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Showing posts from January, 2011

Barry Gray and John Barry.

Barry Gray wrote the theme tune to my childhood. Unfortunately I get him muddled up with John Barry, who wrote many of the Bond themes , so this morning I though Barry Gray had died (if you see what I mean). Actually Gray died in 1984. What a twit...

Very Short Introduction to Humanism published

My Oxford University Press Very Short Introduction to Humanism was published on Thursday.

Double dip?

Recovery taking place under Labour. Tories get in, cut 50% as much again as Labour planned, and, as was widely predicted would be the result, we slide sharply back into recession (not a snow-driven blip, either, as this graph makes clear, though George, being an expert PR man has done a very effective job today of blaming it all on the weather). Maybe it's too soon to judge, but middle of this year it may well be clear that "lightweight" Osbourne will go down in history as the man who fucked Britain.

Events at Oxford Literary Festival

Here are the CFI Events I have arranged at Oxford Literary Festival A.C. GRAYLING - THE GOOD BOOK: A SECULAR BIBLE Grayling, one of Britain’s most prominent intellectuals, launches his latest book in the glorious Sheldonian Theatre. Grayling has created a secular bible. Designed to be read as narrative and also to be dipped into for inspiration, encouragement and consolation, The Good Book offers a thoughtful, non-religious alternative to the many people who do not follow one of the world's great religions. Instead, going back to traditions older than Christianity, and far richer and more various, including the non-theistic philosophical and literary schools of the great civilisations of both West and East, from the Greek philosophy of classical antiquity and its contemporaneous Confucian, Mencian and Mohist schools in China, down through classical Rome, the flourishing of Indian and Arab worlds, the European Renaissance and Enlightenment, the worldwide scientific discoveries of

"Thinking the unthinkable"

Over the last half century, a number of political and economic sacred cows have come to reside in the UK. Perhaps the biggest is "private good, public bad": things always go better when in the hands of private individuals and companies. We all know that, don't we? Why? Well competition is introduced, which drives down costs and encourages innovation, etc. etc. But of course, for some industries, that "competition" looks largely notional. In the case of the railways and power companies, for example. And we all know that the government puts much more into running the railways now than it did when it was nationalized. And it had to step in when Railtrack went bust. The service remains an expensive disaster for consumers. So much for efficiency. etc. When this ongoing disaster is pointed out, private ownership is defended on the grounds that the privatizations was mishandled, or done in the wrong sort of way, or the companies run badly, whatever. When publicly ru

Huge banking bonus due to five year-old girl "rainmaker" Tia?

There have been a number of cases in which people with no financial expertise have been pitted against financial investment experts, to see how well they fare on the stock exchange. Here's one example from 2002 (scroll down - it's the only one I could find on basis of a quick search). Of course this, by itself, is merely anecdotal evidence that the supposed skills of stock market gurus are largely mythical. In this example, a financial analyst, using his expertise and computer analysis, lost 46.2%, over the year while five year old Tia's portfolio, picked at random, jumped 5.8%. Even the astrologer investing on the basis of planetary movements did significantly better than the supposed financial expert. Be interested to hear of more examples (can't find any at the moment, though I've certainly stumbled upon a few in the past) or of any evidence to the contrary. Does anyone have more information or examples? What's really interesting about this case is that