58 thoughts on “Uncivilised

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  • Anonymous

    bring on the aircraft carriers I say….

    I think we will double the UK land mass when these blighters are built.

  • Anonymous

    oh and whilst we are talking about war (sort of), its nice that the Israels were trying to sell Nuclear weapons to South Africa in the 70’s, guess the ambiguity of ‘have they/havent they’ is now up with the release of secret documents

  • Clark

    In evidence to the House of Commons Defence Select Committee on 23 January 2007, the US nuclear expert Richard Garwin said that the plans [to replace Trident] were “premature and wasteful”, and that delaying the decision for 15 years following inexpensive engine repairs would save £5bn. He added that pressure to commission a new fleet of submarines was rooted in the shipbuilding industry’s urge to land lucrative contracts.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2007/jan/24/immigrationpolicy.weaponstechnology

  • caroline

    In theory I agree, however take a close look at Universities and the courses they have on offer and run and then dont run especially at adult ed ie part time courses. There is in my opinion a lot of veiled fraudulent behaviour going on. Some of these courses are so wishy washy it is beyond belief. Also, take a look at the students, the ones needing funding I know of several cases where students have pleaded poverty, got an emergency grant and used it to buy drugs the whole system needs sorting out so that people who really need funding get it, and those who bumble along getting rubbish grades get kicked out. The people who introduce courses need those courses to be verified that the content is of a high standard and is worthy of running. It is still a student numbers = funding situation which I feel is wholly wrong or at least mismanaged.

  • Parky

    I have come to the conclusion that during the past ten or so years many of the universities, colleges, examination boards, curriculum agencies and associated quangos are simply self-serving parasites sucking out the tax pounds to keep up the pretence of providing useful education and training. This has been part of the delusion and illusion of actually seen to be doing something useful while not actually providing anything of concrete and real value. This has been New Labour through and through.

    The main purpose of expanding the universities from what were perfectly good polytechnics providing useful education and training has been another scheme to expand the economy by providing loans to 18 year olds many of whom will not pay them off for many years ,if ever, while in the meantime accruing interest on that debt. The whole system is corrupt and the sooner an axe is taken to this “industry” and education and training courses funded properly by the state based on ability and necessity, the sooner the country will be onto the road to prosperity once more. A good clearing out is needed in UK Government and it’s agencies, hopefully it will be delivered shortly. There will be many complainers as the medicine takes effect but the tide has turned and the good times will not be rolling for years to come.

  • Richard Robinson

    “We look forward to the day when schools get the equipment they need, and the Air Force holds jumble sales to buy a new bomber”.

  • neil barker

    Craig, you barsteward, email me a free copy of Murder in Samarkand, please! I’m broke! I have no credit card and no credit anyway! I know you’re buying a house so your budget is stretched at the moment, but you can surely spare one little ebook for me?

  • Control

    Craig,

    Agree with you on the ringfencing of the defence budgets but I think the idea that the teritary education sector is not in need of a drastic over haul is wrong.

    As someone who went through the undergraduate process in recent years I would ask the following questions:

    – Why is it setup in such an inefficent way?

    – 3 years except it’s not. Once you take out the long holidays the actual term time is drastically reduced.

    – Oh but the long summers allow the academic staff to go on the conference circuit and top up their (albeit generally meagre) wages.

    Putting an arbitary figure on the percentage of people who should go into higher education was a massive mistake by the previous regime. Many of those at university are not there for a love of learning but to delay going into the employment market and because they have been raised to believe that is the only way to gain access to the employment market.

    -Many of the courses – worthless

    -International students are seen as cash cows to milk for every last penny

    -Academics use PHD students to take the lions share of the lectures / seminars.

    What concerns me more about the cutting of universities is that the government are not resolving the problems are even acknowledging. In just merely cutting budgets and allowing the universitys to deal with the issues (in the hope that they become more efficent) means that the underlying problems will merely be exacerbated. More foreign students coming with open minds and being subjected to less than rigirous intellectual environments.

    You talk about the message our foreign policy sends out but never address the parlous state of our higer education institutes and consequences of this on our standing in the world.

    -Control

  • Anonymous

    so breakin gup the banks, removing the ability for public funds to be plaed on the stock market, removing the ability for pension funds to be played on the stock market, kicking into touch PFI whens that gonna happen then? what about civil service performanc bonus’s? when are they gonna be tackled?

