A ‘scientist’ — engaged in his employment …

A ‘scientist’ — engaged in his employment
            his employment
    And maturing his felonious little plans
            little plans
’Though he likes to interfere with your enjoyment,
            your enjoyment
    Wants a pension just like any honest man’s.
            honest man’s

Our data we with difficulty smother,
            -culty smother
    When F.O.I.* reports are to be done ;
            to be done
Ah, take one consideration with another :
            with another
    A fraudster’s lot is not a happy one.

Ah-ah …….

When F.O.I. reports are to be done, to be done,
    A fraudster’s lot is not a happy one.
            happy one

When the A.C.C.† alarmist’s not a-warming —
            not a-warming
    The carbon market closed just for the time
            for the time
He just loves to blame humanity for storming
            -ty for storming
    And listen to the cash register chime.
            -gister chime

When the fraudster’s busy fiddling the data,
            -ling the data
    He ignores the very function of the sun ;
            of the sun
But his e-mail will be found a little later,
            little later
    So the fraudster’s lot is not a happy one.

Ah-ah …….

When F.O.I. reports are to be done, to be done,
    A fraudster’s lot is not a happy one.
            happy one

* F.O.I. :  a reference to requests under the Freedom of Information Act, 2000, as amended
† Anthropogenic Climate Change (chosen to fit the metre)

My thanks to the University of Iowa Summer Opera with Jon Meadows as the Sergeant of Police — ΠΞ

Stop the Litter

 

It was a dark and rainy night and I was cycling innocently home at about the speed of an elderly French onion seller, when – pok – something hit me on the side of the helmet. I heard a shout of laughter to my right, and a cry of “You ——!”, and a car sped off up Shaftesbury Avenue. As anyone would in my position, I saw red. I put my foot down, and pedalled so hard that I was able to keep the weaving rump of the car in my sights, and I noted that it was some kind of Astra.

Soon the bike had beaten the car. As they waited at the next set of lights, I pounded on the window. “Open up!” I cried. There were three kids inside, and I could see the culprit goggling up at me with appalled recognition. They lurched off again in the hope of escape, but of course I had them at the next lights.

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The Budget Song 2010

To keep up with a small Dungeekin tradition here is a specially commissioned little Budget Song for you all.  Enjoy.

Ronan Keating ‘When you say nothing at all’

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You can keep up with Dungeekin via his inimitable tweets @dungeekin

It’s amazing how you can still try to be smart,
Thanks to you our economy’s fallen apart,
This Budget Day you have done it again,
Talked a lot but you don’t say a thing,

Continue reading The Budget Song 2010

EU students in UK universities

Kings College Cambridge (freefoto)
King's College Cambridge (freefoto)

Let me propose a subject to be placed on the agenda at once …. a rebate. With Britain’s contribution to the EU budget rising to £6.4 billion, and the country’s finances so parlous that London babies are being buried in paupers’ graves, we have no option but to raise this at EU level

On June 17, David Cameron will travel to Brussels for his first EU summit as prime minister. When the silence falls and the goggling interpreters prepare for the first words to be heard from a Tory prime minister in 13 years, he will be thinking – like all British PMs – of two audiences.

To his new amigos he will want to send out a powerful message that the UK is ready to lead in Europe and to ensure that the EU is a force for good. And to the millions of voters back home he will simultaneously want to signal that he will stick up for this country’s interests and that he will not allow us to be ripped off by our friends and partners in Brussels.

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Rage against Ed Balls MP and Latin in the Classroom

The demand for Latin is huge and it is growing, and I don’t just mean that the public is fascinated with the ancient world – though that is obviously true, and demonstrated, for instance, by the success of Robert Harris’s Cicero novels. There is a hunger for the language itself and, thanks to the efforts of a small number of organisations and volunteers, Latin is fighting its way back on to the curriculum

Being an even-tempered fellow, and given that we have already put up with so much nonsense from the Labour Government, I find there are very few ministerial pronouncements that make me wild with anger. We have learnt to be phlegmatic about the mistakes of a government that has banned 4,300 courses of human conduct, plunged this country into the deepest recession in memory, and so skewed the economy that 70 per cent of the Newcastle workforce is in the pay of the state. But there are times when a minister says something so maddening, so death-defyingly stupid, that I am glad not to be in the same room in case I should reach out, grab his tie, and end what is left of my political career with one almighty head-butt.

