27 Dec 2015

Netflix is not as bad as I thought

Various Democracy Now! headlines from 2105:

  • NBC, Netflix Shelve Bill Cosby Projects as Rape Claims Resurface: Several major media corporations have canceled projects with the entertainer and comedian Bill Cosby over new claims of rape dating back more than 40 years. November 20, 2014 
  • Netflix CEO Backs Net Neutrality After Comcast Deal: The CEO of Netflix is defending net neutrality — the principle of open and equal Internet access. March 24, 2014
  • Netflix to Pay Comcast for Faster Access in Potential Threat to Net Neutrality: The video-streaming site Netflix has agreed to pay Comcast for faster and more direct access to its subscribers. The deal comes just 10 days after Comcast agreed to buy Time Warner. February 24, 2014

Other news
One Reason For Netflix's Success - It Treats Employees Like Grownups
huffingtonpost 27feb2015

The newest and perhaps biggest threat to broadcast TV comes from streaming services like Stan, Presto, Quickflix and the US giant Netflix which has signed up 57 million customers around the world and plans to spend $3 billion this year on content.

14 Dec 2015

Paris Agreement

Based on report by Alliance for Green Socialism’s Mike Davies on #ParisAgreement our leaders seem to have committed to a limit of 1.5 to 2 degrees C, but not to action to achieve it. See decision II, para 17
“Notes with concern that the estimated aggregate greenhouse gas emission levels in 2025 and 2030 resulting from the intended nationally determined contributions do not fall within least-cost 2 ˚C scenarios but rather lead to a projected level of 55 gigatonnes in 2030, and also notes that much greater emission reduction efforts will be required than those associated with the intended nationally determined contributions in order to hold the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing emissions to 40 gigatonnes or to 1.5 ˚C above pre-industrial levels by reducing to a level to be identified in the special report referred to in paragraph 21 below;”

30 Nov 2015

ethical board games

Christmas shopping for ethical board games? (aka social impact games)

  1. Paul Lamond - You Be the Judge
  2. Really Nasty Bankers Game - Board Game 
  3. Rollet £67 - fast ricochet game for 2 to 4 players - aim is to roll steel balls down your chute and knock the wooden ball into your opponents goal - from ethicalshop.org
  4. Cyberpeace - online training courses based on the ideas of Johan Galtung, the Norwegian sociologist who founded peace and conflict studies. The Medical Peacework training courses, which were developed with support from the EU’s Leonardo da Vinci Fund, were launched in the UK in 2012. Each of the seven courses covers a different topic, from war and weapons, health and human rights, to refugees, discrimination and problems at work. Each of the 21 chapters consists of textbook lessons, standardized questions and problem-based e-learning cases.
  5. ‘Fighter, not Killer’ app for Apple and Android smartphones, launched May 2015, by Swiss group ‘Geneva Call’ to educate armed groups on the humanitarian laws of war.
  6. People Power, in which you play a leader of a popular movement - International Centre for Nonviolent Conflict, 2010 - see peoplepowergame.com
  7. World Peace Game, invented 1978 by teacher John Hunter. TED talk about the game has over 1.2m views. A hands-on political simulation for 10-year-olds, the game is normally played by 25–35 players for six to 12 weeks. There is no commercial version of the game, but John Hunter does tour the world hosting shorter game sessions.

12 Oct 2015

Bradwell nuclear power station

Some resources

Survey of local politicians' responses to new nuclear power station at Bradwell

In April 2015 at the beginning of the Election Campaign, the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) wrote to all the Conservative, Green, Labour, Liberal Democrat and UKIP Prospective Parliamentary Candidates whose constituencies are affected by the Bradwell nuclear sites.

Candidates were asked to declare their opposition to: any proposals for new nuclear power stations and radioactive waste storage at Bradwell; the prospect of Bradwell becoming a regional nuclear waste storage site; and the continuing discharges of radioactive substances into the Blackwater estuary as a result of dissolved fuel element debris (FED).

Positive responses supporting BANNG’s opposition to the three key issues were received from the Green Party candidates for the five constituencies: Chris Southall (Clacton), Mark Goacher (Colchester), Chris Flossman (Harwich & North Essex), Robert Graves (Maldon), James Abbott (Witham).

Positive responses were also received from Bernard Jenkin (Conservative, Harwich & North Essex), Edward Carlsson-Browne (Harwich & North Essex), Mark Hughes (UKIP, Harwich & North Essex) and Tim Young (Labour, Clacton).

Peter Edwards (Labour, Maldon) has expressed reservations about new nuclear development at Bradwell.

