Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Nick Nick Nick

NickNickNickNickNickNickNickNick. Nick. You really are an asshole, aren't you?

And this, remember, coming from me, means something. It's not just some guy on your way into Parliament hollering 'Hey, Nick! You're an asshole!'. No. When I call someone an asshole, it is with the full weight of a man who knows about assholes. Knowing that sort of shit is how I make my living, so you have to believe me when I say, 'You're an asshole.'

It isn't just mere speculation. It's a professional opinion.

Like a diagnosis. You can take that your doctor, and when she asks what's wrong, say, 'excretera. says I'm an asshole.' She'll know what to do.

First, we had Nick criticising the Institute for Fiscal Studies, because they had the temerity to look at the numbers and realise that his coalition budget wasn't, well, very fair after all. 'But George and David promised me that it was!' he insisted, in the face of all reasonable argument. It's like he really believes his Tory friends. Like we believed Nick. Once.

The human capacity for self-delusion never ceases to amaze me.

The New Statesman's Mehdi Hasan points out that Nick and his pal George weren't always so critical of the IFS. Like, when the IFS's conclusions suited their own needs. They loved the respected IFS then.

See? Asshole.

And now we have news that Nick has made another another ill-advised attempt to seduce the Common Briton with his tales of his not-really-licentiousness. He likes a cigarette, apparently. He revealed this on Desert Island Discs, presumably thinking that no one was listening?

Of course he knew they were listening. He prayed that we were all listening. 'I know I shouldn't say this and it's a terrible thing,' he said, hoping Kirsty Young would chastise him with a playful slap on the wrist.

Oh you are a naughty boy, aren't you Nick?

(And no. I didn't listen to the programme, and I have no intention to do so. I don't feel a need to be a party to Nick's little masquerade.)

And immediately I was reminded, when I heard this on the news, of that time, do you remember? because this too was so very shocking, when Nick admitted/boasted in an interview with GQ that he had slept with 30 women.

I have no idea if 30 women is a lot to have slept with, or not many. And I don't care. To have slept with 30 women, 24 men and maybe three goats, now that would be interesting. But I still don't care. Both episodes reek of a sort of desperation, a plea for acceptance. 'Look at me, look! I'm not really That Person that you think I am.'

I think we've had enough of your duplicity, Nick. The point is now: shut up.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Precious little good news of late

and I'm falling behind in my attempt to throw poo at all of it. We've just had the CSP, and I'm just getting really very fucking angry about that -- spurred on by today Guardian front page, that tell me that the IFS has checked the numbers and that 'Families with children will take brunt of cuts'. But don't worry, Nick Clegg says that the IFS -- the most respected independent financial organisation in the country -- don't know what they are talking about, that it's all 'distorted nonsense'. Alan Johnson hit the nail on the head the other day, but maybe didn't go far enough: between the closing of the ballot box and the opening of his ministerial car door, Clegg underwent a transformation that makes what happened to David Naughton in An American Werewolf in London look like just a few touches around the eyes.

BUT, before I can get all exorcised about the re-structuring of the British economy and all that, there was the matter a few days back of Lord Browne (remember him?) and his review of higher education. So, while we wait for the IFS to figure out just how shit the broad spending cuts will be, let's take some time and look at what we know: that is, just how very fucking awful implementation of Lord Browne's recommendations will be.

Let's start by ignoring for the moment that the Lib Dems campaigned explicitly on the pledge to vote against any rise in tuition fees. And it looks like they will support Browne's recommendations, if the noises from not only Clegg but so-called 'lefties' Cable and Hughes are anything to go by. So let's forget -- just for this moment -- that this is further evidence that Lib Dem yellow really is the colour of cowardly, spineless, power-hungry slug-like sycophants who MUST receive their just desserts at the next election with complete annihilation. (Starting with Nick Clegg, my own dear MP. The cull must be merciless. It must be total.)

So, what's actually wrong with Browne's proposals? If more money is needed in these tough economic times, then shouldn't those who will benefit pay more? There are those who argue, rather convincingly, that the free or heavily-subsidised tuition involves the working (non-University attending) classes funding the aspirations of the middle and upper classes, and thus a perpetuation of social stratification and inequality, so would charging higher fees, and the withdraw of government money, be an important step in bringing 'fairness' to post-secondary education?

