Saturday, 30 April 2016

Labour and anti-Semitism

It's been a bit interesting watching the current shit storm in Britain.

It reeks of right-wing desperation.  Are they really reduced to trawling through the pre-parliamentary twitter feeds and online wibblings of Labour MPs to find anything that can be spun as dicreditable.

I refer, of course, to the fuss about Naz Shah's comments - made two years ago, before she became an MP - about relocating Israel to the USA as a solution to the Israel-Palestine problem.

In subsequent events, Labour veteran loudmouth Ken Livingstone may finally have gone too far and be forced to retire in disgrace, a sad end to a career in politics that has been amusing, infuriating and only sometimes offensive.

First, Ms Shah.  Yeah, she made some thoughtless comments on Twitter.  Were they anti-Semitic?  I wouldn't have thought so.  Just a bit crass, and only anti-Semitic if you are one of these people who conflate Israel with all Jews.

It was interesting watching how this story was reported.

The Mail's first few paragraphs is a masterclass in disingenuous reporting, making it sound like she did it recently, while in her role as an MP:
A Labour MP today has resigned as an aide to John McDonnell after sharing a graphic on social media that appeared to say Israel should be 'relocated' to America.

Bradford West MP Naz Shah shared an image that showed an outline of Israel superimposed on to a map of the USA.

The headline on the image said: 'Solution for Israel-Palestine Conflict - Relocate Israel into United States.'
Note 'A Labour MP today has resigned as an aide to John McDonnell after sharing a graphic' - yeah, almost 2 years afterwards she shared it, and a year after becoming an MP. And 'Bradford West MP Naz Shah shared an image' - the Bradford MP Naz Shah did nothing of the kind, Naz Shah, did, before she became the MP for Bradford West.

Clever, though disheartening stuff.

Whereas Shah's action was not clever, and also disheartening.

Ken Livingstone's intervention is more problematic.  In fact, he should be banished from the party and should be sacked and thrown in the Thames. Not because of what he said, as much as the stupidity of opening his mouth and turning an annoyance into a crisis. Government looking useless and divided, the first polls showing Labour in the lead, a bit of a hint of Corbyn starting to impinge on the public consciousness as something more than a bizarre situationist prank, and then Livingstone goes and shoots his mouth off.

He's actually managed to make things much worse for Shah. Her silliness - two years ago, before parliament - would have been forgotten and after an 'investigation' and a stern talking to she could have been re-admitted. But Livingstone - who should know better, given he's been around for a colossally long time and presumably knows a few things about the right wing media works - should have anticipated what would happen if he started shooting his mouth off.

Now there will be far more swivel eyed attention paid to Shah's case, and it is possible she won't be back in at.

It's monumentally depressing.

Almost as depressing as this extremely depressing article by George Eaton in New Statesman, puffing up a bunch of rumours and snipes from the Labour right.  Not exactly fair, balanced coverage there, George.

The central contention is that Jermey Corbyn is not up to tackling anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

Only, he has been.

Post Options Post by lala on 26 minutes ago People are screaming and running around like idiots as if this is a new thing, and Corbyn et al are fumbling to make a response to the scorching searchlight now being shone on them ... When Labour has actually been addressing the issue of anti-Semites and racists in the party before it became a Meja sensayshun:
A Labour councillor has been suspended from the party over anti-Semitic comments on her Twitter account. 
A message on Luton councillor Aysegul Gurbuz's Twitter feed claimed Hitler was the "greatest man in history". 
Another tweet on Ms Gurbaz's account suggested Iran could develop a nuclear weapon to "wipe Israel off the map". 
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said anyone who makes anti-Semitic remarks is "auto-excluded from the party" pending an inquiry.
Note that this story is dated the 10th of April, well before the Mail et al became hypocritically excited about anti-Semitism.  But Corbyn's position is quite clear.  Anti-Semitism is not tolerated.  Suspension pending investigation.

Yet still the right wing of his party - more interested in destablizing him, still afflicted by the deranged idea that he can be overthrown, are trying to stir up trouble and make out that he is dithering and is not trying to address the problem.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

The Fall of Cameron?

It is quite spectacular how Cameron has collapsed.

A few months ago, he was a great man, a modern Churchill, having won the most audacious electoral comeback in recent history.

Then came his hopeless EU 'renegotiation', George Osborne's incompetent budget (which has possibly ended three political careers - Duncan Smith's, Cameron's and Osborne's - which is quite an impressive achievement), the Panama revelations and his shifty, mealy mouthed responses, and now further dubious looking behaviour with inheritance tax, the humiliation of polling behind Jeremy Corbyn and the possibility of LOSING the show referendum that he set up to placate his internal, anti-EU fifth column ... It's like the collapse of John Major's government, only playing at speed.