Priti Patel (Conservative, Witham) gave BANNG’s Manifestoes and Briefing Notes to the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) and asked it to respond. The response did not tell BANNG anything the group did not already know. Ms. Patel was told this and was asked to give her own views but has not done so.

No response has been received from:
  • Clacton Consituency: Giles Watling (Conservative), David Grace (Lib.Dem.), Douglas Carswell (UKIP)
  • Colchester Constituency: Will Quince (Conservative), Jordan Newell (Labour), Sir Bob Russell (Lib.Dem.), John Pitts (UKIP)
  • Harwich & North Essex: Dominic Graham (Lib.Dem.)
  • Maldon Constituency: John Whittingdale (Conservative), Zoe O’Connell (Lib.Dem.), Beverley Acevedo (UKIP)
  • Witham Constituency: John Clarke (Labour), Josephine Hayes (Lib.Dem.), Garry Cockrill (UKIP)
Those responding positively gave comments to BANNG.
  • Bernard Jenkin said: ‘I am against any new nuclear build at Bradwell….’…. ‘I remain concerned that the oscillating tides in the estuary are not enough to ensure that there is not a build up of sediment associated with the discharge of FED.’ …. ‘I am not at all happy with the idea that radioactive waste should be transported to Bradwell for storage or burial.’.
  • Edward Carlsson-Browne wrote: ‘I don't think that the deals the government has struck to build nuclear power stations make economic sense and even if they did I don't think Bradwell would be a suitable site….’. ‘I'm opposed to the discharge of radioactive material into the Blackwater estuary and I don't think Bradwell is a suitable site for the storage of nuclear waste materials, not least because there's still no safe way of disposing of it.’.
  • Mark Hughes commented: ‘I do oppose further development at Bradwell’. …. ‘I do not support the storage of spent fuel at Bradwell due to the population in and around the Blackwater and neighbouring areas.’.
  • Tim Young said: ‘I sign up to the three bullet points as requested. I am against any new nuclear power station or waste storage site at Bradwell and oppose discharges into the Blackwater estuary.’.
  • James Abbott reflected the views of the Essex Greens, saying: ‘We have no hesitation in supporting all of your manifesto pledges.’ …. ‘Essex Greens have also long advocated the safe decommissioning of Bradwell and no new nuclear facilities of any kind on site’.
  • While expressing concern about the job opportunities for people living in the Maldon constituency, Peter Edwards believes ‘safety has to come first when considering any plan for Bradwell.’. …. ‘The risk of flooding and the demand for cooling water for a more powerful reactor present considerable hurdles to a new development.’…. ‘I do not want to rush into a new nuclear development at Blackwater.’

Professor Andy Blowers, Chair of BANNG, said: ‘BANNG is pleased with the positive responses it has received supporting opposition to new nuclear development and spent fuel storage at Bradwell. Moreover, these responses come from across the political spectrum. We have not received any responses supporting new nuclear power at Bradwell. We are naturally disappointed that fourteen of the twenty-five candidates invited did not respond on an issue which, over several years, has been of considerable concern to their potential constituents.’

BANNG's letter

On 31 March 2015 BANNG wrote to all prospective parliamentary candidates in the constituencies affected by Bradwell – Clacton, Colchester, Harwich and North Essex, Maldon and Witham - as follows:

Dear Candidate,

The possibility of new nuclear development with radioactive waste stores at Bradwell is an issue of considerable public interest and concern.

Since 2008 the Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG) has raised public awareness, responded to Government consultations on a wide range of issues and held discussions with local MPs, local councils, the Bradwell site operators, the Environment Agency and many other organisations. On the basis of the evidence we have gathered, including a face-to-face petition signed by 10,000 people, we know that the prospect of new nuclear reactors and storage of spent fuel at Bradwell is overwhelmingly opposed by people living around the Blackwater and neighbouring areas.

Now that the General Election campaign has been launched, WE ARE CALLING ON ALL CANDIDATES IN AFFECTED CONSTITUENCIES:

  • to declare their opposition to any proposals for new nuclear power stations and radioactive waste storage at Bradwell(on the grounds of potential threats to safety, security, environmental protection and public health affecting the present and future generations);
  • to declare their opposition to the continuing discharges ofradioactive substances into the Blackwater estuary; 
  • to declare their opposition to the prospect of Bradwell becoming a regional nuclear waste storage site.
Attached you will find a Briefing Document covering these specific areas of concern.

We have also provided three separate brief Manifestoes highlighting the key areas.

We would urge you to use the documents provided to promote these concerns and to prevent degradation and danger to the Blackwater on behalf of those constituents you hope to represent.

