Posts Tagged ‘children’

Actually Dave, you are still rubbish

October 1, 2014

This feels cruel. But I have read Cameron’s ‘greatest ever’ speech to today’s party conference, and it is not very good.

Here is a late-night attempt to parse it and to translate it into plain English (pace Boris, who I don’t much like either).

 

Cameron puffycameron on housing estatecameron hague osborne

 

 

The full text is here.

1. ‘William Hague…greatest living Yorkshireman.’ Obviously not true. I plump lazily for David Hockney. Does he vote Tory?

2. ‘I am not a complicated man.’ This is the problem, Dave.

3. ‘I believe in some simple things.’ You mean simplistic things. File under ‘Farage’.

4. ‘It’s pretty simple really.’ No it is not. See above.

5. ‘The highest employment rate of any major economy.’ Try: the lowest productivity gains of any major economy.

6. ‘£25 billion is actually just 3% of what government spends each year.’ He is talking about proposed new welfare savings. The truth: yes, but you have already backloaded the cuts you promised in this parliament into the next parliament so you would need cut at least double what you are saying. It is undoable short of civil war.

7. We have a new new policy called ‘Starter Homes’. Dave, you are already providing this subsidy. It is growth by asset inflation. It is not sustainable in the absence of productivity gains. Ask George, at least he took a 101 economics course.

8. Some stuff about ‘My 3 young kids go to prole school, we are all in it together.’ Yes, Dave, but not for long. You will move them out of the National Education System at 13 and do your bit in undermining the Big Society you claim to represent.

9. The £41,900 tax-free plus lower-rate threshold will rise to £50,000. Already dealt with in today’s earlier blog post. As I said in the update it is somewhat devious/sloppy accounting. But the main point is that it is undeliverable in combination with a rise in the tax-free rate to £12,500 and all the other stuff that you and George have promised/are promising. George has already reneged on his deficit cutting plan so many times I cannot count and is now running the original Alastair Darling plan. It begins to seem as if all you care about is power, Dave, not honesty.

10. Ed Balls is… ‘a mistake’. This is in fact true.

11. Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, went to a private school but does not agree with the existence of private schools in an optimal education system. That makes him — here is the key term — a ‘hypocrite’. No it doesn’t, Dave. It makes you either a retard or a liar. At least George has the dignity to send his kids to private school the whole way through and publicly not give a fuck.

12. ‘I’ll tell you who we represent.’ No, I will. The ignorant, the angry, the greedy, and people who are having a nice time and don’t notice the world around them.

13. ‘From the country that unravelled DNA…’ DNA was unravelled in Cambridge, not Oxford, Dave, and nobody here votes Tory.

14. ‘It’s about getting people fit to work.’ Exercise for poor, fat cleaners, Dave. Exercise for poor, fat cleaners.

15. ‘Our crime-busting Home Secretary, Theresa May.’ Imagine any Tory Home Secretary as your next-door neighbour. I fucking dare you.

16. ‘I know you want this sorted out so I will go to Brussels.’ Why not just say it: ‘I can’t speak a foreign language — bit like Farage — and I don’t understand history. Even if I like holidays in Italy, they are still wogs.’

17. ‘Our parliament… the British parliament.’ It was created to curtail the antics of inbreds like you. Best not mentioned.

18. ‘If you want those things, vote for me.’ You are going to lose, Dave. You will then spend the next 10 years wishing you had had bigger balls, and ideally a bigger brain too. George will visit you.

19. ‘Our exports to China are doubling.’ Dave, I am losing the will to live. Look at the baseline.

20. ‘I don’t claim to be a perfect leader.’ Ok, all is forgiven. Emigrate.

 

Amazing that it should be 20 things.

I am going to bed and not reading this through, so apologies for typos.

 

Later:

A pretty funny video of Brave Dave following his speech has been posted to Youtube. Here it is. 1.2 million hits already. It contains profanity.

This guy is my prime minister

September 30, 2014

Give me strength.

