by Jon Mandle on July 13, 2006

I’m back from a trip to the West Indies, including several days on Canouan – the home island of my brother. It’s one of the Grenadines – part of the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which became independent in 1979. It’s still tiny – around 3 square miles and somewhere around 1500 people – but things have changed a lot since Adonal was growing up. There’s now central electricity, for example, and a few more paved roads. There’s also a fence around the runway, so airplanes don’t have to circle around to wait for the cows to be driven out of the way.

But the really big change was the development of the northern half (actually a little more than half, I think) of the island. What was previously an uninhabited forest is now an ultra-luxury resort, complete with championship golf course, casino, and villas developed by Donald Trump. (Here’s a link with a nice picture – and notice the url.) Essentially the only previous building on the area was a church to which Adonal remembers making the journey a couple times each year when he was a kid. On our last night, we went to dinner at the resort. The food was outstanding and the setting unbelievably beautiful – the buildings and design were lovely and surprisingly tasteful. I was also surprised that by American standards, it was not outrageously expensive. Still, it is far beyond the means of essentially all residents of the island. Quite the interesting dilemma. On the one hand, turn over half of the island to obscenely wealthy foreigners who will only admit you past the gate if you are employed there. On the other hand, essentially everyone on the island who is able to work now has a job. Most of the people I talked to about it were not outwardly hostile, but neither did they view it as their salvation, either – just part of life. In any event, we’ll never know what they would have chosen since the decision was made by politicians in St. Vincent.

Lebanon and Gaza

by Chris Bertram on July 13, 2006

One of our loonier commenters referred yesterday to the “locally predominant anti-Israel consensus” at Crooked Timber. Odd that. One of our contributors strongly identifies with Israel and I spoke up last year against the proposed academic boycott by UK academics. (One unexpected consequence of which was that I was absolutely deluged for a while by emails from pro-Israel lobby associations, keen to share with me their view of the latest Palestinian outrages. No wonder bloggers of a certain disposition don’t struggle to find material to relay.) We don’t have any kind of a party line on Israel at CT, but my guess is that most of us share the view that many sensible Israelis have. Namely that an eventual solution will involve two states with something like the 1967 borders, and that it would be better if that came about sooner and with less bloodshed rather than later and with more.

All of which is a preamble to saying that “the current actions of the Israeli government”: , in bombing facilities like Beirut Airport and a power station in Gaza, in deliberately making civilians suffer (and in many cases causing their deaths) are illegal and disproportionate, words that don’t do justice to the bloody reality. Collective punishment and reprisal are not permissible actions, but that is plainly what is going on here. Lebanese people are being killed as a matter of policy in order to put pressure on the Lebanese government. There is also the matter of the Israeli government continually referring to actions against its soldiers as “terrorist”. At other times they have made a big deal out of the unwillingness of news organizations to use the term, but when they openly seek to gain the rhetorical benefits of the word in relation to actions that are plainly military, though irregular, they illustrate why the BBC and others operate the policy that they do.

Saying this is not to offer apologetics for Hamas or Hezbollah. Seizing soldiers as prisoners of war may not be illegal, but seizing anyone to use them as a hostage plainly is. And there seems to be evidence that Hezbollah’s actions are part of a power play by a Syrian government that once again sees Lebanon and Lebanese civilians as expendable pawns. But what Israel is doing in Lebanon and Gaza at the moment is wrong, and that needs to be said.

UPDATE: See Jonathan Edelstein at “The Head Heeb for some further comment”: .

Engerland, Engerland

by Maria on July 13, 2006

A recent British expat writes today about life in Belgium; a familiar topic here at CT. But what strikes me is this sentence; “It’s my first proper visit to the “UK” (as expatriates and no-one else calls it) since I moved to Brussels”. Admitedly, ‘The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’ is inconcise. The writer evidently calls it ‘Britain’ – something I hardly ever heard, despite living there for three years. I had a non-expat British friend visiting this week, and she only ever called it ‘the UK’. ‘Britain’ sounds like something the Queen would say. It sounds mustily heroic. As in ‘The Battle of’. ‘The UK’ is much more now, much more New Labour, totally Third Way. And not as cringingly embarrassing as Cool Britannia.

Several years ago, I gave a talk to a mixed group of Northern Irish business people (It was on compliance with the E-Commerce Directive; they were rapt.). Half way through, I realised I didn’t know how to refer to, er, ‘the mainland’. But they were a lovely, warm audience and only slightly embarrassed for me, and during the Q&A they gently illustrated the accepted usage. They say ‘GB’ to mean the island of Britain, and ‘NI’ for their own patch. I know they also had an elegantly benign name for the South, I just can’t remember it. Maybe it was ‘the South’.

But the worst, the absolute block your ears, nails on a black board worst is when people say ‘England’ instead of ‘the UK’ or even ‘Britain’. And, sorry, but Americans are the worst offenders. They say things like ‘London, England’ which is of course superfluous because there is only one London. (I say this having spent a weekend in London, Ontario.) We all know London is located in England, but it is the capital of the UK. It’s a really bad habit to keep saying ‘England’ as if it’s interchangeable with ‘Britain’. It’s not. Saying ‘England’ when you mean ‘Britain’ is gauche and annoying and very, very blonde.

There are moments to say ‘England’, but they’re actually quite rare. One of those moments is when England plays in the world cup – it’s the England team, as of course the Scots and Welsh are too rubbish to qualify. But England does not enter the Olympics; Britain does. And England will not decide whether to join the EMU, Britain will. (Arguably.) England has never held the presidency of the EU, or hosted the G8, or invaded a country on its own (at least not in a few hundred years), because it’s not a state. Of course England has a certain status. And there’s that constitutional oddity that has the Welsh and Scots deciding their own issues at their own assemblies, but being able to chip in when Westminster decides purely English questions. But that is no excuse to toss your hair and talk about your summer holidays in ‘England’ where you also took in the Lake District.

An (English) rose by any other name does not smell so sweet.

Weighted Student Funding

by Harry on July 13, 2006

It is worth taking a look at this manifesto, which argues forcefully for weighted student funding (in which funding would be proportional to need, rather than, as in the current American system, roughly proportional to social advantage). Achieving weighted student funding is a hard road, and it is worth noting that nobody thinks it is a cure-all for educational equality, but it is at least a vital component of a progressive reform strategy. Here’s a simple explanation:

Under WSF, the per-student amount varies with the characteristics of the child. Students with added educational needs receive extra funding based on the costs of meeting those needs. The amount attached to each student is calculated by taking a base amount and adding money determined by a series of “weights” assigned to various categories of students. These weights could take the form of dollar amounts: an extra $500 for a student in one category, $1,000 for a student in another. Or they could be expressed in proportional terms, with students in a high-need category generating, say, 1.4 or 1.5 times the base level of funding. Either way, the concept is the same: students with higher levels of need receive more “weight” in the funding system. As a result, the schools they attend end up with more dollars.

I’d quarrel with the numbers here (I’ve argued for high need students to receive 3 times the base level of funding in a different context (PDF, p 95)), but even 1.5 would be a lot better than 0.5. It’s also worth looking at the list of signatories — but if you can stand the suspense you might want to read the manifesto first and the signatories last. (Full disclosure — I found out about this because a friend asked my advice about whether to become an initial signatory, triggering a small amount of relief on my part that I was not invited and thus didn’t have to think about whether to sign on).