Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

The Old Comrades:

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Sunday, February 27, 2005
Squishy love.

Friday, February 25, 2005
Nigeria's tragedy.
Many observers in Nigeria believe that the roots of the violence across much of the country are not religious or cultural.

They say the conflicts are created and stoked by politicians both at a local and national level who seek to gain advantage from social division.

It is a cynical view, but one that has strong evidence to support it.

One need look no further than means used to distribute the country's vast oil wealth from the federal government in Abuja to the local level.

It all travels down this path in the form of contracts handed out to political favourites.

Contracts for building roads, schools, and hospitals; for supplying electricity, water and medicines.

In fact, almost all economic activity in the country works on this principle - the awarding of contracts. It makes those with access to the source of power rich, and those who do not have power want it all the more.
So writes the BBC's Dan Isaacs in this article. The bold type was added by me.

I wonder whether Mr Isaacs is aware that what he is saying is an argument for free markets and against a large public sector. I really can't tell.

Imagine a different Nigeria in a happier timeline. One where oil wealth never went to the federal government in Abuja in the first place, and hence where capturing power there was not the ticket to riches. Imagine a Nigeria that had been like that since Independence... "Caught off guard by reporters at the 2005 Kano Computer Entertainment Show, where he had addressed the All-Nigeria Software Developers' Association, President Obasanjo admitted that he had considered offering his resignation after the shock revelation that an official in the Finance Ministry had taken a bribe. "Nigeria's reputation for probity is one of our biggest assets," he said.

In a country where the government is in bed with everybody, once the government is infected soon everybody else will be too.

An email about Holocaust Memorial Day. Trailing through some of the email I missed earlier in the month I found this:
as-salaamu 'alaykum everyone,

Your UNSPUN Moderators predicted here last week that the pro-Israeli lobby would use their friends in the media to try and pressure British Muslims into attending the annual Holocaust Memorial Day ceremony that was held in London on Thursday 27th January 2005.

The Nazi Holocaust was indeed an enormous crime against humanity. Yet in recent years, their have also been also other genocides and mass killings and systematic 'ethnic cleansing' including in Rwanda, Bosnia and Chechnya – where it still continues. Many of the Jews who survived the Nazi Holocaust later went to the Middle East to dispossess the Palestinians of their land. Should not all this also be remembered? Are the lives of other peoples not to be valued as that of the Jews? Is it not just and correct that the day should rather be called ‘Genocide Memorial Day’ to send a more inclusive message?

The decision of the Muslim Council of Britain to decline the invitation to the Holocaust Memorial Day - as it has consistently done since the inception of HMD in 2001 – was therefore inevitably going to attract immense pressure from the Zionist lobby. It is the last mainstream institution in the country not to have rolled over in the face of the Holocaust industry. This year, even the Monarchy had succumbed and the Queen attended the HMD. If the MCB insisted on renaming the memorial day then maybe next time this might give the same idea to others. So the Zionists were expected to pull out all the stops to break the MCB’s resistance and force it to attend.

And the Zionists would be expected to try and get other British Muslims to attend and thereby undermine the MCB’s position.

Here is a summary of the media’s coverage over the past week:

Sunday Jan 23 2005

The Sunday Times runs a high-profile report on Page 2 by David Leppard headlined ‘Muslims Boycott Holocaust Remembrance’ in which he neglects to mention that this is not the first time the MCB is not going to attend the HMD.

Monday Jan 24 2005

The Daily Express (Proprietor: the Jewish pornographer Richard Desmond) runs a story headlined ‘Muslims in Snub to Auschwitz Ceremony’.

In a lengthy entry in her Online Diary (click here to read it in full) , the Jewish writer Melanie Phillips (also a columnist at the Daily Mail and the Jewish Chronicle) says: “So now we start to see their true colours. The Muslim Council of Britain is getting bolder about expressing the crude anti-Jewish prejudice which it has previously been at such pains to conceal.”

Tuesday Jan 25 2005

The Daily Telegraph’s pugnacious pro-Israeli columnist Mark Steyn criticises the MCB’s stance and warns of the ‘Islamisation of Europe’.

Wednesday Jan 26 2005

Daniel Finkelstein – the Associate Editor of The Times and a columnist at the Jewish Chronicle – writes an opinion piece for The Times called ‘Boycott Is A Disgrace’ in which he blasts the MCB’s decision as ‘extraordinary’ and ‘disgraceful’.