He indicated he didn't plan on fighting a third general election, but I imagine he planned on bowing out looking like a man leaving at a time of his choosing, not some family embarrassment being bundled out of the house after raiding the drinks cabinet and smashing an heirloom.

Events, my dear boy, events, as Harold MacMillan may have said.

Labour should take heed of this.  By absurd coincidence, they seem to have lighted on the perfect leader for the times.  Not because Corbyn is a great leader, but he actually seems to be morally righteous and incorruptable.  Just as Blair was the perfect leader for the 90s, almost seeming designed to make charges of Evil Red Intentions impossible, Corbyn is one of very few MPs who can (probably) castigate the Tories for their venality and not come across as an opportunistic hypocrite.  No-one can accuse him of adopting left-wing sanctimony as an electoral convenience, or of only being interested in winning power.

(Of course, a Corbyn castigation isn't exactly a terrifying prospect, but I think his unabrasive style is starting to connect with the public.)

Best of all, Corbyn is immune to the tired "Well Labour were in power for eons and did nothing about ..." and "Labour were no better when ..." counter arguments.  His position as perennial backbencher and malcontent gives him protection.  He had nothing to do with any of it.

Interesting times, and all that.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Kasich-Cruz?

So when are KAsich and Cruz going to come clean and announce a unity ticket, with Kasich as the candidate and an Cruz as potential VP?

the 'logic' being that Kasich's supports will not vote for Cruz as the nominee.  They'll probably sit out the election or defect to the Democrats rather than vote for Cruz or Trump.  Cruz's supports might vote for Kasich, especially with Cruz on board and making scary rightwing faces from behind Kasich's shoulder.  But I doubt Cruz's supporters will vote for Trump in great numbers.  If there were inclined to jump to the good ship Trumptanic, they would probably have done so by now.

Kasich is also the only nominee who is polling ahead of Clinton and Sanders.  While there might be a bit of "Who he?" factor at play, it looks like the Republicans have to stop bein silly and nominate somone capable of winning, and there is only one candidate who looks likely to do that, and probably only one combination with a realistic chance of stopping the Trump Self Immolation Juggernaught of Doom.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

The Sun is ordered not to be so bigoted, hate-filled and rong (sic)

Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper has been ordered to retract a story that claimed 1 in 5 British Muslims supported people moving to Syria to fight for 'jihadi' groups such as ISIS.

The Sun has been ordered to print a statement acknowledging that its claims that one in five British Muslims supported people who have gone to Syria to fight for jihadi groups such as Islamic State were significantly misleading.
The Independent Press Standards Organisation (Ipso) said a front page article from 23 November last year – as well as more coverage inside the paper – misrepresented the results of the poll on which they were based because the relevant question in its poll did not support the claim.
Respondents were asked to what extent they had sympathy with “young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria”, rather than with those who went to fight with Isis or any other Islamist group.
But, while Ipso upheld the complaint it investigated, the paper was spared having to print notice of the adjudication on its front page. The watchdog said the newspaper had agreed to publish the notice on page two of Saturday’s edition, having been ordered to place it no further back than page five.
“While the newspaper was entitled to interpret the poll’s findings, taken in its entirety, the coverage presented as a fact that the poll showed that one in five British Muslims had sympathy for those who left to join Isis and for Isis itself,” Ipso said.
“In fact, neither the question, nor the answers which referred to ‘sympathy’, made reference to [Isis]. The newspaper had failed to take appropriate care in its presentation of the poll results and, as a result, the coverage was significantly misleading.”
Might take more than a mealy-mouthed correction on page two to stop the Sun being bigoted, hate-filled and rong (sic) but it is a start.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

