Sunday, September 30, 2012

I am still asking aloud











On 13th September Owen Jones (as well as many others in the many Labour activist claques) told us "Jack Straw is right - Thatcherism built the police mentality that led to Hillsborough".

At the time I thought this was an oddly tenuous connection to make.

It now seems that Jack Straw may have been using Owen Jones as a "useful innocent" in propagating a highly misleading diversion of attention regarding Labour's approach to the Hillsborough disaster.















An article in today's Independent indicates some form of Labour cover-up (led by Jack Straw) was in operation:
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/hillsborough-families-fury-at-spin-operation-8191043.html

Unfortunately among Labour activists "hating Thatcher" is preferred to getting at the truth.

Even so, I am still asking aloud what David Blunkett's role was pre-Hillsborough, during Hillsborough and after Hillsborough.

I even managed a walk

And just as suddenly as it arrived my illness went, leaving me feeling weak and exhausted but otherwise fine.

I even managed a walk this afternoon - blustery winds, gleams of sunshine, occasional spots of rain.

















Above:  the elder trees were heavy with fruit sambucus nigra.


















Above:  the bramble blackberries Rubus fruticosus were mostly small, hard and unripened (an indication of the poor summer we have had).

















Above:  along the grass verges that bordered the lane were little groups of the mauve common scabious - just seeing this wild flower made me feel happy (does nature have anything more charming?).

Saturday, September 29, 2012

"There is a lot riding on this for me" he said

Monday

Over the weekend I developed a terrible cough that is exhausting, painful and makes my head ache.  I would have dearly liked to have stayed at home today.  But countdown for the conference seminar made this impossible.

Once I was in the office I made myself some coffee and sat quietly at my desk reading returned questionnaires.

11o'clock and the management meeting.  We (the management team) all trooped into the office of Director Vijay Singh.  I sat at my usual place at the long table (marked by a deep scratch I once accidentally made with the edge of a ring binder.

"This will be a chance for you to report on how your department is doing against targets" Vijay Singh said.

I have been so preoccupied with planning the seminar that I could barely remember what my targets were, let alone how I was achieving them.  Looking round the table I saw that others had done reports with graphs and tables, and Tim Watts (Development Manager) had even done a Powerpoint presentation.  When my turn came I was saved by my illness - so hoarse was my voice, so pathetic was my struggle against influenza, that I was listened to with quiet sympathy and no-one asked any hostile questions.

The meeting finished at 1pm and I went home, taking some work with me.

Tuesday

Going to work was out of the question.  I coughed and coughed and coughed.  Eventually I got up and went downstairs to drink some hot blackcurrant - no sign of my brother.

I went back to bed and slept until 3pm.

I tried to read, but I didn't have enough energy even for reading.

I just sat in an armchair with the electric fire on, conscious of the dry rushing wind outside the house.

So many syrups and cough lozenges that I felt sick.

Wednesday

Many enquiries after my health when I arrived at the office.  I was ruthless about deleting e-mails that had arrived yesterday.  Vijay Singh asked me to contact Alec Nussbaum's PA to find out if he planned to attend our seminar at the conference.

Most of the morning I spent working on the exhibitions programme, most of the bookings now in place.

The afternoon spent in a session of Appraisal Training, which was reasonably interesting although rather pointless as I have no staff to appraise (but perhaps that might change?).

When I came out of the training I was not in the mood for work and so idled away the last hour.

Thursday

Vijay Singh has decided, at this very late hour, he wants the Institute to do a special newsletter to be given out at the conference.  All my plans for today were disrupted as I edited this newsletter and got Joey to lay it out and produce a proof.  Not wanting to wait for others to write the contributions (I know how slow that would be!) I simply wrote their sections myself and asked "Is this what you want to say?"

Too busy to go out at lunchtime I had lunch at my desk - grapes, an apple and two Kit Kats.

A meeting with Vijay Singh towards the end of the afternoon - he told me Alec Nussbaum wanted to move the Library and reading room back to Head Office.

Friday

Almost every hour today I had little meetings with Vijay Singh to discuss aspects of the Seminar.  "There is a lot riding on this for me" he said.  In the afternoon we held a rehearsal, which was a bit shambolic.

Lunchtime I went to Tescos, and after buying some sandwiches in the store I drove to the far side of the giant car park, where no other cars were parked, so that I could read quietly.  Out of the corner of my eye I was aware of a tall security guard approaching, and when he got up to my vehicle he stood cockily right by the car door, rocking slightly on his heels.  I continued to ignore him, so that he was forced to tap on the window.  When I had half-opened the window he asked me why I had chosen to park so far away from the other cars.  I told him:  "I parked here because I didn't want any interruptions".  "Fair enough" he said, and walked away.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Ed Miliband's leadership

In an article for the New Statesman Sunny Hundal makes the following comments about Ed Miliband's leadership:

"he has... established a double-digit lead over the Tories" (but in a poll today the Conservatives have a 5 point lead over Labour on the key issue of the economy http://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3048/Labour-increases-its-lead-on-healthcare-and-education.aspx ).

"...voters consider the Labour leader to be no more left-wing than Cameron is right-wing" (is that not what is wrong with politics? - the Conservatives are not Conservative and the Socialists are not Socialist).

"...he needs more interventions and fewer policy reviews" (that would be a disaster in my view, since posturing now will have no effect on what might happen in 2015 whereas good policies are fundamental to successful government - there is no point in getting into power just for the sake of power).

http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/politics/2012/09/how-miliband-can-address-his-image-problem 

Newspapers must not be allowed to print lies




















I hope John Terry takes the Independent newspaper to court for calling him a racist on their front page.

John Terry was found innocent in a court of law and senior judge Howard Riddle specifically ruled that he could not be called a racist.

As the slur on the Independent front page will damage John Terry's ability to attract commercial income he needs to crush the newspaper now - newspapers must not be allowed to print lies, however enthusiastic the headline writers might get.

Also in today's Independent John Barnes invents the new crime of "unconscious racism".  Is this what Orwell called thought crime?  Or is John Barnes just being an unconscious idiot?

http://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/news-and-comment/john-barnes-john-terry-is-guilty-of-unconscious-racism-8182579.html

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Jeremy Paxman gave Jack Dromey MP a beating on Newsnight this evening

I am SO pleased Jeremy Paxman gave Jack Dromey MP a beating on Newsnight this evening.

In the second Newsnight report on the way unrestricted migration is destroying employment rights for the lowest paid in the United Kingdom, Jack Dromey simply sat back in his chair and in tones of false outrage repeated what the report had just told us, as if the mess was nothing to do with him or the previous Labour government up until 2010.

It was waffle of the most offensive kind, given the human cost of wage-undercutting.

The wages and conditions of the developing world are being imported into the United Kingdom, and no politician seems to have the courage to stop it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

JK Rowling talking about The Casual Vacancy

There was an interview this morning on the Today programme - JK Rowling talking about The Casual Vacancy, her new novel (for adults).

