29 June, 2008

New York

In New York at the moment, doing whistle stop tour as we lost several housrs last night due to torrential rain and storms!

Top of the Rock absolutely awesome! Off to Staten Island ferry now to see Statue of Liberty...

WRIST - sign language for restaurants

This is fairly amusing.

I especially like 5 and 6:

6) Perhaps the most famous WRIST gesture is when customers take it upon themselves to sign a giant invisible cheque in the air. For centuries this has meant: 'Can I have the bill and go home, please?' These days this action is so archaic, it's almost amusing. In the UK, the correct World Restaurant International Style Technique for requesting your bill now means holding your hands apart, as if your are requesting a parrot-sized coffin. Now stab the palm of your hand four times with a finger, simulating the act of punching in your PIN number.

7) Grimace and repeatedly thump your lightly perspiring forehead with clenched fists. This means: 'What in the name of crikey is my pin number again?'

28 June, 2008


Hello my darlings!

I am off to the airport in less than half an hour. I have set it up so that some posts will come through over the next few days, but my apologies that I won't necessarily be able to reply to them should you comment,

Feel free to comment any way :)

Muchos Amores,


27 June, 2008

Gender pay gap - not what you might think

This statistic surprised and worried me.
The really interesting comparison isn't between women and men but between single, childless women and men. If you compare women who aren't married or cohabiting with men who aren't married or cohabiting, you know what? The pay gap goes the other way. Hourly pay for the women is £8.82; for men £8.72. (Times)
I don't think the reason I was surprised would astound you; so, why am I concerned?

Well, the case for equal pay has been made for a few decades now, but it's invariably been to get women's pay equal with that of men. The case made has tended to be a moral case appealing to our innate sense of fair play and often the veil of ignorance in one way or another as well as a smattering of 'potential' arguments.

Much of that holds true for making sure that any pay differentiation between men and women stays within 'reasonable' boundaries. (I think that the figures above are reasonable and possibly reflect that most men working part time will do so in jobs even worse aid than retail. But I am concerned that a small gap could get bigger.) So why the worry? Well, this is where it gets a little fluffy, but broadly speaking, a society which socialises men tends to be great for women who suffer less violence etc as a consequence.

When women were suffering from bad pay, it was acceptable to say that this was because they were inferior in one way or another. Many women accepted that judgment from society and, although not happy with it, probably more or less agreed with the core of it. They were able to to this in part because women have never been the dominant sex.

Men, on the other hand, have traditionally been the dominant sex. They have been used to being the intelligent, wise and hard working ones in the eyes of society. In terms of a pay differentiation, they are far less likely to accept that it is because they are 'worse' in some way and far more likely to decide that it's a conspircy and to opt out of society.

Men who opt out of society tend to be very dangerous to women indeed, especially if they blame women for their situation.

Today, we already see groups of men and individuals who are responded to both real and percived grievances and sexism. I had a conversation with DB a while ago and he said (paraphrasing) "adverts are anti men, you never see them taking the piss out of women". I agree, some adverts are 'silly man', but these tend to be adverts targtted at women. When you see nappy adverts and adverts for baby lotion targetted at men, then we will have achieved gender equality. The first advert I could think of to prove DB wrong was the Mr Muscle adverts. They effective said 'women work hard, but their are inefficient and silly for using so many products. Men are clever and only need to use one product". I also think of the Nuts adverts "women, don't expect help on a Tuesday" where women are shown, for example, unable to fix/clean a radiator.

In my view, the amount of sexism in adverts is probably about 50-50 and I don't actually object to most of it as it is done in the necessary jokey way. What I find interesting, though, is the perception to rise in 'anti-male' adverts has caused.

Combine this with the family court system, which tends to give custody to the mother on the grounds that she is the primary caregiver and therefore it seems to be in the best interest of the child. I find it wrong that mother often deny fathers their legal right to acecss their children, but I find it more interesting that groups like Fathers for Justice have started up to combat this. Unfortunately, I seem to remember several articles which strongly suggested (family court proceedings are not public) that the fathers had been denied access by the courts, and for very good reasons too. There is surely some injustice, but again, I believe it is being magnified by a group of people who never expected to be in this position and so don't know how to cope with it.

Combine this, most seriously, with the fact that women are performing better in education, accross the board. Initally, this was thought to be the fault f coursework which was seen as being more geare to girls, but it appears that in examination modules, women are also peforming better. This is largely, in my view, todo with a culture of conformity amoungst women whcih means it is simply expect that we get good grades and work hard, and so we do. As we have monopolised this behavioural pattern, and as masculinity is most often defined by not being feminine, this leaves boys to slack off and at best, not work hard enough to achieve their potential, at worst, see even the existance of good grades as evidence that someone is really 'a girl'. Whe women performed worse in education, it was largely for three reasons:
  1. at the time, women were expect to be thick, so many were.
  2. the pass grade for women, taking the same exam as men, as deliberately and explicitly raised
  3. women weren't taught certin subjects/taught them badly so they did worse in them.
All three of these propositions are no longer true, and women are out performing men. Now, we know that the system doesn't explicitly or implicitly discriminate against men in terms of pass marks or teaching, so it has to be the culture amoungst men which is the main determinative.

I've covered why this worries me, it's the backlash which could follow.

But it seems sad that female success and equality has meant that men have redefined their gender to reject success, thus removing half of the potential from society. Given the educational differntial, the problem of inequal pay is only going get worse - at least in the short run. I am concerned about how much society will lose out in this period. Unfortunately, it is someting men must fix themselves. The interference of women in this situation could only make it worse.

26 June, 2008

Named Finals

The ENL final is:

Oxford D (Shengwu Li and Ben Jasper, I think)
Oxford B (Alex Worsnip and Simon Quinn)
Oxford A (Will Jones and James Dray)
KCL A (Jonathan Leader Maynard and Louis Palombo)

Go go JLM!