Such were my feelings on reading Mr Ed Balls on the subject of teaching Latin in schools. Speaking on the radio, Spheroids dismissed the idea that Latin could inspire or motivate pupils he said that headteachers often took him to see the benefits of dance, technology or sport but added:

 “No one has ever taken me to a Latin lesson to make the same point. Very few parents are pushing for it, very few pupils want to study it.”

It is nothing short of a disaster that this man is still nominally in charge of education, science, scholarship and learning in this country. He is in danger of undoing the excellent work of his predecessor, Andrew Adonis, and he is just wrong. Of course he doesn’t get taken round many Latin classes in the state sector. That is because only 15 per cent of maintained schools offer the subject, against 60 per cent of fee-paying schools. But to say that “very few” want to study the subject, to say that there is no demand for Latin – it makes me want to weep with rage. The demand is huge and it is growing, and I don’t just mean that the public is fascinated with the ancient world – though that is obviously true, and demonstrated, for instance, by the success of Robert Harris’s Cicero novels.

There is a hunger for the language itself and, thanks to the efforts of a small number of organisations and volunteers, Latin is fighting its way back on to the curriculum. The Cambridge Classics Project did a 2008 study that found that no fewer than 500 secondary schools had started teaching Latin in the past eight years. That is a fantastic thing. Those schools deserve support.

Continue reading Rage against Ed Balls MP and Latin in the Classroom

David Willetts MP responds to Boris and baby boomers

This is not an attack on the baby-boomer generation;  it is instead an appeal to the better nature of the boomers – an appeal to Edmund Burke’s understanding that a nation is “a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born”

One of the highlights of my political career was when Boris Johnson put me on his list of ideal dinner party companions (a great opportunity to meet Aristotle and Scarlett Johansson), so I recognise that behind his brilliantly effervescent articles there is often a deep wisdom too. I paid careful attention, therefore, when on Monday he challenged the argument in my new book, The Pinch. My book argues that the baby boomers have ended up doing very well for ourselves but that we are dumping too heavy a burden on the generations after us.

Boris is ideally positioned to make the case for the baby boomers, roughly those born between 1945 and 1965. Our baby boom had two peaks. The first came in 1947 – those were the teenagers who shrieked for the Beatles and promenaded up Carnaby Street in their bellbottoms. The second peak, when we had more than a million born in one year, came in 1964 – those are the boomers whose formative years were framed by punk rock and the poll tax protests. Somehow I do not quite see Boris participating in those social movements but demographically he is at their epicentre. He was born in summer 1964, the very quarter when we had more babies born than in any other three months in the past 60 years.

Boris celebrates the extraordinary technological advances of the baby boomers. I do not deny this achievement and indeed recognise in the book that human creativity and enterprise can continue to raise living standards. But that leaves open a host of questions. Take his example of perhaps the greatest single benefit of this advance: the improvement in life expectancy. That is marvellous. But it has very different effects on different generations because of, for example, contracts to pay people pensions after a fixed chronological age. It makes those promises far more valuable than expected for those people who already have them and makes employers very reluctant to be caught out making such promises again. I estimate therefore that over half the nation’s pensions wealth belongs to the baby boomers. They are doing much better than those generations coming before or after.

Continue reading David Willetts MP responds to Boris and baby boomers

The difficulties of today’s economy

David Willetts and his new book The Pinch v Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist

“Forget the prophets of doom – I’m proud to be a baby boomer” says Boris Johnson

Oh the shame of being a baby boomer. What a bunch of shysters we seem to be.

We are the most selfish, greedy, job-hogging, pension-grabbing bunch of egomaniacs history has ever seen. Here we are, in our overpriced homes and exploiting our political power to shaft the younger generation. We use our demographic throw-weight to skew the welfare system in our favour and above all we are squandering the natural resources of the planet. You know that Goya picture of the giant eating a naked human being?

