Worth Reading 140: Character limit

For those in peril on the sea – “This is where British politics is right now. It’s not a departure from the EU that should be worrying, but their trajectory out of humanity.”
The nuclear attack on the UK that never happened – The 1982 war game exercise that was the basis for Threads.
Brands of Nonsense – Crooked Timber’s John Quiggin on the history of branding, and the current trend for turning universities into brands.
The fall and rise of the TV critic – The history of TV criticism in the mainstream press (FT, may require registration)
“Oor Broken Politics” – Flying Rodent wonders if this is the moment at which Scottish politics turns from the mundane into the partisan.

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Worth Reading 113: Begin the Hallel

What the Royal Parks is doing to a charity softball league should matter to us all – David Allen Green on public space.
Can you solve Slate‘s gerrymandering jigsaw puzzle? – The bizarre world of US political boundaries, and what happens when they’re set by politicians.
On the Phenomenon of Bullshit Jobs – “Why did Keynes’ promised utopia – still being eagerly awaited in the ‘60s – never materialise? The standard line today is that he didn’t figure in the massive increase in consumerism. Given the choice between less hours and more toys and pleasures, we’ve collectively chosen the latter. This presents a nice morality tale, but even a moment’s reflection shows it can’t really be true. Yes, we have witnessed the creation of an endless variety of new jobs and industries since the ‘20s, but very few have anything to do with the production and distribution of sushi, iPhones, or fancy sneakers.”
Branded to death – How marketing-speak is damaging higher education.
Myths Over Miami – Fascinating account of the stories homeless children in Miami tell of a war between God, the Devil and the Blue Lady.

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We are all bourgeois now

But one day I met a man
With money to spare
He said he would tell me how it is

The State he began
Has been propping up people to long
For far to long
We all got lazy and couldn’t be bothered
To make our way through the world

But we are all bourgeois now
Once there was class war
But not any longer
Because baby we are all bourgeois now
So go out and make your way in the world
We’re free to choose
We’re all free to choose
We’re all free to choose
We’re free to choose

In Booming Britain we all work together
To raise ourselves in the world
Each of us knows someone
Who has done well for themselves
So well for themselves
“Thank you,” I said as I left
I’ll be on my way, I see how it is

When there’s nothing specific I want to listen to, I have a nice big Spotify playlist of various songs I like, so I’m sure it was entirely coincidence that the Manic Street Preachers’ version of this came up while I was reading this story:

Teenagers from the wealthiest families would be able to pay for extra places at the most competitive universities under government proposals that could allow institutions to charge some British students the same high fees as overseas undergraduates.

So, this is how it’s going to be, is it? The plebs get to fight over a diminishing number of places (which they’ll then have the privilege of saddling themselves with a lifetime of debt to pay for) while the rich get to sidestep the entire process, wave their chequebooks at an impoverished Registrar and walk straight in to the course of their choice. That, of course, will be after they’ve paid their way through an independent school or crammer to make sure they meet the entry requirements. (Assuming that the rules are tight enough to prevent entry requirements being defined as being in possession of a beating heart and a bulging chequebook)

I’m prepared to accept that this is the sort of idea that springs fully-formed from either of David Willetts’ brains, neither of which seem that connected to reality as experienced by most people, and that is where they should remain. Implementing a policy like this would be to throw any remaining notions that we have equal access to higher education out of the window, replacing them with a world that institutionalises and legalises the backhander and puts a price on opportunity that most can’t afford. It’s ‘EasyCouncil‘ writ large, where everything has a price tag and you get the services you can afford.

Vince Cable should have the power to kill this idea now – I’m going to be watching closely to make sure he does.

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