of economic arguments in higher education policy (posted
11th December 2010) See here
for one set of reasons why the UK government is now
set on a course of action in higher education which will
have significantly adverse effects for UK economy and
society in decades to come.
by a lobby (posted 3rd May 2009) Today walking
my dog I found two lambs up a hillside, snared by their
necks with separate wire nooses round their necks, the
snares laid there deliberately. It was a weekend and a
sheltered part of the hillside only accessible by foot,
so who knows how long they had been there or how long
it would have taken someone else to find them if we had
not come along ... more here.
nasty this way comes ... (posted
24th January 2009) Now
hold your nose while you read this ...
Scots have brought Britain to its knees
,,, recession is declared official, the pound sinks, the
stock market totters, banks wobble and misery abounds,
let's salute the Scotsmen who did it
Some of my
best friends are Scots
(God) also removed the brains,
and any sense of moral responsibility, from almost every
Scot who now chooses to enter public life
the bunch of Scots who govern us are booted into history
Never has the case for English independence
from the Scots been so overwhelming.
You think this is bad? (I hope you do).
Then to make it even worse just replace "Scots"
and "Scotsmen" with "Jews" in the
above diatrabe. There is no excuse for this under any
circumstances but what makes it worse is that it was published
in an article in a "quality" newspaper,
the Daily Telegraph. Recessions notoriously can stimulate
racial and ethnic tensions - on any scale of irresponsibilty
by this newspaper (the author, Heffer is beneath contempt
and any form of respect) must surely come out at the top
the responsibility lies for the perfect economic storm...
12th October 2008) The
phrase "perfect storm" has often been used in
connection with the chaos and turbulence in the global
economy. To know how to cope with the effects of the perfect
storm you have to look at how it impacts at individual
level. Here is my summary of
the perfect storm
dog turd wreaks havoc at Swiss museum... (posted
12th August 2008):
the sort of story that copy editors wait a lifetime just
for the chance to stick a headline on it. The Guardian
does po-face better than most, see here
Wogan says BBC is no longer best in the world ..I
loved this from Terry Wogan (posted
12th August 2008) :
see more here
to be Renationalised ... Privatisation a "Painful
Lesson" says PM...
(posted 3rd July 2008)
The Guardian carries
today a story about New Zealand (you didn't think
it would be here did you?) renationalising their ferry
and rail services. It states; "On Tuesday, Clark's
government renationalised the country's railways and ferry
services, privatised in the early 90s and subsequently
run down and asset-stripped by the Australian owners.
Launching the new, publicly owned KiwiRail, finance minister
Michael Cullen declared that privatisation had "been
a painful lesson for New Zealand".
(posted 2nd July 2008) Said
yesterday (see blog below) that Andy Murray was "a
Brit ... until he loses". Well, he's Scottish
again .. the London Times today
says; "Andy Murray's Wimbledon dream is over
for another year ... The Scot simply had no answer".
And the Grauniad noted
sniffily; "Rafael Nadal's complete dominance
against Andy Murray leaves the Scot with a huge task on
his hands". Oh well, but then as Frankie Boyle
said.. (see blog below) .
in Tayside and Even Bigger South of the Border ...
(posted 1st July 2008) It
was remarkable that Andy Murray came back from two sets
down to get into the quarter-finals of Wimbledon yesterday.
The English editions of the newspapers here went wild
with a Brit (which he is until he loses) doing so well
in SW19, front page stories, pictures, the lot. But when
I tried to find the story on BBC Scotland today, it was
not even on the front page, the sports headlines were
about Rangers and Hearts, and I eventually dredged
it up from the Tayside and Central regional pages
of the website... It reminds me of what Frankie
Boyle said on Mock
the Week. It's bad enough that they wait for a Brit
hero at Wimbledon for years then they discover he's a
dour Scot ("dour Scot" keywords, cue Gordon
Brown, Alastair Darling, Alex Ferguson...) but to make
it worse, up here we couldn't give a damn (I paraphrased
that last bit).
it just me ...