We should appreciate your comments and an indication that you will make opposition to new build at Bradwell and radioactive discharges into the Blackwater estuary important planks of your campaign for election.

We look forward to hearing from you. Please reply to me by e-mail at: varrieblowers@yahoo.com

Yours sincerely,

Varrie Blowers, Secretary and Media Relations Officer,
Blackwater Against New Nuclear Group (BANNG)

22 Jul 2015

A miracle for Richard Dawkins

Scene:   Nosstick and Agnes are a couple of café philosophers and, as usual, they are sitting in a café discussing life, the universe and everything. Nosstick believes in God but Agnes is not so sure.

18 Jul 2015

"The World is My Country": Heritage Open Day, 12 September 2015

"The World is My Country" exhibition:

Heritage Open Day: Saturday 12 September 2015, 10am to 4pm, at Colchester Quaker Meeting House, 6 Church Street, Colchester, Essex, CO1 1NF

13 Jul 2015

The deliberate production of ignorance

Agnotology, says Wikipedia, is the study of culturally induced ignorance or doubt, particularly the publication of inaccurate or misleading scientific data. 

Examples of the deliberate production of ignorance:
I guess Adorno would claas these as products of the culture industry

Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea

Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea by Brown University professor Mark Blyth, 2015 -

4 Jul 2015

The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception

This is my edited version (to approximately halve its length) of most of one chapter from Dialectic of Enlightenment by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer (published 1944 and here transcribed by Andy Blunden 1998/2005).

15 Jun 2015

5 Jun 2015

Benefit Cap letter in Essex County Standard Friday 5 June 2015

Colchester has the dubious distinction of being home to the first victims of the new Tory government’s Benefit Cap, as reported by the Daily Mirror on 28 May.

The needless destruction of Dresden on 13-14 February 1945

With the Second World War effectively won, an estimated 135,000 German people were killed for no military purpose on the orders of Winston Churchill and Bomber Harris. There is a statue of Churchill in Parliament Square and one of Bomber Harris on the Strand in central London. 

3 Jun 2015

No Glory: The Real History of the First World War

Historian Neil Faulkner looks at the real reasons for the outbreak of the First World War. This pamphlet is part of No Glory in War, a national campaign of political, cultural, and educational activities that opposes ‘nationalist’ interpretations of the First World War, and aims to promote international solidarity and peace.

1 Jun 2015

Housing crisis in Colchester and beyond

1. Daily Mirror story about Benefit-Capped homeless family in Colchester
2. Social housing, not social cleansing’ – the case of the Focus E15 Mums

11 May 2015

Only 100 harvests to go

On current trends and use of agro-chemicals, etc, there are, it is speculated, only 100 harvests to go before the soil packs up. 

2015 is International Year of Soils and every minute we lose the equivalent of 30 football pitches of fertile soil. As around 95% of our food comes from the soil, we need healthy soil to feed the world. See The Soil Association www.soilassociation.org/soilmattersALG to see how you can help.

"The World is My Country" Public Meeting Thurs 24 Sep 2015

To co-incide with “The World is My Country” exhibition on Heritage Open Day on Sat 12 Sep 2015 there will be a Public Meeting hosted by Gabriel Carlyle and Emily Johns of Peace News:

9 May 2015

IDS and sin

Iain Duncan Smith,work and pensions secretary said on 11 Nov 2012 that it's a "sin" that people fail to take up work when it is available. This was as he prepared to introduce the most severe welfare sanctions ever imposed by a British government.

8 May 2015

"The World is My Country" Sat 12 Sep 2015

Here is the draft web page that I submitted last week to Heritage Open Days. It should appear on the site in due course. Further below are some notes from the Local Meeting for business for worship on Sun 3 May.

3 May 2015

Violent crime and its scapegoats

The most depressing discourse, in my view, of the recent Colchester Gazette Hustings1 for prospective MPs was the debate about crime prevention, policing and personal safety. It was sparked off by questions on two subjects: part-night lighting and the two recent horrific murders in Colchester.

30 Apr 2015

Glasgow away day 29-30 April 2015

Dawn and dusk from Premier Inn near George Square. Looking south over River Clyde with twenty or more wind turbines on horizon.  George Square is like the Trafalgar Square of Glasgow.