  • James Cranch

    Control,

    An overhaul is not the same thing as a budget cut.

    I don’t know what bit of academia you’ve seen, but in the subject I work in (mathematics), the summer activity of going to conferences doesn’t earn you a penny. There is often travel and accommodation expenses for speakers; certainly not for nonspeakers. Expenses, as in they take receipts and reimburse them.

    And I don’t know of any other summertime ways of increasing income that happen on a large scale.

    Also, I’ve only seen a PhD student give a lecture as a substitute in case of illness. It is very much a last resort in all three universities I’ve been at.

    Are your experiences very different? What’s your subject?

  • writerman

    The question about the quality of higher education and its worth, is, perhaps, a little complex to get into here, and arguably irrelevant in relation to Craig’s general point; and that is the choices we make as a society about where scarce resources are best allocated, and what benefits society over the long term.

    The UK “defence” budget, is grossly inflated, way beyond what is necessary to “defend” Britain. But, of course, that’s not really what its for, the defence of Britain.

    The military budget is a kind of totem, or national symbol, designed to project and illustrate the kind of country and people we think we are; that is, a great power. The inflated military budget allows us to percieve ourselves as larger and more important than we actually are. It allows us to “fight above our weight” on the world scene, as this is important.

    Especially important since the debacle of World War Two, when Britain effectively bankrupted itself, lost an empire, and became a de facto US protectorate in all but name.

    Today, after a thirty year party paid for by the North Sea oil and gas revenues, and increasingly by massive debt creation; the “party” is definitively over for most people, and the time has come to pay the bill.

    For over thirty years the UK economy has been criminally and stupidly mismanaged by successive governments. The idea of allowing the manufacturing base to whither and die, replacing it with the bloated financial sector, was madness; but that’s another story.

    The UK should have a military comparable to… to Austria. A country that accepted the loss of its empire and international status; unlike Britain which preferred to hang on to a dream, and expensive dream, for as long as possible, because the dream disguised the true of extent of its loss of real power.

    Trident, in a nutshell, is a giant phalus symbol struting up from the waves that Britania no longer rules.

  • The Druid

    Agree that the idea of setting top down targets for university places was misguided.

    Ive always felt it is more important to get education at the primary and secondary levels right. Create world class education at the grass roots, so people can develop a taste for education whether they are wealthy or poor.

    If you get that right then higher education will be easier to sort out along real, meritocratic lines, as opposed to who can afford to do it.

    People should be encouraged to do what they will enjoy and what will be most useful to their careers and to society. For some that will be vocational training, for some that will be PPE and for some that will be mechanical engineering.

  • The Druid

    Fantastic comments, Writerman. Agree wholeheartedly on the points about the military. “A US protectorate in all but name.” Nicely put. Which is why I believe scrapping Trident makes sense: the NPT asks other countries to operate under the umbrella of US protection. If we can expect Germany, Japan and even Iran to do that, I dont see why we cant feel safe with the same level of protection.

    There has been a lot of grand talk about accepting the mess this country is in and adapting to it. And yet we cannot let go of a long since defunct status as a world superpower which costs as far more than we can afford.

  • MJ

    But the UK’s military might is far more than symbolic. It is being put to great practical use. The occupation of Afghanistan, as with Iraq, is a huge military operation. It is costing us something like £3 billion a year.

    Over 60% of the people are against the occupation and want an immediate withdrawal, yet the idea is not even discussed. So on whose behalf is our money being spent? Certainly not ours.

    Today the coalition government unveiled plans to cut public spending by £600 million, a mere fifth of the cost of being in Afghanistan.

  • writerman

    What concerns me is the remarkable symetry between the first Great Depression in the 1930’s and this one, though in some respects things are potentially worse, at least for the advanced, western economies.

    It’s astonishing to see governments planning massive cuts to their spending at a time like this, when one should be doing the opposite, stimulating the economy and demand, not axing vital areas.

    The question of the huge debts incurred in more complex than is apparent. Does one really succeed by cutting one’s way out of a depression? This leads us way back to the 1930’s and the strategy adopted before the New Deal, a strategy that made the Depression worse, at least that’s the concencus view.

