Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Layer 197 Home Time, Keith Floyd, Primary Education, Lehman's and the Shock Doctrine Reversed.

Last night's television provided two wonderful and unexpected programmes.

1)    Home Time
– BBC2 - by Emma Fryer & Neil Edmund


"Sitcom. Gaynor Jacks, aged 29, returns to her mum and dad's house in Coventry after running off to find her place in the big wide world when she was 17-years-old

Emma Fryer plays the lead role of Gaynor Jacks who returns to her hometown – Coventry, home to her mum and dad's house, and home to her three best friends.
Aged 17, she ran off to find her place in the big wide world, but now aged 29 she's back with her tail between her legs."
"Lucy Lumsden, BBC Controller, Comedy Commissioning, says: "It's incredibly exciting when a new writer/performer comes along with a story to tell that is close to their own experience. Female-led and with a strong sense of place, we eagerly await the world of Home Time which explores the themes of growing up and longing to be different."
The series was commissioned by Lucy Lumsden and produced by Baby Cow, the makers of the award-winning Gavin And Stacey and The Mighty Boosh."

You can watch it here:


Directed by Christine Gernon  and produced by Ted Dowd, who both worked on Gavin and Stacey.

The main character's final words in this first episode were, “I'm so sorry. But I was only seventeen. You know what I mean?”

Edge of Seventeen video with silly visuals but excellent sound quality for Stevie Nick's great track:

2)    Keith Meets Keith

"Documentary about the funny, thought-provoking and moving encounter between the man who 'deconstructed television' years before the phrase became fashionable among the media-savvy, and a protégé who has continued that tradition."
"Actor and documentary-maker Keith Allen was hugely influenced by TV chef Keith Floyd's anarchic presentational style, and is determined to track down his long-time hero. He finally locates him in rural France.
Both known for their wild lifestyles, it's unsurprising that the two Keiths immediately hit it off. The result is a compelling profile of Floyd's life, as well as his musings on the current TV chefs, the mendacity of television, the state of modern Britain, and the human condition."
And then this morning Floyd goes and dies of a heart attack.





You can watch the programme on the web, here:



On Radio 4 today -

From Abacus to Circle Time: A Short History of the Primary School

“Education journalist Mike Baker traces the controversial changes to the ways we have educated our youngest children over the past 150 years, from the rigidity of the Victorian age to the occasionally anarchic, experiential learning of the progressive 1970s.”
Traditional v progressive?
Facts v child centred?
Open plan and activity led learning?

The Primary Review is about to be published, and this series is a serious effort by Mike Baker to understand the history of Primary education in England.

Classes of 40, sometimes 2 combined into 80, weren't unknown in the past. Far from it.
Lots of caning, sitting in rows, learning tables and poetry by heart.
The Blunk popped up to say “It was more difficult for me than for other people – the whole intention was to get information into the heads of individuals.” Hmmm. Difficult, eh?
Should England still have SATs tests?
We now think knowledge, skills and experiences are at the heart of education, it seems.
Was the 'golden age' post-Plowden really as good as nostalgia suggests?

In the beginning, the purpose of schools was to make children obedient, God-fearing Bible readers.

Then came new thinking about child development – from Dewey, Montessori, at al. We started to believe that schools and education should be based on activity and experience rather than 'knowledge to be acquired and facts to be stored'.

The Hadow report – with a major section on child development – was 'revolutionary' – according to Prof Robin Alexander, who is leading the Cambridge-based Primary Review, shortly to be published in full. He also says Dewey was hugely influential.

But Hadow made relatively little impact, and in spite of this progressive thinking Victorian practices were still dominant. As was the expectation that working class kids would just follow their parents.
Then came the Plowden Report in 1966-67 – a major review of Primary education
Shirley Williams spoke about the way in which the 11+ dominated primary schools in the 40s and 50s. Tony Crosland, as the Minister of Education, was determined to get rid of it.
Plowden herself was mainly concerned with the joy of learning and emancipating teachers and children from 'the terribly narrow curriculum.' The profession began to seriously consider the real reasons for children to learn – from a fundamental interest in and fascination with with their world, which could   motivate them to learn through the sheer enjoyment of learning.



Wasted – Channel 4

You have 28 days left to catch two really excellent programmes on the way in which skunk and cocaine fuck people up. Difficult to watch, but worth it. People with kids should consider recording these.



Shock Doctrine, Continued

It's the first anniversary of the Lehman Brothers' collapse - the event that triggered the worldwide financial crisis. The recent TV documentary on it showed the head man of Lehman's yelling at his staff - “Crush our enemies!” And there we have it in a nutshell. This crazed individual didn't see competitors - he saw only enemies. He didn't want to compete with them - he wanted to crush and kill them. A megalomanic totally off his trolley, using language that betrayed his total lack of emotional intelligence.

This was a guy who was being paid incredible amounts, unbelievable millions, and managed to lead his company to the biggest bankruptcy in history. It was a financial disaster ten times bigger than the collapse of Enron. Lehman's were 40 times leveraged, which means they were working with practically no money of their own, and for every dollar they actually had on deposit they owed the money markets 40 dollars.

Clearly the people at Lehmans thought the company was far too big for the government to allow it to go bust. In a sense it was, and it was really a stupid government that did stupid things that just sat back and allowed the bankruptcy to happen, instead of just stepping in and taking the business into State ownership - which they couldn't bring themselves to do for purely ideological reasons. I guess there were also plenty of 'enemies' that relished seeing it go down.

