Sunday, January 11, 2009

Layer 112 More Balls, the Spirit of the East, Missing Heads, Gaza and Olympic Transformation.

This blog should have been posted 24 hours ago.

More Balls and the NPQMP.

It’s very gratifying to see that the secretary of state has taken up my suggestion to create a national professional qualification for directors of children’s services - “Balls orders intensive training for children’s services directors in wake of Baby P tragedy”, was the Guardian headline. He’s also gone with Oxzen’s idea that people who take on this arduous and possibly ridiculous post must have experience in both education and social services.

Presumably they should have a track record of outstanding performance in both those professions. This will be interesting. But what a pity they didn’t see the need to train these people properly BEFORE forcing local authorities to restructure their hierarchies. And Balls is still blabbing on about ‘driving up standards’. Well - it sounds so macho doesn’t it, dearie? Such a pity the rest of us can’t find a way of driving up standards among politicians.

They could certainly benefit from some national professional qualification for members of parliament. They could all make a start on some in-service training by reading books like The Shock Doctrine and The New Learning Revolution.


Talking of the Tao, I watched a prog on BBC2 last night - part of a series called Around the World in 80 Religions - which focused on Eastern religions. There was some stunning photography, some fabulous footage of mountains and temples and festivals, but I felt dismayed and appalled by the complete Christian idiot who’d got the presenting gig. What a total pillock. A waste of space. The ultimate ‘trendy’ vicar. A complete poser and ignoramus with regard to Taoism, Buddhism and Confucius. What a missed opportunity - if only the commentary and the commentator had matched the standards of the visuals.

School Leadership

The Guardian reported yesterday on £100,000 salaries failing to attract candidates for headship.

England and Wales face a chronic shortage of headteachers this year, despite state schools advertising £100,000 salaries for some posts. Schools are struggling to fill posts at a time when increasing numbers are expected to retire, according to the annual survey of headship vacancies by analysts Education Data Surveys (EDS).

John Howson, director of EDS, said, “"Teachers are put off by the bureaucracy and the workload. We are on a cliff edge with so many teachers retiring in the next few years."

What does this tell us about our bogus and bankrupt government policies?

This isn’t a new story, of course. The Guardian alone reported on this problem several times throughout 2008.

Economics and Finance

There was a curious column by the normally dependable Simon Jenkins in the Guardian yesterday, in which he concludes that the world economic crisis will just blow itself out and business (and consumerism) will get back to normal. He decries the idea that 2008 will mark the end of Thatcherism, or the beginning of the collapse of capitalism, or the dawn of socialism. “The present crisis will pass and the current punditry will be seen a silly and damaging exercise in talking down confidence.”

He could be right, of course, but I sincerely hope not. For the sake of all of us, but particularly the less well-off, and in the name of social justice, this must be a time when the insane ideas of the Chicago School of economics, and of the political right generally with regard to unfettered capitalism, are shown to be as bankrupt as . . . well, the banks.

The thing that’s offering some hope that this will be the case is that politics in both the US and Europe in 2009 will be driven by people who are of the political centre who seem to understand that unbridled capitalism is a busted flush. Hidden away at the bottom of page 29 of the Guardian yesterday was an article headed, “Sarkozy and Merkel tell US that Europe will lead way towards 'moral' capitalism”.

This is an incredibly important story, so why’s it got so little prominence?

The leaders of France and Germany today issued a stark warning to Washington and the global financial community that Europe would lead the way in restructuring the global financial system and ushering in a more "moral" form of capitalism.

Both leaders stressed the need for Europe to play a significant role at the summit of G20 nations in London in April, when the group of leading and emerging countries will hammer out ways of reinforcing the architecture of global regulation.

Sarkozy gave a characteristically frank verdict on the role of the US in future negotiations. "Let's be clear: in the 21st century it is no longer a single nation who can say what we must do, what we must think," he said, adding that Britain's place in the economic discussions was with her European allies "and not just with the US".

Speaking at a conference in Paris on the future of capitalism, the leaders of the EU's powerhouse member states agreed on the need to make long-term changes to the old financial order, which Sarkozy said had been "perverted" by an "amoral" form of unbridled finance capitalism. Hailing the "return of the state", the right-wing market liberal said he hoped a more responsible model of global finance would emerge from the wreckage of the current crisis.

