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The Ayatollah Buggeri

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Everything posted by The Ayatollah Buggeri

  1. If the size (as in, geographical area) of each constituency were determined by its population density, yes - London and the south-east would have a lot more constituencies, because that's where most of the population of England are.
  2. I also suspect that they underestimate just how hard the ball is the UK government will play in the aftermath of a yes vote. The Tories' goal from that point on will be to stay in power and finish Labour totally and utterly, which, given that Labour will lose 40 MPs at a stroke, will be an achievable goal. Requiring Scottish citizens to apply for work visas in the same way as Nigerians if they wish to live in England, stripping people with a location in Scotland on their birth certificate of UK citizenship and requiring them to return to Scotland before independence day, full international fees for Scottish students wanting to go to universities in the remaining UK, relocating all UK public sector and military jobs out of Scotland in the run-up to independence, kicking Scotland out of the +44 dialing code so that a call from Gretna to Carlisle is an international one, switching off all BBC terrestrial broadcasting north of the border, requiring residents of Eyemouth to get an international driving permit to do their shopping in Berwick ... all will be on the table, and they will all be done if whoever takes over from Cameron as Tory leader feels that they will increase his or her vote south of the border.
  3. An interesting and valid point, given that since the mid-1990s, the proportion of universities' income that derives from the taxpayer has been steadily decreasing, so much so that most UK higher education institutions can no longer be described as public sector organizations with any credibility. Not-for-profit organizations (in the sense that they don't pay dividends to shareholders) yes; public sector ones not really. Therefore, if the management of a university wished to offer advice on voting to its staff and students, then IMO that's no better or worse than the CEO of a large company doing so to its employees. Those staff and students of course can and probably will reject that advice, though. The real problem is with academics focusing their teaching and research activity on promoting their (almost always leftist) agenda. Students are not at liberty to walk out of their course as easily or as consequence-free as they are to reject their V-C's advice to vote for one lot or the other.
  4. Good point. I totally forgot that Kate's father resembled Fergus Wilson on a bad day, and that her sister was trying her level best to resemble the Karcrashians.
  5. Not surprising. Homeowners are more likely to vote (they tend to be older and have more of a vested interest in political decision-making), and the Lib Dems' current and target constituencies contain a large proportion of FTB properties in relatively affluent areas. Not until there are a critical mass of renters in their 40s and 50s will any of the major political parties be willing to do anything that jeopardises the house price bubble. The UK appears to be heading in that direction, but is not there yet.
  6. I would speculate that Charles will come under significant pressure to abdicate when the time comes, especially if his mother lives for another decade or so. Charles himself will be in his mid-70s by that time, and is arguably one of the most unpopular royals (his treatment of Di, the sanctimoniousness, hypocritical speeches telling people not to fly on their hols beacuse it damages the environment, then renting a private 767 for a world tour, you name it). William, in contrast, is proving adept at the PR game. Skip a generation to save the monarchy will be the pitch (unless William has got into serious trouble before then, e.g. an acrimonious divorce), especially if a Labour government is in power at the time.
  7. The abilities of A-grade (and all other grade) students HAVE fallen on average. I believe that what was being assessed in order to achieve a given A-level grade diminished significantly during the '00s. In terms of the A-level grade we were asking for on paper, that remained almost unchanged during that period (it changed from BBB to ABB on the programme I was responsible for in 2010, but that was it).
  8. I was a registered pupil or student in full-time education until age 25 (PhD), but worked part-time throughout that time from age 15, and towards the end of my education was earning significantly more than the equivalent of a full-time, minimum wage salary. However, the OP's implicit point remains, which I take to be that we are increasingly heading in the direction of people being educated to 21 and then starting wage-earning careers that, a couple of generations ago, were typically started at age 18. I place a large amount of the blame for this on the decline of the secondary education system. I taught in UK higher education from 1997-2013, and during that time there was a decline in what first year undergrads were actually capable of when they came in through the door, comparing ostensible like for like in terms of A-level grades. I'm not a secondary education expert, and therefore cannot opine with any authority as to why this decline in the secondary education system's effectiveness has happened. All I know is that it has, and that by the end of my time in HE we were having to teach undergrads things that previously they would have learned in high school. So to put it in brutal, economic terms, the declining secondary education system is costing three years of productivity per person that were previously available to the economy.