Apparently a council estate features in the book.

I hope it is not going to be a platform for chav caricatures.

You can hear the interview:  http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9755000/9755001.stm

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fascinating item this evening on Newsnight about data visualisation.

Psychological over-compensation

A report issued today shows that over 65% of adults in Scotland are obese.

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0040/00402630.pdf

Is it possible that a poor personal self-image among obese individuals in Scotland is leading to psychological over-compensation in terms of national self-aggrandisement, thus fuelling support for the SNP?

I suppose you would have to do a study on whether SNP party members tend to be more obese than members of other parties in Scotland.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tom Clark tells us that Labour is ten points ahead






Guardian leader writer Tom Clark tells us that Labour is ten points ahead of the Conservatives in a new poll http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/sep/24/labour-lead-tories-icm-poll

And yet that does not square with other evidence (not least my own straw poll surveys).

What can be happening here?

Possibly I am only talking to Tories and am getting a skewed picture of reality.

But this article by Rick Nye http://ricknye.tumblr.com/ indicates that a "spiral of silence" is obscuring the real intentions of voters.

Which indicates lots of people are publicly sympathising with the anti-cuts campaigns, but privately they intend to vote for austerity.

It makes sense from a self-interest point of view.  If you have a job the last thing you want is economic risk-taking that might end in another downturn.  Better to flat-line than take risks.

Selfish, self-defeating, self-limiting maybe, but I think it is how people are assessing the situation.

Why were the gates not opened for Andrew Mitchell

Dateline London on Saturday asked the question I would also like answered:

Why were the gates not opened for Andrew Mitchell last week when previously they were normally opened?

Was this some kind of work to rule?  Was it some kind of demonstration?  Was is due to poor training? (in which case who was responsible for the training?).  Was it due to incompetence?  Was there some kind of security justification?  Was this some kind of bias against bicycles?

No-one seems to be asking these questions.

Update:

Have just broken off work to watch Owen Jones talking about the issue on BBC News 24.  Perhaps the lights were in his eyes are he was blinking and gurning as he talked to Emily Maitlis.  He is wrong to say that the police are powerless - the confrontation with Andrew Mitchell demonstrated that on that occasion the police held all the power (and seem to have used that power provocatively).

A great man hounded by a politically-inspired campaign

Sorry to see the news about John Terry.

He was a great man hounded by a politically-inspired campaign that had nothing to do with sport.

I have long suspected that the Kick It Out campaign is a front for a political movement that seeks to justify social engineering policies (the social engineering having a covert purpose of delivering votes to the Labour party).

Ordinary people should have nothing to do with this.




Sunday, September 23, 2012

Afternoon

This afternoon I watched the film Seven Years In Tibet.  I had forgotten what a good film it is.  Probably one of Brad Pitt's best.

Also a reminder of what a fascinating culture exists in Tibet. 

After the film, in the light that remained, I went for a drive to look at some medieval carvings in a local church.




















The carvings show figures playing musical instruments, most of them very weird-looking.  This one has a convoluted trumpet.  The black wood has a plastic appearance that suggests it is bog wood (from a prehistoric forest submerged for millennia in a swamp and then dredged up in the medieval period - the wood was prized by our ancestors for its hardness and pliability).

Verbascum thapsus or Common Mullein















Out of all our native wild flowers Verbascum thapsus or Common Mullein has the most beautiful foliage.  The leaves are covered with a thick downy Trichomes so that they look as if they are made of velvet.  The flowers are yellow and the plant is very prolific so don't let it loose in your garden!

Labour MPs calling people plebs

If I were advising Andrew Mitchell MP on PR I would be combing through digital media looking for examples of Labour MPs calling people plebs.

In just a couple of minutes I came up with Greg Pope, Labour MP for Hyndburn until 2010 (and government whip from 1997 until 2001), referring to Piers Morgan as a pleb:
















http://www.blogminster.com/2010/03/22/celebrity-hate-meme/

I am confident there must many other examples as Labour MPs have just as much contempt for ordinary people as most other members of parliament.

There was Foreign Office minister Kerry McCarthy's Twitter outburst on a train against someone drinking lager and playing music too loudly (she wanted him killed - which is enough to get her arrested, whether she was joking or not).

Saturday, September 22, 2012

We work well together - the past week at work

Monday

I got up at 5am this morning after hardly any sleep, my limbs aching so much that I wondered if I had 'flu.

Cold as I went out to my car (the days are cold in the mornings, cold in the evenings, with warm sun in the middle).

Train to London, and eventually I arrived at an hotel just off the Strand, gloomy and mostly empty of people.  Downstairs to a hall holding approximately a hundred people, the room pink and white baroque with stunning chandaliers.  Hour long presentation on the economy, with an emphasis on Japan and China.

I stayed in the hotel for lunch (charged to the Institute) - vegetable lasagna, lemon brulee, two glasses of an indifferent white wine.  I felt so weak that I had almost no appetite, and sat in the hotel for half an hour drinking one cup of coffee.  Eventually I left the hotel and walked along the the National Portrait Gallery, but did not have the energy to go around the building and just moved from one bench to another before giving up and going home.

Tuesday

A long weary sleep that did not refresh me at all.  As I was shaving my nose began bleeding (a sign I think of high blood pressure).  All of the day I had a very slight headache and sore throat.

When I arrived at the office I wrote a one page report on yesterday's economic briefing and was called into Director Vijay Singh's office to discuss it.


Hundreds and hundreds of e-mails which took me an hour to clear (only reading those I was absolutely obliged to, deleting all the ones where I had just been copied in).

Main task of the day was writing a supplement to one of the Institute's most popular reports.  The tight deadline has eased somewhat, which is a relief.  My illness (whatever it was) made me feel sorry for myself.

Wednesday

To London again and Head Office.  I had arranged to borrow Carol Reynolds' desk for the day, located on the second floor.  I knew many of the people on the floor, so it did not seem strange to be working there.

There was no computer on the desk (Carol Reynolds uses a laptop) so I could not access my files.  Also the 'phone was blocked so I could not dial out.  None of this mattered as I was in Head Office for a day of meetings and just needed somewhere to base myself while waiting.

Meetings at 10am (planning the conference presentation), 12 noon (membership), 2pm (the editorial meeting, which went very well).

At the end of the afternoon an informal meeting with Terry Solomon in fund-raising.

Thursday

Carol Reynolds was at the Institute, mainly to discuss the conference presentation (a join event between Carol's department and the Institute).  She also went into the Reading Room downstairs and consulted several reports, the first visitor for several weeks (this lack of readers is a worry to them - if they are not used they will be axed).  I have good relations with Carol Reynolds and we work well together, although I realise it would be unwise to trust her.

