enitharmon: (Default)
Here, for what it’s worth, is a slightly modified (to protect the guilty) version of something I posted as a comment in Another Place this morning, and tried in vain to post as a comment on the Fabian Society blog. (As a paid-up Fabian I resent not having the same rights to publish my thoughts as the Great And Good of that organisation)

Read it here )
enitharmon: (Default)
I stayed up until 3 am and by then it all looked in the bag from where I was sitting. I have to go out in half an hour and I feel wrecked!

It's the first time I've sat up for an American election, which says a great deal about the importance of the occasion. I have no vote but it's important for the world I live in, so all I could do was be there waiting and willing Obama on while wearing all three of my Obama buttons.

It's a strange experience. There's none of the excitement of a British election night; no results coming thick and fast in the small hours, no "over to Aldbrickham Widdershins where a recount is in progress", no dramatic declarations, no Portillo moments. It just seems to evolve. Suddenly the patchwork of red, white and blue on my screen changes suddenly, the numbers rack up, and it dawns on me that Obama only has to run up the west coast to get his majority. Time for bed, said Barack.

Yes, I was for Hillary. I wanted to see a strong (ie not Mrs Moose) woman in the White House and I thought that Obama was all mouth and no trousers. I have thought that less and less as the election drew nearer and Obama kept his cool under the most appalling onslaughts, and I have high hopes for him.

I haven't felt this good about the world since the beginning of May 1997. Maybe that should be a caution, but hey, let's give the guy the benefit of the doubt.
enitharmon: (Default)
I'm puzzled.

When Bosnia wishes to break away from the overlordship of Serbia, NATO sends in troops to protect it from Serbian attempts to seize back control of what was its territory, and Western governments are quick to recognise the new entity.

When South Ossetia (Yuzhnaya Osetiya - why do the hawks keep referring to it as Oseesha?) wishes to break away from the overlordship of Georgia, Russia sends in troops to protect it from Georgian attempts to seize back control of what was its territory, and the Russian government is quick to recognise the new entity.

Can somebody please explain the difference to this bear of very little brain? The majority Ossetian population appear to wish to be separate from the ethnically different Georgians, and to be closer once again to members their own ethnic group in North Ossetia. Can it possibly be that the will of these people has to take second place to the strategic requirements of a foreign country on an entirely different continent?
enitharmon: (Default)
Half-inched from [livejournal.com profile] cereswunderkind

How to Win a Fight With a Conservative is the ultimate survival guide for political arguments

My Liberal Identity:

You are a Working Class Warrior, also known as a blue-collar Democrat. You believe that the little guy is getting screwed by conservative greed-mongers and corporate criminals, and you’re not going to take it anymore.

For what it's worth, I'm rooting for Hillary Clinton. I can't understand the hype about Obama - for fuck's sake, we could have a top-notch woman in the White House, so stop undermining her, mysogynist Obamaists!
enitharmon: (Default)
I broke my ties with the Labour Party years ago. I'm a Liberal Democrat these days, although struggling to find my feet there (I feel like the only one in town, sometimes). But I did give the best years of my life to Labour and some links are hard to break completely. I empathise a lot with Gordon Brown, beleagured by crisises not of his making (it all smells of stitch-up to me).

All the same, yesterday I felt I was finally alienated from Labour when I heard Bill Rammell, higher education minister, defending cuts to the Open University. Harold Wilson felt, rightly, that the OU was the jewel in the crown of his administration. It's part of OU legend that, when the Conservatives came to power in 1970, that they were ready to smother the infant OU in its cradle and would have done so but for the ferocious intervention of a junior education minister. Her name? I'll let you guess. Amongst other things, it can't be denied that she believed in opportunities for self-improvement.

And now a government, a Labour government, is scuttling round saying it's not right to let people study art history or philosophy when it would be better to churn out people with skills useful to business and bits of paper to make them feel good about it, (but, importantly, not with the skills or inclination to question anything and rock the boat.)