This from Brave Dave Cameroon:

 

David Cameron: schools should teach mainly in imperial measurements

PM says he would ‘still go for pounds and ounces’ over metric system in Newsnight interview

David Cameron's kind of ruler.
Conservative rule: David Cameron favours imperial measures. Photograph: Alamy

Schools should teach pupils mainly in imperial and not metric measurements,David Cameron has said.

Four decades since metres and litres replaced yards and pints on the curriculum, the prime minister suggested he would prefer to see a return to the old system.

“I think I’d still go for pounds and ounces, yes I do,” Cameron told BBC2’s Newsnight when asked which should be taught predominantly.

The present curriculum, which Tory ministers have said they will skew towards imperial measures, requires only that pupils “understand and use approximate equivalences between metric units and common imperial units such as inches, pounds and pints”.

It was one of three questions posed to the PM by the programme to try to define his wider stance.

In a more modern response Cameron, who personally spearheaded the legalisation of same-sex marriage, said he had no problem with seeing two men kissing in a park.

“I can kiss my wife in public, I don’t see why you can’t kiss your husband,” he said.

But he was less definitive in his answer to a third posed dilemma: whether a pharmaceutical firm should recruit a British candidate over a better-qualified foreign one.

“I want to make sure that the pharmaceutical company has good British people to employ. In the end, they have to choose,” he said.

…………..

I suppose that at least you can now be gay so long as you notch your conquests in dozens. But I am trying to get some work done, and this really does not help. Could it be that Britain’s appalling recent record on productivity is down not to our alcohol consumption but to the mental torpor induced by David Cameron’s ‘ideas’?

Tory, Tory, Tory

February 16, 2013

Like a Kamikaze pilot swooping to certain death, Brave Dave Cameroon’s lard-fed, neighbour-from-hell candidate in the UK’s mid-term byelection signals her commitment to the cause of right-wing ignorance with a shrill affirmation of her deepest prejudice. Given the parlous condition of the Lib-Dem incumbent party, I am reminded of my (right-wing) undergraduate professor’s observation that British politics is essentially about waiting for the Conservatives to shoot themselves in the foot.

Book review: School Wars

December 30, 2011

If you have children, and you have not read a history of the British education system, then this book is already worth reading. It is far from perfectly organised, and it fails to make some — to me — obvious and powerful points about education policy. Indeed the book might have been better as a more closely focused pamphlet of 120 pages rather than the 200 pages that it is. But overall, School Wars contains enough good information to leave you grinding your teeth at the weakness and hypocrisy of British politicians in all three major parties. It has proven, in Britain, easier to have a rational debate about homosexuality than about education.

Why? The proximate reason is that the British establishment is still overwhelmingly educated in elitist schools which refuse to accept poor or more difficult to teach children. The apex of this system is the roughly 7 percent of children who go to private schools and the 5 percent who go to grammars. But if you count in other church and non-church state schools which cherry-pick their intake, there is probably one-fifth or more of families and kids which undertake their education on the unspoken basis that it is reasonable to leave everyone else to fend for themselves.

In a country like Italy, the elite plunders the state directly. In Britain, the approach to making sure the establishment gets more than its share is far more subtle. Indeed one can only admire the refinement of the hypocrisy. Instead of grabbing what you want directly, you give yourselves an unassailable advantage by creating selective schools for those with more money, more accumulated learning and better social networks and then ‘compete’ with people who have had to undertake their education in the real, everyday world of mixed incomes and abilities.

School Wars fails to make the most important point about this system — that those who support it are anti-competitive. The British education system exists to prevent children having equal educational opportunity and therefore from competing on an equal basis. It is a myth that the rich and powerful like competition — it is a threat to their status. What they like is competition according to rules they set, just what the British education system offers.

Another thing School Wars fails to address is the false fear that most people have about a nationalised education system, where each school would educate a fair cross-section of the population. Such an arrangement would create a more genuine free market, but it would never mean that the monied classes could not bring their money to bear on their children’s advancement. Such support would simply have to occur outside school, as is the case in Scandinavian countries, continental European ones, north-east Asian ones, or Canada, which have non-selective school systems and post higher average educational scores than Britain.  Money still counts in those countries. However you cannot move your child to some ‘gated’ educational community free of the poor.