?(posted 23rd June 2008) Is
it just me, or did no-one else see the significance of
the fact that the logo for what is probably the biggest
worldwide chain of real estate agents is a balloon filled
with hot air? You can't say they didn't try to warn us.
most embarassing opening line ever ...
(posted 15th March 2008) The
line goes "DESCRIBED as Airdrie's answer to Bill
So bad on so many levels. Accuracy. Hubris. Journalistic
standards. Personal embarassment. Who descibed him as
such without laughing? Is Mr Gates worried? You can find
the article here
if the Scotsman has not wiped it from the human record
out of legitimate embarassment. (it gets worse .... Iit
goes on into how "the frustrated rock musician
(i.e. Airdries answer to Bill Gates) fell into
a career in computers" Cringe. Is Scottish journalism
really so bad? Or should Mr Gates really be worried?
Smells Like Fish ...
(posted 7th September 2007) Alan
Bennett once wrote a play Forty
Years On, a span of life long enough for most of us
to switch from looking forward to looking back. Well,
at least looking back was what .. more
(posted 26th July 2007) Mike
Russell has ventured into dificult territory (as he recognises)
with his blog
for Wednesday 25th July about Scottish identity more
(posted 26th July 2007) The
FOI Decision mentioned in the blog immediately below is
blog below for further discussion.
Over (posted 21st July 2007) The
Scottish Information Commissioner's Decision on my appeal
for disclosure of withheld information on the Western
Ferries / Scottish Executive Users' Charter meetings has
been sent to me . The Commissioner finds against the Executive
in the majority of instances where it withheld information
from me by citing an exemption under Freedom of Information
legislation. The Executive now has 45 days to comply and
send me the information as directed by the Commissioner.
See comment for fuller
reaction from me, and also blogs for 9 September 2006,
28 October 2006 and 31 March 2007 below
Squeeze, the Curse and the Silence of the Economists (posted
8th June 2007) "Serious
intellectual analysis of Scotland as an oil-rich economy
has never taken place"(e-mail from retired Professor
of Economics) ...more.
Waiting (posted 31st March 2007) An
anniversary of sorts today. I appealed on the 31st March
2006 for full disclosure of information on the Western
Ferries Users Charter Meetings. Much of the information
was censored. The Information Commissioner and his office
as far as I can tell have been diligent in pursung this.
And why am I still waiting? See blog "Freeing
the Information" (posted 28th October 2006) below
for a good guess. By the time the information is released
(if it is released) it will probably be too late to influence
Ferries and Flying Dutchmen (posted 13th March
2007) I am not sure I
have all the facts right as of now, so this is subject
to amendment, but this is my best shot as of today, 14th
Day (posted 11th March 2007)
Many people will be surprised and disappointed by Miss
a black singer a "monkey". Many more people
will be surprised and disappointed that such a thing as
a Miss Scotland still exists. But it should be no surprise
to find an anachronistic, cringeworthy and contemptible
institution making anachronistic, cringeworthy and contemptible
remarks. Ironically, the only stereotype she really succeeded
in reinforcing was that of the cerebrally challenged beauty
queen. Best stick to hopes for world peace next time ...
if there is a next time
lines (posted 27th February 2007)
Noted with interest my Economist
this week (February 24th - March 2nd) carries an advert
on page 104 for a Head, International Potato Center.
I'm sorry, really sorry for this, but I suppose the question
left unaswered is whether the person appointed will be
known as Mr Potato Head, or Mrs Potato Head.
