rise and shine.

It's taken me years to  understand the magic of the Beatles's MUSIC. Yes - they were dynamic, funny, good-looking, loveable moptops - but what was so special about their music?

They sang well, they could do incredible harmonies, they were great individual vocalists, they wrote good lyrics, they recorded good songs, they were influenced by great rhythm and blues and rock n roll artists - but was there a special quality in the music itself?

It's dawned on me that their early records were powerful and arresting through being very simple - using a standard chord pattern (I - IV- V) - but using those chords in an inventive and playful way. They also played songs in upbeat major keys - never minor keys in those early songs.

What this means in practice (I think I now understand) is there's something special about those three-chord sequences, spacings and patterns. Common examples are E A B(7); A D E; C F G; G C D; D G A; - all using chords based on the 1st, 4th and 5th notes of a given key ( E, A, C, etc,) but not necessarily played in aphabetic order.

This will all be completely obvious to anyone with any musical knowledge, but I'm not writing for the few who are musically educated. I'm writing in the hope of encouraging the far bigger number of people who've had NO musical education to pick up a guitar or sit down at a keyboard - chording their way to an improvised accompaniment to their voices singing the melodies. And singing is good for the soul.

Schools are failing their kids if they don't show them how simple it is to play the basic major and minor chords on guitars and keyboards, and don't teach the chord structures of the world's greatest rock, pop and blues music.

As for the early Beatles albums, they really only contained a few great songs. Lots of good ones - but few really great ones, which were very carefully sequenced on the vinyl for maximum impact.

Please Please Me
The first Beatles album very cleverly began and ended both sides with its 4 strongest tracks.

I Saw Her Standing There - E  A B7

Please Please Me - C F G

Love Me Do - G C D7

Twist And Shout (by Phil Medley & Bert Russell) - D G A

Four very different songs, but each of them following the chord formula I IV V. It just works. Waka waka.

With The Beatles
Side Two is the heart of the With The Beatles album. In the middle it has "You Really Got A Hold Of Me, by Smoky Robinson, and "I Wanna Be Your Man" (E A B7), which was written by John & Paul (and given away to the Stones for a hit single). Good, solid stuff. But the tracks that grab you are the first and the last on the second side - Chuck Berry's "Roll Over Beethoven" (E A B7) and the climax of the whole album - Berry Gordy's "Money" ( E A B7 ). 'Beethoven' is a joyful announcement that the times they were a'changing. John's vocal on 'Money' is a leering, sarcastic, ironic challenge to the orthodoxies of the day - we could see clearly the wink and the joke in Gordy's lyrics. It's a great song, which Lennon obviously loved singing.

Chuck Berry, of course, was the king of the 3 chord rock n roll classics - Beethoven, Johnny B Goode (E A B7), Rock N Roll Music (D G A7), Sweet Little Sixteen (C F G), Maybelline (A D7 E7) , You Can't Catch Me ( D7 G7 A7) , and so many others. No other songwriter of the day was more prolific than Chuck; no-one wrote so consistently with such wit, and nobody performed with more charisma and originality. Bill Wyman says going to watch Chuck Berry perform on stage changed his life forever, and Bill was a founder member of what's arguably the world's greatest ever (and most enduring) rock and roll band. To have been a massive influence on both the Beatles and the Stones, and on both the Lennon-McCartney and the Jagger-Richards songwriting partnerships, is an incredible achievement.


Education News

Just when you think the levels of stupidity in our education system have touched rock bottom, along comes someone to send you into even deeper pits of despair.

Say hello to the Schools Minister, Nick Gibb MP. 

Reading test for six-year-olds to include non-words

A number of made-up words such as "koob" or "zort" are to be included in the government's planned new reading test for six-year-olds in England.

The UK Literacy Association said the plan was "bonkers" as the purpose of reading was to understand meaning.

Note the past tense here. Clearly the purpose of reading is no longer to understand meaning.

This former chartered accountant is about as ignorant as it's possible for an 'educated' person to be.

New minister Nick Gibb upsets teachers – already

Disciplinarian Gibb says he'd rather see an Oxbridge graduate with no PGCE teaching physics than a qualified teacher with a degree from a 'rubbish university'

With his penchant for old-fashioned discipline in schools – complete with strict uniform policies and rules that pupils should stand when teachers enter the classroom – it was never likely to be long before Nick Gibb provoked the ire of the profession.

But even the new schools minister's harshest critics didn't expect him to manage it within just three days in the job.

Gibb is reported to have told officials in the Department for Education on Friday, the day after his appointment: "I would rather have a physics graduate from Oxbridge without a PGCE teaching in a school than a physics graduate from one of the rubbish universities with a PGCE."


On the side of the Pharaoh

It is an act of bad faith for Jews to respond to Egypt's revolution with fear instead of hope

"In Egypt it was the moral force of nonviolence, not terrorism, not mindless killing … that bent the arc of history toward justice once more." Borrowing the language of Martin Luther King, President Obama's response to Hosni Mubarak's departure invited us to see Egypt's stirring 18-day revolution not only as a political event of significance but as part of a grander moral and spiritual drama.

I recognise the notion of bending "the arc of history toward justice". It forms part of my understanding of a Judaic vision for humanity. So I was saddened by the predominantly muted and apprehensive response to these uplifting events from many of my fellow Jews in the UK and in Israel. How is it possible, I have wondered, not to be moved and inspired by the sight of a people finding its voice to join protests against decades of dictatorship, corruption, brutality and repression? Protests that were remarkably peaceful given the suppressed fury that must reside in the hearts of so many at the conditions they have had to endure.

How is it not possible to rejoice when, as in 1989, the tide of history enables a swath of humanity to liberate themselves from hard-hearted rulers and move towards a more life-affirming and just ordering of society? Is it because this begrudging Jewish response has been dictated not by a recognition of the power of the human spirit to overcome oppression, but by fear?

It's as if fear is soldered to our soul. Fear that past patterns of prejudice will be repeated and thereby determine our future. I find this kind of fearfulness both dispiriting and a betrayal of the Judaism I hold dear.