It may seem there is a lot missing from Melissa Benn’s book. In fact, there is a lot in it. She is good at showing how real improvement in Britain’s education system cannot come from piecemeal change. Britain needs a simple, straightforward commitment to education as a public good. Everything else leads back, through any number of byways, to manipulation of the system by more powerful interests against less powerful interests. The loser is the  aggregate quality of education. As constructed today the British school system is really an experiment to prove the existence of middle class selfishness. We knew that existed already.

School’s in

October 3, 2011

It works quite well for us in Cambridge that I can go for a run while the kids ride their bikes. I get some exercise and they get to win. On Sunday I went with the eldest on a circuit through town, where we agreed to poke around a college. We picked Trinity Hall, which is small, rich and riparian.

Upon entering, it was clear that undergraduates were arriving. At the Porter’s lodge a group of keen helpers in pink T-shirts was ready to nab a newby.

Further on through a couple of courtyards, parents were being allowed to drive in to the college to deposit their children. The cars weren’t flash. There was one Mercedes, but otherwise these were the vehicles of people who had spent a jolly lot of money educating their kids.

Confident young people ignored signs instructing them not to walk on the grass. It was, I suddenly saw, a perfect replica of an English public school at the beginning of term.

We went and sat on the wall down by the river and watched the punts. Next to us, three girls with squeaky boarding school accents chatted. Someone had hung a pirate flag from the window of their room. One of the girls, noticing this, observed in deadpan tones: ‘They should take that down. I think it cheapens the place.’

For some reason, the scene made me think of the signs in Italian courtrooms that say ‘Everyone is equal before the law’.

English honeymoon

September 6, 2011

Last week I loaded a child into the car and headed north, through Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and Belgium to the UK. The wife and other kids joined us this week. We will spend at least a year in Cambridge. I cannot say that I am sad to have moved my base away from Italy at this point, although we will be back regularly and there are friends we miss.

It is the first time we have lived properly in England for 20 years and there are forgotten marvels to remember, as well as new ones to behold.  I have been enough of a regular visitor over the years to know how much chocolate is sold in petrol stations. But on family visits to Marks & Spencer and Tesco we are dumbfounded by the number of refrigerated aisles containing those processed foods that Brits eat so much of. (At least six in a row just in M&S, versus two in our Italian supermarket. Many, many more in a hangar-size Tesco.) On a hot September day we are suddenly desperate to wrap up warm while inspecting the rows of chilled curry dishes, mezze, pasta favourites, pre-cooked joints of meat and the rest. The stuff is staggeringly expensive when you think how much veg you can buy for 10 quid. And yet for people not habituated to daily fresh food preparation, these offerings are compelling.

Tesco now has self-checkout counters which allow your children to experience at an early age the type of employment they can expect if they do not pay attention at school. First time round they find the work invigorating, especially when an item fails to scan and they have to call for assistance. But I reckon that by Christmas they will have figured out that it is worth up-skilling somewhat.

On Sunday morning we rise early for a ‘car boot’ sale — and it does not disappoint. About 100 people have their car boots open by 9am, offering up the most indescribably useless tat in return for money. A pair of low quality circa-1970 skis catch my eye. Imagine actually turning up to a ski resort with them. To be fair, the stuff is not that much worse than some of the junk displayed at the monthly ‘Retro’ Citta di Castello antiques fair — but whereas the Italians display their crap with a little finesse on tables in a beautiful piazza, here it is simply dumped on the Tarmac of a car-park. The children find the car boot sale as perversely interesting as I do, and when we leave I realise that we have acquired two serviceable children’s bikes for just £35. This could become a habit.