The ESL final is:

BBU A (Dan Cristea and Nico Lupea)
Leiden A (Leela Koenig and Simone Van Elk)
Tel Aviv A (Yoni Cohen and Rinat Gershfeld)
HSoG A (Adam Hildebrandt and Alena Asyamova)

Go go Leiden!


so our predictions were more accurate for the ESL final than the ENL final....

Bad luck to Ireland

EUDC 2008: The Book


My bid for the ENL final is: KCL A, Oxford A, UCD Law A and UCC Law A.

My bid for the ESL final is: Leiden A, Tilbury for sure. I'm afraid I don't know about the others so I'll run with their breaking position and take BBU A and Tel Aviv A.

What nationality are BBU, by the way?

Any bets?

Named ESL Semis

Can Okar has been good enough to file the names for the ESL semis:

1G BDU B (Ehmann Patrick and Daniel Hinkeldein)
1O Bonaparte B (Sarie Muijs and Reinier de Adelhart Toorop)
2G Leiden A (Leela Koenig and Simone Van Elk)
2O BBU A (Dan Cristea and Nico Lupea)

1G Tel Aviv A (Yoni Cohen and Rinat Gershfeld)
1O HSoG A (Adam Hildebrandt and Alena Asyamova)
2P Tilbury A (Felix Lamouroux and Assen Kochev)
2O Warwick A (Hanns Koenig and Anna Diofasi)

Named Semis

Regrettably, neither Manchester nor ULU B made it through.

The Named Semi final is therefore:

The pairing for SF 1:
1G Oxford A (Will Jones and James Dray)
1O UCD L&H A (Stephan Boyle and Ian Boyle Harper)
2G UCC Phil A (Ross Frenet and Conor O'Brian)
2O KCL A (Jonathan Leader Maynard and Louis Palombo)

The pairing for SF 2:
1G Oxford D (un-listed)
1O UCD Law A (Ross Maguire and Marguerite Carter)
2G Oxford B (Alex Worshnip and Simon Quinn)
2O UCC Law A (Art Ward and Tiernan Fitzgibbon)

Names Quarter Finals

Thought it might be useful to name who was who in the quarters as team names don't say much.


1G Oxford C (8) (Max Kasriel and Jamie Susskind)
1O UCD L & H A (9) (Stephan Boyle and Ian Boyle Harper)
2G Oxford A (1) (Will Jones and James Dray)
2O TCD Phil B (16) (Brian O'Beirne and Jonathon Wyse)

Judges: Daniel McCarthy (Chair), Derek Doyle, Isabelle Loewe, Stuart Anderson, David Middlemiss

QF 2
1G Cambridge B (7) (Netan Dogra and Charlotte Thomas)
1O ULU B (10) (Fred Cowell and Rosie Unwin)
2G UCC Law A (15) (Art Ward and Tiernan Fitzgibbon)
2O Oxford B (2) (Alex Worshnip and Simon Quinn)

Judges: Ali Cormack (Chair), Adriaan Andringa, Andy Hume, Kirsty Russell, David Wheelan

QF 3
1G UCD Law A (6) (Ross Maguire and Marguerite Carter)
1O UCD Law B (14) (Shane Cranley and Eoin Martin)
2G Oxford D (11) (not listed?)
2O Manchester A (3) (Dan Bradley and James Dixon)

Judges: Daniel Schut (Chair), Sam Block, Ewan MacDonald, Tony Murphy, Olga Polunina

QF 4
1G Leiden A (4) (Leela Koenig and Simon van Elk)
1O KCL A (12) (Jonathan Leader Maynard and Louis Palombo)
2G Helsinki A (13) (Richard Penny and Ina Subulica)
2O UCC Phil A (5) (Ross Frenet and Conor O'Brian)

Judges: Greg O'Neill (Chair), Felicity Cook, Neil Dewar, Andrew Marshall, Bob Nimmo

Motion: "This House would ban the broadcast of recordings produced by terrorists."

25 June, 2008



MDU A (Dan and James) and ULU B (Fred and Rosie) broke :D

MDU broke 3rd and ULU B broke 10th.

Cue much happiness and delight!

Mapping religious America

This is a really interesting site here.

35,000 US adults were asked about their religious beliefs. The data is broken down by graphs and maps etc.

Worth playing around on.

Manchester A - top room

Manchester A are in the top room for round 5, suggesting that they won round 4.

This would put them on +2/10pts.


(Room info courtesy of: http://yourgermancorrespondent.blogspot.com/2008/06/motion-r5-eudc-2008.html)

EUDC 2008: Top 16, so far...

Ok, not strictly the top 16, the table sorts by teams points then alphabetically so as about half of the teams on 7 points are in the top 16, I've included everyone on 7 points.

The numbers on the left hand side are irrelevant.

Team Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Total
20 BRISTOL A 3 3 3 9
100 OXFORD A 3 3 3 9
101 OXFORD B 3 3 3 9
24 CAMBRIDGE A 3 2 3 8
60 INNER TEMPLE A 3 3 2 8
69 LEIDEN A 3 2 3 8
79 MANCHESTER A 3 3 2 8
103 OXFORD D 2 3 3 8
105 QMUL B 3 3 2 8
117 ST ANDREWS B 3 2 3 8
14 BONAPARTE A 2 2 3 7
19 BPP LAW A 2 2 3 7
25 CAMBRIDGE B 3 2 2 7
36 DURHAM A 2 2 3 7
38 DURHAM C 2 3 2 7
48 HELSINKI A 2 3 2 7
54 HUNI A 2 2 3 7
67 KOC A 3 1 3 7
70 LEIDEN B 1 3 3 7
97 NUIG L&D A 3 2 2 7
125 TCD PHIL B 3 1 3 7
137 UCD L&H A 3 3 1 7
140 UCD LAW A 3 3 1 7
146 ULU B 3 1 3 7

EUDC 2008: Results on EUDC website

Love it:


(Tournament results)

Anonymous Witnesses

I rather like the debate going on at the moment about whether some witnesses should be allowed to remain anonymous in some cases, especially cases related to gang crime.