Still on the Head theme, it reminds me in the Eighties
when Papua and New Guinea were still best known for their
tradition of head hunting, reading an advert by the University
of Papua and New Guinea for a Head Librarian.
the Fuss?(posted 20th January)
I am puzzled about the fuss
over arresting Tony Blair's aide at 6.30 in the morning
before she went off to work . Do these indignant Labour
poiticians really think it would have been a better idea
to wait until she got to work and then arrest her in Number
10 Downing Street?
Labour Making a Case for Union with Ireland?(posted
13th January 2007) Gordon
Brown produces one of the most confused ever arguments
for maintaining the Union when he says he will publish
a pamphlet co-authored with Douglas Alexander, the Scottish
Secretary, that will make the "21st-century case
for the Union". That case will be built on family
ties. "When the Act of Union was signed, only
30,000 Scots had English relatives, and now the figure
is 2.5 million," Mr Brown said. "It will
seem strange to consider breaking a union when 2.5 million
Scots have strong ties, family ties, with England."
But much the same thing said here about
Scots family ties in England could also be said about
Irish family ties in England. Does that mean that Irish
independence was a mistake and that we should send the
Black and Tans back in? "Family ties" was also
an old Soviet argument about not giving the Baltic states
independence because so many Russian citizens lived there.
And even though about 80% of the citizenry of the US were
of British origin at the time of the founding of the
United States, "family ties" did not stop that
country's drive to independence. You can almost hear King
George spouting regally about upstart colonists threatening
their "family ties" with the mother country...
If "family ties" are going to
be Labour's "21st Century case" for the union,
then they should first read the history of earlier centuries
"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned
to repeat it".
Think it's All Over.... (posted 12th January
2007) It's impossible
to not feel sorry for the England cricket team (no
wait, honest, stop, hold on a minute ....). Not only
have they had to endure being crushed by the Ashes whitewash,
they now have to stomach the misery of being savaged all
over again in a series of irrelevant (in historical terms)
matches. They must long to escape the misery of a
sunny Australian summer for the delights of a wet, cold
English winter. It must be like having the Spanish Inquisition
torturing you on the rack for week after week, then they
chuck you out, you think it's all over, then while they
are walking away, one Inquisitor says, "wait a
minute - the thumbscrews ... we forgot the thumbscrews
... come on lads, this won't take long...".
Sticking the boot in are those who question
giving the England team all MBEs
and OBEs for winning the Ashes 2-1 in 2005. But look
at it another way. If the MBEs were warranted for England
for a 2-1 Ashes victory, what would only the second 5-0
whitewash in the history of the Ashes warrant? Knighthoods
for the whole Australian team?. A peerage for Ponting?
The idea is only so ridiculous because the Aussies are
so sensible. The typical Australian wouldn't give a ****
for an MBE, they've got their own (Mercilessly Beating
England... Maybe Best Ever...).
They think it's all over? They wish
Choice and Economics (posted 8th January 2007)
over a Labour Minister Ruth Kelly being defended as exercising
a "parents right to choose" in sending her son
to a £15,000 a year private school for his special
needs reminded me of when I was invited to speak at an
Oxfam Forum in Glasgow many years ago. I was flattered,
but when I asked why I was invited, they said the Tory
MP (this was Eastwood in the Nineties when there were
still Scottish Tory MPs in the plural) was unavailable,
so they thought that getting an economist was about the
next best thing.
After I sent a torrent of abuse down the
telephone, I accepted and the forum was enlightening.
I commented on one presentation that there was nothing
I could add to it as an economist. Economics was about
choice and alternatives, but the people and communities
in the desparate situations being described had no choice
and no alternatives. It was sub-economics.
Ms Kelly says "we all face difficult
choices as parents and I, like any mother, want to do
the right thing for my son". But for every rich
person who can afford to send their fourth child to a
£15,000 a year private school there will be scores
if not hundreds who would have no such "difficult
choices", indeed no chicnes at all, and no such alternative.
This is not about markets and choice, this
is about money and power.
At least Scotland has not gone so far down
this road as England - at least for the moment.
