30 September 2009
eh? Maybe he realised that Ollie Cromwell was right and that this implied he has to call an election
But seriously - shall I add 'na-na-nah-nah!'?
I can broadly agree with the sentiment that there is little point in the BBC making populist shows (Eastenders, Strictly et all) because they can be easily produced by the market - one could argue that some people may want to pay for that, rather than watch it for 'free', where the cost is in watching hours of ads, but I think it's been shown that the commercial sector can make a reasonable fist of these things
But of course, they feel obliged to cater to this market because everybody funds them - if we are all forced to pay 140 quid for it then we should at least like something there - personally I think screw that, if people don't like current affairs or education and only watch tat then they should still be paying for something useful, it's a public service, like museums - just because you'll never go to one doesn't mean your taxes aren't going to fund it
But my view will never get off the ground, my brand of logic is too extreme for most and the principle remains that if we all pay, then we should all be able to watch, hence the BBC does need ratings, contrary to popular belief - if it has no viewers for Strictly then it can't justify itself
So what is the solution? - Elstein recommends a public service (PSB) fund, presumably for news, current affairs and education, and a subscription fund for everything else, after all, HBO is alright making the best dramas in the world solely off subscription
But do you really want to relegate the BBC to 80-hours of programming a year? HBO has an incredible impact for it's size, but it's solely in top-quality drama, and it's American - and so has far more people to fund it, and more money to spend on shows - so if an American subscription channel only makes 80 hours a year, how much would a British one make? 40?
That's not a lot - it's a handful of series in a year, or about a full length James Bond marathon
The BBC would fundamentally change from iconic broadcaster to a news/politics channel and niche programming provider - is that what people really want?
An Ofcom survey (source 13) found that the vast majority of people supported the BBC, and the other opinions are all about the way it is funded, not its existence - supported by c.80% of the population
The licence fee on the other hand has it's opponents
following an ICM poll for their current affairs programme Panorama, which showed that 31% were in favour of the existing licence fee system, 36% said the BBC should be paid for by a subscription, and 31% wanted advertising to pay for the programmesSo we have a situation where people want the BBC, but do not want to fork out 140 quid a year for it - fair enough, it's expensive and bad value in my book, but if we have a situation where essentially 70% of people are opposing the licence fee then how many do you think will be subscribing? The people who want a subscription are, generally speaking, against having to pay for it themselves, so it seems unlikely they'll be subscribing themselves - so we've already reduced the BBC's budget to about 30%
So the question I must ask now is - can the BBC exist in the form we want it by shifting to a subscription? The answer is probably not - I don't understand Elstein's reasoning that people would subscribe for news, the Proms, and children's shows when there is a PSB fund - if it's going to provide public service AND subscription shows then you're still going to have to be able to provide PSB for free, while presumably subscription would be on a stand-alone channel - so the subscription package is nothing but another HBO...
The idea is that basically those roughly four-fifths of the population who still want the BBC, would still pay for it - that's twenty years of Ofcom research apparently, except, when it came to the crunch, would those people who so adore the BBC bother to pay for it? Would they actually willingly pay for it when they didn't have to? I'm willing to bet ideological support for Auntie would be gone in a decade or two
It says it will survive, no doubt it will, but in what form will it survive? Further research shows 70% don't actually fancy paying, so what will we be left with?
Elstein claims PSB is just stuff that the market can't provide but that is beneficial to society (e.g. the arts/politics) - but if people like the BBC - if they like it's lack of advertising, it's pervasive news content, it's production of comedy and drama, and it's presence in general, then removing the areas that attract the most people to the channel will relegate it to being a small broadcaster - if there's no Eastenders, no Dr. Who, no My Family (note: I watch none of these) on then why will people even turn over for the news or Question Time, when the commercial networks with these popular shows will advertise their own news and draw a bigger audience share, why will people care when the BBC ask a big question to the government?
As I've said, people seem to like the BBC - it's incredibly dominant in the British media, it's an icon - they just dislike paying so much for it - so basically people want to have their cake and eat it, while a significant few don't want the cake at all
A tricky situation indeed, I believe Ben Bradshaw is right (I'll try not to let that happen again) when he says that BBC news is better than anything on offer in America, or anywhere else for that matter - it is, American news is all 'action news' to chase ratings and horribly partisan, and while I believe the BBC has gone downhill in journalistic quality, it's funding has kept the British media in check - ITV and Five can't become American-style commercial channels, and I think that's a very good thing - I've seen the US networks, and they're mirrored in Australia, and they are dreadful - it makes you long for some decorum, I think the BBC protects the British people from rampant commercialisation, and I've yet to find a country with a better media establishment - HBO is the only example ever given of a decent US channel
Likewise with the radio industry, it is often said that Radio 1 should be commercial, as it plays commercial music
Except, why should people who like that sort of music have to listen the mindless commercial networks? People who say they would be improved by the removal of the dominant BBC are wrong - and they need some evidence to back it up, because I've yet to see a decent commercial radio set-up in America or Australia - it boils down to a fundamental choice, either you want to pay for it or you don't, I would rather help pay for some of my own media outlets then let them all be commercially funded - only society can make the decision whether to keep that idea, there's no right or wrong here
I think the main issue is funding - it is unjust to force a regressive tax on people, but if people want such a broadcaster what is the fairest way to pay for it?
Subscription: as we've just seen, would probably destroy the BBC as we know it
Public funds: would be more fairly distributed, although the poorest/unemployed amongst us wouldn't be paying for it at all - it would be a further drain on the government coffers, and it would have to be significantly smaller to justify this funding, it would lose its impact and probably end up similar to the Australian weakling, ABC
I think in the end it comes down to a toss-up between the compulsory telly tax, which is a rather unfair method, and an optional payment - which is fairer, but runs the risk of removing something that most of us support - I am happy to pitch in even though I don't care for Radio 3, Songs of Praise or Antiques Roadshow, because I accept that I get something else back - if all the people who agreed with this actually paid up voluntarily then maybe it could work and we'd all be happy, but the question is: will they? Maybe it is best that the BBC is in fact, all things to all men
If there's actually someone out there who can find a decent solution to this then they're a genius
Are the left still really that thick, or was it ironic?
We can argue about the impact of Thatcher til the cows come home, but is it not time to lay the hatred to rest? It's been twenty years since she left! We had just as many years of Blair, did he save us from the evils of Thatcher? Or was he pretty much the same, just with a worse spending policy?
Unless they can somehow prove that this country was about to collapse when Major came in, and that Blair actually saved us, then this whole 'Thatcher is the devil' thing needs to be laid to rest - it's history, if we have a go at Callaghan it's too long ago, but Thatcher is somehow still relevant when Labour have had more time than she had to 'fix' the wrongs she committed
It's just childish name-calling - their partisan nature really turns me off
Oh and as for Brown's 'commitment' to AV, this is clearly a tactic to hook people like me - I would love electoral reform, and I also like his pledge about hereditary peers, but it's too little, too late for several reasons:
1) AV is not enough
2) You've had 13 years to ask us, don't think I'm going to give you another 5 just for that
3) Blair lied in 1997, so why won't you?
No, I think I'll stick to my anti-Labour beliefs rather than be bought off, thank you very much
29 September 2009
Clarkson is worth a read this week, with a bizarre list of rules that Brown has apparently imposed on farms, I never knew it was so complicated...
The Fink pointed me out to strangemaps.com - and I found this one which removed the bottom 5% of global GDP, rather intriguing
Roy Hattersley made me chuckle, telling Labour to rediscover its old principles and stop worrying about gaining votes and winning elections, the problems started back in '94 - right...
Bias aside, I liked David Elstein's particular take on the BBC, so much I want to write about it myself (maybe later..)
William Rees-Mogg demonstrates why having a life-peer system that naturally favours the elderly has it's problems, oh and something about banking regulations...
And that's enough for the Times - they must be very happy that they managed to direct me towards several good articles
The only thing in the Independent I particularly liked was Yasmin Alibhai-Brown's criticism of Israel's nuclear arsenal - I tend to avoid anything about Israel as it's always the same boring tripe from both sides, so I thought it worth noting
Guido reminds why he's so popular with this bitchslap to the media who are having a go at Marr over 'that' question (Guido and Marr...now that's a weird scenario)
The Mail...ummm...admittedly they did a good job with the Ofsted idiocy, they have a reasonable piece about saving the pint, but not from the EU! - Albeit very prematurely...
