British news: migration

“It’s been too easy to get into this country in the past and it’s going to get harder,”

said a UK immigration minister, according to this BBC news article. The article contains a link to an interesting map showing “total numbers of Eastern European migrants in each local authority who registered for work between May 2004 and December 2007.”

The issue seems to be getting a lot of play in various newspapers and media. I wonder what’s behind this? The obvious answer is the recession (digression: a recession is when your neighbour loses his job; a depression is when you lose yours). It could certainly not be that there are others at work behind the scenes, taking advantage of the present situation to further an agenda of increased border controls and more rigid surveillance of the population. No, siree!


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Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Japan news: over 100 teachers opt for demotion

For one of the classes I teach, I need to find news items in English about Japan (especially items that look at Japanese society from an unusual or non-Japanese point of view), and Japan Probe is a good source of such news. Japan Probe is a Japan news blog in English that focusses on general-interest news items, and sometimes usefully includes embedded video taken from Japanese TV. An item I found today, and bookmarked for my class, is Foreign tourists feel the pain as dollar/euro weaken against yen

The news class I teach is at a university, and, naturally, behind a firewall. Previously, some videos have been inaccessible to these students. If YouTube were blocked, that would kinda cramp things.

Another Japan news blog I subscribe to is Japan Today, which led me to this news item about Japanese public school teachers choosing demotion over the presumably high stress-levels of managerial positions.  I was interested in the ministry official’s statement,

‘‘Teachers in these positions tend to be saddled with heavy workloads and we will urge (schools) to improve their working conditions so that they do not get too much work,’’

and in one of the commenters who thought that the Education ministry

should provide more money for more teachers and fewer students per class rather than ‘urge’ schools to improve their working conditions.

If the teachers don’t like it, why don’t they negotiate for better conditions (fewer classes, for instance), or quit? Why do they need some higher power to fix things for them? What do you think?


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Looters vs producers

Ayn Rand was a highly controversial writer and philosopher of the 20th century. She wrote two blockbusters which got negative reviews initially, but which have sold steadily since then, mostly through word of mouth. The two blockbusters were The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged. Both are novels of ideas. The central idea of both novels is that a man’s life belongs to him and him alone, and that the purpose of that life is the living of the life itself, in the conscious, intense joy and dignity of purposely living a life that is one’s own and no-one else’s.

Rand shocked, and continues to shock, her public with the idea that selfishness is a virtue. She described what this means in her novels: your life belongs to you; not to the state, nor any group, not even your family; recognizing this is a key step towards realizing your potential.

Atlas Shrugged is about the producers and the looters of society. In Rand’s ideal society (an ideal capitalist economy), the producers would be left free to produce and by so doing, would lift everyone’s boat. The bad guys in Rand’s vision were the looters, those who either did not produce or (worse) decided that they would seize power and enslave the producers, force the producers to produce for them.

In Rand’s two famous novels, the producers are highly intelligent, creative, active people: artists, entrepreneurs, industrialists, inventors. Rand freely admits that her heroes and heroines are idealized characters. They are also mostly rich and well-bred.

Atlas Shrugged focuses on this concept of producers and looters: the looters try to enslave the producers, and the producers fight back by going on strike (Rand’s original title for the novel was “The Strike”). The events are seen through the eyes of two main characters, producers, who see going on strike as selling out, as giving up, as failing, and who resist. Their resistance to both the looters and the strikers allows Rand to highlight the issues involved: emotional, economic, political, and personal. The producers are people of great honesty and integrity, and these very qualities blind them for much of the novel to what is going on; to the actual intentions and values of the looters. The truth is so horrifying (to them) that at first they refuse to see it, to believe it, or accept it.

There is one scene where one of the characters, Dagney Taggart, finally understands the looters’ complete moral bankruptcy and sickening intentions:

There, she thought, was the ultimate goal of all that loose academic prattle which businessmen had ignored for years, the goal of all the slipshod definitions, the sloppy generalities, the soupy abstractions, all claiming that obedience to objective reality is the same as obedience to the State, that there is no difference between a law of nature and a bureaucrat’s directive… all of it, for years, that the day might come when Nat Taggart, the realist, would be asked to consider the will of Cuffy Meigs as a fact of nature, irrevocable and absolute like steel, rails and gravitation, to accept the Meigs made world as an objective, unchangeable reality – then to continue producing abundance in that world. … the savages who, seeing a farmer gather a harvest, can consider it only as a mystic phenomenon unbound by law of causality and created by the farmers’ omnipotent whim, who then proceed to seize the farmer, to chain him, to deprive him of tools, of seed, of water, of soil, to push him out on a barren rock and to command: “Now grow a harvest and feed us!” (50th anniversary edition, paperback, p 839).

I was reminded of this, and of her idea of “looters”, while watching this John Pilger documentary about Indonesia and globalization. About 36 minutes into the documentary, there is an interview with an Indonesian worker whose children suffer from some blood disorder. Inflation threatens his ability to buy the medecines his children need to survive. Although the documentary focuses on his economic situation, on the “unfairness” of this symbolic man’s plight (earning so little per day while others get millions “unearned”, is Pilger’s implication), I was strongly reminded of the image in Atlas Shrugged.


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Is evolution a fact or a theory?

School Gate is a (UK) Times Online blog about schools and schooling in Britain. I read it to keep abreast of what is going on in British education. Today’s entry is
This Science expert says that children should be taught creationism at school

The comments are particularly interesting and mostly well informed, but even more interesting is the post and comments on the September 10th blog entry Sarah Palin, the creationist debate and what our children should be taught about the big bang…

This second one has received a flood of comments, many of which are intelligent, informed and informative. If you want a quick education about creationism and whether evolution is a fact or a theory, or the difference between macro- and micro-evolution, head on over there. Some are downright hilarious, like this one:

Can’t we just form two queues? Those from lineages that have never evolved over there. Those who wish to continue evolving over here.
It’s sad for the children of creationist parents, of course, but maybe that’s evolution at work.

My faith is that some people are credulous, superstitious fools that are a burden for the rest of us, and I expect my faith to be respected by anyone invoking faith-based arguments.

Perhaps the best one is by Meredith. I won’t reproduce it all here, just follow the link. Meredith points out the difference between a fact and a theory.


I recommend the following digital products: WP GDPR Fix, a WordPress plugin that quickly and easily helps you make your WP blog GDPR compliant. Brett Kelly's "Evernote Essentials", Dan Gold's $5 guides to Getting Everything Done with Evernote and Springpad, and DocumentSnap Solutions' Paperless Document Organization Guides. Be sure to try DocumentSnap's free email course on going paperless first before buying his products. Sign up for it on his homepage.
Disclosure of Material Connection: My recommendations above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a commission. Your cost will be the same as if you order directly. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

We're all pilgrims on the same journey – but some pilgrims have better road maps – Nelson DeMille