Sunday, 20 March 2011

Daily Mail's Reader's Poll a classic today

I occasionally find the time to pop over to the Daily Mail's website to vote in their polls in the futile hope that my good sense will have some impact.

Normally it is easy to work out how to vote but today they have completely confused me

But don't worry Daily Mail readers have still felt able to contribute their considered opinions

Impressive or what?

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Smiley Culture Stabbed to death in Police Raid

David Emmanuel, better know as the early-1980s reggae MC Smiley Culture has died in a police raid on his home earlier today. Ironically one of his most successful records was Police Officer which recounts an encounter with the Police.

Owsley Stanley (January 19, 1935 – March 13, 2011) - A Crime against Nature

Really sad to hear about the death in a car incident in Australia of Owsley Stanley.  Stanley was involved with the counter-culture in 1960s California and was both the sound engineer of the Grateful Dead and the producer of over a million doses of high quality LSD.

This is an essay from his website:
The earth is an old place, and we humans are an old "race". We have been in close association with all the living things on the planet for millions of years. Man has adapted and uses many animals and plants in his world, but one plant is special. Special in a way that no other plants even come anywhere close to. Man's relationship with this plant is so ancient that all the near relatives of the plant have disappeared through evolutionary pressure and we don't even know for sure in which botanical grouping to place it. This plant is cannabis.

Most probably the association is at least hundreds of thousands of years old, way back in prehistory. The plant is unique, and the form of the plant is very simple, reflecting ancient structures which most plants no longer retain. In the Chinese orthography the word for cannabis, "ma" is a pictograph with the meaning "house", with the pictograph "plant " shown growing under the eaves, for the cannabis plant is very much a compost loving plant. The ancient relationship is not due to the provision of fiber, nor for the edible seeds, because the association predates the production of cloth and cordage, and likewise began before the use of large amounts of plant origin foodstuffs.

It is in fact, the resin and its wonderful effects on the mind and perception that has made the relationship so unique. The plant's sole reason for producing the resin is to induce men to cultivate and propagate it. In fact experiments have shown that the resin does not affect herbivorous animals, only carnivores. There is no other carnivore but man who could do anything useful for the cannabis plant. I know from my own experience that animals such as deer seem to consider the plant just like any other plant, as food, and do not seem the least affected by it. On the other hand, as little as half an ounce of the same plant will make a dog unable to stand up.

If you consider the antiquity of this special "dance" and the plant's distinct form and structure, this plant has given itself to us in a very special way. Nothing about the plant is other than a good, gentle thing. Growers have found that the plant seems to sense the sort of effects, the "high", that the grower likes to experience, and will strive to produce that for him (or her). It is common in the areas where it is grown to be able to identify the person from his/her smoke, regardless of the genetics of the seed.
I have a real hard time relating to the kind of attitude which leads us, on a world wide scale, to attempt to destroy a plant which has made its very existence dependent upon our cultivation, and which only wants to make us happy. For money, of course, as Jack Herrer so eloquently points out in his booklet "The Emperor wears no Clothes". First we had the prohibition against alcohol, and when that ended the enforcement and bootleg organizations needed a new source of easy money, and the poor cannabis plant, due to circumstances unrelated to the euphoric effects, namely the useful fiber which threatened Dupont's new synthetics, was one of their victims.

It is the laws which are the greatest sort of crime against nature. The plant is of such ancient association and use, that no possible argument can be made against it on either health or moral grounds. If we are to consider health, then why do we have to put up with some very dangerous things such as alcohol and tobacco, both of which are manifestly lethal... who's the fool here? We cannot make people stop using things which they want to use by passing laws, in fact those sort of laws are not really within the "rightful" authority of governments, since they are so destructive to the social fabric. To be accurate, the very concept of "government" is a very recent thing compared to the relationship between man and cannabis. Tribal man has never made "laws" which were not the will of the whole community, this is a modern aberration. We cannot properly deal with the world without re-evaluating the social and governmental systems we have, and trying to reform them to more nearly match the ancient tribal structures which guided us for most of our existence. It is only logical to live by the rules which we evolved over hundreds of thousands of years, rather than trying to reduce everything to a situation which only benefits a small portion of our population.