Part of the reason I came to England ahead of the rest of the family was to do appeals for school places. Our two eldest kids were offered places at their second choice primary school — 20 minutes by bike instead of five for the closest one — while the council wanted the youngest child to be shipped across town every day in a taxi to a new school several miles away. Cambridgeshire has the fastest-growing population in England and school places are failing to keep up. The appeal process was everything that Italy is not: immediate, decided by fairly sensible rules, and binding on the participants. The council puts its case, I put ours. The notion of sending the youngest child miles away by taxi was shot down and the council representative instructed to create a place at her first choice school. The other two kids were left with their second choices. We will have to cope with two different schools for now, but the situation is far from dire.

What else is immediately pleasing? Apart from the fact that Cambridge is very cosmopolitan and people are dedicated to getting stuff done in an unfussy way, I would say fast internet access. It really is another world after Italy. With connection speeds like these you could spend all day messing around on the InterWeb…

If you did, here are some examples of what you might find:

Bob Marley plays acoustic Redemption Song.

Brian Ferry covers Dylan’s A Simple Twist of Fate rather well.

A 12-year-old child plays You Shook Me All Night Long in his bedroom rather well.

ACDC’s Angus Young and Brian Johnson are interviewed by German TV while Angus nurses a tea mug.

Bob Dylan proves he is capable of smiling and having fun at Farm Aid in 1985.

Moreover Dylan keeps enjoying himself.

And Dylan really likes playing this song.

Bob Dylan is portrayed on the Simpsons.

Bob Dylan is portrayed on Family Guy with Tom Waits, Popeye and Ali.

Various interviews with people believed in some religions to sit on the left hand side of God the Father Almighty

Mr Dylan.

Mr Young.

Mr Waits.

Mr Cale.

Meanwhile back in Italy:

If this crisis were a movie, half the audience would be asleep. The government changes its mind every day about austerity budgets, there is no traction on structural reforms, the unions strike without offering any policy agenda of their own, Italian bank stocks are back in free-fall, and Italian bond yields are rising again despite the ECB having swallowed over Euro40 billion of government debt — much of which must be Italian — in the past three weeks. We all know the ending, so why not just cut to the IMF?

Stuck in the middle with you

August 14, 2011

The English riots story runs and runs. There have now been something like 1,700 arrests — which is equivalent to about 2 percent of the entire United Kingdom prison population. The courts are meting out quick justice, which is a good thing (magistrates have been sitting through the night in special sessions), but they are also meting out retributive justice, which is not good. One man who walked into a shop that had been broken into and took £3.50 of bottled water has been given six months in jail. That is nothing more than a magistrate responding to the calls of Brave Dave Cameron and the moronic right that everyone involved be given a good caning.

England is stuck in the middle with its underclass problem. On the one hand it could go the American route, have a bigger underclass, but use much higher levels of state violence to keep it in place. That means more ghettoisation and more police with guns. In essence, it would mean that every time you arrived in an English city (like an American one) the taxi driver would tell you which part of town you can’t go to ‘cos they might kill you’. It doesn’t matter that this isn’t necessarily true (Among others, I have survived the south side of Chicago, south-east DC and some bad bits of NYC), the taxi driver’s advice is a short-hand for the political choices that have been made.

The other route is the continental European one. We should clarify at the outset that we are not talking here about the continental European immigrant underclass, which definitely exists and is nicely down-trodden. The immigrant underclass has rioted in France, but for the most part immigrants live on sufferance and their very low expectations keep them from going over the civil unrest brink. What we need to talk about in continental Europe is the treatment of the least fortunate part of the indigenous population, including (usually second generation) naturalised immigrants.

This latter group has never, to my knowledge, rioted because of what can be called ‘inclusion’. Since the Second World War, continental Europe has implemented policies designed to maintain society as a single unit. The most important of these, I believe, is nationalised education. There is no educational ghettoisation in continental Europe that can act as a stepping stone to social ghettoisation. In towns throughout the European mainland, the children of the wealthiest entrepreneurs grow up going to school with the children of mechanics and barbers. This is overwhelmingly the case, and it is absolutely overwhelmingly the case at a primary level of education. Largely as a result, people growing up in continental Europe in the past 50 years have largely been denied the sense of exclusion and jealousy that pervades the Anglo-American underclass.

