:: Friday, December 17, 2004 ::

Seasons Greetings

I'll be on an extended xmas break for a while and probably won't be posting back here for a few weeks. Have a good new year!


:: Alister | 5:16 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments


:: Wednesday, December 15, 2004 ::

Who's Sorry Now?

Sorry Day: "Belfast City Council has demanded that the cultural newspaper The Vacuum apologises to 'the citizens of the City' and 'Members of the Council' for 'any offence which may have been caused by previous publications'. This is a blatant attempt to stifle freedom of expression. Come and join in with our 'Sorry' events to show what you think of censorship."

Expect more of this if the blasphemy legislation is passed.


:: Alister | 3:04 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (2) comments


:: Tuesday, December 14, 2004 ::

Twizzlers and Ninja Mums

From the Education Guardian Banned in Scotland but good enough for English children

One of the interesting features of devolution in Scotland and Wales is the threat of a good example. So in Wales we have measures such as the scrapping of prescription charges. If it works there then why not in Scotland or England? An argument the SSP is currently applying.

Another example is school meals. One of the first big campaigns by the SSP in the Scottish Parliament was the Free School Meals Bill. This was defeated but undoubtedly put the Scottish Executive under pressure to take some action. And so food standards have been improved and made more healthy. Of course to really tackle problems of obesity and ill-health getting rid of the stigma of free school meals by making them universal would be the way to go.

Meanwhile the changes in Scotland are exposing the crap being fed to kids elsewhere. Turkey Twizzlers and Smiley Faces, unhealthy food with a high salt content. "Turkey Twizzlers contain 21.2% fat when cooked, more than twice the 10% maximum recommended for processed meats under the Scottish guidelines. Bernard Matthews burgers are 19.8% fat and the nuggets are 17.3% fat."

"By contrast, the English standards merely dictate how many times a week red meat and fish should be served. They say nothing about the quality of the meat, do not dictate a minimum meat or fish content in processed food and say nothing about fat or salt content. While Scotland powers ahead, the quality of English school food remains worryingly poor."

There is a real problem with childrens health all over the country. "When the Department for Education and Skills surveyed nearly 6,000 secondary schoolchildren at 79 schools, they found that only 6% were choosing to eat salad or vegetables. Nearly 10% of all six-year-olds and 15% of 15-year-olds are classed as obese." Some parents are taking direct action, like the 'ninja mums'.

"In England, the issue is hot and getting hotter all the time. Around 100 parents a month call the Food for Life campaign at the Soil Association to ask for advice on improving school meals, opting out of catering contracts or staging takeovers. The children's food company Organix and celebrity chefs Jamie Oliver and the River Cafe's Rose Gray have all joined the campaign for better school meals. Parents have formed action groups. Some have even taken over running their own school kitchens. In March a group of so-called Ninja mums at St Paul's school in Primrose Hill, north London, raided their school kitchen to discover who was supplying the meat for their children's lunches.

The parents say that they had been emailing and phoning both the council and the catering company, Scolarest, for five months without getting a straight answer. According to John Wilkinson, the head: "The food is more nuked up than cooked up. It's orange food, smiley faces, dino burgers, fish-shaped fish cakes. I've been teaching for 25 years and the quality has definitely dropped."

Natasha Seery, one of the Ninja mums, says: "I am being nabbed in the playground by parents who are sick of making packed lunches every day. We are doing everything we can to get decent hot meals served in the school." She feels that there is a stigma attached to the children still eating school meals, particularly as they are segregated from the primarily middle-class children eating packed lunches."
More on the ninja mums here.

Steven Twigg even admits that the school meals provision is patchy. Let's hope that the good example spreads.


:: Alister | 1:15 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (2) comments


:: Friday, December 10, 2004 ::

Abu Ghraib a Merry Little Xmas

Festive strangeness from Warren Ellis As it is Christmas. The time of buying stuff. To celebrate the birth of a fine Jewish politician and revolutionary of the First Century who faked his own death and had it away on his toes when the hammer of the occupational forces in the Middle East came down. If that all happened today, churches would feature stained glass windows depicting Jesus with a hood over his head and electrodes attached to his testicles. And then Donald Rumsfeld could have an epileptic fit on the road to Damascus, declare it a revelatory vision, and start wearing a dress.


:: Alister | 2:21 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (1) comments


:: Thursday, December 09, 2004 ::

ID Card Fun

This one's doing the rounds right now. Thanks to Alan Graham who I nicked it from.

Operator: "Thank you for calling Domino's. May I have your national ID number?"

Customer: "I'd like to place an order."

Operator: "I must have your NIDN first, sir?"

Customer: "My National ID Number. Erm, haud on, it's 6102049998-45-54610."

Operator: "Thank you, Mr. Smith. I see you live at 1449 Great Western Road, and the phone number's 494-2366. Your office number at Lincoln Insurance is 745-2302, and your mobile number's 266-2566. Email address is smith@home.net. Which number are you calling from, sir?"

Customer: "Eh? I'm at home. Where did ye get all this information?"

Operator: "We're wired into the NSD, sir."

Customer: "The NSD, what is that?"

Operator: "We're wired into the National Security Database, sir. This will add only 15 seconds to your ordering time".

Customer: (Sighs) "Right, well, I'd like to order a couple of your Spicy Meat Special pizzas."

Operator: "I don't think that's a good idea, sir."

Customer: "How no?"

Operator: "Sir, your medical records and commode sensors indicate that you've got very high blood pressure and extremely high cholesterol. Your NHS consultant won't allow such an unhealthy choice."

