Sunday, November 30, 2008

"The Government needs to get tough. The nation's top bankers must be called to a private room and be forced to put their cards on the table – fully disclosing their exposure to sub-prime liabilities in the UK and elsewhere. It should be made clear that any executive who withholds information, which it can later be proven they knew, will be subject to criminal prosecution.

Once the exposures are clear – or clearer – we need further consolidation. The weaker banks that have made the worst decisions must be subsumed by stronger, more prudent institutions. That's how capitalism works, or is supposed to work. But ministers and regulators are blocking this fundamental purging process, preventing credit markets from rebooting and storing up untold problems for the future."

At last my own preferred outline articulated. Link here

Since we need a "tough government" and not a stalinist one, we had better get a new one. Fast.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Olympian Games

It's entirely predictable that the Olympics have become mostly about politics. In fact, it seems to me they've become a touchstone for who we are.

To take four (maybe five) nations, it seems clear the Olympics tell us a lot.

China's been face-spending from the start (normally they try and save face - this time they're spending it). All the chicanery with the opening ceremony (something I never, ever watch but heard about this time), and all the kerfuffles about their gymnasts, speak volumes about the nature of the Dragon, weaving a spell of invincibility through aggressive trickery.

Then there's Russia- who simply aren't trying to win the Olympics, but find them convenient for invading other people's lands. A country who've had enough lean times to know you can't eat, drink and be merry on old Gold medals from fixed events past.

The USA meanwhile, are taking it easy while sizing up the Bear. Not straining to beat the little yellow people they are just strolling along through the endeavours of their nuclear threat (Phelps) and their excellent missile defense (the entire basketball team). The trickery of the Chinese doesn't bother them none (well, they're not admitting it), and they can see that the Chinese mainly do well when there are judges involved in awarding medals.

Just a little aside now to look at the Australians. As ever their culture is defined by the glance sideways at Britain- and they never get much beyond that; part envious, part contemptuous, part lustful, part (maybe) affectionate.

Finally the Brits. It's golden time for the British competitors. Evidently we concentrated out lottery cash and made it worth people's while to stay in training continuously. And then the advertising revenue follows... But somehow it gives me only that instinctive pleasure I get from British success in anything, and sporting success from anyone, combined. Pleasurable yes, but... it's this hilarious success built on gambling which is so unreal. Truth be told, not many countries sail wondrous varieties of boats, or row in crews, or invest in all the cycling gear, or care about the Olympics the way we do. Not that it's wrong- it's actually good. Yet to build self-esteem on this flimsy and fake international festival seems to be so much bullshit. Is it me, or do things seem to be falling apart? The center apparently is partying in Peking, and cannot hold. The Russians are in Georgia, the Taliban is rising, the Pakistanis revolting, the economies on which we are founded dissolving in debt. Only Iraq is good- and they were nearly banned.

Monday, August 11, 2008

An authority speaks (a little less delusionally than is usual)

"Historians will come to view Aug. 8, 2008, as a turning point no less significant than Nov. 9, 1989, when the Berlin Wall fell. Russia's attack on sovereign Georgian territory marked the official return of history, indeed to an almost 19th-century style of great-power competition, complete with virulent nationalisms, battles for resources, struggles over spheres of influence and territory, and even -- though it shocks our 21st-century sensibilities -- the use of military power to obtain geopolitical objectives. Yes, we will continue to have globalization, economic interdependence, the European Union and other efforts to build a more perfect international order. But these will compete with and at times be overwhelmed by the harsh realities of international life that have endured since time immemorial. The next president had better be ready."

I readily agree that Russia has confirmed that it is what it seemed to be - a despotic power still. The amount of money sloshing around there is frightening though, as a backdrop to this. I have to say I had to restrain myself at the sight of Bush waving his little US flag at the Olymics, as if it matters. But then, in the back of my mind I always think of Drake's game of bowls, and in truth there's nothing like staying calm.

I think that Kagan's notion that the EU will simply sail cautiously through is very optimistic- the EU has gathered together in weakness, and is like a herd of ruminants which has suddenly discovered there's a tiger in the bushes; the tiger is wounded by history and pretty hungry too.

Friday, August 08, 2008

A good day for burying.... what!?

