Saturday, March 5, 2011

Layer 451 . . . Creativity, Education, Protests, Democracy, Mervyn King, Bankers, Economic Literacy, Bill Nighy, the NHS and Jamie's School

"To be human is to create."

Try telling that to our schools. Creativity? What's that? May as well talk about enlightenment.

Also heard on the radio this week - Michael Gove is apparently one of those who believe that this country should continue to carry out aggressive military interventions in other countries. Quelle surprise.

To think that this jumped-up little twat, who clearly has no experience, no knowledge and no wisdom of any sort, is a senior member of our government . . . How can someone like Gove have any credibility - let alone be the minister responsible for children and for education throughout this country?


Positive news this week - the latest (Barnsley) by-election results. Massive split in the Tory vote. UKIP second to a resurgent Labour. (Very good news for Brother Ed.) Conservatives nowhere. LibDems wiped out. How can the moderate leftists in the LibDem camp continue to put up with what the coalition is doing and where they're taking the country? How can they just ignore what their leadership is doing to whatever credibility they may have had as a party of sound government and social justice?

Ballot box backlash: Byelection and referendum

Dan Jarvis (Lab) 14,724
Jane Collins (UKIP) 2,953
James Hockney (C) 1,999
Enis Dalton (BNP) 1,463
Tony Devoy (Ind) 1,266
Dominic Carman (LD) 1,012
Kevin Riddiough (Eng Dem) 544
Howling Laud Hope (Loony) 198
Michael Val Davies (Ind) 60

So here we have it - the LibDems are less popular than (and the Tories are only slightly more popular than) the BNP - the nearest we have to a fascist party.

There was an interesting letter in the Guardian this week regarding the split in the Labour party that cost them the 1983 election. This has real implications for what UKIP might do to the Tories in the future.

Why the Labour party lost in 1983
Polly Toynbee refers to the splitting of the anti-Tory vote by the SDP but her conclusion seems to be that "Thatcher's Falklands victory made her triumphant". Can we knock this on the head? In 1979 the Tories got 13,697,923 votes (43.9% of the total). In 1983 they got 13,012,316 (42.4%). Not much of a drop but a drop nonetheless. There was no swing of support to Thatcher because of the Falklands. Thatcher won in 1983 precisely because the 16,237,883 votes which would have defeated her were split between Labour and the SDP.
Alan Gray

Also -

Polly Toynbee (Some SDP thinking might strengthen Labour's nerve, 1 March) peddles the usual myths about the SDP's split from Labour. Chief among these myths is the evils of the 1983 manifesto. In fact this was timid compared with the 1974 manifesto, which put Labour in government and pledged to nationalise shipbuilding, ports, aircraft manufacture, and sections of pharmaceuticals, road haulage, construction and machine tool manufacture, as well as North Sea oil and gas. Tony Benn, a stalwart defender of the gains of the working class, is described as a "ruthless destroyer", while Margaret Thatcher is "positively pragmatic" compared with the current government. Unfortunately the liberal commentariat continues to fear the democratic will of the working classes being given a political voice. The Labour party should fight for the class it was founded to represent. The evidence from the 1980s and today is that the Tories have no shame in fighting for their class of fellow millionaires.
Andrew Fisher
Joint secretary, Labour Representation Committee

Can anyone seriously argue that back in the 1980s a national effort to support our key industries and to channel our oil wealth into the public purse wouldn't have been better for the country than allowing our industries to be sold off and asset-stripped, and our national  oil wealth to be siphoned off into private wealth?

Since Germany has managed to strengthen its manufacturing sector decade upon decade, why couldn't Britain have done so? Was it really inevitable that our major industries - shipbuilding, aircraft manufacture, motor vehicles, pharmaceuticals, construction, machine tool manufacture, etc - should decline or disappear? Or was it just the case that the City and other wealth-holders got rich out of selling off our industries, converting their land assets to property development and speculation, etc? Did it also suit the suits that a by-product of decimating our industries was a decline in the power of the unions and the working classes?


