Planet Earth by John Gribbin, Book Review

Lincoln Green 

Image © THEBLITZI

An image of earth from space courtesy of NASA illustrates the cover of John Gribbin’s highly readable summary of how our planet originated and has evolved over the past 4.5 billion years.  The image is reminiscent of the iconic 1968 “Earthrise” photograph taken from the Apollo 8 mission, the first view of earth from deep space and a disorienting perspective which reminds us of our place within the universe.  The book is particularly relevant for helping us to live in a manner which consciously apprehends the impact of our activities on our environment and thoughtful reading may help us to dissolve those arbitrary categorisations which separate self from surroundings.  At a time when the British Geological Survey on Shale Gas Fracking, the Bowland Shale Gas Study, has just been released, and when there is considerable discussion regarding the potential exploitation of this resource and its social and environmental impact, the book provides a contextual backdrop which reminds us of the deep intimacy of our integration with our planet.  Its particles and energy comprise our physical being and flow through us.  We are indeed stardust, formed from the ashes of a supernova over distances, volumes and time scales which are barely comprehensible.  The book is of considerable assistance in promoting such comprehension. Read more of this post

Advertisements

The Help to Buy Scam…

Nora Connolly 

Image © IWM

The second part of the government’s mortgage scam, sorry scheme, has been launched. The Help To Buy Scheme aptly illustrates that where there`s a scheme there is usually a schemer. The first phase encouraged homeowners to purchase new builds, around 9,000 properties involved thus far. The second phase is more significant as it makes available £12bn in guarantees to lenders – enough, it believes, to support £130bn of mortgages with the buyer paying a deposit as low as 5%. Ministers have claimed the scheme could guarantee up to 190,000 mortgages a year over three years. The second stage of this proposal includes older properties but excludes the purchasing of a second home and prohibits the buying of property with a view to rent. Participation apparently involves credit checks with “stress testing” factoring in variables such as future adjustments in interest rates. The ultimate “stress test” is of course the loss of a borrower’s job, leading to possible repossession. This potential disaster is addressed up to a point; the government will cover a chunk of the lender`s losses, as 15% of the deposit is provided. Thus socialising the lenders loss and risk while providing no safeguards for the borrower, who face homelessness if they default on the loan. So, it seems where necessary, intervention is possible even when it usurps the great misnomer of our time, the free market (as long as the intervention is designed to protect capital – this great plan sounds familiar). The housing Minister questioned yesterday on the world at one, maladroitly side-stepped the issue of his new found zeal for intervention.   Read more of this post

Review of new pamphlet from the Socialist Education Association

Robin Richardson

Image© Keith Edkins

‘We hold,’ say the Tories and Lib Dems with their actions, though not with their exact words unless behind closed doors, ‘this truth to be self-evident, that human beings are born unequal.’  They continue – again with deeds rather than with explicit policy discourse – along lines such as the following: ‘It is urgent that we should return the education system to the essential role which it always played in the past, which is to prepare children and their parents for inequality, and to accept and appreciate inequality. Those who deserve to prosper will do so, for our desire is simply to set people  free from state intervention and control. Those who do not deserve to prosper, due to their lack of intelligence, energy or aspirations, will be treated with compassion, in so far as resources permit. But basically we say to them, tough, that’s life. In these various ways we are making the world safe for capitalism in its neoliberal variety. Everyone will benefit, of course, even if some do not yet realise this.’ Read more of this post

Love Will Tear the British Union apart…

Nora Connolly 

Image© The Scottish Government

The SNP`s commitment to the principles enshrined in the British post-war settlement appear to be the motivating factor propelling Scotland toward independence. The party which oscillated between the left and the far right during the 1970s is now the party of consensus, promoting a benevolent nationalism whilst campaigning on a progressive social democratic platform. This seems reasonable and persuasive, especially given the SNP propensity to campaign in the poetry of Burns, whilst governing Scotland in the prose of Keynes and Beveridge. Bevan is also close to the SNP leadership’s heart, the Welsh architect of the British NHS. This is then, big tent inclusive nationalism, seemingly devoid of any racial component, anti-English rhetoric or sentiment. After all there is an estimated 400,000 people of English origins living in Scotland with a projected 10% of this cohort supporting the SNP. Of course Scotland is no egalitarian utopia. And while the country may exhibit more social cohesion and solidarity than other parts of the UK, it’s far from perfect and it would be naive to suggest otherwise. If you have ever attended an `Old Firm` game then you will quickly appreciate my point. Read more of this post

The Last English Revolutionary: Tom Wintringham by Hugh Purcell with Phyll Smith: Book Review

Red Lester 

image©KTo288

This biography is an account of the life of a man who now seems to have been forgotten but who lived an eventful and varied life in the first part of the twentieth century. I first came across Tom Wintringham as the inspiration for the character of Spud Wilson in the film The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp. Wintringham was the original of this character, a believer in and teacher of ‘ungentlemanly warfare’, but this was just one aspect of this man; a World War 1 veteran, early member of the Communist Party of Great Britain (CPGB), co-founder of Left Review, International Brigade member, author of anthologised poetry, Picture Post journalist, guerrilla warfare tutor and founder of the Common Wealth political party.  It is a portrait of a man who seemed not to have fitted in. Having been thought to be a bourgeois when a member of the Communist Party, once he had been expelled from the party, he was suspected by the establishment because he had never officially renounced his political loyalties. Read more of this post

EQUALITIES AND ACCOUNTABILITY – THE PUPIL PREMIUM

Bill Bolloten, Sameena Choudry and Robin Richardson 

Image © Chris Ensell

The pupil premium grant (PPG) is a flagship government scheme for schools. Next week it will be praised and celebrated at the 2013 pupil premium awards ceremony organised in partnership with the Department for Education (DfE).

An independent panel of experts has judged which schools have best used the PPG to make a real difference to the attainment of disadvantaged pupils.

However, almost two-thirds of the 48 schools that have been named as regional winners or commended for the awards ceremony have so far failed to comply fully with regulations relating to accountability. Also, about four-fifths of them appear to have ignored or misunderstood the regulations concerning accountability in the Equality Act 2010.

‘Take it and use it as you think fit. But …’ Read more of this post