Friday, June 29, 2007

Not forgetting the basilisk

We were six
(Not forgetting the basilisk).

How did he join us?
Hedgehog says we asked him,
Badger says he just came.
Basilisk says he flew
On the wings of the injustice
Our forefathers
Did to his.

We five voted,
The day he looked at fox
With his special look.
Badger said `go',
Hedgehog said `stay'
And Basilisk got three votes,
Because of the vote denied his father.

After he ate Hedghog,
Basilisk said
That his practices
Were not to be criticised.

`They are' he said,
`The result of profound
Cultural differences,
Not to be comprehended
By stupid woodland creatures'.

We were four
(Not forgetting the basilisk),
when he gutted Badger.
`A slip of the claw'
He said. ` A reflex.
The cockatrice coughs like Badger,
And she's a dangerous beast.'

We were three
(Not forgetting the basilisk),
before he froze Snake.
`Nasty stripy thing'
said Basilisk.
`Trying to be me
And failing.
At the end,
The stones cried out
When she slithered.
Best she was gone'
said Basilisk.

We were two
(not forgetting the basilisk),
when I started this.

End of the (academic) year

Here I sit, glass of wine in hand, contemplating the end of term. Graduates classified; firsts awarded, fails regretfully announced, cheers audited, groans heard; students comforted, encouraged, consoled, congratulated, mopped-up, dressed-down, dried-off, dried-out, calmed down, geed up, praised, primped and pruned.
Next year, the same again.

Meanwhile, Brown is finally in, the world has not ended, but the worst is yet to come. Another liar and a cheat running the UK. We move on from Blair- who tried to be `nothing to all men' to Brown- who is the second-greatest purveyor of `the big lie' the world has known.

Sometimes I don't know why I love the place. Or the people.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Poverty linked to lack of education

This headline from the BBC obviously reflects somebody's amazement, but it's not mine:
Poverty linked to spoiled ballots

Of course it's referring to the enormous number (c 140,000) of spoilt ballot papers in the recent Scottish elections.

I like the last sentence:
The Strathclyde report's authors said action was needed to restore public confidence in the Scottish election system.

I suggest reintroducing banishment as an electoral option might do the trick.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

That's entertainment

OK. As the report on BBC bias has now been published, I thought I might give a link to comments on Biased BBC.
If you want an explanation of the title, it's because `entertainment' is the section on the BBC's website under which the report is available.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

BBC bias report due

The Sunday Times covers the report which is due next week and is expected to be fairly damning. Here's the start of the article:

THE BBC is institutionally biased, an official report will conclude this week. The year-long investigation, commissioned by the BBC, has found the corporation particularly partial in its treatment of single-issue politics such as climate change, poverty, race and religion.

It concludes that the bias has extended across drama, comedy and entertainment, with the corporation pandering to politically motivated celebrities and trendy causes.

I would cheer, but I fear that it will be quickly supressed and equally quickly forgotten.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Israel only became illegal when it did not go away.

The title is from a long piece by Howard Jacobsen in The Independent (of all unlikely places) about the UK academic boycott of Israel and Israelis (h/t The Augean Stables).

Some highlights:
To rub it in - and this would be childish were it not villainous - the UCU resolution includes proposals to "organise a UK-wide campus tour for Palestinian academics/educational trade unionists". In other words, we will hear them, we will not hear you. Anyone familiar with the emotional politics of the campus will be able to imagine the rapturous applause awaiting these Palestinian educational trade unionists - given free rein to vent their grievances while the other side of the argument is gagged;

(about the Six Day War):
It is probably futile to imagine what would have happened had victory gone the other way. But it is not unreasonable to suppose that had the Arab countries won decisively Israel would not exist. Annihilation has, after all, been (as it continues to be) the declared aim of most of the states and organisations that surround it;

about a boycott were the shoe on the other foot:

Whether the enlightened Universities of Birmingham and Brighton would have enforced an academic boycott of these conquering Arab countries, we can only guess. But since there are many Arab countries, in actual as opposed to imaginary existence, whose practices one might think deserving of a boycott but who have so far escaped one, I think we have to guess not;

about Israel's behaviour:
In the present climate, however, it is almost impossible to make the case that some of Israel's most detested actions (I do not say all) are themselves responses to provocations. At a certain stage the pieces are pushed from the table. Israel can make no legitimate response to a provocation because Israel is not itself legitimate.

about `rights of audience' for Israeli academics:
An Israeli scholar dare not be in even the most partial agreement with his government. For an Israeli academic not to think exactly as they think on the campuses of Birmingham and Brighton is to be guilty of a crime for which the punishment is expulsion from the international community of thought.

