Friday, August 31, 2012

Allowing schools to mark their student's "coursework" is a scam

Watching Newsnight, I was surprised to learn that GCSEs are taught on a modular basis.

Isn't this a scam?

Cramming for one module, getting through the exam, then abandoning everything you have learned while you move onto the next topic cannot be a legitimate way of studying a subject and completely negates any possibility of knowledge integration where each part of a course interacts in the student's mind so that a much deeper level of understanding is achieved and is tested at the end of the course - especially important in humanities subjects.

I also think allowing schools to mark their student's "coursework" is a scam.

If modules and internal marking of coursework have become standard in state schools then no wonder we have seen year on year grade inflation for the past quarter century.

Also no-one has mentioned the possibility of marking the January students down as a way of achieving parity - this is just as valid an argument as the clamour to mark the June students upwards.

Sainsbury's














Very impressed by this Sainsbury's mailshot.

Not only money-off vouchers but a compelling list of why you should do your shopping at Sainsbury's:  supporting farmers, Fairtrade products, sustainable fishing, animal welfare, donations to the Woodland Trust.

The ethical case is overwhelming.
The Review Show is looking at Zadie Smith's new novel NW this evening.

I hope they are going to consider whether it contains unacceptable examples of chav caricatures (as in the Martin Amis novel Lionel Asbo).

Allocating positions in the elite

Writing on the website of the new think tank CLASS, Independent writer Owen Jones bemoans the fact that 4,000 school pupils have been awarded a "D" grade English GCSE whereas before the crackdown on grade inflation they could have expected a "C" grade.

http://www.classonline.org.uk/blog/item/our-young-people-deseve-a-secure-future1

Does he really think the best interests of those young people are served by pretending they have achieved more than they have?  Does he also think it is good for the country that young people are given access to taxpayer-funded sixth-forms and apprenticeships on the basis of dodgy qualifications?  Only the first paragraph of the article is worth reading, the rest of it is left-wing gush.




















Writing in the Guardian on Tuesday Peter Wilby tells us that examinations are just "rationing devices" to allocate "university places and positions in elite professional occupations".

The whole point of the education system should be to transmit the British interpretation of Western culture from one generation to the next.

If it fails to achieve this wider objective (and there are grounds for thinking that the state schools have failed - totally failed) then there is little point in concentrating on the narrow objective of allocating positions in the elite.

All that will happen is that we will get an elite culturally ignorant, self-serving and self-obsessed.

Or has this already happened?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/26/gove-battle-against-higher-grades 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Is Kevin Pietersen what is known as a "plastic Briton"?

Is that why he was disloyal to the English team?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Thought for the Day by the Reverend Angela Tilby on Radio 4

Alarming Thought for the Day by the Reverend Angela Tilby on Radio 4 this morning.

Alarming because in her attack on the philosopher Ayn Rand she told the BBC audience that the religious education she (Angela Tilby) personally received when at school taught "equality".

I am not a priest, but I do not know of any part of the Bible where equality is the recommended dogma for life on this earth, so despite Angela Tilby's canonical elevation one has the unsettling feeling that here is yet another Anglican priest who does not seem to know the Scriptures.

Also the Reverend Tilby, in discussing Ayn Rand, failed to mention that the Russian-born philosopher was an atheist from a Jewish cultural background, and therefore whatever her philosophical outlook it was always unlikely to have been a perfect match with Anglicanism.

Ayn Rand experienced at first hand a socialist society (in Soviet Russia) and knew far more about the practical and lethal implementation of "equality" than the Reverend Angela Tilby, in her rarefied Oxbridge world, ever will - there was no acknowledgement of this in Rev Tilby's broadcast.

This is not to defend Ayn Rand's Objectivism per se - an atheist philosopher cannot see more than a partial glimpse of the truth about society ("if you turn your back on the light you will follow a shadow"). 

This is to defend her cogent philosophy against what can only be described as an ignorant and opportunist attack (albeit an ignorant attack expressed in well-modulated Oxbridge tones).

Monday, August 27, 2012

King Arthur's sleeping knights















Dreary rainy Bank Holiday Monday.  After lunch of cold beef (the remains of yesterday's joint), boiled potatos and peas I drove thirty miles to a village on the other side of the county.  Just as I arrived the sun came out (briefly).

Mysterious mounds in a pasture indicate the medieval village was considerably larger than the present hamlet - the grass too wet and waterlogged for me to look at the site properly.















In the church porch were two medieval recumbent effigies, the purpose of my visit.  The knights were both in armour from the early 14th century.  The one on the left (above) had around his head a cusped and crocketed canopy with angles either side.















The one on the right in superb chain-mail.

Various local stories surround the figures, none of them likely to be true - they were two brothers who went off to the crusades; they were local landowners who fought a duel in which they both died; they are part of King Arthur's sleeping knights.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Palmalito marmalade




















A friend returning from Florida gave me this jar of American Palmalito marmalade.  Different to English marmalade, it has a fresh and intensely sweet taste - very enjoyable.  Looking at the ingredients I noticed it contains the infamous corn syrup (which I think is banned as a food additive in the European Union).

Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulkes

















I am currently reading Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulkes.

This is another of the books I bought about ten years ago and am now only just getting round to reading.

Charlotte Gray is very disappointing.  I have been ploughing through it for nearly three weeks which for me is a long time to be stuck with a book.  The first sections in London and during the training are quite interesting, but once the scene switches to France it resembles a literary bread-pudding (everything mixed up together and so heavy that I feel it is giving me indigestion). 

Digressions are everywhere, including what seem to be irrelevant soliloquies on the nature of art, the upbringing of children etc.  There is also a ridiculous section of dialogue where a group of people discuss the imposition of new laws in occupied France as if reading aloud from a very dull history book.  The love scenes are wooden. 

The characters seem one-dimensional - the good characters are all good, the bad characters are all bad (completely at variance with what must have been the complex reality of France under occupation).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Several people already seemed sozzled - the past week at work

Monday

Check-up at the dentist.  I took the whole day off work (holiday) as I wanted to do my tax return.  But after I returned home from the dentist I just spent the rest of the day reading and looking at the television.

Tuesday


Heavy queues of traffic so that I was half an hour late getting to the office.  New temp Donna was on Reception so it seems Kyla has gone.  The whole morning wasted replying to e-mails.

Lunchtime the Institute's Director, Vijay Singh, took everyone to a local hotel for drinks to celebrate his one year anniversary of taking over the Institute.  Deputy Director Lois Cooper, who is very ill with cancer, was also there - the first time I had seen her since she was taken ill.  The hotel bar gloomy and cavernous, and completely without any atmosphere.  Conversation stilted, and the only person who seemed animated was Vijay Singh.  He told us he had "seen off" Alec Nussbaum (who had attempted to "merge" the Institute into his department).  It is unlikely however that Alec Nussbaum will be so easily deflected.