The opening of the Olympics in that bird's nest (not that this sports fan cares much) and Russia invades Georgia. George Bush has a quiet word in Pute's ear (as they watch the opening ceremony in Beijing) and stares into his honest eyes on what the Chinese believe is one of history's luckiest days (08/08/08), which also happens to be that on which leading Democrat John Edwards admits to his affair with some woman whom nobody would care about had Edwards not been the "values" candidate playing happy families and "rock" to a seriously ill spouse, and had he not lied about it repeatedly in a brazen post-Clintonesque way.

It ought to be the silly season.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Gorilling news

Well, I am very pleased to hear that Gorilla numbers are higher than they've been saying for the last 20 years.

One personal observation I made while I lived for a spell in Africa was how much better at living alongside nature Africans (Kenyans specifically) were than they were generally perceived to be. Flora of all kinds and forna of all except snakes were pretty much welcome. They don't like things eating their cows or their crops, but outside of direct provocation, Africans are pretty harmless to animals. One reason why Africa is less developed is that Africans like widening their eyes to nature, and going with its flow. But that's by the bye, I guess.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Can we burn the fiddlers yet?

"Swedish unemployment suddenly jumped from 5.9 per cent to 8.1 per cent"

Seasonally adjusted?

Anatole Kaletsky sounds an optimistic note concerning the world economy. Personally I'm a pessimist, but mainly relating to the UK economy. Others around the world will continue to grow as the banks reign in UK spending and the housing market goes way way down.

Yet what is interesting to me about the Swedish statistics is that they are so dramatic. I suppose it could be a routine matter, relating to the end of university courses in June/July, but if so then why is it highlighted?

The more I see of statistics in governments, the more I question. Of course I know there are lies, damned lies, etc, but I think that that very truism has been exploited to the limit. After all, when statistics are massaged- and dahhling they obviously are- you're left to "trust" the masseurs. But the truth is that at the end all statistics mean something concrete to someone somewhere and are not just means of manipulating paltry currents of franchise- ie. voters.

An interesting thing that Kaletsky points to is the division between economists and financiers- the latter being the pessimists- " The consensus view among economists, as opposed to financiers, at present is that the United States is experiencing, at worst, a mild recession"... . It occurs to me that that's because financiers are the ones who are performing the sums and to whom these sums have real-life consequences. Declining fortunes are real-life enough. Future income opportunities are real-life enough.

It all brings me nicely to Richard North's post about data manipulation. It rather disappoints me (naive as I must be) that people resort to crude data manipulation. It's a brutal but effective way of coralling those you distrust and dislike, and it doesn't require a terrible deal of intellect. Most boring and most damaging- I think it will be seen as most criminal too, in the long run.

Monday, July 21, 2008

because there is no-one who has a monopoly of patriotism, there is no one who can claim that he has a monopoly of the sovereign will of the people... I hope that all of us who are signatories to this memorandum always must bear in mind the mother and the child who goes to sleep without food, the people who have been brutalised, the divisions and the hate speech... I hope that that is the world of the past“

The admirable Morgan Tsvangirai speaking at a press conference carried by the BBC. Truth-telling is not a quality associated with African leaders. Tsvangirai sounds about as good as I've heard. The world of the future, perhaps?

Congratulations Tsvangirai, congratulations Zimbabwe.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The billion dollar bluffs

Iran's leadership must be laughing in its boots at the results of their missile trickery the other day. Oil hits a new high, Fanny Mae and Freddy Mac plunge towards the rocks (these laughably named mortgage lenders).

Did you know that Osama Bin Laden targeted high oil prices in his scheme to lay the West low? Well, he did (yes, I read Drudge too).

I wouldn't mind putting a little flutter myself- on the bearded one actually being harboured in Iran. The old Sunni-Shia-elite two step.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Character observations

It's interesting to observe politics and ask oneself who makes a good leader, and why.

As GW Bush approaches the last stretch of his presidency, Andrew Roberts writes an historian's assessment of his time in office. He opens with one of those so-easy-to-mess up accounts where he is actually describing another President, also unpopular at the time, but now well regarded. He focusses mainly on the international agenda, as has the President most of the time. What emerges is a nascent narrative of success, concealed by personal unpopularity.