I also can't help but agree with this on the birthmark/human rights issue - especially considering it's basically my last post..
and finally in the Sun - Rihanna's in her Nundies
28 September 2009
Common sense would lead most of us to ask why on Earth were friends/colleagues being investigated for looking after each others' children?
Because the simple answer is
"Generally, mothers who look after each other's children are not providing childminding for which registration is required, as exemptions apply to them, for example because the care is for less than two hours or it takes place on less than 14 days in a year." (Ofsted)
Close relatives of children, such as grandparents, siblings, aunts or uncles, were exempt from the rules, he added.
So basically, anybody who is not closely related to you cannot look after your child on a regular basis (more than 14 days in a year, or more than a two-hour session...) without being registered and subject to a criminal check - unless there is no 'reward'
"Reward is not just a case of money changing hands. The supply of services or goods and, in some circumstances, reciprocal arrangements can also constitute reward."
Were you paying someone (even a close friend) for childminding, then fair enough, it is somewhat harsh, as it's a bit like forcing someone who privately sells their car to become a registered dealer - but when 'reward' extends to people sharing childcare to save themselves money it's got beyond a joke
So, basically you cannot have any sort of reciprocal agreement with someone who isn't related to you without undergoing criminal checks - truly we have given up our freedom to make decisions to the state when women from a mothers' group can't help each other out without asking the government first
As usual, a measure to protect us (registering childminders) has resulted in a much more wide-ranging measure that can hugely affect our personal decisions - at best it's sloppy legislation, at worst it's another move to control us with databases
The minister has ordered a review - which is not bad by Labour's standards, but I can't help thinking that they only picked up on this because 1) the Mail pointed it out (no internal checks), and 2) it was about 'hard-working' policewomen returning to work - politically dangerous
This does I admit, show a surprising amount of shrewdness from Labour - so maybe I'll believe they actually care in this case, but still, once again we're seeing that the masses of legislation passed in the Labour years probably does more harm than good
Speaking of the Mail, I don't normally agree with them but on this I have to
A burglar with a port-wine birthmark cannot be identified because the police cannot find the compulsory 12 people to show in a photo-identity parade, and if he was in a real line-up, they'd all have to hide half their face to avoid using the birthmark as identification
Is that not ridiculous? I can understand where the law is coming from, having 12 broadly similar people for a line-up, and no doubt the law protects a black guy who has being arrested if he's stuck in a line-up with 11 white guys - but birthmarks are not a racial thing
Presumably if the guy had one arm they'd have to cover that up too? Or find a dozen one-armed bandits...?
How about if they had a big knife-induced scar across their eye? Would that be an unfair way to identify someone? It's just silly
Distinctive personal features are identifiers, and I doubt for the amount of people with one of those birthmarks that twelve people is a fair sample, and also that the probability of getting the suspect right is a little higher than simply using the suspect's skin colour
Once again, it's sloppy law-making where a distinctive feature can be used to essentially protect a criminal from prosecution
26 September 2009
Firstly for his language - rarely does one so politically correct as Hari use language like this:
He has to present a cruel, bigoted snob who fleeced millions from the British taxpayer as a heroine fit to rule over us. His mind turns to mush.
Not the sort of thing I expect from a 'progressive' - although he is often alarmist (we're all dead by 2015, for example..), this was a sort of anti-Littlejohn diatribe, usually such language is being used to scare and vilify, and I don't like it, especially in a broadsheet
But while I found the language distasteful, I have to admit, he has a point - why the hell do we venerate the Queen Mother?
We are all guilty of glossing over our ancestors' indiscretions - 'Grandad was a racist...but he was from a different time, different attitudes' etc - who hasn't said that one? All well and good, but most of us don't write best-selling books in our cover-ups, had Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon been my Granny then it wouldn't have be an issue, let's all laugh at the little old lady with her quick wit and love of horses, we all tend to remember the dead fondly, regardless of the reality, but let's not write a book about it that ignores her true nature and believe she was some sort of idol
This particular old lady spent her whole life mooching off the state, taking advantage of taxpayers' money and being a self-serving elitist - all of what Hari says is true - the quotes from Lamont are true, her spending record is a historical fact, but we just put up with it - why?
What is this irrational love affair with the monarchy? Why do we elevate one family, for no real reason, into such a position, and pay them for the privilege, when we apparently hate unfairness, as shown recently by the reaction to the politicians who lord it over us?
The fact is, the actual monarch has to behave impeccably, if the Queen hadn't done such a good job then she would've been out on her ear a long time ago - that's a testament to her, but it really shows something about our national (or personal) psyche when we defend and even admire people like her mother, who we simply let get away with it - it defies logic, and any monarchist who decries MPs expenses, or people who live off benefits, is a massive hypocrite
I don't usually like Hari, and I didn't like his choice of words, but I am in total agreement with him on this
25 September 2009
And broadly I agree - it's notable that there is an absence of older women (over 50), particularly compared to the old geezers still hanging around the Beeb (as I found out in a ridiculously lengthy post before)
But this has always been an allegation - the women either retired or were dropped, like any other worker - there was no 'you're too old, bye!!' - it's a perception that it's deliberate, there's no actual proof
Of course, the BBC has to be receptive to public opinion, and clearly it's justified, especially in current affairs programmes (dramas and soaps are full of old women) - but is not deliberately looking for newsreaders based on age and sex against the law?
Under the Equalities bill it wouldn't be, but right now to select based on any kind of physical discrimination is illegal - I know that the media deliberately pick people for certain 'qualities' - but is this not blatant enough to actually be a breach of discrimination law? Seems to me the BBC are leaving themselves open to prosecution, if they, for example, ignore young people or men - they could be cutting off their nose to spite their face here
Not that anyone would normally care - except that this is the BBC and I would bet the Mail will jump on it - they love a good bit of hypocrisy, I'd put money on it and I'll be looking out for it
I do of course, have to ask - does this mean the Mail now support Hattie's 'equality' bill?
24 September 2009
I think I'll take the risk on something that has never been used, and never should be used
[John Hutton] (former defence secretary) added that Britain would 'rue the day' it became vulnerable to blackmail or aggression.Do you find it a bit odd that John Hutton (who incidentally is the only named critic) is being cited by the Mail as some sort of expert because he was Defence Secretary, when they regard his successor, Bob Ainsworth, as the devil?
Maybe Hutton was a far better candidate with some sort of defence background? Nope he's a lawyer and career politician who held the job for 8 months....
I don't doubt this is a foolish move, but at least bring me a general!
I understand the arguments for 'the deterrent' - but seriously, what does it achieve? It protects us from aggression and blackmail - I guess Germany, Canada, Japan and Australia are all under someone's thumb?
I appreciate that if we gave it up we'd be weakening our defences, we could be bullied by the Yanks, Russians, or Chinese (not the French) if they so wished - but seriously, are we the last line of defence for Europe? It's giving away a very big weapon that makes it look like we could deal with the big boys on our own, but in reality what does it do?
Like I say, I understand the rationale for it - it's very hard to give up and place this sort of capability solely in the hands of other nations, having to trust the US essentially - it's hard, and my ideal preference would be to get all the powers to disarm, I have little fear of anything North Korea decide to send our way, but let's face it - this is all about saving face - we want to think we're independent
But the question remains - how do Germany, Japan etc. survive on relying on other nations - do they even fear the threat? Maybe because I'm now in Australia I can be a bit more reflective - because they certainly don't regard it as an issue - the issue for Britain is not about having them, it's about giving them up
I would say that while I like having an independent deterrent of our own, primarily because I dislike the idea of the yanks having all the cards, if there need to be countries like Britain and France there to maintain the balance for everyone else in the western world then they shouldn't be funding it on their own
If the other countries don't even care about the balance then I think we should become as grown-up as them and ditch the bomb - it's all about ego, because while it 'could' be useful, it's far more likely to result in the end of the world if we start having to use the bloody things - think about it - there's actually a world situation where Britain needs to defend itself with cataclysmic weapons, where it can survive as a nation in a world where probably no-one else would? I think a lot of the world just accept that if they do get used then we're all toast - it's just bravado to keep them
Of course what I really love is that Brown, by taking the middle route, has completely fudged the issue - all he would do is undermine the military capability to save a paltry £2 billion, pleasing absolutely no one
*I must also admit one of my favourite bits was this
There are also concerns about the impact on jobs. Some 15,000 posts are claimed to be connected to the Trident replacement programme. The submarines are likely to be manufactured by BAE at Barrow-in-Furness, a constituency represented by Mr Hutton, with their nuclear engines made by Rolls Royce in Derby. The submarines are maintained and decommissioned in Devonport Dockyard in Plymouth, and operate from Faslane naval base in Scotland. Aldermaston in Berkshire, where the missiles are made, employs 4,000. The weapons programme also supports jobs at the nuclear reactors that create the bomb-making material, including Sellafield.