Mervyn King slams banks for putting profits before people and preying on the vulnerable
Read more:
The Governor of the Bank of England has slammed high-street banks for preying on the 'gullible or unsuspecting' and urged them to take a longer-term approach to their business and not simply try to 'maximise profits next week'.
Mervyn King also warned Britain risks suffering another financial crisis unless fundamental reforms of the profit-obsessed banking sector are pushed through.
He said problems still remained and 'imbalances' in the system were 'beginning to grow again'.
The intervention, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph, comes as a Government commission is considering whether financial institutions should be forced to separate retail and investment banking arms.
'We allowed a (banking) system to build up which contained the seeds of its own destruction,' Mr King said.
'We've not yet solved the 'too big to fail' or, as I prefer to call it, the 'too important to fail' problem. The concept of being too important to fail should have no place in a market economy.'
Asked if there could be a repeat of the financial crisis, Mr King said: 'Yes. The problem is still there. The search for yield goes on. Imbalances are beginning to grow again.'
Mr King suggested that the culture of short-term profits and bonuses could be to blame for the issues. Traditional manufacturing industries had a more 'moral' way of operating.

Do banks prey on the 'gullible or unsuspecting'? Are banks completely amoral and immoral? Do bears shit in the woods? Is the Pope a Catholic?

There's NO WAY that a regular person can be anything other than gullible and unsuspecting in its dealings with the banks. A bank will contact a 'customer' to tell them about its latest 'financial product' that offers a return of, say, 4%. Do they tell you that they will then take your money and make 20% and sometimes 50% interest from it? Er . . . no.

Our entire financial and economic system is now geared towards making outrageous profits from their dealings with the 'gullible or unsuspecting'. This is not my opinion - it's a fact. When someone like the governor of the Bank of Bloody England says it's so - then it's so. The only surprise is that Mr King takes it upon himself to speak truth like this. Maybe he's just afraid that if he doesn't 'out' himself and proclaim his views publicly then Wikileaks or some other whistleblower will eventually do it anyway.

Clearly Mr King is surprised that people haven't yet taken to the streets to demand social and economic justice. In Egypt, Tunisia and Libya the people have not only woken up to the fact that the kleptocrats have stolen all their national wealth - they're trying to do something about it. Here in trickle-down Britain most people have a roof over their heads, a TV, a sofa, enough money for food and fags - so why rock the boat? "What good would it do anyway?"

Here in Britain there's no sense of class or social solidarity, no belief, no hope, no optimism, no ideallism. At least we have democracy, eh?

Indeed we do. The kind of 'democracy' that gives us the kind of government that nobody voted for, nobody wanted, nobody needed. A government that's using the neo-conservative Shock Doctrine ("We have to do these things! The country's in a mess!!) and neo-liberal economic theory to asset-strip the remains of the national wealth, to marketise health and education, to turn our entire country into a privatised, profits-driven entity where all power and wealth is concentrated in the fewest possible hands, with most bonuses and profits safely deposited in overseas accounts and tax havens - way beyond the reach of those who would see justice in taxing them and allowing them to be used for the good of the nation as a whole.

An interesting idea that's come from the North African revolutions and revolts is that you don't need to be a Marxist or a communist or even a trade unionist in order to see through the existing social injustice and demand proper democracy and a decent life for everyone. It's not clear as yet whether the people of North Africa will realise their ambitions, but common sense (aka spiritual intelligence), and not political theory, unites them and makes them willing to become activists who put their personal wellbeing on the line in a struggle for power, self-government and justice for all.

We'll just have to wait and see how many will turn out to support the TUC-organised demonstrations on Saturday March 26th. It could be the beginning of something significant. I reckon Mervyn King would like it to be so. Maybe he'll be out with a placard himself.


Angry at the banks? Of course we are!

Mervyn King misreads the public mood on the bankers. He should look at our Robin Hood campaign

by Bill Nighy

When you've been going on about something for a while, it is always satisfying to discover that other people agree with you. I have been arguing for the last year that the banks, hedge funds and other titans of the City of London whose gambling got us into this trouble should pay to clean up the mess they caused.

Now, no less a figure than Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, has laid the blame for cuts in public services and welfare squarely at the door of the City. "The price of the financial crisis is being borne by people who did absolutely nothing to cause it."