I think that it is true that many witnesses are too scared to step forward without anonymity. I don't think this fear is paranoia or irrational.

I also believe that it is true that one of the corner stones of our justice system is to face your accuser. Where the accuser is hidden, we cannot have sufficient information to judge their honesty. No can we have people confirm that witnesses version, because we cannot revel who that witness is.

It's a tough one. fairly interesting articles on the subject here and here. The Times article (the 2nd one) is particularly well balanced.

Debate Geekspeak Glossary

I realise that many non-debaters read this blog, so here is a hopeflly helpful phrasebook:

THW/THBT=This House Would/This House Believes That

The positions: There are 4 teams in each debate. Teams cannot be ranked jointly.

EUDC: European Universities Debating Competition

"breaking"- there are 7 'in rounds' where everyone competes. Then the top 16 teams are selected to go into the knockout rounds, the 'out rounds'. This is the break. If you reach the knockout rounds, you've broken. It then goes Quarters, Semis and final with half the teams being knocked out at each stage (the top two teams from each room go through, at this stage)

"Points"- Two ways of doing it: either, +1 point for a 1st, 0 for a 2nd, -1 for a 3rd and -2 for a fourth. You add them up as you go along. So a team with 1st,1st,2nd (also written 112) will be on +1+1+0=+2 over all. 0 is usually referred to as straights.
The alternative way is where 1st=3 points, 2nd=2 points, 3rd=1 point and 4th=zero points. The break at this tournament will likely be 15 points, in my opinion (ie: +1)
I prefer the former method as it doesn't matter how many rounds there are in the tournament, you can still work out the usualy break.

Rounds:- Euros has 7 in rounds (break to quarters). Worlds has 9 (break to octos). Most IV tournaments have 4-5 (break to semis).

IV- Intervarsity (a university level deating competition)

The Tab- is the scoring system. It is merely the computer programme, but also the printed chart. People might say 'the tabs crashed' or 'do yu have a copy of the tab from 2007'.

EUDC 2008: Motions so far

R1: THW require people to work in return for welfare payments
R2: THBT sporting bodies should penalise teams when their players commit criminal acts off the field
R3: THW use military force where necessary to deliver emergency aid
R4: THW make fines relative to wealth

(For any non debaters reading: THW=This House Would, THBT=This House Believes That) No law for the next couple of days, I'm afraid, just Euros geekery. I'll do a glossary.

All of the motions so far seem fairly solid, nothing too innovative (well, I've done all of them except Round 2 before, and I was going to run R2 at a training session).

None of them are especially IR or knowledge heavy so far either, and we haven't had a 'local' motion...

So far there's been: Social justice, sport/society, IR, criminal justice...

So they still have Estonia/that area of the world, medical ethic, gender, religion, science, another IR... to name but a few.

Whilst I would love these motions (fluff tastic!) I am somewhat surprised by them, I have to say, I would have thought there would be more hardcore/new motions.

24 June, 2008

EUDC 2008: Euros Results (day 1) Final update and tab for the day

Inner temple (Rupert and partner): 2,2,3, five points, minus 1.

SOAS: All teams are on three points (minus 3) have taken three thirds.

On the 'tab of teams I'm watching' therefore:

MDU A: 8, (+2)
ULU: 7, (+1)
Middle: 6 (0)
KCL A: 6 (0)
KCL B: 6 (0)
MDU B: 5 (-1)
MDU C: 5 (-1)
Inner: 5 (-1)
SOAS: 3 (-3)

And on to tomorrow....

EUDC 2008: Euros Results (day 1): Confirmed MDU results

I am grateful to Dan James for sending the following results through:

MDU A: Dan/James: 1st 1st 2nd
MDU C: Tom/Kenny: 3rd1st 3rd
MDU B: Klairi/Usama: 4th 2nd 1st

This puts:
MDU A on 8 points, or plus 2
MDU C on 5 points, or minus 1
MDU B on 5 points, or minus 1

I suspect the 'definite break' will be plus 1. Straights might do it though, if speaks are high enough.

EUDC 2008: Euros Results (day 1) UPDATE

Update on day one:

Middle A (James and Katrina): are on straights
ULU (Fred and Rosie): Plus 1

For those of you who don't know, a first is +1, a second is 0, a third is -1 and a fourth is -2. ULU have therefore for two 2nds and a 1st. Middle A either have three 2nds or a 1st,2nd and 3rd.

KCL A (Jonathan Leader Maynard and Louis Palomb): Straights

KCL B (Andrew Tuffin and Jon Gaydon): straights

No update on SOAS.

Latest results are from Rosie (thank you :) )

EUDC 2008: Euros Results (day 1)

MDU A (Dan Bradley and James Dixon): two wins, no result for round 3.
MDU B (Usama Rehman and Klairi Liis): 4th, 2nd and 1st
MDU C: 2nd and either 1st or 3rd, no result for round three

ULU (Fred and Rosie): No results

Middle A (James and Katrina): No results
Inner: No results
SOAS: No results

More updates when I bully them out of people!

Al's blog

It turns out that Al has just entered the world of blogging.

The link to his blog (on politics and novel writing) is on the right.

BVC - a facebook discussion

I hope Rupert won't mind if I take his FB note and the comments afterwards. I thought it was an interesting debate. Surnames have been deleted to make sure people aren't published if they don't want to be. If anyone is in thsi note and doesn't want t be, tell me, I'll delete you.
Rupert's note:

I wrote another letter to the editor of The Times. This has been bugging me for a while, and I thought I ought to point it out. What do people think?


For hundreds of students, the Inns of Court provide generous support
to enable young people to become barristers. As one of the students to
have attended the Bar Vocational Course at BPP law school in Holborn,
the first private UK company to be given degree awarding powers by the
Privy Council, my exhibition from the Inner Temple has gone directly
towards the profit of BPP shareholders.

Course fees for the BVC rise each year, with BPP's fees jumping 11.4%
to £14,150 in 2008, compared with the charitable City Law (formerly
ICSL) School's 4.3% rise to £13,250 ("How much an LPC or BVC will cost
you" May 5, 2008).