In my recollection, the government creating non-profit, public-sector jobs (or using financial stimuli) is bad in the Mail 's eyes
Unless it's to make bombs, of course
23 September 2009
It was a dust cloud, it was pretty cool, but I think that's a little OTT
That's what you get from the Mail...
This story is confusing me somewhat - Baroness Scotland employed an illegal, she did not take the necessary measures to ensure she was within the law, and was duly fined five grand
What I want to know is if Scotland had the relevant copies, would she be fined? From the BBC
It is understood that she had seen the woman's passport, a letter from the Home Office on her right to work, her P45, her National Insurance details, references and a marriage certificate.
Labour are in full-spin I see - so, had she photocopied these would she have been fined? Clearly they were somehow false, or weren't actually valid - and an employer is obliged to properly check these documents (photos, signatures etc)
So was she fined for not following protocol, or for actually hiring an illegal? Which the law says is an offence even if it is unwitting - these checks are supposed to prevent it from happening so surely the logical conclusion is that even these documents would not help her escape a fine - you are not fined for not having the relevant documents, i.e. if you hired me, although you are required to obtain these documents, you would not be fined by the Borders Agency as I'm a citizen - so unless she was well and truly tricked she is culpable?
Let's peruse the documents shall we -
1. Passport, presumably foreign (rather than forgery) as she had a letter about right to work, so not valid
2. Home Office letter - I have a right to work in Australia until next year, it has conditions on it, presumably hers said something along the lines of while engaging in studies (she had a student visa), hardly seems a good defence, unless the Home Office are that stupid (hmmm...)
3. P45 - proves nothing!
4. National Insurance - Not a proof of entitlement to work, as outlined in her own guidelines! NI numbers are given to people who have HAD a right to work here at some point, doesn't mean she still is entitled
5. References - same as p45, prove nothing
6. Marriage certificate - This, I think was the clincher - married to a British national, so she must be eligible - well not any more, thanks to marriage visas
I see nothing that would absolve the most powerful lawyer in the country from this
And you know what? - that is the whole point, I don't think I'd care if someone employed an illegal as a nanny, I'd even let Harman off for something this trivial - I have sympathy with Ms. Tapui's situation - she is actually eligible to work in Britain and is only 'illegal' through a technical measure, most people would deserve sympathy in this situation
But not the Attorney-General, who effectively created this law where ignorance is not a defence (standard common-law practice anyway) and must be seen to follow it - for a person in her position to commit this offence is a joke
I know it's a civil matter, not a criminal one, and I wouldn't call for the head of most ministers in this case, but because she basically made this law, she must go - this is not like forgetting to pay the congestion charge (her own comparison), or speeding - this is directly linked to her job and undermines her position as chief lawmaker
It is unfortunate, I admit, but she should be stepping down for the dignity of her role - she can't be seen as a hypocrite
And that was rather longer than I intended - what I meant to get into (rather than wittering on about this like everyone else) was the government:
Once again we have an unelected, unaccountable person refusing to leave, despite it being in the public interest - traditionally of course, a person in her position would never be elected, and rightly so - but this is just compounding the case against Labour - their refusal to act just further highlights their incredible amount of power that is based on people who are completely unelected
Normally we could pressure the elected government to push her out of this esteemed position - but we already have an unaccountable prime minister, propped up by an unaccountable and unelectable 'Lord' Mandelson and a cabinet made up of cronies from the Lords, further supported by other unelectable people like the Kinnocks in the Lords and EU
If ever there was a serious case against the appointment system we have, it is this - we have tolerated the Lords for a long time because they're actually quite handy, but the danger of having such a lot of power in unelected positions (compounded by the undemocratic EU) is quite evident now - and while we may hate elected politicians, we need to take the hit and stop governments relying on their mates who they have appointed for life, Labour would've been out if they had to rely solely on the Commons by now - something which all recent governments have done
22 September 2009
I find that Andrew Neil is in broad agreement with me - the Libs have turned on the Tories because they are now the principal threat, Labour are dead in the water
But they need more on the ground - despite Labour's losses the Libs make no gains, their appeal to the more middle-class liberal (or 'soft tory') is very limited, and I would guess they are after Labour's leftie seats, as the Tories are making inroads on even their seats in the south-west
To my mind the Libs face a natural struggle - in an adversarial system there will always be two major parties occupying the mainstream, the third is a niche, a protest, which few see as realistic
But politically their best bet is to replace Labour, the Tories have the right well covered - the left are ripe for the picking
But that unfortunately seems to mean an ideological shift into Labour territory - using leftist arguments to attract former socialists
Only that means they risk abandoning their actual liberal supporters - the old rump in this country who support personal freedom, if they do shift leftwards then they will push their most reliable votes into the Tories' waiting arms
What they should be doing is appealing to former Labour seats with the liberal message - if the BNP can capitalise on promoting themselves to Labour heartlands, why can't the Libs? This is a chance to properly defeat Labour, there are new generations who have no experience of the unions and are far more politically open after 13 years of bollocks, but if Clegg is just going to pander to old leftie arguments then he will just be keeping seats warm for Labour when they return from the wilderness, while isolating his own base
I don't regard myself as a Lib Dem but of the big three I am most certainly closest to them - moves like this will only push people like me towards the Tories (although I personally have no intention of voting for Cameron's lot) and I believe there are a few things the Libs have to do to become popular
First, take a look at this poll (thanks to Ollie Cromwell for highlighting it)
As you can see - the Lib Dems are liked, but Cameron-lite Clegg is not - he is dragging the party down - Vince Cable is far more recognised than him, and I don't believe their tactic of having Vince as second-in-command next to a charismatic young leader is working - where is Charlie Kennedy when you need him?
Secondly - if they ever want power then they need to drop the EU thing, I'm wasting my breath here - but if they ever want to attract the broad sentiment of this population then they need to be seen as anti-EU, even if they aren't - the Tories somehow magically capitalise on anti-EU sentiment despite being broadly for it
All I would ask is that the Libs bang on about Lisbon - you have to oppose Lisbon to get anywhere in this climate, they don't have to be UKIP, but they need to be more sceptical to win over the right, who are the majority here - they need to appeal to the moderates on the right - fairness, less tax, less bureaucracy, more civil liberties, electoral reform
Proper liberals in a word - which is hard when the Tories have gradually absorbed much of liberal ideology while having to remain socially conservative to keep the older sheep voting for them
Liberals have been getting a raw deal in this country for too long, sort it out, Clegg
21 September 2009
He posts in response to this story in the Sun over a regional Tesco (Bangor) ejecting a Jedi for wearing a hood
‘Threat to safety’ etc etc no doubt - but the hoods are not the issue, the issue is that other people are allowed in wrapped head to toe in black cloth, revealing nothing but eyes
These are of course Muslim women in burkhas - I know they are allowed in because, aside from it being common knowledge, I have been many a time besieged by these trolley-menaces (for some reason they seem to have little spatial awareness...)
Now there is respecting religion and there is this - why is a person in a crash helmet, or a hoodie/Jedi knight outfit, obliged to show their face, but a woman in full Burkha not?