The real problem isn't the raising of fees, though that is fairly shit. No, the REAL problem with Lord Browne's reforms is the marketisation of the University. Yes, it is a word, and one that you'd better get used to using more and more often under this government (and the last, and the last before that, and the last before that...).

I've said for a long time that Universities are strange places. They are fundamentally medieval institutions redesigned on the principles of 19th century prisons, run by a tiny cabal who think they are late-capitalist CEOs (and sometimes are). They trade on the ancient, religious origins as purveyors of Truth to draw in staff and students who are driven by (largely) altruistic ideals of learning and education; bureaucratically, they are governed by a panoptic structure that is not at all confused that the primary purpose of ANY institution is the surveillance, management, hierarchalisation and governance of its population; and it is all overseen by a management class who pretend that their inflated six-figure salaries are necessary to support their efforts to run their domains in the name of financial prudence.

And now, it seems, the CEOs have had their way. Post-secondary education is going to be turned into a market.

Which makes sense, because past and recent history have clearly demonstrated that markets are completely infallible.

Oh. Wait.

But go figure. You ask a former Chief Executive of BP to conduct a review on how to manage higher education and guess what? He suggests you run it like a corporation. Why do we do this? Or rather, let this be done to us? (Check Catherine Bennett's excellent article in the Guardian on this.)

Turning British universities into a market now makes as much sense as leaving a child with a penchant for pyrotechnics at a nursery with a box of matches, a can of petrol and a glass of milk.

Why the glass of milk? because like the totally ineffectual 'regulations' imposed on the City after the banking crises, the bursaries and support for disadvantaged students that are promised to accompany the deregulation of university tuition will be of no use to anyone fleeing the burning nursery, except the pyromaniac who will stand giddy amongst the flames, a contented, white-moustached smile, asking the fireman 'What? What?'

Ok, one of my more fraught similes. But you see the point.

I might have accepted that tuition fees needed to rise. Maybe. I would have rather seen an increase in basic rates of tax (for higher earners) or, preferably, an increase in corporation tax (instead of the decrease that the Tories introduced in their first budget). Why not? The corporations reap the benefits of post-secondary education; it's a training of their workforce that they don't need to pay for. But I'm getting side-tracked: a simple increase in tuition fees would have been wrong, but that would have been other argument. But what the Tories are now likely to do, thanks to Lord Browne, is something else all-together more evil. Like their radical re-structuring of the NHS (which, incidentally, the blue-half of the coalition promised not to do), this is about more than cuts and crises. This is ideological-driven re-building of the British social institutions, the transformatiokn of Britain into a Thatcherite Wonderland of markets, competition and consumer-relations.

Just how very, very wrong that is will only become clear in the coming weeks and years. These reforms must be resisted.

Right now, I'm a tutor or lecturer standing before students. Though the titles won't change (a nice, sentimental throwback to the old days, that'll be) I'll become, essentially, a Product-Supply Officer stood in before customers.

Not that I expect to have a job in the modern Corporate University. There won't be many of those, either.

Though the lecturers' union, the UCU, came out against Browne's review, and I hope hope hope that they stand with the NUS against the proposals, I know that a lot of lecturers and professors aren't going to raise too much fuss about this. You might be surprised at how quiet so many of them seem. But they won't see what's coming, what with being blinded by all the pound signs flashing in front of their eyes.

Those pound signs? they're just a mirage. Anyone expecting to make a fortune from an academic career in the new Open Market Universities are going to be very, very disappointed.

(Unless, of course, you get to be a CEO. They're called 'VC's at university.)

But I'll go one step further. If Russell Group Universities seize on this report to deregulate their fees and capitalise on this market, it would be unethical for anyone who professes to favour progressive politics, as academics often like to do, to continue to work for a so-called 'elite' university.

'Fortunately', I expect to be forced out of work before I become a hypocrite.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Sometimes you have to say 'Sorry.'

I didn't know who was going to win the Labour leadership election. I guess I assumed that it was going to be David Miliband, and the thought didn't particularly trouble me. But when his brother, Ed, won, I was a bit shocked and surprised, but not entirely displeased. I wasn't not overjoyed, nor was I particularly not underwhelmed.

I know. You're sick of coming here and reading such polemics.