The link between charity and private enterprise can be a
disincentivising one - fewer people may donate to the Inns' funds as
the prices for the BVC rise every year. Future donors might wish to
specify that their award go only to students attending a course
provider which operates as a charitable organisation.

Rachel (Columbia) wrote
at 11:59am on June 20th, 2008
I think you are heading for one heck of a pillow fight with the big man...

Miss Middle wrote
at 12:05pm on June 20th, 2008
But when even the cheapest BVC course is £8000 and that funding is used to subsidise other courses (the same way as they use international students' fees) then there isn't a 'charitable' option.

The purpose of the BVC scholarships isn't charity towards an institution, but to the individual student. It therefore doesn't matter how that student spends the money, provided they end up passing the BVC at the end of it.

Where an organisation gave a living grant to a person, would you object to that person buying clothes from Topshop because it is a commercial enterprise rather than Oxfam? I can't imagine that you would! Instead, I imagine you would be happy that the grant was going towards their living costs.

Brian (Cambridge) wrote
at 2:15pm on June 20th, 2008
I do see what you mean, and I think my gut reaction would be the same. But as people have pointed out, charitable funds have to be used to buy commercial services all the time. The key is the aim, rather than the final result. I suppose it's almost analogous to the fact that the ICLR is a charity, even though people obviously make vast sums of money from the law reports!

On the BVC, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on my post at http://briansloan.livejournal.com/98209.html.

David (London) wrote
at 4:40pm on June 20th, 2008
Afraid I agree with Miss Middle(which normally means I'm right, in my experience); once you acknowledge the existence of for-profit private enterprise companies providing the course, the fact that the funding bodies are charitable makes no difference.

In fact to be honest the 'private' nature of the course provider isn't really relevant from the angle you're complaining about - most 'charitable' universities are run for profit just as much as pedagogy, even if that has been forced onto them by blinkered educational policy.

That said, allowing private companies to do this sort of thing is a classic example of why privitisation of educational 'services' is bullshit. The purpose of the BVC should be to prepare you for pupillage; at BPP the purpose is to provide shareholder value. The BVC isn't even BPP's main profit driver, they just use it for prestige. Which is why you pay extortionate sums to get taught nothing by incompetent men and neurotic women on a career break...

Miss Middle wrote
at 5:19pm on June 20th, 2008
What worries me is how much better the teaching on the GDL at BPP was last year, compared to the teaching at MMU on the BVC this year....

Fred (SOAS) wrote
at 5:51pm on June 20th, 2008
The sooner the BVC is abolished the better, the problem is that BPP with their corporate ethos have managed to furthur entrench some of the more fictious benefits of the BVC.

I think that alllowing more private sector involvement will perpetuate the ever increasing price rises. Donors to scholarships may not have a clue how the funding process works - but by allowing the money grabbing to go on unchecked course fees will continue to rise as will debts as will the need for larger and larger scholarships. There will be a point where Inns scholarships just won't be able to realsitically cover the fees.

Miss Middle wrote
at 6:11pm on June 20th, 2008
Am I over simplifying by observing that there isn't a monopoly on BVC provision and thinking that basic supply and demand kicks in at some point?

When BPP and ICSL are c£14000 but Bristol, MMU, Northumbria and Glamorgan are only c£8000, it's not like people are being forced to choose the most expensive provider.

Rosie(London) wrote
at 6:21pm on June 20th, 2008
I also agree with Miss Middle, if you don't wish all of the scholarship money to go to your bvc provider go to a non london provider where not only is the course cheaper but the cost of living is also easier

the vast majority of us have chosen to do a course which we went into with our eyes wide open about how bad it was (and if you didn't you only had to ask around as any one could tell you) and we did it to get the qualification, unfortunately a lot of people had the same idea therefore, more people applying higher fees can be charged

Fred (SOAS) wrote
at 6:36pm on June 20th, 2008
But supply and demand don't always work as market regulatory mechanisms and this is a case in point.

Firstly the increase in supply has come in out of London providers. There are not as many pupillages outside London and for those looking for pupillage inside London a year outside London may not always be the best choice for them. Also the quality of some out of London providers has been questioned. Now befoe I open I can of worms - I am talking about perception issues here and how indviduals think about things when making choices about their life. Given these perception issues even though course fees are less outside london, the providers inside London can increase fees without reference to what out of London providers are doing.

Secondly the role of the private sector in thsi market has a slightly distorting effect. BPP, unless specifically regulated otherwise, has a commercial incentive to increase the number of places on its course completly

Rosie (London) wrote
at 6:38pm on June 20th, 2008
but it is specifically regulated, that's what the bar council does, the bar council regulates the amount of people that are allowed on each course

Miss Middle wrote
at 6:49pm on June 20th, 2008

I agree that London and provincial courses aren't directly comparable for the majority, but there is a certain substitutability which will only increase with price discrepancy.

But even within London, there are three providers (I believe?). If BPP starts charging £14k but ICSL remains £12K and the other one (maybe) £11K then there is still a fairly startling choice within London.

I think there is a perception that the course at BPP is better taught than at other institutions - (and my experience between BPP and MMU would seem to be a case in point) and that the better teaching allows it to charge more. Equally, there is the perception ICSL is still preferred by some chambers and so people are willing to pay for that.

I'll agree its not a perfectly competitive, but I still say it's far from monopoly or oligopoly. The choice of price is there, it just depends on whether you wish to make other changes in your life.

Alex(Cambridge) wrote
at 8:56pm on June 20th, 2008
Er, I don't see the problem.

First, this is a competitive market. The fact that BPP charge more than the other providers should be something that prospective students weigh in the balance when choosing a BVC provider.

Secondly, all BVC providers are looking to expand. If anything, BPP are *less* cavalier in allowing half-wits in to study than, say, ICSL. BPP have the highest percentage of the London providers of students who have/get pupillage.

Thirdly, I really don't think that poor teaching on the BVC is isolated to BPP! And I'm speaking from bitter, bitter, experience.

