Friday, February 29, 2008

The Edukators

"Micromanagement, meddling and a succession of ministerial edicts have killed the spontaneity in the nation's classrooms. Teachers have been stripped of their powers of discretion". In school report speak, Politicians must do less, better.

It's not only primary school teachers who are feeling the effects of constant government interference. With its mindless paperwork, stifling bureaucracy, and restrictive one-size-fits-all thinking, life in FE is not much better these days - less of a challenge than a chore. In the modern education business classroom teaching has become incidental to the collection of artificial achievements and the ticking-off of boxes. If you can't measure learning with a spreadsheet, it just doesn't count any more.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Creation Myth and Other Stories

Creationists "distort or ignore the evidence for evolution," says Dr Donald Prothero. Creationism is "boring and empty," adds Professor Steve Jones, "the idea that life began by magic a few thousand years ago is entirely absurd". As Bill Hicks once put it: Ever wondered why Creationists look so unevolved?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Stealing A Nation

Two thousand British subjects forced out of their homes with just a suitcase each, shipped thousands of miles like cattle on beds made of bird shit, put in cages, dumped in windowless slums inhabited by animals, and then left to rot.

And why did we do this? So we could bomb the hell out of countries in the name of democracy, why else?

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Scapegoat

"If the Democrats can't landslide the Republicans this year, they ought to just wrap up, close down, emerge in a different form".

Here's the thing, if Ralph Nader's supporters had a reason to vote Democrat they would, whether he stands or not. Ditto the 25% of the adult population too disillusioned to vote at all. Pretending that Nader voters would otherwise vote Democrat is as stupid as supposing that people who download music for free would pay £14 for the same tat if it came in a nice box at HMV.

And anyway, since when did democracy mean denying people a voice?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

This Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

The single worst thing about last night's performance was the awful, gnawing inevitability of it all: twenty minutes of aimless huff-and-puff while the other lot warmed up, then we fall apart like a sweat shop T-shirt. Amazingly, somehow there are other teams in this league that manage to be even worse than the side that Sam and others built, though on a fraction of the wage bill. It's not a manager this lot needs - it's an undertaker.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hope You Die Soon

Imagine the howls of moral indignation if this had been said about John McCain rather than by him. And does all this no talk without freedom of the press stuff mean a President McCain would cold shoulder the Saudis or Chinese - or are dictators only bad when there are no economic benefits (or exile communities to get votes from)?

Taking Liberties

Ironically, while terror suspects can be landed and whisked away seemingly without notice, the rest of us could soon be forced to provide 19 separate pieces of information, including mobile phone numbers and credit card details, for every journey we make by land, air or sea. If the British government gets its way, the data will be stored for thirteen years "to allow for profiling," shared with third parties outside the EU, and used for "general public policy purposes" besides terrorism and serious crime.

It's the stuff of late-stage dystopian nightmares, of course. But it's already here.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Now we know that British soil was, despite three years of official denials, used as a service station for kidnappers, the Foreign Office has fallen back on the defence strategy used by mafia wives: better, after all, to look like idiots than accomplices after the fact. It's a source of shame twice over, but on the benighted island of Diego Garcia truth and justice sailed out with the dogs and the last ship to Mauritius.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Democracy In Action

You hold an election, vote for the candidates, and then a bunch of men in a foreign capital decide who wins.

Remember: It's only democracy if we agree with the result.

Iraq: The Dodgy Dossier

Now even dodgier.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Munchies

Let's be honest, we've all been there. One too many beers and you'll eat anything.

Well, almost anything.

Running On Empty

"Dreaming keeps us hopeful," says ten-in-a-row loser Hillary Clinton. Sadly for her, reality has the opposite effect.

All Is Not Yet Lost

“This is a set of proposals which is a work in progress and, yes, it has had some hostile reaction”. Unlike Fidel, the Premier League's revolutionary hero Richard Scudamore is hanging on till the bitter end. Day ten of a year-long consultation process saw his plan called "daft", "barmy" and "bent" - and they were just the positives.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On Second Thoughts

John McDonnell, Labour's last socialist, on unfinished business and the blessings of freedom.

When Fidel Met Oliver Stone

Castro Steps Down

After one Cold War, nine US presidents and countless CIA assination attempts. We may never see his like again.

Predictably, George Bush responded with the usual bland promises to help "the people of Cuba realise the blessings of liberty," which, as any seasoned observer of the US government knows, means sending a squad of Milton Friedman acolytes over to cut off all state subsidies overnight while setting-up a new pro-American econonic elite every bit as oppressive as the old political one. If the US government was really serious about lberty, they'd start by closing Guantanamo Bay and putting an end to the morally indefensible trade embargo - if you're going to blockade countries solely on the grounds of democracy and human rights, get Taco Bell, Apple Inc. and JP Morgan out of Beijing before you start on Havana.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Bottled Water Conundrum

As a country, we spend £2 billion a year on something we can get for free by twisting a tap. At the same time, we spend £15 million on aid projects for the one billion people who have no safe water supply and the five thousand children who die of preventable water-borne diseases every single day. One in three Fijians has no access to clean water, yet we package what little they have in fancy plastic bottles and ship it to the other side of the world.

