Monday, August 27, 2007

Will he get Away with it?

Jeremy Clarkson is probably Britain's most incorrect writer but he is known for humorous exaggeration so I think the thought police have given up on him. He certainly sprays his slurs far and wide. But maybe there are some serious arguments lurking there. He is very popular. I think he puts in an exaggerated way what lots of Brits think but fear to say:

"And then came the latest migration figures, which showed that while Britain received 5.4 billion west African pickpockets last year, we lost what the Daily Mail calls 196,000 British citizens. White, middle-class families who have moved abroad.....

Australia is where you go when you've made a mess of everything. That's why the 1.3m Brits who live there are known as whingeing Poms. Because they're all failures....

But mostly, I suspect the people who move from Britain to the States do so because they are interested in guns and murdering. Twice I've bumped into expats while in America and both times they were wandering around in woods carrying preposterously large guns and wearing combat fatigues

The fact is, I'm afraid, that anyone who emigrates from Britain, no matter where they end up, is a bit of a dimwit.


Clarkson is a lot like an American shock jock but he is in fact a motoring writer in The Times -- the most prestigious national daily.

Britain's traditional "Public" (independent) schools still rule the roost

The Leftist British government has had all sorts of schemes to close the social class gap but because the schemes have been based on false theories ("all men are equal" etc.), they have tended to achieve the opposite of what was supposed to happen

Eton College is the top-performing school in the country at A level for the first time in more than 13 years, according to the The Times table of leading schools this year. The school's success also illustrates another trend - the narrowing gap in overall achievement between boys and girls. Although girls continue to outperform boys nationally, the gap is closing and seven of the top ten schools in this year's table of leading schools admit boys. The highest-placed girls-only school is North London Collegiate School, in fourth position.

Eton, like other boys' private schools, tends to score the bulk of points on the scale operated by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (Ucas) by entering its pupils for more exams than the girls' schools, which earn more of their league table Ucas points from getting grade As.

But the table, which includes independent and state schools, is headed by two private schools that have abandoned A levels altogether in favour of the International Baccalaureate (IB). The return to top form of Eton, the nation's most elite school and alma mater of princes William and Harry, comes under the headship of Tony Little.

Mr Little attributed his school's A-level success to its studiously non-academic approach. "My belief is that if you set up a good pastoral structure and you provide rich extracurricular activities, such as music, sport and theatre, then the academic results will follow. It pleases me that this year of boys who have done so well at A level have also done well outside the classroom." He added that the school's rowing eight won the national schools championship this year, while the theatre group staged a festival of plays written by the boys themselves. "I would be very concerned if people thought we were the kind of institution concerned with academic performance only," Mr Little said.

This approach is in keeping with the ethos of the school, which has never felt the need to be judged on its academic credentials, resting comfortably instead on the knowledge that its very name will bestow on its pupils a unique place in society unmatched by any other educational establishment.

The school's top-performing student this year, however, is unashamedly academic in his approach. Marius Ostrowski, who set a school A-level record with ten A grades, said that he was primarily motivated by "love of the subjects" and "the fact I am good at them".

Although his performance is exceptional, Mr Ostrowski, 18, neatly illustrates the phenomenon noted by exam board chiefs last week of a widening gulf in A-grade achievement between the independent and state sector. Figures released by the Independent Schools Council (ISC) yesterday confirmed this trend, showing that this year for the first time half of all A-level entries in ISC member schools scored an A grade. This compares with 25 per cent nationally.

Sevenoaks School in Kent, which only eight years ago was placed 40th among private schools at A level, broke through the 600 mark on the Ucas points scale with 619.7. It is followed by three other IB schools, headed by Hockerill Anglo-European College in Bishop's Stortford, Hertfordshire, the top-performing state school in the table. Next are King's College School in Wimbledon, with 529 points, and North London Collegiate for Girls, whose pupils take A levels and the IB, with 500 points.

The success of the IB schools will add pressure on other schools to introduce the qualification instead of or alongside A levels. Students taking the IB study six subjects as well as completing an extended essay and a course in the theory of knowledge.

The only other state school in the top ten is Queen Elizabeth's School, Barnet, a grammar school that has remained with the A level. Despite immense government investment in state schools, for A-level entries in science, technology, maths and languages, the ISC data show the continued dominance of independent schools in these subjects.