Galore 2006 (posted 16th December 2006) I've
recently enjoyed two great family holidays on Barra and
hope to do so again. It is a place and situation on the
tail end of the Outer Hebrides that that seems to produce
strong characters that would feature well in any book
or film, like the local councillor Donald Manford or the
formidable Jessie MacNeil of Voluntary Action Barra who
I worked with during my misguided days as a quangocrat.
Barra was also the setting for a classic Scottish film,
Galore. The director was Alexander Mackendrick, the
film was from the novel by Compton MacKenzie (who is buried
on Barra), and the film's theme of ordinary people out-thinking
and out-manouvering smart city folk is one honoured in
later Scottish films like Local
But it is another film of the early post-war
period that comes to mind when I think of the events of
the past few weeks. That film is Geordie
where a Highlander goes south, is treated with disdain
and underestimated by the Establishment, then shocks them
all and returns home victorious to be treated as, well
yes, Local Hero.
Angus MacNeil, a crofter
from Barra became an MP at the age of 34 at the 2005
general election, winning the Western Isles constituency
from a former Minister in the Scottish Office. That should
have been a warning sign that he was not to be underestimated,
in the Western Isles they historically vote more for the
person, less the party or the position.
What really upset Angus in his first few
months in Parliament was the nonchalance and condescension
of those in power over the issue of whether or not honours
could be bought or sold. This sent him to the Commons
library where he found the Honours (Prevention of Abuses)
Act 1925 was clear; you cannot buy or sell them, and if
you do, you can go to jail.
In March 2006 he submitted a formal complaint
to the Metropolitan Police triggering what has since become
known as the Cash-for-Honours
inquiry. Few in the Establishment had even heard of MacNeil
at that time, and his complaint was first treated as joke
by many of those connected to the issue. However, they
are not laughing now, especially not the Prime Minister
with his two-hour chat to police this week.
If life sometimes mirrors art, it is because
art can itself echo life and character. A crofter from
Barra taking down chunks of the Establishment, including
Lord Cashpoint and possibly even the Prime Minister? Even
Geordie only got a medal.
A mutual friend tells me that Angus MacNeil
has now totally forgotten how to buy a round. Even if
he could remember, there is little chance in the Western
Isles that he would be allowed to carry it through. Local
Hero meets Whisky Galore. All that is mssing is an Alexander
Mackendrick or Compton MacKenzie to record the whole drama,
and of course there are still some missing chapters.
Both Angus MacNeil and Tony Blair are fated
to wake up with hangovers on New Years Day, but Angus's
will disappear after a couple of alka seltzers, Blair's
is more likely to be one of the more permanent kind. As
far as Barra is concerned, it must be something they put
in the water, because I know for a fact they don't put
anything in the whisky.
Joke? (posted 19th November 2006) The
Sunday Herald carries the story of the collapse of Farepack
and whether it or the Bank of Scotland is to blame for
the tragedy that will rob so many poor families of their
Xmas. The story is carried on a four-page spread, pages
8, 9, 10, and 11 of the paper. Then on page 11 there is
a full page advert for "instant access savings"
with the Bank of Scotland. Is this some kind of sick joke?
Or an attempt to counter the four pages of realist and
negative coverage the bank got in the previous four pages.
Coincidentally, or not, two weeks ago I
switched my current account from the Bank of Scotland
after 38 years with them because they kept on failing
to send me chquebooks when I needed them, leaving me financially
stranded. After numerous apologies from them, I had had
enough. It was very easy to change accounts, direct debits
and standing orders switches are all taken care of by
the bank - and the RBS will give you £100 on top
at the moment as an inducement -that is if you need one
as a Bank of Scotland customer.
Calendar Girls Revealed (posted 18th November
2006) The Shinty Calendar
Girls are published, and they have an eBay shop here.
Thanks to Soph - I mean Miss July for delivering the calendar.
EBay says the "shots were taken a few weeks ago
by photographer Pete Clark, at a secret location in Cowal
and they are tasteful and artistic" - Secret?