Immoral? Just a bit.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Identity Cards

Do not "contribute markedly to reducing terrorism or serious crime". That's another five and a half billion pounds well spent, then.

The Language Barrier

Small wonder our education system remains the envy of the civilised world: soon, secondary schools will churn out thousands of monolingual graduates able to wave A* French GCSE certificates in the air while trying unsuccessfully to ask for a coffee with milk.

Which, I suppose, is a slight improvement on talking extra slowly in a very loud voice.

Almost There

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Global Game

For an intelligent man Arsene Wenger talks a huge amount of shite. However they try to dress it up, the Premier League's plan is no more innovative than a McDonald's franchise: take one mediocre product, market it aggressively, and screw out cash wherever you can.

Those of you still interested in the quaint old notion of football as a competitive sport can find the FSF's A Match Too Far petition here.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Torturous Logic

Waterboarding is "within the law," says George W. Bush. "We believe in human rights and human dignity...We believe in freedom".

O'Brien held up the fingers of his left hand, with the thumb concealed. "There are five fingers there. Do you see five fingers?"

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Newcastle Is Peru

I would've made a sarcastic remark about The Guardian finally discovering life exists this far north if it didn't fit the stereotype quite so neatly. They'll have forgotten us again by next week, I suppose - or mixed us up with Newcastle-under-Lyme again.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Comeback Kid

After the rout in Virginia it looks like the Clintons will be giving up more than just the one title to Barack Obama. The next two states will decide everything (and on law of averages alone I have to be right once, sometime): if she doesn't win big in Ohio, it's Obama versus McCain.

Don't worry America, it's all the same in the end.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Namdaemun Burns

Tucked away in a corner of this morning's paper, it took me a while to place the charred, matchstick box remains of Namdaemun Gate. It was and is the symbol of the city, just about the only thing left standing after the three year to-and-fro with North Korea. Looking at it now's like seeing St Paul's Cathedral ground into dust, or Grey's Monument split up like a sausage: six hundred years of history wrecked for the sake of a few thousand pounds.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The 39 Steps

It didn't take much to buy off the FA, did it? Not that the men in blazers matter anyway: in business the bargaining chips are always in the hands of the customer (there'd be no international games without 80,000 people filling Wembley; no World Cup without public support; no 39th game without sell-outs at the other 38). The truth is, clubs treat fans with contempt because they know they can.

Show them they're wrong or quit moaning about it.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Nowhere Near Good Enough

Can't run, can't pass, can't shoot, can't tackle. And worst of all, most of them don't even care.

Teaching Links

This looks promising.

Sweet Peas

Friday, February 08, 2008


As if I don't have enough to do preparing lessons, this weekend I have a stack of peach-coloured paper to fill in with student names, register codes and exam entries, most of which will end up back on my desk in a few days' time because I've put an A instead of a C on the left hand side of the second last line. When I've ground through that lot, I have to get two schemes of work ready for inspection and knock-off the last thousand or so words of an overdue assignment on course planning, while very occasionally attempting to do something that doesn't involve thinking about work, the inside of a classroom or fucking curriculum reference links.

This will be fun.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

To The End

What a difference a state makes. If Obama had got California to go with the big wins in Missouri and Georgia, the lights would have gone out on Hillary Clinton's campaign. Like a pair of dead-on-their-feet sluggers, the Democrats are trading jabs but missing with the knock-out blow. As long as the cash keeps on coming this one looks like going all the way to April and a split-decision in Pennsylvania.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

One Man Went To Mao

In the station concourse, crowds of Chinese huddled round to watch us perform such astonishing feats as buying water for the journey and using a payphone.

The head-spinning madness of horn-tooting, chicken scrawling, peasant-peopled China in 2,000 words or less.


Saturday, February 02, 2008


Keegan's back because of the cash, reports The Guardian. I suppose that well-known socialist Alex Ferguson's still working for the Glazers out of nothing more than his love of the game...

Growing Pains

Fittingly, after a whole day's pelting by icy flakes, I came across the garden's first snowdrop this morning, a plumped-up beansprout bent double at the waist, pearly-white amid the frosted soil and wind-creased daffodil stems. Elsewhere, the overwintered sweet peas start to climb up narrow sticks, and my miniature Christmas tree shivers in a bubblewrapped pot.

Friday, February 01, 2008

No Ifs, No Buts

Unless, that is, you're a Member of Parliament. If Derek Conway had been caught fiddling a few hundred quid while pushing a mop around a kitchen floor, he would've been paying it back out of his fortnightly giro. Instead, he winds up in the naughty corner for a couple of years on full pay, then retires to live off a public pension. Try as New Labour might, the Tories still get all the best scams.