27 Apr 2015

Riots Rebellions and Protests – A Walk around Colchester town

The walk on Sat 2 May 2015, 2pm-4pm, was led by Dorian Kelly and started at Slack Space, Old Police Station, 35 Queen Street, Colchester CO1 2PQ. It was part of janeswalk.org 2015, which is hosted locally by Walk Colchester.  It featured the High Street (Castle Park Memorial end, scene of the Poll Tax riots in 1990) and a speech by John Ball and a song about him (both now on my Youtube channel) and much more. Here is the ad for the walk:

26 Apr 2015

25 Apr 2015

You Tube Off Line

YouTube has a new free sub, lasting 6 months, where you can download videos to view off line. Very useful for people like me who like to watch/listen on a smartphone in a wifi zone. It means you can watch/listen to stuff out and about, where using 3G connection would, in my case for example, soon exhaust my monthly subs limit. It also means you don’t get the stop/start stutter when watching/listening in the wifi zone.

18 Apr 2015

Climate change will destroy the planet! – Really?

Full of the evangelism of reading This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate by Naomi Klein (for my book group), I made the mistake recently of telling a friend how capitalism and its consequences would destroy the planet. He told me I was wrong. Of course he is right.

13 Apr 2015

Non-fiction Book Group

With a few friends I recently started a Book Group to read non-fiction books and meet once a month on a Friday evening. On the agenda so far (but not necessarily read by all!): -

I am Malala

I read this over Easter* and broadly agree with this Guardian review. I hadn’t realised Malala was already an international star long before her attempted assassination: she’d already won a national peace prize and written a blog for the BBC that was meant to be anonymous but didn’t really remain so for long.
The Taliban shooting must be one of the most back-firing attacks in history. The Taliban catapulted Malala to international superstardom. Violence can sometimes be the most counter-productive thing a terrorist can do. To give another example relevant to this story, it’s like the CIA funding and backing Al-Qaeda (after the 1980 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan) which back-fired in that it helped create both the Taliban and the suicide bombers who were able to bomb the Twin Towers on 9/11/2001. 

11 Apr 2015

Poem on dialysis

Days and moments slowly dragging
Only two more hours to go
Some days that can seem a lifetime
some say it’s a friend,  but it feels like a foe

29 Mar 2015

Get housing on the agenda for ITV Leaders' Debate on Thurs 2 April

Housing is one of the top 5 issue in the polls nationally but, according to what I heard, it wasn't mentioned last Thursday on the C4/Sky Jeremy Paxman TV debate. To get it on the agenda for the ITV Leaders' Debate on Thurs 2 April 2015 at 8pm, please e-mail debate@itv.com and put in a question on housing. (Shelter are asking people to do this.)


28 Mar 2015

God Friday, Sydney Carter and John Ball (again)

Good Friday Morning

From 2004/mar/17/guardianobituaries on Sydney Carter (1915-2004) -  famous Quaker, Londoner, composer of Lord Of The Dance (1963) - here is part of "Friday Morning", where the robber, crucified with Jesus, cries out: 
It was on a Friday morning that they took me from my cell
And I saw they had a carpenter to crucify as well.
You can blame it on to Pilate, you can blame it on the Jews,
You can blame it on the Devil, it's God I accuse.
It's God they ought to crucify, instead of you and me,
I said to the carpenter a-hanging on the tree.

15 Mar 2015

Rev John Ball of Colchester - England's original anarcho-syndicalist

John Ball trained as a priest in Colchester, but he's never been mentioned once during my children's combined 18+ years of schooling here. Colchester history mentioned in the classroom is all oysters, the Romans, Boudicca, the civil war siege and the Romans. As Melvyn Bragg explains, John Ball was so subversive he's been virtually airbrushed out of history.

14 Mar 2015

Save Cymbeline Crossing ... continued

Further to Save Cymbeline Crossing this is from Colchester Cycling Campaign's 13 March 2015 Objection. CCC opposes the scheme set out by TRAF/4747 on the grounds that this is obviously intended as a replacement for the Colne Bank Avenue/Cymbeline Way crossing (TRAF/4741). We are not opposing new cycling infrastructure per se but we are against the proposed provision because it is unnecessary and vastly substandard (especially so in a former government-appointed cycling town). To date Essex Highways or the portfolio holder have not answered the criticisms set out in CCC’s objection to TRAF/4741. (The text of our objection to TRAF/4741 is included at the bottom of this letter.)

12 Mar 2015

Cis and Trans

Rupert Read has been criticised for being offensive to transgender people. I think he was saying that trans women, ie men who identify as women, shouldn't dictate to cis women, ie women who are born as women, who is or isn't allowed to be identified as a woman.

10 Mar 2015

Kenneth Boulding on economists and Quakers

"Anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist." So said Kenneth Boulding (1910-1993), economist, educator, poet, religious mystic and Quaker, who wrote The Evolutionary Potential of Quakerism, published by Pendle Hill in 1964.

