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Monday, 31 August 2009

Career politicians

From Labour List:
"Today's Indpendent reports that more than a quarter of candidates running at the general election have only ever worked in politics.

The survey of 782 prospective parliamentary candidates – 94 per cent of those selected so far, excluding sitting MPs – shows that "a greater than ever number are political professionals who have gone directly from university into a political job as an adviser or researcher, and are now in line to enter Parliament."

I know this is something that irritates many LabourList readers. People want their MPs to represent them, and to come from a background of experience in a job that provides "real world" experience, in business or in the tertiary sector.

I've argued before that Labour must begin to open up its democracy. Our membership has dwindled and will continue to do so as fewer and fewer people want a formal relationship with a party that extends to Wednesday night meetings in local churches and town halls, tightly adhering to yesteryear's arcane rules of the road. That is an irreversible trend, and one which we will have to adapt to.

I've also had conversations with friends who are disbeleiving that so many MPs and candidates do not share their own experience of everyday life. It turns people off politics to see that so many politicians tread a written route of who they know rather than a path based on attainment in a particular field.

Primaries are one way we can begin to open up to some of those disillusioned people. We can involve everybody in selecting our candidates, so that everybody gets to decide whether we want a union chief or a political advisor to represent us over a teacher or gas meter reader.

It's a simple choice, but in this environment where people are still livid about the expenses scandal, we cannot afford to close our politics off anymore. Instead, we have to be bold and open it up to all those who want to have a say - not just general secretaries, but secretaries as well."


That is a lot of people who have only trod the political trail.
My worries are partly that this builds a ruling class. The majority of those people are going to have gone to posh public school, then posh university such as Oxbridge, then on into politics. No matter the colour or ethnicity, that will make an unrepresentative sample based largely on the continuation of the political class. i realise that the trust element limits access, but still that does not address that problem of people treating politics as a career rather than a calling.
C'mon, even I have worked in the private sector

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Taxpayers alliance

I'm not a fan of the taxpayers alliance.
the taxpayers’ alliance is a collection of very nasty pieces of work who are only interested in reducing their tax bills as the expense of the poor, who they very rarely have any contact with.
anything that helps to highlight their agenda, and how over represented they are.
Good work here.
"The Other Taxpayers’ Alliance has come up with an indispensable guidelines for the media on whether they should be using the TaxPayers’ Alliance as rent-a-quotes.

The guidelines feature essential top 5 reporting tips and a handy flowchart to help them plan their story. It also features examples of bad research by the TPA.

The top 5 tips
1. Give context
The TaxPayers’ Alliance is a right-wing pressure group – and so should be described as a ‘right-wing pressure group’. Additional adjectives may be used at your discretion.

2. Use initiative
When presented with a TPA press release, aim to rewrite at least half of it. Try getting a second opinion. Or failing that, Google.

3. Add perspective
The TPA calls itself a ‘grassroots alliance’ of ‘ordinary taxpayers’. But it doesn’t have a membership – just a free-to-join mailing list of 20,000, which represents 0.04% of taxpayers. This compares with, say, the 1.3 million taxpayers who are members of the public sector trade union, Unison.

4. Name names
‘Ordinary taxpayers’ who support the TPA include: Sir Tom Cowie (Life President, Arriva), Sir Rocco Forte (Chairman, Rocco Forte Hotels), Peter Hargreaves (CEO, Hargreaves Lansdown), Malcolm H.D. McAlpine, (Director, Sir Robert McAlpine), Stuart Wheeler (Chairman, IG Group), and Lords Salisbury, Pearson, Derwent, Hodgson, Chadlington, Kalms and Vinson.

5. Investigate
Who funds the TaxPayers’ Alliance? Why won’t it tell us – or even reveal its income?"

peter hitchens rant

what an idiot peter hitchens is.
i was directed to this typically nonsensical rant from pickled politics here.

He's going on about how much better things would be if we had never enter the Second World War. probably because hitches is a fan of nazism.
too extreme of me? perhaps, but he would be a good propagandist for them:

"We are a second-rate power, rapidly slipping into third-rate status. We have a weak currency and shrunken armed forces, deployed as auxiliaries in wars that are not in our interest, and we are largely governed from abroad.

Our Parliament is a bought and paid-for puppet chamber. Our culture and customs have been debauched and our younger generations corrupted, as subject populations are, with drink, drugs and promiscuity.