For our response to these events to be dictated by our fears, rather than our hopefulness about the human spirit, is an act of bad faith: it reneges on the spiritual vision of our Judaic heritage. In secular terms, it puts us as Jews on the wrong side of history – it puts us on the side of repression and brutality. It puts us, so to speak, on the side of Pharaoh rather than Moses. In religious terms, it fails to understand that the biblical phrase that we lovingly repeat each year when we tell our own story of liberation, "Let my people go … ", is the voice of the divine, of God, of the sacred principle that freedom from oppression is the right of every people.

That is the vision at the heart of prophetic Judaism: freedom from oppression, each person to have the opportunity to sit under their vine and their fig tree where no one shall make them afraid. Isn't that what the people of Egypt want too?

Fear is a great dictator – to overthrow its tyranny within us is a spiritual challenge. Yes, Egypt has a long way to go: the transition from military to civilian rule will no doubt be bumpy. But as a Jew I celebrate, as Obama was celebrating, the movement of the human spirit towards freedom. All that those crowds possessed was, as the Egyptian novelist Ahdaf Soueif put it, "words and music and legitimacy and hope". We have seen what powerful weapons these can be when wielded with determination, courage and vision.


Egyptian dignity in the face of death

It was only when we protesters risked being shot that revolution in Egypt truly took hold

by Nawara Najem

The masses that confronted security forces were not the Facebook youth and neither were they the internet activists. Rather, they were segments of Egyptian society whose anger had been ignited by seeing the dead bodies, and so suddenly and unexpectedly they decided that they would risk being shot. Repressive forces want to kill hundreds in order to terrorise the millions, and the only way to foil such a plan is for millions to make the collective decision that they do not fear death. This was the key to both the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions.

Why did the people not fear death? No one knows. It was not only religion, because some of those who died were not believers. It was not only poverty, because many of those who faced death were from the comfortable classes. It was not only despair, as the millions who came out onto the streets were full of hope for change. Perhaps the answer is human dignity. No force, no matter how tyrannous, is able to deprive human beings of this. People broke through the fear barrier, and Christians discovered that the Muslim's are not terrorists while Muslim's discovered that Christians are not agents of the occupation. The poor discovered that they have rights and the middle classes discovered that freedom from counterfeit gains releases the soul. And discovered that they do not need either a leader or commander. Indeed, they don't even need security forces to maintain "security and stability". This revolution is a people's revolution. Whoever claims leadership of it is a liar and whoever claims to be its instigator is a vagabond. Leadership was and remains the property of the masses.

The Egyptian revolution is not yet over. The people have toppled the head of the regime and still they strive to cleanse the pockets of corruption. Let the dictatorships, international forces and beneficiaries clamour. No one can exert control over the will of nations once they have flared up.


Middle East: Ten days that shook the world

The echo of Egypt's revolution is rocking despotic regimes from Algiers to Damascus



Corporate tax avoidance: Impoverishing the public

Bankers' determination to minimise their contribution to public funds is matched by the lavishness of the benefits they have enjoyed at public expense


It was the high priest of free markets, Adam Smith, who warned that joint stock companies encourage negligence. Limited liability is a terrific privilege for which companies ought to expect to contribute generously to the community's coffers. Many fail to do so, including banks that have only recently drawn heavily on a common resource. Whatever the spin, they are coming to be seen – in another of Smith's phrases – as "a conspiracy against the public".

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Layer 447 . . . The Rights of the Child, Education, Michael Morpurgo, Schools, the Dimbleby Lecture, Lessons in Hate and Violence, and the Need for Apologies.

Continuing with yesterday's economics theme, the following articles are very good summaries of the case for Keynesian approaches, and the case against Friedmanite economics:

The Economy: We Are All Keynesians Now

Friday, Dec. 31, 1965,9171,842353-1,00.html

from 2008

The End of the Age of Milton Friedman


Children and Education

The wellbeing of children, the brainwashing & indoctrination of children, the education of children, and the abuse of children, are subjects that every one of us should be concerned with and pay attention to.

I'm still seething about that insane 'Tiger Woman' and her abuse of her own children. [see last blog] I'm even more seething about people like her who encourage other parents (and teachers) to put extreme pressure on children to achieve academically at the cost of their overall wellbeing, at the cost of their right to a proper childhood, and their right to a proper education.

I'm now seething at a programme that was broadcast by Channel 4's 'Dispatches' team this week -

Lessons in Hate and Violence

Dispatches goes undercover to investigate allegations that teachers regularly assault young children in some of the 2,000 Muslim schools in Britain run by Islamic organisations.

The programme also follows up allegations that, behind closed doors, some Muslim secondary schools teach a message of hatred and intolerance.

The programme is presented by reporter Tazeen Ahmad.

Dispatches: Lessons in Hate and Violence will not be available on 4oD at this time, due to an ongoing police investigation concerning subjects featured in the programme.

There are clips of the actual programme on the website, where Salahuddeen Ali has commented:

Great documentary. I am a muslim and I find this issue of muslim teachers/schools abusing children worthy of broadcast and investigation. As a muslim child growing learning the Quran, I was beaten and whipped. This is a fact. I read many muslims comments saying they're unhappy about this report. Well I hope they realize that when abuse is applied to children in their faith schools it will not be hushed down in respect to their image. Children's rights are above any faith, group or agenda. Thank you for this brilliant work.

Mohammed Abdullah commented:

Although I have not watched the full program I believe it is right to bring these issues to the forefront just like one would do with racism. Indeed there are preachers in Mosques and Madrasa's preaching Islam without the proper knowledge of the subject. We can deny the truth much as possible but these problems do exist I myself have experienced this. Those preachers only have a tunnel vision of religion and do not have a broader knowledge of this world. Those preachers who spread hatred, corruptions and mischief in the land they need to be bought to Justice. Al Quran Surat Al-M?'idah: Chapter 5: Verse 33: gives clear punishment for those who Spread hatred, Corruptions and Mischief on the land. I would like to praise TAZEEN AHMAD for this brilliant work.

The programme had used hidden cameras to film teachers and teachers' assistants barking at children and indoctrinating them about the vileness of non-Muslims - shouting at children who weren't concentrating hard enough on their Koran-reading. Worse than this, they were shown kicking and slapping children for not working hard enough.

The children worked in isolation - not speaking to or collaborating with any of their peers in their learning.  During unsupervised break times some of the children were aggressive and abusive to one another.