7 Mar 2015

#climatemarch Sat 7 March highlights

  1. www.timetoact2015.org
  2. www.huffingtonpost.co.uk
  3. The Politics of Nonviolent Action - three-volume political science book by Gene Sharp, published 1973. A short (145 pages) free download edition is at www.aeinstein.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/How-Nonviolent-Struggle-Works.pdf - recommended by Joy from Amsterdam uni. 
  4. The fabulous FFAB (Food For All Band)
  5. Sambatage  - samba band based at School of Oriental and African Studies - www.samba.soasunion.org - who play at gigs and demos with a political message
  6. Photos (to be posted?) at www.flickr.com/photos/fieldsoflight

2 Mar 2015

Nearly 100,000 children affected by benefit sanctions in 2013/14

Methodist Church - Nearly 100,000 children affected by benefit sanctions in 2013/14

Mon, 2 March 2015
A new report from a coalition of major UK Churches has revealed that around 100,000 children were affected by benefit sanctions in 2013/14. It also shows that in the same period a total of nearly 7 million weeks of sanctions were handed out to benefit claimants. The new data, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, will feature in this evening’s episode of Channel 4’s Dispatches, entitled Britain’s Benefits Crackdown.

28 Feb 2015

Is your money really there?

The government allows profit-seeking private banks to create our money supply as debt. Ninety-seven per cent of all money first enters the economy as debt, when the banks loan it into circulation. The money system now has most of us trapped in debt. Worse still, we need growth in order to find the money to pay the interest we owe the banks. But we cannot have infinite growth on a finite planet. Thus, our money system is directly contributing to the destruction of the eco-systems on which we depend.

26 Feb 2015

Charlie Hebdo and Serb Radio

On 23 April 1999 NATO bombed the Radio Television of Serbia headquarters in what was one of the largest incidents of civilian deaths, and certainly the largest in Belgrade, of the Kosovo war. Sixteen RTS civilian technicians and workers were killed and sixteen were wounded.

Noam Chomsky views the NATO bombing as an act of terrorism. Comparing it with the attack on Charlie Hebdo in Paris on Wednesday 7 January 2015, he criticises the hypocrisy shown by media and politicians in the West, which in general viewed the 1999 bombing as legitimate, noting that, "There were no demonstrations or cries of outrage, no chants of 'We are RTS'”

See also Noam Chomsky (2015) "The Charlie Hebdo Attack and Hypocrisy" on YouTube

23 Feb 2015

poetry corner

Come to the edge, Life said.
They said: We are afraid.
Come to the Edge Life said
They came. It pushed them...
And they flew.
(Christopher Logue, 1961.)

12 Feb 2015

Save Cymbeline Crossing

From Colchester Gazette Wednesday 21 January 2015: A PEDESTRIAN crossing on one of Colchester’s most congested roads looks set to be scrapped. Essex County Council wants to remove the crossing in Cymbeline Way, near the Colne Bank roundabout and the junction with Westway, claiming it aggravates congestion.

5 Feb 2015

The irony of the University of Essex challenging convention since 1964

Pictured below is the panel - all-white, all-male, almost all middle-aged and almost all in suits, shirts and ties - at the University of Essex political discussion event “Coalition: Devil's pact or dream match? The General Election - what now?” on Wednesday evening, 4 February 2015.

The backdrop was a photo of a young black woman in ethnic dress under the banner slogan, “Challenging convention since 1964” – the year the University was founded.

25 Jan 2015

Cuadrilla's fracking tests 'likely cause' of earthquakes near Blackpool

It is "highly probable" that shale gas test drilling - aka hydraulic fracturing, or fracking - triggered earth tremors in Lancashire, states a report, commissioned by energy firm Cuadrilla, on earthquakes of magnitude 2.3 on the Fylde coast on 1 April 2011, followed by a second of magnitude 1.4 on 27 May.

11 Jan 2015

street lights: not black and white

Here is my letter on behalf of Colchester Green Party that took top spot on the 9 Jan 2015 Essex County Standard letters page:

Regarding the “Switch our street lights back on” petition being promoted by Sir Bob Russell, we in the Green Party are worried that this is turning into a “lights off / lights on” debate on Essex County Council’s part-night lighting. Sadly, Sir Bob’s petition does not allow people to vote for any alternatives such as the middle way proposed by the Green Party’s County Councillor, James Abbott, as follows.

8 Jan 2015

Pope Francis calls for action on climate change and capitalism

Go to www.democracynow.org/2014/12/31/pope_francis_calls_for_action_on to hear how Pope Francis is set to make history by issuing the first-ever comprehensive Vatican teachings on climate change, which will urge 1.2 billion Catholics worldwide to take action.