Feb 172009

more stupid shit.

Jerky guys seem to have some kind of sixth sense. They know how to disappear and re-appear at just the right time. They know when a girl is just about to give up on them, so they send an email or a text. They know how to be vague, give false hope, and keep a girl’s interest perfectly. Unlike the kid in The Sixth Sense, they don’t see dead people. They would say instead, “I see vulnerable people.””

People actually get paid to compose this drivel.

Relationship-wibble tends to interest me because most of it is inflicted by people who haven’t yet learned that they’re not the centre of the universe. (Okay, technically they are, because everywhere is the centre of the universe, but never mind that.) Nobody thinks about them, critiques them, or obsesses over them as much as they suspect.

I discovered my own insignificance at the age of 19, and what a liberating experience it was! Pass the word and share the freedom: the most comforting thing in the world to hear are the words, ‘Nobody cares, dear.’

Feb 172009

Something I wrote in the previous post reminded me of this stupid shit that appears to have been shelved for the foreseeable future because it was stupid shit, and I wondered how I might construct a pledge of allegiance for the UK along the lines of the one we have in the US (which school-aged children are made to recite every morning for thirteen years).

Here is the American version:

I pledge allegiance to the flag
of the United States of America,
and to the republic for which it stands,
one nation, under God, indivisible,
with liberty and justice for all.

And my UK version:

I pledge allegiance to the symbolic representative item*
of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland,
And to the parliamentary democracy** for which it stands,
many nations, under the European Union, devolved,
with equality and social justice for all.

*The British flag has racist and overtly Christian connotations; the Queen of course represents outdated class privilege, and the monarchy in general is symbolically anti-democratic.

**’government-by-ministerial-fiat’ is too much of a mouthful.

I invite anybody else to have a crack at it, as I freely admit my own attempt is rather lame and half-assed.

Feb 172009

It’s Tuesday again, and so I wander over to the Guardian to read Polly’s latest, this time a piece about teen pregnancy (can’t fault her for the relevance factor, what with this tiny-tot father all over the news) and the failure of New Labour.

The failure of New Labour, you may ask? Indeed, she has said this very thing, although as is her wont, not in the same way most of us might say it.

She begins from the unstated premise that teen pregnancy is not a good thing, although her reasoning is a bit skewed:

Britain’s teenage pregnancy rates are appalling, with only the US worse in the west. Why? Because teen pregnancy tracks inequality. That does not absolve Alfie, Chantelle and their parents of their personal responsibilities. But the most unequal nations have the greatest number of dysfunctional families, unless the cycle is broken by determined and expensive intervention in generation after generation.

Teenage parenthood is linked to higher crime rates, poverty, and disadvantage in the children of teen mothers, as well as a greater likelihood for those children to become teenaged parents themselves. However, contrary to what Polly implies, teenage parenthood is generally correlated as the cause of those things, not a result of them. Teen pregnancy doesn’t track inequality; it precedes it.

Never mind that, though. We all agree, though perhaps for different reasons, that there should be less teenage pregnancy. Why has New Labour failed to achieve this?

First, and most disastrous, David Blunkett, at education, point-blank refused to introduce compulsory top-quality sex education. (No, don’t even stop to think about that one.) Only now is Labour at last introducing it in an autumn bill – amid fears it might get fatally delayed or succumb to the Mail’s mad anti-sex education campaign.

Translation: the government was pressured, not by the electorate, but by the Daily Mail, into not imposing a forced centrally-planned educational decree on schools.

Why else did they fail?

…money was found to provide good contraceptive clinics, but it was given to local health services with neither ringfencing nor monitoring to see that it was actually spent on teenage clinics. Why not? Because the government has been politically intimidated into ordering “less top-down” and more “local”, with disastrous results for many key programmes.

Translation: the government gave local authorities tax moneys extorted from the nation at large, but failed to impose a forced centrally-planned spending decree on those authorities.

The teen pregnancy story is a good microcosm of the Labour years. To halve the rate was a colossal ambition. It was a far harder target than halving child poverty – no simple putting of money into tax credits can change the deep culture of sexual behaviour. Of all the things the state can and can’t do, making people have sex only with the right people at the right time is the least amenable to Whitehall action.

‘Least amenable,’ take note. Not, as the rest of sane humanity might say, ‘least possible or desirable.’

And so, Polly finishes up, the problem has not been Labour’s disastrous policies of rewarding teen parents with social housing and child benefit, thus creating an incentive for teenagers to procreate, nor the complete failure of a patriarchal society to get over its Puritanical hang-ups about sex. No, no! The problem is that Labour have not done enough to force top-down social planning, paid for by punitive taxation, on a society that does not match its ideal of equality and conformity for all:

Labour has tried, but most of Europe, under more decades of social democratic governments, has worked harder for longer. Too often Labour thought it could move mountains with teaspoons, making Swedish promises with neither Swedish taxes, nor the will to force social democratic policies on to local services. There will be plenty more Alfie, Shannon and Baby P stories – testaments not to a worsening “broken Britain” but to a low tax, weak social policy century that Labour has only started to improve.

