smhwpf: (Homework)
Campaign Against Arms Trade has a new blog, and I am one of the bloggers! I have just posted there, so I shall kill two birds with one stone by making this my post for the night!

For those who can't be bothered to click, or who would rather comment over here, below is my report of the meeting, which is the bulk of the post.

clicky )
smhwpf: (Treebeard)
In other news, we launched Bristol Campaign Against Arms Trade yesterday (technically two days ago now), with a day-conference.

It went surprisingly well. There were about 24 of us there, as well as two speakers from the national CAAT office in London (including Nick, an old friend from my volunteering days there); there was also a lot of energy and enthusiasm, with people volunteering to do stuff. I mean, apart from the five of us who'd been doing the organising for the day. Reasonably hopeful that there'll be a good few people taking things forward. Oh, and my press release got into the Bristol Evening Post, and there was a photographer from them at the conference, so hopefully some more coverage. Yay me!

The sessions also seemed to go well, and generated interest. We started with Ann from national CAAT talking about CAAT's new campaign, which is highlighting the enormous influence of arms companies within government. The traffic between government and the arms industry - the so-called 'revolving door' - is far greater than any other industry; and the Blair government in particular has created a plethora of 'advisory bodies' within government, composed of civil servants and industry figures, and very few if any outside voices, again far more than is the case for other sectors. The overall effect is that any voice that might come from a different perspective to that of the military-industrial complex is excluded, and the government's interests become very much bound up with those of the industry. Hence (former UK Foreign Secretary) Robin Cook's comment in his autobiography that he had never known Tony Blair to take a decision that would inconvenience BAE Systems.

Then I formally launched the group, God bless her and all who sail in her, emphasising the "target-rich environment" we have in the Bristol area for campaigning, with most of Britain's major arms companies, including BAE and Rolls Royce, having bases in or near Bristol. Then workshops after lunch, I did an "arms trade for beginners session" that seemed to go down well, and then a final plenary when we discussed ideas for campaigning, with quite a lot of people seeming to be up for stuff. There was one UWE student there, but several from Bristol Uni. Anna Stavrianakis (currently the group Secretary - I'm nominally Chair, though that doesn't mean a great deal), who's a PhD Politics student there seemes to have brought along a whole bunch of her students. One of them, T., I also know from ISM circles. He's got a group of eight Bristol students together to go to Palestine in September. Eight! And Bristol has a rep. as a right-wing uni.

Conference over, quite a few of us went on the inevitable pub trip, which later turned into dinner for a subgroup, and after that Paul (my academic colleague and ex-supervisor) and I went back to T. & his friend's house and drank whisky and talked about Educaishon and stuff. They also alerted me to a pub on their street that is about 5-10 minutes walk from mine, and that apparently serves forty-two Single Malt Whiskys. *drools in anticipation*

So, all in all ended up somewhat hungover this morning, but a good day. Hopeful this group might be going somewhere.
smhwpf: (Treebeard)
Well, it's been a busy, and reasonably productive, if rather mixed-up week.

Yesterday, we (ISM Bristol) had a couple of activists talking at the local Palestine Solidarity meeting; they were from two groups of Middle Eastern activists touring Europe under the title of "Marhaba Europe", coming from a collective in Spain called Escanda. (Marhaba means "Hello" in Arabic). Each tour group includes (or is intended to include) a Palestinian activist, an Israeli dissident, a Lebanese activist and a European activist working in the Middle East. We just had two last night; the Lebanese person had visa problems, and Heidi, an ISMer from Germany, was exhausted. They've been touring for a couple of months, just a couple of days in each place. Planning to go on till Easter.

So, we had Saif, a Palestinian ISM co-ordinator who splits his time between Balata refugee camp near Nablus in the West Bank, where he's from, and Spain, where he has residency; I know him from my trip to Palestine earlier in the year; and Itay, an Israeli "refuser", that is who refused military service in Israel, as he did not want to be part of an oppressive occupation of the Palestinian territories.

on the meeting itself )

Of mice and men )

After the meeting, and some food, I had the honour of playing host to Saif and Itay for the night before they went on to their next stop in Birmingham. And guess what they wanted to do when they got back to my humble abode?

Watch Buffy videos! Yay! Saif had only seen up to the end of S3, and Itay had also seen S7 but missed much of the intervening; so we stayed up watching the first four episodes of S4. Saif was staying in the front room, so I think he might have carried on after I went to bed.

It reminded me how much I really want to go back there. Easter. Or summer. Will have to go ahead with that name change. I have decided on Alfred Bickersteth by the way.