Destructive British Leftist "non judgmentalism" bears fruit

It is no exaggeration to say that today's children have been betrayed by today's adults. The killing of 11-year-old Rhys Jones in Liverpool is a direct consequence of a mass abdication of responsibility by the generations that should have been protecting him - and his murderer, too. I am not talking about Rhys's grieving mother and father, who are loving parents of the sort every child should have. I mean the agencies of state, from police officers and local authorities to those in Whitehall and Westminster who have turned their backs on adult obligations and discouraged the rest of us from taking them on.

Although we are the most spied-upon nation in Europe and although we have spent billions on social renewal schemes, we have reached a state in which children and teenagers in big cities live in terror of other children and teenagers and in despair of protection from adults. They carry knives because they are afraid. They are afraid on their way to and from school and they learn almost nothing when they get there, partly because adults don't protect them from bullying, thieving and disruption. Teachers have either lost or relinquished their authority and children can expect little or no guidance and protection from them, or from their parents, or from council care, or from the police.

Children know the police cannot protect them from gang leaders and that they would be daft to cooperate as witnesses. I know of two boys who were tortured by a young teenager to stop them giving evidence against him. For many young people in inner cities, there is no alternative to the comparative safety of gang life.

Since January eight young people have died in shootings - six in London, one in Manchester and now one in Liverpool. According to Home Office figures, the total number of young people aged between five and 16 who were murdered, one way or another, has gone down from 44 in 1995 to 20 in 2005-6 (and 40% of these were killed by a parent). However, overall gun killings went up from 49 in 2005-6 to 58 in 2006-7, which is a big leap.

Knife crime has gone up and knife owning is becoming common: 12 teenagers have been stabbed to death since the beginning of this year. The Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London found that between 22,000 and 57,000 young people could have been the victims of knife crime in 2004; without better official data it is impossible to know. It is clear that violent crime among those under 18 has risen for four consecutive years. And it is increasingly clear that, like mass illiteracy and innumeracy, this is at root due to an adult flight from responsibility - a loss of a sense of proper authority, replaced by a misguided pursuit of improper authority.

Take policing, the first, thin line of protection. I find it incredible to learn that there are known gangs in Croxteth, where Rhys was shot (as in Peckham, where Damilola Taylor was stabbed). If the police know of these gangs, why don't they control them with all possible severity? Why don't they watch them ceaselessly and remove the ringleaders with Asbos? Why don't they have police on the beat, as politicians keep promising? Of course they know of these gangs. Recognising the gravity of gang gun crime, Merseyside police set up a special unit called Matrix two years ago with 200 officers. Why aren't they patrolling the danger spots aggressively? If 200 officers are not enough, why aren't there more?

According to locals, the car park where Rhys died had become a meeting place for gangs, yet plans to have police there between 8pm and midnight were withdrawn last May. A camera was proposed for this coming October. It is depressing by comparison that a camera was already in place on a beach in Sussex to catch two girls exposing their breasts, and police were available to arrest and charge them, and accompany them to court last week (though the case was later dropped), while nobody from our busybody state was watching the known troublespot where Rhys died.

There was also police time and presence enough in Wythenshawe, Greater Manchester, this month to arrest a boy who threw a sausage at a man in the street and to charge him with assault, for which he could stand trial at vast expense. A police culture that permits this is the culture of Nero - fiddling with cocktail sausages while the inner cities burn.

The police are not entirely to blame, however. It is not their fault that under politically correct micromanagement from Whitehall, policing has become pen pushing, forcing them off the beat. Alistair McWhirter, a former chief constable of Suffolk, recently made the well-known point that officers spend much of their time doing preposterous amounts of paperwork. A file for a simple assault case contained 128 pieces of paper and had been handled by more than 50 people before it got to court. Recording an arrest will take up at least a morning of an officer's time in paperwork. It was irresponsible enough to dream up such a time-wasting procedure; it has been almost criminally irresponsible, after several years of complaint, to continue with it. This is the betrayal of the Whitehall mandarins, who have insisted on this nonsense, in all public services, backed by government.