Fred(SOAS) wrote
at 11:00pm on June 20th, 2008
To be honest - this is all a bit of a waste of time. The BVC is a waste of time and BPP's entry and presence into the waste of time market has created a cost spiral that won't slow down anytime soon.

I think my point was that BPP given their corporate ethos are probaby more responsible than others for this ever increasing waste of money that people are forced to endure. At the same time I take Alex's point that ICSL does have a bit of a reputation for parting people with no real prospects of obtaining pupillage from large sums of money and in doing so do their bit to add to this madness.

Fred(SOAS) wrote
at 11:13pm on June 20th, 2008
To be honest I am also quite in favour of some kind of cap being imposed on fees for this kind of course and training and of possibly changing the entire dynamic of the course to deal with the ridiculous levels of debt and price cutting going on in legal aid

I just think there is something distrubing in the ethos that the bar council and others seem to have - because lots of people apply to do the BVC this is just market forces at work. True, but there is the real possiblity that the debt levels created by the BVC may put people off from doing, or staying in publically funded work

Just a thought - It is something that is serriously bothering me

Kathryn(London) wrote
at 11:14pm on June 20th, 2008
I enjoyed the last year on the BVC and the previous year on the GDL at BPP. They do, at least, care if you pass or fail and offer plenty of advice and practice interviews etc unlike other providers, unlike my university, unlike my A-Level college, unlike any of my schools...

It is good for there to be competition and for a privately run institution to set a standard that invoves more teaching, higher trained teachers and more resources that the other institutions. The principle is surely right even if there are problems with the course in practice.

I don't agree it was a waste of time- Fred- could you really do this time last year what you can do now?? The issue is rather how the course is taught (whether it is efficiently taught) and whether there is propert use of funds.

No institution can be more of a waste of money, time or brain cells that Edinburgh University anyway-4 years/ £12k and all you develop is a drink problem.

Rupert- reform the education system not the BVC.

Fred(SOAS) wrote
at 12:09am on June 21st, 2008
No - I feel more stupid now that's the difference before and after the BVC for me

- and I don't know about any of the other of your schools but I would say that Hills Road is better than BPP in terms of teachers who gave a damn

Who knows maybe the BPP BVC is better taught due to higher fees etc. We certainly are better resourced than other providers

- but I think this is a moot point - the underlying problem is that the course is pointless in the extreme and it is my personal belife that ever increasing costs serve as a perverse bootstrapping mechanism for BVC providers and other interested party to justify the importance of their course

Rowena (King's College London) wrote
at 5:25am on June 21st, 2008
Alex, apparently Nottingham has the highest rate of those with pupillage...Beepers are third

I am reserving all other comment until after Thursday...


David(London) wrote
at 11:47am on June 21st, 2008
Miss Middle- pupillage providers on Circuit are importanti n obviating the need to do Bar finals in London if you don't want to practise there, but they are there to service their local Circuit and if you want to practise in London they're not the best option, if for no other reason that getting pupillage is as much about work experience and networking as anything else, and you need to be in the right town to get that.

Kat - competition's not a good in itself, and BPP are a very good example of the myth of the private sector showing 'best practice' to the public. BPP are much better resourced, and I've doubt that some of the tutors genuinely care about their students, but not one of them would be there if they had been succesful in practice (except those who left to have kids) and the general level of teaching when I was there was awful.

They don't teach you - they tell you what 'skills' you are expected to acquire and then examine you on them without showing you how to improve.

David(London) wrote
at 11:56am on June 21st, 2008
Fred - you're dead right about publicly funded law. People at Bindmans have already commented on how the Bar used to be almost entirely comprised of independently wealthy posh kids with a social conscience, and though that's been less so more recently they expect this to happen again with the combination of legal aid cuts and the cost of training soaring.

At the end of the day though the big issue here is what Rosie's alluded to - the Bar Council may 'regulate' the BVC but they continue to allow far to many people to take the course and generate massive debt when there are simply not enough jobs at the end. Every year 1000 more people do the BVC than there are pupillages on offer. That's pretty scandalous - there need to be higher entry standards and an interview for the BVC.

Rupert(Cambridge) wrote
at 1:43pm on June 21st, 2008
I agree with your comments about entry. The added cost to BVC students of paying a profit margin is avoidable quite simply if donors to the scholarship funds specify another institution. The cost of the BVC to all students is increased when profit-motivated schools (there is academic competition between universities without the private sector) create salary inflation problems for good teachers.

Rupert(Cambridge) wrote
at 1:43pm on June 21st, 2008
Once BPP establish themselves as a legitimate (and good) law school then they have the market bagged: nervous young lawyers will stump up hideous amounts in the hope of securing their careers ("BPP have the highest percentage of the London providers of students who have/get pupillage" - Alex), and to avoid charges of elitism the bar will be effectively forced to subsidise the sky-high fees for students of merit to attend the most expensive course.

A GCSE level understanding of supply and demand just doesn't fit this scenario. This is a relatively price inelastic situation: BPP are the most expensive and oversubscribed.

Unless the Inns truly believe that what BPP does is significantly better and that this quality in the BVC is what the bar needs above all else (economic efficiency, access, equality, value) then they should kill the problem now by expressing a preference for better value providers which don't profit and have an incentive to maximise profit...

Miss Middle wrote
at 11:44pm yesterday
You're assuming those providers exist!

Bad teaching is the same across the whole of the BVC, I don't think there is any justification for picking out business BVC providers on this basis! I realise that to an extent I am comparing apples and oranges, but I found BPP was fantastic for the GDL and I'm finding MMU is crap for the BVC. That's not on issue such as teaching etc, it's on plain organisation and doing things which make students lives easier, like lecture handouts, like timetables more than 1 week in advance, like putting anything at all on the internet for people to access (to name just a few of my bug bears). Frankly, the difference in cost between BPP leeds and MMU was £4000 and if I had the knowledge that I do now, I'd go to Leeds. This is despite the fact I want to work, live and practice in Manchester. Sure, only an hour or two apart, but the comparison is there.

