Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Extraordinary Lies

What's that you say? The government's been lying again about extraordinary rendition? C'est pas vrai!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Body language

A sure sign that the tide is turning for TB (via BSSC)

Friday, March 24, 2006

*(&^*&^%g Leg/Reg!

I had a chat a few weeks ago with a man who possessed these uncommonly coexistent characteristics:

1) He was extremely knowledgeable about politics
2) He thought Tony Blair's 'reshaping of politics' outweighed his legacy on Iraq/free speech/being a cunt.

Needless to say, that debate got quite heated as I attempted to'shine a light on the problems with each of these transgressions our conversation naturally turned to the Legislation and Regulatory Reform Bill (more here). I was smugly informed that 'proper democratic process' would ensure the necessary safeguards would be introduced. As you may have guessed the bugger worked in the office of Geoff Hoon.

I must report how pleasurable it was arguing with an insider whose arguments were just as indefensible face-to-face as they are on paper. He mentioned nothing but the party line on almost every topic.

Anyway, the Hoonite was wrong. As Unity reports on Liberty Central an amendment to Leg/Reg tabled by the opposition, which would have made certain acts of parliament sacrosanct, has been rejected by the government. Amongst those deemed unfit to be protected by the HMG: Habeas Corpus 1679 and 1872, Magna Carta 1215 and the Bill of Rights 1688.

What the hell is going on here? How can a piece of legislation masquerading as an attempt to cut red tape be so spectacularly and utterly totalitarian. And how long can Blair, the master of control freakery, keep up the pretence that this is simply a Cabinet Office initiative?

I cannot outlione how serious this is. Nothing from the government has substantively shown that this Bill will not go as far as it is feared. We must take a stand on this one. Go to Liberty Central to keep updated on the campaign and email/write to your MP, especially if Labour, and urge them to vote against this Bill. We cannot rely on the Lords to halt this slide into an Orwellian state.

So girls may not be cleverer after all

The male students who were more often absent had higher scores for cognitive ability and extroversion while females had higher scores for conscientiousness, discouraging them from missing classes and encouraging them to work harder, the paper says.

This fitted the familiar research portrait of the female student as more "conformist" and that males, even those who are highly intelligent, as more easily distracted.
How ironic that I should be reading this as I struggle to finish the final essay of my university career.

Russell on Nationalism

The quote below is from Bertrand Russell's paper 'On the Value of Scepticism'. It was put my way by John Wesley Harding, some of whose writings can be found here. Many thanks to him.
'It seems that sin is geographical. From this conclusion, it is only a small step to the further conclusion that the notion of "sin" is illusory, and that the cruelty habitually practiced in punishing it is unnecessary. It is just this conclusion which is so unwelcome to many minds, since the infliction of cruelty with a good conscience is a delight to moralists. That is why they invented Hell.

Nationalism is of course an extreme example of fervent belief concerning doubtful matters. I think it may be safely said that any scientific historian, writing now a history of the Great War, is bound to make statements which, if made during the war, would have exposed him to imprisonment in every one of the belligerent countries on both sides. Again, with the exception of China, there is no country where people tolerate the truth about themselves; at ordinary times the truth is only thought ill-mannered, but in war-time it is thought criminal. Opposing systems of violent belief are built up, the falsehood of which is evident from the fact that they are believed only by those who share the same national bias. But the application of reason to these systems of belief is thought as wicked as the application of reason to religious dogmas was formerly thought. When people are challenged as to why scepticism in such matters should be wicked, the only answer is that myths help to win wars, so that a rational nation would be killed rather than kill. The view that there is something shameful in saving one's skin by wholesale slander of foreigners is one which, so far as I know, has hitherto found no supporters among professional moralists outside the ranks of Quakers. If it is suggested that a rational nation would find ways of keeping out of wars altogether, the answer is usually more abuse.'

Tony Blair should read this essay, although I doubt it will make him reconsider his 'active not reactive' foreign policy. Active with respect to kowtowing to the US, perhaps. Churchillian it is not.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

AUT strike

Here's some exciting news! I received an email informing me not to worry and the University is working as hard as it can to ensure that all students would be able to sit exams at the end of this year.

As this website will tell you , with its picture of a group of lecturers trying to look mean, there's a strike on at Uni, or as one my tutors would rather 'an assessments boycott.' I should be quite outraged, given that I had hoped for graduation in 2006, but I'm not that bothered. I'm actually quite in favour. Lecturers deserve better pay if only to attract better people into the job. This apathy of course is mostly due to my disbelief that we will not be able to sit exams. Most have already been set and it doesn't need the lecturers to turn up on the day (they rarely do anyhow).