The cannabis plant is a truly special emissary of the plant world to man, and is a great teacher of appreciation for the wholeness of the lifeforce which animates this planet. It is a very beautiful plant, with a great vibrance and serenity, the very essence of the feminine creative energy. The Princess of the plant world, who gives us a wonderful gift in return for our care and attention.

I will note that the male cannabis plant also is valuable, as it is the males which yield the long fibers for making hemp products. One of the things which seem to have been lost is knowledge of the practice of growing only the males, set closely together to force them to become very tall and without branching. This can produce fibers of nearly 6 meters in length.

One of the more remarkable uses for the euphoric smoke is that of enhancing one's perceptions. Sound, such as music is full and rich, colours are intense, and the effect on the perception of sex is little short of heavenly. Although I will admit that I didn't really notice a large effect on my sex enjoyment until I was about 40, it is very noticeable with increasing age. It not only increases sensation, it seems to prolong orgasm to a noticeable degree.

So far as an artist's visionary ability, I don't think that there is much disagreement as to the value of cannabis to all artists and creative people. In all the years that I have been associated with music and art, virtually everyone I have met is fond of cannabis. In that vein, who really wants to go to a party where you can't have a meaningful conversation due to an alcohol induced stupor in the participants?

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Prison Kills

I found an article by Mark Johnson about the death of his friend Craig Morrison incredibly sad. Craig fitted the profile of so many of those incarcerated by our criminal justice system, he came from a working class family, his father left home, his mother was an alcoholic and he ended up at 12 being put into 'care'. At 16 he was left to fend for himself he soon drifted into drug use and petty crime. Craig's account of his own childhood can be read in a Guardian Article published in 2008.

Like so many young people who are failed by society and damaged by its institutions it was his fate to end up in court where a man in fancy dress and a wig will have told him it was his fault and what was needed was that he be subjected to pain. This he would have been told was "justice".

Despite the criminal justice system's best attempts some convicts manage to escape its clutches and found outlets for their humanity and talents, sometimes a section of the criminal justice system actual helps them. This appears to have been Craig's experience at Grendon prison ten years ago which proved to be a turning point in his life.  Following release he appeared to be the very model of a reformed prisoner, he got a degree and followed this up with employment in a number of criminal justice agencies. He became a sought after speaker at reform conferences and seminars.

On New Year's Day he killed himself.

I never met Craig but his story didn't surprise me.  I have know far too many ex-con's kill themselves. I have read a few of their suicide notes. The damage done to individuals in state institutions, children's homes and prisons is immense. The suicide rates for prisoners are five times the national rate (and 18 times the national rate for 15-17 year olds. For male ex-prisoners they are over eight times the national rate and for women ex-prisoners they are 36 times the national rate. (source: See Page 21)

Just being in prison reduces life expectancy, the average age of male prisoners who die from 'natural causes' is 56.

So we do still have a death penalty, just not one handed out explicitly. Prison Kills.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Back in September, as the Government claimed it was necessary to cut £6 billion of the welfare budget I highlighted a story in Private Eye about the Government letting Vodophone off a £6 billion tax bill.  A classic case of stealing from the poor to give to the rich.  This deal has subsquently been highlighted by the excellent direct action group UK Uncut who have targeted Vodaphone in their actions.

Last month the National Audit Office announced it was going to investigate how the Government reached "agreements" with large firms over disputed tax bills.  I will being keeping an eye on this investigation.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Sun "readers" support legalisation of (at least some) currently illegal drugs

An interesting online poll on the Sun website last month on the legal status of drugs.  The results were

35% Drug Laws should not be changed
31% Legalise some drugs
33% Legalise all drugs

Obviously on-line polls have severe limitations, they are self selecting samples and can often be fiddled, but nevertheless the Sun has traditionally been one of the rags that has generated moral panics on drugs and it will be intersting to see how readers polls like this impact on their editorial line.

Friday, 18 February 2011

David Harvey - time to move beyong capitalism

Apologies for the lack of activity but I have been drowning in work.  The marking season is now over so expect a few more posts over the next month.