When we returned to the office the management meeting was held.  Vijay Singh was presented with a gift - a baseball bat to symbolise his macho style of management.  He swung the bat around and said (jokingly) "Now where's Mr Nussbaum".

The actual meeting was very general and nothing serious was discussed.

Wednesday

Time seems to be passing so slowly it feels as if this month is stretching into an age.

I struggled to complete the Competition Analysis report.  I discussed the document with Vijay Singh, wanting to prepare him for the lack of any real data to support the argument.  He was in a good mood and told me that the Institute had a new donor which will reinforce our independence from Head Office.

Thursday

In the morning a meeting to discuss Competition Analysis.  I presented my report and to my relief it was received well.  Later I told Marcia Walsh the meeting had gone far better than I expected.

I stayed in the office until 7.30, as it was the day of the office Summer Party and there was no time to go home.

This year the Summer Party was a dinner held at a local hotel (the same one we had gone to on Tuesday), paid for by the Institute.  Rain falling as I parked my car and went into the bar where I found everyone had gathered.  The drinks were free, so several people already seemed sozzled (IT clerk John Johnson especially). 

At the dinner, held in the hotel restaurant, I sat next to Mrs Singh.  The food was good, but small portions.  At the riotous end of the table (well away from me) the office juniors were throwing things at each other.

After the meal we sat in the bar which had become very crowded.  Mrs Singh talked about the land her family had lost when they had fled into India from the new creation of Pakistan.  I stayed until 11.30 and then left.

Friday

Several people had taken the day off, so the office was quiet. 

Friday, August 24, 2012





I'm afraid I find Jon Snow's attempts at cheer-leading for the Paralympics very leaden.

Is this the best Channel 4 can do?

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/jon-snows-paralympic-show

Invest more in the programme

Watching Press Preview on Sky News last night, I do wonder why they do not invest more in the programme so that they can benefit from the audience that has watched Newsnight and would be ready to switch over to another serious news programme.

They should bring the time forward by ten minutes to about 11.20 and have a higher calibre of guests (yesterday they just had Carole Malone and Bonnie Greer, both of whom spouted low-brow anodyne nonsense opinions).

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The "Prince Harry naked" story

On several levels the "Prince Harry naked" story is occupying a prominent place in the media.

My first reaction was that this is a non-story - you could look at the Facebook page of almost any British person aged in their teens or twenties and see similar pictures. 

Equally the issue of press freedom (the pictures have not been published in the United Kingdom) seemed to revolve more around the imminent publication of the Leveson Inquiry than any issue of reverential self-censorship.

However the story has featured on last night's Newsnight (BBC 2) and this morning's Today programme (BBC Radio 4) so it seems there must be a more serious aspect to the story that people are groping for.

It occurs to me that we may be seeing a manifestation of atavistic ideas about the line of succession in general and the third in line to the throne in particular.  In the past monarchs had to be physically perfect, and disabilities of any kind tended to disqualify princes from succession.  The middle-aged gushing of Vanessa Feltz on Newsnight yesterday, as well as more general hysteria on overseas websites, indicates that Prince Harry is physically flawless (and few people can visually survive candid naked snaps unless they are genuinely photogenic).

So in terms of the monarchy as "divine" (perfect people were a sign of divine blessing); the Royal Family as warlords (a military leader had to have a demonstrably strong physique); and the monarchy as a guarantor of stable government (princes in the line of succession had to be capable of reproducing) the Prince Harry naked story seems to be reviving ancient and long-dormant ideas about the role and validity of the monarchy.

And as a postcript to this theory, I noticed that Sam Wollaston in a Guardian television review of a Channel 4 documentary (The Queen's Mother in Law http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2012/aug/21/the-queens-mother-in-law ) felt obliged to jeer at the in-bred nature of royal families, as if the mental instability this produces is grounds for shame and disqualification - it is unusual that someone as left-wing as Sam Wollaston should (presumably unintentionally) express quasi-medieval ideas about the need for royal perfection, and it seems an especially insensitive thing for him to have said on the eve of the London Paraolympic Games in which people with mental disabilities have been readmitted after a period of expulsion.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Daily Mirror article by Mark Ellis about nearly a million NEET young people.

I would be interested to see how many of this million are alumni of comprehensive state schools.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/city-news/neets-number-of-young-people-not-1274758?utm_medium=twitter&utm_source=twitterfeed

The 2015 election

Very interesting discussion earlier today:

  • The 2015 election will be decided by what the government projects itself as being in the course of doing as much by (or more than) what they have actually achieved.
  • Low interest rates are key - in an effort to help the 8% unemployed do not forget the 92% who are employed (and maybe try a campaign emphasising the high status of manual labour).
  • Big society concept has barely begun to tap into the national reserves of idealism - has the potential to reform society in terms of mutual aid.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan's choice of clothes




















Features writer Hadley Freeman devotes a whole page of the Guardian's G2 section to talking about American Vice-Presidential candidate Paul Ryan's choice of clothes.

In her list of possible reasons why he dresses "badly" she misses out the obvious one - that he isn't vain about his appearance.

The Guardian, we should remember, cheered through three elections Tony Blair and his hyper-tight trousers and carefully mediated appearance.  Mrs Blair even had a personal style guru installed at 10 Downing Street.  The Guardian, via the features of Hadley Freeman, presumably prefers to judge politicians by style not substance.

Also in Hadley Freeman's feature she refers to Rev Giles Fraser's attack on Ayn Rand as being irreligious.  Are Rev Fraser and Ms Freeman suggesting that Ayn Rand's atheism invalidates all her work?  This reminds me of Antonia White's schooling where she was not allowed to own, read, or even refer to, any book that was not written by a self-professedly Catholic author.

Is not the real reason for this frivolous sort of feature the fact that the left has so far not been able to land any serious blows on Paul Ryan, and that he is beginning to alarm them?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/20/paul-ryan-republican-dresses-badly?newsfeed=true

http://www.washingtonpost.com/lifestyle/style/ryan-and-romney-a-contrast-in-sartorial-styles/2012/08/14/da09ea70-e642-11e1-8f62-58260e3940a0_story.html

Tim Soutphommasane's vision of a more "patriotic" Labour Party


















(https://twitter.com/RachelReevesMP )


Shadow Treasury Minister Rachel Reeves appears to be endorsing Tim Soutphommasane's vision of a more "patriotic" Labour Party - reported in a New Statesman article by George Eaton http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/politics/2012/08/ns-profile-tim-soutphommasane











The article points to the Olympic Opening Ceremony as providing a catalyst for a new nationalist interpretation of the Labour Party in the United Kingdom.