Last night I was sitting on one of the seats one of the
December naturists is posed on!.
Buy your copy now, it's for a good cause
Calendar Girls Reprise (posted 14th November
2006) Bumped into Sophie
(see blogs for 16th and 26th September below) and she
said she is going to drop off Shinty Calendar Girls this
weekend. She said there was talk of eBay listings and
the Sun has contacted them. More to come on this...
things just connect ... (posted 31st October
2006) A Guardian article
slams arrogance and hubris ,,,) has an Antipodean
hooker (that's a New Zealand rugby player) saying "the
English rugby public and media were arrogant, ignorant
and living in the colonial past.." (it's just
as well he wasn't around for England playing in the football
World Cup this year - oh, these endless black and white
pictures of 1966 - and we thought it was all over...)
And its just as well he probably would not
be reading the article Oxford
is Just the Business at Top in the Times Higher Education
Supplement (THES) this week. It says "The UK's
high standing in the academic world is confirmed by The
Times Higher's analysis of institutions in the social
sciences. Peer reviewers in the social sciences around
the world think that the UK has three of the world's top
five universities in their specialist field".
What it does not mention is that
after Oxford, LSE and Cambridge, you have to go down to
30th-equal to find another UK university (Warwick) in
the table of the world's top universities in the social
sciences. But little old Australia has no less than six
unversities above Warwick in the top 30, and all this
with just one-third of the UK's population. But the THES
article does not even mention Australia's astonishing
performance when compared to the UK, indeed it does not
even mention Australia at all. Maybe Oz is just too small.
As someone might say "It's that kind of blind
ignorance and arrogance that really gets up the noses
of Australians and New Zealanders .... After we beat them
there last year, when you read the papers the next day
you'd have thought that they had won the game". Actually,
it was the NZ hooker Anton Oliver who said that about
English rugby in the Guardian. But we know what he means.
the Information (posted 28th October 2006) Information
Commissioners in Scotland and England are complaining
they are being swamped by appeals under Freedom of Information
legislation and are asking for more resources. Here's
another way to go about freeing
YouTube was Made For (posted 13th October 2006)
... sorry, I know I really
shouldn't, but it was what YouTube was made for - here's
goal Croatia-England Euro Cup qualifiers.
Fish and Invisible Cloaks
5th October 2006 - see also entry for 10th September below)
I opened my weekly Times Higher Education Supplement (THES)
today, and not one, but two, 32 page A4 glossy colour
brochures for the Shortlisted Candidates for the Times
Higher Awards for 2006 fell out. The first award that
caught my eye was for "Outstanding
Contribution to Sustainable Development",
this seeming strange given that a small rainforest was
probably pulped for the promotional literature alone for
this bizarre event. But moving on... More
Calendar Girls - more uncovered (posted 26th
September 2006) Some
news about the Shinty Calendar Girls (see also blog
for 16th September below).
A sortie to my local hostelry confirms that
not only did they sponsor the project, it was apparently
carried out in a closed session at the pub organised by
the owner, and that it features not only the local shinty
girls but also the owner Gordon and some male members
(of the mens team).
It's all a bit unsettling. I certainly don't
want to spend January with a tasteful yet provocative
pose of my local publican as Boy David above my desk.
Pardon me for being prudish, but the only dimples I want
to see on Gordon are on his whisky bottles.
Clearly more remains to be uncovered in
the saga of the Shinty Calendar Girls
Scotland shone while England dribbled
25th September 2006)
(this is an extended first part of the talk I gave
at Elgin - the rest
of the talk was about stuff you can get on my Schools
The questions about Scottish education (why
are we doing so badly? Why did we do so well in the past?)
are similar to the questions about Scottish football (why
are we doing so badly? Why did we do so well in the past?).
So why did we do so well at football? ... More
Party Apologies (posted
19th September 2006)
The Pope's apology
with regards his lecture in which he quoted a medieval
ruler who said Muhammad's innovations were "evil
and inhuman" is straight out of the Tony Blair school
of apologies (see post for 8th September below).