  9. Redlands, California. The "Inland Empire" (a 100-mile ribbon development along the I-10 freeway, stretching from Los Angeles to Palm Springs) experienced an enormous boom leading up to the 2007 crash, with prices for even modest homes in dodgy neighbourhoods hitting half a million. Between 2007-09 prices dropped as much as two thirds in some places, bumped along the bottom until early 2012, and then started to pick up again. We have a 1,600 square foot detached home (in the US, square footage is the usual estate agent's measurement of home size, not the number of bedrooms) in an OK but not upscale development on the San Bernardino side of the freeway. It peaked at $420k in 2007, sold for $159k in 2009, and we bought it last year for $190k. According to Zillow, it's now worth $220k, but that's a blunt instrument. Economically, the IE is not in good shape, and most people who live there commute to LA or the high tech employers just to the south; hence the value of property is roughly proportional to the commuting distance to LA and Orange County. We are a good hour and a half away, even with no slowdowns on the freeway, but even then prices are showing signs of starting to overheat again. However, unlike London, if you're willing to accept a long commute, it is still possible for couples on an average household income to buy a reasonable home within a just feasible commute. Unlike in Britain, the crash (in 2007) was allowed to happen without government tinkering to prevent it, which I suspect is a big part of the reason why.
  10. I had the same experience with FairFX when I recently moved most of my UK savings to the US to buy a house there shortly after my emigration. They asked for a extensive and detailed amount of personal information about how I'd acquired the money in the first place, where it was going, etc. etc., claiming that this was required under money laundering regulations. When I later discussed this with the accountant who has just done my first US tax return (who is familiar with both US and UK financial law), she told me that all they needed to have asked was for confirmation that the money was personal savings out of post-tax earned income and that I intended to use it to buy a house. If the IRS decides to audit me they could ask for documentation to prove that, but I am under no legal obligation on either side of the Atlantic to provide that or any further explanation preemptively. Needless to say, that is the last time I'll be using FairFX.
  11. It's a debate that needs to be had, though, and relates to the bigger issue of "education creep". The situation you describe is one whereby many gradutes are doing jobs, the skills required for which should be taught at high school level, not first degree. Yet without that first degree, you can't be hired to that post. So we're in a situation whereby employers are demanding unnecessary education, in response to which the education system joins the arms race and expands even further. In the US now, a typical first degree is four years, a master's two and a PhD five. In Britain, it's three, one and three respectively. The danger I see for the British system is the progressive dumbing down of high school education causing the first degree to grow to four years, etc. etc., until the UK ends up in the same place. As a former university educator who might become one again, I guess I'm talking myself out of a job in opining that higher education is "trending" to becoming lengthier and less efficient, but it's what I've seen happen during eighteen years in that biz. The US is just further along the same road.
  12. Slightly rather than very, where the US is concerned at any rate. I know several academics in the University of California system, have been interviewed for one faculty position in it myself and have researched academics' salaries there (which are a matter of public record and published on their website). Depending on the individual campus, the salary for an assistant prof (grade 7-8 UK equivalent) is $50-70k, $70-100k for an associate (grade 9) and $110-130k for a chair (10). Those figures are around 10-15% higher than their UK redbrick equivalents. However, if you factor in the better pension (especially compared to post-2009 USS members) and vastly better healthcare than you'd ever get from the NHS, the total package is worth significantly more. Universities are cracking down on this now, by requiring all consultancies to be administered by the instituion and approved by heads of department. They typically take 50-70% of the fee, including the liability insurance that their schemes force the academics to buy, because they're paranoid about one of their academics doing a Roy Meadow or an Andrew Wakefield while under contract to a third party. Shortly before I left Leeds, they sacked quite a big name in civil engineering because he was doing consultancy gigs on the side without telling the university, we suspect to make an example of him to others. I confess that I was doing the same thing at the time (though nothing like as much or as lucrative extra-curricular activity as he was), and that sacking was part of why I decided to leave UK academia.