This is a brilliant video animation of a David Harvey talk at the RSA.  WATCH IT!

Monday, 17 January 2011

Eddie Ellison - A voice from the past

For some reason google news front page highlighted a May 2003 Independent article "The Big Question: Should cannabis be legalised?"

It included a quote for the late Eddie Ellison, a former head of Scotland Yard's drug Squad which I though was just brilliant
Our cities, our roads, our children and our health would be far safer with a mass migration from today's public houses to tomorrow's cannabis caf├ęs.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

"Obtaining sexual contact by fraud"

My attention was drawn by a Sun Headline Girl 'beds lass for eight years by acting as a bloke' .  The story shows the woman arriving at court in handcuffs. The Press Association Report on the case states:
A woman has denied tricking two women into sexual intimacy by pretending to be a man.
Samantha Brooks, 26, is accused of posing as a man called Lee Brooks and thus obtaining sexual contact with them by fraud.

It is alleged that this went on for eight years with one woman and eight months with the other.
I always find these cases worrying. Every Friday and Saturday night (and indeed every day) people are seducing others by a mix of charm, misrepresentation and straight forward deceit. So what is deemed so dishonest as to require the intervention of the criminal justice system? 

However what struck me about this case was the recent news that three undercover police officers had (in more than one sense) penetrated environmental campaigns. The first one exposed was Mark Kennedy who as part of his deception slept with a considerable number of women. Evidence has emerged that the other two adopted similar tactics and deceived activists into having sex. The Telegraph reports:
A 29-year-old member of the group who had a three-month relationship with Officer B in the summer of 2008 told The Guardian newspaper: "I was doing nothing wrong, I was not breaking the law at all.
"So for him to come along and lie to us and get that deep into our lives was a colossal, colossal betrayal."
It does raise the question why the criminal justice system can prosecute Ms Brooks, who I wouldn't be surprised is subsequently showed to be a vulnerable person, but there is no thought of charging these three police officers who have appeared to have considered 'obtaining sexual contact by fraud' as part of their jobs. 

The Guardian has suggested Kennedy's sexual deception could lead to civil actions against the police but do not seem to have consider his, or the other officers, criminal liability,

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Alternatives to the punitive

I used to regularly contribute to the Guardian's Comment is Free and did so again this week in a thread entitled: At least Bob Ainsworth dares to speak about drugs

Whilst on the site I started rereading my previous contributions and thought I would share this one from January 2008

@ BigFaceDog

"What do these young people have to guide them in life? What have faux liberals such as John Moore put in place of what he and his fellow travellers have destroyed? Perhaps one of you can answer that simple question?"

Two responses

I regret I have destroyed very little. We retain a punitive criminal justice system that fails to address the crimes of the powerful (which cause the greatest harms) and focus instead on the powerless and most vulnerable in our society. Criminal justice interventions create more crime than they solve. Politicians follow policies they know will increase the number of victims and then (often successfully) seduce those very victims with tough words and promises of more of the same.
On a personal level what have I tried to create as alternatives?
Well I spent 20 years working directly with men and women leaving prison and forensic mental health services, managing and developing services that enabled them to escape the destructive grip of the penal syste. Services that treated them with respect, helped them access community resources, find housing, get jobs, sort out their money, become integrated into our communities and live ok lives.
I know that there are a couple of hundred women and men living ordinary lives away from prison and contact with the police as a result of that work. They benefited from our efforts to create opportunities for them to become socially included AND as a direct result there are at a guess many thousands of other members of our community who as a result were never victimised.
Its easy to condemn, demand more violence and more pain, but if you want to make things better you have to admit that what works to stop the anti social behaviour of the vast majority of people in our criminal justice system is community based services that facilitate intergration, inclusion and which respects them as fellow members of our society.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Appeal re missing MPS Taser

Spotted this press release from the Met

Appeal re missing MPS Taser

Police are appealing for the assistance of the public in finding a Taser which has fallen from a police vehicle in Lambeth.

An officer from the MPS CO19 Firearms Unit had attended a briefing at a firearms base in Norfolk Row, Lambeth on Tuesday, 7 December, between 0700hrs and 0830hrs.