Later I drafted a discussion document for the afternoon meeting and e-mailed it to everyone.

The meeting began with a "working lunch" but the sandwiches were so nasty I could not eat them. 

Carol Reynolds and myself gave an outline on the presentation for conference. The usual muttered snide remarks from around the table.  I showed mock-ups of the literature we will give out at the presentation.  Lots of pointless huffing and puffing about whether there was time to do a survey in time for the conference.  Because of the current chaos in the Admin section Vijay Singh asked me to take charge of the catering for the event (it is being held at lunchtime, and the theory is that we will get a bigger audience if we offer free food).  The meeting came to an end at 3.30pm.


Friday

I only worked in the morning as I had taken the afternoon as holiday.

The offices were almost empty, so many people being out. 

All I really did was write my report for the monthly review meeting on Monday.

Vijay Singh rang me and we had a long pointless discussion on whether Alec Nussbaum should be invited to our presentation at the conference.  I said it was fairly safe to invite him as he is likely to be so busy at the conference it was extremely unlikely he would be able to attend.  Vijay Singh seemed reassured by the argument.

Friday, September 21, 2012

John Tully, Metropolitan Police Federation, has just appeared on BBC News talking about the Andrew Mitchell issue.

Storm in a teacup on a slow news day?

Or is it more serious.

Is the provocative behaviour of the police at the gates of Downing Street any different from the provocative behaviour of the police towards Ian Tomlinson?  Different in degree perhaps.  But not different in principle or in provocation (over-cocksure police thinking they can push people around).

I have to go out so I will not be able to see Owen Jones discussing the subject on Sky News - it is possible he will use the opportunity to raise the issue of the way the police treat BME people.

Bullying from petty jobsworths

I'm afraid I cannot get very worked up about Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell's altercation with the Downing Street police last night (he is supposed to have called one of them a "pleb").

How many of us have suffered bullying from petty jobsworths who on a whim suddenly decide they are going to make life difficult, not through any emergency requirement but simply because they want to demonstrate their own personal superiority.

Recently I have had a wheelie-bin left by the Council rubbish collectors because it was "too heavy" even though it was no different from any other week, contained exactly the rubbish it should contain, and was not even full to the top (and the rubbish department cannot define what "too heavy" means).

Recently when picking up my brother from the pub late at night I was followed by a police car all through the town, during which I was careful not to go over 30 miles an hour, and as soon as I left the 30 mile per hour zone the police car stopped me because I was driving "too slowly" (I had slowed down wanting them to overtake and leave me alone).  Obviously they were hoping I had been drinking.  This might seem a trivial incident but at the time I was furious that the police should try to make my life difficult for no other reason than I was driving through a town late at night.

So I am not surprised that Andrew Mitchell should lose his temper when the gates that are normally opened are suddenly, on a whim, not opened and he is told by some jobsworth that he would have to get off and walk round.

When are public servants going to accept that they are the servants of society, not the masters?





In the Twitter frenzy that has followed the pleb remark (no-one has yet called it plebgate) Owen Jones has been castigated for placing the pleb revolt in the Roman Empire period instead of the Roman Republic https://twitter.com/OwenJones84

Obviously this is a flippant remark, and should not be over-analysed but a few (flippant) thoughts occur to me:

1  Owen Jones goes on and on about his comprehensive school education, but no Independent school alumnus would have made such an elementary mistake (apologies if I have declined alumni wrongly but I went to a dumbed-down comp myself).

2  Owen Jones studied History at Oxford University - perhaps this error helps to demonstrate how over-hyped and bogus the Oxbridge hegemony is?

3  Owen Jones wrote a book on class, talks professionally on class, and helps to run a think tank devoted to class issues - and yet he cannot get even simple historical facts right (arguably you cannot fully understand the history of class without reference to the pleb revolt).

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Each time the medical establishment sidestepped the question

Discussion this morning on the Today programme about drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease.

Three times presenter Sarah Montague asked two representatives from the medical establishment (one from a university, one from a big pharma company) whether relying on the large pharmaceutical companies is the best way to research and develop new treatments.  Each time the medical establishment sidestepped the question.  Evasive, misleading, intellectually dishonest.

Because of the high cost of developing a new drug the pharmaceutical companies will only (ONLY) develop drugs they can patent and sell at a profit.

They also have a vested interest to suppress and belittle research that shows the efficacy of low cost commonly-owned sources of new medicines.

There is an enormous body of anecdotal evidence, going back centuries and developed in all cultures and regions of the world, that shows plant-based traditional medicines can be used to treat a vast range of medical conditions.

This is belittled by the medical establishment as "herbal" medicine, or "alternative" medicine, or "quack science".

Because common plants are common, and grow everywhere, they cannot be patented.

The big pharmaceutical companies have no interest in researching these plants unless they can identify the active constituents, synthesise them, and sell the patented formula to the NHS.

Thus to take one example from many thousands, Sutherlandia frutescens (a plant found in South Africa) has an anecdotal history of being useful to treat some forms of cancer. 

Medicines made from this plant will cost next to nothing.

And yet no pharmaceutical company is researching this possible cure for some forms of cancer.

They are not researching it because they cannot find a way to make money from it.

They would be seriously alarmed if Sutherlandia frutescens (or any other common plant) was brought forward as a cure for some forms of cancer as it would undermine all the expensive patented drugs they are already selling into the NHS.

Thus the pharmaceutical companies commission PR companies to alarm the general population with tales of untested medicines, and anyone interested in this body of medicine is ridiculed for "quack therapies" and "bad science" and people like Ben Goldacre write supercilious articles in the Guardian.

Obviously patients should not be given untested medicines.

However the real scandal is that the medical establishment is not researching and testing medicines from common plants with a history of efficacy, irrespective of whether money can be made from them.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jeremy Paxman made Business Secretary Vince Cable squirm on Newsnight this evening.

And Vince Cable was also mealy-mouthed, saying he was part of the collective apology but then also saying he had been sceptical from the start.

If he had been sceptical from the start presumably he is admitting he deliberately lied to students to get their votes.

Let England Shake by PJ Harvey
















A casual mention on social media by Brett Easton Ellis made me seek out Let England Shake by PJ Harvey.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2Qlb0qFLFE

The video is full of bleak strange beautiful images.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Populus poll in today's Times

What to make of the Populus poll in today's Times?

Labout has a 15% lead over the Conservatives, but David Cameron has a 30% personal lead over Ed Miliband.

In the election campaign presumably there are going to be more of the televised Leadership debates?

I think they are undemocratic, but the pressure for them might be overwhelming.

The Leadership debates may well be where the 2015 general election is won or lost.

"Jorts"

Learned a new word today - "jorts".

Apparently they are jean shorts worn in America.

Not sure if these are jeans cut down to shorts or tailored jean shorts.

Perhaps they are also worn here, and I have just not seen them?

Attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities

Interesting report in the New York Times about attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/18/world/middleeast/iran-scientist-says-blasts-targeted-nuclear-sites.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&smid=tw-nytimes

Iran is not a unitary nation state it is an empire, and like most empires is full of dissident groups, disaffected minority ethnicities and swirling social ferments.

If you wanted to subvert such a society it would be easy.  There would be no shortage of recruits.  And if you recruit enough seditionaries the natural paranoia of the Iranian religious-political-military power nexus will start to work against itself with purges, arrests and false accusations.

Monday, September 17, 2012

IPPR report Oceans of Innovation

















Currently ploughing my way through the IPPR report Oceans of Innovation recently published (the authors are Michael Barber, Katelyn Donnelly and Saad Rizvi).  The report came to my (our) notice because it was endorsed by David Miliband.  It has a McKinsey-style thoroughness and competence to it, although the prose is a bit stodgy.

I have printed the report out (to make notes as I go along), but you can read it on-line: http://www.ippr.org/publication/55/9543/oceans-of-innovation-the-atlantic-the-pacific-global-leadership-and-the-future-of-education

The paper looks at "global leadership" and the way this might be achieved through a philosophy of "everyone as an entrepreneur and innovator" (everyone?).

The Guardian magazine on Saturday published a photo essay on school classrooms around the world, and I found this complemented the dry text of the IPPR report (although I was surprised to read that average life expectancy in the United Kingdom is higher than in the United States).

I will blog more as I work my way through the document.

The report opens with an historical review, stating "the Atlantic Ocean was the ocean at the centre of the global economy" - which reminded me of the Pirenne Thesis which maintained that the Roman Empire was created and sustained by the Mediterranean Sea.

Reference to Why Nations Fail by Acemoglu and Robinson but I am not sure that the Atlantic trade was responsible to the development of parliamentary government in the United Kingdom - the origins of Parliament are to be found elsewhere.

Link between trade in goods and trade in ideas.

Reference to The Lunar Men by Jenny Uglow, a social club to discuss science, society and ideas (perhaps like the Spalding Gentlemens' Society) - "a model of innovation which emerged in the mid-18th century and still has relevance today".   

 "Demand and supply grew in a virtuous circle."

"the good and happiness... of the members of any state is the great standard by which everything relating to that state must finally be determined."

"Global leadership was a result of economic influence; and economic influence a result above all of the extraordinary capacity to innovate."

"...power follows economic growth, economic growth follows innovative capacity and, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the Atlantic societies, with Britain in the lead, arrived at a set of circumstances where innovation was let loose."

"The keys to this dominance were openness and competition - openness to scientific evidence, openness to ideas and openness to differences of view; and at the same time competition between countries for wealth and influence."

"If a single moment captured the symbolic dominance of the Atlantic Ocean, it was perhaps when President Franklin D Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill met on board USS Augusta in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland in August 1941 to agree what became known as the Atlantic Charter."

"Until the late 18th century, when the great English explorer James Cook made his three voyages to the Pacific, much of the ocean remained uncharted water." 

It seems to odd to think that in the year 1900 the British and the American navies dominated the Pacific (and British naval power was greater than the Americans) - "the two Atlantic powers saw the Pacific as just another extension of their supremacy".

"After 300 years the second half of the 20th century saw the demise of the Atlantic era" - is this really true?  Brazil is a rising power; Canada is a very considerable economic power; Nigeria is a regional power with potential.  Plus for all their problems America and the United Kingdom have not completely faded into insignificance.  

"...the more important feature of the last decade of the 20th century was the emergence of Asia, especially Pacific Asia, as the economic powerhouse of the new global economy" - but surely there is a flaw in this model as Asian growth is dependent on exports to the West and if the West stops buying the Pacific Asia bubble risks bursting (unless they can develop internal markets quickly). 

"In 1960 Pacific Asia's share of global GDP was 9.1 per cent; by 2010 it was 22.8 per cent."

Pacific Asia:  "average growth of 10 per cent per year across such a large area and over such a long period is unprecedented in human history and demands explanation."

"90 per cent of all trade travels by water".

"As of 2011 over 15 per cent of world exports can be accounted for by just three countries:  South Korea, Japan and China."

The state in these three countries is characterised by "a determined, relatively small and relatively uncorrupt elite with a clear vision" (vision is what the United Kingdom lacks - we do not seem to have had a national mission since 1945, and an urgent requirement of government is to come up with a national mission statement and have it accepted by the electorate).  

"A state managed by an expert elite was able to speed up development, aggregate capital and protect infant industries from potentially destructive external competition." 

Discussion of the Washington Consensus "the liberalised free market perspective that dominated the IMF and the World Bank from the early 1960s".

Asian society - "an Hobbesian social contract offering peace and order in return for liberty" (Spain experienced a similar economic advance under the peace and order of Franco).

"the strength of family ties, especially the extended family, meant that the state was able to rely on families to provide the welfare and benefits which western societies demanded from the state.  As a result tax levels could remain relatively low" - the West is experiencing extended families by default as the economic squeeze and lack of mortgages and jobs leads to several generations staying together under the same roof.  Is this a good thing in terms of the IPPR report?

"In the West people developed a 'rights' culture and asked what the state could offer them; in Pacific Asia they developed a 'responsibilities' culture and asked what they could offer the state" - this sounds good but not sure this is what actually happened.

"As Pacific Asia's economies boomed so too did economies on the other shores of the Pacific" - a Pacific Pirenne thesis?

"Australia... has boomed" (but boomed selling raw materials to China which then makes manufactured goods to sell to the West, so once again we see the Pacific region's dependence on the West).

"Chile, with its long Pacific coast, free markets and copper, has grown further and faster than its regional peers" (we should also note the influence of Chicago School economics in Chile).

"The growth of China's economy since Deng Xiaoping opened it up in the early 1980s is the most overwhelming fact of all" - is it so remarkable?  One could say rather that the most surprising fact was how slow China was to emerge from the trauma of the Second World War.  Is it not the fact that every 40 years or so China experiences internal chaos or external threat? (Opium wars, Boxer rebellion, invasion and revolution, cultural revolution, etc). 

"Special economic zones began on the Pacific coast, learning consciously from the success of Singapore and Hong Kong". 

"China... 211 million people have been added to the global labour force." 

"China has already become the biggest market for cars and personal computers, with e-commerce turnover set to overtake the US by 2015 and the number of on-line shoppers expected to increase from 145 million in 2010 to 348 million in 2014."

"The US, and to a lesser extent Britain, remain pre-eminent in game-changing innovation." 

Shooting of badgers




I am disappointed that the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has allowed shooting of badgers.