  13. They can only do that if the contract is legally valid, i.e. there is no precedent or statute which outlaws restricting the rights of the minority equity owner to sell his share as and how he pleases. Agreed with the above that seeing a solicitor is probably the best bet. If other minority share owners in the same HA have sold up independently, ignoring this contractual provision, then the chances are that the provision is illegal and that is why the HA hasn't pursued them. In other words, the HA is just trying it on with this provision. However, spending a couple of hundred quid to get the chapter and verse from a solcitor in case the HA does kick off is probably a worthwhile investment.
  14. OP: Do you have a separate account with the power company from the LL, your own meter and your own bill? If so, then the power company should not disconnect your own suppply, and if they do you can just report it to them as a fault. If, however, your electricity is bundled into the rent and your home doesn't have a separate account and meter, then if your LL is disconnected, you will be along with him. At that point your only recourse would have a complaint about your LL to the council's environmental health people, to the effect that he's renting out somewhere that is not fit for human habitation. Whatever the consequences for the LL, the likely end result is that you'll be looking for a new home.
  15. It depends on what you mean by "the basic procedure" and what the law says. Is there a formal contract between you and the HA in which you agree that the HA has first refusal on selling the property, taking a cut in the process; and if such a contract does exist, is it legal?
  16. A self-help technique for dealing with partying neighbours (watch from 1'15" to 2'45"): Some might regard the rest of the movie as a self-help tutorial for dealing with the banksters, too, but that's for another thread...
  17. They don't need to, because they don't cost anything like as much to run. And as for humanities departments being downsized, I never came across one that actually was at any point during the time I worked in them (1996 to 2013). In fact, at my last institution (University of Leeds), the Faculty of Biological Sciences was placed into review with closure as a possible option, due to declining research income and student recruitment. It was also rumoured that the School of Modern Languages and Cultures was at risk, due almost entirely to poor undergraduate recruitment, but nothing ever happened. I suspect the reason why was that it was cheap to run and the bad PR that would have resulted from closing a languages department, when even humanities haters have to concede that the decline of foreign language skills is a significant problem for the UK's economy, was not something they wanted to cause. It still has to be bought. Not true. The taught postgraduate provision in all major universities is dominated by non-EU students, for the reason suggest. My department typically had cohorts of 15-25 for its three MAs, around 80% of which were non-EU (mainly China and South Korea). As the director of learning and teaching for a humanities department in a Russell Group university, I regularly saw centrally computed figures as to what each faculty and school cost per UG/TPG/RPG year. For UGs it ranged from around £1-3k in English and philosophy, slightly higher for the arts and social sciences that had a significant vocationcal component (e.g. £5-6k for communication studies and music), £20-30k for the pure sciences and then serious money for the engineering and applied sciences degrees that needed major infrastructure and/or intensive tutoring from professionals who could make six-figure salaries in the private sector, e.g. aeronautical engineering and medicine. Take away all the humanities students, and a typical redbrick will lose the equivalent of several chunky research grants.
  18. The problem is that when you are funding someone to study sociology, you are also funding someone to study medicine or engineering. The actual cost of delivering a humanities or social sciences (i.e. an essentially "chalk and talk") degree, is between £1-3k per student per academic year. The actual cost of delivering a medical or engineering degree is between £20-90k per student per academic year. Yet all students pay £9k, so the former subsidise the latter, along with various other STEM subsidies that are channeled from the taxpayer through HEFCE. Get rid of chalk-and-talk degrees, and all those students subsidising their STEM colleagues to the tune of £6-8k a year each will disappear, leaving an even bigger funding hole.