More Educational Excellence Everywhere

Surprisingly, political interference in pursuit of a myopic vision of 'excellence' in education results in failure, distress and demotivates students. Wodathunkedit????
The government’s overhaul of primary-school assessments has turned into a shambles, according to the teachers who will have to carry them out from next month, with complaints that seven- and 11-year-old pupils find the new standards too hard and too confusing. 
The new spelling, punctuation and grammar tests came in for particular attack from those who responded to the National Union of Teachers’ request for comment, with 86% of those saying that the education secretary, Nicky Morgan, should cancel this summer’s assessments. 
More than 5,000 primary-school teachers in England responded to an NUT request for their opinion, and virtually all agreed that the new assessment levels were inappropriate for the pupils, given their age, and was likely to brand many as failures. 
More than 90% of teachers at key stage 1 and key stage 2 said much of the material in the new spelling, punctuation and grammar tests – nicknamed Spag – was too advanced or inappropriate for the age groups being tested. 
Christine Blower, general secretary of the NUT, said many adults would struggle to answer the demands of the new assessments. 
“I can tell you that quite a lot of people who ply their trade by writing in English are incapable of getting 100% on the key stage 2 Spag test,” Blower said. 
One teacher told the NUT survey: “The terminology for Spag is a constant cause of stress for children who find it all confusing. They are feeling like failures because they can’t remember the four different types of nouns, or they are confused by the fact that some things can have several different terms.” 
Another said: “As a year 1 teacher, I am finding myself teaching complicated whole-class grammar in order to prepare them for next year when some of my children still can’t write their names. It’s setting the majority up for failure, no matter how much you prepare them.”
Nothing promotes educational excellence everywhere like setting kids up to hate school and to think of themselves as failures from an early age.

Why is it every government feels it has the God given right to interfere in Education?

Here's a crazy idea. Why not give teachers a bit more freedom and independence to make their own decisions, based on professional experience and with promoting excellence, critical thinking and enthusiasm in their students?

If the Conservatives think the chicken killing and pig slaying industries are competent to regulate themselves, why can't education?

In the Land of the Pig the Butcher is King

I can see no way, no Earthly way, this could possibly go wrong. It isn't like we managed to inflict Mad Cow Disease on ourselves (and cows) by letting the industry decide on its own standards, or anything.
Conservative ministers are planning to repeal an array of official guidance on animal welfare standards, starting with a move to put the code on chicken-farming into the hands of the poultry industry.

Liz Truss, the environment secretary, is overseeing moves to scrap the statutory codes on farm animal welfare and move to an “industry-led” guidance as part of her department’s deregulatory agenda.

In a change that has caused concern with the RSPCA, Compassion in World Farming, and opposition parties, the government has already quietly tabled a draft order to scrap the official code on farming chickens for meat and breeding.

It is planning to revoke the code on 27 April – the day that new guidelines will be made public by the British Poultry Council, which will in future be in charge of writing and keeping the new regulatory code.

The industry body counts chicken hatchers and breeders as well as meat-processing giants such as Faccenda and 2Sisters among its member companies.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs confirmed it will now begin working with other livestock sectors in a staged timetable of reform. Other sectors that could get control of their own guidance include the cattle, sheep and pig farming industries.
At best this will lead to a massive deterioration in the standards of care for the animals; at worst, it may lead to poisonous, disease ridden DEATH FOOD being served.

The post title, by the way, refers to a song from Meatloaf's third Bat Out Of Hell effort.  It isn't very good, and Meatloaf endorsed Romney (and is probably fawning over Trump) but, oh well, past glories and all that.


Skoolz

One minor measure in George Osborne's budget, which has been generally overlooked in the fuss about sugar taxes, is his scheme to turn all the schools in England into academies.  Academies are tax payer funded, independent schools which aren't required to follow the national curriculum.

Given the state of the national curriculum, post Michael "Memorise them Kings!" Gove, that might seem to be not a bad thing.  But it is.

Even Tories realise this.
Leading Tory councillors across the country, dismayed by key elements of the education white paper outlined by the government last week, are calling on education secretary Nicky Morgan to rethink her policy of compulsory academisation for all schools. 
Their concerns echo those of many teachers and parents, who took part in rallies in London and many other towns and cities on Wednesday, to protest against the government’s forced academy programme. 
Around the country, councillors – many of them lifelong Tories who have devoted decades to working with schools in their areas and in many cases improving attainment – expressed profound reservations about the changes. 
The government’s white paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere, says all schools that have not begun to convert to academy status by 2020 will be directed to do so under new powers. Councils will lose responsibility for the remaining maintained schools, the majority of which will be expected to join multi-academy trusts, regardless of performance. 
“I feel really angry,” said Melinda Tilley, cabinet member for education for Oxfordshire county council, which covers the prime minister’s Witney constituency. 
“If it’s not broke don’t fix it. I don’t think schools should be forced. We’ve been supportive of the government’s agenda. We were going along quite well, helping schools to convert where we could. Now all of a sudden they are going to force the rest of them. It makes my blood boil. I’m put in a position where I can’t protect schools. One size does not fit all.”
Educational Excellence Everywhere is a great name for a white paper on education.

Just as you can tell a country that ostentatiously includes the word 'democracy' or 'democratic' in its name is nothing of the sort, you can tell straight away that these measures will not foster educational excellence anywhere.