Customer: "What the fuck? What do you recommend, then?"

Operator: "How about our low-fat Soybean Pizza. I'm sure you'll like it."

Customer: "What makes you think I'd like something like that?"

Operator: "Well, you withdrew 'Gourmet Soybean Recipes' from your local library last week, sir. That's why I made the suggestion."

Customer: "OK, OK. Give me two family-sized ones, then."

Operator: "That should be plenty for you, your wife and your four weans, and the 2 dogs can finish the crusts, sir. Your order comes to £39.99."

Customer: "Jesus! Right, ma credit card number is...."

Operator: "I'm sorry sir, but I'm afraid you'll have to pay in cash. Your credit card balance is over its limit."

Customer: "Right then. I'll go oot tae the cashline and get some ready's afore your driver gets here."

Operator: "That won't work either, sir. Your bank account's overdrawn too."

Customer: "Never mind! Just send the pizzas. I'll have the cash ready. How long will it take?"

Operator: "We're running a little behind, sir. It'll be about 45 minutes, sir. If you're in a hurry you might want to pick them up while you're out getting the cash, but then, carrying pizzas on a scooter can be a little awkward."

Customer: "Wait a minute! How do you know I ride a scooter?"

Operator: "It says here you're in arrears on your car payments, so your car was re-posessed last week. But your Vespa's all paid for and you just filled the tank yesterday."

Customer: " For fuck's sake!!!"

Operator: "I'd advise watching your language, sir. You've already got a July 4, 2005 conviction for swearing at a traffic warden, and another one I see here in September for contempt at your hearing for questioning the parentage of the judge." "Oh yes, and I see here that you just got out from a 30 day stay in the Barlinnie. Is this your first pizza since your return to society?

Customer: (Speechless)

Operator: "Will there be anything else, sir?"

Customer: "Yes, I have a voucher for a free 2 liter of Coke".

Operator: "I'm sorry sir, but our ad's exclusionary clause prevents us from offering free soft drinks to Diabetics. The New Constitution prohibits this. Thank you for calling Dominos'!"


:: Alister | 11:35 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (4) comments


:: Tuesday, December 07, 2004 ::

Disrespect

George Galloway has always been a controversial and colorful figure on the left of British politics.

His outspoken support for the causes of Palestine and his opposition to the war in Iraq marked him out for special treatment by the press who have harrassed him continually. These attacks were attacks not just on Galloway but on the whole anti-war movement and George was quite rightly supported by almost all on the left. I was happy when George won his most recent libel case.

However the key to understanding his actions lie in his politics. There are a number of strands to comrade Galloway's politics. A left Arab nationalism is an important strand, a sympathy for the former Stalinist regimes and their politics is another and an attachment to the Labour Party is the third. George has never been a member of the old style Morning Star CPB or CPGB, but can be seen to be broadly in the category of fellow travellers that they had in the LP. He supports the 'British Road to Socialism' and rejects alternatives to London control and the unity of the British state.

All of this has left George with a dislike of the SSP almost from the beginning. He doesn't like 'trots', those who were critical of the Stalinist regimes. He doesn't like what he would term 'nationalists', those who want to see the break up of the United Kingdom and the creation of a Scottish Republic. He also hated the fact that the SSP stood against New Labour whilst he was still in the party. In fact he devoted a portion of his speech at the last Westminster elections to attacking SSP members as 'thugs' (they had heckled his 'battle bus' as it toured the constituency asking for votes for the Labour Party.)

Despite this I was surprised by George's attack on the SSP in his Mail on Sunday column this Sunday. In this piece he 'announced' that Respect had plans to stand in Scotland in the next Holyrood elections ("The MP, who vowed the Labour Party would "rue the day"it ditched him over his anti war views, said Respect had already started to explore the best way to use the proportional representation list system to win Holyrood seats at the 2007 elections.") and that he saw himself and Tommy Sheridan as being the 'dream ticket', the SSP had 'betrayed' Sheridan and he should leave to stand for Respect.

Heady stuff.

There was one problem however. George had not discussed this with Tommy or anyone in the SSP. Whether he had discussed it with anyone in Respect is not clear at the time of writing. Certainly I imagine it came as a surprise to Scottish members of the Socialist Workers platform. The SSP has sought clarification from Respect.

Tommy, who played a central role in creating the SSP, did not share George's light-minded approach to destroying the party in favour of a loose coalition which has a very basic programme and does not claim to be a socialist party. He rejected the proposal in friendly and diplomatic terms. "I don't know why George is raising this idea. "I am absolutely committed to the Scottish Socialist Party and expect to be a leading candidate for the party in the 2007 Holyrood election."

The outcome of this is that Respect supporters in Scotland will be left confused and defensive. And George has burned his bridges with the SSP. Those like myself who have defended Respect will find it harder to do so in future.

I know that many members of Respect have been supportive of the SSP, they must realise that the tactics the right-wing press will use against the SSP will also be used against them. Smear, split, divide. Don't go along with it, maintain the unity of the movement and the supportive attitude that the SSP and Respect have maintained towards each other until now.


:: Alister | 2:18 pm | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (3) comments


:: Monday, December 06, 2004 ::

This Godless Communism

this godless communism
This Godless Communism, originally uploaded by alister.

From the great days of the cold war.

Check out this great propaganda comic published by the Catholic Guild in 1961. The portrayal of Marx is...novel. But it is good to see that the USSA at least had full employment albeit in the lumber mills of Wisconsin.

And see the patriot act remix here.


:: Alister | 10:57 am | save this page to del.icio.us Save This Page | permalink⊕ | | (0) comments