22 Oct 2011

China Mieville at Brent CCC meeting 17/10/2011

China Miéville lives and works in London. He is three-time winner of the prestigious Arthur C. Clarke Award (Perdido Street Station, Iron Council and The City & The City) and has also won the British Fantasy Award twice (Perdido Street Station and The Scar). The City & The City, an existential thriller, was published in 2009 to dazzling critical acclaim and drew comparison with the works of Kafka and Orwell (The Times) and Phillip K. Dick (The Guardian). The City & The City recently won the British Science Fiction Award and the Arthur C. Clarke Award and was also shortlisted for the Nebula and Hugo prizes.

See for details of China Mieville's books.

China Mieville introduced By Ken Montague. Brent CCC meeting 17/10/11

China Mieville questions and discussion 1. Brent CCC meeting 17/10/11

China Mieville questions and discussion 2. Brent CCC meeting 17/10/11

18 Oct 2011

Shahrar Ali interviewed: Is US Adhering to International Law in Drone Assassinations?

The Agenda: Is US Adhering to International Law in Drone Assassinations? [play, or click image above]. Shahrar Ali, Green Party, joins panel discussion about US drone strikes and assassination, with Robert Oulds (Bruges Group) and Andy Worthington (author).

SA general line: 3.10 "Brings into question accountability for who is making the call, scores of people involved in piloting the drone."

8.05 "Not good enough to say we didn't want those civilian deaths that we brought about. We cannot allow this kind of extra-judicial killing which results in erosion of international human rights around the world."

12.40 "Obama has pursued these tactics to the order of ten times more than his predecessor, assassinating people who have had no opporunity to make their case."

22.40 "There was no mechanism for these individuals to surrender. We have a legal system for a reason, to civilise these Wild West tendencies. Those who commissioned this need to be brought to book."

Also at Youtube.

A WALK IN THE WOODS plus panel discussion: Nuclear Negotiations Now

A WALK IN THE WOODS plus panel discussion: Nuclear Negotiations Now
Thursday 20 Oct, 8pm
Tricycle Theatre

Set in the midst of the Cold War, this powerful and startling play dramatises a stand-off between US and Soviet arms negotiators as they battle for supremacy. Full of tension and humour, the relationship between two experts evolves as they stroll in the woods above Geneva, away from the glare of the negotiating table. But will this escape lead to a true breakthrough or just more posturing?
‘Go to the street. Ask the man: “Do you want to get rid of all nuclear weapons right now?” Of course, he will say yes.
Then ask “Are you willing to give up your country’s power, prestige and predominance in the world?” He will say no.
But the two questions are the same.’

Get £12 tickets (usually £18) when you book online or by phone with the promotional code NuclearNow
Advanced booking only.

Box Office: 020 7328 1000

Plus post-show discussion
Nuclear Negotiations Now

Panellists include:

Dr. Vladimir A. Orlov President of PIR Center, Editor-in-Chief of Security Index journal and a leading expert on international security and foreign policy of the Russian Federation. He has focused his research on threats and challenges to international security, nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation issues.

Dr Randy Rydell
Senior Political Affairs Officer in the Office of Mr. Sergio Duarte, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs at the United Nations.
Previously Senior Counsellor and Report Director of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission (Blix Commission 2005-2006) and Senior Fellow at the Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Jianqun Teng
Director and research fellow of the Centre for Arms Control and International, China Institute of International Studies, a think tank of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Beijing. In the past few years, Dr. Teng has published several dozens of articles on the issues of arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation, in addition to authoring numerous reports and books.

Ambassador Wa'el Al-Assad
Director of Multilateral Relations at the Headquarters of the League of Arab States in Cairo. In 2001 he established the Department of Disarmament Affairs in the Arab League and became its Director. He was also the Director of International Organizations Department in the League since 2000. He has a number of published papers and articles on Security, Disarmament issues and international relations.

A special event in collaboration with WMD Awareness Programme.

16 Oct 2011

Important Notice: Brent Unapologetic about Work on Headquarters at Cost of £102,457,370.00

Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley. Projected Cost = £102,457,370.00. Green Party Freedom of Information Request, information supplied 27 September 2011. (Background)

Wembley Point, a conveniently located and cost-effective alternative for co-locating Council offices?

