Friday, March 16, 2007


Just a bit of mind-clearance before biting into some serious work.


The British government is worried about there being so few people from working class families or from other unprivileged and underrepresented backgrounds applying for universities. So, now they are suggesting that in the application process data would be collected about the employment of the parents of the applicant, so that those with working class background could be "positively discriminated" and selected over those applicants who are from middle class professional families.

I do understand that Britain is a class society rather than a meritocracy, but still, this will not solve the problem. As with applications to Oxbridge, or the Russell group unis, the problem isn't so much in unfair selection, but in the fact that people from state schools, or from working class backgrounds don't even apply in the first place. Perhaps the government should reconsider their last year's decision to treble tuition fees, and perhaps they could think about re-introducing student grants and see if that would help. Investing in the state secondary schools wouldn't be a bad idea either, so that graduates of these schools would have the same knowledge and abilities as their public school counterparts.


There are two "pests" of traffic that make my blood boil. One is the "nobody's coming, it's just a bike" -person, who turns ahead of you from a side street, changes lanes over you or turns left to your face. I could even understand it if they simply hadn't see me, but when they do that after clearly looking at me, it is just too much. "He's on a bike, I'm sure he doesn't mind me cutting him off." What are they thinking? Bikes don't count?

The other genus of pests are the "slow but blaze" cyclists. With or without bike lanes, you are supposed to be on the left of the lane. There's usually just enough space to have a bike and a small car next to each other on the lane, so overtaking a slower bike can be tricky. Therefore I hate it when I overtake someone, then stop on red lights, and this person then overtakes me, runs the red lights and keeps going slow, so that after the light turns green I need to overtake him again. And yes, there are almost always men, lazy, fat, "couldn't care less" guys who cycle with their rusty mountain bikes with seats too low and their knees wide, and it seems they are doing a record attempt for the slowest cycling in the world. They have no helmets, but usually do have baseball caps.

Nuclear weapons and war against terrorism

After being detained in Guantanamo and other nice places since 2003, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has confessed having masterminded or personally executed pretty much every terrorist act in the last 15 years, including some that were never carried out. I think someone wants to be remembered as the superterrorist... Which doesn't mean he wasn't involved in some or even most of these acts, but then again, we knew that much already. It will be interesting to see how this will be used in the US and here, as the political support for the war in Iraq is in record low, and both administrations need good news about the success in war against terrorism. This isn't it, and definitely can't be called progress, while smelly substances are fast heading towards fans in Afghanistan and Pakistan...

The confession has already been branded as boasting, as Sheikh is known for having an inflated ego, but what this is also is al Qaida propaganda - they do like it when they are depicted as a centrally run, global organisation, where the might of the whole machine is always behind their every act. This is the real world SPECTRE, The Enemy. Actually, al Qaida is a loose network, more an ideology than an organisation, a weird mix of ideologists and anarchists. In business terms, probably more a chain of franchises rather than a centralised company. Will US and UK take the bait and use the opportunity to give al Qaida this promotion Sheikh is trying to push?

Meanwhile, the UK has just decided to renew it's nuclear weapons system. At a cost of £20bn CGE (CGE = current government estimate, which should be added as a standard to all government figures, cf. the Olympics, whose budget was upped from £2.4bn to £9.35bn yesterday), Britain would have a system to replace the submarine-based Trident warheads in 20 years. I'd have thought "nucular" weapons were so cold war... I know North Korea probably has then, and Iran wants them, but any same person would get rid of them. As the cold war nuclear doctrine was based on MAD, or mutually assured destruction, meaning that if anyone uses them, we all die, and so nobody should use them. Not the balance has changed, rogue nations want them for bargaining power, they are trump cards that can extend the life-expectancy of your dictatorship in the environment where Western imperialists are about to get you.

What would Britain use them for? As a deterrent, they say. So, they are not to be used, but to be had, as it gives you bragging rights in the global political scale. Critics say that the world has changed and the money would be better spent on conventional forces, making sure the troops currently in Iraq and Afghanistan have proper gear and they get the treatment and facilities at home that they deserve. The proponents say that we couldn't anticipate the current threat of global terrorism 10 years ago, we have no way of knowing what the world and it's security needs will be in 20 years. That's right, but I'm pretty sure nuclear weapons will be a major problem even then, and this decision is not helping us to deal with it.

(Pic: MTA Maryland)

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