Religious reasons of course, it is 'disrespectful' to ask them to take it off - bollocks is it, we're just cowards
The fact is, it's a legitimate safety concern, if a shop (or an airport!) requires you to not hide your face then you can't bloody hide your face in there - either you accept that or you don't go there
But no no, we must be able to do what we want where we want because it's a religious thing - we will ignore the fact that it isn't a religious requirement at all, and question the logic here
We can debate academically about religious freedom all we like, but the cold hard reality is that some aspects of Islam (for I do not wish to slander all followers) are tolerated in spite of the law for no logical reason - there is no legal definition of a religion - and to secularists like me, we see all religions as equally silly nonsense
Many may ridicule Jedi knights, but to people like me, they are as valid as Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Jews etc - they may well be a bit of a joke, and we know it, but they are based on pretty much the same thing - fiction, in a thousand years it may be that Jedi is a proper respected religion based on the ancient tales of Skywalker, as told by Luc-as in the holy trinity (the prequels got lost in time)
'Real' religions have no logical grounds on which to be seen as superior - except they are older and have more followers, Scientology is a legally recognised religion in some states
So the fact is, you allow adherents of one religion to cover people's faces, but no others may do this - the law is for all, religion must bow to the rules - there is a reason Christianity is so tame nowadays - because it was controlled by modern Anglo-centric liberalism, we (as in, every western nation) developed our own codes of what is acceptable, you don't get to usurp that with an alien culture and then cry foul when we deny you the right to behave how you would in another part of the world
In this case it simply refers to an article of clothing, but we are happy to condemn honour killings and female genital mutilation, another part of certain people's religious convictions - why do we have to tolerate this when it's clearly also against our laws
I will put it in simple metaphor - let us say a religion states that all members must be naked at all times - acceptable?
Yeah right, that religion would be forced to practice these acts (which are against public decency laws) in private, and they would have to conform, but considering the 'tolerance' shown to Muslims this should be permissible, just as it is their duty to cover their whole body, despite public interest, it is their duty not to cover any part of their skin, despite public interest
This is nothing against Islam - I simply believe that the law should apply fairly to all, and it should be respected by all
The second I refer to is Peter Hitchens, who, in a tirade against the Unions briefly mentioned the film 'Good', a story about a German academic drawn into Nazism through his support for euthanasia
Hitchens smugly declares this as
"about a nice, civilised academic who is slowly seduced...by ambition, flattery and his own anti-Christian moral liberalism.
Fashionable Leftists wouldn’t want to be reminded that the National Socialists shared quite a few of their views."
Liberalism takes us nearer to fascism than we might think...
It is a strange, twisted view, and is rather unfair to the film, and any 'liberal' (although I've no firm idea what he actually means by liberal), to condemn the main character's viewpoint as specifically being linked to Nazism
The point of the film was that any 'good' person can be quite easily corrupted by evil, I think the best way to destroy Hitchens' selective reasoning is to point out that abortion (another liberal pet-peeve of his) was of course, outlawed by the Nazis, whereas it was legalised in Weimar Germany (no doubt this is just as guilty for the converse - bringing down Weimar by destabilising the family structure..)
Hitchens points to the current support for euthanasia (somewhat different to the 1920s version I might add) and shows how evil leftie things such as this are not that far from the Nazis - but surely his own (and many conservatives') opposition to abortion is just as in line with Nazi ideology as to be pro-euthanasia was, after all they played to conservative, traditional thought far more than they ever did to liberalism, but no, support for a liberal idea that the nazis used in a horrific way is far more dangerous than any of the bulk of conservatism (family, nationalism, anti-obscenity etc) that made up Nazi ideology
In short, I found it a rather vile comment that is insulting to both the makers of the film and any 'liberal' who he smears with this contorted view, I don't expect a huge amount from him, but he's usually a decent person
But one conservative out of two isn't bad for me
I want to say something on tuition fees and all the bollocks about it right now, but I just don't feel like getting my head round it, think I'll just read around til something really pisses me off
Update: Greg Dyke's take on the world also pleases me - he's not accusing the BBC of an actual conspiracy but he clearly feels the establishment, which includes the BBC and all mainstream media, are natural roadblocks to improving our democracy - he makes some very good points
17 September 2009
More than half of the adults questioned - 55 per cent - said the former England captain was a good, or very good, role model.
However, not everyone believes that Beckham is someone to look up to, with 18 per cent saying he sets a bad example.
The chief role model for girls was Cheryl Cole, who came second in the poll, with 40 per cent rating her positively. She was regarded as a bad role model by 27 per cent.
Homer Simpson was voted the worst role model for children.
I think he's an excellent role model and have always respected him as a player - even if he hasn't got a left foot...and can't run - all the more impressive really
Cheryl Cole on the other hand - more famous for being a judge on a talent show and getting into fights with her husband and nightclubbers, is perhaps less so
It is a shame that she is perhaps the most famous woman in Britain and says a lot more about our celebrity culture than children - it is the media that choose to make her the news over far better female role models - such as athletes or real singers
And why? Because she is attractive, fortunately for the males of this world we have to at least have some sort of talent to be famous (being pretty just helps) - but it is of course us who are only interested in women for their looks, and I don't doubt having these sort of people as role models has an effect on young girls
But then, when haven't we? It's always been pretty women or no-one - why do we need 'popular' role-models, our whole lives are dictated by the media, and this is just a tiny aspect of that, if you're smart you will form your own opinions and won't be a sheep who follows Cheryl Cole or Lindsey Lohan - you'll find your own role-models, a la Lisa Simpson
So in short - why should I care about the sheep?
Speaking of Lisa, it is sad to see Homer as the worst role-model - I expect the poll had a list to choose from and no doubt he was very clearly the most idiotic of the group
But Homer, who was voted the best TV character ever, remember, is actually a decent role-model - aside from the regular child-beating, gross incompetence and alcoholism, of course
He is an average man, albeit exaggerated - he is of low intelligence, has a job going nowhere, a family tying him down and has a pretty dull existence at the root of the show (we're going back a bit, before the 'crazy adventure' Simpsons) - he is all about making us feel better about how crummy and average our lives are - for the majority of us who can't become David Beckham or Stephen Hawking I think he's a pretty good role model on how to just survive everyday life (as I said...old Simpsons...like 1994 Simpsons) - he takes pleasure in the small things
Or perhaps he is the opposite - a warning to what we can become if we live by what the TV tells us and just coast through life - the Simpsons has always been critical like that, just because most people can't see through the silliness doesn't make it a negative influence - it just reminds me of George Bush's ignorant comment about the show
So frankly if you can't see past the bilge in the media, and life in general, then it's not surprising you can't find a good role model
The role models you get, you deserve, as Greg Lake might put it
16 September 2009
Boys and girls at St Peters Church of England Aided School in Exeter, Devon, have been told that their normal uniform will be replaced with branded polo shirts.
But what I'd really like to know is the Mail's point - they don't particularly say it's wrong, nor get much opinion against it, but have an inflammatory headline (why do I ask..)
The only opposition is, as I said earlier, is tradition! - i.e. a load of old bollocks
Speaks for itself...
Commentators constantly refer to Huntley and the events in Soham as the reason for this. I am sure Sir Michael Bichard, who chaired the inquiry into the murders, did not intend such a wave of recrimination over one case. Yes, changes were necessary: Huntley lived a charmed life in Humberside, where he was investigated for a number of crimes. He was charged with rape, but after he spent a week in custody the case was dropped for lack of evidence.As a result of poor intelligence, Huntley was appointed a school caretaker in Soham. Did that give him access to children? Yes, hundreds. Did he abuse them? No. In fact he reported to the headteacher that several teenage girls had made inappropriate comments. What Huntley did to Holly and Jessica was as bad as it gets, but did he come into contact with them through being a caretaker? Not exactly — he was caretaker of Soham Village College, a school for the over-11s. The two girls attended St Andrew’s Junior School. Different building, different caretaker. Huntley had contact with them because Carr was employed at St Andrew’s as a classroom assistant.
Apparently Chemistry is easier
Is it? - I downloaded the pdf they provide and would question this, apparently if I question the intelligence of the students taking it instead I will face a problem with Maths, which has an even lower pass mark...