Potentially Bush's Presidency could become seen as a rare triumph for humanity in politics- achieved in the teeth of the failing political machine of Congress and under the incurious eyes of the fouth estate. I like this idea. I watched Adam Boulton interview the President and his wife last weekend, and I found myself wishing there'd been more of Bush to be seen over the last few years in such settings. It has always been the hostile press conference, or the stiff formal occasion, that has been Bush's staple and his responsibility. In the Boulton interview, the high pitched guffaw which I am sure has got the goat of many a BBC journalist (eg. Matt Frei??) was in evidence, and with it, a quick and fundamentally sound mind sought to get a high vantage point to deal responsibly and with vigour and optimism with the relatively reasonable probing of Sky's top man. It was both fun and real- qualities generally appreciated by ordinary people but so uninteresting to the studiously polticised elite.

So much for character- Bush's character and his personality are at one, which is his fundamental strength.

By contrast Gordon Brown has received many a sympathetic treatment from the BBC. At one time the in depth cosy chat with Andrew Marr was virtually bi-weekly, as Gordon sought to recreate the image of Uncle Harold (Wilson) to reassure voters and burnish his credentials as a man of depth. The whole thing was image-based, even after Gordon had pledged an end to spin as he entered Downing Street.

Now Guido Fawkes and the Conservative media team have given Gordon a complete makeover of their own. Fawkes (who is evidently quite a brilliant man) highlights the Conservative take up of his idea and says "Destroying the reputation of Gordon was easy once they tried - because he had a false reputation"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Zeitgeist: Mr Schultz is not for amending

"We would be a laughing stock at the end of the day. Nothing that is being criticised about the treaty is in the treaty"

Funny things, laws. It's actually rather uncommon that anyone can pinpoint much specific that a law does that anyone can get worked up about. It always does more than it says it does, because it sets a framework, demonstrates a direction, and lets an army of professional understanders of laws go to work on the practise of it.

In this statement from Mr Schultz (brought to my attention by the ever-excellent EU Ref blog from an article here), is the casual arrogance of our EU overlords. It's just this desire to save face, combined with arrogation of the right to make laws mean what they want them to mean when they want it, which has characterised despotism since time immemorial.

I appreciate that MR Schultz is a busy man, and that he has a big project afoot in which he is but a elevated functionary, but he cannot escape Europe's old malady. He's just another fascist when it comes to it.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Irresistible force - the referendum - has met immoveable object - the need for every EU member state to ratify the Lisbon Treaty.
- Jonny Dymond, BBC

Hang on a moment- let's re-write that:

Irresistible force- EU politicians' desire to integrate- has met immoveable object- the unwillingness of the popular vote to lose its distinctive voice.

I think my version's better, because it deals with what the Irish vote actually represents: resistance to unwanted political leveraging. How many popular votes do we have to sit through before we're allowed to say that? (how many popular votes will we be allowed to sit through? As few as possible, methinks)

The BBC's desire to frame the debate inside its favoured assumptions- the inevitability of EU integration, with the increasing of power at the centre and discounting of traditional national distinctions- trumps fair reportage almost every time.

Jonny Dymond gives some fine examples of this.

He says „the wonkiest minds in Europe were speculating as to how the European Union could dig itself out of the Ireland-shaped hole“

The issue for the peoples of Europe is not particularly „wonky“, its a matter of self-determination, appropriate local governance etc. Dymond states (probably quite accurately) the considerations of the Irish- „abortion, neutrality, tax sovereignty, military conscription, the loss of an Irish commissioner, the deregulation of the taxi trade“ - but fails to make the obvious connection; all these points embody those things that people want their own government of their own nation to decide. The peoples' project is very simple indeed put in those terms.

Dymond doesn't get it though, but says instead „Amending the Lisbon Treaty to encompass those objections would challenge even the mightiest Euro-minds.“

Look, whose side is he on that he can't make the obvious connection instead of lamenting from the perspective of the EU?

He talks of a „bewildering array of objections“ when in fact they all boil down to the concern that local needs will be overrun by the concerns of grand powers- it's the age-old call of democratic enfranchisement.

Dymond is besotted by the power game and cannot see the social reality: „there are serious players that want the changes laid out in the Treaty and will not give them up without a fight at the say-so of fewer than a million stroppy Irish voters

He may consider such language to be ironic, but he elsewhere gives no sign that he senses a rationality in the electorate.