We are compelled, like an occupied people, to use foreign measures to buy butter or meat, and our history is largely forgotten or deliberately distorted in the schools to suit anti-British dogma. Those schools are unable to educate most of our children up to the levels of our main rivals, so ensuring that we provide no challenge to them. Our country has been Balkanised into provinces and regions. Our language is invaded by foreign words and expressions"



At the end of the day, if we hadn't got involved in our own terms, we would probably have been attacked by the Nazis, they were a bit like that


Not surprisingly, the comments make Hitchens sound like a balanced and rational individual.
Worst rated posts:
Blah, blah, blah. Cry me a river! You honestly think that the UK could have taken on the Communists by yourselves? Your supposition is built upon a mountain of "what if's." You remind me of Terry, the Marlon Brando character from "On the Waterfront": "I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum." If you think America sucks so bad, stop eating at McDonald's and watching our movies!!

- Thomas, San Antonio, Texas!, 30/8/2009 6:05


crime and bad behaviour were always around its just it was ignored and there was no massive media machine reporting it.
britain was in dire financial trouble and declining influence before ww2 and you also insult the country ignoring the fact we still have a large economy,healthcare,welfare as well as one of the largest and best navies,best trained armies and airforce as well as the worlds 5 richest nation despite having no empire and a tiny stretch of land.

- alexman, uk, 30/8/2009 17:05


"We are compelled.... to use foreign measures to buy butter and meat".
Utter drivel. Would you prefer "I'll have 4ozs. of sugar and a pound of flour" "That'll be one pound, three shillings and sixpence missus".
And there's no such place as "Londonderry".

- Martin, Thailand, 30/8/2009 6:04


INdia , jewel in the crown , was lost not because of the second world war, but because of the barbaric colonial rullers
British were at the point where the freedom fighters weregetting into control and would have forced the British leave India
British did a very shrud move, got Jinnah divided the country and left. they had to divide the country ,as they cannot bear to leave India.
till todate neither the India gov nro the British will come out with the facts about
the death of the India's freedom fighter Subhas Bose.

- bipin, london, 30/8/2009 9:09
Click to rate Rating 28

Report abuse

What rubbish. The Nazis would have attacked us anyway.

- my contribution, significantly edited.


I suggest that you read Jo Walton's trilogy--Farthing, Ha'Penny, and Half a Crown, to see what kind of world would have resulted from Britain's coming to a craven peace with with Hitler.

- Gill Avila, Morgan Hill, California USA, 30/8/2009 4:48






best rated:
"I think I would have liked that version of Britain."

on p2p, filesharing and the like

From here:
interesting contribution to a very difficult debate. for once, i wouldn't like to be the one making this decision. the record industry have a history of foretelling their doom on the basis of a new piece of technology. the explosion of things like myspace have shown how cheaply songs/albums etc. can be made and distributed, which shows the cost of cds in shows in a new light.
that, however, is a different matter from how acceptable it is to share something in contravention of copy right

Tory attacks continue

Michael Portillo has continued the recent Tory attacks on welfare, though i'm not convinced that Sunny H's attack on him at Liberal Conspiracy.
The thing about all this stuff on welfare dependency is a typical, quite far right, attack on the welfare state. I must admit i'm a bit surprised that Cameron has sanctioned these attacks, as he himself is more on the left of his party and is trying to rid his party of the 'nasty' tag.
If this is to form their thinking, then we can look forward to those most vulnerable being at the sharp end

two-faced tories?

Piece here from liberal conspiracy on the Tories.
If George Osbourne really can deliver far better services at a far lower price, then he should be given the chance. The problem is that it's an out-right lie.
There are subtle arguments and debates to be had about the way that services can be managed in the future to combat the current state of the public finances. Budget cuts, tax rises etc. are a very delicate and important subject which we will see far more blood spilt over. But claiming to have perfect/simple/easy/pain-free solutions is no help. That goes for Labour as much as the Tories.

myth of the independent back bench mp

Very interesting article here:
"As you can see, if you look back to the 1950s, the year of the independent backbencher, the great amateur politician, almost absolute cohesion on the backbenchers. There are two years in the 1950s, two whole years, when not a single backbench government MP defies the Whip. They have absolute 100 per cent cohesion in every single vote. Then there is a sea-change somewhere around the 1960s or early 1970s, there is a bit of debate about when and why, and for the rest of the post-war era, you see a much higher level of backbench independence, and the 2001-2005 Parliament saw the highest level of backbench rebellion in the post-war era. This idea that there has been a decline is not just wrong, it is the opposite of the truth."