Worst case scenario is that we get our results a few months late. A little shitty for those applying for jobs and post-grad but for those of us planning to enjoy a good book and work 4 days a week, not much of a problem.

DK on education

Tears rolled down my face as I read this post on education from DK. The man is at the height of his powers. Here's the edited highlights but I thoroughly recommend you read the whole thing. You'll see the man has true compassion! Take back what I said about him thinking that the public sector was useless, although I'm sure he'll forgive me given the tenor of many of his posts.

Anything that isn't directly linked to the fucking joke known as the academic curriculum is denied to many; the opportunities that I had to explore and express my creativity are denied to thousands. Amongst other things, those who are not academically inclined are denied the chance to find something else that they are good at. This attitude—that some sodding piss GCSEs in fucking Spice Girl studies, or whatever, is the be all and end all of education—is leading directly to our shortage of practical tradesmen, such as the, sadly not, ubiquitous plumber. Furthermore, it stifles creative thinking with the result that the country that was once the creative powerhouse of the world is becoming a piss-poor backwater which is so fucking desperate that it even considers shackling itself to an obvious fucking piece-of-crap economic, administrative and cultural basketcase like the EU. The fucking piece of crap that this country's governments have called "education policy" has led directly to the decline of this once-almost-omnipotent union.

It must not—should not—be tolerated. The education policy pursued by so many governments, both Labour and—yes, Neil—Tory, is not only failing this country economically, but it is also failing people: individuals about whom we profess to care. [You will have to imagine me shouting at the screen now.] FUCKING SORT IT OUT! PEOPLE, INDIVIDUALS ARE LIVING LIVES OF DESPAIR AND MISERY, LACKING HOPE, BECAUSE SOME CUNTS IN GOVERNMENT WILL NOT SORT OUT THE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUE IN THIS COUNTRY.
Education should be a priority; it helps us as a country and it helps people as individuals. The very fact that we are churning out thousands of people who are functionally fucking illiterate is a fucking disgrace. And when I rule this country, education will be the first thing to sort out (well, after executing Blair, Brown, Byers, Jowell, Hewitt and the rest of those utter cunts. They have failed the people of this country, and lined their own pockets and they should fucking be killed and have their heads stuck on sodding spikes to remind the people of what demons look like) and then we will be great.

You see - the man has true compassion! Take back what I said about him thinking that the public sector was useless, although I'm sure he'll forgive me given the tenor of many of his posts.

The budget

Sorry I've been away for a while, final weeks of a degree so it's been quite intense. To keep you happy, the following is adapted from a comment I wrote somewhere about the budget.

Firstly, I do wish Brown would stop distinguishing between 'public sector borrowing' and 'borrowing for investment', it's plainly fraudulent. On the other hand, Britain's infrastructure was so gutted by the Tories, that a heck of a lot needed to be borrowed. Let him play his semantical games if he will (this acceptance may have something to do with spin being so much easier to swallow when it comes with a dour Fife accent than a high-pitched Fettesian/Etonian one). The main thing in the budget is that spending has slowed and this ties in nicely with the government getting tough on bailouts after the bonanza in the health service in a market-efficiency sort of way.

There is nothing like the crisis in public finances that Diddy Cameron are decrying: national debt is still pretty average by historical levels. I can't stand the way some (e.g.) talk as if the public sector doesn't actually do anything. What utter shit. How is it that social workers, nurses and teachers are thought to be wasteful while corporate lawyers and producers of iPods
are thought to be doing something worthwhile? If economies are to grow sustainably, they need a solid infrastructure, both social and economic. This is where dynamic efficiency comes from not an economy stripped to it bare arse by short run growth fetishism.*

Another point upon which some need a colo-craneal separation procedure is on the environment - don't those jokes about global warming improving the weather just get better? Brown missed his chance on the environment today. Britain should be hiking up pollution taxes (of course not too fast, remember prudence) not only for the environment's sake. If the world is committed to tackling climate change, green industries will be big business, so why not gain those competences ASAP? That the most prominent wind turbine companies are Danish goes some way to proving this point.

*I recently mentioned a paper which analysed the correlation between poverty reduction programs and productivity. Guess what? It ain't negative! Okun must be rolling in his grave.
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