In many ways the adoption of a more "patriotic" policy would solve several problems for the Labour leadership.  An emphasis upon "Britishness" would outmanoeuvre the nationalist parties in Scotland and Wales (probably essential if the Labour Party is to have a long-term future).  It would also marginalise the hard-line socialist members of the Labour Party who oppose the party's metamorphosis into a more social democratic model.

However Australian society is not the same as British society, and what worked in the antipodes is unlikely to work here.  For instance, there appears to be no meaningful class structure in Australia to intrude into definitions of "patriotism".  Also, Australians have a myth of everyone, rich or poor, being equal immigrants into an "empty land" (myopically ignoring the genocidal extermination and repression of the original inhabitants).

In the United Kingdom there are already well-established myths that will not be easily overturned.

But Rachel Reeve's endorsement indicates the proposals are probably also endorsed by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.

PS I know the supposed difference between patriotism and nationalism, but I regard the differentiation as false - when most people say "patriotism" today they mean nationalism.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Identity politics by writer and philosopher Julian Baggini in today's Guardian


















Article about identity politics by writer and philosopher Julian Baggini in today's Guardian.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/19/white-cliffs-of-dover

The language used is moderate and the tone is friendly.  A casual reading reveals nothing particularly remarkable, and if anything the article appears to be a little bland.  Julian Baggini's establishment status as "writer in residence to the National Trust" confers upon his thoughts an aura of respectability. 

However there are two points in this seemingly harmless piece that should cause us concern.

In the seventh paragraph Julian Baggini tells us "we are a nation of immigrants", and in the eighth paragraph he expands "go back far enough and all of us can trace our ancestry to the other side of the water".

On the surface this seems to be a statement of the obvious - go back far enough and we can all trace our ancestry to the Rift Valley; go back even further and we can all claim kin with our far distant protozoa forebears.

The reason the "we are all immigrants" statement must be challenged is because it is an argument that has been repeatedly used in history by one group of people to dispossess another.

Most infamously, it was the offical doctrine of racist and apartheid South Africa.  Drawn up by Dr DF Malan, codified by HF Verwoerd and ruthlessly implemented by BJ Vorster, apartheid was based on the stupendous lie that Afrikaners and "bantus" had arrived in South Africa at more or less the same time, that everyone was an immigrant and that therefore no one group had any indigenous rights to the land.  Based upon this rewriting of history "separate but equal" development of different ethnic cultures became the official policy, although in reality it was not even remotely equal but heavily biased in favour of the Afrikaner immigrants.

You might think that this is a very extreme comparison to make, indeed so extreme that it has no relevance to the United Kingdom in 2012.

But the "we are all immigrants" phrase is a mantra that is gaining increasing currency, and is used to justify post-war mass immigration. 

The people who are going to lose out to unrestricted migration are those communities who depend upon communal assets.  Typically this is going to be the white working class - the indigenous majority who have chief title to the British Isles.  Derided and abused as "chavs", poorly educated and inarticulate, increasingly denied welfare benefits or assisted housing, they are paupers waiting to be decanted and "shovelled out" of the cities into what are effectively bantustans (Stoke on Trent).

Personally I am not affected by all this.  I have sufficient wealth and education to qualify for the professional elite.  But I must protest at the way the United Kingdom is being turned into an offshore international tax haven where the only people who have any rights are those who have the money to pay for them.

If I wanted to be part of a smug self-satisfied multi-cultural multi-ethnic professional elite served by a faceless transient army of peons I would move to Dubai.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

An article by political editor Toby Helm discussing research carried out on behalf of think tank British Future


















Also in today's Observer was an article by political editor Toby Helm discussing research carried out on behalf of think tank British Future, arguing that the "multi-ethnic" nature of British Olympic medallists reveals a nation "at ease".

If this were true it would be a cause for celebration.

However there are elements of this research, and the interpretation of it, that raise important questions.




















Director of British Future, Sundar Katwala, tells us that a third of the British medals were won by people from migrant communities, and then qualifies this statement by saying "there were almost no British Asian team members".  I have not seen a breakdown of medallists by ethnic origin, but presumably he is actually saying a third of British medals were won by black people of African or Afro-Caribbean heritage.  According to the 2001 census (the latest figures we have) the black community represents 2% of the population.

So how is it possible for 2% of the population to win 33% of the medals?

Either Sundar Katwala is implying that black people have a genetic ability to do well at Olympic sports (which enters very dangerous Bell Curve territory, as a genetic tendency to perform positively in some areas must also indicate a genetic possibility to behave negatively in other areas).

Or Sundar Katwala is implying that black people are no different to the rest of the population, and their Olympic achievements are simply a result of realising their potential (in which case one is bound to ask why, given the huge sums of money necessary to develop Olympic champions, has two per cent of the population received such staggeringly disproportionate amounts of money and who in the political class authorised this expenditure and what was their motive in doing so).

Personally I think the left would be best advised to drop the argument that the Olympics has anything useful to tell us about society. 

British socialism cannot be nationalist




















One week after the conclusion of the London 2012 Olympic Games, and a large article appears in today's Observer by Tim Soutphommasane, described by the Guardian as "Ed Miliband's new political guru".

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/aug/19/labour-guru-olympics-milband?newsfeed=true

However, I think Tim Soutphommasane misunderstands the socialist culture of large sections of the British Labour Party.  British socialism cannot be nationalist, it is too committed to an internationalist world view.  While the Blairite faction might be persuaded by Tim Soutphommasane, is it likely that activists such as Owen Jones would embrace a policy of nationalism? (throughout the Olympic Games the most partisan statement on his Twitter site was a line saying Yorkshire was doing fairly well in the medals table).


Saturday, August 18, 2012

Trip Gabriel and Helene Cooper reporting a Paul Ryan speech in Florida




















Also in the New York Times is an article by Trip Gabriel and Helene Cooper reporting a Paul Ryan speech in Florida. 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/19/us/politics/in-defending-medicare-plan-ryan-speaks-on-caregiver-role.html?hp

Earlier on Dateline London (BBC News 24) Gavin Esler said Paul Ryan had "set the campaign alight".

Henry Chu (Los Angeles Times) said Paul Ryan "has very strong intellectual credentials".

Agnes Poirier (Marianne) had nothing to say about Paul Ryan, which reinforced my suspician that she is not a serious journalist.

Zadie Smith's new novel NW




















Reading a excerpt of Zadie Smith's new novel NW in the Guardian Review section, there appears to be a chav-hate caricature:  "in the estate a grim girl on the third floor screams Anglo-Saxon at nobody... Fag in hand.  Fleshy, lobster-red... the girl's burnt paunch rests on the balcony... silly fat bitch..."