Very interesting

Saturday, 29 August 2009

BBC bias

Even conservatives i know accept that the BBC is the best and most balanced news outlet.
This
little piece is interesting on it's alleged bias is interesting, because it looks more deeply at a lefty's defence of it and contrasts it with a righty article which attacks the bbc.
Is the bbc biased? probably, but primarily towards a balanced view which is so sadly lacking from any other news outlet, who often tend towards polemic rather than factual, balanced reporting.
i tend to think that with the bbc's quality of news, the end justifies the means

All time England XI

Cricinfo has recent taken on the impossible, compiling an All-Time team, which is always a funny exercise as it's almost impossible to agree on one.
their team is Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton, Wally Hammond, Ken Barrington, Kevin Pietersen, Ian Botham, Alan Knott, Derek Underwood, Harold Larwood, Fred Trueman, Sydney Barnes.

The team decided on takes people from all ages, which makes it impossible. My contributions were almost exclusively ones that i've seen because i find it hard to pick people that i don't know.
I never saw boycott, botham, Jack Hobbs, Len Hutton, Wally Hammond, Ken Barrington, Alan Knott, Derek Underwood, Harold Larwood, Fred Trueman, Sydney Barnes etc. so I find it hard to pick them.
Mine, only based on those i've seen would be:

Atherton
Gooch
Vaughan
Pietersen
Thorpe
Stewart
Flintoff
Giles
Gough
Caddick
Hoggard

which probably explains why there are so few contemporary players in the Cricinfo team, as there are not too many 'great' players to have played in the last few years, spinner especially. I've just gone for Giles over Tuffnel as the former made the most of his ability, while the latter always had unfulfilled potential.

It's hardly a great team

there is also a point about the pitches. these days most pitches are roads, wayed far too heavily in favour of the batting and against the bowling which makes for boring cricket

Tax the rich?

Lord Turner came out with his proposals (in the loosest possible terms) to manage markets through specified taxes on certain financial products, services and practices that are deemed problematic.
Cool, let's have some of that.
What we're talking about is disincentivising certain actions that are deemed not 'socially useful'. That's very subjective, but at least there does seem to be some change in what is seen as socially useful. In the recent past, making lots of money was seen as a socially useful end in itself. The crash has, to some extent, moved that understanding so that people are not so in awe of big money

The role of the market in healthcare provision

this is an argument many on the left don't really like to have.

For just about everyone in politics, it's far easier to just dismiss arguments out of hand rather than make the difficult decisions about compromise. It's equally true of the right, who slavishly follow the market argument dismissing the state out of hand.

David J Olson, Director of policy communications, Global Health Council is the man who wrote the letter.
He praises the working of the market, but the key thing is how much the drugs are subsidised. if they can be subsidised, then great because that means people can actually get it

"Welfare to work is failing the jobless"

Having never worked in or around welfare to work scheme, i'm not in a position to comment on these assertions, though that's never stopped most people.
Without a doubt there are some significant problems with the benefits system we currently have in the UK.
"In one of my recent cases in the court of appeal where a family with five young children was facing eviction due to housing benefit problems one the Lord Justices said: "In my view it remains an apparently non-eradicable blemish on our operation of the rule of law that the poorest and most disadvantaged in our society remain subject to regulations which are complex, obscure and, to many, simply incomprehensible." I could not agree more."
My worry is that governments are so scared of the headlines in the Mail and Express of the government encouraging benefits lay-abouts that they would rather go too far the wrong way and take it out on the poorest and most vulnerable.


My experiences are that at the very least the benefits system is very poorly managed and confused. It needs real reform, lead by the people who deal with it every day rather than some suited academic or former banker who have no real experience of life on benefits or dealing with people on benefits.





"Jenni Russell is right to expose the dire risks of destitution in the welfare-to-work programme. I know one man who found a job without any help from the jobcentre. The local authority told him he could keep his housing and council tax benefits; three months later they found they had made a mistake, debited his rent and council tax account with £2,000 arrears, started to evict him and sent in the bailiff's for the tax. He had a nervous breakdown. Three months after that the Inland Revenue demanded a repayment of £2,200 of tax credit. He had tried to refuse tax credits because he was afraid of overpayments but was told they are compulsory; this time he was committed to hospital for three weeks.