But let's be clear - this model and this pattern of learning exist in many other schools throughout the country, where children learn through didactic instruction, learn by rote, learn in isolation, and have an unbroken diet of uncreative, meaningless cramming.

It's a disgusting fact that more and more children learn in ghetto schools of one sort or another - instead of learning alongside children of all backgrounds and abilities. This is something the 'free schools' idea is meant to promote. The Tories have been searching for ages to figure out a way of giving public money to private and independent schools in order to reduce private tuition fees, and this a perfect wheeze for doing it. These people really do have a sense of entitlement to exclusive schools which are subsidised by public taxation, and which are run by the parents whose children benefit from them. People like Toby Young want control of the curriculum, the management, the recruitment of staff, and the style of teaching - and they don't give a toss about what more enlightened people say about the learning and wellbeing needs of children. Their sole aim is to have a neighbourhood school for their own children, run by the parents, which doesn't charge fees, and which will guarantee 'rigour' and a smooth passage to the Oxbridge college of their choice.

These schools may be less hate-filled than those shown on the C4 documentary, but just as negative in their effect through causing fragmentation of the system, entrenching privilege, promoting ghettoisation and destroying the rights of children to a proper childhood and an enjoyment of school and of learning itself.



Michael Morpurgo is an exceptional human being, and a great champion of the rights of children. He was rightly given the honour of delivering the Dimbleby Lecture on BBC TV this week.

In this year's Richard Dimbleby Lecture, Michael Morpurgo explores the increasingly urgent issue of children's rights, and investigates the wrongs that young people have to endure.

One of Britain's most popular children's authors, Morpurgo has written over 120 books and more recently he has become a campaigner on behalf of children, both at home and abroad. In this role he visited the Middle East where he witnessed, first hand, the difficulties children face in times of conflict.

His most well known book, War Horse, was recently dramatised to great critical acclaim and it is now being made into a Hollywood feature film by Stephen Spielberg.

Related Links

    * Wikipedia: Michael Morpurgo (
    * Michael Morpurgo: Home (
    * BBC Scotland: Authors Live - Michael Morpurgo
    * BBC News: Entertainment & Arts: Michael Morpurgo on War Horse and beyond
    * BBC News: Entertainment & Arts: How to operate a War Horse puppet
    * IMDb: War Horse (
    * BBC News Magazine: How children's war fiction has changed

Seven days left to view this.

The Rights of Children - summary of the lecture

UN Convention on Children's Rights - do we live by it?

Only two countries have yet to ratify this convention - Somalia and the United States.
The right to survival, access to healthcare, liberty and education

These rights are woefully neglected.

3.5 million of our children in the UK are mired in poverty.

Some of the most vulnerable have been appallingly treated.

We must tackle the impoverishment, neglect and exploitation of children.

The Yarls Wood detention centre - a deeply shameful institution - injustice was done to children put in this prison.

"Motherland" - a play by Natasha Walters.

"12 big men banged on our door. They took us to a police station."

We lock up asylum-seeking children, even though they are innocent of any crime.

The rights of children are flagrantly ignored.

"Are we doing the best for our children? No - and we are all to blame."

Librarians are the unsung heros of the book world. Unglamorous
people like this make a real difference to children's lives.

The younger the children, the less status for the people involved. Primary school teachers are the worst paid.

We have a short-term target-driven mindset. We need to go back to the needs of children. We need children to burn brightly and shine.

What we actually do is corral them and stifle them - we put them in places where success and failure [in tests and exams] is all that counts . . . Fear of failure is what does the most damage. We're like Mr Gradgrind in Dickens' 'Hard Times', whose notion of education was to ram 'facts' into children's heads . . .

We may not beat children any more, but I wonder how far we've moved on since Gradgrind . . .  We still have classes that are twice the size they should be - far too big for teachers to make proper relationships, particularly with children who are already disengaged and alienated.

New Zealand ranks 4th in the OECD education rankings, and doesn't have league tables. Finland ranks 2nd, and children there don't begin formal schooling till the age of seven. Britain ranks 20th.

We must remember that we are preparing children NOT simply for employment, or for the common good, but for the difficult decisions they will have to make in their personal lives, for the moments when they will have to take responsibility for themselves and for others, when they will be tempted to have inappropriate sex, or to take drugs, or to bully someone, or carry a knife, or throw a brick through a window . . .

There is no league table for mature behaviour, for the quality of relationships, for self-worth and for self-confidence.

The quality of their relationships is the most important factor in any child's life.

We must allow children to go 'off-piste', and we must trust them.

Forget the league tables and the targets, and let's break free of the shackles of a narrow curriculum - it's time to focus on the commitment and the talent of the people who touch our children's lives.

But we can't leave it all to the teachers. People from all walks of life can make a contribution.

Let's have more trips, visits and outings, more time in theatres, concert halls and museums, and let's get them out into the open air, tramping the hills . . . all this should be an integral part of their education, a right of every child - not an extra. It will pay dividends in the end.

What we absolutely do NOT need is to be closing down our libraries, cutting down our youth services and our provisions for special needs . . .

Let's give children the time to dream, to listen and to learn.

Too many of us, and too many children, are disengaged and alienated.

I shall continue to speak up for the rights of children as best I can.

"I hope you understand the enormity of my fury."

"One day we will apologise for Yarls Wood, and for the bureaucracy of neglect."

Very well said, Michael. 


One day we, the English - not the Scots or the Welsh, since they don't have them - will apologise for SATs, for league tables, for bureaucratising and micro-managing teaching and learning, for national 'strategies', for the narrowing of the curriculum, for depriving children of their right to learn in a stimulating and creative environment - learning at their own pace, pursuing their own interests and passions, finding their own voices, developing all their intelligences, developing the habit of joyful lifelong learning.

How many of us have continued to speak up for the rights of children, in spite of the pressures to ignore them, in spite of the pressures to return to Gradgrindism? How many  have kept their heads down, for fear of government agents and inspectors, for fear for their futures in their careers and in education? How many have been bullied and cajoled into silence, and how many have been converted willingly into the education Newspeak, and the language of attainment, SATs, value added, strategies, NLS, NNS, targets, payment by results, monitoring, challenge and all the rest?

How many parents and how many paid professionals have even a half of Michael Morpurgo's vision for children, and even a tenth of his determination to stand up for children's rights?