The Guardian – in an editorial piece – describes the MCB’s position on the HMD as ‘unfortunate’.

Reuters – the financial and news information provider – runs a neutral story in which the MCB’s position is portrayed more fairly. Click here to read the story.

Thursday Jan 27 2005 – Holocaust Memorial Day

The Guardian prints a letter from Iqbal Sacranie in which he explains the MCB’s reasoning behind declining the invitation to the HMD. He says: “We must do more than just reflect on the past. We must be able to recognise when similar abuses occur in our own time. Not to acknowledge current and recent genocides would be to undermine the benefits of remembrance, deprecate lessons learnt from the Nazi Holocaust and call into question our commitment to prevent current and future inhumanity.” Click here to read the full letter.

The Totally Jewish website runs an item called ‘MCB Boycott’ in which they quote the Home Office as criticising the MCB’s stance saying: “We regret that MCB remains unwilling to support HMD. It is a shame if any group does not feel that they are able to be involved in HMD.” It also reveals that “Gul Mohammad, the general secretary of the British Muslim Forum, representing some 600 mosques” will be attending the Holocaust Memorial Day.

Your UNSPUN moderators have tried to find out more about Gul Mohammad and the so-called British Muslim Forum. Its website is suspiciously threadbare for a body which claims to represent 600 mosques and we understand that it was set up with the help of Maqsood Ahmed – an official in the Home Office. It appears that as the Govt cannot make the MCB do its bidding, it wants to create other organisations that will.

So, which British Muslims attended the HMD? Your UNSPUN Moderators can reveal the Muslims who attended - their names and contact details are as follows:

Imam Abdul Jalil Sajid (Brighton) – Email: x Mobile: x [Email and mobile phone no. deleted by Natalie Solent - much as I might wish to praise the Imam, I imagine he has been inconvenienced enough by unsolicited calls and emails, as the publishers of this message must have known would happen. The same goes for the personal contact details of those listed below.]

Gul Mohammad (British Muslim Forum - Nottingham) – Email: x Mobile: x

Imam Shahid Raza (Leicester) – Email: x

Maqsood Ahmad of Alif-Aleph (Muslim-Jewish interfaith group)

If you decide to contact them please remember to always be polite. Do also send us a copy of your emails at

At UNSPUN we believe that the attendance of these British Muslims at the HMD is nothing less than shameful. Remember that apart from the MCB not attending, not a single Muslim parliamentarian or Muslim Ambassador attended the HMD event either.

Friday Jan 28 2005

The Times in an editorial piece describes the MCB’s decision as ‘reprehensible’ and a story in the paper by the Times’s religion correspondent, Ruth Gledhill, quotes the Chief Rabbi, Jonathan Sacks as saying he was ‘saddened’ by the MCB’s position and it also claims – incorrectly as it happens - that Baroness Pola Uddin led the Muslim delegation to the HMD.

Saturday Jan 29 2005

Stephen Pollard – the Jewish columnist and recent biographer of David Blunkett – says in The Times that the MCB equates genocide with “the defence of Israel against terror.”

Well, we at UNSPUN would be very interested in hearing about your thoughts on the matter of the annual Holocaust Memorial Day is an annual event. Is the MCB right to insist on a more inclusive title of ‘Genocide Memorial Day’? Do you think many of the affiliates of the MCB would have disaffiliated from it if the MCB had decided to attend? We want to hear from you and print your replies in an UNSPUN alert so let us know if you want to remain anonymous. Send your responses to .

We are also emailing this alert to the Muslims who attended the HMD in case they also want to respond to us.




"Unspun" is a mailing list connected with the Muslim Council of Britain. NB: So far as I know it is not connected with the all-but-openly pro-terrorist Jihad Unspun. These people are the moderates.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005
"Your skullcap is slipping." Here is a fascinating article by Johann Hari on his own experience of anti-semitism. (He isn't a Jew - but some think he is.) There is much to disagree with in the article and the comments, but read it anyway.

Not widely known. Did you know that the Spanish Prime Minister says that if the EU constitution is passed all the British embassies worldwide will be closed, along with those of other nations? He also says that Britain and France will lose their Security Council seats.

I didn't know either. I got it from the EU Serf who got it from The Adventuress. Also scroll up to check out EU Serf's post about EU threats to commercial software.