The failures of the police are only one part of a complex collection of social problems and if society is broken, the police can hardly be expected to fix it. What's needed is a passionate backlash against irresponsibility and irresponsible, misguided waste and the terrible state sector mentality that promotes both. It's this mentality that has produced teachers who can't or won't teach, school leavers who are unemployable, students who can't study, feckless parents, broken homes, police who are obsessed with things that don't matter, neighbours who dare not stand up to other people's children, jails overcrowded with the wrong people, idiotic state sector make-work, intrusive quangos imposing idiotic make-work and the divisive follies of multiculturalism and uncontrolled immigration. Until we begin to stand up against all these things, we can probably expect more senseless killings of children.


The "Mindfit" claim

Don't line the pockets of the lady below until an independently replicated double-blind evaluation of it emerges in the journals. It's theoretically possible that it is helpful but my guess would be that the effects in adults are marginal and temporary

Baroness Susan Greenfield, the neuroscientist, is to launch an exercise programme for the brain that she claims is proven to reverse the mental decline associated with ageing. Greenfield, who is also director of the Royal Institution, maintains that Britain's baby-boomers are discovering that concentrating on physical fitness is no longer sufficient preparation for old age. "What concerns me is preserving the brain too," she said. "There is now good scientific evidence to show that exercising the brain can slow, delay and protect against age-related decline."

Greenfield will launch MindFit, a PC-based software program, at the House of Lords next month, for the "worried but well" - people in their middle years who are healthy and want to stay that way. Created by researchers in Israel and already on sale in America, it offers users inter-active puzzles and tasks that are claimed to stimulate the brain just as using a gym exercises the body's muscles. "There is evidence that such stimulation prompts brain cells to start branching out and form new connections with other cells," said Greenfield.

The baroness's decision to lend her name to MindFit and to take a significant stake in Mind-Weavers, the company promoting it, could raise eyebrows among fellow scientists. Her high profile in the media has rankled with some and she was twice snubbed by the Royal Society.

The idea that the performance of the brain can be improved by exercises or potions has a long and controversial history. There have also been scientific battles over the claims made for dietary supplements, especially fish oils, and so-called smart drugs. The latter have been shown to cause a short-term increase in IQ but the long-term secondary effects are unknown.

Greenfield's decision to promote MindFit, which will retail for around 70 pounds, follows the release of new scientific research apparently showing clear benefits. In the latest research, conducted at the Sourasky Medical Centre at Tel Aviv University in Israel, 121 volunteers aged over 50 were asked to spend 30 minutes, three times a week, on the computer, over a period of two years. Half were assigned to use MindFit and the other half played sophisticated computer games. The results, released at a recent academic conference and due for formal publication shortly, showed that while all the volunteers benefited from using computer games, the MindFit users "experienced significantly greater improvement in short-term memory, visuo-spatial learning and focused attention".

Greenfield, who also runs an Oxford University laboratory researching the causes of degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, found out about MindFit through her extensive links with Israel and decided to bring it to Britain. "It is clear that there is no drug on the horizon to treat Alzheimer's or age-related mental decline so I have long been interested in seeing whether stimulating the brain might offer a way of Greenfield is launching a program designed in Israel. Kidman, left, is the new face of Nintendo, which already sells Brain Training games slowing down these changes," she said.

Other researchers are also convinced that people can rejuvenate their brain with exercise. Ryuta Kawashima, professor of neuroscience at Tohoku University in Japan, spent 15 years investigating how mental exertion helps the brain grow. His work became the basis of the Brain Training and More Brain Training computer games, produced by Nintendo, the console manufacturer. Nicole Kidman, the actress, fronts its latest British advertising campaign. Nintendo itself makes no formal scientific claims for the programs but Kawashima said in a recent book: "My brain exercises increase the delivery of oxygen, blood and various amino acids to the prefrontal cortex. The result is more neurons and neural connections, which are characteristics of a healthy brain."

Other researchers accept such ideas in principle but warn that any system claiming to boost mental ability must prove itself in clinical trials.