When Dymond says that Irish voters „are not dumb“ you sense he thinks he is being balanced. Does he ever allow for the idea that it's the „serious players“ who are dumb? Now that would be a kind of balance- and its so routinely absent from the BBC regarding the „colleagues“ in Europe, as it is indeed about all polticians everywhere. He who pays the piper calls the tune, as they say.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Smart Move

At it's most basic level, it seems to me that's what David Davis's resignation is- for so many reasons.

I read this excellent piece on the Devil's Kitchen by Martin, and it was so odd to have it echoed by the addendum which indicated the call to liberty had been answered. No, that's too grand. I'm no great commentator, but if it energises the libertarians back to the Tories, embarrasses the Labour party with a popular test of its allegedly popular hard-line on 42 days, and keeps Cameron honest in being small government, what's to dislike? There's much more, too, but I just savour the bravura of the move- which is nonetheless smart.

Update via the man himself:

"Labour must put up a candidate to debate and defend their draconian track record. Anything else would demonstrate supreme political cowardice and contempt for public opinion."


Second update: my view on this hasn't changed despite the hostile reaction of the press, for instance The Sun. Davis has connected this move to a variety of oppressive measures, not only 42 days' detention without trial. The authoritarian drift of the Government has been a legitimate concern for a long time. Opinion polls which indicate 70% support for 42 days miss the fact that people have been coerced to accept many authoritarian concepts without a choice- ID cards, CCTV, widespread speed cameras, the whole surveillance society. Davis's move is against this tide, and people will take time to consider that for the first time in a long time they are seeing the glimmer of a choice in the matter.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Sorry for the lack of blogging. I have had a number of deadlines to keep. And then there was this:

It's a pic from the river in Cesky Krumlov. I rafted.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Gathering of Post-modern Twee

It is an ambition of mine never to attend the Hay on Wye literary festival.

I formed this ambition in the last few seconds reading about the latest line-up of authors and their antics.

First up was Gore Vidal, generationally speaking a member of America's Greatest. He was talking about how in the good old days despite a man's best efforts the fruit of his loins might evade abortion.

Then there was Cherie Blair, who was talking of her passion to weaken the barriers (ie. men) that afflict womankind. She hasn't done that already with Tony?

Then finally an insipid Hague, Fffion, with her coyly titled "The Women in Lloyd George's Life". Not Lloyd George's women, then, after all?

And what is post-modern twee? It is the denial of anything outside the acutely vulnerable selfish obsessions of post-modern western sensibility, the historically one-eyed, geo-politically ignorant, fey yet avaricious closed circle of sheepshearers we call our educated literary classes.

Friday, May 23, 2008

...and what you need to keep in mind through the poem below is... Obama's father left him when he was two! More Obamidian information here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Why Barack Obama is not John Kerry.

Not my usual thing, I know, but I have to say that Barack Obama's poetic juvenillia is not at all bad, written while he was a student aged about 20 and published in a now-defunct journal. Since its now defunct I suppose it might be safe to post one example, which I can at least say I mostly understand even at first reading. This poetry takes a bit of talent to produce, and that's what makes Obama clearly different from Kerry and makes the significance of his liberal hauteur much harder to read. Maybe Obama's just got something. From the New York Times, which just got me on their member's list.

Here goes:


Sitting in his seat, a seat broad and broken
In, sprinkled with ashes
Pop switches channels, takes another
Shot of Seagrams, neat, and asks
What to do with me, a green young man
Who fails to consider the
Flim and flam of the world, since
Things have been easy for me;
I stare hard at his face, a stare
That deflects off his brow;
I’m sure he’s unaware of his
Dark, watery eyes, that
Glance in different directions,
And his slow, unwelcome twitches,
Fail to pass.
I listen, nod,
Listen, open, till I cling to his pale,
Beige T-shirt, yelling,
Yelling in his ears, that hang
With heavy lobes, but he’s still telling
His joke, so I ask why
He’s so unhappy, to which he replies...
But I don’t care anymore, cause
He took too damn long, and from
Under my seat, I pull out the
Mirror I’ve been saving; I’m laughing,
Laughing loud, the blood rushing from his face
To mine, as he grows small,
A spot in my brain, something
That may be squeezed out, like a
Watermelon seed between
Two fingers.
Pop takes another shot, neat,
Points out the same amber
Stain on his shorts that I’ve got on mine, and
Makes me smell his smell, coming
From me; he switches channels, recites an old poem
He wrote before his mother died,
Stands, shouts, and asks
For a hug, as I shrink, my
Arms barely reaching around
His thick, oily neck, and his broad back; ’cause
I see my face, framed within
Pop’s black-framed glasses
And know he’s laughing too.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