How many need to hang their heads in shame?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Layer 446 . . . Genius, JMK, Hating Liberals, Understanding Economics, Friedman, Will Hutton, Elephant Mothers and Education

John Maynard Keynes was a liberal, and was a member of the British Liberal party.

Right wing and neo-conservative Americans hate all liberals, for reasons it's important for the world to understand.

JMK was a genius who received worldwide recognition for his work in economics - and yet very few of us have even heard of him, let alone educated to know about his work so that we understand his ideas even at a very basic level.

This is a level of ignorance we should be ashamed of. It's like having no knowledge of science whatsoever - like not even knowing that water can both evaporate and freeze depending on its temperature; like not knowing that matter is composed of atoms and molecules; like not knowing that micro-organisms can cause sickness and death.

The right-wing economic theories of Keynes-haters like Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman have caused social devastation, sickness and death on a massive scale, but very few of us understand why.

Keynes was a political and ideological individual in that he wished to rid the world of the evils of poverty, unemployment, ignorance, greed, hyper-inflation, extreme inequality and unfettered capitalism. These are goals which are shared by all true liberals and socialists, who also understand that government of the people by the people and for the people has a massive role to play in putting the needs of "society" into political policy and practical action.

All true conservatives, like Hayek and Friedman (and Bush, Palin, George Osborne, oligarchs, bankers and the majority of financiers) hate the idea of being governed by the will of the people - hate the idea of collective action to end poverty and social injustice, hate the idea of regulating the activities of the rich and the super-rich.

Barak Obama is hated by American conservatives and Republicans because he's regarded as a liberal or even a socialist - since he advocates tackling poverty and extreme inequality, and wishes to re-regulate capitalism for the benefit of the people as a whole. He's hated because he expresses disgust at a world in which most people are undereducated and unnecessarily impoverished whilst a small elite live in conditions of unnecessary and unimaginable wealth and luxury. Obama wishes to 'spread our wealth a little more fairly'.

Conservatives do not. Conservatives love speculation, casino capitalism and financial bubbles because these things enable them to get even richer - at the expense of the poorer and the more ignorant sections of society. Conservatives hate the very idea of taxation and will do everything possible to avoid paying their share of it. Conservatives love the idea of a 'flat tax' which means that everyone pays (roughly) the same amount of tax, regardless of their abilty to pay.

So what did Keynes discover, and what did he say? Hands up everyone who hasn't a clue! Yes - you there at the back! Before jumping to Keynes' 'The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money', consider these quotes -

Ideas shape the course of history.

It is ideas, not vested interests, which are dangerous for good or evil.

It would not be foolish to contemplate the possibility of a far greater progress still.

Capitalism is the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone.

For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to every one that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still.

A study of the history of opinion is a necessary preliminary to the emancipation of the mind.

Americans are apt to be unduly interested in discovering what average opinion believes average opinion to be.

Education: the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the indifferent by the incompetent.

I do not know which makes a man more conservative - to know nothing but the present, or nothing but the past.

I work for a Government I despise for ends I think criminal.

If economists could manage to get themselves thought of as humble, competent people on a level with dentists, that would be splendid.

Long run is a misleading guide to current affairs. In the long run we are all dead.

Most men love money and security more, and creation and construction less, as they get older.

Nothing mattered except states of mind, chiefly our own.

Successful investing is anticipating the anticipations of others.

The avoidance of taxes is the only intellectual pursuit that still carries any reward.

The biggest problem is not to let people accept new ideas, but to let them forget the old ones.

The day is not far off when the economic problem will take the back seat where it belongs, and the arena of the heart and the head will be occupied or reoccupied, by our real problems - the problems of life and of human relations, of creation and behavior and religion.

The decadent international but individualistic capitalism in the hands of which we found ourselves after the war is not a success. It is not intelligent. It is not beautiful. It is not just. It is not virtuous. And it doesn't deliver the goods.

The difficulty lies not so much in developing new ideas as in escaping from old ones.

The disruptive powers of excessive national fecundity may have played a greater part in bursting the bonds of convention than either the power of ideas or the errors of autocracy.

The importance of money flows from it being a link between the present and the future.

The social object of skilled investment should be to defeat the dark forces of time and ignorance which envelope our future.

Words ought to be a little wild, for they are the assaults of thoughts on the unthinking.,_Interest_and_Money


That's probably enough Keynes and economics for today. Tomorrow we can consider the fact that Chicago-school Friedmanite economics has, for very obvious reasons, come to dominate political and economic discourse throughout the world - to the extent that a whole generation of politicians like Blair, Brown, Osborne, Cameron and Clegg have grown up in lectures and seminars where their tutors have deliberately set out to discredit Keynes and indoctrinate the ideas of Friedman and Hayek. Most of the civil service leadership and a new generation of political "special advisors" also seem to have taken MBAs which were mainly or totally free-market Friedmanite Chicago-school in their approach. And you don't get your MBA unless you subscribe to the globalisation/trickle-down/free-market/deregulation/small-governernment/low-taxes bullshit.

Homework for today is to read up on John Maynard Keynes from a variety of sources, eg


Those wishing to read around this subject should also have a look at:


Ignorance is an evil weed, which dictators may cultivate among their dupes, but which no democracy can afford among its citizens.
William Beveridge

Scratch a pessimist and you find often a defender of privilege.
William Beveridge

The object of government in peace and in war is not the glory of rulers or of races, but the happiness of common man.
William Beveridge


Will Hutton

It's impossible to overstate the need to read Will's book, The State We're In. Here's a man who never abandoned his allegiance to Keynesianism even during the dark days of Thatcherite triumphalism and the pre-bust days of neo-conservatism.

His last three or four pieces in the Observer are also well worth looking at:

Bringing the bankers to heel must start right here, right now

Big Finance has to be brought under control or outrageous bonuses will still be paid and there will be another crisis

Ten ideas for a better Britain

Here are ten challenges for the Labour party to rediscover its radical edge

Where are the leaders who will reform the world's economy?

The world financial system needs a radical overhaul, though last week's cosy Davos conference suggested otherwise


In this week's column Will raises some really key issues which are as much about education and schools as they are about economics, society and finance, insofar as they deal with innovation, creative thinking and imagination.