It is the last of these which makes me most ashamed as an academic and scholar. Unfortunately, I am unable to resign from the UCU as I have never been a member.

Physics fiasco

I know about Maths, and I was coming to realise the degradation of the GCSE Physics syllabus as my younger daughter is going to take the exams this summer and next but this skewers the whole nonsense:

The thing that attracts pupils to physics is its precision. Here, at last, is a discipline that gives real answers that apply to the physical world. But that precision is now gone. Calculations — the very soul of physics — are absent from the new GCSE. Physics is a subject unpolluted by a torrent of malleable words, but now everything must be described in words.

In this course, pupils debate topics like global warming and nuclear power. Debate drives science, but pupils do not learn meaningful information about the topics they debate. Scientific argument is based on quantifiable evidence. The person with the better evidence, not the better rhetoric or talking points, wins. But my pupils now discuss the benefits and drawbacks of nuclear power plants, without any real understanding of how they work or what radiation is.

We have a severe shortage of physicists in the UK. This crap will not address it, in fact, it will do the opposite.
Hat tip: Devil's Kitchen.

Speaking with your mouth full

The EU has always taken away national soverignty bite by little bite. But now there is an explicit admission of this by Giscard d'Estaing:
"public opinion will be led to adopt, without knowing it, the proposals that we dare not present to them directly".

Thursday, June 14, 2007

A quotation to remember

As we eagerly await the anointing of Gordon Brown, let us recall this quotation:
at least he knows he is an unprincipled unscrupulous ruthless villain, whereas Blair does not.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Wonders will never cease

I suppose it is no surprise that it takes someone who grew up under communist rule to spot the fingers itching for the feel of the levers of power amongst the environmentalists: nevertheless, Vaclav Klaus speaks more sense in his response to the American Congressional committee on energy and commerce than any three UK politicians in the past decade.
Try this:
It becomes evident that while discussing climate we are not witnessing a clash of views about the environment but a clash of views about human freedom;

or this
...policymakers should under all circumstances stick to the principles free society is based on, that they should not transfer the right to choose and decide from the people to any advocacy group claiming that it knows better than the rest of the people what is good for them. Policymakers should protect taxpayers’ money and avoid wasting it on doubtful projects which cannot bring positive results.

or this
I warn against adopting regulations based on the so- called precautionary principle which the environmentalists use to justify their recommendations, the clear benefit of which they are not able to prove. Responsible politics should take into account the opportunity costs of such proposals and be aware of the fact that the wasteful environmentalist policies are adopted to the detriment of other policies, thus neglecting many other important needs of millions of people all over the world;

or this
The developing countries will be forced to accept irrational targets and limitations because “earth is first” and their needs are secondary. The environmentalist argumentation gives ammunition to protectionists of all colors who try to eliminate competition coming from newly industrialized countries.

or this
My recommendation ... is ... to protect and foster fundamental systemic factors without which the economy and society cannot operate efficiently – i.e. to guarantee human freedom and basic economic principles such as the free market, a functioning price system and clearly defined ownership rights. They motivate economic agents to behave rationally. Without them, no policies can protect either the citizens or the environment.

To which I say hoo-bloody-ray.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Aid? Oh good.

It seems good to remember this just after the latest G8 summit: ... for God's sake, please just stop:

"The main reason for poverty and unsustainable development in Africa, Asia and South America is oppression by incompetent, violent, and corrupt governments – and an attendant lack of property rights and the rule of law."