Now, here's where I'm going to get controversial. Nobody is entitled as of right to a university. Just as nobody has the right to play Premiership football, or to dance with the Royal Ballet, or have a show at the Tate Modern, although nobody disputes those. Everybody has a perfect right to aspire to any of those things, but they are achievements, not rights, they are not meant to be easily ac hieved, and they have to be earned through a combination of aptitute and effort.

Once, I sat on an Open University committee as a student representative. We wasteda whole morning once, with a bunch of headbangers demanding more and more ludicrous things, like quarter-credits and sixteenth-credits and credits stretched out over several years and more accessible subjects, while the chair (Professor David Potter, Dean of Social Sciences and a lovely man) rolled eyes at each other. In the end, the chair brought the discussion to a close with the observation that " a degree is supposed to be difficult." If you let everybody have one, then it ceases to be an achivement. I've been on far too many courses which had no challenge but generated a certificate at the end. Bully bully, I don't treasure the certificate for ever because it's meaningless. It goes in the bin. So much more needlessly wasted paper.

There's an obsession with getting degrees for poorer people. I have to say here that when I visit Ormsgill, or Whitley Wood, or Lower Knowle, I don't see obvious signs that these places are full of young people yearning to get to grips with Kant. I can accept that some people there are more than capable of successfully completing a degree course and that social conditions don't help them. But I don't think that the way forward is to create lots of pseudo-degree course in basketweaving, plumbing, or whatever. Nowt wrong with being a good basketweaver or plumber - I couldn't do either and they are valuable achievements in their own right and achievements to be admired as much as an academic degree, but you don't need a degree to be a basketweaver or a plumber or a systems analys - yes, I had a perfectly good career in IT without a Computer Science degree.

Of course, everybody could do with a good grounding in critical thinking, but that's precisely what government policy seems to be studiously avoiding. Can't have the masses getting uppity, questioning what they are asked to believe and do. That might be subversive. Keep them in line, only encouraging them to engage with harmless subjects that are useful to the economy. It's no accident that whenever there's a revolution, it's the intellctuals who are eliminated first,
enitharmon: (Default)
I'm getting really annoyed by the way politics is being conducted in Britain at the moment.

Frankly I don't give a toss who gives money to political parties. I think I would like to donate to a cause I approve of without being personally known to the recipients. Corrupt? No, it's practical. Where does Murdoch's money come from that is so heavily committed to British politics? Murdoch isn't even a British elector, he's a flag of convenience American, but he pours millions into the Conservative Party cause through his papers.

And, party loyalties notwithstanding (and they are no longer to the Labour Party), I'm unutterably depressed by a bunch of spotty young public school yahoos braying insults at the grammar school boy. I've met Gordon Brown; he's charming, brilliant and scrupulously honest, and he got where he is on his own merits, not through rich mummies and daddies making sure he had a tie of the right colour to get him through life.

If opposition parties have genuine policy arguments, then let them put them forward. But pressing their own arguments through behaviour that would shame the local infants school does nothing to impress me.
enitharmon: (Default)
I thought I'd got away from one political party in the habit of knifing its leaders in the back.

Now the nice Lib Dems seem to have done a hatchet job on their leader, no doubt to make way for thrusting young turks with about as much appeal as a brussels sprout.

enitharmon: (Default)
I've never liked Jack Straw much, but what he said about the niqab the other day was right on the money and has since been twisted out of persctive.

In today's Grauniad, the Roman Catholic journalist Martin Newland has a rant about the right of him and others to express their faith without criticism.
Here's my response in Comment Is Free )
enitharmon: (Default)
The reform of the House of Lords is in the news again after it seemed to vanish for ages, left as an incomplete shambles.

Many are clamouring for an all-elected chamber. I disagree. An all-elected chamber would mean one contested by the same political parties that contest the Other Place, and more often than not controlled by the same party that controls the Other Place. Having once been part of one of those machines, and having been crushed by its cogs, that';s not what I want to see.

Nor do I want to see the continuance of patronage - either royal or prime-ministerial.

No. My suggestion - a radical one I haven't heard from any quarter before - is this: an upper chamber, with scrutinising and revising popwers but not legislative ones, made up of senior academics. After all, who are the best people to assess the running of the economy but professors of economics?

What do you think?


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