Miss Middlewrote
at 11:50pm yesterday
And in terms of the 'GCSE supply and demand', my comment was a tad more subtle than that. I'm not claiming that its a perfectly competitive market, frankly, I wouldn't claim that for carrots, but the existence of a market which isn't perfectly competitive doesn't justify government (or other) regulation, however much money is involved. So, there's some difference between a Ferrari and a BMW, so they both charge slightly different prices that many of us wouldn't consider worth the money - doesn't mean someone form the outside has to step in.

None of us are suggesting that we thought pupillage was easy to get or that the BVC providers systematically collude to artificially raise prices. We all walked into this with our eyes open and our egos sufficiently large to think that we would be the ones who make it. Frankly, anyone who is ignorant of the risks or who cannot analyse them is obviously not suitable for the bar in the first place.

Pro bono work is more interesting issue....

Miss Middle wrote
at 11:56pm yesterday
But I think it is one which could be sorted out separately from BVC funding/places.

Out of curiousity, do you find organisations labelled 'charity' for tax purposes (such as universities) are actually more moral than an organisation which is upfront and says 'we're going to charge more, we're going to make a profit. Yet students will want to come to us because we will be seen as the best'.

I think that entry requirements for the BVC is a difficult one. We could say no one with less than 320 UCAS points and a 2.1 could get in - but there are always exceptional cases.

How to improve? Make every student who applies tick a box to say 'yes, we're read he 2500 applications to 400 tenancies' statistics. Make every BVC provider publish the number of their students who get various grade, pupillage and what grades they got at uni and school. Give people more info, then let them decide if it's worth it. If they can't analyse the risk, bad luck, it's a stupid person tax.

Miss Middle wrote
at 11:57pm yesterday
... (as the person who received another rejection today, I still feel the 'stupid person tax' is justified.)

Lack of posts...

Sorry about the lack of updates recently, by the way. I've got re-obsessed with the West Wing.

The Pill - now online!

A website has just been set up allowing women to order to pill over the internet rather than having to go to their GP.

Ok, so at the moment, I wouldn't use this because they charge for the pill, unlike the NHS where it is free.

However, I support the idea 100%. I find the currant situation ludicrous. You can be on the pill for over 5 years with no negative side effects at all, but every time you need a new prescription you have to make an appointment and then get yourself to your GP. Repeat prescriptions aren't available. GPs only usually work 9-5, Monday to Friday which is fine if you don't work, but unfortunately this isn't the 1950s and most women do now work.

Its a bit like family planning clinics only being open 10-1, Mon, Wed and Fri. Not so good if it's emergency contraception that you need!

The pill should continue to be free from the NHS, but as all they do at the GP is weigh you, test your blood pressure and ask if nyone in your family has died of a heart attack, frankly, the pharmacist in Tescos is equally qualified to do that and Tescos is far more convenient for 90% of the population.

I don't understand the opposition that the GMC (etc) are making to this. This article all sums it up quite well.

23 June, 2008

Politicians, economists and decision making

Two interesting - and related - articles in the Times in the last two days.

The comment central blog page asks how we can change people without introducing more legislation, and then lays out 5 means of doing it.

The article covers the same issue in more depth.

Given the popularity of books explaining incentive structures (such as freakonomics) and other aspects of decision making in the economic field (The Armchair Economist), I'm glad that 'the dismal science' is once again being considered by the public.

I also far prefer to change behaviour by means other than legislation (ctrl+F "hotel towels" here)

But then I ask myself, why do I find indirect and subtle methods of behavioural change more acceptable? I think it's sledgehammer/nut, but I'm not sure.

22 June, 2008

Women and the front line

This is probably one of the most honest pieces that I've seen on this issue in a long while.

I admire the fact that she can admit that she has gut feelings, but they are not the right basis for legislation and that even if she is right in the majority, she should not legislate in a manner which would restrict the minority.

I also recommend Kate Adie on this (Corsets to Camouflage)

21 June, 2008

Race and Adoption: Part II

I wrote a while ago about the problem that some parents were having adopting a baby whose ethnicity was different from their own.

The BBC has picked up the story today and appears to confirm the Daily Mail's interpretation of events. Thankfully, a children's charity is calling for a change in the law.

Update on the communist jokes

I posted a little while ago on the communist jokes.

Here are the top ten.

My favourite is number 8:

Q: Why do ex-Stasi officers make the best Berlin taxi drivers?
A: Because you only need to tell them your name and they'll already know where you live!

Boom! Boom! ;-)

Dramatis Personae

This blog seems to have started as a purely debating blog, moved swiftly onto currant affairs and has more recently become much more personal. Whilst many of you know me in real life, for those that don't, it seems apt to give a little information about the people I mention on here, and I'm likely to mention more in the future.

Miss Middle of Manchester - me. But my ego wouldn't let me leave it off. (Former) BVC student, currently unemployed, debating geek and CA of two future IVs next term.

The Boy - Miss Middle of Manchester's boyfriend/partner. Cohabitation is a pain when it comes to terms of referral! He is a __________ who works just south of Manchester. Expert on Excel and all other overly geeky computer programmes. also, currently my only means of financial support

The Fish - they die at intervals. I'm thinking of setting up a label to mark their deaths

Andropov - was a former member of both my original SGS group as well as my options group.

The Ginger - Also known as Al (formally known to me as Alex. It's all terribly confusing!) when he replies to posts. Used to debate lots, now suspect he only reads this blog because he wants to win the IVs which I set the motions for :)

MC + A: MC and A are actually two people, but seeing as we gossip together most of the time, can usually be referred to together. Excellent sources of salacious gossip. They were in my former SGS group and, alongside Andropov, are the only people I actually still talk to.

The Aunt - whilst I have 3 Aunts, I suspect I'll be blogging whilst I'm out in Texas this summer. She's the aunt who lives out there who I'll be staying with. I don't know why I've renamed her as I call her usually by a childhood nickname anyway!

More people will be added where necessity requires....