"I find it outrageous that... garbage is being printed in journals that used to be prestigious and that average or downright stupid women and men who can't reach the ankles of people whom I consider scientists of global importance are being presented by dishonest journalists-activists as the world's leading scientists. This proliferation of idiots and parasites in the name of political correctness is just disgraceful. And it is very dangerous, too."

Lubos Motl, Physicist (formerly of Harvard), on an environ-mental "paper".

Sunday, May 11, 2008

cross-posted on Biased BBC

Spurious balance in the celebrity culture

Isn't it terrible how today we are exposed to so much idiocy, not least through the BBC, just because of the cult of celebrity?

The response to the post David Vance made on Biased BBC about "most disliked" BBC personalities just shows the flip-side to the pursuit of celebrity- which is that many people are sick of their inanity.

The Biased-BBC blog is about bias, but there are some intersecting themes. Sometimes a comment is made and reported not because of newsworthiness per se but because of celebrity. How can a journalist be balanced starting from a statement like "Chefs should be fined if they haven't got ingredients in season on their menu."? Mussolini, Hitler, would have been proud of such high kitchen standards.

If your ten year old brother said it you'd tell him to shut up, but if Gordon Ramsay said it, and you were a BBC journalist, it'd be "news" (there again, who made G.R. except the BBC-led media establishment?).

Two lines of criticism have been picked up by the BBC, unworkability! and trade for poorer countries, but as Neil Reddin points out, the biggest of all is missing: the freedom argument.

"See what was missing? Of course, there was no mention of consumers making their own choices over where their food comes from. Individual freedom and all that. Hard to believe that the BBC, an organisation funded by a mechanism that gives its consumers no choice, could miss that one *cough*."

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Editorial control

Over on BiasedBBC I posted about the BBC's juxtaposition of an article on re-classifying cannabis with an article on the effects of alcohol in the workplace.

Some people thought that a bridge too far: as if the BBC would actually position their stories strategically!

Well, I had to chuckle when I saw the Sun's frontpage on the web this evening:

I wonder if I am the only one to have been impressed by the caption "inside the mind of a monster" alongside Gordon Brown's face (as well as that abominable Austrian dad's). (image via Iain Dale)

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Signs of hope

I genuinely wish Boris all the best with his new job! Bye Ken. Bye lots of NuLab councillors. The BBC are obsessed with what they perceive as his negatives. The reality I suspect is far more homespun and genuine than people realise. We'll see.

Meanwhile, another hopeful sign is the realisation that the MMGW or simply the global warming debate is really not over, although warming itself might be. It's been a chilly old spring in Central Europe; rain, a little crisp sunshine, 10-19 degrees more or less. Booker has the climate lowdown. Motl always keeps me up to date. The climate in my view should never have been news at all. Events are news. Trends are open-ended, intrinsically undefinable and unstable.

When I watch something like this, an interview with the remarkable former slave from Sudan, Simon Deng, I am reminded just how wonderful are the African people, and how much we need to learn about the real world around us. Educational, especially concerning Israel and the UN.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Proof of the pudding- or, how to make an idiot of yourself.

Two conflicting reports on the Basra situation. The Telegraph versus the Times

The appropriate response to events in Basra was "wait and see", but the Telegraph hadn't the necessary patience and instead preemptively declares the action a disaster. I've long had doubts about the UK military policy in Southern Iraq- when the Western relativist goes abroad, many avoidable mishaps accompany his overponderous and self-important particularity. That, and the fact that the British army (and cheerleading journalists) were so keen to preach their easy-going do-nothing gospel to the benighted Yankees, meant that I was ever so slightly sceptical...

Looks like Basra's better for some action.