Earlier I signed the e-petition created by Brian May urging the government to stop badger culling:

http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/38257

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Nothing in Owen Jones's piece about Margaret Thatcher on the Independent website acknowledges that she could not have come to power and sustained herself in power for three elections without majority support from the working class.

http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/not-all-socialists-want-to-dance-on-margaret-thatchers-grave-i-want-her-to-go-on-and-on-8143089.html

This I suspect is one of the underlying reasons Margaret Thatcher is hated by the Left - she took their natural constituency away from them and they have never really got it back again.

Lake Effect by Rich Cohen
















Have just finished reading Lake Effect by Rich Cohen.  No idea what made me buy this book - probably it was reviewed favourably somewhere.  I read it in a few days - indicating not only that it was easy to read, but also that I felt motivated to read it.

It is an American book - a memoir of someone growing up in a small commuter town near Chicago in the 1980s.  Nothing dramatic happens, the book is just a chronicle of the ordinary and everyday.  However the writing is very beautiful, and even the most banal aspects of small town life are given a literary gloss that makes them dazzling.

















The book is elegiac in tone, with an intense nostalgia for a life that is past and a friendship that has run its course.  There was something about the book that seemed to reference Scott Fitzgerald, and so I was not surprised to see towards the end the line "Gatsby is you and me".  Perhaps that is a sub-theme of the memoir?















Above:  article about The Great Gatsby by Jay McInerney that appeared in the Review section of the Observer in June this year.  On the whole the review sections of both the Saturday Guardian and the Observer have declined over the last couple of years (not exactly dumbed down, but the book reviews are silly).  Occasionally however you still come across articles such as this which are worth keeping and re-reading.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Appalled at how all this has been left to almost the last minute - the past week at work

Monday

Drama in the office today.  Temp Donna in the Admin section walked out after a massive row with finance (I could hear the raised voices from an office the other side of the floor).  Acting Deputy Director and Finance Manager Marcia Walsh came round the desks apologising ("She called me a bitch, she called Katie a bitch...")

News that Institute Director Vijay Singh is ill with kidney stones and expected to be off work for a while.

Most of the day I spent with Development Manager Tim Watts, going over possible announcements we could make at the Conference next month (the Institute is giving a lunchtime presentation).

Tuesday

Vijay Singh in the office when I arrived, everyone telling him he should not be back at work so soon.

More details emerged about Donna's dramatic walk-out yesterday.  Marcia Walsh was attempting a damage-limitation exercise.  "The atmosphere is better now the last of the trouble-makers has gone" she told me (personally I think one of the biggest trouble-makers is Marcia Walsh herself). 

More time with Tim Watts, discussing whether we had time to produce a document in time for the Conference.

Wednesday

The Competition Analysis review meeting was held at 10am.  I had not done any preparation for this meeting and I had to hurriedly put something together.  In the event the meeting was very successful and I was pleased at how well things went (but as usual I found it difficult to follow through and tended to coast for the rest of the day).

Thursday

Having decided to produce a new document for the Conference today was a rush to get things under.  We are to ask a well-known commentator to write the text.  All of the morning I spent sourcing appropriate illustrations.

A meeting with Simon C (Campaign Manager) about whether we should have an exhibition stand.  I suggested we just had a stand for the day of our presentation.  Privately I am appalled at how all this has been left to almost the last minute.

Friday

The team that is to go to the Conference had to go to Head Office today for a "run through" of our presentation.  Vijay Singh did not attend claiming he was not feeling well.  Alec Nussbaum looked in, but did not stay.

Afterwards we sat in on the presentation being rehearsed by an economic organisation attached to Head Office. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

A lack of clarity over what it means to be a socialist in 2012




















Above:  leftist activists within the Labour Party are fighting off suggestions of a rapprochement with disaffected LibDems despite some in the Shadow Cabinet (Ed Balls) wanting to welcome them.






Above:  rightist activists within the Labour Party are fighting off suggestions that former Respect leader Salma Yaqoob might join the party, despite some in the Shadow Cabinet (Diane Abbott) pointing to "double standards".

Perhaps this is all just irrelevant socialist tittle tattle.

Or perhaps it indicates a lack of clarity over what it means to be a socialist in 2012 and doubt over what future direction the Labour party intends to take.

Update:

Also perhaps relevant to this consideration, Ed Miliband praises Margaret Thatcher in today's Daily Telegraph
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/ed-miliband/9544538/Ed-Miliband-its-good-to-be-rich-if-you-make-it-the-hard-way.html.

 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Politicians such as Jack Straw are still trying to manipulate the situation

Is it not depressing the way various people are using the Hillsborough tragedy to try to score political points?

Especially distasteful was Jack Straw this morning blaming "the legacy of Thatcher" for what happened at a football ground in the constituency of Labour MP David Blunkett (a future Home Secretary) in the so-called "people's republic" of South Yorkshire.

Jack Straw's attempt to draw in the so-called "battle" of Orgreave is bizarre when you consider that the vast majority of police at that event were from outside the local area.

It is well-known that people in Liverpool have an ingrained dislike for "the Tories".  Is it possible that Jack Straw is hoping to stoke up hatred of "the Tories" in a bid to deflect questions being asked about his likely role (and the likely role of David Blunkett) in the Hillsborough cover-up?  Is it possible that even after all that has happened politicians such as Jack Straw are still trying to manipulate the situation?

There is more of this smear deflecting exercise here:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2012/apr/12/hillsborough-battle-orgreave

Is anyone asking about the links between the then South Yorkshire Council and the local police?  It seems difficult to believe there was not collusion  co-ordination between the two organisations (at the very least there would have to be minuted discussions between a police force and the local council that funds it).  Sorry if this seems suspicious, but in my opinion the "culture of impunity" would be more attributable to the legacy of Blunkett rather than the legacy of Thatcher.

Update:  Andy Burnham MP (Labour Shadow Cabinet) has said:  "Why didn't my own party do more to help the families of Hillsborough?"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The idea that Boris Johnson could lead the Conservative Party is not tenable - the London mob might cheer him but Conservative Party members would not tolerate a whoopie-cushion leader.

Does the question asked by Chris Bryant later today have any validity






Is it really the case that Chris Bryant MP is so bereft of ideas, imagination and campaigning zeal that when chosen to ask the first question at Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons later today he has to go onto Twitter to find out what he should ask?

https://twitter.com/ChrisBryantMP

So many questions arise from this:

1  Is Chris Bryant not admitting that he is unfit to be a Member of Parliament if he cannot even marshall the intellectual nous to ask a question on his own?

2  What was wrong with asking his constituents?  Or does he really care more about the opinions of his Twitter followers than the people he is supposed to be representing?  Please don't tell me they are one and the same - a tiny fraction of the electorate of Rhondda will have Twitter accounts.

3  Is it not an abuse of House of Commons procedure to allow (encourage indeed) Twitter to influence what questions are asked at PMQs?

4  Are we moving away from a Parliamentary system of government and more towards one in which the ordinary people are able to directly intervene in the House of Commons through on-line participation?