Thankfully Brown and Darling weren't so stupid and they did act to take failing banks into public or part-public ownership. But they've done nothing since. The Shock Doctrine ought now to be used by the likes of Brown and Obama to transform our societies. This means swift and radical action, justified on the grounds of the necessity of preventing any future financial crises. This means passing legislation to break up the banking cartels and monopolies, capping executive pay, banning bonuses, taking a controlling stake in the major banks, and forcing them to make loans to solvent or near-solvent companies and individuals, instead if withdrawing credit and forcing them to go bankrupt.

It also means cutting all future expenditure on weapons of mass destruction, raising taxes on the rich and super-rich, cutting expenditure on state surveillance and spying, scrapping identity cards, and capping the pension entitlements of anyone 'earning' more than £100,000 per year. No-one should expect a 'pension' of more than £40,000 a year. If anyone 'needs' more than that, they should fucking work for it. Greed is NOT good. All monies saved on these pensions should be ring-fenced to pay a higher minimum wage.

Obama and the Money Men - Obama Warns Bankers

From yesterday's Guardian


President Barack Obama delivered a stern warning to Wall Street today that bankers must scrap "quick kills and bloated bonuses" in favour of a new sense of social responsibility as the first anniversary of Lehman Brothers' spectacular bankruptcy dawns with a sense of fragile hope for an economic recovery.
"There are some in the financial industry who are misreading this moment. Instead of learning the lessons of Lehman and the crisis from which we are recovering, they are choosing to ignore them," said Obama. "We will not go back to the days of reckless behaviour and unchecked excess that were at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses."

Obama has come under pressure from liberal Democrats, and from leaders of European nations, to be tougher in cracking down on bonuses and on unfettered risk taken by top US institutions.

"It was a collective failure of responsibility in Washington, on Wall Street and across America that led to the near collapse of our financial system one year ago," said Obama. He told bankers that they should not wait for legislative action forcing them to translate financial products into plain language, put executive pay up for shareholder votes and alter bonuses to focus on long-term, rather than short-term, performance.

"Many of the firms that are now returning to prosperity owe a debt to the American people," said Obama. "It is neither right nor responsible after you've recovered with the help of your government to shirk your obligation to the goal of wider recovery, a more stable system and a more broadly shared prosperity."

The Obama administration's plans to avert future crises include a sharpening of financial regulation to cover hitherto free-for-all markets in hedge funds and exotic derivatives, tougher powers for the Federal Reserve to monitor banks considered "too big to fail" and shareholder votes intended to counter excessive pay deals in corporate boardrooms. Mortgage companies will be obliged to hang onto part of every loan, rather than selling them on to shed risk. But the White House has backed away from earlier efforts to cap bankers' pay."

Lehmans – one year on: have we learned the lessons?

The apocalypse has been averted but banks have returned, unfettered, to business as usual.
Check out this piece in the Guardian on whether lessons have been learned.

"Britain should stop dragging its feet and promote global reform on capital requirements for banks.
The credit crunch was not just a financial collapse, but the collapse of an ideology – that the wider and deeper markets became the greater the public good. What response have we had to the crisis at this level of ideas? Virtually nothing.

With the notable exception of Adair Turner there is, as yet, zero sense that those in authority have made any real attempt at the fundamental reappraisal we clearly need.Hardly anything seems to have been learned in terms of required regulation.

Banks that were "too big to fail" have got bigger. Flawed incentive structures continue to promote short-term profit-seeking rather than social good. So we have protected private profiteering and socialised its risks. Meanwhile, speculative behaviour in global commodity markets can still cause a repeat of the recent crazy volatility in world fuel and food prices, which created so much havoc in the developing world. This opportunity wasted by governments – reflecting the lack of basic change in the power equations governing capitalism – will prove to be expensive. We should brace ourselves for an even worse replay of the financial crisis in the foreseeable future. And the lopsided government response – benefiting those responsible for the crisis without adequate concern for the collateral damage on innocent citizens – may give public intervention a bad name, at a time when we desperately need such intervention for more democratic and sustainable economies.

Tragically, The global crisis is still managed by policymakers holding fast to the disastrous Bush-Paulson legacy. Fooled into believing the crisis is over, by a stock market bubble, they share the pathological belief that the market knows best; that banks cannot be fully nationalised or obliged to lend at low rates; and that while wages and incomes fall, top directors can ignore inflation when awarding themselves bonuses and pay.
Sadly, because lessons have not been learned, there will be no policy tools left to deal with the next banking crisis – due in 2010, if not sooner.

The collapse of Lehmans Brothers and the chaos that ensued taught governments an old lesson they had forgotten: finance is too important to be treated like just another industry. No, a system to make payments and extend credit is an essential utility, just like water and public transport. That's why the British taxpayer has shelled out hundreds of billions to keep the entire banking system afloat. Ever since learning that lesson, however, Gordon Brown and Alistair Darling have done their damnedest to forget it, again – and to talk instead about arms' length management and (tired old theme, this) Britain's comparative advantage in financial services.

A short-term mindset is still the rule of the day. If a banker, trader or executive can make a bet that yields them riches in the short term and makes the rest of us pay over the long term, who thinks that bet won't get placed?" 

Eddie Izzard

1100 miles, 43 marathons in 51 days, running for Comic relief. The guy's incredible. Mad.



Gary Younge

As usual, an excellent piece in yesterday's paper by the wonderful Mr Younge:



Ashley Seager

Keeping up the good work:






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