All true - however, take a look at the pdf, and you would think a statistics nut such as Michael Blastland, who is normally very good, would spot something
Let's take a look:
Media Studies had roughly 68,000 students, pass rate of 65.6% - Chemistry 92,000 pass rate: 93.9%
So, wow, Chemistry is obviously statistically easier according to this data - they are certainly comparable in size
Except for one thing, which a pure look at statistics would never notice (perhaps the whole point of this exercise) - Chemistry is not 'Chemistry' - you need to look at the human factors here, the Chemistry that the vast majority of us study is in fact what is now called 'science' with an uptake of 493,000 and 'additional science' with 397,000 (that's the old double award - which sadly only had 15,000 entrants and a pass rate of over 80%)
And so the pass rate is actually:
Additional Science: 62% (approx)
Science: 60% (approx)
Ah...so that's nearly 900 thousand students with a lower pass rate than Media
Now, no prizes for guessing why the single subjects - all studied by roughly 100,000 students, were at the very top?
Yes that's right, individual sciences are only taken by the best students and the best schools (mine didn't even offer it, but then it didn't offer Media either)
So let us add those extra 95,000 or so students (I will assume they all did three, which is why the figures are so close) who didn't do 'pleb science' as I once heard it called
Average students = 94,000
Average pass rate = 93% roughly
Meaning 87,500 students passed, give or take
Meanwhile 896,000 took the other versions of science, with an average pass rate of 61%
That's 546,500 passes
Add 87,500 = 634,000 passes out of 990,000
= 64.04% with even the best and brightest included...
That's below PE and just above Business Studies
It is of course, virtually impossible to identify if Media is a doss subject just from the figures - the pass rate does not indicate that it is particularly easy, but it says nothing about the way it is taught, who takes it, and of what use it is - my only experience of it was at A-level where my school mates (none top students) all treated it as a doss (and it looked one) but they then all failed the exam...so I don't know, having never studied it, but regardless I felt it misleading to claim that Chemistry was somehow comparable without factoring in the general science qualifications
But that said, what we can see is that Maths and Science generally have a lower pass rate, as does English (but not Eng.Lit) - which most likely shows that the compulsory subjects are dragged down by the dimwits forced to do them
Instead, to compare Media we must look at it in relation to other optional subjects, and subjects with a similar take-up - such as Music, which has a pass rate of about 77% - from that we can assume that Media is far harder (a much fairer argument than Chemistry, although just as flawed)
But of course, we can prove nothing because we don't know why Media gets such a low pass rate - whether it's hard or easy and the students are just thick - we just can't tell without the variables
I have however found the stats I needed for my earlier post on History!! - History second only to DT and beating it's nearest rivals (Geography) by 20,000 students
I also meant to comment on this feature on ties a little while ago but never got round to it
For one, the ideas of 'Superfat' and 'Bonsai' ties was around nearly 2 decades ago, when I was at primary school, even though I have never encountered these particular labels before, so it's not news
A bit like the idiot woman who blamed Chris Moyles (on air for a whole five years) for inventing the use of the word 'gay' as a pejorative (it's somewhere in the archives)
Truth is, kids need to rebel and you'll never get them to all do up the silly things properly, except perhaps at the very poshest private schools
And why shouldn't they rebel? - I took the line that there was no sensible reason to wear one, and I still take it now - there isn't, the concept of 'smart' never appealed to me as a child and it still doesn't - it's a social construct from the 19th century
I do of course, conform for job interviews and the like - because let's face it, 1) I'm a hypocrite and 2) there's also economic benefits to conforming in that instance - there is none in the school environment - you are forced to conform to an arbitrary dress code in a place where you have to go (often against your childish will) - it is fascism incarnate
I don't say that as an anarchist or anything, I'm not saying it's wrong (or right) but I think school is very comparable to the authoritarian state - the whole concept encourages rebellion, not respect (which probably is what makes teachers jobs so horrible, but that's another argument)
So in short, you won't solve the tie problem because they'll rebel in some other way, unless you give them a reason to wear something (such as a lab coat or hard hat) they won't respect it - that's a fairly basic bit of human nature
And let's examine the point of a tie - what is the point of a tie?
The necktie traces back to the time of Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) when Croatian mercenaries from the Military Frontier in French service, wearing their traditional small, knotted neckerchiefs, aroused the interest of the Parisians. Due to the slight difference between the Croatian word for Croats, Hrvati, and the French word, Croates, the garment gained the name "Cravat". The new article of clothing started a fashion craze in Europe where both men and women wore pieces of fabric around their necks. In the late seventeenth century, the men wore lace cravats that took a large amount of time and effort to arrange. These cravats were often tied in place by cravat strings, arranged neatly and tied in a bow.So basically they are a fashion article from the 17th century French - adopted by the vain Georgians like pantaloons and the idiotic powdered wigs
Meanwhile, fairly obviously it evolved as the lower classes mimicked their betters during the 19th century - the idea of being 'smart' comes from looking as though you aren't working in a mine:
The industrial revolution created a need for neckwear that was easy to put on, comfortable and would last an entire workday. The modern necktie, as is still worn by millions of men today, was born. It was long, thin and easy to knot and it didn’t come undone.So why do we still wear these pointless things? It's just an archaic piece of fashion that really should have gone out a century ago - all fashion is pointless to me, so I guess I'm more interested in why we think children 'should' wear them
Because it's traditional no doubt...
...in that case fetch me my pantaloons!
I have no interest in picking over it, but I did want to pick up on a few things:
Labour says the Tories are planning a "ruthless" cull of frontline services.
Labour says the Tories are "foaming at the mouth with excitement" at the prospect of "savage" cuts.
(Both from BBC politics top stories)
Those are some very nasty words, do the Tories use such emotive wording?
The Conservatives had accused Mr Brown of being evasive on the issue
[Osbourne] accused the government of seeking to "try and pump the bubble back up with more government spending and debt-fuelled consumption".
hmm, a little more polite, no accusations of being 'ruthless' or 'savage culls' from the Tories, nor of course, the Lib Dems
But Labour on the other hand, stick to the 'nasty party' line - they may not openly say it, but this sort of language is clearly emotionally charged, and it's British politics at its very worst
The thing is, they accuse of the Tories of pretty much being evil, when they are the only party casting around such nasty words - the two opposition parties focus on the argument while Labour call their opponents 'ruthless', nobody feels the need to resort to calling Labour evil socialists
I'm under no illusions that the Tories can, when they want, be nasty, but clearly right now Cameron has dropped the tactic, and yet Labour get away with what is basically slander and accuse the Tories of committing the crime where they are clearly the worst offenders
And here is the Labour argument: 'we will make nice cuts, the Tories will make nasty ones, yah-boo!' - aside from their horrible use of language, their argument is made up of nothing but slandering the opposition, clearly Cameron is happy to let Brown shoot himself in the foot on this
But what I really want to know is - who does this appeal to? Do the hardcore labour votes really love to simply hear that the Tories are nasty? Unfortunately they probably do, sad really - but this line of argument where Labour have basically descended into the mindless tribalism of the 80s will never convince 'Middle England', where the election will be won - they do a disservice to politics by behaving like this
All this leads me to think that the Labour strategists have pretty much given up on winning and want to shore up their own base for fear of what happened at the European elections
15 September 2009
Now, while I know Richard Littlejohn is an idiot blowhard, I really can't stand by and let him hold Blair, Prescott and Brown up as being uniquely unqualified for their jobs
No politicians are qualified for their jobs, they are pol-i-ti-cians
That's what civil servants are for...
And just look at this glowing review he gave him after that 'lovely chat':
I have just interviewed the prime minister. Which is often challenging, because of his famous habit of ignoring his interlocutors' questions and saying what he intended to say all along.
And, I'm afraid to say, he didn't choose today to engage precisely and directly with my lines of enquiry.
Translation: "My love for the great leader is undying!"
And meanwhile, Robinson is even more simpering:
Peter Mandelson has been re-writing the government's line on public spending cuts but no-one can re-write political history.
I suggested on the Today programme this morning that if you listened hard you might just hear the sound of shredders in Whitehall as Gordon Brown's "lines to take" on spending were disposed of - in particular, the prime minister's insistence that the choice facing the electorate was "Tory cuts" versus "Labour investment". Lord Mandelson suggested that the words had never actually been used. Not so. [here follows several Hansard examples]
Hmm, it does appear that my allegation of bias is a little weak here...