Important Notice: Brent "Apologises for Any Inconvenience Caused" by Closure of Cricklewood Library

Cricklewood Library, 152 Olive Road, 16 October 2011. 48,786 visits in 2009/10 at cost of £183,700.

Front door.

"SAVE THE LIBERY NOW! We love reading"

Local residents (with permission).

Important Notice: Brent "Apologises for Any Inconvenience Caused" by Closure of Kensal Rise Library

Kensal Rise Library, Bathurst Gardens, 15 October 2011. 45,755 visits in 2009/10 at cost of £186,100.

Kensal Rise Community Library. Information for Users.

Important Notice: Brent "Apologises for Any Inconvenience Caused" by Closure of Neasden Library

Brent Council: "We apologise for any inconvenience caused."

Neasden Library, 277 Neasden Lane, 16 October 2011. 117, 604 visits in 2009/10 at cost of £238,000.

Brent working with Tesco to make a difference.

Brent approves planning permission for Tescos directly opposite Neasden Library, in spite of negative impact on local grocers.

Important Notice: Brent "Apologises for Any Inconvenience Caused" by Closure of Tokyngton Library

Tokyngton Library, Monks Park, Wembley, 16 October 2011. 46,990 visits in 2009/10 at cost of £189,990.

Important Notice: Brent "Apologises for Any Inconvenience Caused" by Closure of Barham Park Library

Important Notice Brent Council: "We apologise for any inconvenience caused."

Barham Park Library, 660 Harrow Road, Sudbury, 16 October 2011. 62,507 visits in 2009/10 at cost of £179,740.

Important Notice: Brent "Apologises for Any Inconvenience Caused" by Closure of Preston Library

Preston Library, Carlton Avenue East, Wembley, 16 October 2011. 95,591 visits in 2009/10 at cost of £176,000.
"Brent! You are interfering in the assimilation of knowledge & learning of the next Generation"

13 Oct 2011

Failed by the High Court: A Sad Day for Brent and Our Libraries

Sketch of Court 2 on 19 July this year, Royal Courts of Justice - The people of Brent versus Brent Council. (S Ali)

Today the People of Brent learned the sad news that they had not succeeded in their High Court battle to overturn the Council's plan to axe half of the borough's libraries (background).

I could sense the anxiety amongst my fellow Brentonians before the judgment was delivered. I reassured my neighbours that we did not know the result yet, but it seemed most of them did not dare believe that we would hear good news today, simply to protect against greater disappointment of a frustrated hope.

The truth is that whilst Justice Ouseley's judgment must be respected for what it is, his written judgment strikes me as a piece of legal casuistry in the main. Of course, points of law must be attended to, but in their attention one is always left with a judgment to make, whether on balance of probability or the spirit of the law as drafted. Even the most impartial observer could be left wondering whether arguments had been won, as opposed to counterassertions (in this case the Council's) simply affirmed by the judge.

The Judgment (Case No. CO/4957/2011) summarises the main pieces of law in contention then itemises the grounds which Justice Ouseley takes to have not been demonstrated in law:

1. Unlawfully ignoring the role which community libraries and groups could play in fulfilling the s7 duties (Public libraries Act 1964)
2. Unlawful failure to consult
3. An unlawful failure to assess needs
4. Breach of the public sector equality duty

However, many of the judgments appear, in reason, to be question-begging:

"I cannot see that it is unlawful for the Council to start the process by warning the groups, as in effect it did, that its approach would be that alternatives had to achieve the same level of savings for the same level of service as the Council's own proposals." (para 77)

But no piece of law is going to circumscribe consultation down to this level of detail. The question is whether this was a fair constraint, to effectively debar solutions that did not conform to a pre-decided lowest common denominator budget.

Later still, the Judge writes: "The Council's approach was entirely consistent with the requirement in s7(2) that the provision of library services by other menas be "appropriate"." (para. 80)

That sounds more like an assertion than an argument.

By some textual anomaly, moreover, the following appears in the introduction without any qualification, simply stated as fact, not as an argument from our side:

"The public consultation had been unfair since the Council had not told the public what it needed to know about the running costs of libraries so that groups could make informed responses in support of voluntary arrangements, and had not been told the basis upon which the Council would appraise their alternative proposals." (para. 4)

Yes, I agree that this is true Justice Ouseley.