It is interesting that Ed Milliband, the Labour leader, is talking at every opportunity — in the wake of the riots — about the need to give people a stake in society. He even plans his own ‘enquiry’. But the Labour Party (the true party of bullshit in British politics) won’t go near the socially cancerous education issue. Boarding-school educated Tony Blair would not touch it and the new ‘lefty’ Labour leader will not do so either.

In consequence, Britain is destined to remain stuck in the middle. We have a sub American-scale underclass but we don’t have the guns to keep it in the ghetto. Once in a generation the underclass rampages down English high streets nicking whatever consumer durables its miserable existence has led it to crave. This generation is worse than the 80s one in that it is utterly bereft of any political consciousness. It appears to have been neutered by a combination of television, the moral cesspool of Premiership football, and the apparently limitless selfishness of reproductive underclass males.

Joe Strummer used to sing that anger can be power. But these days the only thing that anger can be is a flat-screen tv and a pair of new trainers — which most of the looters probably had anyway.

 

Latest:

Bob the Builder must be fuming. After Obama already stole his ‘Can we fix it? Yes, we can!’ refrain for the US election, Brave Dave Cameron is making another raid on Bob’s core IP with his new ‘Can we fix Broken Britain? You jolly well bet we can, matey’, campaign.

To be fair, Brave Dave has some reasonable points, but in the end I reckon he’s a fiddler not a fixer — a Polyfilla Blagger as Bob might say.

On the US copper — Bratton — to run the Met saga I am instinctively on Brave Dave’s side. But then he appointed Theresa May Home Secretary, so whaddya do? Remember that he also cut the political legs off Fatty Clarke, having first promised to be sensible about punishment issues. Brave Dave just can’t decide whether to hug a hoodie or lash one to a post and thrash him. It is so very hard being a modern Tory.

 

Unrelated, but quite funny: 

I had not realised that Giulio Tremonti, Italy’s finance minister who used to work as a tax law expert and this week imposed a ‘solidarity tax‘ on high earners, also worked in the past as a university lecturer in ethics. He currently stands accused of paying a fast-living political aide who is under investigation for serial corruption €1,000 a week in cash to live in his apartment in Rome. It would be fun to publish Mr Tremonti’s course notes, if someone has them.

(Almost) nowhere to run to

February 22, 2011


Tunisia, Egypt, Libya… the list of north African countries to which Italian politicians may no longer be able to flee in exile gets longer every day. Bettino Craxi, the politician who ‘made’ Sivio Berlusconi, fled of course to Tunisia (here he is, all remorseful, on the beach). Italian spooks assisted the coup which brought the lately chased out Mr. Ben Ali to power.

Silvio himself might have been expected to skip off to his friend Muammar Gaddafi in Libya if things had gotten really nasty at home. But the way it is looking in Tripoli just now (here is some text from the first US tv crew in), there may be no north African option left. One feels for Silvio after all the effort expended smoothing the path of Gaddafi’s third son Saadi into Italian Serie A football, where he ‘played’ for four seasons and managed a cumulative half an hour on a first-team pitch. It is a wonder that Perugia, Udine and Sampdoria dared to leave him on the bench after his bodyguards in Libya had in 1996 killed eight opposing fans and wounded 39 for mocking this (please note) much underrated footballing prodigy.

Berlusconi has made multiple trips to Libya, including to Benghazi (search ‘Cooperation with Italy’) where the current rebellion started, but he likely won’t be going back soon. Gaddafi came to see Silvio in Italy several times, including just last August when he paid a modelling agency to supply him 200 nubile young women he could give a lecture to on the merits of (his version of) Islam. Muammar and Silvio were such a great team, but the former’s (liberal, London-educated) second son Saif going on telly and promising to keep shooting until the last bullet has put the relationship in a rather poor light.