Wherever you go, there they are. Blithering Bunny is worried that Iain Duncan Smith's confidence in blogging may be misplaced.
So if we couldn't see how bad heavy-duty socialism was when it was staring us in the face - if it took the ruin of several countries before we acknowledged it - what chance do we have against the more subtle applications of socialism that are going on now?

This brings us back to blogging. Some of you will have thought while reading the above that it wasn't most of us who wanted to go socialist in the '60's and '70's, it was only the priesthood that did - Guardian journalists, academics, trade unionists, Hollywood stars - and they had bigger platforms than the rest of us. But blogging will change things, so the story goes, by reducing the power of the priesthood, particularly that possessed by the media.

I've said this myself. I hope it's true. But let's not forget one thing. Wherever the power moves to, leftists will stampede to get a seat. Wherever the platforms are set up, there you will find the leftists fighting hard to clamber up, knocking off all their opponents on the way. We've seen it time and time again.

For example, whenever the Government sets up a body that has power over people's behaviour, that body will eventually be filled with leftists. This happens even if the body was initially set up to curb the excesses of the left. For example, all the attempts at centralizing control over education in Britain to stop the left-wingers having so much power just meant that the left-wingers eventually took over these bodies as well.

And now that blogging is becoming a big thing, the left-wingers are starting to flock to it. They're perfectly entitled to, of course, but if right-wingers like Ian Duncan Smith think blogging is going to be an unalloyed right-wing triumph, they're in for some disappointment. Blogging can make a difference because it's more of a level-playing field, as IDS says. But the left is going to take to blogging in a big way too, using all the tactics that they've been so successful with beforehand.

Dead right about the way that the National Curriculum was taken over by the very trendy-teacher establishment it was designed to curb. That is the Murphy's Law of centralised official bodies. Or centralised bodies of any sort, really.* One of my big fears about ID cards is that any mechanism intended as a security lock can, once it is taken over, become the skeleton key. This "taking over" is most usually pictured as being technical, and of course it could be. But it could also be institutional. That's how military coups work.

Any time someone starts talking about an official initiative to help and reward bloggers, run for the hills and blog from there.

*Let's all evolve into dispersed vapour-cloud creatures. Really, it's the only safe way.

The Home Secretary has backed off a bit. Good. But not good enough.

The prosecution of the War on Terror frequently reminds me of the behaviour of school authorities regarding parents who take their children out of school during term - or of the way the police go for women eating apples in the car rather than burglars.

The authorities make a big parade of cracking down in one way so that they can avoid cracking down in another way that is more painful but also more useful.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005
So it seems to be spies' day. Let's draw the threads together. There were some notable injustices carried out at the behest of MI5 during World War II, one of them detailed in today's first post - but heaven knows the threat was real. The Campaign for Nuclear disarmament are angry at the way they were spied upon - staying silent about the fact that there were real enemy spies among them, as alluded to in the last post - and yet CND might justifiably retort that the case officers who cut their teeth bugging them are now gnawing away at everyone's civil liberties. The vast majority of CND members were perfectly law-abiding and patriotic. Me, for instance.

The trouble with talking about spies is that there's always a "but".

Which brings me to an email written by my regular contributor A Regular Contributor, or ARC as he is familiarly known. He writes:

saw your B-BBC post on McCarthy, which gave me a number of thoughts. As you say, there are two messages any discussion should convey.

The collapse of communism has seen a number of things skillfully downplayed. That much communist infiltration, spying and fellow travelling was going on, some of it very vicious, is one of them. The programme you posted on was typical of many who talk of '50's witchunts' as though they pursued an impossible crime, mere suspicion of which was proof of idiocy or corrupt pretence. There are exceptions (I once saw a good programme on late-period communist spies revealed after the fall of communism which I _think_ I recall as being on the BBC), but in general the PC attitude (that only people as vile as McCarthy could ever wish to make a noise about such things) is proof against all revelations. These days, the facts are not denied; they're just not mentioned. A vast opportunity for reporting, for insight programmes and for historical research arose when communism collapsed. The contrast between the interest shown in the nazis and in the communists by those who make their living doing such work is astounding.