Don't be blinded by the web. The world is actually stagnating

If we want to step up the pace of invention, there has to be a huge shift in the way we think

Western policymakers were bullied by the financial oligarchs into believing that the market is magic. Thus banking could become a deregulated global market, privileged ahead of all other forms of economic activity. Innovation was left to look after itself. What were seen to matter were lower regulations, lower taxes and reduced worker entitlements – not using the state to build the ecosystem in which innovation, experimentation and investment flourish as had been done through the early part of the 20th century, even until the free market revolution.

If we want to step up the pace of invention, there has to be a huge shift in the way we think.

This is a huge ask. For 30 years or more the consensus has been that governments necessarily and always fail – and only markets succeed. But reality is beginning to intrude. Even the coalition government, wedded to the old-time religion, is finding that if it wants a growth strategy it has to do what used to be prohibited – design markets and build institutions that innovate.

An innovation strategy is being devised. Invention and innovation, we are discovering, are much too important to be left to the tender mercies of markets.

What Will doesn't emphasise, and what's hugely important, is that our education system nowadays doesn't even set out to help young people develop the skills that they, and we, desperately need. Our schools concentrate almost entirely on coaching children to pass tests and exams. Parents hire tutors to cram their kids to get better grades - even in piano and guitar playing. Grades are currency - the wealth of youth with which they purchase places at colleges and universities.

Meanwhile they're failing to develop the more crucial life skills - critical thinking, imagination, creativity, innovation, communication, team-working, and so on.

Of course we can't (and shouldn't) mark and grade and categorise these higher aspects of learning, which need continuous practice and encouragement from birth if they're to flourish.

The Chinese, the Finns, the Danes and a few others have understood the importance of a type of education that releases young people to develop their full potential. We have not. We once led the world in progressive education, but the conservative counter-revolution long ago killed off all innovation and progressive thinking in most of our schools.

We're now a stupid country led by stupid people and brainwashed by a mainly stupid media into thinking stupidly about children and education. How long will it be before people wake up and see the truth? How long before children are allowed to have a proper childhood and grow up as fully developed human beings?


The human race needs elephant mothers, not tiger mothers

Where is the appreciation that we are social animals in Amy Chua's competitive approach to parenting?

by Peter Singer

Many years ago, my wife and I were driving somewhere with our three young daughters in the  back, when one of them suddenly asked: "Would you rather that we were clever or that we were happy?"

I was reminded of that moment last month when I read Amy Chua's Wall Street Journal article, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," which sparked more than 4,000 comments on and over 100,000 comments on Facebook. The article was a promotional piece for Chua's book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which has become an instant bestseller.

Chua's thesis is that, when compared with Americans, Chinese children tend to be successful because they have "tiger mothers," whereas western mothers are pussycats, or worse. Chua's daughters, Sophia and Louisa, were never allowed to watch television, play computer games, sleep over at a friend's home, or be in a school play. They had to spend hours every day practising the piano or violin. They were expected to be the top student in every subject except gym and drama.

Chinese mothers, according to Chua, believe that children, once they get past the toddler stage, need to be told in no uncertain terms when they have not met the high standards their parents expect of them. (Chua says that she knows Korean, Indian, Jamaican, Irish, and Ghanaian mothers who are "Chinese" in their approach, as well as some ethnic-Chinese mothers who are not.) Their egos should be strong enough to take it.

Stanley Sue, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, has studied suicide, which is particularly common among Asian-American women (in other ethnic groups, more males commit suicide than females). He believes that family pressure is a significant factor.

Chua would reply that reaching a high level of achievement brings great satisfaction, and that the only way to do it is through hard work. Perhaps, but can't children be encouraged to do things because they are intrinsically worthwhile, rather than because of fear of parental disapproval?

Chua's focus is unrelentingly on solitary activities in the home, with no encouragement of group activities, or of concern for others, either in school or in the wider community.

Tigers lead solitary lives, except for mothers with their cubs. We, by contrast, are social animals. So are elephants, and elephant mothers do not focus only on the wellbeing of their own offspring. Together, they protect and take care of all the young in their herd, running a kind of daycare centre.

If we all think only of our own interests, we are headed for collective disaster – just look at what we are doing to our planet's climate. When it comes to raising our children, we need fewer tigers and more elephants.

Copyright: Project Syndicate 1995–2011


I agree with all of the above - I'm 100% behind the idea that we should educate children to become socially, emotionally and spiritually intelligent - but again it's important to stress the disastrous effect of indoctrinating young people into believing that competitive grade-getting is more important than learning to be creative, imaginative, innovative and critical thinkers.

Children also need guidance in setting their own learning directions and agendas, and encouragement to look within and think critically about what's there - to overcome negative and destructive ego-states.

Ego-driven hyper-competitive people like Amy Chua need to read some Chinese philosophy and try to cultivate some wisdom instead of mere academic attainment. They also need to be charged with being abusive to children.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Layer 445 . . . A Larger Global Consciousness, Solidarity, Unity, Defiance, Paths to Democracy, Algeria, Egypt and Learning How to Demonstrate


More excellent photos here -


A Larger Global Consciousness
What I like about Al-Jazeera is that its presenters and the people who contribute to its coverage seem to have no great egos, are good communicators, and are extremely knowledgeable about their subject matter, without having a particular axe to grind.

The format of the programmes is less about achieving "balance" than it's about targeting the truth - as any fair-minded and intelligent person might perceive it. Unlike the British (and American!) media they have no compulsion to bring on tedious neo-conservatives to drone their way through the usual rubbish on any given topic or event - for the sake of 'balance'. If we want to hear right-wing bullshit - well we know where to go in order to get it.

Similarly there's no space on Al-Jaz for people advocating violent solutions to political problems. There are no ranting pseudo-Marxists or fundamentalist jihadis.

The other great thing is that it's not Euro-centric or North American. It's bloody good to hear the voices of journalists, commentators and intellectuals from North Africa, the Middle East, Asia, etc, talking about things from a global perspective.

The exciting news this weekend is that people in Algeria are now out on the streets - protesting against their regime, which is similar to the Mubarak regime in virtually every respect. Thousands of police personnel have been deployed against the protesters - just as they were in Egypt on their initial 'day of rage'.

There was a brilliant programme yesterday on the al-Jazeera website showing how citizen activists have been carrying out training programmes on how to demonstrate peacefully - putting a strong emphasis on unity, discipline, planning, clarity about aims, how to get people to turn out, etc. It's what might be called training in the key skills needed for emotional, social and spiritual intelligence.