Aha! You see, they have realised Labour are a lost cause and have jumped ship
The BBC - even when they're not biased, they're biased
14 September 2009
Over at Mark Reckons there's an interview with Phillip Oppenheim on drugs policy - some absolutely bang-on analysis
Sadly it's true that the mainly-conservative media dominate the agenda despite the reasonable views held by many...Mark Easton at the BBC really needs a bigger profile
another reason to say good riddance to the dead tree press
Amazingly even the Independent have taken a negative view, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown writes:
History may soon become extinct in our secondary schools, go the way of domestic science and handwriting classes, only less missed and less lamented than either. A major new study by the Historical Association and teacher training experts found that three out of 10 comprehensives no longer bother to teach the subject, which isn't part of the core curriculum after the age of 13. Only 30 per cent do GCSE history.
Right, so only 30% take history, pretty bad eh?
Well actually considering it's totally optional that's not a bad figure is it? 30%...
Let's have a look at the top 10 GCSEs (2008), sorry I couldn't find percentages:
3. English Lit
5. Additional Science (that replaced 'double science' we oldies did)
So it's seventh - and five of those above it are compulsory...
So basically it's the second most popular optional subject - hardly dying is it? It's beating French, which became completely optional more recently than history, and even Geography (and gasp...media studies!)
So where exactly is the problem here? I can understand the argument that more people should appreciate their history, but the fact that 30% of kids are choosing to take it is not a bad thing taken in context - it's actually doing very well at GCSE, if the argument is that all kids should do it then take that to the government and the people who made the curriculum - because right now all you're saying is that every optional subject (bar perhaps D.T) is 'dying'...
If it's a shame that so few are taking it then lobby the government to make it compulsory because you believe it is more important than geography and art, but don't try and present a 30% take-up as a failure simply because you believe everyone should study it
Speaking as someone with a GCSE, A-level and even a bachelor's degree in the subject I am a tad biased, I admit - but somewhat oddly you might think, I would not want all kids to do the subject - history, while I may love it, is not as vital as Maths, English and the sciences to our skills or understanding of the world, it's close, but you simply won't get all kids to 'do' history as a proper subject if they aren't into dates, wars and dead people - I'm pretty sure we had under 50% of my year doing when I did it ten years ago, and of that there were probably only a handful of us who really were interested - 100% of kids doing history would just relegate it to the forced battle we already have in English and maths classes, things which we actually need to try and teach the blighters, it's not as important so it wouldn't be worth the bother, frankly
Yes, a basic knowledge of history is a good thing, but you don't need to force kids to learn something they don't see as ever needing (and possibly won't) and you can teach history in far more ways than as a formal subject - we can see history in the sciences - I remember learning about Newton, Faraday, Darwin, Curie, Einstein, Boyle et all and how they discovered things, and likewise English literature basically is history - we all learn bloody Shakespeare! The man was a historian, just put him and Dickens into a bit of context and you're pretty much there, and you can use religion just as easily with the reformation, 'Bloody Mary' and other various religious wars, even geography uses historical case studies (e.g. migration in the industrial revolution, general world trends etc...) - history is all around us!
As for one in three primary schoolchildren kids thought Churchill went to the moon - here is the old story about it
It was a survey of 4-10 year olds (I think - I can't find the actual survey there) and 30% got Churchill wrong - now forgive me but within that age range 30% would approximately represent 2 years - I would hazard a guess that more 4-6 year olds got it wrong than 8-10 year olds - would I expect my 6-year-old nephew to know about Churchill? He might, but I don't expect him to - I would hope he'll know soon, but six is still pretty young, he's still learning writing and numbers...hardly reciting 'we will fight them on the beaches...'
Indeed if I remember the early 90s correctly I'm pretty sure year 6 was very heavy on World War 2 and I can't remember doing it before then - Romans in year 3 or 4, dinosaurs before that, the reformation and Henry VIII was in year 5...
So if they would like this figure to have any real weight how about they just test kids leaving primary school at ages 10-11, rather than asking 4-year olds about Winston Churchill
In other related news, there's been some backlash from 'the right' with regard to a survey that
'found three-quarters of teachers believed it was their duty to warn pupils about the danger of patriotism ' (Mail)Intriguing, here you can read the lovely Melanie Philips' take on it, and it's even doing the rounds in the blogosphere, here's Cranmer's take (see: Sat 12 Sept 09)
Bad lefties ruining our national pride, that sort of stuff
But why exactly should we promote 'patriotism' - or love of one's country? Why in particular, should a science/maths/art teacher be interested in promoting a patriotic view - 'here we have Newton's first law, he was English you know, BE PROUD OF BRITAIN!'
Wouldn't simply allowing children to know Newton was English suffice? There are plenty of reasons to be proud of our country - why do teachers need to tell us to be proud? And does that mean we should view Newton and Darwin as 'better' than Einstein or the Curies? It doesn't seem to fit in the remit of a teacher to me
Certainly the most obvious area for this would be in history - now history to my mind is all about analysis, debate and critical thinking - saying 'the British Empire was excellent' like they did in 1950s O-levels is opinionated rubbish and barely anything to do with understanding history - force-feeding sentiment about our past is not a good thing for historical studies
It is of course, great for the Right in this country, because it's what they want to hear - in reality people should be given the facts and make up their own minds on whether they are proud of their country or not - brainwashing kids into saying 'Britain's great' is not particularly worthwhile - kids get enough nationalism through the press as it is, and younger ones aren't capable of understanding why it's great except that's what they're told - it's like religion, even I came out of school pretty nationalistic and ignorant about this country
And can you blame teachers for avoiding patriotism when they have the fun of teaching the two world wars? - Both were fuelled by blind patriotism and nationalism - and to those who say there's a major difference, I say poppy-cock - both encourage blind loyalty to a nation, nationalism is just the political principle that has been marred by its association with modern far-right groups - in its very essence it simply believes in the nation as a sovereign political entity, patriotism is the love of that nation (in our case anyway) - they're interlinked, how can a child who is told that their country is worth loving more than others not view other countries as lesser and end up with some degree of nationalism?
Of course, they hype it up to say that these teachers are lefties bent on communism and strengthening the EU, when in reality they are probably just being mindful of the fact that telling impressionable young children to be proud of their country just breeds trouble - I am proud of my country, hate the EU and yet would want my children to be wary of unquestioning patriotism - so am I a Marxist?
It's not that I mind British patriotism, I am proud of my country - but I can make up my own mind, and I don't think everything this country has done is great - surely telling children to be unquestioningly proud for reasons they can't question yet is just brainwashing, and I would be a hypocrite to suggest pushing my point of view on children when I oppose religion for doing the exact same thing
Give them the facts, this doesn't mean that you have to teach that Britain is bad - nor does that survey indicate anything of the sort, it just means letting them make up their own minds about our history
I have read lots on this new ISA vetting agency - and let's face it, I agree with pretty much everyone in this country, and would only echo the press with my views on it, it's Orwellian and pretty sickening
But what I will ask is this: Is this a step towards needing a licence to have children?
You are being vetted based on pretty limited contact with kids, even to the point where other parents are being vetted for being near your kids - surely the next logical step is to vet all parents - probably one of the biggest risk areas for abuse?
Answers on a postcard...
This is not a joke, it's from Australia:
Yes that's right, a comprehensive listing of every single public toilet in Australia (including caravan 'dump points'), because let's face it, we've sorted out the rest of the world's problems
But what's really surprising is our own government do not have their own national listing of toilets across the UK
Sure, there are maps for local councils like Cambridge, Scarborough and Sheffield, but where is the co-ordinated strategy across the country? - surely the incontinent should not have to go to every district in Britain's website if they intend to travel? This is the government that can create an expensive and daft flashy tax site for 'the kids' to be taught in schools, but can't make a google map to link up the national network of toilets
The incontinent have rights too!!