20 June, 2008

Trauma! Upset! Panic! Disaster!

All of the above.

My computer died last night.

It had been making funny whirring noises from the space where the hard drive lives all day.

I thought I might get away with it because it had made the same funny noises once before, a month ago. But alas, it was not to be.

The final straw for the poor thing was me trying to back up all my files: Starts ok, so I go away and come back 5 minutes later to blue screen of death. When I exit blue screen, computer has decided hard drive doesn't exist.

I'm wondering whether to take it down to the police, tell them that there's kiddie porn on it and then get them to lift whatever data remains. Suspect it might be a somewhat high risk strategy though.

So now I'm on the crappy desktop (yes, we're the house that has 3 complete computers in it and various parts for other computers knocking around, whilst only two of us live here) which actually belongs to The Boy. Have spent the morning merrily 'tidying' his files, deleting all of his irrelevant bookmarks, replacing them with far more relevant book marks.

19 June, 2008

Free Rice

I quite like word games.

In free rice, you're given a word, a choice of four definitions and you must choose the correct one.

If you get it right, you get to feel smug and sanctimonious. Smug because you're obviously intelligent, sanctimonious because you've just helped donate rice for UNICEF.

Have fun, give money to charity, get better at scrabbulous and word-twist. Where's the down side?

My top score so far is 41. You know you're competitive, give in to the urge...

Firefox 3.0

Just downloaded the new Firefox 3.0.

Love the new zoom function. Ironically, was looking for it yesterday on the old version and couldn't find it - think Mozilla corp. is reading my mind!

Not yet so sure about the 'guess what you mean' address bar. I can see how it would be useful if you can't remember the name of a site, but if I type in "thi" it used to take me to the main page of this blog. Now it makes a million suggestions and I have to scroll. Firefox say that it does learn your preferences over time, so maybe this'll fix soon. If it learns quickly, I can definitely see how it would be useful.


UPDATE: actually, it's already learned. This time when I typed it, the main page was the first option. Clever browser :-)

Misogyny and its acceptability

I very much agree with this article.

I still find it amazing how acceptable sexism is in society today, especially when compared to racism.

We rightly condemn comments that smack of racism, even if it is unintentional or indirect, yet we tolerate openly sexist comments without even a frown.

There is a person who frequently posts on the Times comment pages who is evidently the author of a book called the woman racket. An example of his comments can be found on this page. Take his comment and replace the words women with the words 'black', 'gay' or 'Muslim' - I'm quite sure it wouldn't have been published. Bear in mind, the comment I've sent you to is probably at the lower end of the offensive range of some of his comments.

Then I'm left with the question, why is sexism more acceptable than any of the other isms? It seems a peculiar one for society to choose to accept as, like race, it is certainly something we are born with and can't change. Religion is largely a matter of choice, whilst there is a spiritual imperative, it is easy to hide religious belief and internalise it. If you are able to tell what religion someone is, it is because they have deliberately taken a public action (such as wearing hijab) which announces their religion. They have chosen to create this identification. In a similar manner, it is rarely possibly to tell if someone is gay just by looking at them. If you see the campest man in the world wearing a t-shirt saying 'gay pride', then yes, again, it is obvious. But again, he has chosen to make his identification public.

Race and sex are different. We can tell if someone is black or white, male or female just by looking at them. Even if a woman wears very male clothes, or if a white person 'blacks up', it is still obvious. Race and gender are made public without the person choosing to do so.

So, the comparison between acceptable comments would best be the comparison between race and gender, rather than the other -isms. I think it comes down to the perception of difference. Racism was considered acceptable when everyone knew blacks and whites were different. As science has proven that this is not the case, racism has become more and more unacceptable.

Gender is still a topic open to debate. My personal view is that men and women are born with minute differences and that these are massively exaggerated by society, upbringing etc so that by adulthood, most men and most women are very different. But I still maintain, there are more differences within the class than between the classes. I also believe gender isn't binary, but is a spectrum, like sexuality or autism. There are some very 'male' people and some very 'female' people and lots of people in between. (Let's say maleness is 10 and femaleness is 1, just because numbers make it better!)

The idea of there being a 'natural difference' therefore 'justifies' sexism in a way which would not otherwise be acceptable. For people who take the 'natural difference' approach, the obvious conclusion is that women should do women's things and men should do men's things. This might work for three quarters of people, but it is what leads to the vitriol being spouted at people who do not adhere to the 'tasks' of their gender. Such as a female politician.

The bile which is spouted at straight men (gay men are considered different enough already) who go into professions such as ballet dancing, make-up artistry, hair dressing etc is similar to the insults levelled at the female politician. Both people have broken the mould of their sex and so are condemned by society. What is interesting is that in both cases, it is men who are doing the insulting.

This isn't to claim that women are part of a wonderful sisterhood! I think that at the moment, in the west, the biggest block on women progressing in, say, the workplace, is other women. When another woman succeeds, we're the queen bee of bitches. If a woman stays at home to look after the kids, she doesn't have a personality of her own. If she goes out to work, she's not a real woman and is abandoning her children. Go figure. However, this happens on the day to day level. The intermediate level, as it were. It is striking that when women reach the very top level, this tends to stop. This might be because they are not classed as 'real women' any more and so aren't a threat, or because they are now so powerful that there aren't any other women to compete with at that level. When women reach the top, it is the men's knives which come out. And because men are less practised at the skill of bitchiness, they are cruder, more obvious and just ruder.

I do not think we can do away with gender as a whole. It is sometimes useful to apply a blanket policy, especially when it comes to biological functions where there is obviously a difference. However, if we, as a society, can move onto discussing gender in terms of a spectrum, it makes women who rank a 7, rather than a 3, less uncommon, less different and so less open to criticism. When every woman is expected to be a 3 or lower, it prevents those who are a 6 from achieving their potential, the same goes for men. This can't be good for society at all.

Ireland's 'no' vote and Turkey

The writer of this article asserts that the main reason the Irish voted 'no' was because of potential Turkish membership of the EU.