I loved the intensity, energy, commitment, seriousness, unity and determination of the people featured in the film. They have a kind of controlled rage about them - an attitude that says, "Don't get mad - get even." But they're not interested in power for power's sake - they're interested in poverty, oppression, inequality, torture and corruption - and how to get rid of these evils from their societies.


Yesterday Egypt, today Algeria

This was the slogan of the brave protesters in Algiers on Saturday, making the first breach in Algeria's wall of fear


Amnesty International

We are ordinary people from around the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect individuals wherever justice, fairness, freedom and truth are denied.

Egypt: Stand in solidarity and defiance

As events unfold in Egypt, please join us pledging solidarity with their calls for freedom and basic human rights. Today we held a rally in Trafalgar Square Today as part of a global day of action in support of the people of Egypt, and the wider Middle East and North Africa. We stand in defiance against all those who try to suppress the growing movement of people standing up for their rights, facing down injustice and offering hope for a better world.

We can all do our bit towards keeping up the momentum for worldwide engagement.


Hosni Mubarak is gone, but can Egypt's digital revolution unite the country?

Twitter and Facebook played an integral role in helping to topple Hosni Mubarak, but if Egypt is to be reformed, the online momentum of recent events must go beyond mere protest


Twitter's five-year evolution from ridicule to dissidents' tool
People laughed in 2006 when Twitter started. Now it's hard for me to imagine life without it



Blair on the Marr programme this morning said that he's discovered during his time in the Middle East in the past couple of years that religion is very important to people who live there. Well fucking hell - the man's a genius. No wonder we needed him as our PM for 10 years. Who'd have thought? Thanks, Tone, for your brilliant insights. What a pity that Tone believed for so many years that Muslims didn't really feel that religion was important to them - not like it is to Christians, obviously.

It's interesting how the media, who befriended him and schmoozed him for so long, continue to believe that Blair's opinions are worth listening to - when everybody else just wants to see the bastard locked away for war crimes and for being such a neo-con psychopathic prick. The man's a total fuckwit - always has been - and it's almost unbearable listening to that slimy 'tone' of his ever again.


Army and protesters disagree over Egypt's path to democracy

Activists reject army appeal to leave Tahrir Square as new leadership resists pressure to hand power to civilian administration

Egypt's new military administration and the pro-democracy protesters who brought down Hosni Mubarak are at odds over the path to democratic rule.

The army sought to stave off pressure from jubilant protesters to swiftly hand power to a civilian-led administration by saying that it was committed to a "free democratic state".

The military leadership gave no timetable for the political transition, and many of the demonstrators who filled Cairo's Tahrir Square for 18 days rejected the military's appeal to dismantle the barricades and go home.

They said they were waiting for specific commitments from the military on their demand for a civilian-controlled interim administration, the lifting of the oppressive state of emergency and other steps toward liberalisation.

The shockwaves of Mubarak's fall were felt across the region, particularly in Algeria and Yemen. Thousands of anti-government protesters, apparently inspired by events in Cairo, turned out in Algiers to confront the police. There were reports that hundreds had been arrested. In Sanaa, a protest by about 2,000 people to demand political reform was broken up by armed government supporters.


Meanwhile . . .
I've been neglecting domestic matters recently - so it's worth making a note of a couple of Polly Toynbee's latest pieces:

These brutal cuts form a turbo-charged programme for accelerating inequality

Beware the tales of statistics-wielding ministers – the poorest areas will be hit hardest by the council cuts

Big society's a busted flush, but who will admit it first?

Politicians should quail: the nasty party detoxifier has not worked – and for public servants, silence is no longer an option

Even the pro-market Blairites know the NHS faces chaos

Alan Milburn, a former health secretary and now a David Cameron aide, has no dog in this fight. But he says the reforms are a fatal mistake


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Layer 444 . . . End of an Era, Egypt's Joy, Hope for the Future

Unlike the events of 1968, which brought NO regime changes to any of the countries in which they took place, 2011 has begun with regime changes in both the countries where people have taken to the streets and demanded that their Head of State stand down.

The danger now is that having got rid of both their presidents, the people of Tunisia and Egypt will see no real political, social and economic changes. "Meet the new boss - same as the old boss." [The Who]

There's a grave danger that the peaceful revolutions of 2011 will go the same way as the non-violent revolutions in Eastern Europe in '89, where turbo capitalism and neo-conservatism rushed in as soon as the doors opened to 'freedom' and 'democracy'.

Somehow, though, I doubt it. The Egyptian people have put up with shit for 30 years or more, and in the age of the internet and satellite TV I don't think they'll get fooled again. [The Who]

A friend suggested recently that 2011/2012, far from being the end of the world, will be the proper dawning of an age of Aquarius. I'll go with that as a working hypothesis.

I've been saying for ages that leaderless, peaceful uprisings of people who gather together in the streets and the squares of any nation and refuse to go home until their voices are heard and their wishes are understood are the way to do politics - especially in countries where politics are the exclusive preserve of rich elites and a rigid party system, especially if it's a first past the post system.

The people of Tunisia and Egypt have shown that this is the model for participatory politics in the future, just as politics was done in the open air by citizens in ancient Greece. Tahrir Square should remain as the open-air political HQ of the Egyptian people. The rest of us can connect with them via broadband, as is already happening.

Peoples of the world unite!


Mubarak's departure marks the end of an era for Egypt

If real reforms are achieved, Egypt will have witnessed a real revolution – and its impact will be felt across the Middle East

Hosni Mubarak's dramatic departure marks the end of an era for Egypt and the Middle East.

Rule by the military can only be temporary. Mubarak's exit, the dissolution of what is seen as an illegitimate parliament, constitutional reforms and abolition of the emergency laws are all non-negotiable. If those reforms are achieved, then Egypt will have witnessed a real revolution – beyond the removal of a stubborn 82-year-old president long past his sell-by date.

With good will it should be possible to amend or rewrite the constitution to allow the election of a new parliament and president. It could, however, all still take months to agree, risking impatience in the streets and new unrest.

What happens in the Arab world's most populous country matters for many millions of other Arabs, who also suffer from unemployment, inequality, corruption and unresponsive, unaccountable governments – and share the language in which it is being covered in media such as al-Jazeera and social networking sites that official censors cannot easily block.