Very late getting back to the office - the past week at work

Monday

Another visit to Head Office.  The traffic was so bad getting to the mainline train station (about twenty miles from my house) that I realised I would be late.  Once I got to Kings Cross I rushed to the tube.

At Head Office I went into a very large meeting called to discuss internet strategy.  I sat next to Nancy C who was absurdly politically correct.  Afterwards I was asked into a smaller meeting to discuss some of the proposals in detail.

It was a good visit, and I felt as if a lot of progress had been made.

I travelled back to the office on the same train as Accounts Manager and Acting Deputy Director Marcia Walsh - we had a wary conversation that avoided any direct exchange of facts.

At the office I felt as if I had been away for weeks, instead of just the weekend.

Criticism of the Institute has appeared on a website - I wrote a riposte stressing our non-aligned position and impartial standpoint.

In the afternoon a meeting with Marcia Walsh and Institute Director Vijay Singh to discuss the internet strategy.

Tuesday

All the morning I spent writing an article.

I thought about remarks Marcia Walsh had made on the train yesterday.  The IT officer for the Institute, John Johnson, is obviously accessing the computers of managers.  So far he has not been challenged about this.  Marcia Walsh is unsure whether he is just being nosey or is working for someone (Alec Nussbaum!).  As John Johnson is not terribly bright nor particularly discreet I think it is unlikely he is spying on behalf of someone else.  Even so, it is unsettling to think I am being watched.

At lunchtime graphic designer Joey took me to lunch (obviously a bribe to keep giving him work, although he does not need to bribe me, I would give him the work anyway).  We went to an Italian restaurant and had four courses.  Very late getting back to the office - I had been away two and a half hours.

Wednesday

A big tin of Quality Street has appeared on Reception, everyone helping themselves.

John Johnson complaining to Receptionist Kyla about grey hair ("I've got more grey hair than my Dad").  None of his hair looked grey to me.  Kyla looked through his hair like a capuchin monkey grooming a mate.

More criticism of the Institute on two websites.  Vijay Singh worried about who was behind it.  I told him not to worry.

I finally finished the article and e-mailed it to the magazine - I wonder how it will be received.

Thursday

My birthday, and deliberately low-key. 

Friday

I "worked at home" today, a euphemism for another of the Institute's activities.

Intense, but soon done.

Gradually my sense of time and place returned to me.

I felt very tired, and after a cup of coffee the three of us slumped in chairs and waited.

Terrible violence against migrants in India




















Report by Jim Yardley on the New York Times website of terrible violence against migrants in India (particularly Assam).

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/18/world/asia/panic-radiates-from-indian-state-of-assam.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&hp

So much for diversity and multi-culturalism.

For some reason the BBC has not reported this story.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Double page















Double page spread in today's Guardian on why Paul Ryan is not going to be an important factor in the American election.

Ewen MacAskill in Washington, Richard Luscombe in Miami, and Ana Marie Cox (located unstated).

The double-page allocation rather undermines their argument.

It's a case of protesting too much (to quote Hamlet).

Not completely sure why I like Paul Ryan, but I like him a lot (even from this distance).

Britannia Unchained — Global Growth and Prosperity

Disappointing article in the Evening Standard reporting five members of Parliament (Kwasi Kwarteng, Priti Patel, Dominic Raab, Chris Skidmore and Elizabeth Truss) saying that British people are too lazy compared to workers in third world countries.

You can see the article:  http://www.standard.co.uk/news/politics/tackle-lazy-britain-fellow-tories-tell-david-cameron-8056787.html

Apparently they advance this theory in a book entitled Britannia Unchained — Global Growth and Prosperity.

The logical conclusion of globalisation is that British people will ultimately have to accept third world conditions and salaries or else be unemployed.  The only exception to this is if you can protect your occupation by membership of a closed shop of some kind (MPs for instance).  At the moment unemployment benefits are better than the globalised conditions and salaries on offer for unskilled people, which is why increasing numbers are preferring to take the benefits they are entitled to rather than participate in the humiliating race to the bottom that is currently taking place in the unskilled labour market.

No point in expecting the trade unions to campaign against this as they are ideologically wedded to the idea of unrestricted importation of third world labour.

It is worth pointing out to members of Parliament (all parties) that the globalisation policies of the last twenty years do not have a democratic mandate from the people (I'm disregarding the small print politicians are so fond of pointing to).

Is Mr Dromey not capable of understanding the link

Jack Dromey MP is complaining about the housing crisis ("Day after shock CLG statistics on falling housebuilding").

Is Mr Dromey not capable of understanding the link between the current shortage of affordable housing and the Labour government's policy that allowed migration to boost the United Kingdom's population by several millions during the period 1997 to 2010?

Or does he think the migrants just stay here 9 to 5 and commute back to Poland each evening?

This is the Shadow Minister who intends "to put housing 'centre stage' at next election":  http://www.guardian.co.uk/housing-network/video/2012/jun/11/jack-dromey-labour-shadow-housing-minister-video

Anniversary of the birth of Marcus Garvey in 1887

Today is the anniversary of the birth of Marcus Garvey in 1887.

Some Garvey quotes we should all be able to agree with:


A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.

The cry is raised all over the world today of Canada for the Canadians, of America for the Americans, of England for the English, of France for the French, of Germany for the Germans - do you think it is unreasonable that we, the Blacks of the world, should raise the cry of Africa for the Africans?

The mighty forces of the world are operating against the non-organized groups of people, who are not ambitious enough to protect their own interests.

We have a beautiful history, and we shall create another in the future that will astonish the world.

Nationhood is the highest ideal of all peoples.

The masses make the nation and the race. If the masses are illiterate, that is the judgment passed on the race by those who are critical of its existence.

Slavery is a condition imposed upon individuals or races not sufficiently able to protect or defend themselves, and so long as a race or people expose themselves to the danger of being weak, no one can tell when they will be reduced to slavery. 

There was a statue to Garvey in the now-closed Willesden Green Library
Ian Lavery MP is complaining that 7,394 charities have closed over the last twelve months.

Is it legitimate to ask how many of those charities were genuine social enterprises and how many were just cosy sinecures for Labour activists bunged public money to support them while they carried out New Labour's programme.

Sorry if that sounds cynical.
If I were advising the government on PR I would recommend making school playing fields a Big Society initiative, with voluntary trusts organised and supported to safeguard school sports facilities from short-sighted Head Teachers tempted to sell them off (and I am disappointed that no-one in the Department of Education has emphasised that in almost all cases it is the TEACHERS who have proposed selling particular playing fields, not the government of the day).