It was quite by chance that I came across just one example of the kind of thing that was done and how it impacted the history we know. In the mid-30s, some 'lady bountiful' decided that a youth movement would be good for the U.S. and tried to start one. The U.S. communists recognised an opportunity and quickly got some of their youth activists (affiliation and connections with each other well concealed) to turn up as helpers. Being early off the mark, combined with secret mutual help and ballot-stuffing, ensured that the youth-leaders of the movement were a solid block of (unacknowledged) communists. Once in place, they found it easy to ease the (now very disgruntled) lady bountiful and her friends out of the organisation as old-fashioned (i.e. insufficiently left-wing) fuddy-duddies, leaving them as recognised representatives of U.S. youth.

During the late 30's they found it easy to keep their true alliegance hidden and their membership high; this was the era of the popular front and anti-fascism. Even then, the movement also did 'good work' defending Stalin's show trials, etc., helped by agents sent over from Russia. In August '39 however, Stalin made the pact with Hitler and they had to defend it - which they did. Suddenly, U.S. youth wasn't so anti-fascist, was ever so worried about getting drawn into the war, wanted Roosevelt to stop supplying those wicked war-mongering British capitalists, etc - or so its apparent leaders assured everyone. While the movement lost support and membership internally, it was able to conceal this from the public. Delegations called on the president to tell him his pro-British policies were war-mongering - and were received and covered in the papers. A belief that U.S. youth was hostile to involvement was widely accepted, and can often be found taken for granted in books and pamphlets published at the time by people across the political spectrum. Thus they did their bit against the lend-lease bill that passed by just one vote.

On June 22nd 1941, they had to reverse themselves again, of course, luckily for them as it left them less exposed when the U.S. entered the war at the end of the year.

ARC then apologises for the fact that, being separated from his sourcebooks on all this at the present, he is vague on precise dates and names. Hence also all these "IIRC"s. He continues:

The book '50 years' (IIRC) has a good write-up of how the communists took over the youth movement, written by one of them whose experiences with 'Max' (the Russian agent sent over to instruct them how to handle the show trials) caused him to become disillusioned.

Interestingly, this book was written because of McCarthy. Years later, the author found himself one of those in trouble during that era. Like you, he had two messages to get across. One was that McCarthy's methods of reasoning and investigation were a bad joke. The other was that the dogmatic assumption of the PC left of his day, that everyone accused (whether by McCarthy or someone less absurd) must be innocent, was ridiculous. Having been involved, he knew how likely it was that the more reputable accusations (e.g. against Alger Hiss) were true, and how certain it was that there were spies in place.

As for McCarthy himself, the more one looks, the odder (and nastier) he seems. His first political contest was for a judgeship; IIRC he campaigned on the platform that his opponent was too old, being 73. In fact, the opponent was 66 years old having been born in 1873, so it looks like a calculatedly-deniable lie ("Ah didn' say 73, ah said 1873"). When McCarthy ran for congressman, the local communists were ordered to support him by the party. Several people have pointed out that, with McCarthy-ite reasoning, this would be enough to get him labelled as a communist agent. Those of us who prefer more solidly grounded logic will rather suspect only that some dialectical reasoning led, as usual, to bizarre conclusions. After the war, he devoted himself to getting the SS men who had murdered their US prisoners at Malmedy reprieved on technicalities. You could see this as far-right behaviour - helping the SS - or far-left behaviour - getting murderers acquitted on technicalities. One thing it massively is not is the behaviour of a US patriot. It seems impossible that McCarthy could have had any more doubts of their actual guilt than anyone else has ever had. His sudden launch into the anti-communist issue can be seen as merely a wholly cynical nose for what could gain votes; in view of the evidence, I find it irrational to suppose that he himself ever gave a damn about betraying one's country. I find it hard to rid myself of the suspicion that something even stranger was going on in his murky psychology, but as he died within a few years and left little evidence, we shall probably never know.

Meanwhile his name continues to prove useful to PC people uneager to confront their past.

OK, Teach, we get the message.

[ADDED AFTER WRITING THIS POST: Curses! The mighty Ablutionist got in before me. Read his post here.]

This Education Guardian lesson plan about nuclear proliferation by Lyndsey Turner has no less than four separate links to CND as a source of facts and timelines for the students to work from. There is also one link to You can safely assume that every member of this organisation is also a member of CND. Ditto for the Come Clean WMD Awareness Programme.