Other authoritarian regimes, shocked first by the uprising in Tunisia and now in Egypt, have been trying to pre-empt trouble by promises of reform, sacking ministers, maintaining subsidies or raising wages to buy off critics and defuse tensions. The symptoms are visible from Yemen to Jordan, from Algeria to Syria.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Egypt was a Soviet client, but it changed sides in 1979 by signing a taboo-breaking peace treaty with Israel, after four wars that cost it thousands of lives.


Mubarak's downfall and disgrace has a huge symbolic reality that will spur the momentum for change across the Muslim world since he represented a neo-colonial system that has been drammatically cast aside and thrown into the dustbin of history!

Now the opportunity presents itself to Egypt and the other Muslim countries of the region and beyond to bring a new political reality to these lands that will be aligned with the aspiration and values of the people, that will harness the energy of the youth and that will bring genuine independence from western states.


                                                     (c) Martin Rowson


By Percy Bysshe Shelley

"I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away."

The people have spoken and their voices have been heard. Today is the dawning of a new era and the reverberations shall be heard worldwide especially amongst those leaders who continue to abuse the majority to maintain the priviledges and misrule of the minority. There is hope for the future after all. Thank you Egypt for leading the way.


Good luck to the people of Egypt ... let's hope that this will not lead to another sell out by the army and the USA.

In the UK, we're being sold out every day ... the government has withdrawn the selling off of the forests until the Public Bodies Bill gets passed into legislation. This will give every relevant minister total power to abolish, amend or merge any quango or other. So in a few months time, Caroline Spelman will be able to sell off any piece of public woodland she wants.

In fact, I'm coming to believe that the whole fiasco of the consultation was to knock the horrors of the NHS privatisation off the news. They needn't have bothered. The lunacy of our media's reporting meant that all the reporters had shot off for a jolly in the sun.

We need to be on the streets like the Egyptians to stop this government's destruction of the welfare state.


One of the most heartwarming scenes of these past few weeks has been to see families and young people out on the streets making their voices heard standing up for what is right even though it could have impacted on them so badly. Their courage and incessant efforts to speak out against those who have used and abused them over the years is a fine example to set to the rest of the world. And I am sure, as with my own son, there are many young people worldwide looking on and seeing that the status quo does not have to be maintained if it goes against the will of the people and more importantly if it is in fact inherently wrong and unjust.

Many leaders including those closest to home will now hopefully take heed of the warning signs emerging and realise they can no longer go against the will of the people for their own questionable political and economic aims.

The winds of change are blowing afresh and those who decide to ignore them do so at their peril. I wouldn't be surprised if those same winds are feeling decidedly chilly to the likes of Mr Cameron and others on the right who know deep down that they do not act on behalf of the people but rather on behalf of a privileged few who hope to maintain their grasp on power solely in order to maintain the inequality they foster and the social injustices they espouse. Enough is enough. Lets hope those winds can reach further afield and bring about a new era worldwide where voices are heard and acted upon and change where needed can come about for the good of the people and for the sake of social justice. Oppression in whatever form it takes can no longer and should no longer be accepted. Yes I do believe, thankfully, that this is indeed the dawning of a new era.


I better write quickly before the daily mailers get here.....

The wonderful people of Egypt have shown us the way. Good luck to them - they have shaken off oppression.

Let's get out there and stay out too till we get rid of the threat to the NHS by the CON-DEMs and send the monster waiting to be born that is their NHS Bill, back to the wastelands of their ideology



    Let's get out there and stay out too till we get rid of the threat to the NHS by the CON-DEMs and send the monster waiting to be born that is their NHS Bill, back to the wastelands of their ideology

I think we should be a tad more ambitious than that, no? Let's stay out there until they're gone, and put any prospective government on notice that we will be back out there if they don't start doing what the people want as opposed to what their super-rich paymasters are demanding.

There's more of us than there are of them. It's about time they were reminded of it. We are all Egyptian.


And as for the inscription 'Made in USA' we should add 'Made and upheld by the UK too"...........

"GENEVA – The Swiss government on Friday froze any assets belonging to former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak or his family in Switzerland.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lars Knuchel said the order took effect immediately but gave no details on what bank accounts or other assets Mubarak or his family might have in Switzerland.

He spoke as pro-democracy demonstrators in Cairo were jubilantly celebrating the announcement that Mubarak has resigned after nearly three decades of authoritarian rule and handed power over to the military.

"(The Swiss government) wants to avoid any risk of misappropriation of state-owned Egyptian assets," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. It also forbid the sale of any assets, especially real estate holdings."

Tonight many Egyptians have mentioned that even if Mubarak's personal fortune stolen from Egypt and its people is only half of what they say it is it would in fact pay off Egypt's international debt which would in turn play a part in starting to help those 40% of the population who have been and still are living in poverty.

Recent reports have mentioned that part of the real estate empire of the Mubarak's is located here in the UK, that there has been the involvement of British businesses connected with his ill gotten personal fortune and also the possibility that British Banks are involved too.

Over to you Mr Cameron. Will he do the right thing or will the interests of the conservative party's friends in the business, finance and banking world take precedence over justice and the rights of the people. Somehow I think we already know the answer to that as I'm sure vested interests are as we speak busily getting their hands on what is not theirs. The Swiss government are trying to resolve matters to ensure the Egyptian people receive that which has been stolen from them. I wonder if our government will do so too?


William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


We all owe it to the Egptian people to read the following article by Pankaj Mishra and ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated , instead being part of a movement worldwide which will ensure this new dawning will not be so easily cast aside by those with vested interests whether they be economic, ideological or political. If you really are on the side of the Egyptian people please take the time to read the following which will help us all understand more the mistakes of the past whilst making sure we will not play a part in the repitition of those mistakes worlwide in the future.


The tyrant has gone. Now the real struggle begins for Egypt

The protesters have stripped Mubarak and his foreign backers of their authority. But the roots of despotism run deep

by Pankaj Mishra

For the last two weeks I have, like innumerable others, careened from the television news to internet updates and back, longing for the moment that came last night, when the tyrant finally yielded to a brave and spirited people. History has been made; celebrations are in order. But it is not too early to ask: what next?


