Archive for January, 2004

Helping Those Who Cannot Help Themselves

January 24th, 2004

Following my post below about top-up fees, a correspondent writes to the Virtual Stoa:

It seems to me that there’s a perfectly straightforward line that Paul “The Thinker” Richards could have taken and which seems to me to be true and defensible (though difficult to defend on, say Newsnight or Question Time – for obvious reasons). Namely, that the what was denoted by “top-up fees” in the manifesto is something other than what is denoted by “top-up fees” in the current proposals and debate. That is to say, that what it was proposed to outlaw in the manifesto was the idea (then floated by some Vice-Chancellors) that universities should be able to charge in addition to the �1000 basic fee, a further fee at their discretion. The current proposals — no money up front, fixed ceiling to the fees, some element of variability, moderately painless and income-dependent repayment scheme — are different: the variable fees aren’t a top-up to other basic fees in the way previously suggested.

That sounds right, but what’s curious is that while Blair hinted at this line of argument in his Newsnight interview, when he stressed on a couple of occasions that the new funding system was quite unlike the old one, his main line of defence is still the sophistry that no manifesto promise is being broken in virtue of the fact that the fees won’t be in force until after the next election.Even that, of course, is a better line to take than Paul “The Thinker” Richards’ claim that manifesto promises don’t matter, words which I trust will return to haunt him if he is ever foolish enough to stand again for election to Parliament.

P.S. I see, incidentally, that Paul “The Thinker” Richards has been admonishing various anonymous bloggers here and here for their point-scoring activities and telling them to “clear off”. If it were to be the case that he’s thinking of me — wouldn’t it be nice? — this would provide further evidence of his contempt for his own readers, given that he hasn’t yet intervened to correct the untruths on the post on which I was commenting, and of which he would now be aware, but prefers to leave his falsehoods unedited and unacknowledged in order to continue to mislead those who stumble across his Thoughts.

P.P.S. S.i.a.A.o.W. raised the question of intemperance. For some of the reasons why I have such contempt for Paul “The Thinker” Richards and waste my own time drawing attention to his failings on my blog, see these earlier posts here, here and here from last November.

Tanti auguri a te

January 24th, 2004

Tenth birthday greetings, then, to everyone’s least favourite rightist political formation headed by a megalomaniac media-baron, Forza Italia!

How to Philosophise with a Hammer:

January 24th, 2004

Inspired by the recent PMLA conference, the excellent John Holbo returns to the subject of Bad Writing

Then We’re Doomed

January 24th, 2004

Backword Dave writes: “if there is hope, it lies in the Virtual Stoa, etc”.

(I like that “etc.”)

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

January 24th, 2004

Brian Leiter is interested in whether there is, or is ever going to be, scientific analysis of bloggers’ personalities, and reckons there’s probably quite a few cases of narcissistic personality disorder out there in the World of Blogs:

The symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder include:

  • a grandiose sense of self-importance
  • a belief in one’s specialness and one’s entitlement to associate with distinguished people and institutions
  • lack of empathy,
  • envy
  • arrogant, haughty, behavior
  • requires excessive admiration
  • He might be right.

    Thwack the Penguin

    January 24th, 2004

    Penguin Cricket is great fun, and Mrs Tilton seems to have become quite expert. [Via Jade Farrington.]

    After-dinner discussion

    January 24th, 2004

    Chris Lightfoot has a good, inconclusive discussion of murder stats over on his blog.

    New Favourite?

    January 22nd, 2004

    Just curious: is there anyone out there who doesn’t like Alison Krauss?

    Stupid, ignorant or dishonest? You decide

    January 22nd, 2004

    As I’ve probably remarked before, much of what appears on New Labour wannabe Paul “The Thinker” Richards’ blog is stupid, though (to my shame) I find myself strangely gripped by what passes for his arguments and am unable to resist visiting his site from time to time to see what’s new.

