Saturday, July 14, 2007

Oh Dear

I didn't think it was possible for state schools to get much worse.

It appears that the Government has identified a few areas where pupils are still learning something.

The essential point about the new curriculum is that it gives teachers much more flexibility about how to organise learning. They do not have to be trammelled by subject labels. They do not have to plod methodically through programmes of study. Instead, they can pursue learning through cross-curricular themes. They can adapt the pace and content of learning to the needs of individual pupils.

In short, the new curriculum is designed to permit something the government has espoused - without really defining - "personalised learning".

As one curriculum expert put it, this whole vast exercise of revising the curriculum has really been about one thing - giving teachers permission to use their own professional judgement.

This really does sound like the death knell for state education in the UK. The reason the National Curriculum was introduced in the beginning (by the Tories) was to try and stop the kind of teacher who thought Romeo and Juliet was 'heterocentric' indoctrinating pupils. Alas, as the mighty Mel P described in "All Must Have Prizes", the last place you needed to look if you wanted a decent curriculum were the institutions that taught and theorised about teaching. The curriculum became a tool of the cultural Left, another of the endless series of culture war defeats of which the Tories, fighting their economic battles, seemed to be unaware.

Paradoxically, the only hope under these circumstances is for schools to be given even more freedom - above all to set their own admission - and exclusion - criteria. Vouchers aren't an essential part of that process - if money follows the pupils as currently you've pretty much got the equivalent. Today's Labour Party at bottom see social engineering as more important than education, so they will never do it.

Who are going to do it ? Cameron's Tories ?

These reforms will drive even more of those who can afford it to the private sector - which the Government will attack in whatever way it can. We're going to see polite trench warfare as Labour attack things like the charitable tax concessions - pricing out a few "poorer" parents as some red meat for their supporters while making no difference to the rich.

It's a pity this world is an overcrowded place, with no unclaimed habitable land. Did such a place exist, I'm sure there'd be a rush for some 21st century Mayflower equivalent.

Never Believe Anything Until It's Been Officially Denied

New Iraq atrocity :

UK military spokesman Major Mike Shearer said: "We can categorically state that we have not released man-eating badgers into the area".

However, he refused to make any statement on the arrested squirrels.

Malloch Brown

Guardianistas are getting all excited about Gordon's new, nuanced, non-poodly foreign policy and his anti-neocon new minister Mark Malloch Brown.

From the Telegraph interview Mr Malloch Brown seems to have a fiver each way on himself.

Some worry that Lord Malloch Brown, who is 53, will dominate the 42-year-old David Miliband, but he said: "It's fine for me to be, for the first time in my life, the older figure, the wise eminence behind the young Foreign Secretary."

What he wants to contribute, he said, is his less conventional, internationalist views. "I am not steeped in the British way of doing things. My whole career has been spent trying to get China or France or the international rescue committee to back me on some quixotic intervention on anything from child mortality to an ugly little civil war somewhere. I think in a more lateral, out-of-the-box way."

He said that he sees himself merely as a back-up. "I think David Miliband will score a hit when he goes to Washington. They know me very well. They have already started doing what they did at the UN, calling me when they have problems that they want to see fixed," he said.

I look forward to Des Browne asking him to sort a few more armoured helicopters and some body armour. Oh, and 4,000 extra troops. I'm sure the Swedes or French will oblige.

His highly-paid job as vice-chairman of a hedge fund had to be sacrificed when he accepted Mr Brown's job offer.

That hedge fund wouldn't belong to George Soros, would it ?

Mr. Malloch Brown was recently appointed vice-chairman both of Mr. Soros's hedge fund and of his Open Society charity. The luxurious upstate New York house in which he lives belongs to Mr. Soros.

He joined Labour last week, sends the kids private. Certainly fits the profile of recent appointments.

He's getting rave reviews across the pond.