I cannot agree with this analysis. Yes, Ireland has benefited from its membership of the EU, possibly more than any other country, but that doesn't create an obligation to say yes to everything it proposes.

Ireland is significantly more pro-EU than Britain, but the shared history of the two countries for so many centuries means there are a number of 'mind set' similarities. The French and the Dutch may have voted no the first time around because of Turkish membership. Given that they haven't even allowed the Poles etc in, that xenophobia doesn't surprise me. Ireland and Britain have allowed the free movement of peoples. They are 2 of only 3 countries to have done so. I think that as Britain is likely to say no in any referendum on the grounds of national sovereignty, I strongly suspect that had a large role to play in the Irish no vote.

I also find it crazy that people assert that this treaty was now needed. The EU has been bigger for quite a while and hasn't fallen apart without the new process! If the treaty is genuinely necessary, then the case on its merits will be easy to make. The fact that no such case is made makes be wonder if the treaty needs significant re-writing, if needed at all.

18 June, 2008

The UN's good, effective side

It's easy, in debates, to list the UN's bad/incompetent side: you tend to start with either Rwanda, Sudan or Libya being the head of the human rights commission, and then move on from there.

Here is an article explaining where the UN has been more effective. Obviously, because of its author, it is wonderfully biased, but its still a useful knowledge dump if necessary.

Free Schools

I very much support the idea of 'free schools'.

To, very briefly, steal the Economist definition of what one is (as it's useful):

"allow pretty much anyone who satisfies basic standards to open a new school and take in children at the state's expense. The local municipality must pay the school what it would have spent educating each child itself—a sum of SKr48,000-70,000 ($8,000-12,000) a year, depending on the child's age and the school's location. Children must be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis—there must be no religious requirements or entrance exams. Nothing extra can be charged for, but making a profit is fine."

The Telegraph had an equally good article today, also supporting the schools, but also explaining why implementing them (as is Tory policy) needs to be done fast.

I also agree that the schools should be allowed to make a profit. Cameron's concession to the teaching establishment (who are the type of people who, if asked to compare Hitler and a person who thought making a profit was ok, would sit on the fence) that under a British model schools wouldn't be allowed to make a profit undermines the very incentive to set up a school and make it successful in the first place.

I would run this as a motion, but I can't think of three opposition points!

Amusing comments: USA, extradiction and....Israel(!)

I'm quite amused by the comments in this article (when I read it, there were only three, if thereare now more, scroll to the bottom).

It's a fairly thoughtful and informative piece discussing the USA's position in the world, especially with Britain in the context of its trade and extradition laws.

All fine so far.

Commentators could have gone 'I agree' or 'I disagree' and it would all have made sense. What do two of the three commentators discuss? Israel.

Some people really need to expand their horizons!

17 June, 2008

Degrees for non-English speakers

The BBC reports today that students who can't speak English are being awarded degrees.

I'm less worried by that than the fact that they're then being allowed on the BVC!

Middle Temple Gate

Pinned on the gate of Middle Temple in 1776:

Oh Happy Britons! Happy Isle!
Let foreign nations say -
Where you get justice without guile,
And Law without delay.

Taken from here.

Mr X... again! (more BVC gossip)

You will recall the previous tales of the adventures of Mr X.

Well, it turns out that his tastes have now (ahem) matured.

How? I hear you cry! Well, the last time we heard of him in the blogosphere, he was sleeping his way through the BVC cohort of students. Now, he's moved onto the other members of staff.

My old SGS tutor no less!

Salacious indeed, no?

St Anthony, Friday 13th, Irish 'no' vote.... coincidence?

Ironically, 13th June was the Feast day of St Anthony.

Where's the irony? Well, his full name is St Anthony of Padua, but he is the patron saint of Lisbon.

Oh, and he's also the patron saint of things lost.

I think the EU should have arranged the Irish referendum for a different date if they wanted to win!

Hat tip: Archbishop Cranmer

ps: The debate on whether ROI should allow its expats to vote in Irish elections is also an interesting one. It's the second time I've read about it in the past week - does this suggest that something might be changing soon?

Is Westminster off the public network?

I mentioned, in a post a couple of days ago, how I just wasn't interested in Westminster politics. Alex responded that he was only interested because it was like a giant, real life, soap opera. This is a view I can certainly sympathise with, it's simply that I just don't like soaps either!

What is striking, however, is that the majority simply aren't interested, and even those who are interested only pay attention because Westminster is so remove from real life.

I strongly agree with this article which observes that whilst people are very political in their day to day lives (they recycle, they buy fair trade, their volunteer) and are passionate about causes which directly affect them (NHS patients not being able to 'top up' their cancer treatment, choices of school, congestion charging) they don't care in the slightest about the politics of Westminster. I asked in a previous post what the point of party politics was, I now add another criticism that it further distances politicians from the people they are meant to serve. People don't care about an overall ideology on freedom vs equality any more (well, actually, that one would interest me, but I suspect I'm in the minority. And, as the article observes, if any politicians said he believed in less centralisation, I wouldn't believe him anyway!), they care what their MP is going to do about issue XYZ.

People resent being told 'you're stupid' or 'you made a mistake'. When campaigns such as the 'yes' vote in Ireland are based on that, no wonder people voted 'no'.

14 June, 2008

The end...?

Now finished the BVC, and I'm not quite sure how I feel.

When I handed in my last piece of work on Friday, part of it was relief, but for the first time in my life, my next move isn't planned. Thoughout school, the plan was to go to the next year. In my last year of school, university. From university, law conversion. From law conversion, BVC. From BVC where I don't have a pupillage....?

I'm going to apply to Legal Practice Clerks as at least it's money for speaking and seems to be a reasonably flexible job. Plus, you can get time knocked off your pupillage which sounds good to me!

I guess for me it's also a bit more weird as all of the friends I made through university and last year and now upping sticks and going to London (and a couple of other cities, too) so it further adds to the feeling of limbo.

Very glad that the people I met on the BVC are still going to be around Manchester.