I guess that in a worst case scenario Silvio can always go to Russia and see his best mate Vlad. But how would he keep his suntan up in Moscow? He could call in some of those unpaid holiday letting favours from Tony and Cherie (‘Flowers for me, Silvio?’) Blair, but he won’t get any more bronzed in north London. Surely there must be somewhere hot and dodgy left in the world where a man on the run can put his feet up? I know. Singapore!

Meanwhile: Stanley Ho, if you are watching, check this out. Perhaps you and Muammar should swap family management tips. Well, you both like ballroom dancing…

Fragrant harbour

February 1, 2011

I make it five times that Stanley Ho has changed his mind over his inheritance… in the last week. It was ‘You can have it’, ‘No you can’t’, ‘Yes you can’, ‘No you can’t’, and yesterday, 31 January 2011, ‘Oh go on, take it and just leave me alone with my dogs.’ Today, glancing at the headlines, it seems he may have changed his mind again but, frankly, I can’t be bothered.

Instead, here is a bit of commentary on the three videos that have been released on YouTube by Stan’s lawyer (I have used the link posted by David Webb). Let’s meet Stanley at home:

Video 1. Stan opens with: ‘We must get back Lanceford [the holding company he held all his big stuff through]’, speaking like and doing a great facial imitation of the bad guy at the start of an episode of Flash Gordon. Then the lawyer, more on him anon, asks Stan about some further comment for the press to which Stan replies he’s game as ‘I want to make it [the story] very big.’ Stan is already laying into Pansy, the daughter who is seen as both the most capable in business and about whom the most malicious and serious gossip circulates (perhaps these two things go naturally together). Then comes the now-famous: ‘It is something like robbery’ quote. Stanley says he wants to go ahead with legal action. Note the furnishing of Stan’s time-warp mansion on the south-side of HK island. To the left you can just catch a glimpse of a hideous mock-baroque table. The staff, family and nurses sneaking by the camera are also good value. In the foreground is the mandatory Chinese tea flask (must admit I have been caught on film with one of those myself) and a glass of hot water. ‘I want a fair division among my family,’ says Stan, before appearing to be pained by some inconvenient fact inside his head (like he never organised a fair division?).   At around three-and-a-half minutes you get a look at the always-on television, the electronic tombstone of the fading godfather. Stan’s ex partner Henry Fok was a big soccer fan, so at least with him you would get to take in the football. Another of Hong Kong’s octogenarian big boys is a closet Arsenal fan, and even has comfy sofas. Many are the mysteries of Confucianism… At the end Stan thanks the lawyer for having ‘blown up’ the whole affair in the space of a few days. The lawyer jokes about a huge fee to come. Or let’s say he laughs while talking about the huge fee to come; it may just be coincidence.

Video 2. Here Stan is trying to explain why he just withdrew legal proceedings and announced he had fired the lawyer. ‘The problem is Pansy,’ he starts. At this point I begin to become more interested in the lawyer than in Stanley. For one thing, you might argue that the lawyer is leading his client at the point at which he responds to Stanley: ‘To which I say: “So what?”’ The lawyer, Gordon Oldham, has a faded (south) Irish accent, though his profoundly undetailed official biography says only that he arrived ‘from the UK’ in Hong Kong 30 years ago. After Stan says Pansy is the problem, a woman, who for me has a stronger Irish accent, says off-camera: ‘But he [Stanley] is not afraid of her.’ What is going on here? My wildly speculative first thought is that there has long been a wee Irish mafia connected with the dogs and the horse-racing in Macau, but this is indeed wildly speculative. I must check further. The only thing I learn quickly from someone who knows Oldham quite well is that he is ‘a clever fellow’. Meanwhile in the video it is subsequently, I think, the Irish-accented woman off camera who butts in again to say to Stan: ‘Gordon will still represent you, ok?’ I think this is right, but then an ethnic Chinese woman I do not know moves across camera right to left saying ‘They made him, they made him [Stanley sign documents against his will]’. Stanley says he was forced during his television appearance to read ‘the plaque’ [cue card] organised by Pansy and Daisy. The video ends with the lawyer saying: ‘Are you telling me that I can now go ahead with filing and getting back your interests in Lanceford?’ To which Stan responds: ‘I suppose so…That’s what I want.’ The lawyer gesticulates everything to Stan as if he is an idiot. But Stan isn’t an idiot, even at the age of 89. After all, he is the one looking at the silly gweilo. Upshot of video 2. I think the lawyer has definitely got some questions to answer. I find it creepy the way he refers to Stan as Dr. Ho, using the title he never earned. Stan’s slaves, like Henry Fok’s (‘Dr. Ho’s office’, ‘Dr. Fok’s office’!) have long done this, but a self-respecting lawyer does not need to. I would also like to see the written consent from Stan to post this stuff to YouTube; it should have been put up with the postings.