It is extraordinary that in the midst of a global war on terror led jointly by Britain and the United States, the new P.M. has chosen a hugely controversial figure as one of his chief international spokesmen, a man who can barely disguise his contempt for the current American administration. Other than outspoken former International Development Secretary Clare Short, it would be difficult to think of a prominent British politician more disdainful of present U.S. foreign policy than Mark Malloch Brown.

Gordon Brown's elevation of Mark Malloch Brown to the House of Lords and thence to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is one of the most revolting public appointments in modern British history ...
George Soros has been Malloch Brown's patron for decades. Upon his retirement from the UN, the deputy secretary-general became vice-chair of Soros' hedge fund company and "Open Society Institute". With respect to Andrew Stuttaford, anyone inclined to join the good-riddance-to-Blair chorus of the last week might now appreciate the difference he made: a huge chunk of the foreign policy of America's closest ally has just been outsourced to a man who is the living embodiment of the worst kind of sleazy careerist transnationalism, and an all but wholly owned subsidiary of George Soros. Amazing.

Is this appointment just a sop to the anti-war brigade, or does Gordon really mean it ?

Friday, July 13, 2007

Medals !

Well where else can he pin the thing ? Both parties seem to be enjoying themselves, and if you expand the photo I do believe he's actually looking her in the eye. Prince of Wales presenting OP Herrick medals to 9 Regiment, Army Air Corps.

Photo by John Stillwell of the Press Association. From the Times newsblog via Mick Hartley.

Homicidal Loony Alert

Stand by !

Robert Mone will soon be out !

For his part in the killings, Mone was deemed a risk to national security and jailed for life, but in 2002 his sentence was revised to 25 years under European human rights laws. Prison chiefs are preparing Mone for release from HMP Shotts, where he was transferred two years ago.

Reverse Michael Henchard Syndrome

The price of wives has gone up in the West Country since Thomas Hardy's time.

Let's Go Round Again ...

Bradford Crown Court heard that social workers had visited the family after hearing concerns from neighbours, but no action was taken.

Ambulance staff found Leticia Aalayah Wright lying on the living room floor of her home. She was covered in bruises, both old and new, the court heard. Nicholas Campbell QC, prosecuting, said: "The cause of death was multiple injuries and they were mainly forceful blows to Leticia's head and to her abdomen. These injuries had been inflicted between two and three days before she died. She had suffered other injuries over a longer period than that".

I wonder what odds I can get from William Hill that the enquiry will call for "greater communication" between the 193 State agencies involved and that the local authority will announce that "new procedures have been put in place".

"Procedures", of course, are what you have when you don't have a culture.

Not With A Bang But A Whimper

Asian Image : Two Are Cleared of Explosion Charge

BBC : Judge Discharges Bomb Plot Jury

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

"a rotting fish that shines by moonlight"

Dalrymple at the SAU blog on Elliott and Atkinson's Fantasy Island.

I'm always saying this to people on both Left and Right who, for different reasons, saw Tony Blair as the source of all evil and of all our problems. He's a symptom, not a cause. He's the magic mirror man. Whoever you are, he'll show you a comforting reflection.

"But we cannot blame our leaders entirely for our situation, for two reasons: the first is that we elected them, albeit without much enthusiasm, and second because, though you can take a man to the bank, you can't make him borrow. Improvident government does not by itself make a people improvident, though it may encourage, sanction and even sanctify improvidence. Nowadays, we have representational government not only in the sense that we all elect our representatives to parliament, but in the sense that the faults and shortcomings of our representatives and leaders are our own faults and shortcomings, from sentimentality to imprudence, from improvidence to untruthfulness. Mr Blair, whom the authors believe to be shallow and lacking in seriousness (though not in earnestness, which is quite another thing), did not arrive in Britain from outer space. Mr Blair is us."

You said it.

"Taking advantage of protectionism requires some degree of integrity both on the part of the government and the industries that are granted temporary respite from foreign competition. And integrity, or a sense of purpose beyond advantage in the most immediate future, is precisely the quality that is so conspicuously lacking in British life today."