5  If we are moving towards government by social media, is Twitter the best way of introducing on-line participation in the procedures of the House of Commons? - Twitter often brings out the worst in people.

6  Does the question asked by Chris Bryant later today have any validity if it is not really the question of a member of parliament but merely the gobby opinions of some Twitter loudmouth?  

       




No use expecting the Speaker of the House of Commons to intervene - he must be the most biased Speaker of post-war times, entirely pro-Labour.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Telling is not selling

On the Progress Online website former General Secretary of the Labour Party, Peter Watt, is looking for a new form of campaigning.

Beyond Voter ID http://www.progressonline.org.uk/2012/09/10/beyond-voter-id/

Peter Watt is an intelligent politician with a lot of experience of running election campaigns.  And in his piece he covers all the important points.  But somehow he fails to spot the obvious flaw in his reasoning.

He talks almost exclusively about the Labour party telling the electorate, not about the Labour party listening to the electorate.

This is a failure most politicians make.

They fail to realise that telling is not selling (this is so important I am going to write it again in capitals:  TELLING IS NOT SELLING).

There is no need for over-complicated segmentation of constituencies.  Certainly no need for obsessive use of social media.  All a politician needs to do is personally call at every household in the constituency, personally meet every elector (perfectly possible in a five year period), and listen to what they say.

Then represent those opinions, so far as they are able to within the constraints of the party line.

Anything that distracts politicians from calling on their electorate must be considered self-defeating.

This holds true for all parties, not just Labour.

Peter Watt ends his piece with a remarkably candid expression of self-knowledge:  "In our heart-of-hearts we know they do not trust us".

Too true I'm afraid.

They do not trust politicians because the politicians seem incapable of doing as they are told.
Does Surrey Police check staff who are on special leave following "trauma"?

Does it occur to Surrey Police that the individuals might be taking them for a ride?
I see the Bulgarian stalker has reappeared.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Treasures of Ancient Rome (BBC 4) is excellent in every way.

A faultless production.

I am looking forward to next week's programme which will look at the syncretism between classical and oriental architecture.

Sam Wollaston said that The Thick of It was not very funny this time round

In the Guardian today TV critic Sam Wollaston said that The Thick of It was not very funny this time round (it's a new series).

Although I thought The Thick of It was funny I have to agree that there was something missing.

In part I think it is because attention has shifted from Labour in power to the Coalition in power.

On the whole I agree with the theory that we laugh at things we are secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) afraid of.  Laughter is a form of hysteria.  I know this is a controversial theory, but it makes sense to me.

Therefore we have to conclude that the general population is not all that afraid of the Conservatives.  They are not scary in the same way that Alastair Campbell was scary, or Harriet Harman was intimidating, or Gordon Brown gave off the impression of a violent bully barely in control of himself.  You can test this for yourself by imagining Grant Shapps and Peter Mandelson side by side - which one would you feel most afraid of?

If you read the Twitter microblog of Owen Jones (Independent journalist and left-wing activist) you see lefties trying to outdo each other in their proclaimed hatred of "the Tories".  But sooner or later they get bored with that and start to berate "Progress" and "Blairites" and aim digital kicks at Tony McNulty.  Eventually they turn on Owen Jones himself and condemn him as a counter-revolutionary and a running dog lackey of the imperialists.

In terms of internecine feuding, bitter antagonisms, and dramatic no-holds-barred in-fighting Labour has all the drama and the Conservatives are nowhere.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2012/sep/09/the-thick-of-it-review

"How Britain has changed"

Have just listened to Eddie Mair's PM show on BBC Radio 4 (just the first fifteen minutes or so, then I had to get on with some work).

The initial report covered the Olympic Parade that took place in London earlier today.

The reporter (can't remember his name) was trying to get athletes and others to say "how Britain has changed" and with palpable eagerness hinting at "diversity" and "ethnicity".

Would it be impolite for me to ask how many of the British medallists were from the white working class?  We know (because the Guardian told us) that the privately-educated 7% sector of the population won about 30% of the medals; and also we know (because Sunder Katwala's report told us) that the Afro-Caribbean 2% of the population produced another 30% of the medals.  So are we saying that the remaining 91% of the population only produced 40% of the medals?

I can understand the multi-cultural enthusiasm for the winners, but should we not also think a little about those who were left behind and why they got left behind?





As Bonnie Greer (and others) have pointed out, it was Ken Livingstone who "got" these Games for London, and did the initial planning.  And the one thing we know about Ken Livingstone is that he was a completely unscrupulous godfather to the BME communities, knowing that they were more reliable voting-fodder than the ordinary white working class.  As Deepthroat would advise us:  follow the money.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Booing
















I did not see George Osborne being booed at the Paralympics, but it does occur to me that we should expect a Chancellor tackling serious economic conditions to be booed.  If he were not booed it would suggest he was not doing his job (which is to take hard and painful decisions).  People would boo a lot more if the economy fell apart.

In any case, what does booing signify?

What sort of people are so bad-mannered they indulge in booing?

Ed Miliband only had to mention Tony Blair's name and the Labour Party Conference started booing.
Disappointed G4S did not get the Surrey Police contract.

Not because I am pro-G4S.

But because I think Surrey Police need shaking up.

Rosehips
















One of the programmes I am really enjoying at the moment (along with Good Cop, Parades End and The Thick of It) is Wartime Farm on BBC2.

The latest episode told us about the health properties of rosehips, which made me look with new interest at the succulent rosehips on the dogroses along the lane.

I think I will put them in a blender and try a rosehip smoothie (along with some other fruit as I can't imagine they will taste nice).
And why so many Russian readers?

This last few weeks Russians have been all over this blog.
There is a Bulgarian reader of this blog, and I think I know who he is.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Always I get distracted - the past week at work

Monday

In this job e-mails dominate the working day in a way I have not previously experienced.

All we seem to be doing at the moment is planning the seminar we will hold at a conference in early October.  "Head Office" is naturally taking an interest as they do not trust our Director Vijay Singh to be on-message.  I am being loaded with all the administration of the seminar (which Vijay Singh does not trust our Administration Team to do either competently or confidentially).

Lunchtime I went to a local mall, bleak concrete plaza, visiting the bank, Co-Op and cheap goods store (I am still "method researching" a low-income demographic in an attempt to understand their thoughts and emotions).

The rest of the lunchbreak I sat in my car reading On the Edge of Reason by Miroslav Krleza.

In the afternoon I looked at databases.

Tuesday

News that Administration Supervisor Bridget O'Farrell will not return from maternity leave.

Today I finally got to grips with the papers on my desk and began to organise my work.

Wednesday

More staff started today, one on Administration and one on the Society project.  These appointments are evidence of the positive effect the new funding is already beginning to have on the Institute. Both are short-term contracts, a reminder that our new benefactor is not giving us a blank cheque.