Richard North has a go at the Telegraph here.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Standards slipping

5/11/04: "Troops broke ban on hooding PoWs", reported the Daily Telegraph. Hooding was really, really bad.

19/05/08: "At no time during my captivity was I mistreated" reports British journalist who "was found in a house in Basra with his hands tied behind his back and a hood over his head, according to the Iraqi ministry of defence."
(report from BBC). And the Iraqis ought to know- after all, their soldiers rescued the civilian in question.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Frauds fingered

It is taking a while, but the internet is starting to expose some of the previously untouchable people who climbed into positions of influence pre-internet and post-decent traditional standards of competence. The BBC is more and more sensitive to criticism- the bubble of complacency has been disturbed. Their response to criticism is in the main an ever more obstinate denial- sticking to their established lines without examining their context.

That's not to say that under the surface it isn't having a real impact and influence, entailing the consideration of views that they previously considered next to impossible.

But it isn't only the BBC that is coming under pressure. I am sure the Smith Institute is much more careful than previously what titbits they offer the likes of Guido Fawkes, and MPs are considering rather more carefully than hitherto their handling of expenses after the experience of one Mr Hain.

And now several Canadian "human rights" commissions have wandered into a hornets nest by attacking my old fave, master of letters Mark Steyn, who notes:

""The wacky world of human rights commissions": I love the insouciance of that first sentence, the assumption that every reader will get it. Before this thing started in December, Canadian newspapers didn't use phrases like that about their "human rights" enforcers. There's a long way to go, but these frauds have had the worst four months' publicity in their history."

Amen to that.

Monday, April 07, 2008


While the BBC have been busy covering the icings of snow that have adorned many a picture-postcard photo from spellbound Britain, EURef have brought to my attention the terrible weather in Tibet- freezing temperatures over long periods endangering livestock and people at a time when their overrulers in China are far from happy with the country.

It's not so much this parochialism which is likely to be to blame as the BBC's tendency to screen out stories about prolonged cold temperatures- it gives too much credibility to people like this.
(thanks to ATW for the link)

Thursday, April 03, 2008

New dawn?

Well, maybe. Mine might be as stop and start as the people of Zimbabwe's, but we'll see. I must say the election result there was a delightful surprise and I am full of admiration just now at the enduring courage of Morgan Tsvangirai standing up to the old tyrant. His MDC have clearly been working on their territory to make it safe for their voters and booths.

The Beeb have now removed their report from the centre stage of their site. Maybe they don't want to stir things up there. The people have clearly worked hard to stir things up thus far, and hopefully it will prove far enough.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sorry for the absence.

I can't promise I'll be posting regularly just yet, but I should have completed a move from one flat to another by this weekend, so then we'll see about internet access...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Caliphate near

Once again the French have proved themselves meddlesome inadequates when it comes to their Africa policy. Unlike the British, who never want to be tangled up there again, the French fancy themselves a bit of an African player on the ground.

That's the principle reason why Chad is about to be seized by Islamists coming out of Sudan. The French as guarantors of the continuation of stability have failed. Whether that failure is permanent remains to be seen.

Yet if you look at the map below, you can see that, with radical Islamists in charge of both Sudan and Northern Nigeria, the way is clear for a pan-Africa Islamist alliance stretching from the Red Sea to the Gulf of Guinea and the South Atlantic.

Both Sudan and Nigeria are oil-rich countries. No one seems to see where this is trending. Obama wants the US out of Iraq, the British appetite for action seems to be determined by the likes of Matthew Parris and the BBC. All the time vital resources are coming more and more under the power of hostile entities who are essential to the interests of China, and potential allies of Russia (which is in turn vital to Europe's energy requirements).

Oh, and the economies of the West are showing ever greater fragility.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Blogger in spirit.