Video 3. Roll on to January 30. Stan says Pansy says he can have his shares back, but it is ‘only words’. Third ‘wife’ Ina, who’s got a bunch of stock, doesn’t want to meet. (Ina was the ailing first wife’s nurse when Stanley got the hots for her. If you have ever seen the UK sit-com Are You Being Served you’ll have a picture in your head at this point.) Note that Stan here is saying he wants to get all the share scrip back and ‘then decide what to do’; do you remember the fair division promised in video 1, Stanley? Not much of interest here. It ends with Stan pointing out what a stand-up guy he has been.

Video 4. (Not yet released). Stan sits in his favourite cardigan looking into a full-length mirror intoning the mantra: ‘Mirror, mirror on the wall, who has shagged the most among us all?’ From a pair of old speakers the voice of Michael Jackson responds: ‘You have Stanley, you have’, followed by a trademark yelp. At length Stanely picks up a hand-held mirror and quizzes it: ‘Mirror mirror in my hand, who’s the foxiest in the land?’. From another pair of speakers, the double-deep voice of Errol Brown (per his legendary BabyCham add)  replies: ‘You da one, you da one Stan…’ This continues indefinitely.

A note on the lawyer, February 2:

The verdict from various people who know Gordon Oldham, personally and professionally, is that he is by no means the most amoral lawyer in Hong Kong (a warm breeze wafts across the Big Lychee as Ron Arculli, Stephen Cheong, Charles Lee and pals breathe a collective sigh of relief). Perhaps the mid-point of the opinions is one that calls him ‘aggressive and innovative and he doesn’t give a fuck about anything’. The others range from ‘decent guy’ to ‘slipperier than a donkey’s dick’ (the last, I would stress, is from a journalist who has only seen Oldham’s press performances). Anyhow, there does seem to be some consensus that posting Stan to YouTube without publishing his written consent and a full explanation of what is being done begs various question; as — and several people have said this pointedly — does the posting of edited interviews. You will notice there are plenty of cuts in the tapes. Can we have the full tapes please?

Mr Oldham has not responded to an email to the contact address given on his firm’s site yesterday. I will send another one.

Other points of interest: it seems that Oldham has not acted for Stan on other cases (at least ones I know about). Of course Stan, being a godfather, has almost as many lawyers as girlfriends, and so this is hardly surprising. But it does maintain one’s interest in knowing how Oldham got on the roster for this job. Finally, one who knows Oldham claims the accent is northern Irish, tho it sounded poshed up southern to me.

As to Stan’s choice of lawyer, I think it is good. There is an illustrious history of godfathers using gweilos to front for them when they need to do something very public. Remember all KS Li’s public relations problems at Hutchison in the 80s when he paid himelf a huge special dividend he had said he would not take? That was when he hired Simon Murray. Isn’t it great that everyone trusts white people? I think it’s fan-bloody-tastic.