There are more links. There's one to Nuclear Berkeley, Nuclear World, one to the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and one to a CNN history of the cold war dating from 1999. Lyndsey Turner also points the student to numerous Guardian articles, although it might have avoided giving the impression that the way to get published in the Guardian is to keep mentioning the wonderfulness of the Guardian had she also mentioned the excellent material available in rival newspapers.

Are they all like that? No, not quite. and seem moderate, non-partisan organisations with information-heavy websites. The Nuclear Terror website particularly advocates that the priority of the US government should be control of fissile material ahead of the war against terrorism, and this media advisory from the Arms Control Organisation "Applauds Lawmakers' Move to Cut Funding for Costly and Counterproductive Nuclear Weapons Projects". These two are bodies within the establishment, then, but not, shall we say, quite in sympathy with the current US administration.

Finally the US Department of Energy sneaks in somewhere to provide a timeline: this is as close as Turner's lesson plan lets us get to hearing from those who disagree with the CND view, though judging from the column space and indignation the timeline authors give to Watergate they are certainly not Republican patsies.

A child following this lesson plan could certainly learn quite a lot from following the suggested links, including the links to the CND website. (They won't learn about Vic Allen, though. Forgive me, I digress.)

But what is missing?

Any attempt at letting the other side speak in their own words, that's what. The funny thing is that Lyndsey Turner probably sees nothing odd about this at all.

Paid by MI5 for each person he entrapped. A letter in today's Telegraph gets to the...
Heart of the matter

Sir - As the debate about the detention without trial of British citizens gathers pace (News, Feb 19), the public should be reminded of my father's experience in 1940, when the Defence of the Realm Act's Emergency Regulation 18B allowed for the imprisonment of suspects denounced as Nazi sympathisers.

Ben Greene was a deeply religious Quaker, with a long history of assisting refugees, yet was named by an MI5 agent provocateur as a fifth columnist and arrested. He was, of course, entirely innocent of the charge, as was established when his solicitor traced the man responsible, an unscrupulous Austrian called Harald Kurtz, who had sought his assistance and admitted eventually that he had been paid by MI5 for each person he entrapped.

We now know, from the recently published Guy Liddell Diaries, that MI5 did everything possible to conceal Kurtz's true role, to the point of persuading the Clerk of the House of Commons to remove any reference to him on the Order Paper on the grounds of national security.

My father was eventually vindicated, but not before he had spent months in Brixton prison. His cousin Graham, in return, named the villain after Kurtz when he was writing the script for The Third Man.

Edward Greene, Oxford

This five year old Guardian article says that Public Record Office files relating to Ben Greene's internment have been closed under Section 3(4) of the Public Order Act 1958. The author, former MI5 agent David Shayler, was himself imprisoned for six months for disclosing secret information to a newspaper. (It was accepted that he did not act for money.) Although Shayler should never have been imprisoned I remember thinking at the time I was not convinced by all his allegations. But I see no reason to doubt his basic sincerity, nor the purely factual statement about Greene.

It is typical that my quick Google follow-up on the story of Ben Greene also led to an account of the abuse of power. That is the end result of rule by discretion of the Home Secretary.

"Yes, Miranda, this is the most disturbing carrot I've seen in quite awhile." Rob Hinkley directed me to the museum of food anomalies.

Monday, February 21, 2005
Two things we did know last week. (1) postal voting makes fraud easy and (2) an eavesdropper sees the same G W Bush as the rest of us do.

Although the White House condemned Mr Wead for publicising the tapes, they reveal a private Mr Bush almost identical to his public persona: tough, confident, conservative, with a genuine belief in God, a distrust of the United Nations and a loathing of the press.
Happy the man.

Habemus internetiam. On second thoughts, my husband thinks that may be "habemus interrete." Or on third thoughts "interreticulum." Habemus somethingam, anyway.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005
The old computer is bust. The new computer, the new computer purchased yesterday, the new computer that was the repository of my hopes, vehicle of my dreams... the new computer won't connect to the internet.

But the steamed milk flavoured with coconut-syrup at this internet cafe is nice. I may not be online but at least I am cool.

Thursday, February 10, 2005
I could have been a contender. Before this royal thing broke the big story was the release of the government papers relating to our departure from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism.

I never really understood all that, despite working at the Treasury at the time. All I know is that it was this dreadful, ignominious national humiliation and everybody got a little richer after it happened.