He became unemployed again, receiving £64.30 a week jobseeker's allowance. He slipped into unauthorised overdraft to survive, attracting bank charges which consumed his entire allowance and left him penniless for weeks. He is a man who is highly motivated to work. He is not in the "hard to help" category.

The government has accepted in principle an amendment to the welfare reform bill requiring decision takers in the welfare-to-work programme to regard the wellbeing of children; but we should not ignore the wellbeing of the adults on which the children depend."

James Murdoch speech on BBC

"News Corporation's James Murdoch has said that a "dominant" BBC threatens independent journalism in the UK."
what rubbish. Anyone who cannot tell the huge vested interest that Murdoch has in getting rid of the BBC is an idiot. He wants the BBC out the way so that he and his cronies can dominate the media more than they do now.
I mean, the media market is divided between Sky and BBC as it is. Sky want to remove the BBC from that equation.

"The expansion of state-sponsored journalism is a threat to the plurality and independence of news provision," he told the Edinburgh Television Festival."
No, Sky's monopoly is a threat to plurality and independence. Fox in America for example, in addition to their polemic drivel which has no regard for facts or truth.

"Sir Michael Lyons, chairman of the BBC Trust, told the BBC's World Tonight that Mr Murdoch had underplayed the importance of Sky as a competitor."
I agree.
""Sky continues to grow and get stronger and stronger all the time so this is not quite a set of minnows and a great big BBC," Sir Michael said.

"The BBC has a very strong competitor in Sky, and not one to be ignored."

"Former BBC director general Greg Dyke said Mr Murdoch's argument that the BBC was a "threat" to independent journalism was "fundamentally wrong".


reminder of what murdoch owns, just in case:
News Corporation owns the Times, the Sunday Times and Sun newspapers and pay TV provider BSkyB in the UK and the New York Post and Wall Street Journal in the US.

Cuts to housing benefit

To me, it seems the headline is worse than the measure. A bloke who may well be biased:
"A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: "The vast majority of housing benefit recipients do not benefit from this scheme and so do not get extra cash back on top of the rent paid".

He added: "This small change will not affect our customers' ability to pay their rent and further support is available to those on a low income to help with other expenses," a spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said. "

From Labour MP Gisela Stuart:
"I just think it's A - a policy that won't save much, B - it's a policy that will hit people who are the poorest who we really shouldn't hit, and C - it's just very, very bad politics," she said.

i think that sums it up. It won't save much money, but is bad politics. Headline makers can write a headline 'Brown takes cash from poorest' or something like that to attack him.
To be honest, this seems to be typical of Brown. More trouble than the whole thing is worth, so I support them dropping it. It's not worth keeping or dropping on the amount of money, so I say drop the proposal, keep the money as is, and move on.

Friday, 28 August 2009

The plot thickens

re: changes to housing benefits.
So it seems that the government are NOT cutting housing benefits, but rather cutting the amount of difference between rent and allowance that tennants can keep. A VERY different thing.
But this piece in the FT came to my attention, especially about the money being paid to landlords. From what I know, it took the government about ten years to change it so that tennants were paid the money rather than landlords, which was a significant step forward because it stopped bad landlords taking the money and leaving the people living there in shit. Chris Mullin makes repeated mention of the need to change away from paying the money to landlords. And then we get "Teresa May...reversing the policy so that landlords once again receive the benefit".
I know i can't take the diaries of one man as absolute truth, but i'm guessing there is some truth in his desire to take (bad) landlords out of the loop, to reverse this there must be some basis. No mention of what it is

Housing benefits cuts

Discussed (and disgust) on Labour list
Oh dear Gord no.
It's hard enough for us to sell the party on the doorstep (no pun intended), and with this it will get no easier.
To say nothing of the fact that it's a disgusting idea.
When are the leadership going to realise that trying to get cozy with the Mail and Express etc. is going to get us nowhere?