This week I'll have had stuff on every evening; Wednesday and Thursday I've already described. Monday evening a group of us met to set up a local Campaign Against Arms Trade group; six of us, all up for doing stuff, which is a darned good start. Looking forward to a launch in the new year, Jan/Feb probably. Tuesday was choir practice (the UWE Singers). Tonight is the dress rehearsal for our concert, which is tomorrow evening at 7.30pm in Bristol Cathedral. We are singing the Bernstein Chichester Psalms which are quite wierd but quite gorgeous too, and Constant Lambert's The Rio Grande which is very swingy and boppy. The orchestra are playing, amongst other things, a Rachmaninov Piano Concerto.

I joined the choir just this term, first time I've been in a choir for several years, and the previous one, which I was in maybe 2.5 years, was my first. I have a reasonable voice, but my sight-singing is poor, and I need a lot of practice. I think I am just about there with these pages, though there are still a couple of dodgy entries. Should be OK. The choir as a whole seems to be coming along nicely with the pieces, though even I am not the weakest link. (When some other people in the bass section want to stand next to me - Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid.)

On which (possibly slightly flat or mistimed) note, I had better be off home and then onto the cathedral.
smhwpf: (Buffyanne)
FAO Any Anarchists (and fellow-travellers) on my flist. The following forwarded email (got it from one of the ISMers I was out with) might be of interest.

forwarded message follows )
smhwpf: (Owl)
I heard a rather interesting item on radio 5 Live this evening. They were interviewing an academic from a team in Ireland who had carried out psychological analyses on a large number of terrorists, specifically Al Qaida suspects, mostly from court transcripts, in some cases I think interviews in prison.

The results whereof are discussed herein )

A good friend of mine at Campaign Against Arms Trade once said to me (during one of our late-night political/philosophical discussions) something like: "If you really want to do good in the world, if you really want to make a difference, then you have to walk on the very cusp of evil." I liked this so much I wrote it into one of my Buffy fics, in relation to Dark Willow, and even Mary-Sue'd my friend into a cameo to say it!

On lighter matters, I acquired Neil Gaiman's two Death Sandman spin-off books today, and have already polished one of them off. (Hmm, lighter matters, books about Death. ;))

Bit of a crazy day tomorrow. Off to London first for CAAT Steering Committee, where I and others will be attempting to turn CAAT from a self-perpetuating oligarchy into a democracy (fun, fun, fun!), then a run to Kings Cross, probably nursing my political wounds, to get the train up to Hitchin for a read-through of Midsummer Night's Dream at [livejournal.com profile] ixwin's, then a coach from Hitchin to Stansted at 3.15am to catch an early plane I foolishly booked up to Edinburgh, en route to my mum's in Dundee.

And it's 2.30am, and I've still got to pack this computer.
smhwpf: (Treebeard)
Well, not substantively, anyway, since Ash Wednesday. Poor show.

Very pleasant weekend at Unite4Peace last weekend - small Christian peace gathering, part of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, through which I know [livejournal.com profile] mirabehn and [livejournal.com profile] evil_nick and how I thereby came to LJ. We were discussing the subject of Community for the weekend, and the three of us gave an input on e-communities, specifically LJ. We well-nigh had the whole group convinced to start LJs!

Stopped off at Roger and Chandra's in Derby on the way back (my ancient friends from Warwick), and they asked me to be one of young Daniel's (their 1-year old) godfathers, which I feel to be a big honour. Steve is the other. He moved to Derby around the time Daniel was born, and he's been their regular babsitter and almost third parent from the beginning, so I feel I have acquired my godfather status rather cheaply! They are having a committment ceremony of some sort (not baptism - they want to leave that up to him) in June.

However I did forget to borrow all of Roger's Sandman books while I was there. I have heard so many people rave about Neil Gaiman here that I felt I really must, and Roger has them all, and I forgot. Most annoying.

Then [livejournal.com profile] andrewwyld's gig with huckle at LSE, which was well cool. Totally crazy, going up to London on a school night. But hey. And I hardy ever go out in Bristol. Something seriously messed up there.

I will now definitely not be going to Palestine at Easter. It was unfortunate - my friend Beccie had been planning it for a while, but hadn't set dates, then my sister decided to get married, and I said that this trip would be happening some time around Easter, but couldn't give exact dates, and it turned out she set the wedding during the planned trip. I could still go, but I'd have to cut the visit short, and the plane fares have got rather pricey, and I wouldn't have been able to be on the block booking. So I decided it wasn't an efficient use of resources - better to wait for another time, hopefully in summer. I'll look into going with the International Solidarity Movement.