"A life not worth living"

Personally I find the idea of assisted suicide disgusting, and I resent the over-emotional way one extreme case is being hyped-up in the media.

Do the apologists in favour of assisted suicide (Suzanne Moore twitter.com/suzanne_moore comes to mind) not stop to think what the logical result is going to be once the official taboo against murder is broken?

Once you accept that there is a standard of "a life not worth living" then you are in a relativist position where that standard can be redefined to suit personal or political expediency.

That is not a society any of us would like to live in.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Paul Ryan is the only candidate on offer, anywhere




















In today's Guardian Martin Kettle writes about Paul Ryan in a major article.

Read the article:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/15/paul-ryan-mitt-romney?INTCMP=SRCH

Also see:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/aug/16/paul-ryan-ayn-rand-admirer

Some lines from the Martin Kettle piece:

One out of four presidents has died in office.

...the focused, intelligent and powerful Ryan...

...reduction of income tax to two rates - 10% and 25%.

But I disagree with Martin Kettle that the American election will not have any influence elsewhere in the western world.

I have tried to visualise the electorate (both Britannia and Europa although it is probably the same for America) as a single person and attempt to surmise what that person might say.

The image that returns repeatedly to my mind is Catherine Zeta-Jones as Eustacia Vye on the summit of Egdon Heath crying out: 


“O deliver my heart from this fearful gloom and loneliness; send me a great love from somewhere, else I shall die, truly I shall die.”

The people want a strong and confident leader, and Paul Ryan is the only candidate on offer, anywhere. 



The wild flowers have changed

I am not at work today - it is my birthday and I am having a quiet day at home.

Earlier, in the peace of the afternoon sunshine, I walked the dogs three miles along an unfrequented lane.

As usual, I looked at the wild flowers on the roadside.















Above:  the banks of the ditches are covered in convulvulus.

















Above:  white convulvulus, also known as Field Bindweed.















Above:  convulvulus with a subtle pink stripe.
















Above:  clumps of Achillea millifolium or Common Yarrow - the leaves are eaten as a boiled vegetable locally.
















Above:  poppies among the corn.

















Above:  a large thistle with the mauve flowers just beginning to come out.

Every time I walk along this lane the wild flowers have changed.

It is a reminder of how beautiful the natural world can be.  All this would be at risk if GM crops were allowed to go forward.  And yet this ever-changing show is the free heritage of all of us ("Bell notes alone ring praise of their own, As clear as the weed-waving brook and as evenly flowing").
Headlines just now on BBC News 24 - Julian Assange claiming asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy, followed by news of someone with "locked-in" syndrome.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Racist aside












In an article on the Guardian website today Jon Neale, Director of Research at Jones Lang LaSalle made a racist aside slighting "Little Englanders" and their "cultural preference". 

In his insulting, blinkered and roundabout way he has, perhaps unwittingly, drawn attention to a serious point - traditional family life cannot survive without traditional family homes with gardens.  Cramming families into rabbit-hutch flats leads to inter-family conflict, neurotic behaviour and family breakup.  This is exactly the kind of "churn" in property ownership that estate agents thrive upon, so you cannot expect someone like Jon Neale to be opposed to it.

The article:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/housing-network/2012/aug/15/2011-census-housing-numbers

More about Jones Lang LaSalle, which seems to be the usual predatory real estate company providing services to fat cats:  http://www.joneslanglasalle.co.uk/unitedkingdom/en-gb/Pages/Home.aspx










Why are Labour Members of Parliament fasting for Ramadan?

Have they become Muslims or is it just a cynical ploy to appeal to the block vote?

A new and unexpected development






One rather thinks that Marcus A Roberts, Deputy General Secretary of the left-leaning Fabian Society, is being disingenuous by circulating this comment about Paul Ryan.

If he genuinely believed that the Paul Ryan appointment was "poison" presumably he would be quietly pleased, keep quiet about it, and let the "poison" have its effect.

The fact that he, and left-wing writer Sunny Hundal, and the others involved in this conversation are publicly trying to "warn" the American Republican Party that they have made some kind of mistake indicates that the British left is alarmed for some reason.

As Paul Mason pointed out on Newsnight yesterday, in a political landscape bereft of original thinking (in the United Kingdom and in Europe as well as in America) the appearance of a political leader able to generate new ideas as well as having the charisma to communicate them and a platform to get attention - this is a new and unexpected development.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Michael White's article about Paul Ryan







Two paragraphs from Michael White's article about Paul Ryan in today's Guardian.

The words "conviction politician" stand out.

Sincerity wins elections - even Margaret Thatcher's bitterest opponents respected her sincerity.

Unfortunately privatisation has not worked



















Discussion on the Guido Fawkes microblog on what should be done with the railway network.

Privatisation in the late 1990s was botched.  Both parties were to blame for this.  The Conservatives rushed weak legislation through before an election they knew they would lose; Labour allowed the newly privatised rail companies to flounder without support because they were ideologically opposed to denationalisation (not Blair of course, but in the early days Blair was timid and afraid of backbenchers like Gwyneth Dunwoody).

Nationalisation of the railway network in the Second World War produced a behemoth corporation that eventually became tired, starved of funding, completely demoralised.  The organisation benefited in the immediate post-war period from the influx of ex-forces officers and NCOs who saw in the railways a substitute for the wartime experience of central planning, public service and personal sacrifice (anti-social hours, low pay, endless complaints from the public).  From the 1980s onwards these "wartime" managers and supervisors retired, and the industry failed to recruit new staff of comparable quality.

The corporation also suffered from excessive "closed shop" unionisation, with three trade unions (often fighting among themselves) regularly bringing the country to a standstill, each national strike seeing a permanent transfer of freight traffic from rail to road.

By the 1990s radical action and reinvention was required, resulting in privatisation.

Unfortunately privatisation has not worked, and most people (in my judgment) do not want to continue with it.

Re-nationalisation would not be advisable as all that would happen would be the re-emergence of militant union activity, with annual strikes damaging the economy (particularly in the South East).

Perhaps the sector might benefit from some kind of co-operative ownership such as the John Lewis model?

Subsidies would still be necessary, but these are not necessarily a bad thing as the subsidies ultimately benefit private employers who would otherwise have to pay their staff more to commute to work (unless it is proposed that commuters should bear the entire cost of their transport to work, which is not a practical idea). 

Monday, August 13, 2012
















Grossly exaggerated editorial in the Guardian today about the choice of Paul Ryan as Mitt Romney's candidate for Vice President.