Foam on the Range

I mentioned the mysterious Fairford foam the other day, and a journalist from the US Forces paper Stars and Stripes, Geoff Ziezulewicz, posted in the comments asking for more detail.

He's got his story.

British Environment Agency officials confirmed Tuesday that RAF Fairford was the source of firefighting foam contaminating area waterways and the River Thames. Agency officials said the foam had caused some people in the area to suffer sore throats and itchy eyes, and had killed hundreds of fish. About 51,000 gallons of a “foam-water” solution was discharged at a hanger on the base on July 5, Air Force representatives said Tuesday. RAF Fairford is home to the Air Force’s 420th Air Base Group.

Someone must have been smoking indoors.

UPDATE - in the original post I bemoaned the ready availability of sensitive military info on Google Earth, and commenters responded :

via Blognor Regis - this Chinese nuclear submarine

via anonymous : this top secret British hardware

anon again : the Register's 'Black Helicopter' competition

An Inconvenient MPG (but a nice car)

See young Al Gore III, son of Al "An Inconvenient Carbon Footprint" Gore, leave the police station following his bailing on drugs charges - in a rather nice, 400 hp, 13 mpg Maserati Quattroporte.

Video here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Never Forget

Don't want the shiny new 47 meg iTunes version of Quicktime ? Prefer a 12 meg version ?

For all antique software is your friend. And they're not even paying me to say this.

Those were the days, my friend

One of the tragedies of advancing age is having to listen to lots of Radio Four retrospectives on various Sixties and Seventies musicians and performers, presented by people who believed - and still believe - that it was all terribly important. You know the sort of people - ten years later they thought the Clash were important.

Of course they were important - just not perhaps in the way we thought at the time.

So last week mothers at home with pre-school children were treated to a 9 am rerun, complete with a liberal sprinkling of f-words, of the John Lennon interview with Rolling Stone (for which see here) founder Jan Wenner.

The blurb said it all :

He holds forth throughout on the subjects of art and politics, his own musical genius, his love for Yoko, drugs, primal therapy and mysticism.

Lennon's 'own musical genius' being something of which interviewer Mr Wenner was convinced - and if Lennon ever sounded doubtful, Yoko would pop up to prop up, so to speak. The whole thing is very Spinal Tap. Listen here if masochism's your thing.

The following week we had Jacqui Springer on Motown and rap. Pretty dire stuff - whatever your views on Lennon (and his solo stuff was pants) he did knock out some decent music with Macca. Alas Grandmaster Flash and the Sugarhill Gang never did a lot for me - compared to the reggae MCs of the time they were hopelessly uninventive and slow. If you don't believe me listen to 'The Message' from 1982 - then if you can find it on the web (I can't, though there's a live youtube that doesn't do the tune justice) try the studio version of Philip Levi's 'Mi God Mi King' from a year or two later. From a Ford Anglia to a Ferrari.

UPDATE - there's apparently an mp3 at this tasteful site - BUT this chap likes producing mixes. The whole thing is 110 meg and Papa Levi is near the end.


Police have named a man who died after a neighbour dispute in Stoke-on-Trent. Keith Brown, 52, from Uttoxeter Road, was pronounced dead in hospital after officers were called to reports of a disturbance in Normacot on Friday. Staffordshire Police said the dispute appeared to involve land between two properties. A 14-year-old girl and two men, aged 32 and 19, have been released on police bail. Three other men, aged 49, 24 and 26, are being questioned. Police are treating the incident as a murder inquiry and revealed that a post-mortem examination showed Mr Brown suffered a single stab wound to the back. A 19-year-old man, who suffered minor injuries, was later discharged from the University Hospital of North Staffordshire in Stoke-on-Trent.

Thus the BBC. reports :

The man murdered in a neighbour dispute in Stoke-on-Trent last Friday was an activist for the British National Party, according to reports on a number of nationalist websites. Keith Brown, 52, from Uttoxeter Road, was pronounced dead in hospital after officers were called to reports of a disturbance in Normacot on Friday. A Stoke-on-Trent man is due to appear in court this morning charged with stabbing his neighbour to death. Four other men arrested in connection with Mr Brown's death, aged 19, 24, 26 and 32, were released on bail pending further inquiries.