That’s us, all right – Saturn devouring his children. Or at least, that is the portrait presented by my brilliant old friend and colleague David Willetts in his new book, The Pinch, which has been received with rapture by one and all. You can see his point. We baby boomers – those of us born in the great bulge of fecundity in the Fifties and Sixties – have had it easy. We are the ones whose extravagant pension entitlements must now be met by our kids.

We are the ones who hung out at university entirely at the taxpayers’ expense – and now we tell our children they must pay tuition fees. We are the ones who luxuriate in housing equity our children cannot afford, and we are the ones whose lifestyles splurged CO2, that posterity will have to pay for. We have raided the young ones’ piggy bank, says Willetts. We have mortgaged their future; we have broken the eternal Burkean contract between generations, he scolds. Is he right? As it happens – and I speak as one who has long sat at the feet of Two Brains – I think he is wrong; or at least that he tells only a tiny fraction of the story. No, I don’t think we baby boomers have anything much to feel guilty for. I don’t think we have treated the next generation badly. We haven’t ripped off our kids. Indeed, by comparison with our grandparents I would say we baby boomers have been, if anything, excessively tender-minded and absorbed in the upbringing of our little ones.

Continue reading The difficulties of today’s economy

Boris on Question Time

Watch Question Time this Thursday 4th March on BBC 1 at 10.35pm

Question Time, the BBC’s premier political debate programme comes from Canary Wharf this week.  David Dimbleby will be joined in London by Boris Johnson, Liberal Democrat peer Shirley Williams, broadcaster Carol Vorderman, the novelist Will Self and the Transport Secretary Lord Adonis.

Question Time will be available on BBC iPlayer after transmission.

It will also be repeated on BBC Parliament on Sunday evening at 6pm.

Will Gordon Brown return to No. 10?

 

I love newspaper headlines, the way that they shout at you competitively from the stand on a Sunday morning – imploring your attention like a bunch of gape-mouthed nestlings. I have always admired the art with which the headline writer will take the story before him and bleach it of conditionals, sharpening and condensing and pushing it to the limit of credibility so that the faltering fingers of the deluded consumer will feel unable to resist. And yet in all my years of knowing chuckling at the headlines, I don’t think I have ever come across such a brazen confection of suggestio falsi and suppressio veri as appeared yesterday in large print across one of the Sundays. “Brown on course to win election,” it said.

When I had regained my breath, I thought of some other propositions the headline writer might have touted – with an equal measure of foundation. How about “Pope on course to win Wimbledon”? Or “Simon Heffer on course to win Miss World”?

I have an answer for all those befuddled by the recent mutability of the polls. May I direct you to Betfair, a political betting website that in my experience is almost uncanny in its accuracy. Here you are looking at the predictions that people are willing to defend with their own money, and the money is still overwhelmingly on the Tories. The single most likely outcome – and you can actually watch as the bets go down and the stakes mount up – is that the Tories will have a comfortable overall majority, easily enough to govern for five years. As for the idea that Gordon Brown ‘s Labour Party could win the election, with an overall majority – that possibility has been flatlining for months at between five and 10 per cent. The reason I trust the punters of Betfair more than I trust a poll in a Sunday paper is that the punters have thought it through with the care of those investing their own money.

They have put themselves in the position of the tens of millions of sensible men and women who will be going to the polling stations in the next few weeks. The gamblers have focused hardheadedly on the reality of the choice.

There you are on May 6 (or whenever), pencil poised. Are you really going to give Gordon Brown another five years in Downing Street? This is a Government that has spent the past two years lurching disastrously from one abortive putsch to another. One by one, they have stepped up to plunge the rubber dagger into his impervious back, from Clarke to Hoon to Hewitt to Alistair Darling himself, while the atmosphere has become so poisonous that some talents – Siôn Simon and James Purnell, for example – have not only abandoned their ministerial careers, but given up on the Commons altogether.

Do we really want another five years of the holepunch-hurling horror of Gordon Brown’s management style? Do we want the Downing Street switchboard to be endlessly jammed with people bleating to some “bullying helpline”? Is this any way to run a country? And that is just froth compared to the real charges against Labour.

If Gordon Brown is on course to win the election, then Elvis Presley is on course to win The X Factor and Shergar to win the Grand National.

For more news, comment and to read this article in full go to The Daily Telegraph