Deconstructing scare stories

In case anyone thought the Mail was bad, the News Of The World takes the biscuit.
Tabloid watch has done some top work showing up what a nasty piece of work Carole Malone is with her truthless scare stories. Or lies, as you like it

Tory council adopts ‘no frills airline’ approach to local government

Not happy about this, not happy at all. I don’t think it’s right that money should allow access to a better form of local government, which is what is being proposed. Why should something happen faster for a resident just because they have more money? It’s not very socialist and i don’t like it.
“One of Freer's most controversial reforms so far has been to cut live-in wardens from sheltered housing for people such as Frindall. He lives in sheltered housing in Prospect Place where a live-in warden, Janet Conway, is effectively on call 24 hours to help care for the residents”

“The council spends almost £1.3m on support services in sheltered housing each year and a consultation document on the proposed cuts states: "There is no good evidence to support the present amount of funding for sheltered housing services. A reduction in funding would enable other kinds of services for older people in Barnet to be maintained."”

However,
“Walker, by contrast, is happy. She also lives in Finchley and broke a bone in her neck in an accident in April, forcing her to spend three weeks in hospital. When discharged she had to use a walking frame, struggled with the stairs and couldn't cook meals or make her own bed. She worried the local authority would want to put her in a home, but because it now has a policy of trying to avoid expensive long-term care, it instead offered a burst of intensive help in a bid to help her regain her independence, and it worked.”

However,
“It is an approach which upsets the opposition, which believes the Conservative administration has developed a blind spot for the poorer areas of the borough and focuses instead on appealing to affluent residents of areas such as Mill Hill, with its manicured golf courses.”
But then, it is the job of the opposition to say things like that.

Much as i hate to give the final word to a Tory, “"In the past we would do things to our residents rather than letting them choose for themselves," said Freer.”
If that’s more than just a cover for stripping back services and leaving the poor to suffer in silence then there may be some merit in there, but i’m won’t hold my breath.

The battle lines are being drawn

The Tories are on their usual war-horse about benefits dependency and all that right-y type hating-everyone-in-the-public-sector-or-close-to-benefits line that they trot out every election. Ok, that’s what they do. They get the core vote enraged to get them out to vote. Where are the left’s things to encourage the core vote? Where are our things for hating highly paid bankers and the like? Hmmm? I still think that the Labour leadership are too scared of being Labour and thus aren’t willing to do the sorts of things that will energise the core vote, while the Tories are focusing on their core vote as well as trying to be all soft and nice.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

artificial trees

Heard this thing about artifical trees being used to capture CO2 emissions. Personally, i'm not convinced. It's like Carbon Capture and Storage, and reflects how little has been learnt from the current economic downturn/crisis/recession etc.
Just sticking it all underground does not solve the fundamental issue of producing too much crap and killing the planet.
I'd much prefer some systematic and sustainable solutions that actually address the problem at hand, not a sticking plaster, though i accept they would have a role to play.
To me, massive green taxes with tax breaks and incentives to better alternatives

Student fees

The IPPR has suggested that "Middle class students should be denied loans to cover tuition fees and living costs so that bright poor pupils do not lose out"

As ever, the issue of how to finance public service provision is a hot topic.
They are talking about moving the grants and loans etc. around. I think it's much easier and simpler to do it out of direct taxation. That way, you know how much someone earns and can take the money off them accordingly, which is what they are trying to do in a different way.
The Gov, and the IPPR, seem to be bending over backwards to avoid the issue of direct tax when it's a much simpler way of doing things

The Pirate Party UK

The Pirate Party UK is, sadly, only a pro-file-sharing party aiming to stand at the next election.

"A new political party intent on legalising not-for-profit filesharing of music and films is aiming to capture the youth vote in the general election, according to its leader."

promoting non-profit file sharing = good. Aiming to capture 'the youth vote'? bloody hell. Anyone NOT trying to capture a youth vote that doesn't really care? Grrr

lessons learnt?

The US is the single most important thing in most things. When it comes to global finance, this is largely true (China, India, Germany, Japan are important, but not on a par with the US although China may get pretty close pretty soon).
Ben Bernanke is up for re-election, and there are fears that lessons haven't been learnt, meaning the bubble that caused all our problems will be left un-addressed. That's bad, means the lessons have not been learnt and we'll be here again before long.
Still, that's the inevitable cycle of capitalism

Public spending

Apparently, there is talk of Labour committing itself to spending cuts after the summer recess.
One of the things to be at least delayed will be Trident, that's cool.