Overall, I am bound to say, this was a very disappointing and dispiriting judgment. I salute the people of Brent for bringing this case. My fear now is that Brent Council will feel itself emboldened in this course of action, obviously they will feel vindicated, but the reality is that they have lost the confidence of the people they are meant to serve.

Let the People of Brent unite in their common endeavour to safeguard our community from this assault on our local libraries. We can despair, but we shall also regroup - with the same practical intelligence and determination we have already shown, to find a better way forward.

This is a sad day for Brent; but also a day on which the Citizens of Brent who give a damn about lifelong education and protecting the vulnerable from abandonment should hold their heads up high. Just not in the High Court.

10 Oct 2011

Shahrar Ali on Press TV: analysis of Occupy Wall Street

Topic: Occupy Wall Street [play, or click image above, includes loose transcript]

Shahrar Ali (Green Party) joins a panel of political analysts to discuss the Occupation of Wall Street and growth of popular protest. With Arun Gupta from New York, Founder of Occupy Wall Street Journal and Stephen Lendman from Chicago, author of How Wall Street Fleeces America.

SA's general line: (10.10) These people are representative of the overwhelming mass of Amercians. Rising up in a dignified and civilised fashion, exercising democratic rights in spite of provocation by police.

(18.50) Important because we live in a globalised, international community. This is grassroots politics with a vengeance, its strength is the use of social media to raise consciousness beyond the conventional mechanisms to deal with an economic, environmental and ecological crisis of an unprecedented order. We need to find an economic system which values peoples labour according to what they actually put in.

8 Oct 2011

Brent Helicopter in Pursuit of Man Jumping Over Fence at 0027hrs

The sight of a police helicopter in the Kingsbury residential area. It may not be that visible but it certainly was audible, for almost half an hour in the early hours of the night (0030 - 0100hrs) on 8 October. Scientists and residents are in agreement that rotorblade noise is not pleasant:

"From a psycho-acoustic (human perception) viewpoint, Helicopter noise is not generally perceived as a 'pleasant' noise, and has been rated as 10-15 decibels more annoying than other aircraft noise, for the same reading on a noise meter." (From Helicopter noise coalition)

Helicopter noise is a problem I have been highlighting for some years (Harrow Times letter: 'Time to chop these flights', 28 March 2008). A local questionnaire of residents conducted by Brent Greens picked up concerns parents had with children being woken up at night, to add to the anecdotal evidence. A resident recently pulled me up at a public meeting, "What's happening about all this helicopter noise? It seems to be getting worse."

A timely report in 2006 by the London Assembly environment committee, chaired by Green Assembly Member Darren Johnson, flagged up the growing problem of helicopter noise (London in a spin - a review of helicopter noise). Unfortunately, there seems to be less scrutiny over emergency services' use of helicopters, yet these are invariably able to operate at more anti-social hours and with fewer caps (commercial flights cannot take place after 11pm for example).

I would not doubt the good use to which police helicopters may be put from time to time, but I do think that there must be far greater accountability for their use, and far greater consideration of when to deploy them - on grounds of effectiveness, cost compared to police on the ground and environmental impact. We must begin with a proper public log of the incidents to which they have been called. My fear is that the public would not be impressed - and that the police have cause for embarrassment.

Real time information is very difficult to come by. I have persevered on the switchboards more than once, including last night and am now in a position to share the reason given for last night's police copter scrambling. Reason given:

"Male seen jumping over fence 00.27hrs".

And the reason to abort the search from the skies after half an hour? Quote:

"Helicopter left for refuelling."

This does not strike me as a sufficient reason in the first place to scramble a helicopter with infrared technology. Nor was the man seen jumping over fence found (maybe he heard the copter coming?). What guidance do the police have to follow? This from a police sergeant reporting on an incident in Cheshire earlier this year sounds reasonable:

“Criteria used for evaluating tasks include the risk or threat to life, the length of time since the incident has occurred, if there is a suitable description of the suspects and containment of the scene and if the deployment of the helicopter is proportional to the request." (Sgt Janet Griffiths, £1/2m cost of police helicopter, Warrington Guardian, 22 April 2011)

I question whether helicopter in pursuit of man jumping over fence was a proportionate use of police resources. Instead it would have reliably woken up many residents (perhaps disturbing as many as 10,000 people) at the end of a hard working week for many.

This kind of LA-style police-action-camera-copter-chase nonsense has to stop.