Egypt's joy as Mubarak quits

With Hosni Mubarak's departure, the age of political reason is returning to Egypt and the wider Arab world

by Tariq Ali

A joyous night in Cairo. What bliss to be alive, to be an Egyptian and an Arab. In Tahrir Square they're chanting, "Egypt is free" and "We won!"

The removal of Mubarak alone (and getting the bulk of his $40bn loot back for the national treasury), without any other reforms, would itself be experienced in the region and in Egypt as a huge political triumph. It will set new forces into motion. A nation that has witnessed miracles of mass mobilisations and a huge rise in popular political consciousness will not be easy to crush, as Tunisia demonstrates.

Huge assemblies in symbolic spaces posing an immediate challenge to authority – as if to say, we are showing our strength, we don't want to test it because we neither organised for that nor are we prepared, but if you mow us down remember the world is watching.

This dependence on global public opinion is moving, but is also a sign of weakness. Had Obama and the Pentagon ordered the Egyptian army to clear the square – however high the cost – the generals would have obeyed orders, but it would have been an extremely risky operation for them, if not for Obama.

The show of popular strength was enough to get rid of the current dictator. He'd only go if the US decided to take him away. After much wobbling, they did. They had no other serious option left. The victory, however, belongs to the Egyptian people whose unending courage and sacrifices made all this possible.

Having unleashed security thugs only a fortnight ago, Vice-President Suleiman's failure to dislodge the demonstrators from the square was one more nail in the coffin. The rising tide of the Egyptian masses with workers coming out on strike , judges demonstrating on the streets, and the threat of even larger crowds next week, made it impossible for Washington to hang on to Mubarak and his cronies. The man Hillary Clinton had referred to as a loyal friend, indeed "family", was dumped. The US decided to cut its losses and authorised the military intervention.

Omar Suleiman, an old western favourite, was selected as vice-president by Washington, endorsed by the EU, to supervise an "orderly transition". Suleiman was always viewed by the people as a brutal and corrupt torturer, a man who not only gives orders, but participates in the process. A WikiLeaks document had a former US ambassador praising him for not being "squeamish". The new vice president had warned the protesting crowds last Tuesday that if they did not demobilise themselves voluntarily, the army was standing by: a coup might be the only option left. It was, but against the dictator they had backed for 30 years. It was the only way to stabilise the country. There could be no return to "normality".

The age of political reason is returning to the Arab world. The people are fed up of being colonised and bullied. Meanwhile, the political temperature is rising in Jordan, Algeria and Yemen.


US can celebrate Egyptian people's triumph

Critics say Obama didn't lead, he followed. This was appropriate: Egypt is on a path to democracy and no one got invaded

by Michael Tomasky

My God, what a moving day this is. To think that just 18 days of largely peaceful protests can accomplish this. Remarkable.

President Obama's remarks on Friday afternoon were appropriate and powerful: the people of Egypt have inspired the world.

Critics, neocons especially, will say he didn't lead, he followed. That's true. And that was appropriate. It was up to the Egyptian people to lead this, not the United States.

And the Egyptian military. Someday, we'll get the back story on how, in just 24 hours, the military went from evidently backing Mubarak to ditching him. This was crucial, and I doubt very much the US played no role in this. I'd wager that Pentagon chief Robert Gates and Mike Mullen, the heads of the joint chiefs of staff, had quite a lot to do with that.

With the Egyptian army relying on US military aid basically to exist, their words surely carried weight. Maybe all that aid over years, excessive as it has been in many ways, paid important dividends in the last two weeks. The army behaved professionally, not like some tinhorn's personal secret security service. That was one of the most breathtaking things about this, and could stand as one of the most hopeful in terms of serving as a model for future situations like this.

There's a long way to go from here, of course. This is a happy beginning, not a happy ending. But now, the US can and should start playing the less ambiguous role it took on, as of Thursday night. We need to be on the side of democracy and rights and freedoms, and stay on that side . . .

I will not say that Obama deserves much credit for this. At the same time, I have no doubt in my mind that if President McCain had given a speech on democracy in Cairo 20 months ago and now this happened, the neocons and Fox News and the usual suspects would be calling it "the McCain Revolution" and baying about how it proved that a bold stance by an American president had made all the difference.

I won't parrot that kind of inanity. I'll simply say that, from his Cairo speech until today, Obama has helped this process more than he's hindered it. And we didn't have to invade two countries, either. That's the right side – for him, and for us, the people of the United States. Now, we need to stay there.

This is a great opportunity for the US, and all of the west, to help a people learn the habits of freedom, and for those habits to spread.
Posted by Michael Tomasky Friday 11 February 2011 21.48 GMT


I give Obama high marks for the way he handled the Egyptian revolution.

The US - and the rest of the world - was caught totally offguard by this and had little time to formulate a strategy.

True, Mubarak was a dictator but he was also a close friend of the US. If Obama was to have overtly backed Mubarak he would have earned the enduring enmity of the Egyptian masses. However, if he turned his back on Mubarak he would have made the US appear untrustworthy. By this, I mean that it would have looked awful if the US suddenly turned on a long-time ally when things suddenly became tough for him.

Obama had to walk a tightrope in handling the uprising. In this respect he did a good job.


Hosni Mubarak resigns – and Egypt celebrates a new dawn

• President surrenders power to army and flies out of Cairo
• Egypt rejoices as 18 days of mass protest end in revolution
• Military pledges not to get in way of 'legitimate' government

"We have brought down the regime, we have brought down the regime," chanted the crowd.

Mohammed Abdul Ghedi, a lifeguard who had come from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, to which the ex-president and his family flew yesterday, held up a sign in English saying: "Mubarak you are nothing, you are heartless, without mind, just youkel, worthless, fuck off."

"This is my first day here, and he is gone. Mubarak is a liar. When he promised to leave in three or six months we don't believe him. We only believe him when he is gone," he said. "Now Egyptians are free. All of Egypt is liberated. Now we will choose our leaders, and if we don't like them, they will go."

Another protester, Karim Medhat Ennarah, said with tears in his eyes: "For 18 days we have withstood teargas, rubber bullets, live ammunition, Molotov cocktails, thugs on horseback, the scepticism and fear of our loved ones, and the worst sort of ambivalence from an international community that claims to care about democracy.

"But we held our ground. We did it."