Enthusiasm for Rupert Murdoch; a "lunatic" approach to economics; negligent proposals that "would end in the deaths of many poor Americans"; the prospective trashing of American science, American veterans, the American military; and a pandering to the "foaming reactionary fringe".

Had this editorial been written with sincerity one would have to conclude that the writer was stupid.

Only stupidity or fear could have provoked such invective.

As it is not the Guardian's style to be stupid it would appear that the newspaper is afraid of Mr Ryan.

I know little about American politics, but even I can see (from thousands of miles away) that this is someone interesting.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/12/mitt-romney-paul-ryan-us-elections?INTCMP=SRCH 

Translating the British by Carol Ann Duffy has been in my mind

Since Saturday the poem Translating the British by Carol Ann Duffy has been in my mind.

On a first reading it appears to be just doggerel, scorned and jeered at by journalist Nick Cohen and his coterie.

Is it possible that someone as sophisticated and sensitive as Carol Ann Duffy would produce poetry little better than a Madonna lyric (a list of names with McGonagallesque rhymes attached viz "They had style, they had grace; Rita Hayworth gave good face; Lauren, Katherine, Lana too; Bette Davis, we love you" etc).

And then today, re-reading Translating the British, it occurred to me that Carol Ann Duffy had produced in poetry a satire of Danny Boyle's left-wing usurpation of the Opening Ceremony.

Sedition of the seditionaires is very deep.

http://afroml.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/olympian-poem-by-carol-ann-duffy.html
I have a small mole on the back of my neck that itches a lot.

Have just tried to book an appointment to see my doctor to get it checked and have been told that because so many doctors are on holiday in August they just have block bookings where you go along and sit and wait and take your chance on how long you have to sit there.

These doctors are paid on average £120k per year.

Perhaps along with the pyjama-clad children and funky nurses the Olympic Opening Ceremony could have featured huddled masses enduring "block bookings" and gate-keeper surgery receptionists turning people away unless they are actually expiring on the premises.

Ceremony

In retrospect one has to say that both the opening ceremony and the closing ceremony were superfluous to the London Olympics, and you might almost say they were irrelevant.

Both seemed to have been "conceptualised" by PR company Perfect Curve.
Not sure what to make of the Closing Ceremoney.

But on the basis that it irritated many of the people who deserve to be irritated I think we can call it a success.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Looking at various Twitter sites, lots of people are saying the Closing Ceremony is bad.

Is there an unofficial campaign to slight the Closing Ceremony so that the Opening Ceremony (with its ideology) can be bigged up?

Sorry if that sounds suspicious.
I am currently watching the Olympic Closing Ceremony on BBC1.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Olympian poem by Carol Ann Duffy




















It is a matter of course that a poem written by the official Poet Laureate immediately enters the canon of twenty-first century English literature.

Therefore the Olympian poem by Carol Ann Duffy, appearing on the front page of today's Guardian, deserves serious study (you might need to click on the image to enlarge it).

The last line quotes the Chancellor George Osborne. 

The poem needs to be read several times before the meanings become apparent - and they will not be the immediate conclusions that this is about government spending.

Nick Cohen on his Twitter site is indulging in sniggering:


All other considerations are completely unimportant




















Obviously the American election is nothing to do with me.  And in any case the choice between Democrats and Republicans often seems like choosing between the left-wing and the right-wing of the British Conservative Party.  But in my opinion the most important thing to know about Paul Ryan is that he is pro-life - beside that fact all other considerations are completely unimportant.

David Frum, writing for Newsweek, has other factors:  http://magazine-directory.com/Newsweek.htm

Update:

Whatever his detractors say, Paul Ryan does at least seem to have an integrated view of the world, a complete philosophical outlook - he seems to be someone important because of what he is rather than (as is the norm with politicians) what he is promising to become.

I thought this article by Nate Silver was interesting:  http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/08/11/a-risky-rationale-behind-romneys-choice-of-ryan/?hp

Friday, August 10, 2012

Lack of school playing fields was not the issue

I was educated at a comprehensive school and my experience of sports is that the three PE teachers were interested in their football and rugby teams (about forty boys out of a school population of 1,200) and that was it.

No-one else mattered and no-one else was taught anything.

For instance, there were lots of free weights in a large storage area and I never saw them used once.

Typically PE was two afternoons per week, with several classes (30 or so to a class) taking part.  We would be split up into different football matches and the PE teachers would look after one match (with their star players) and the rest of us were just expected to get on with it.  Same with rugby. 

Only one summer term in all the time I was at the school did we do athletics (which I was quite good at). 

A few boys got to play tennis but no idea how they managed it, except that the really keen tennis guy was the son of one of the teachers, and like most teachers' sons got special treatment.

Lack of school playing fields was not the issue.

The problem was the teachers not doing the job they were paid to do.

Lazy worthless teachers.

Young, Bright and on the Right directed by Alisa Pomeroy
















When I noticed the documentary Young, Bright and on the Right directed by Alisa Pomeroy had been mentioned as a Guardian Pick of the Day I thought that it might be worth looking at.  Not because the Guardian's Guide is a reliable arbiter of what to watch on television (it is anything but that).  Mainly because I suspected they might have an agenda in drawing attention to this programme.

Predictably the documentary revealed two foppish students with highly exaggerated world views.  It would be hard to imagine any more stereotypical portrayal of Conservative students in a production that seemed solely designed to provoke anti-Conservative prejudices.  It was a 2012 equivalent of Jude Süss (and yes, I do know Alisa Pomeroy is Jewish - it is because she is Jewish that she should know better than to produce work in a Veit Harlan style, especially as she has previously targeted other examples of society's "freaks" and "weirdos" in her documentaries).

Equally predictably the documentary was seized upon by left-wing commentators.





Nick Cohen, on his Twitter microblog, predicted that the documentary would affect the Conservative vote in marginal constituencies, with the implication that it would swing the next election.  On the face of it this is a very silly remark.  I do not know the audience figures for Young, Bright and on the Right but I would doubt that they were so large they would have an electoral effect.  But Nick Cohen's Tweet does reveal a level of wish-fulfilment bordering on desperation.  Is the Labour party so bereft of ideas that the only way they can win is through negative campaigning about their "toff" opponents?  If that is the case then there is little hope for the Left.












Above:  part of Sam Wollaston's review in today's Guardian.

Sam Wollaston devoted a page (a whole page) to the documentary in today's Guardian, drawing attention to the many ways in which the subjects of the documentary damned themselves.  For instance, one of the students says "port" repeatedly (but you do not hear whether he has been prompted to say port - my guess is that he was being urged on by the film-makers).  One of the students is supposed to have manipulated the media - except that the media seemed to be manipulating him.