The Pope said "I am deeply sorry for the reactions
in some countries to a few passages of my address"
In other words, you do not apologise for
your own actions or remarks themselves, you apologise
for the actions or remarks of those who have been affected
by what you have done. These set a new standard for apologies.
What can we expect next? Margaret Thatcher apologising
on behalf of the British people (and, while we are at
it, the Conservative Party) for getting rid of her? George
Bush apologising on behalf of the Iraqi people for the
burden the Iraqis have put on the US military budget?
Muggers and rapists apologising on behalf of their victims
for the costs their victims have imposed on the health
and legal services?
As parents tell their children, accepting
responsibilty for your own actions is a prequisite before
you start blaming others. That also holds whether you
are Tony Blair or a Pope
Calendar Girls (posted
16th September 2006)
And so to the Camanachd
Cup shinty final, for the first time held in Dunoon,
an impressive event and one which reverses the traditional
Scottish sports ritual by starting the game with a Throw
Up rather than finishing the day with one. More
Praise of Overpriced Pizzas
14th September 2006)
An upset visitor writes to complain to Dunoon's excellent
that at Dunoons annual highland games (the Cowal
Highland Gathering) they were "ripped off"
by pizzas 20% more than they had been the day before the
Games and bars charging "city centre" prices
Executive Should Start Partying
14th September 2006)
Many including the Scottish Executive and the Minister
Tavish Scott are "bewildered" and "disgruntled"
by reports that the EC is about to bring a halt to the
subsidies provided for intercontinental direct flights
in and out of Scotland. Scotland
on Sunday say that "No doubt the finger will
point at the French. It always does in these situations".
Which reminds me of meeting up with an old friend in Brussels
who was now working for the Commission. I asked her how
the Irish seemed to have been so more successful working
Brussels compared to the British. She thought and said:
"when the British want to get things done, they form
a committee. When the Irish want to get things done they
throw a party and invite everybody". Maybe the Minister
should stop being so disgruntled and get out the party
hats and whisky.
Ties for Academics?
10th September 2006)
Curious advert in the Times Higher Education Supplement
this week for the "2006 Awards Dinner" (slogan
- "Success is Rewarding - Sharing it with
your Peers and Colleagues even Better"), black
tie, £120 (excluding VAT) tickets, billed as "The
Premier Networking Event of 2006". Funny, most academics
I know think black ties mean funerals, they can't afford
£120 tickets with or without VAT, and as for networking
what are the chances of the only other researcher in the
UK on the mating habits of the lesser spotted wombat being
at the dinner? I mean, what university employees could
afford and would want to network at such a - oh, I see
9th September 2006) One
of successes of the new system of governance in Scotland
is the Scottish
Information Commissioner. But ... More
Old Labour? (posted
9th September 2006) In
the middle of the Labour Party turmoil this week, a New
Labour Think Tank person argued on TV that the Labour
Party needed to get back to its roots in the Friendly
Societies and co-operative movements of the 19th Century.
But these institutions were themselves a reflection of,
and a response to, major market failure and parallel state
failure in dealing with 19th Century problems of gross
poverty, and inequality of income and power. If New Labour
needs to go to these roots, what does that signal about
its stewardship after nearly a decade of governance?
Tony Blair Apology (posted 8th September 2006)
Tony Blair apologised,
sort of, yesterday when he said
"The first thing I'd like to do is to apologise
actually, on behalf of the Labour party...".
Funny, many people think it should be the other way round
Tony Blair Legacy (posted 6th September 2006)
Puzzled by the speculation
about what will be Tony Blair's "legacy" and
how he will ensure it... More
Irwin (posted 5th September 2006).
The death of Steve
Irwin "Crocodile Hunter" upset the whole family...
(picture at top is Ally,
fifth member of the Kay family.)