"Ministers will trumpet the fruits of Labour's "investment" as more new schools open at the start of the new term that at any time since Victorian era. They will argue that spending money on education and skills is crucial to boosting long-term economic growth and therefore the speed at which public debt can be repaid."

That's certainly the most important way to re-balance the books. As always, investment is key when there is no money.
I wonder why only spending cuts are being talked about. I assume it's because they either believe that tax rises will not bring in any more money, or they are scared of being seen as Old Labour

NHS reform

The NHS is a hot topic, most people want to defend it, reform it, remove it, etc. etc.
I'm very much in favour of the concept that treatment is distributed according to need rather than ability to pay.

Nigel Edwards raises some interesting points in his piece in the Independent.
Bits that caught my eye:

"How we move on from politicians being caught in a trap of being expected to act only to be blamed by the media is not at all clear: there is an expectation of accountability. The move to put more providers at arm's length through the creation of Foundation Trusts was an important step in this direction. But perhaps we all need to be braver, and stop expecting politicians to be the fall guys for everything."

"Do we also need more transparency? Certainly, there is much to do to improve measurement in healthcare. However, surprisingly, the evidence suggests that patients do not extensively use published quality information to select hospitals where it is available. The real effect of publishing information is to engage the professional competitiveness of clinicians rather than influencing patient choice."

"Sadly, the enthusiasm of professionals for improvement has been squashed by the top-down direction of the last 30 years."

"The pleas for more managerial freedom and better quality management are absolutely right. I know many fine NHS managers, although the quality of middle-tier management is variable. However, I wonder why anyone, particularly talented clinical staff, would want to go into healthcare management when it is such a vilified profession? This needs to change. We need to challenge the assumption that management in healthcare is just a worthless overhead. Much of what goes wrong with patients' experience of healthcare is to do with systems that do not work as they should and fixing these is a managerial task."

As with anything worthwhile, there are no easy answers. How to rid front-line staff of paperwork is possibly the easiest topic, certainly from afar. But those forms exist for a reason, and one which must be tackled. I'd like much of that removed to allow more time for actual treatment of problems. Removing paperwork must be a priority, as is pumping money into front line services, but that's easier said than done.

The inner workings of government

This is something i've been thinking about a fair bit recently, imagining how things would go in a future Bearded Socialist government. Gotta have a dream eh?
This piece in Comment is free got me thinking about the ways to reform the ways things work. While the piece is a starting point for an thought-process about how to manage the ways the machinary of government works, there are a few sage bits.
"When experts like these disagree, wise observers should recognise that the issues are not simple and that there is strength in both arguments" is obvious but important.

"Arguing for "the old system", Lord Butler favours more counterweights against prime ministerial centralism. In particular, he wants the Cabinet Office to remain an independent support for ministers – not absorbed into the Prime Minister's Office as an enforcement department of No 10."
Something I would definately agree with. I think it's important to get far more checks and balances on the power of the main decision making body, namely the PM and their cabal.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Football

Watched some of the Arsenal game.
Eduardo's dive was bad. I did not like that at all.
Tony Mowbray did himself real credit by taking things in his stride, while Wenger looked like a dick. He knew it was a dive and wasn't man enough to admit

High pay stuff

Polly Toynbee on high pay in the City:

[the City is] untouchable, it shows no remorse because it frightens the politicians, not the other way round.

On Capital flight:
"What of the threat that they will all flee London if astronomic pay is challenged? "Hyperbolic nonsense," says Cable, in those deceptively moderate tones that out-smart Labour every time."

"Hector Sants, head of the FSA, replied tartly that capping City pay is the job of government not the regulator. Politicians, he said, were "passing the buck" and it is not the watchdog's job "to bring about social change". Absolutely right. But outsourcing politics is now the fashion: quangos are the place to deposit anything politically difficult, while government loses belief in its own powers."

Now that is interesting. While many politicians are being criticised for being bland managerial-types with no ideology, this would make sense. Because the ideology is kept beneath the surface, they feel the need to 'outsource' politics to escape having to make difficult and potentially decisive decisions. Shame, some strength of (lefty) will is just what's needed.