Nonetheless the crisis was the occasion for me to suffer a significant loss. On that day, having finished a hard day's work of national unimportance in Government Offices Great George Street, euphoniously known as GOGGS, I came out of the side entrance. And as I stepped into the light a whole bunch of reporters leapt to their feet. Cameras were yanked to the ready position, boom mikes swung to meet me, a few flash lights went off. Then they realised that I wasn't Norman Lamont.

The wonderful thing was that for once in my life a really great line had popped into my head at just the right moment. "Actually," I could say, sweeping past, "I am the Chancellor. I knew you reptiles would never penetrate my cunning disguise." I had the line, I had the situation: a funny spot at the end of the six o'clock news was assured. The only thing stopping me was that between one step and the next I had realised I was wearing a nightie.

This could have happened to anyone. Well, anyone female. I was fairly pregnant at the time and my cousin had recently passed on to me a whole pile of pregnancy clothes. I had been working my way through the pile and that morning I had put on a comfortable, simply cut pull-on dress with a soft collar like they have on rugby shirts. I had wondered whether it was not a little informal, but I didn't have enought pregnancy clothes to turn one down. Anyway something about being the focus of the concentrated attention of the world's press suddenly made it obvious to me that it was probably obvious to everyone else that I was walking the corridors of Her Majesty's Treasury in poly-cotton sleepwear. In the circumstances the headline would be not "Sassy Treasury Girl Trades Jokes With Journalists" but "Mad Woman Stalks Whitehall, Believes Self To Be Chancellor."

So my quip un-quipped I shuffled past the cameras and the cables and went disconsolately home and to bed. At least I was dressed for it.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005
A common fallacy about the nature of teaching. Every so often a certain claim is made by a teacher, usually in a Letter to the Editor denouncing the impudence of the non-teaching laity, which has long annoyed me. A version of it came up again in yesterday's Guardian. This article by Peter Hyman describes how he, a former speechwriter for Tony Blair, fares in an inner city classroom. Interesting stuff. I'm sure he is, or is becoming, a good teacher. But here it is again, right at the end of the article.
One day it all works: the students are focused; I think they are understanding the point, thinking for themselves. The next time - perhaps because I have done less preparation, perhaps because the students have had a bad day - the lesson is lacklustre, the students less sparky.

"Teaching is a craft, you know. No one would think of being a surgeon for the day, yet everyone thinks they can teach a bit. To do it properly takes real practice and experience," says one teacher to me ruefully.

I added the italics. The usual version of the complaint refers to airline pilots rather than surgeons. I mentioned both in an article I did for Right Now magazine. I said,
Every year or so this comic [the magazine of the National Union of Teachers] features an outraged letter on these lines: "Would you have your appendix removed by an unqualified surgeon? Would you cross the Atlantic in a plane with an unqualified pilot? Why, then, would you permit an unqualified teacher to instruct your child?" To which I answer (1) No, (2) No and (3) Why ever not? Anyone trying to extract an appendix by instinct alone will be up for manslaughter the following morning. Anyone trying to fly a 747 guided only by his Inner Light will soon be one of several hundred corpses bobbing along with the waves. Both these skills are failure-critical and arbitrary, in the sense that one cannot deduce from first principles which blood vessels to snip or buttons to press. Teaching is neither.
It is obvious why teachers want to be placed in the same bracket as surgeons or pilots: it's to keep out competition from classroom assistants, home educators and other riff-raff. The irony is that there is a profession that resembles classroom teaching much more closely than either that of surgeon or airline pilot, and in which good performers are often much better paid than either.

That profession is sales. A teacher must get a sceptical audience to share his view of the desirability of what he is offering, as must a salesman. A good teacher must know his subject as a good salesman must know his product. For both there is more to success than product knowledge; enthusiasm and empathy are also involved. Both are born not made, although experience and training can help. For both the constant human interaction can be exhausting. Both will be rejected and insulted every day. The best love their jobs anyway.

Yet this comparison is put forward a lot more often by salesmen than by teachers. Teachers don't like it at all. For one thing, salesmen are not seen as virtuous. This is not mere anti-capitalism, although there is plenty of that, but is more that teachers still cling to their traditional Automatic Professional Virtue Rating, not perceiving how much of that rating came from their low pay.

For another thing, any fool can be an unsuccessful salesman. Those wretches who mumble through a prepared script about double glazing - who would like to be compared to them? But compare I will: I pitied the worst teachers I knew even more than those individuals desperate enough to sign up for a job cold-calling.