Fucking hell, Polly: even when you get it right, you get it wrong.

Feb 162009

Via the ASI blog, its daily blog review always a source of good stuff, I have come across this explanation of why Valentine’s day is rational from an economic standpoint. No. 4 appears to me to be the most convincing:

4. Rationality as counter-signalling. If a woman is looking for commitment, she’ll not want a narrow utility maximizer, because such a man will leave her the moment a better offer comes along.

The prospect of being traded in for a better model is the source of most people’s insecurity in romantic relationships. I speak from experience as a maximizer of utility.

Feb 162009

A new version of the Hail Mary, over at Lambeth Palace. I liked it so much, I’ve put it into Latin:

Ave, Gordon, gratia carens,
Dominus non tecum.
Vituperatus tu in hominibus
et vituperatus fructus laborum tuorum, recessio.
Nefas Gordon, pater incompetentiae,
interveni usque non adeo pro nobis civibus
nunc et in hora mortis perduellionis.

Feb 142009

Although I suspected something like it might be on the way, I was rather unprepared yesterday to be called into the office of my boss and the bursar and told that, as of July, I will no longer have a job. I put something on the blog briefly yesterday, but I was in no shape to write a considered analysis of the position in which I found myself, and it is only now, after copious applications of beer and sympathy, that I feel calm enough to say anything worthwhile.

In October 2008, the UK Home Office changed its immigration policy vis a vis overseas nationals. They could not, of course, do anything about immigration from within the EU. Previously, visa and work-permit applications were reviewed on a case-by-case basis (with, you understand, the payment of accompanying fees), and under that system, renewing my own work-permit and leave to remain was quite easy. I teach; teaching is a shortage occupation; my criminal record is clean; end of story.

The new system is points-based and extraordinarily complex. My background and qualifications (or lack thereof; see here) do not add up to the requisite number of points. The essential problem comes from my lack of formal teaching qualification, and this has always been a bit of a catch-22: I cannot work without the PGCE, but I cannot afford to do the PGCE unless I work. There are ways around that lack of paper-qualification, which I was going to undertake in the 2009-2010 school year.

Under the old system, while all secondary-education teaching was considered a shortage occupation, my employers did not have to prove that they could not find a British or EU national to employ to do my job. Under the new system, only the teaching of maths and sciences is considered shortage, and I teach neither. If the school wished to continue employing me, it would first have to advertise the position, interview candidates, then prove conclusively that, despite my lack of a PGCE, I am still more qualified than the native candidates. (My having worked in the post for the past two years does not, unfortunately, count toward that proof.)

But the school does not wish to continue employing me. I do not have the points; they cannot prove on paper that I’m better than other applicants; and the time for advertising teaching posts is now.

‘We are very satisfied with the work you do,’ said the head. ‘Under other circumstances, we would be keeping you on. But there are criminal penalties now for flouting the new immigration laws, and the school hasn’t the time to wait and see if you can find a loophole.’

I have lived in the UK for several years now, and I have worked in this job at this school for two of them. The school is lovely, the pupils are engaging, the subjects I teach are enjoyable and fascinating, and the staff I work with are friendly and intelligent. My flat is pleasant, and my flatmate is wonderful. The friends I’ve made in this country are close and dear to me. I have grown used to living here, to the British way of doing things, to the British sense of humour and British hospitality. When I return to the US every now and then to visit my family, I feel alien there, and things about the way people live and think in the US bother me in a way they never used to.

Sometimes I bitch about being a foreigner in the UK – it’s impossible to get a credit card, for instance, and too many people ask me what I think of Bush and/or Obama – but it’s a hell of a lot better than being a foreigner in my native country, which is how I feel every time I go back. There is nothing for me in the US except my family, and the best family in the world cannot compensate for everything I will have to give up if I return to the US. I like the UK. I don’t want to leave.

Restrictions on immigration are something that have never particularly appealed to me, a libertarian. I support the free movement of labour, although I realise that on a tiny island like Great Britain, that’s not a terribly good policy. Restrictions may be necessary because space and housing are at a premium. But I cannot support any policy that puts me, and people like me, out of a job. Under the old system, I was a tax-paying asset to the common weal; under the new system, I am a dirty foreigner stealing a British job from a British worker. And yet the only thing that has changed is the system – not me.

And so to keep anti-immigration fucknuts happy, and to compensate for its inability to restrict immigration from EU countries, the British government is going to throw me out of my job and my home, and the British people will give their assent without a murmur.