Too much time spent replying to e-mails in the afternoon, so that an analysis report I was drafting became delayed.

Thursday 

Each day I arrive in the office determined to work hard, but always I get distracted.

Friday

I have never seen so many people in the office - all of our staff were in, plus lots of visitors from Head Office.  The reason for this gathering was to go over training and rehearsals for the October seminar.  I kept out of it all and worked on the analysis report.

The weather wonderfully warm so that at lunchtime I went downstairs where the library staff had opened the back door to the stacks and put chairs out in the sun.  I drank diet cherry Coke and talked to Assistant Librarian Gary and Library Manager Stan D.  They wanted to know whether there would be a salary review now that more money was coming into the Institute (salaries have remained the same since 2008!).

Anna Soubry

With all the problems facing the government in general and the Department of Health in particular why has Anna Soubry, immediately on her appointment as a (very very junior) minister, decided to call for the legalisation of assisted suicide?

Has she nothing better to do?

Or does she think such a controversial topic will get her some quick headlines?

The problem with Tory MPs is that they are no longer Tory (in the same way that Labour MPs are no longer socialist).  The vast majority of Members of Parliament, all parties, are interchangeable, shameless and unprincipled.  Literally unprincipled as they have no principles. 

The principle of not taking another's life is worth maintaining because it protects everyone.

As soon as you start to say there is "a life not worth living" where do you stop?

You could say mentally-ill people have lives not worth living.  You could say deaf-blind people have lives not worth living.  You could say asylum-seekers, caged in detention centres, have lives that are not worth living.

Can you see where this slippery slope is going to lead?
If the Archbishop of Canterbury is serious about the Anglican Communion having a "president" perhaps he should be courageous enough to talk through the implications of such a proposal.

It would not be possible in the twenty-first century for such a person to be "appointed" - to have any legitimacy the post would have to be elected, preferably by the people (for England this could be those on the PCC roll of each parish).

And if that point is conceded, then why not elect the bishops who sit in the House of Lords?

Difficult but necessary question

Today is the penultimate day of the Paralympic Games.

If you recall, the Olympic Games spurred Toby Helm and Sunder Katwala and others to tell us "At least a third of Britain's 65 medals reflected the positive contribution of immigration and integration to Britain over the last three generations."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/aug/19/olympic-poll-positive-britain?CMP=twt_fd

Therefore it is somewhat puzzling to see that the overwhelming ethnicity of the Paralympic British gold medal winners is not due to "immigration and integration".  In fact they are overwhelmingly white.  Whiter than Greg Dyke's BBC. 

All sorts of questions arise:

Is the selection process for Paralympic athletes so mired in racism that almost no Black & Minority Ethnic athletes were selected to represent the United Kingdom?

Or does it mean the Black & Minority Ethnic communities so despise the status of people with disabilities that for cultural reasons they have entirely shunned participation in the Games?

Or (difficult but necessary question this one) does it mean that the participation of Black & Minority Ethnic athletes in the mainstream Olympic Games was artificially inflated for political reasons? (and if so who authorised this and for what motive).

Toby Helm and Sunder Katwala and all the other commentators who have lectured us on the multi-cultural multi-ethnic Olympic Games (one thinks of Paul Mason, incontinent with left-wing excitement as he read out The Sun's editorial verbatim on Newsnight) - all these people have some explaining to do.

Friday, September 07, 2012

A class of Nietzschean supermen and women

Is it true that seven members of the Labour front bench did PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) at Oxford?

How on earth can the the Labour Party claim to be representative of ordinary people when power and influence is monopolised by such a small number of cliquey identitkit people.

It would be useful to know the process by which each of these seven people finessed themselves onto the front bench.  Who were the patrons and enablers who helped them on their way?  Or was it all due to will-to-power merit, and we should be in awe of PPE graduates as a class of Nietzschean supermen and women?

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Predistribution

Whenever I hear the word "predistribution" I am, through some process of dyslexia, thinking the word is "predestination".

Not sure how this Calvinist interpretation got into my mind.

As an Anglican I believe that we are saved through faith (and that ultimately everyone will be saved - hell exists but there is no-one in it).

Zadie Smith is taking a risk

On the Today programme this morning author Zadie Smith, in a recorded interview talking to Mariella Frostrup about her new novel NW, told us that she had discriminated in the way the characters in her novel are described and portrayed.  Only white people have their race commented upon (and from the basis of an exerpt published in the Guardian at least one of these white characters is portrayed unfavourably in terms of behaviour, appearance and general obnoxiousness).  Zadie Smith justified this racial discrimination on the grounds that American authors discriminate against black people (she quoted two American authors who have done this, although her novel NW is set in London and is about Londoners).

Zadie Smith is taking a risk in doing this, as under equalities legislation only one person has to make a complaint to the police about racial discrimination and the police must investigate it, no matter how trivial it might seem.

Presumably Hugh Muir will be castigating Zadie Smith in his Guardian column Hideously Diverse Britain.

The Reverend Giles Fraser called for the disestablishment of the Church of England

On Thought for the Day this morning (BBC Radio 4) The Reverend Giles Fraser called for the disestablishment of the Church of England.

Of course, no-one should take this call seriously.  The Rev Giles Fraser probably doesn't mean it seriously.  "Outrageous" remarks are part of his style and designed to get media attention.

However it does reveal an ignorance on the part of the Rev Giles Fraser about the status of the Established Church.  The Church of England does not belong to the clergy, it belongs to the people.  The Anglican priests do not have the authority to disestablish the Church.

Individual clergy or groups of clergy can remove themselves from the Church and join other religions.  Or set up their own sects, as many have done over the centuries.  Perhaps the Rev Giles Fraser would be happier doing this?

And how does the Rev Giles Fraser have the time to minister to his parish and simultaneously manage a busy career as a media celebrity? 

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Save the Children report doesn't quite ring true

Charity Save the Children, an organisation normally active in third world countries countering famine and malnutrition, has announced a campaign to help children in the United Kingdom who are reportedly going without food.

A Save the Children report emphasises the shocking levels of deprivation that have overcome United Kingdom children:

http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/sites/default/files/documents/child_poverty_2012.pdf






The announcement has been seized upon by left-wing commentators as an indictment of the current Coalition government.

Except that the Save the Children report doesn't quite ring true.

I take an interest in social issues, and regularly visit social housing estates in deprived areas. 

I also have relatives living in the rougher parts of Peckham, Bellingham and the Watling Estate in north London.

So far I have not had any feedback that children are starving in deprived parts of the country, nor that famine relief operations are necessary to "save the children".

Is it possible the Save the Children report and campaign is a scam?

That low-income families are experiencing hardship is undeniable, but Mehdi Hasan should ponder the thought that this has not just happened in the last 800 days but is a legacy of the incompetence of the last government - in many cases the poverty has been endemic over very long periods of time.