I started on a long spiel about the Israel/Palestine issue, but it's getting late, and I've got to be up horribly early, so I saved what I wrote and will continue tomorrow. At any rate, it's been an issue that's increasingly gripped me, and I've wanted to go there for some while - to see for myself, to show solidarity, to be able to tell people what I've seen, possibly to engage in non-violent resistance, which I think is the only thing that has any chance at making a difference there. (If you think Arabs, and Palestinians in particular, don't do non-violence, try reading this .) Hmph. Soon, anyway.

Well, must head for bed. Got this 'orrible cold to shake off, and I'm observing a course colleague on the Academic Development Programme tomorrow morning, meeting her at the ungodly hour of 8.40am. OK, that's quite a Godly hour I guess, I'm the one who keeps ungodly hours. So I'm meeting her at a far too godly hour for my liking. What does that mean anyway, "ungodly hour"? Is God less present at some times than others? What happened to the whole "never sleeping" thing? Whatever.
smhwpf: (Owl)
Well, just finished Brazil, the last of my little SIPRI pieces. :-) (still got to do some referencing. :-() They're much less depressing to write about, they're cutting military spending and seeking influence through trade and moral leadership instead.

Big anti-Bush demo in London yesterday, good to see so many people there - though the weight of numbers meant I didn't even reach Trafalgar Square before having to go off to get the coach back. So missed the toppling. But all very noisy and colourful and good-natured and generally fun.

fairly depressing ramblings on war and Bush etc. )

Anyway, enough of all that. Going to London this weekend, meeting up with various friends, including my old best friend from school who I've not been in contact with ... virtually since we left. (My family moved house from Devon to Scotland in my first year at Uni.) We used to argue politics lot at school, he being a Tory. Also played role-playing games and stuff.Geoff found me at my SIPRI email address with a Google search. So that'll be good, though there's some level of apprehesion of how we'll actually get on after all these years. Still,

After changes upon changes we are more or less the same

Then again there's the question of whether I'll actually be awake when I met him. On which note, better get to bed.
smhwpf: (Owl)
Well, that was catharthic!

They toppled a Bush effigy in the centre of Bristol this evening. Alongside lots of crazy, leaderless impromptu protesting, some of which was good, other aspects I'm not so sure.

No violence. But there was a crowd of people, while we were waiting for the cameras to turn up to film the toppling, just decided to sit in the road and hold up the traffic. Mostly buses. People going home from work.

Now, I'm all for disruption in the right circumstances, but to my mind you ought to be disrupting people you actually want to disrupt. I mean if it was a Reclaim the Streets protest or something, then the object is to obstruct traffic, so OK. Or if you're obstructing delegates to an arms fair, or if you were obstructing the routet of Bush's cavalcade, then yeah, that's actually got some point to it. But in a primarily anti-war protest, what the heck is achieved by obstructing random punters? It's not them we're protesting against! It seemed to be a case of 'we're doing it because we can'. That is, a show of power for the sole purpose of demonstrating that we have that power. Er, isn't that exactly the sort of thing we're supposed to be against?

I did actually remonstrate with some of the people in the road at one point, to no effect. But anyway, there was lots else going on, a Samba band and I think it was the Sheffield Socialist Choir (sounded like), so all fun. And then the toppling, which was noisy and raucous. And possibly just a little hate-filled. They dismembered the Bush effigy and set fire to bits of it. And I can't say I didn't enjoy it. Just not sure if I should be enjoing it. (Catholic!) And the ensuing chant...

George Bush, George Bush, George Bush
Is on fire!
We don't need no water,
Let the motherfucker burn!
Burn, motherfucker, burn!

Again, hmmm...

Then there was the impromptu demo. I decided that was Ok and joined it. Yeah, blocking the road again, but to a purpose, to demonstrate and carry the protest around the city. Seen by lots of people, and only transiently obstructing traffic. Different kettle of fish from sitting down in the road purely to block people, when you could be standing in the main protest off-road.

Anyhows. Round the ring-road we went, and then up towards the M32 out of Bristol. As we neared the M32, again a group of people decided to sit down in the lane going in the other direction, and obstruct the traffic jam. But after a while, the march started up towards the M32, and I decided to turn around and go home. Exact wrong direction for me, and I wanted to see the Scotland match. (And don't I wish I hadn't?)

Some people in the traffic queue behind asked what was going on, and while one was really pissed off, another sounded pleased that it was an anti-war demo.

Holy Mother of God, 4.30am. Bleah. Slept for a few hours this evening (sorry, last night now!), due to short night last night, then spent a few hours on the web digging out Brazilian military expenditure. But thought I should post before retiring!

Ah well, to bed, and more Bush topplage tomorrow in London!

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