A hated airport

With the possible exception of the Bastille in July 1789, Heathrow Airport appears to have become the most loathed building in history. An extraordinarily wide range of people seem to have nothing but contempt for it. This coalition stretches from City types who condemn the time it takes to pass through check-in and security, more humble folk who find their flights delayed because the place is operating at well above capacity, almost anyone in West London whose life is blighted by aircraft noise to environmentalists who have fingered it as the single largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the country and who are targeting the place with "direct action" reminiscent of Greenham Common in the 1980s.

And at least some of this criticism is fair. It cannot be said that any of the terminals there are exemplars of architectural beauty (incidentally, when so many people are frightened of flying, was it such a smart idea to call an airline hub a "terminal"?). The security measures are tiresome and open to the charge that they are designed to prevent methods employed in past terrorist attacks being duplicated, rather than to anticipate the techniques that might be devised in future.

The advent of the smoking ban has led to the surreal spectacle of those addicted to the weed not merely being condemned to stand outside but also directed to a ludicrous small white box painted on the pavement which is the only spot where they are allowed to indulge their habit.

Heathrow seems, therefore, to be the only place in Britain which investment bankers, al-Qaeda sympathisers and Friends of the Earth have all decided for various reasons that they would like to be shot of. There is a consensus that the airport and what it represents -- inexpensive flying -- is "unsustainable". Who would be mad enough to defend it and, indeed, the aviation industry more broadly?

I would. For this airport is the victim of an unappealing mixture of hypocrisy and hyperbole. The analogy with Greenham Common is more appropriate than merely the appearance of the professional protesters who turned out then as now. The essential argument of those who set up camp in Berkshire in the early 1980s was that the deployment of cruise missiles on British soil made nuclear war, and with it the destruction of mankind, more probable. This, as history would illustrate, proved to be precisely the wrong thesis. The willingness of the West to match Russian rearmament would actually be the undoing of the Soviet Union. The Camp for Climate Action is similarly aiming its fire at what is a false villain.

There can be fewer hypocrisies greater than the rising percentage of people who claim to agree with the statement that there should be "less flying" and the surging proportion of the public who turn to the websites of easyJet and Ryanair in the hope of finding a seat to Venice for less than the price of a tank of petrol.

When most commentators demand less unnecessary flying, what they really mean is that other people should fly less, or that those poorer than themselves should be forced to fund the "full" cost of their travel through the imposition of new taxation on aviation fuel. It used to be said (correctly) that travel broadened the mind. It has become fashionable instead to portray it as a wanton act of rape and pillage upon the planet. Yet is it? Most serious analysts concede that flying is not at present a significant factor in overall carbon emissions, though they warn darkly that it might well become so at some unspecified moment in the future, with estimates ranging as high as a quarter of the British total of emissions in perhaps no more than two decades.

A sense of proportion here would be helpful. Airline emissions now account for 5.5 per cent of the 2 per cent of global carbon dioxide output for which the United Kingdom is responsible (which is to say, a rather small amount). To ratchet up the 5.5 to a prediction of 25 per cent in 2025 (by which time the UK's percentage of the entire carbon stock is forecast to fall) demands extrapolation that Malthus at his most apocalyptic could not have managed. It involves assuming that the phenomenal increase in passenger numbers of the past 50 years will be maintained at an equivalent rate (which is incredible) and takes little account of technological innovation by the industry. This innovation has already been substantial and there is every incentive for the airlines to continue to clean up further and faster.

So the charge that the present pattern of air travel is "unsustainable" is both true and immaterial. It is true in the sense that low-cost travel of the sort that has become familiar in the past decade will not be reinvented every decade hence, and so will not be sustained. It is immaterial because, even if the Camp for Climate Action were awarded its wish and flying priced out of existence, the effect on the environment would be meagre. It is convenient to pick on a big airport and those who own it, but the reality is that most of us are responsible for more carbon emissions through our lax attitudes to energy efficiency in the home, and more pollution because most of our car journeys are trips of two miles or less.

Heathrow will become a much less hellish experience when Terminal 5 is opened in March and the third runway is finally constructed. It will never rival the Taj Mahal as a visual landmark, nor will standing in line at security ever be enjoyable. But to treat Heathrow as if it were the Bastille and besiege it is crazy. "Let them eat cake" was the wrong response to events in France in the 18th century. "Stop them flying" is scarcely more rational now.


There is a big new lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly incorrect themes of race and IQ.

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