During the course of preparing the vehicle for operation after the briefing, the officer placed a Taser on the roof of a marked police vehicle. He then drove away from the base with the Taser still on the roof.

At around 1000hrs it was noticed that the Taser was missing. Despite extensive searches, we have been unable to recover the Taser and four cartridges which were with it.

Officers believe the Taser would have fallen from the vehicle in the Norfolk Row area of Lambeth, and almost certainly before reaching Vauxhall Cross where the vehicle stopped for fuel.

We are appealing for anyone with information as to the Taser's whereabouts to call the Metropolitan Police on 0300 123 1212.

The Taser broadly resembles a handgun in shape, but is constructed of bright yellow plastic.

We would ask anyone in possession of the Taser not to handle it, but to call police immediately.

An internal investigation is underway. The Directorate of Professional Standards has been informed. The officer has been removed from operational firearms duty.


No image available overnight.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Student Protests -v- McDonald's Prospects

I was reading up on yesterday's student protests when I noticed the advert the Guardian was running on that page.

UPDATED 2 December

From today's Guardian

Leo Tolstoy

Last month saw the hundredth anniversary of the Russian Novelist Leo Tolstoy.  To celebrate a couple of quotes from his last novel Redemption

And he ran over in his mind the people he knew who were suffering from the activity of the various institutions for the re-establishment of justice, the support of religion and the education of the masses … and he saw with remarkable clarity that all these people had been arrested, locked up or exiled, not in the least because they had transgressed against justice or committed lawless acts but merely because they were an obstacle hindering the officials and the rich from enjoying the wealth they were busy amassing from the people.’ (pp 386-387)

‘there was no man living who was guiltless and therefore able to punish or reform.’ (p. 565)

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Monday, 22 November 2010

Students set up education camp at UWE

Mondays are my long day, with seven hours of teaching from 11am to 6pm I drag myself in at an ungodly hour to ensure I am well prepared for my teaching. Normally come 6pm the University is relatively quiet.   Not today as a group of students had set up camp inside the main communal area Core 24 and establish a free education camp. There were talks and discussions planned for the night mixed up with practical workshops and practical activities like making banners.  The mood was positive and as a student activist from the late 70s and early 80s it warmed my heart to see students refinding the confidence to engage in direct action.  Whilst the focus is clearly the fees increase this is seen in the context of the overall cuts package in education and beyond. 

I left them just after half past seven and I hope they keep going through the night.  There was about 50 students involved and from my experience these actions need to be grown and although they often start with relatively small numbers other students will, once they see others taking action, join and get involved. 

This action is planned as the first in a number with the following planned for later in the week.

  • Tuesday 23 November, 2:30pm: rally with UCU to make some noise for and put pressure on the meeting of UWE’s board of governors.
  • Wednesday 24 November, 11am: national walkout. Meeting with students and lecturers from other colleges and universities in Bristol for a march in the centre.
  • Thursday 25 November, 5:30pm: vote of strong motions against fees and cuts at the AGM of the student union

Hat tip to UWE students + lecturers against the restructure and cuts! Facebook Group

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

London - 6.30pm Friday 18 Nov. 2010 - Remember the Suffragettes

A Suffragette being forced fed in an English prison

A Vigil – Thursday 18th November – 6.30pm, College Green, Westminster.

100 years ago, on 18/11/10, two women were injured and later died because they tried to enter Parliament. They were part of a group of Suffragettes who went to the Houses to demand a debate on the Conciliation Bill, a bill that would have given some women basic voting rights.

Of the 300 who came, 200 women were arrested that day. There were 6000 police. We call it Black Friday.

100 years have passed. Fewer than 1 in 5 MPs are women. Only 1% of the world’s money is controlled by women. For every 10 people displaced by climate change, 7 are women.

We stand in vigil to remember the brave women who fought so we might vote. We stand to show solidarity with women across the world who don’t know justice. We stand for those that can’t.

Join us at 6.30pm on 18/11/10 to remember Black Friday.

Bring a candle, a jamjar, a banner and a veil.

Hear Caroline Lucas MP and Dr Diane Atkinson.

Hat Tip - Climate Rush