Students, "on the sudden transported under another climate to be tost and turmoil'd with their unballasted wits in fadomless and unquiet deeps of controversie, do for the most part grow into hatred and contempt of Learning, mockt and deluded all this while with ragged Notions and Babblements, while they expected worthy and delightful knowledge; till poverty or youthful years call them importunately their several wayes and hasten them with the sway of friends either to an ambitious and mercenary, or ignorantly zealous Divinity; Some allur'd to the trade of Law, grounding their purposes not on the prudent and heavenly contemplation of justice and equity which was never taught them, but on the promising and pleasing thoughts of litigious terms, fat contentions, and flowing fees; others betake them to State affairs, with souls so unprincipl'd in vertue, and true generous breeding, that flattery, and Court shifts and tyrannous Aphorisms appear to them the highest points of wisdom; instilling their barren hearts with a conscientious slavery, if, as I rather think, it be not fain'd. Others lastly of a more delicious and airie spirit, retire themselves knowing no better, to the enjoyments of ease and luxury, living out their daies in feast and jollity; which indeed is the wisest and the safest course of all these, unless they were with more integrity undertaken. And these are the fruits of mispending our prime youth at the Schools and Universities as we do, either in learning meer words or such things chiefly, as were better unlearnt."

I wonder what Milton would have made of universal education or 50% university attendance? Probably in this context he would have welcomed the healthy appearance of the Mcdegree. Milton's full text and commentary here.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Our BBC boys go large

Recently there's been some hoohah over the BBC's funding from the EIB. EU Referendum blog has been on this case for almost four years, as have I, and I think there's a very broad picture here to talk about.

The Huntsman has a detailed analysis of the EIB case.

Surprisingly few people are aware that the BBC World Service is funded directly by the UK Government, not from the License Fee. Think of all those tie ins of expertise and knowledge between the BBC and the Foreign Office. This World Service is growing, not contracting, and its support from the Government is growing too. Lately they launched Arabic and Farsi TV, for instance, through a greatly enhanced funding package. The propagandist possibilities are endless, and they feed back into a BBC "we know best, we're the experts and know secrets" mentality that places them above their real direct funders, the public.

The BBC has not only received loans from the EU banking tool the EIB, it has also received direct funding from the EU.

That doesn't stop the BBC acting as a commercial operation at every opportunity. Its profits are its own, its liabilities are ours through the funding of all sorts with which taxpayers support it. When they're getting away with so much, why wouldn't they be arrogant?

One can rightly say that Conservatives have failed to see the BBC for what it is- a fundamentally unconservative concept and operation. This hydra head of state communications badly needs cutting back.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Self-preservational cynicism

I read with interest the latest UK crime figures, and noticed that gun crime was up by four percent, while overall crime fell by nine percent.

I am aware of the existence of the British Crime Survey of public opinion, which acts as a counterweight to the statistical approach, but all things considered I find myself still sceptical.

It's interesting to me that the crime figures would go down when the "enforcement" mechanism of serious crime and organised crime, guns, should be on the rise.

I also wonder, because in the UK I had some experience with crime (on many occasions). There was especially one occasion when, living in York, my car was broken into- nothing was stolen, but many hundred of pounds of damage was caused. All I received was a written invitation to visit the local station and report the details along with parts of the car that had been the focus of the attack and were possibly forensically interesting. No police officer came out, and as I couldn't use my car I would have been forced to walk three miles to the station- if I could have been bothered- with a plastic bag full of bits I had no knowledge of how to treat to enable their effective use in the investigation (ha!). Being young I was supposed to be able to take, you know, whatever. I don't think the crime was ever recorded. Or maybe it was- I don't remember, know or care. It was just a very bad dream to be carless in that location for about six weeks as complex repairs took place.

Well, that wasn't my only experience, but it had a deadening effect on my perceptions. You see, crime tends to intimidate- one is so preoccupied with the most serious that others almost go unnoticed. Crime committed to property, for instance, or crime you witness. You're only bothered about the minor disaster that effects you. I don't think the authorities ever face up to that kind of reality- it's frankly far too much work. And so it goes, always worse, unheralded except in spasms of taboid righteousness.

And this brings me to the point about gun crime. It's so serious it has to be noticed; it's so intimidating it's all absorbing, but the thing is that it swallows up in its maw such a miserable array of crime- that's the point; guns shield crime. It's what they're for- at least when guns themselves are criminal.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Seriously worrying, but good writing.

Ambrose Evans-Pritchard has a startlingly good analysis in the Telegraph of the financial crisis hitting world markets. Bottom line: the Fed did not panic.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A very short post

"Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people."