The very best salesmen, however, can earn a fortune. A star performer can be the salvation of a failing company and, boy, do they know it when applying for a raise. Wouldn't it be strange if teachers played by the same rules? I don't necessarily put this forward as desirable for all: as Charles Murray pointed out in his book In Pursuit of Happiness, many teachers understandably value the feeling of collegiate harmony that comes from the worst-paid staff member at a school being paid an amount not too much less than the best-paid, and from the pay scales being fixed and known.

My analogy between sales and teaching is only analogy. It has its limitations. However Mr Hyman's colleague should accept that everybody can teach a bit, just as everybody can sell a bit. Not everybody can teach or sell well.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005
Peter Simple, thou knowest not what thou has wrought. In the late seventies my only opportunity to read the Telegraph (buying a copy was against my religion) was when copies of it were spread out to protect the tables in my O-Level art class. What sinful pleasure it was to slide my ongoing masterpiece Still Life With Adidas Trainers an inch to the side in order to sneak a look at Way of the World or Peter Simple. One of the two columns, I can't remember which, used to feature the "Ladies' Sewing Circle and Terrorist Society" who knitted hand grenade covers for the Khmer Rouge. I thought this was a very naughty right-wing joke.

Joke's on me. There really is such a body. In San Francisco's Bay Area, believe it or not. And it's on mugs and T-shirts and everything. Nostalgically, I wonder, was the whole "terrorist sewing circle" thing a widespread joke that I only saw through the lens of Peter Simple, or is it another case of an insult being taken up with pride by those it was directed at?

Ah, whichever. The late seventies. Those were the days. Days when you'd stick a safety pin through your lip and a nail through your nose and then snarl, "What are you ****ing staring at?"¹ at any bourgeois creep who looked your way.

Those days may not be utterly gone. Just the other week Scott Burgess had some fun with a glorious Guardian article on an exhibition of transgressive knitters who take on capitalism and war. (Do they win?) Instructions are provided by the Guardian for a knitted hand grenade.

Carrying on the grand tradition of doing all you can to shock and then complaining when it works, one Rachael Matthews says, "It seemed odd that you were allowed to read a book on the tube, but knitting was abnormal." Ms Matthews is a maker of knitted willies "with realistic head and veins." I'm sure her creative solidarity is much appreciated by the current leaders of resistance against US warmongering imperialism.

¹ Or rather, "What are you ****ink starink ab?"

Before I go, MMM writes:
If you are still looking for the Henry Ford story,
I am!
it sounds a lot like the one from Napoleon Hill's "Think and Grow Rich" Chapter on Specialized Knowledge.

pg. 76-77

"...Henry Ford was called "an ignorant pacifist." Mr. Ford objected to the statements, and brought suit against the paper for libeling him. When the suit was tried in the courts, the attorneys for the paper pleaded justification, and placed Mr. Ford, himself, on the witness stand, for the purpose of proving to the jury that he was ignorant.....Mr. Ford was plied with such questions as the following: "Who was Benedict Arnold?" and "How many soldiers did the British sent over to America to put down the Rebellion of 1776?" In answer to the last question, Mr. Ford replied, "I do not know the exact number of soldiers the British sent over, but I have heard that it was a considerably larger number that ever went back." reply to a particularly offensive question, he leaned over, pointing his finger at the lawyer who had asked the question and said, "If I should really want to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer any question I desire to ask...why should I clutter up my mind with general knowledge for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?"

He or she adds, "now it's back to Calculus II studying." This gives me the excuse to wheel out my favourite Calculus Profondity:
ſ t = deatht = birth existence dt = Life

HENRY FORD UPDATE: Captain Heinrichs sent me this link to Henry Ford's Time Machine, containing another famous Fordism:
"I don't know whether Napoleon did or did not try to get across there (to England) and I don't care. It means nothing to me. History is more or less bunk. It's tradition. We don't want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker's dam is the history we make today."
As I said, the man had other skills. Good thing he did.

Incidentally, that article quotes the words at issue in the court case as "ignorant idealist" rather than "ignorant pacifist."

Hail and farewell. I'm back, after a bout of that awful affliction that's going around, "work", I believe they call it. Goodbye again for a bit: must hop down to the newsagent to buy a copy of the Guardian to get outraged about.