The Sentinel paper reports :

A 49-year-old has appeared in court charged with stabbing his neighbour to death. Habib Khan, of Uttoxeter Road, Normacot, was denied bail at the brief hearing before North Staffordshire magistrates yesterday. Khan is charged with the murder of 52-year-old Keith Brown, also of Uttoxeter Road. Mr Brown died from a single stab wound just yards from his home on Friday. He was taken to the University Hospital of North Staffordshire but was later pronounced dead. Khan was remanded in custody to appear at Stafford Crown Court on Monday.

The BNPandMe blog has a fair bit more.

Beware !

A North Yorkshire Police spokesman said: "The couple who own the house and their daughter had gone to London for the weekend. The daughter has allowed two of her friends to use the house. They have invited a few people in but word has got round and gatecrashers have come in and it has all got completely out of hand. When most of them have finally gone, two men have turned up and threatened the last dozen or so youngsters and chased them out of the house."

The owners cut short their break after being contacted by police on Friday night and returned to the wrecked house on Saturday.

Quite a lot of these stories recently. I don't think people appreciate what a difference a combination of the mobile and networking sites makes. In ancient days, you had to be in the right pub at closing time to find out about the party (which you hadn't been invited to) that night. Now MSN, Bebo and texting means half the town can find out within minutes - even - perhaps especially - people who've already gone home. It might only take one wrong person with knowledge of whose parents are absent.

The other night our son was at a gathering at a friends house - his elder brother was able to establish exactly who else was there via Bebo.

Busy ...

Took my daughter to Snowdonia at the weekend to see some of the Welsh relatives. I'd forgotten how beautiful and wild the Llanberis Pass is. Lots of rain up there - Swallow Falls had the most water I've ever seen in the summer.

Lots of stuff about marriage following Mr Duncan Smith's report - let Frank Field say it again :

Just look at how Brown’s tax credit system wallops two-parent families. A single parent with two children working 16 hours a week will gain a weekly income after tax credit payments of £487. The breadwinner of a two-parent family, also with two children, will be required to work 116 hours to get the same income. Such effort is impossible to sustain for more than a week or two.

For every four lone parents leaving benefit for work, only one now leaves because of finding a new companion. Why is this? The earnings of second adults are taken fully into account when computing tax credit levels. The tax on a spouse is 100%. This ruthless discrimination does not only affect two-parent families. It also acts as a Berlin Wall coralling lone parents onto welfare. That is the cruel flip side of a tax credit bias against two-parent families.

We all know what happens when governments tax at such penal rates. Either lone parents don’t repartner. Or they do and cheat the taxpayer. On the last count there were 200,000 more single parents claiming tax credits than are deemed to exist by the Office for National Statistics.

Sian Griffiths on violence and what we teach our children - which will be our future culture, if it isn't already. A whole nation of people who'll pass by on the other side :

Last May when Kiyan’s death at the London Academy school in Edgware first made the headlines I remember thinking: “Dear God, this is so close to where we live.” Like anyone with teenage children living in the capital, I found myself urging them not to intervene in playground or street fights, to walk away from volatile situations, never to consider carrying a knife, even – especially not – for self-defence. And as I worried over them, I wondered what kind of citizens I was teaching them to be.

There doesn't seem anything new to blog about.

Violent prisoners are being let out early - nothing new.

We don't deport foreign nationals who commit crime - instead we grant them British citizenship or give them leave to remain. Nothing new.

The usual weekend London shootings - nothing new.

The Jelly-bellied flag-flapper is flapping again - nothing new.

The Probation "service" isn't fit for purpose - nothing new.

The only novelties are the innovative forms of benefit fraud and child abuse being piloted by the underclass of the Forest of Dean, but comment is superfluous.