Right, said Fred, I'm off. You have to love the simplicity of it.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Well, Fred came third in North Carolina, second among registered Republicans. A creditable performance but probably not enough. Still, if creditable is credit-worthy then I feel in credit, especially reading this.

Just as well, considering the parlous economic state out there.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

I Hate Writing Things Like This But Anyway...


I have been observing the US Republican Primary race with quite some attention for a while now. Recently Thompson has been awesomely good, in the sense of the best a person can be when they don't believe "awesome" belongs in politics. Slap downs and humour, serious debate and moments of humanity outstripping in all modesty the rest. Very good indeed. But most people think it won't be enough. Romney would do, I suppose.

Sample recent Fredism:

"I'm opposed to global warming... I was up in New Hampshire a little while back for a debate - that's the only reason we went, because the circus was in town... and while we're on our way, there was a snowdrift that must have been six feet high... on this snowbank, there were about 15 signs stuck in that said, "STOP GLOBAL WARMING." They don't see any irony in things like that in New Hampshire."

There's no question we're going through warming and we need to understand it more... But we don't have the answers to a lot of questions. We don't know if this is the end o the story, or something that will be followed by cooling... If we shut down our entire economy, it still wouldn't do anything about what's coming from India and China... We are a small part of the solution, and we don't even know the extent of the problem yet."

A video of Fred taking the media down another peg here

Not stellar, but brilliant. That is the point of Fred.

Or hows about this?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

"We want to take our coverage of Westminster, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the European Parliament, as well as local councils up and down the land and turn them into the most engaging, the most creative multimedia portal for democracy in the world... all of it available to every secondary school in the UK as part of a strengthened commitment by BBC Learning to supporting citizenship and modern media literacy." (Mark Thompson, Director-General of Auntie)

What a turn off. Deeply scary. Speech here. The Times here. Mr Dale here.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

"I think little of people who will deny their history because it doesn't present the picture they would like."

Quote of the week.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

A List

Usually quite boring, lists can be useful for ordering information when that information is quite diffuse. Er, yes, well...

anyway, the Times have come up with a list of interest to me, mainly because this site's favourite poet, Philip Larkin, is placed at number one in their rankings of finest British postwar writers.

It's quite surprising- I thought I was quite unusual for placing him there but I think that he's one of these characters whose persona was so miserable people want to posthumously recognise him as a kind of exculpation of neglect. It helps that he happens to be transparently good.

What's so good about Larkin? David Baddiel writes a nice account.

Looking at the list, I am struck by its thinness- I feel that Ted Hughes at number four must be there to save the blushes of those of us who had to spend months, years, nay, decades, aeons, perusing his hamfisted countryside ramblings. Nice for kids... ah- but actually not, since his worldview is much more darwinian-dark than Larkin's ever was. Then there are the novelists, and with William Golding at number three one feels something like despair. And that's where Larking comes in, as quoted by Baddiel:

"If I seem good it’s because everyone else is so bad. Well, almost everyone. Well, anyway ..."

well, exactly Philip.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Onwards and Upwards.

Progress: "misinterpreting the weather is getting easier and easier."

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

That UK Janus face again

Complicated country, Britain.

As we enter a new year, Mark Steyn picks up two stories which show the two sides of Britain:

The NHS worshipping side, and the martially soaring spirit.

See, what we need is to divert a little of the latter to rip into the former, and then we'd be kicking, so to speak.

An amusing Beeb-based opening to 08

Sometimes the deference shown by the BBC to the statements of the so-called authorities of questionable nations can be hilarious. Sometimes it's just foolish and unfair, since the Beeb can be so critical of western governments with whom they wish to pick a bone- for example the US.

Well I think in this case it's the former.

"Malaysian Health Minister Chua Soi Lek has admitted that he is the man who features in two widely circulated DVDs of an unmarried couple having sex.", runs the lede (italics and emboldening mine).

Later we learn "his own wife and children had accepted his apology.". So what was the point of the "unmarried couple" thing? He's married, alright, so why the tricksy little moralistic-sounding intro? Or is that just to help me with my google search- ahem, not that I would, of course (and anyway it doesn't seem to produce anything)

I dunno. It does get funnier though, when they quote:

"I am the man in the tape," Mr Chua, 60, told reporters.

"The girl is a personal friend."

Mmm. Certainly what I call a personal friend.

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