And yesterday I fired off an angry post insisting that Nick Robinson and Jeremy Paxman and everyone just shut up trying to analyse every gesture, every expression of the brothers like a bunch of amateur psychoanalytic literary critics. It would have been nice, instead, had they focussed on the substantial issues of policy.

(I speak, too, I guess, as a professional psychoanalytic literary critic...)

Some people have suggested that there weren't any substantial differences in policy between the brothers, which is why everyone focussed on the 'psycho-drama'. But I don't think that's true: I think Nick Robinson and his ilk would have focussed on any of the gossip or tittle-tattle rather than the big issues anyway, because that's what the (post-)modern media likes to do, it's all they can do.

So now that David has (finally) announced that he won't run for the shadow cabinet (which seems like a perfectly sensible thing to do, and a perfectly sensible time to announce it, given that the media would have focussed on nothing else no matter when he decided to do it), and now everyone is saying 'Well, he couldn't be in the cabinet, could he? because the differences between the brothers are so great.' Except they're not, are they? I mean, were hardly talking Benn versus Healy here, are we? Of course not. This is a united Labour party. The differences on display, even those differences buried, aren't anywhere near as great as those between the Conservatives and their Liberal slaves, or even within the Conservatives (e.g. Europhiles versus Eurosceptics) or within the Liberals right now (between left, e.g. Hughes, and the right-wingers in Cabinet.)

BUT, there is one important difference, and it seems to be this difference that has seen David leave today. IF, on the Iraq war, David Miliband is unable to apologise, if he is unable to admit that the last Labour government made a terrible, terrible mistake into going into war -- whether because of ideological blindness or a more simply failure of intelligence -- then David needs to go. Because that was the issue on which the Labour government lost the support of the country, of the left and of their own supporters. And he should not be allowed back until he is willing to share responsibility for that horrid error. And no one who sat with their hands in their laps yesterday when Ed acknowledged the mistake should be allowed in the shadow cabinet either.

Ok. Now that's done. I'm going to go crawl into a hole and hide while the Tory conference is on, because I can't stand the thought of those smug, self-congratulatory bastards celebrating. (Unless Mr. Fox has any more private letters to his leader he wants to leak to the media? Keep it up, Mr. Fox -- you might have your uses yet.)

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Jeremy Paxman is being a dick.

And a bully. And it's got me so mad that I need to rant for a bit. I managed to keep quiet through the entire visit of the pope to the UK ('aggressive secularism'? PLUH-EESE. When atheists start locking men of faith, Torquemada-style, in iron maidens, or start knocking on doors like Jehovah's Witnesses, demanding, 'Do you know you are full of shit?' then call me and I'll denounce 'aggressive secularism'), and I've happily kept my head down and focussed on the work in hand (and on my lap and in my inbox), but now, enough.

It's all about this Labour leadership thing. I don't know who should have won, I hope Ed Miliband does well, really well, really really I do. But I am sick to frickin' death of the amateur psychoanalysts who want to scrutinise every gesture, every muscular strain of any of these politicians.

Worst of the lot of course is Nick Robinson, of course, who can apparently channel the spirit of Freud in his detailed analyses. 'This "psychodrama", as I called it...' he said the other day about the brothers running for the Labour leadership, wishing to enforce his 'intellectual' copyright, has distracted Labour and the public from the issues at stake in the leadership contest. Well no shit, Nick! Because reporters, including the BBC's own political editor, consistently eschew the issues to focus exclusively on this speculative bullshit. Of course there are going to be problems, and clearly there are issues that their entire family needs to address, but shouldn't someone tell Nick that he doesn't have a clue what these might be, that nothing in his history as a young Tory or a pathetically vacuous political reported affords him any insight into this 'psychodrama' of which he purports to be an expert.

In your quest to present yourself as a psychoanalyst, Nick, I'd say don't give up the day job, though clearly you are shit at that too, so you might as well. Please.

And now Paxman is having a go at Tessa Jowell on Newsnight. When did bullying pass for serious, probing interviewing? (cf. John Humphrys). I didn't really pull enough quotations from this interview to wave around and prove Paxman complicit in this game of wild analyses, but in addition to Robinson's narrative, Paxman was capitalising on Jowell's friendship with David Miliband to ask about his motives and plans, making assumptions he had no business making and digging in places he has no business digging.

Eventually, someone in the audience groaned. Jowell, even Paxman, realised that this groan really meant 'Shut up you massive prick.'