I'm not a fan of Oxbridge.  And I don't think teenagers are particularly worth much attention.  But I felt sorry for these two guys obviously being set-up by an exploitative production and then being devoured by a slaverous commentariat. 

The reason these two individuals (both in their way from broken homes, and both having had a hard upbringing) have "an unhealthy interest in power" is probably because they feel personally so powerless.  Anyone from a working-class background will immediately empathise with that feeling.  And who can blame them for wanting to join the elite so that they can assume power and crush the people who previously tormented them.

Isn't that what Margaret Thatcher did?


https://twitter.com/NickCohen4
http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2012/aug/09/young-bright-and-on-the-right
Why does Eddie Mair feel compelled to introduce the Newsnight headlines standing with his hands in his pockets?

Is this some kind of differentiation to make him seem different from the other presenters? (like the slobby way Paul Mason sometimes appears without a tie).

If Eddie Mair is unsure what to do with his hands perhaps they could give him a clipboard to hold.

These people are paid a lot of money from public funds to appear on television, so why do they show such contempt for their audience?

Or is this some kind of protest against bourgeois conventions?

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Stop and search

In a letter published by today's Independent a collective of groups is calling for stop and search powers to be removed from the police on the grounds that they are damaging relations between young people and society.

http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/08/09/stop-and-search-an-open-letter-to-theresa-may-mp-nick-herbert-mp-and-sir-bernard-hogan-howe/

Perhaps local councils should carry out referendums in their areas allowing the validation (or not) of local stop and search powers for the police.

That would remove any doubt about whether a local community supports the principle of stop and search.

It would also remove any pressure on the police as they will be clearly acting on the wishes of the local people (my guess is that if asked a local community would grant almost unlimited powers to the police to stop crime).

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Newington Estate near Elephant & Castle















A quick look round the Newington Estate near Elephant & Castle.

Plain 1970s architecture, the stark geometric shapes denuded of all surface interest.  Cheap yellow bricks.  It looks as if the architect had been determined to design a completely souless environment without joy or personality.

Social housing for the deserving poor perhaps, but the deserving poor must never forget they are beholden to the state for their subsistence, and on no account must they be indulged with fripperies such as architectural embellishments.

A generally safe and well-maintained place to live.  Anti-social issues are mainly due to the boredom consequent to youth unemployment.  For many unemployed people with low educational achievement the past is a blank and the future merely a continuation of the present.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Some strange alliances









Following Paul Mason's endorsement of The Sun on Newsnight yesterday the same newspaper was quoted approving by Hugh Muir in the Guardian today (above).

You might say that Hugh Muir's regular column in the Guardian is just as bigoted and biased as anything you might find in The Sun (but in a different way and for a different audience) so it could be a case of like calling to like.

But it would seem that the mood of hyper-nationalism generated by the Olympic Games (traditional nationalism in The Sun and what you might call social nationalism among the Left) is making for some strange alliances.

I draw comfort from the fact that the Church of England has today announced that it is unethical even to hold News International shares.

One cannot touch pitch and not be defiled (as they say).

The monkeys are in raptures

Yesterday's Newsnight remains in my mind.

Did Paul Mason really produce a copy of The Sun and read from it as evidence to an argument he was making?

Is The Sun to be dignified, by inclusion and quotation on Newsnight, as a reliable and impartial source of accurate information?

What effect will the Newsnight aura of respectability have on The Sun itself - I visualise the scene in Kipling's The Jungle Book where the monkeys are in raptures because someone noticed them.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Rather confusing report by Paul Mason on Newsnight just now.

He was boasting about the comprehensive education system achieving eight gold medals for Britain in the Olympics (I counted them as he listed the names).

As the United Kingdom has won a total of eighteen gold medals, how is eight a triumph for comprehensive education? (given that the overwhelming majority of British schools are comprehensives and that statistically the sector should have claimed sixteen or seventeen of the golds).

It's not a good sign when an economics editor cannot do simple calculations.

What is happening to the BRIC countries?

Can I ask vis a vis the London 2012 Olympics what is happening to the BRIC countries?

China is currently heading the medals table but Brazil, Russia and India are languishing far far behind the United Kingdom (maybe Russia is technically just behind, but when you consider the disparity in population this is not saying much)

Of course I am only too aware that pride goes before a fall.  "We" could easily slip from our position close to the top.  And in any case the achievement is due to individual British athletes not collective national endeavour (despite the Olympics being a form of war without tears). 

But what has happened to all those dire warnings about how power, wealth and prestige were passing from the West to the East?  Nick Clegg's dismissal of the United Kingdom as a "pygmy nation" (insulting as that was to both pygmies and British people)?  Of all the scoffing and sneering of RT television and Agnes Poirier and Mr Ahmadinejad etc etc?

That exciting moment in Orwell's 1984






Above:  a couple of days ago the Guardian, in its official editorial, tells us that British success in the Olympics was disproportionately reliant on the United Kingdom's private schools.








Above:  today the Guardian, in its official editorial, tells us that British success in the Olympics is reliant on the state schools (this argument further developed in articles by John Harris and Jackie Ashley).

I was reminded of that exciting moment in Orwell's 1984 when Winston Smith holds two official statements from the Ministry of Truth that directly contradict each other.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/05/london-2012-olympic-gold-lesson-politics?INTCMP=SRCH

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/05/ennis-farah-murray-state-school-myth?INTCMP=SRCH 

Sunday, August 05, 2012

In this respect, if no other, London 2012 resembles Berlin 1936

Half-way through the Olympic Games and the United Kingdom seems to have given itself over to a cathartic expression of collective nationalism (presumably related to the fact that "we" are currently third in the medals table).

That the Olympic Games represents the most naked celebration of nationalism (short of actual war) is an axiomatic statement.

That a large section of the British population enjoys this Olympic-themed nationalism at four-yearly intervals is well known.

What is unusual is that this time the Left has felt able to join in.

Even Miranda Sawyer, in her Observer column today, indulged in a sort of right-on nationalism, describing how it is "all Team GB" in her house, how she took her six-year-old son to see Great Britain "beat" Brazil at women's football, and how her mood matches the "celebratory madness" that has taken over British radio.

What is happening here?

Possibly Danny Boyle's Opening Ceremony, with it's left-leaning imagery (Shadow Minister Andy Burnham is reported to have burst into tears at the socialist beauty of the pageant) has given left-wing people permission to love their country.



















In a half-page article in the Guardian yesterday writer Stuart Jeffries talked about the emotional impact that Danny Boyle's Opening Ceremony had on him.

But before we accord these Olympics the title "the People's Games" (as Blair would have done) there is an inconvenient fact to be explained.






Despite the way the Opening Ceremony lauded socialism "British sporting success is once again disproportionately reliant on the private schools" (to quote the Guardian's editorial).