Merkel, also a centre-right conservative, said she would "react very strongly" if attempts were made to block tighter regulation.

"Once everything is going better, the financial markets will tell us, you politicians don't need to get involved because everything is working again," she said. "I will stay firm, we must not repeat the mistakes of the past."

Calling for the creation of a new economic council to run along the lines of the UN Security Council, the chancellor said she was also in favour of a sustainable economy "world charter" which would set out new rules for long-term financial management.

The Associated Press report says that Sarkozy and Merkel are calling for a new form of capitalism.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the system "cannot continue as it is" and called for better-regulated financial markets.

Measures will be taken at the G-20 meeting in London on April 2, Sarkozy promised, saying "we cannot accept the status quo."

Merkel said the International Monetary Fund has not managed to regulate global capitalism, and she called for the creation of an economy body at the United Nations, similar to the Security Council, to judge government policy.

Speaking at the conference, European Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said "global rules" on government aid to companies would be "helpful."

"A closer network of competition systems is slowly emerging after decades of work," she said.
Sarkozy blamed financial speculators for encouraging a system fueled on debt. He called financial capitalism based on speculation "an immoral system" that has "perverted the logic of capitalism."

"It's a system where wealth goes to the wealthy, where work is devalued, where production is devalued, where entrepreneurial spirit is devalued," he said.

But no more: "In capitalism of the 21st century, there is room for the state," he said.
Tony Blair called for a new financial order based on "values other than the maximum short-term profit."

Which is interesting, since I don’t remember the bastard B-Liar saying any such thing when he was running the government. Talk about the wisdom of hindsight. Will Hutton said all of this in 1995, in The State We’re In, but NuLabour paid it not the least bit of attention.

The Financial Times’ report says,

President Nicolas Sarkozy and Chancellor Angela Merkel on Thursday warned the US and the banking industry not to thwart European efforts to tighten financial regulations this year.
In a blunt message to Barack Obama, the incoming US president, the French and German leaders made clear that the European Union was determined to set the agenda for the G20 summit in London on April 2.

The summit of leading and emerging economies will discuss ways of strengthening the architecture of global financial regulation.

Ms Merkel told the conference that she would “react very strongly” if the financial community tried to block government efforts to tighten regulation. “We must not repeat the mistakes of the past,” she said.

The German chancellor wanted the capitalist system that emerged from the financial crisis to resemble Germany’s cherished social market economy.

Considering that Merkel is described as a conservative, this says it all about how far to the Right NuLabour had dragged Britain.

Transforming East London

The Guardian had a wonderful centre-pages photograph yesterday showing an aerial view of the Olympic site in the vicinity of the main stadium - the whole place looking like a hive of activity. To the right of the photo you can see the high-level footpath/cyclepath that’s still open, and from which you can see clearly into the site. You can access this footpath from the River Lea, and I strongly recommend a visit to see the work in progress, regardless of what anyone may think about the Olympic movement and its ludicrous costs - this is a hugely important moment in the history of the East End.

Bombs, Bullets, Rockets and Shoes.

The United Nations has voted for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza (with only the USA abstaining), but the assault on the Palestinians continues, with no reduction in the shelling and bombing whatsoever. It’s Israel against the world, with only the USA abstaining.

15,000 people gathered in Hyde Park yesterday (Saturday) to protest against the Israeli bullying and butchery and shelling of schools. Demonstrators marched on the Israeli embassy, many of them carrying shoes for the purpose of throwing thereof. That Iraqi guy has really started something.

Naomi Klein is urging the rest of the world to treat Israel like the apartheid state it has become, and impose cultural isolation and economic sanctions. In the past I’d have said that it would be impossible to get the USA to go along with sanctions, so forget it - it can’t happen. But with Obama running the country - who knows? No doubt his people could at least say to the Israelis in private that if the rest of the world wants sanctions then he won’t try to scupper them, which means at least abstaining on the issue, which will require the USA to not engage in sanctions-busting. The Israelis would then find ways themselves to beat sanctions, but they surely won’t want to go on being the pariah of the entire planet forever, shunned and locked inside the fortress they’ve created.

A good friend pointed out to me today that it’s a fundamental law of nature and psychology that those who are bullied will later become bullies themselves. Quite.

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