But King's subsequent comment that he was "surprised that the degree of public anger has not been greater than it has" suggests that either he had a very high expectation, or that he has misread the public mood.

I'm an ambassador for the Robin Hood Tax campaign, which calls for a tiny tax of just 0.05% on every casino-style financial transaction in order to help poor people, reverse public service cuts at home and abroad, and tackle climate change. In this role I've seen how people's sense of fairness has been stretched to the limits by the continued spectacle of huge pay increases and bonuses in big companies while ordinary people suffer. Every time people turn on the television news they are bombarded with stories of job losses, disabled children forced into care, public sector cuts or young people left without a future. Meanwhile one of the country's leading bankers claims "the time for remorse and apologies needs to be over". If there has been any remorse it has escaped my notice. Of course people are angry!


Continuing with Oxzen's campaign for economic literacy -

The business press must prove its economic literacy

The media reported the financial crisis and stimulus poorly. Now the story is deficit and cuts, is it equal to the task?

Press reports about business and economics are often not much help to the ordinary reader trying to understand these subjects.

In recent weeks, there have been a lot of stories about how normal people would be affected by the budget cuts, and the media have certainly voiced the argument that reducing government spending is a bad idea while unemployment is [high]. But there is room for more reporting about the larger macroeconomic picture . . .

The concept of a Keynesian stimulus is not immediately intuitive. It would have been nice if there had been more in-depth explanations . . . 


The dying light of NHS care

My wife received near miraculous care in her final days – until private enterprise intervened

The NHS had, I later gathered, been obliged to take the second-class service offered by a disorganised offshoot of some US corporation: unsurprisingly its low standards allowed it to undercut Marie Curie's bid for the work. It seemed bizarre that the NHS was manoeuvred by an aggressive privatisation lobby into accepting a clearly inferior service from a company run from a country incapable of organising a health service for its own citizens.


How often do you see your parents?

With more and more adults finding they're too busy to see their elderly parents, we ask you to share your experiences

According to the research, more than 10% of 55- to 60-year-olds with parents still living haven't seen their mother or father in the past year, with many of those questioned saying they were simply too busy to stay in touch with ageing relatives.

A third of the baby boomers polled said they felt guilty for not seeing their parents enough and four out of 10 felt that their own children didn't get in touch with them enough either.


According to Jamie Oliver (and other enlightened souls), “We’re not doing enough for those who fail; they need a more physical, tactile approach, involving people skills, team building, problem-solving, building things. These skills need to be taken as seriously as the sciences.”

TV review: Jamie's Dream School

Forget the pupils, the real problem at Jamie's Dream School is the history teacher, David Starkey

by Sam Wollaston

There's some very bad behaviour in the history class at Jamie's Dream School (Channel 4). Not from the teens who have dropped out of conventional education with very little in the way of GCSEs, though, but from the teacher, the historian David Starkey.

Poor Jamie, he does his best to pretend this isn't happening. The idea was to get amazing people in to inspire these kids to learn. And what he's got with Starkey is a bigot and a bully, a horrid man who may know about the Anglo-Saxons, but who knows very little about the modern world or about humanity. And a crap teacher, too.

Jamie is really the only one who makes any connection with the kids, respects them and earns their respect back. And also the only one who shows any kind of self-awareness. "We're so used to people being interested in what we talk about," he says. There's plenty to be learned at his Dream School – by the students but equally by the teachers. Like maybe they're not quite as interesting as they thought they were, and that just because you know about something doesn't mean you know how to teach it. 

There's always a hard part at the beginning of Jamie's shows, when he's up against it and against the world. There are tears then and there will be here, too. He always turns it around; I'm sure he will do again. But he needs to sort out his staffroom first. And begin by firing David Starkey.

There are some good comments on CiF, including


They should have got Melanie Phillips to teach condescension too.

Why would anybody expect Starkey or Callow to be able to teach? They're not teachers, are they? I'm sure that [Jamie's] pedagogy will work out fine in the end and he'll sell loads of books explaining how he rescued the nation's education system with a few celebrities and his unique brand of Artful Dodger 'charm'.

Failing that Alistair Campbell will be able to teach them how to knock up a dossier that'll allow them to beat up somebody and take their lunch money in just half-an-hour.

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