    But did Keynes’ recipe really work back then, or was it the Second World War that saved Capitalism and got the wheels turning again, replacing all that was destroyed and artificially creating demand? Creative destruction on a global scale?

    These are obviously complex and vast questions. Like, is war and the destruction it brings, an integral part of the capitalist model? The final lifeline for a system which has ground to a halt, and needs the ultimate stimulus package? Clearly, one would prefer the answer to be a catagoric “No!” this isn’t part of capiltalism’s DNA!

    The scary thing is, that I believe the current government’s economic policies are going to make things far, far, worse, not better. In this depression the middle classes are going to be hit hard, so hard they may cease to exist. A social class, historically on their way out, state left. After all, isn’t that what happened to the working class over the last few decades?

    Capitalism was, is, a collosal power that can change societies beyond recognition, a revolutionary force; but destroying the old ways of producing and living, has negative costs as well. All revolutionary change isn’t necessarily postive, and certainly not for everyone.

    Britain’s position isn’t an enviable one. One has created a vast, bloated, edifice of material over-consumption that simply isn’t built on a solid and sustainable economic and productive foundantion. The country is too rich by far. Only the wealth is an illusion, based on giant confidence trick of massive proportions, created by successive governments, a monumental house of cards.

  • writerman

    I was referring to Trident as the most obvious and grotesque example of how resources are wasted on military excess for “symbolic” purposes.

    In purely practical terms, to waste so much on weapons designed to wipe out cities, when our soldiers are fighting a colonial/imperialist war against a mobile guerrilla army, seems somewhat odd. Precisely what state is supposed to be a nuclear threat to the UK that we need to invest so much in the Trident project? Surely we have to debate this sensibly and rationally? Are we really supposed to assume that Britain will be involved in a conflict with Iran or North Korea and therefore Trident is vital to our national security? If it’s not them, where does the threat come from? Or are we planning to spend a fortune on an unidentified and potentially non-existant threat?

  • ScouseBilly

    Writerman, agree with all you have posted.

    I wonder are you aware of Common Purpose’s role in our wasteful dysfunctional state?

  • writerman

    The central question, which should be at the forefront of the “debate” about Trident, is, what is it for exactly? This is a deceptively simple question, yet it goes to the core of why Britain has nuclear weapons. If Trident is useless in the war against terror where do we plan to use it and under what circumstances? Can the UK even use Trident without the sanction of the United States? Does the UK have access to all the firing codes for the system, or are they held for safe keeping by the United States? Does Britain really, truly, have a totally independent nuclear deterrent? Can one envisage the UK using or fighting a nuclear war independently of the United States?

    These are crucial questions that should be asked and debated before we allocate vast resources towards the purchase and maintenance of Trident, at the last count in excess of 130 billion over twenty years.

    And where are the precious Liberal Democrats here, in this vital, democratic debate? Was their opposition to Trident merely window dressing, signifying nothing much, but never-the-less, good for the soul and a good chat-up line to get laid?

  • MJ

    Writerman: you asked “is war and the destruction it brings, an integral part of the capitalist model?”

    I’d say no, it’s an integral part of having a fiat currency system issued and controlled by global finance. The banksters love war – are dependent on it in fact. First they lend to both sides to fight the war, getting them in debt; then they lend to both sides afterwards to finance the reconstruction, getting them in even more debt.

    Then you ask “Precisely what state is supposed to be a nuclear threat to the UK that we need to invest so much in the Trident project?”

    Of course there isn’t one. Or at least if it got to the point where we were seriously considering using them then we would already be done for. The point about Trident is surely related to the above. The people who own the military-industrial complex are the banksters. They insist that we buy there useless garbage otherwise they will make life very difficult indeed. It’s finacial blackmail, pure and simple.

  • Parky

    the question should be asked why is the UK under a greater threat than say Italy, Spain, Greece, Sweden, Norway, Holland and Belgium? These countries don’t have nuclear weapons but seem non the worse for that. In fact they seem much better for it with far superior public transport and health systems. We along with the American populations have for many years been sold a big big lie and by and large it has been swallowed whole. Only now with the wheels falling off the cart do we see the folly of previous policies. Sadly I fear there are too many powerful vested interests for these policies to change in the short term.

  • writerman

    Common Purpose? I think, years ago, I went on course, but that was only because I knew a young women who was involved. I had absolutely no interest in Common Purpose, but I was interested in her. Craig and I have many of the same “weaknesses” in relation to young women.