I am also suspicious of the fact that the Director of Programmes for Save the Children is Fergus Drake.



















If you look at Mr Drake's record you can see that he was a Treasury adviser under the last government and then moved into a role working for The Office of Tony Blair, before "somehow" popping up as a Director of Save the Children.

Would you trust anything produced by a former adviser of Tony Blair?

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Brazen performance by Stella Creasy MP on Newsnight discussing foodbanks.  No acknowledgement of how the Labour years created the systemic poverty we now see.  And mentioning her constituency every other sentence presumably to appeal to the local media.

What a horrible example of the very worst kind of political careerist.

Justine Greening MP
















I have a lot of respect for Justine Greening MP.

Steady, capable, polite.

Also kind and patient even to nonentities such as myself, explaining government policy to me when I have failed to do the proper research.

Is The Times a machine for destroying intellectuals?

One of the (perhaps unintended) consequences of The Times paywall has been the disappearance from public view of several previously well-known commentators. David Aaronovitch for instance used to be everywhere.  You would see him on television, hear him on the radio, be able to read his articles on the internet.

Now, unless you actually buy The Times (which I do occasionally) you are not able to obtain an Aaronovitchian insight into issues of the day (I am not counting Twitter, which is tedious beyond belief).

One of the advantages of the internet has been that the ephemeral writings of journalists, previously only available if you went to the trouble of collecting clippings, have become part of the easily-accessible collected knowledge of humanity.

But not for Times journalists.

Not only have their articles become limited to subscribers, their reputations must be suffering in comparison to other commentators and their ability to influence wider society is surely waning.

Which makes me ask:  is The Times a machine for destroying intellectuals?

The historical narrative of a nation (and the identity of its population) must be disrupted and destabilised








Article in The Independent (website) by Owen Jones on the evils of British imperialism:

http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/owen-jones-william-hague-is-wrong-we-must-own-up-to-our-brutal-colonial-past-8101370.html

The article is provocative and highly tendentious, and at several points seems to equate British imperialism with Nazi Germany.

On the one hand, radical reinterpretations of history can be useful.  New evidence comes to light on a continual basis and needs to be integrated into the historical record.  Owen Jones studied History at Oxford and must be allowed an opinion on areas of valid debate.

However I do not think this article is entirely an impartial attempt to contribute towards historical research and review.

Socialists (true socialists, not social democrats) believe that bourgeois capitalist society cannot be reformed, it must be destroyed and rebuilt along socialist lines.

To achieve this the historical narrative of a nation (and the identity of its population) must be disrupted and destabilised so that the ordinary people question who they are and question whether the national myths which sustain their society are worth maintaining.

In a normally-functioning democracy such attempts to subvert the national mythus ("the inter-relationship of value structures and historical experiences of a people, usually given expression through the arts") would get nowhere.  The population would have enough collective intellectual rigour to be able to decide whether British history was no better than that of Nazi Germany.  But as the GCSE grade inflation scandal demonstrates, the way subjects are taught in schools has become corrupted, and for several decades school leavers have not had the knowledge or interpretation skills to know when they are being manipulated.

Monday, September 03, 2012

How exactly does this happen?









I was reading an article yesterday on the GCSE grade inflation scandal.

The half-page piece was written by Matthew Taylor, who I had never heard of before.

At the end a couple of lines told us he is Chief Executive of the prestigious Royal Society of Arts and a former political adviser to Tony Blair.

How does one go from political adviser to head of one of our more important institutions?

Was it a completely open and above board recruitment process?  Did the candidates have to sit a taxing examination (perhaps like Fellows of All Souls)?  Or was it a favour bunged to an old crony?

Owen Jones, Independent journalist and scourge of the Blairite tendency, once announced he was writing a book about the British establishment.

I would like him to look at the process whereby a hanger-on from a discredited scumbag government "pops up" in charge of a reputable organisation like the RSA.

How exactly does this happen?

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Boneland by Alan Garner













I have just started reading Boneland by Alan Garner.  The prose is beautiful - as one reviewer has said, it is like reading poetry.  Lovely production of the book and the dust jacket has a wonderful matt velvet feel that makes me want to keep picking it up.

Murnaghan on Sky News

Discussion about the economic situation on Murnaghan on Sky News this morning.

One of the panellists (I can't remember who) said a programme of house building was the main factor in lifting the United Kingdom out of recession in the 1930s.

This is not strictly true.

It was a programme of house building combined with protection (tariff walls that protected the British economy from external competition) and exchange controls that ended the recession.

Also remember that the house building in the 1930s was almost entirely private sector, not public sector.

He was visibly impressed - the past week at work

Monday

Bank holiday.

A bottle of Gigondas was opened at lunchtime.

Tuesday

Back to my desk.

Gary, Assistant Librarian in the Reading Room downstairs, walked backwards and forwards across the upstairs floor with one hand behind his back (presumably some kind of affectation), and in the other hand giving out the morning's mail (his new responsibility).  Without a word he presented me with a heavy parcel - they were factsheets from head office.

In an effort to understand a particular demographic I am attempting to live their lifestyle - annoying to go to the Co-Op to buy special offers only to find that all of them are out of stock.  Walking (3 miles!) to the shops instead of using the car.  So far I have not been able to bring myself to watch Hollyoaks.

Wednesday

I spent the day at head office in London (although now we have a new source of funding it is not exactly clear whether they still are our "head office").  I arrived early and sat in an empty conference room making notes.  Gradually other people filed in for the 11 o'clock meeting, most of them seeming to know who I was (including Joe S who was completely unlike what I expected; also the friendly Sharon C).

The meeting, chaired by Nancy C (young, ambitious, politically correct) was to discuss the annual Conference. I outlined what the Institute intended to contribute, then left the speaking to others.  David B as enthusiastic as a young child.  Joe S upset one of the trestle tables and spilt coffee everywhere disrupting the meeting by about fifteen minutes.  Burly Sharon C recounted all the disasters Joe S had been involved in since his arrival at head office.  The meeting finished at 1pm and I left the building to have lunch at a nearby coffee bar.

In the afternoon a meeting with Tony S in fundraising.  News of the Institute's new donor has spread to head office, and he was visibly impressed.  He told me that Alec Nussbaum had taken the news badly.

Thursday

Long meeting in the morning briefing the Institute's Director Vijay Singh about the conference planning yesterday.  We are to hold our own seminar during one of the conference lunchbreaks.  Vijay Singh wants the publicity kept deliberately vague so that no-one tries to intervene until it is too late.

An e-mail from a magazine editor praising an article I had written.

Friday

Vijay Singh asked me to design a survey to go out to 174 local education authorities. 

My demographic research is going well and e-mails streamed in from various directions so that I felt I was surrounded by voices.

Assistant librarian talking about football transfers ("I've already had a lot of grief about that").