In this respect, if no other, London 2012 resembles Berlin 1936.  Both Opening Ceremonies presented an ideological vision of the host country, breathtaking in ambition and compelling in spectacle.  In both cases the hubris of propaganda found itself undermined by the achievements of the athletes (the Nazi vision undermined by Jesse Owens; the Danny Boyle State-Is-Good vision undermined by the achievements of the privately-educated athletes).

This is not to defend private education per se.  Often when I meet public school educated people I find myself disliking them.  But for showing up the limitations of totalitarian socialist education policy one has to be thankful they exist.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/london-2012-olympics-blog/2012/aug/03/london-2012-olympics-blubbing-emotion

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2182328/London-2012-opening-ceremony-Danny-Boyles-genius-taken-Marxist-propaganda.html

PS so there should be no misunderstanding I am not attacking the Olympics as a whole or the British athletes or indeed the validity of nationalism - my objective it to examine the behaviour of the Left in all this.

Bullrushes or Typhaceae


















I wasn't able to walk the dogs yesterday because of the rain.

When I took them this evening I saw that bullrushes or Typhaceae had shot up in the ditches alongside the lane.

Apparently used as food in the paleolithic age.

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Fracture starring Fiona Shaw, Anthony Hopkins, Rosamund Pike and Ryan Gosling
















Have just watched on Film Four the 2007 film Fracture starring Fiona Shaw, Anthony Hopkins, Rosamund Pike and Ryan Gosling.

Ryan Gosling's performance was superb.  He seems to act with his whole self, even with his ears and his eyebrows.  You would think that with so many big RADA names appearing at once they would be very competitive, but everything flowed seamlessly together.

Lots of dark shadows and muted colours.

The director was Gregory Hoblit.

Not as much work as I should have done

Monday

Always Sunday nights are difficult and I seem to sleep badly.

As usual I eventually fell asleep about 2am and then woke again at 7am, feeling reluctant to start another week at work.

But also as usual a sense of duty compelled me to get washed and dressed, a sense of duty watched the time as I drank my morning cup of coffee, and a sense of duty accompanied me as I drove to the office.

The office seemed to be extraordinarily quiet this morning.  A warning from Anglea in the Admin team that IT officer John Johnson had been checking my internet access (she heard this from Kayla in the Admin team who is dating John Johnson).  Why should he monitor me, I wondered.

All the day I worked on a report on competition analysis as an evaluation mechanism.

Tuesday

The weather is rather dirty at the moment, a plethora of mud in the lanes due to the summer rain.

Another quiet day in the office.  I like these days when other managers are away and I can get on with things without being involved in meetings.  I talked to Research Manager Abi Reed about a small telephone campaign following up a mailshot we had done and asking how the information had been received.

Lunchtime I browsed on Amazon - it seems impossible to buy the poetry of Stefan George in a decent translation. 

More work on the competition analysis report, but not as much work as I should have done.

Wednesday

The telephone research carried out by Abi |Reed's team had come in, and I spent the morning putting it into a report.  Abi Reed (short but hefty woman, obese but also muscular) described a row she had had with her partner Warren:  "I tried on some new clothes and he said there was no point me buying them as I still looked fat - I told him I might be fat but he was stupid and at least I could do something about being fat whereas..."

Thursday

Angela brought round a card and a collection for Pat B who leaves tomorrow.  I put in £3 (all the cash I had on me unless I put in £10 and I did not feel like doing that).  "I've had no end of refusals" Angela told me.

Friday

Director Vijay Singh back in the office.  I had a meeting with him to discuss the competition analysis report.  I pressed him to tell me what was happening to the future of the Institute but all he would say was that he was working on something (we are supposed to be merging with Head Office, but that is not in our long-term interest).

Windy and cold at lunchtime.

Not much to do in the afternoon, so I was a little bored.

Joey (a graphic designer we use) rang to invite me to lunch at an Italian restaurant in London next week - this is obviously a freebie bribe to get more work, but I still said yes. 

As soon as 5pm arrived I was out of the office and driving home.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Currently watching Press Preview on Sky News - Zoe Williams from the Guardian and Nigel Nelson from The People.

The discussion is all over the place with so many y'knows and non-sequential remarks and interrupting each other that it is barely comprehensible.
Regarding the Bradley Wiggins call for legislation requiring cyclists to wear helmets, do we really want to have more Health & Safety busybodies policing the roads and arresting miscreants (perhaps even marching them to cash points to pay instant fines there and then as the Labour Party once suggested for "anti social" elements)?

I'm not a keen cyclist myself and would not advise cycling in London.

But I do not want to restrict the right of others to cycle when and where and how they want.

Anyone can see that the real problem is that there are too many cars on the roads and that this is because London and the South East has become too congested.

Eddie Mair introduced Charlotte Leslie MP and Independent journalist Owen Jones

Driving home today I listened to PM on BBC Radio 4.

Eddie Mair introduced Charlotte Leslie MP and Independent journalist Owen Jones and they began discussing whether private or state schools provide better sports education.

Charlotte Leslie was right to identify lack of a competitive ethos in state schools, but I think this is not simply a matter of political correctness (although that is a big factor).  Laziness is also a reason teachers do not make any effort (I am speaking as someone who has experienced the inner city comprehensive system at first hand).  And I think we need to look at the way teaching has become an increasingly female occupation - attitude surveys indicate women tend to have less interest in sport than men.

Owen Jones was right to condemn all governments, both Conservative and Labour, for allowing local authorities to sell off many school playing fields, but he might have found the generosity to praise the work of the Duke of Edinburgh as President of the National Playing Fields Association.

You can listen to the interview: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qskw












Above:  the PM interview was later discussed on Twitter.

Note the condescending way in which Owen Jones refers to "red brick universities" as if they were on a lesser level than Oxbridge.  One cannot blame him of course.  Oxbridge inculcates such arrogance and disparagement - it would not be possible to go through the Oxbridge process and remain unscathed.

Indeed, the whole socialist debate on private education is flawed as it fails to acknowledge that one of the primary reasons parents send their children to public schools is to ultimately get them into Oxbridge, so that they can coast their way into elite positions of power.

Owen Jones might pause to consider that the Oxford University he attended is accorded an elite position on a flawed (indeed, rigged) grading system that aggregates all its constituent colleges.  London University on the other hand has all its colleges and institutes graded individually.  If London was graded on an aggregate basis it would easily outscore Oxbridge and Owen Jones would have no reason to make his snooty remark.

"Red brick" indeed!  Who is he to call other people red brick.  If Friedrich Engels were alive today he would probably have referred to such Oxbridge snobbery with his most famous condemnation.