  19. Ironically, it was the secure boomers who created the precariat class through their creation of a welfare state. The cost of employing people in the developed world is now so high that employers have an incentive to reduce both the volume and the stability of their workforces, and to treat them as a just-in-time commodity, just like the other inputs into their production process. The same debate is now playing out here in the US in relation to Obamacare and the proposed raising of the minimum age, with Obama's detractors arguing that every time you increase the cost of employment, you reduce both the number of jobs, and the quality of most of them. I am currently working as a freelance consultant, and having to charge rates that reflects the fact that I can be out of work for weeks at a time and have to buy private healthcare insurance. Many of the companies and organizations that hire me for specific jobs would actually probably end up paying less if they simply hired someone like me on a full-time contract. But the bottom line is that they want the flexibility to bring specialist workers like me in and out as and when they want them. Were they to put me on a full-time contract, they would lose that flexibility immediately, and risk having someone on their payroll with no work for them. Admittedly, most of the work I do is for organisations that will want a one-off job done and then have no further need for my expertise (I design and manage projects for the preservation and digitisation of archival document, digital media/data and audiovisual collections), and so the line of work I'm in is not one that lends itself to traditional employment patterns. But this is increasingly happening in all walks of life from low-skilled supermarket workers to specialists making a thousand an hour, and I suspect that the high cost of employing people that results from western-style welfare state infrastructures is a major part of the reason. Why is it missing the point? Doctors (and other professionals who have six-figure earning power) are queuing up to emigrate/defect from communist countries, most notably Cuba.
  20. I think it must depend on the council. The last council whose jurisdiction I lived in before leaving the UK, City of York, had lots of faults, but was beyond criticism in the efficiency with which it dealt with noise nuisances. There was a couple in a BTL flat next door to me who started playing loud music with the windows wide open into the small hours of the morning. I phoned their noise helpline, which was answered by a human being immediately (at 3am on a Thursday-Friday night). Someone went round and the noise stopped within an hour. The same sequence of events happened the following night. The next Monday I was phoned by an environmental health officer who apologised profusely and assured me that these idiots wouldn't be causing me any problem again. She was as good as her word.
  21. Agreed with the predictions above that she'll be gone by midweek, unless she simply doesn't care about her post-ministerial career, refuses to resign and forces Cameron to sack her. I suspect we're hearing nothing at the moment, because Miller's SPADs, lawyers, etc., are in the process of haggling out the biggest possible price from Cameron for not putting him in that position (e.g. a plum Euro job or something of that sort). To be cynical, I suspect that the reason the grassroots Tories are leading the charge against her has more to do with her championing gay marriage than her dubious expenses claims.
  22. And who employed his own wife as a taxpayer-funded assistant under ethically dubious circumstances. It's being supplied from within the Tory party, and so neither of the other two parties need to get involved. Besides, both Labour and the Lib Dems had their fair share of expenses troughers, reminders of which are bound to resurface if they get involved in this slanging match.
  23. He claims that he's pumping the profit back into his church's ministry. If he genuinely is, then I'm in two minds about that. On the one hand, the RC church has done some genuinely good work in fighting poverty in some of the world's nastiest places. Yet on the other, his operation is helping to cause the problem that his church's ministry then tries to alleviate, i.e. contributing to the housing bubble which in turn will increase the number of people needing charitable assistance. He is proving the Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach him how to fish and he will eat for a lifetime". What this priest is doing is essentially raising the money to buy lots of fish to give to people, by denying those people the opportunitiy to learn to fish for themselves.
  24. I cannot think of any reason that makes any sense for Cameron to be defending her, other than that she has potential dirt to dig on other high-profile politicians that Cameron believes would damage him more than keeping Miller in her job and brazening out the resulting scandal. Someone in the Telegraph speculated that it was because there weren't many women in the cabinet and that he didn't want to sack her because there would be even fewer, and/or accusations of misogyny. Are there really no female Tory junior ministers he could promote in a reshuffle? I doubt it. And the thing is, it isn't Labour making all the noise: they don't need to, because the newspaper closest to the Tory party is attacking Milller on its front page! By letting this rumble on, Cameron is effectively handing votes over from his own party to UKIP and the apathy party, and so one has to presume that whatever he's trying to avoid by not sacking her is worth that price to him.
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