Friday, February 25, 2005

This is no way to win hearts and minds

Moazzam Begg's ">account of the US mistreatment of detainees at Bagram and Guantanamo finds parallels in the court martial findings about assaults carried out by British troops at Basra. In both cases, the supposed liberators and defenders of democratic freedom subjected Muslim detainees - who had not been charged or convicted of any offence - ito the most barbaric and appalling treatment. We, who are supposed to bankroll and support the "war against terror" come what may, were led to believe our forces would uphold international law in the way they conducted themselves. As with so much in what looks increasingly like an illegal, politically inspired adventure, truth and decency has been pushed aside in the service of American foreign policy objectives. Don't forget Blair's duplicity when the election is finally announced.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Although the finding that legal aid should have been available to Helen Steel and David Morris is welcome, it's also pretty much a pyrhic victory as you've got to be virtually penniless to qualify for public funding now.

It would be better if restrictions were placed on corporations bringing libel actions in the first place - after all, this is a relatively new "innovation" that is very damaging to free speech.

McDonalds' victory against Steel and Morris was a crushing blow to the right to protest against the power of multinationals with deep pockets. When the boardroom decides to cry libel, who can stand against them?

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Charles and Camilla - let the joy be unconfined

Just what we need, a royal media splash fest. After years of poking fun at the happy couple, sweetness and light breaks out at the news of the impending nuptials. Oh, and the great arborial conversationalist is now a mature thinker - until the next time one of his sons shows him up, of course; then it'll be back to being an unfit and distant father.

When will the British accept that monarchy - even though it attracts the tourists and looks good on calendars - has had its day. Bring on the Republic!

Better still, sign the petition for a referendum on the future of the monarchy.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

I've just seen the Consultant

Management, that is. Spent two hours yesterday evening being talked at by someone describing himself as a "deep change facilitator". The presentation started, as consultants usually do, with a statement that he knew nothing about the field he'd been retained to work in (education in this case); he then proceeded to talk about his 30 years' private sector experience and how this qualified him to oversee changes to the working lives of teachers.

So why do organisations take on people who delight in the fact that they nothing about their raison d'etre or working practices? It's the Emperor's New Clothes" syndrome: a consultant knows about "change", we're in a mess, therefore we need to change: bingo; or not.

After being told that he was encouraging "thinking outside the box", he then said "deep change can take up to 10 years to embed" (more fees, anyone?) All this was the prelude to being told that things aren't going too well on the "deep change" front at the moment, but not to worry, these things commonly experience a "dip" before you emerge, changed presumably, at the end.

By then, of course, the consultant will be far away, selling his imaginery new clothes and snake oil remedies to another organisation whose management have clutched at the straw that is management consultancy.

Anyone else for re-hashed MBA lecture notes?

Zero-tolerance: a phrase becomes hackneyed

It's much beloved by on-message "new" Labour politicos - as Ruth Kelly showed yesterday in her plea for "zero-tolerance" of bad behaviour in schools, but what the hell does it actually mean, if anything?

Leeds City Council recently announced a "zero-tolerance" approach to litter - with fines of up to £2,500 for business that were found contributing to the mountain of crap on the City's streets. In that case, "zero" was eventually defined as five pieces of litter that could be attributed to the same commercial source. So, that's it then - five is the new zero.

To those of us with memories longer than Ms Kelly's, it seems that "zero-tolerance" has replaced another hackneyed favourite: "we should campaign vigorously" meaning "we should do something, but probably won't".

The trouble is, "zero-tolerance" is dragged into service to castigate the obvious; most people would agree that something has to be done about loutish behaviour in schools, or that the Army shouldn't allow rascist bullying in its ranks - it's the what and the how that causes the problem, that's when "zero-tolerance" is pressed into service as a woolly, one-size-fits-all, non-defined answer.

Don't be coy, Ms Kelly; this is something you could really take a stand on - put an end to zero-tolerance - you know, as Churchill said, why not make it something up with which we will not put.