Light blues

June 18, 2009

There is a not entirely satisfactory end to the Cambridge academic year. Rooting around the main University Library I receive a call from the director of the PhD programme in the Business School. He needs to see me as a matter of urgency. So I grab a yard of books, make it half a yard through an hour-and-a-half’s diligent photocopying, cut short a meeting with a nice teacher in East Asian Studies, cycle at speed and arrive panting at the director’s door. I enter to find the director, the deputy director and the administrator seated around a conference table with stern faces. Uh oh.

The issue at hand is mandatory work I was required to do on ‘quantitative research methodologies’ (in essence, turning life into numbers and asking a computer programme to tell you what is going on and what to do next; this more or less caused the current global financial crisis and is deemed to be an essential competence in contemporary academia). If you don’t pass Quants, you can’t stay in the Business School. And as I look down at the unhappy faces, I am failing because my submission is short of two exercises.

It is a minute to execution time as I pull out my aging lap-top. On it we find one of the two missing exercises. We look under properties and see that the last date on which the file was changed pre-dates the submission deadline. ‘Don’t resave,’ comes the cry; this would overwrite today’s date and leave me with no hard evidence to put before the PhD degree committee, which will have to rule on my case. At this point it looks like I can plead to have one of two missing exercises considered; but this might not be enough to save me. The three officials witness the saving of the first exercise onto a memory stick, soon to become Exhibit A at a formal hearing. I am then accompanied by the PhD administrator (lest I quickly bang out the missing exercise on the fly – hardly likely for someone who says things like ‘Remind me which one is the x-axis’) while we see if I can strengthen my defence.

Looking through my files I am relieved to see that I printed a back-up copy of the material I handed in. This is interesting because it contains missing exercise one. And this puts into play that most embarrassing of university possibilities – that work was handed in and the examiner, or (less likely) an admin person, lost it. Perhaps sensing an interesting outcome, the PhD administrator adds the back-up hard copy to the memory stick, and now has Exhibit B and Exhibit A.

But what of missing exercise two? On that I am surely bang to rights. Since I have no electronic copy of the exercise, it must have been one where I missed the class, because otherwise I would have done the exercise during the class. The exercises for which I missed classes (through teaching, so a reasonable excuse) were done at Easter. I took them off the university intranet where all coursework and materials are supposed to be posted.

We have a look on the system. Sure enough, there is no template for the missing exercise on it, at least not where it should be. There is one unexplained folder in the relevant part of the system, but it proves unopenable. Images of the intranet file directory are printed off as Exhibit C. It rather begins to look like missing exercise two may be the result of a departmental cock-up, and I subsequently hear that investigations are being launched.

So what will the degree committee decide? To throw me out anyway? To issue a groveling apology for what appear, on balance, to be university mistakes? Or to do a bit of coughing, give me a pass, and pretend the whole thing never happened? I know which one Slumdog Millionaire would go for.

The brush with the Inquisition aside, Cambridge is far from an upleasing experience. The weather is fine, it is May Ball weekgirls trinity ball 2 (don’t ask me why it is in June) and lots of slightly plump girls are wearing those deeply unflattering English ball gowns. girls trinity ballMy eldest daughter, six, is with me to meet her granny and, seeing a fleshy young lady in a shocking pink outfit outside Trinity, demands: ‘What does she think she’s wearing?’

We take granny and my stepfather out in a college punt down the river and past the main colleges. My stepfather, with broad Yorkshire accent, makes the same weak joke about being promised galley slaves half a dozen times to people on the banks and in other punts. The southern bourgeois intelligentsia, however, has dealt with far worse, and shrugs off this provocation from the Barbarian Northerner. trinity_ball_queueMeanwhile, in the queues for the balls, one suspects there must be the next generation’s David Cameron, perhaps about to have that embarrassing photograph taken which will haunt his political career (the photo can no longer be published, but here is a painting of the photo, with Our Dave second left, back row). newsnights_bullingdon painting

The only crumb of comfort for the young Tory who is about have that photo taken is that the opposition is likely to be an even bigger titty, like Tony ‘Harry Potter’ Blair (seen here in a 1970s colour photo of his Oxford dining club, third from right, back row, possibly making a childish gesture with his right hand).blair photo


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