(note: I do not actually want the idiots to make such a map as they would probably spend (waste) millions on it when someone's probably already done it for free)
11 September 2009
But it does occasionally throw up a doozie, here we have Joe Hockey, the shadow treasurer in Australia, who got in trouble for tweeting while sitting in parliament:
10 September 2009
It's about a Canadian who fell in love with and married a British man - she unwittingly overstayed her tourist visa and is being deported, not realising you still need to apply for a marriage visa
Fine, I appreciate the rules that these days you need to apply for a marriage visa - however, why exactly do you need to be 21?
The age of consent is 18 - why does this lady need to wait 18 months to be eligible? The age was apparently raised to prevent forced marriage...ok then...
I would ask two things - 1) would it not be better to increase scrutiny on foreign marriages rather than apply an unfair blanket ban on those under the age of 21? and 2) Is this a breach of human rights? Sounds like age discrimination to me...
You see, this article in the Tablet assesses the religious motivations of all our post-war leaders - they even do us unbelievers the service of not including Churchill, who was a sceptic but nominally a Christian (as pretty much everyone born before the 1980s is)
Nice of them you think, sparing us the debate over Churchill's religious beliefs (particularly when you get those annoying 'Hitler and Stalin were atheist' lines)
They are taking a line that historians may well gloss over religious motivation of the most recent leaders, as few have dared to embrace religion in public, and that would be a bad thing apparently - well fortunately their case falls pretty flat when they get on to Major, who admitted in his memoirs that the church he never belonged to 'appealed' to him - whoop de doo - I'll leave it up to the future historians to assess how worthy that musing is for tying into his various policy decisions
Nope, this is really a thinly-veiled attempt to highlight that religion still is very, very, (hurumph) important in British life and that our leaders have been supportive of morality despite the social trend towards secularism
If anything Major is indicative of most Brits - baptised for no reason but tradition and raised secular, a few thoughts about something he had little experience of hardly qualifies him as a religious mind
Blair of course is the shining light - we all know he was religious, and somehow I don't think anyone will be glossing over that aspect of him (so again you wonder, why the worry?), although you might argue that catholic-convert Blair is hardly normal and one man does not indicate a trend, and with Major cut out it's looking like a pretty weak case
But what-ho - all I really felt I needed to say was that all you need to do is look at when our youngest Prime Minister was born - 1953, to see that current social trends have sod all to do with a man who was an adult by 1971 - as always, politics is a good thirty years behind 'society'
Give it twenty to thirty years and we get someone my age, born in the 80s and educated in the 90s and then you might see the shift - I think you'll be unlikely to find someone who was brought up remotely religious - most baby-boomers abandoned the religion of their parents, subsequently the rest of us didn't even get any forced down our throats and don't even have that piece of the brain that is a little child being brainwashed, in our heads
Cameron is of course, an official, worshipping Anglican - for what it's worth...
..The Camerons just so happened to have been going to the church allied to the CofE primary school where their little daughter was enrolled last year, for a mere three years - make of that what you will, Peter Hennessey
09 September 2009
Great, finally something we can agree with - the idea that somehow MPs should have taxpayer funded chips and beer is preposterous and they're bloody lucky they kept this sweet deal until now
So all in all a great vote winner for Cameron - attacks qangos, expenses, salaries all in one go
Good lad - one thing I will say about Cameron is, even though I think he's a truly shameless opportunist (that's a compliment btw) he is at least very in tune with the public (compared to his various bumbling 'grandees') - he's giving the people what they want, and in that regard he's already light years ahead of Brown
But there is still no substance - opportunism is all well and good to achieve your ends, but what are your ends? All I can see is power for the sake of it - there is no vision, no desire to reform anything major - Cameron has taken a few harmless populist measures - great, but where are the brave decisions? Where are the major cuts to public spending? Things that will actually hurt people and cause a backlash, these require bravery and commitment - there are no principles behind this, it's just a shameless vote-winner - Cameron has yet to show me that he has anything to offer
True, against Brown I'm happy we've got someone doing anything remotely sensible - but this isn't enough to warrant 4-5 years of government...at least Blair had plans
08 September 2009
Could the UK drive on the right?
This is in response to Samoa changing from the right to the left
Some could argue it's somewhat inclined towards EU integration, most would I think, see it as the usual oddball stuff that comes out of magazine - they are just engaging in debate after all, and they have to apply it to Britain after all - there's not much point in asking, 'should France move to the left?'
But I was bemused by this:
And cars with steering wheels on the left could be cheaper.
Barely, if at all - one of the reasons Samoa changed was because of Japan's influence - obviously they make right-hand drive cars (that's Japan, the world leader in car and electronics manufacturing) - most of the Pacific rim countries drive on the left, as we do
So if we were to change we would be the same as the EU - it would mean European cars wouldn't have to be altered for us, but we would instead receive altered cars from Japan (the no.1 producer of cars) - and bear in mind we get a fair bit of employment from people like Nissan, we would lose that were we to go 'continental'
Plenty of the world still drives on the left, there is still a big market out there and the differences are well entrenched in car manufacture - I doubt to make us another outpost of the EU would change anything when we already have a market of 50 million (inc. Ireland) for the Japanese, who also have India and the petrol-heads of Australia to export to
It might make your Citroens, VWs and Peugeots slightly cheaper but who really cares? It's a very minor change to make - the parts are still the same, and Japanese cars are much cheaper in maintenance despite us being next to the blooming continent
We don't have American cars, and we don't want them, so that's out too - so what exactly do we gain?
Bugger all is what, the pretence behind this article is really that if all the world drove on the right it would be better - but is that going to happen? I don't think so, unless Japan, India and Australia are forced right then nothing will change economically - all that will happen is we pay billions (4 billion is a very conservative estimate apparently) and probably cause some needless deaths to pointlessly change the traffic direction and come out of the Chunnel on the right side...
Fortunately the article does end with a 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' but it does seem to be a little too pro-Europe on this, are they just coming from the point of view of the booze cruise?
07 September 2009
No doubt you have heard the news that the BBC may invite the BNP onto Question Time (or will, according to other outlets)
Well personally I'm all for it - as far as I can see the BBC are 100% right to represent a party with two MEPs, there's no way anyone could justify not giving them airspace while seeking to be 'fair' - hence, I do not agree with 'anti-fascist' groups like Searchlight, who are just as scary to me - and nor do I agree with Labour's strange boycott, more reason why I could never be a leftie
But I thought I should take a look across the spectrum at who thinks what
The Indie, as I would expect, agrees with me
The Times, again unsurprisingly is quite happy to promote free speech with an article from Matthew Syed and gets a kick in at Labour as well, happily pointing out the Tories are happy to debate with racists
The Telegraph do much the same, again criticising Labour for being cowards
The Gruniad next: they've gone for the liberal approach and are still shying away from Labour
Now we move onto the tabloid hacks: The Mail have predictably gone for the man (or the Aunty), rather than the ball and apparently support Labour MP Denis MacShane and Searchlight...anything to get a dig in at the BBC, eh, boys? I can't find any other comment on that so therefore I must conclude they are pro-Labour on this
The Express ('crusading for a fairer Britain' these days) don't seem to have covered it...
The Sun have tried to have their cake and eat it - there is only 'anger at the BBC' in the headline, and they have been 'blasted' apparently - but it then goes on to say Labour (the only people doing the attacking) are in a 'panic' and presents a two-sided argument...some truly great journalism there
And the Mirror...sigh, I guess I have to...have gone for the attack on the BBC route and put more weight against giving them airtime - they call it a BBC stunt and give MacShane the most space, allowing him to imply the BNP aren't a 'democratic party' (aren't they? Racists maybe, but I think they like the whole voting thing)
So in conclusion, pretty much all the papers are happy with debate, and only the Mirror really have a problem, the Sun and the Mail just want the BBC's blood
And also, if you subscribe to the Mirror you're a moron, but we already knew that
04 September 2009
The cynic in me sees manipulation by the media to sell papers in an otherwise dull season, but some are a good laugh - that man, Peter Hitchens, caught my eye again
In a rather long article in the Mail, he asks if we had stayed out of the war would we still have an empire?
