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Showing posts from March, 2011

A year of debate in Birmingham - press release

250 years ago Birmingham could quite correctly be described as the centre for debate in Britain. The Lunar Society was in full swing, clubs and meetings debating science, religious freedom and radical politics were going on all over the city, in taverns, coffee houses and inns. The radical fervour of the period saw riots and battles in the street between conservatives and supporters of the French revolution which James Watt described as “dividing Birmingham into two parties who hated one another mortally”.
The city, during this period, has been described as having ‘freedom built into it’s self-image’, making Birmingham the place to settle for radical dissenters from all over the country. It all came to an end rather abruptly when Joseph Priestley (of the Lunar Society) was forced to flee the city following a full scale riot at his house in protest at a dinner he was giving to celebrate the second anniversary of the storming the Bastille (It is thought these rioters were in the pay of c…

A campaign with no aims, no ends and no opposition by Mick Hume

If Colonel Gaddafi’s regime looks relatively easy meat for Western intervention, so should the half-cocked, half-arsed wholly lamentable war that the West has launched against him present a sitting target for anybody with an anti-militarist bone in their body.
Yet despite many quibbles, what is striking so far is the lack of serious opposition in the West to this bombing campaign - and the politically dud content of what resistance there is to the war. The UK parliament has just voted to support David Cameron’s war by a bombtastic majority of 557 votes to 13 – far more than might have voted with the British government in the early stages of the war against Hitler. So much for this being ‘Britain’s most rebellious parliament since the Second World War’. If Western liberal elites are wrestling with their consciences, it looks like they are winning.
There should be no shortage of ammunition for an anti-war movement here. As Br…

The No-Fly Zone in Libya: Hijacking the Arab Uprisings

Republished from Karl reMarks blog
Last night’s UN Security Council’s decision to authorise military action in Libya was greeted with almost universal jubilation revealing how confused the anti-imperialist camp has become. The very same people who had been opposed to the US invasion and continuing presence in Iraq and Afghanistan cheered the decision that will supposedly prevent Qaddafi from massacring his people. This also revealed the left’s lack of faith in revolutionary politics: overnight the Libyans were turned from subjects attempting to take control of their destiny into victims in need of protection. The most troubling aspect of this is the willingness to recognise the West’s moral superiority, failing to acknowledge that Western intervention has been actively propping up authoritarian Arab regimes for decades. The no-fly zone is nothing to celebrate, on the contrary it signals a major turning point that will hand the West the initiative allowing…

A no-fly zone is a no freedom zone for Libyans by Mick Hume

While world leaders tussle over how best to intervene in the Libyan conflict, the Arab League of rulers has now called on world leaders to impose a ‘humanitarian-based’ no-fly zone, in a desperate attempt by the region’s remaining authoritarian regimes to show that they are on the side of the people. The irony of the Saudis claiming to support action against Gaddafi while sending in troops to help the Bahraini royals put down protests should not have escaped even the G8. Yet the Arab League’s stance has boosted those Western leaders, such as British premier David Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy, who are banging the drum for a no-fly zone, hoping it could air-lift them onto the moral high ground at little risk.
Let us cut out the pious crap and be clear about what these demands for a Western no-fly zone over Libya represent. However it is dressed up as a humanitarian mission to protect the Libyan people from Ga…

Steve Bell's take on the Wootton Bassett nonsense


Next Birmingham Salon discussion: Wednesday 6 April

Schools of the future: what is education for? Wednesday 6 April 2011
The Studio, Cannon St, Birmingham B2 5EP. 6.45pm until 8.15pm Dr Shirley Lawes is subject leader for PGCE Languages at the Institute of Education, University of London. In 2010 she was made a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Palmes Académiques for services to French language and culture. Shirley locates many of the current problems in schools within the system for training teachers. Our current model of teacher training is consistent in its capacity to produce a conformist and compliant workforce. New teachers may be skilled in the classroom. However, they lack any real theoretical knowledge that would enable them to take a critical distance from practice and have a principled understanding of education as a value. It is not enough for teachers to know what to do and how to do it. They need to know why they do what they do.
At a time when there is a distinct lack of clarity about what education is, or should be, we need teach…

Liberal drugs policy can be temperance zealotry in disguise

David Nutt shows his true colours
From David Nutt by name, temperance nut by nature

One of the most important factors that brought about Prohibition in America was something called Scientific Temperance Instruction. Without it, Prohibition would have been "practically impossible" according to the Anti-Saloon League's chief tactician, Ernest Cherrington.

Scientific Temperance Instruction (STI)  was the brainchild of a prohibitionist zealot named Mary Hunt, who realised in the 1870s that Prohibition would takes decades to achieve. Playing the long game, Hunt believed that if children were indoctrinated with extreme anti-alcohol views in school they would become “trained haters of alcohol" who would one day "pour a Niagara of ballots upon the saloon.” This policy was adopted by the Woman's Christian Temperance Union in 1880 and through relentless lobbying, they succeeded in ha…