    Here he is, responding to the uncomfortable fact that Labour’s 2001 manifesto contained these not especially ambiguous words: “We will not introduce ‘top-up’ fees and have legislated to prevent them.” OK. Over to Paul “The Thinker” Richards:

    The Labour Party 2001 manifesto is invoked by opponents of the tuition fees Bill and others as though it was some kind of legal contract. This is part of the mythology of the Labour party: that manifestos are sacrosanct and any deviation from the pledges therein is a betrayal of the Labour movement. The Tories never had this problem. Famously, privatisation didn’t appear in their 1979 manifesto – they just made it up as they went along once in office.
    It’s stirring stuff… but it’s also stuff and nonsense. (Fittingly, his post is titled, “Manifesto Nonsense”).

    I’ll let the general argument — that it’s OK for parties to do X in government even when the manifesto specifically promises not to do X — pass without critical examination. All I’m going to do here is quote a chunk of the Conservatives’ 1979 manifesto, to give a sense of the extent to which Paul “The Thinker” Richards writes without any regard for the truth whatsoever. Here’s a bit from the section on nationalisation:

    “We will offer to sell back to private ownership the recently nationalised aerospace and shipbuilding concerns, giving their employees the opportunity to purchase shares.

    “We aim to sell shares in the National Freight Corporation to the general public in order to achieve substantial private investment in it…”

    So if the Tories “just made it up as they went along”, as Paul “The Thinker” Richards alleges — and it is true that in their first term the Tories sold off a few things not mentioned in the manifesto — it turns out that they made it up by following lines clearly laid down in the manifesto; and what is “famously” the case in the impoverished thoughtworld of Paul “The Thinker” Richards, turns out, in fact, to be false.

    Whereas in the case of Labour on tuition fees…

    I’ll stop there. It’s too easy.

    The answer to the quiz question at the top of the page, by the way, is almost certainly Al Gore, so if you’d like Paul “The Thinker” Richards to buy you a drink and — who knows? — share some of his Thoughts with you, just make sure you’re the first to pop the answer onto his comments board. I’d rather chew my own toes off.

    UPDATE [3.45pm, 22.1.2004]: OK: I was wrong about the last bit. Paul “The Thinker” Richards says it was Blair in a school production of his stupid play. If true (an important qualification which must stand in front of every claim made on his blog), then that’s a better answer than Gore, who took part in a performance at, I think, his teacher training college, which is only arguably perhaps a “school production”. Although given that Paul “The Thinker” Richards confuses Fidel Castro and Che Guevara a bit further down the page in his “Thoughts” on cigars, it may be that he’s mixing up Blair and Gore, too. Always a possibility.

    Dead Socialist Watch, #66 and #67

    January 21st, 2004

    Vladimir Ilych Ulyanov, better known to the world as Lenin, founder of Soviet communism, born 22 April 1870 (old style? new style? not sure) in Simbirsk, died 21 January 1924 in Moscow.

    Also Eric Arthur Blair, better known to the world as George Orwell, critic of Soviet communism, born Motihari, India, 25 June 1903; died London, England, 21 January 1950.

    Return of the Repressed

    January 21st, 2004

    So I removed Sitting on a Fence from the blogroll after a six-week gap in posting which was followed by Josh Cherniss’s announcement that he was barely ever going to post again. Since then, the posts have come thick and fast, so that he’s going back onto the sidebar — at least until he acts on his 14 January resolution to stop blogging quite so much…

    Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2004

    January 18th, 2004

    It’s the time of year when we turn our attention towards the Oxford Amnesty Lectures, which are wholly worthwhile.

    The twelfth series is about to begin, this year’s lectures addressing the theme, “Displacement, Asylum, Migration”. This year’s lecturers are Slavoj Zizek, Bhikhu Parekh, Caryl Phillips, Saskia Sassen, Harold Hongju Koh, Jacqueline Rose and Ali Mazrui, with the lectures taking place between 28 January and 27 February in the Sheldonian Theatre. Do come if you can.

    (Details, including information about how to get tickets, are here.)