Short answer, in his view, yes we would - had we allowed Europe to get on with it we wouldn't have been weakened by the war, wouldn't have lost Singapore and wouldn't have become America's bitches
A reasonable conclusion, most of Europe was after all, under the control of dictators anyway - allowing Hitler and Stalin to duke it out would probably make little difference to the conditions east of France, we had after all, left Europe alone for a century until the first world war
Regardless of the outcome of this war between the Reich and Stalin, we could have been building up our army without crippling ourselves in the process, and dealt with whatever emerged using our own Imperial force
Now this leads to the assumptions that we wouldn't lose our empire - no fall of Singapore means India remains a dominion thanks to Gandhi, there's no Pakistan split, north Africa is left alone, so no apartheid in South Africa, no Idi Amin or Mugabe (he glosses over the pre-existing chaos in other parts of Africa), while the Japanese can be dealt with by the British, Dutch and French who would still have a strong naval presence, and would probably just occupy China (and Korea?) and prevent Mao and Communism rising to power, oh and therefore no Israel and no Middle-east as we now know it
So we have a completely new world order based on the single fact that Chamberlain did not go to war in 1939 (because we decided not to defend Poland, or anyone else in Europe) - but I ask: at what price?
In Hitchens' world everything is perfect - Britain still has its empire! It mines its own coal, makes its own steel, and pretty much everything else, we are far stronger for not bothering to deal with Hitler and the US remains in its own continent
Only what exactly would happen? Does he think the Empire would have stood up? Presumably the 60s never happen, there's no free love, and all our colonies are happy to bow down to a minuscule island in the North Sea - does he not think, with the rise of communications technology, that our colonies would have become a little surer of themselves eventually? - Maybe the Empire would still be going today, but I find it hard to believe India, Africa, the Pacific and Australia would not have continual murmurings of discontent - the war certainly hastened the fall of the Empire - but the first had already done a lot of damage to Britain, and I struggle to find a conclusion that the far-flung peoples of the world would not come to assert their own identity
Presumably though, Hitchens accepts this and just feels that Britain would be stronger without being crippled by the war - a stronger country to trade and deal with the US, with more friendly relations to former (or current) colonies
In this view I can't help agree that from a purely British point of view, we could be better off, at least in financial and foreign affairs - socially and politically I am unsure how we and other subjects would fare compared to now, technologically we would also probably be less advanced as well, but that's by the by, and obviously an issue where we disagree - Hitchens is at least being true to himself by seeing the best possible scenario for the British Empire he loves so much
But there's an awful lot riding on assumptions here - what is exactly happening in Europe? Even if various dictators polish each other off, there is probably little hope of democracy without the occupying Allies to ram it down their throats, meaning we're leaving Germany, now a more powerful and freer country than we, an unstable power in whoever knows what form - I would guess Hitchens would bank on Europe being in the old 'balance of power' situation - the lack of one major player would mean we had no threat
But that seems a bit of a risk to me, had Germany been allowed to complete its expansionist policies to the east there is no guarantee the Russians could have down anything but kept a border, there was after all no 'second front' - from there what would have happened, would a large central nation rise up? Who knows, but if we take the risk in 1939 then it's pretty possible that we could have been facing another major hostile power a few decades later, Hitler was hardly the most trustworthy of leaders, and I doubt whatever nation he left would adopt a liberal democracy again - surely France would have been at risk again, and the low countries? Right there on the doorstep - as I said, you aren't exactly dealing with someone you can trust, and if Russia wasn't in the mood by then you would basically have the British Empire against another one
Like I say, it's all speculation, but so is the original piece - in my view if you left Europe alone then it would just happen again - what we have now is incredibly successful nations in Germany and northern Europe (and Japan), virtually no threat to western Europe and the highest level of living in history - now, if we were to take the view that we should have avoided the war and left Europe unstable could you guarantee we had such a decent outcome? We went through six years of hell and got a reasonable outcome in the world
That is of course the difference, Hitchens hates the modern world, more on that later, but as I say we got a stable Europe, even if we also got a weakened Britain and a powerful US, does he think the Empire would stay the same, that Europe would not present another threat, as it did twice in the early twentieth century? We would almost certainly have to deal with that at some point, by then it may have been too late - we are after all, a small island with a small population, we only got away with the war in the first place because Hitler overreached and the yanks were simply too much - maybe we could have formed an alliance with the Americans and prepared for war better, then rammed democracy down Germany's throat - but we truly are now in 20/20 hindsight mode, this is becoming a game of risk, not the reality of the world - it is incredibly easy with hindsight to see what we should have done, and then assume it would work out better, but it's also unfair to blame Chamberlain and the British for aiming to protect parts of Europe when we know that they would fail
This is a perfect scenario, and it's a perfect scenario for Britain, not the people of the world - the Empire would have collapsed eventually, they all do, maybe we would've survived for longer, but then someone would just be going over the mistakes a hundred years later instead - and there almost certainly would have been more suffering under the dictatorships than the EU (despite what you may hear..) - humans are just flawed, very resourceful, animals and there would be as many wrongs in the world, if not more, if we took this route
Could you for example, prevent the rise of the US, which is pretty much the crux of Hitchens ideas - a nation so many times larger in both population and size, with more resources, more room to grow and better borders - I am not sourcing anything here but I take it for granted that the US was outstripping us by 1905 - it was inevitable it would move onto the world stage, maybe we wouldn't have been so weak, but I have to ask - would it really be worth it so we could try another route, just in case we did better?
If anything the mistake was to get involved in the First World War - I think there's a stronger case for picking over that ludicrous war, if there's ever any point picking over what might have happened - who knows, for all I know Britain could have become insanely arrogant (as it was by 1900) and been put eventually down by the US, and there'd still be right-wingers whinging that something was wrong nowadays
A collection of doozies from the article:
Our Parliament is a bought and paid-for puppet chamber. Our culture and customs have been debauched and our younger generations corrupted, as subject populations are, with drink, drugs and promiscuity.
Modern life, eh? He really ought to look up the debauchery in 18th century Britain - you always get this with 'proper' conservatives - they have this view that Britain was in its very essence the late Victorian period through to the Edwardian period, and that it's slipped from a peak - maybe it has, but don't try to tell me it was some sort of happy constant, people were writing stuff like this two centuries ago...
We are compelled, like an occupied people, to use foreign measures to buy butter or meat, and our history is largely forgotten or deliberately distorted in the schools to suit anti-British dogma.
Ah the old 'metric is bad (and foreign)' line - interestingly, although metric is now technically being forced on us by the EU (since 2000) we actually adopted decimalisation and metric in 1965, and there was as much opposition to it then - but there was no EU to force anything until 1973, which we joined up knowing full well their directives on it...
The system had been championed in Britain for over a century before by some of our greatest scientific names (such as James Watt) and most big businesses - it quickly became used in science because it was far easier to use than our antiquated, 'national' system, and plenty of British people helped to influence it (see: Kelvin, and Farenheit was German anyway!) - it was only our politicians who refused to play, hating the French in the 19th century and refusing to pay up in the early twentieth
Meanwhile nations independent of Britain also adopted it in the 60s (such as Australia, India and New Zealand) and virtually every country was using a system that was recognisable all over the world by the 70s, regardless of the EU - get over it
As for British history in schools - I am sceptical about claims it is anti-British, these are just claims made in the tabloids as far as I can tell and are ridiculously opinionated - I learnt about the second world war no end - which is why I dislike it, I hate the fact that every Tom, Dick and Harry is an expert on the war and I have little interest in thinking about such a busy area of history (except on days like these of course, and even then I am in speculative mode, not going into mind-numbing detail about El Alamein)
We had stayed out of the two great and decisive conflicts of the late 19th Century: the American Civil War and the Franco-Prussian War, and come to no harm as a result.
That's just specious reasoning - neither bore us particular harm, but then why would they? One was a fairly minor fracas over a strip of land, only 'great' because the 19th century largely saw no major action, the other was a domestic issue in the US - Bismarck uniting Germany was not quite the same as Hitler's totalitarian regime occupying the whole of Europe, which I struggle to think wouldn't have happened had Britain and France not engaged him at that point - and as for a war between two rival democratic states largely revolving around slavery I don't see why we would need to get involved - at least Bismarck wasn't into democracy... Saying 'it worked then so why wouldn't it work 70 years later' seems a tad foolish
I think that'll do...lunch