  • MickS

    I’d agree but for one thing. The crazy, international league table driven, edict from Zanu Labour that 50% of 18 year olds should go to University. Sadly our education system isn’t capable of ensuring that this percentage of students are capable of gaining a worthwhile degree. The upshot is a dilution of what were good degrees, and an increase in fig-leaf qualifications.

  • Alfred

    A nation that cannot control its territory will ultimately control nothing. But a nation without a an educational system among the best in the world cannot hope to maintain for long the industrial technology necessary to support an effective and independent defense establishment.

    As Caroline and others have noted, Britain’s system of higher education is, despite the undoubted merit of some of its components and participants, mostly crap: a bureaucratic system designed to fulfill the needs of the academic bureaucrats who run it, and to keep young people immature, inexperienced and irresponsible and out of the workforce for as long as possible.

    Thus, any cuts to higher education will likely be beneficial, even though they will be implemented by the educational bureaucrats so as to achieve the most damage to the most valuable parts of the system. For the goal now must surely be to replace the system of higher education in its entirety by new and more effective instruments.

    The Internet can deliver vastly more information than any number of universities. Already, MIT and other top universities around the world have placed their entire course content on the Web. The challenge is devise means of using this medium in a way that motivate students, provides them with emotional support and professional guidance, at costs that are a small fraction of the cost of the existing system of higher education.

    The important thing is to ensure diversity in the control and development of new educational systems: they must be competitive, not subject to the dead hand of government management.

    As Writerman and others have noted, it is far from clear how Britain’s existing defense establishment serves the British people, and in fact the evidence is that its prime function is to serve the American Empire, of which Britain, like Canada, Australia and New Zealand is a part.

    The question of the appropriate cost of defense can, therefore, only be discussed in the context of Britain’s position within the Anglo-American empire. What should Britain’s cost be per capita, versus America’s. In a democratic federation, what influence does, or should, Britain (or Canada, etc.) have in determining imperial war policy?

  • kingfelix

    Depends on what the state’s educational priorities are.

    I am sure that fighting in Afghanistan is quite an education, in its own way.

  • John D. Monkey

    Craig

    In principle, agreed; the war budget need a serious prune,starting with getting out of Afghanistan asap and caneleiing Trident. But i for one don’t expect that to happen. It’s about keeping a seat on the UNSC, not defending the UK.

    And MickS is right. Margaret Hodge didn’t even know what the baseline was when she announced the 50% target, and there is no rational basis for increasing undergraduate numbers and funding indefinitely.

    And cutting the INCREASE in student numbers (from 20K to 10K) is not the same as cutting numbers. Applications to University are going up because (a) there’s a recession (b) it’s the fashion and (c) job inflation, whereby a degree is called for in jobs where it is not needed.

    “In 1999 there were 334,594 accepted applicants. Ten years later in 2009 there were 481,854 – an increase of 44%”. In 2009 alone the increase was 5.5% (UCAS figures).

    What we need is a proper needs analysis of higher education, something Labour consistently failed to even consider. I don’t expect the current lot are really prepared to think outside the box either.

    But failing that I’d be happy with a quick survey by someone with some sense who understands social statistics and policy (say Prof. Danny Dorling at Sheffield), of where the growth in student numbers has come from and what the “right” number of students is. The 50% target seems not to have increased particiaption levels among the less well off.

  • Duncan McFarlane

    It’s also crazy to ring-fence the defence budget, which provides few jobs and so little tax revenue for the amount spent on it, while making cuts that will result in 300,000 public sector workers being put out of work – which will mean not only service cuts but also a reduction in demand (putting private sector employees out of work too) and a reduction in tax revenues along with an increase in unemployment benefit costs.

    The Conservative party leaders seem to think that cutting the public sector automatically increases growth in the private sector – it doesn’t.

  • Ruth

    ‘The UK should have a military comparable to… to Austria. A country that accepted the loss of its empire and international status; unlike Britain which preferred to hang on to a dream, and expensive dream, for as long as possible, because the dream disguised the true of extent of its loss of real power.’

    On the surface Britain looks its about had it. But there’s evidence particularly over the last fifteen years that Britain has covertly invested billions overseas from ill-gotten gains.

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