Showing posts from November, 2011

The Case Against Striking - But For Supporting Public Reform

I am at work today. Some might challenge the concept that my attendance at school constitutes 'work' of any sort, but the broad point is that I am in school, when many others are not. They are striking. I have set out what I think are the pros and cons of the public services strike today on the TRG's Egremont blog.

Out of the Ashes

My review of David Lammy's interesting book, "Out of the Ashes", has appeared on the TRG's Egremont blog, and is reprinted below:

The last time there were riots in Tottenham, the local MP’s response was to crow that the “police got a bloody good hiding”.He may have been chiming in with the views of many of his constituents, but in the aftermath of riots that encompassed the brutal murder of a police constable it was never going to be a response that scored highly on the constructive engagement scale.This time, the local MP, who was a boy growing up near the Broadwater Farm estate in 1985, raced back from his holiday as soon as he heard of tension in Tottenham following the shooting of Mark Duggan, spent hours and days in constructive engagement with the local community and the police, and has now published a book of his reflections on the state of urban Britain.But then, David Lammy has always been a very different character from his predecessor.The former Hi…

The Republicans' Lunacy

David Frum was one of George W Bush's speechwriters, who memorably recounts hearing, on his first visit to the Bush White House, one senior staffer ask another why they hadn't been at that morning's prayer breakfast. Since leaving the employ of the former president, Frum has maintained a profile as a stimulating Republican political commentator and thinker, but his latest article, for 'New York' magazine, reveals the depths of his despair about the direction the GOP is now heading in. He is particularly scathing about the Tea Party movement:

The list of tea-party candidates reads like the early history of the U.S. space program, a series of humiliating fizzles and explosions that never achieved liftoff. A political movement that never took governing seriously was exploited by a succession of political entrepreneurs uninterested in governing—but all too interested in merchandising. Much as viewers tune in to American Idol to laugh at the inept, borderline dys…

Oh No - Now It's Putin The Dentist

As if Russia wasn't in a bad enough state, it's next president (the election's just a formality) is now trying out in that most pain-inducing of professions - dentistry.
Having done his underwater archaeology stunt and found - surprise surprise - an immensely valuable vase that had lain undisturbed for thousands of years, the great master of all things is now clearly determined to intimidate those who may be thinking of voting for someone else by his wielding of the dentist's screwdriver. Journalists in Russia get shot or beaten into a crippled state if they question the Benevolent Leader, but could anything really be worse than settling into your dentist's chair for a standard check-up (just like travelling in a plane, as my niece once observed of the reclining chairs), only to have Putin leering back at you. Clearly, he's taken on board the lyrics from 'Little Shop of Horrors', which had Steve Martin's dentist sing that:
You have a talent for causin…

Is Perry Out?

The Republican presidential race has entered another of its rollercoaster loops, as one-time pack leader Rick Perry - who, let's face it, has had a torrid time virtually since he entered the race as a bright new hopeful in August - appears to have finally damned his chances. At least, according to nearly every pundit on the other side of the Atlantic. Which could mean he has every chance of surviving. He failed to name one of the government agencies he's intending to cut during the most recent presidential debate, and then kept on failing - so that means he's toast, right? Well, possibly, but a previous Governor of Texas went on national television during his presidential contest and drew ridicule for not being able to name the then very prominent leader of Pakistan (it was General Musharraf, for the record) - or, indeed, any other major world leader. The Governor's name? George W Bush.

Anyway - here's that apparently fatal Perry performance (and yes, it is pr…

History Can Change Minds

I remember dipping into historian Kevin Sharpe's remarkable book "The Personal Rule of Charles I" when I was teaching the period as an A-level teacher. Sharpe has recently died, and I was interested to read this blog appreciation of his work. The author, himself a lawyer, concluded with this excellent comment:

In the hands of a great historian, the subject has the power to change minds...

What better?

Home Cinema Doesn't Exist

Anthony Lane is one of the finest film critics at work today, and his reviews for the New Yorker are always worth reading, not just for their fine, literary, perceptive commentary, suffused with the empathy of the genuine film-goer and a pervasive wit, but also for the light he manages to shed on one of the central elements of our contemporary culture. In this week's edition, he uses his review of the crime caper 'Tower Heist', and the pessimistic fable 'Melancholia', to pass judgement on the concept of home cinema. Whatever their merits as films (Lane is hilariously cool about 'Tower Heist', definitely taken with 'Melancholia'), they share a history as films that were planned to go straight to Video On Demand, alongside their cinematic release - or as near as. The distributors of 'Tower Heist' eventually relented, but 'Melancholia' was available 'on demand' long before it was released in the cinema.

It is this…

BoJo and Barack Look Safe in 2012

There are two very different electoral personality contests taking place in 2012. On one hinges the fate of the world's most powerful military nation, and still its crucial economic engine. On the other hinges....the continued phasing out of bendy buses perhaps? They may be wholly different in scale but they are both going to offer fascinating and entertaining political drama, as is the nature of direct personal elections. And, intriguingly, though one is a philandering, gaffe-dropping right-winger, and the other a tightly controlled, committed liberal reformer, both the incumbents look - at present - as if they might be safe. That this is so, in a time of economic crisis which should absolutely not be favouring incumbents, is down in large part to the inadequacy of their challengers.

Let's take the smaller contest first. As Mayor of London, Boris Johnson has the second largest personal mandate in western Europe (only the president of France, elected by a whole nation, ha…