"The idea of a high pay commission has had plenty of support from Labour and Lib Dem MPs, including Jon Cruddas and Vince Cable. Cheekily, Compass asked Osborne to sign up: don't hold your breath. The official Labour response was dismal: "It's a return to the 1970s" was the predictable objection, in step with the Times leader. But no one is suggesting a prices and income policy. The idea is to set benchmarks so companies consider a reasonable ratio between top and bottom pay: FTSE 100 ratios have shot up from 15:1 to 75:1 in just 20 years."
Now that is interesting, and explains New Labour down to the ground, the fear of the ghost of Old Labour. The present leadership are so scared of being Old Labour they are willing to go to almost any end to avoid it, costing vital core support.

Toynbee's assertion that information on pay would open up and transparency element is a welcome contribution. As she puts it "Most people on £42,000 don't feel rich because they don't know they are in the top 10%"
Interesting.
Anything that makes a more equal society is to be welcomed

Ganga in Argentina

"The supreme court in Argentina has ruled that it is unconstitutional to punish people for using marijuana for personal consumption."

I'm with the Argentine Supreme Court on this. I would like to see marijuana on the same level as alcohol as i believe they are pretty much the same, except that one doesn't make you violent.

Ted Kennedy RIP

Top bloke, a staunch liberal and real 'big beast'.
Other than that one incident, top bloke.

"Civil rights. Disability rights. The minimum wage. Immigration. Education. Campaign finance reform. And his signature issue, healthcare. Most, if not all, of the landmark progressive legislative of the past five decades has his imprint all over it."
Enough to make me go weak at the knees.

Not surprisingly, he is hated by the Mail.
Top-rated comment: "Kennedy will always be remembered as the man who killed 'Mary Joe', a coward who left a young woman to die, after being unfaithful to his wife. Also a man who quietly supported Noraid. Not a nice man in any shape or form. A man who always thoiught he was bigger and better than most, infact he was a loser in many peoples eyes."

Worst rated:
"A great politician who will be greatly missed. RIP Ted"

Enough said

Daily Mail bollocks story of the day

There are lies, damn lies, and Daily Mail statistics, it seems.
I studied Sociology at uni, so i know all too much about how to come up with statistics.
When working for the Mail, it seems it's ok to get one lot of stats, compare them with something completely different to make a scare story.
Example here, from Liberal Conspiracy.
"Journalism and statistics go together like Dog the Bounty Hunter on a dinner date with Tolstoy."
"The piece begins triumphantly: “The true extent of the huge influx of foreign workers into Britain is revealed in an investigation by the Daily Mail.” In a line that wouldn’t be out of place in a BNP pamphlet**, it adds, “The figure[s] expose as a sham the New Labour pledge of ‘British jobs for British workers”."

A worthy cause

From Liberal Conspiracy:
The Liberal Democrats have a launched a campaign for women’s refuges to get a discount on their TV licenses from the BBC.

While luxury hotels and others get a TV licence discount for multiple sets on their premises, refuges providing shelter and support for victims of domestic abuse are charged the full price for each of their licences.

Individual refuges are reportedly spending hundreds or even thousands of pounds on TV licences that should be spent on essential services for abused women.

To support the scheme you can sign the petition on this website.

Jobs and Gordy

Kevin Maguire on his usual good form.
He ties Labour's success at the polls to their ability to keep people in work, and promotes the idea of a German-style job subsidy.
As with a previous post, i'm with him on this as I think keeping people in work, by almost any means necessary, is a good and key part of getting a recovery going.

Quote of the day

Perhaps i'm not feeling well, but I find myself agreeing with (that twat) Guido Fawkes on two counts today.
Firstly, his quote of the day:
"Alan Johnson says…
“The connection between The Wire and Chris Grayling’s grasp on the problems of modern Britain is that they’re both fictional.”"

Second,
on legalising drugs and the futility of trying to fight them. "The biggest beneficiaries of drug prohibition are the crime bosses."

Now i'm off to lie down

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Tory crime policy based on TV show?

Sadly, not Strictly Come Dancing, where people phone-vote for which minor criminal has done the best tango.
But, in fact, The Wire. "The Conservatives have compared parts of the UK to The Wire, a US television show which portrays inner-city drugs and violence."
Some really top work by Sunny H at Liberal Conspiracy:
"So how well versed with The Wire was Mr Grayling?

When asked on BBC News this morning it seemed Mr Grayling was trying to wing it.

Interviewer: Have you really seen any more than that first episode?
Grayling: Yes I’ve seen a number of … I’ve seen most of the first series. I have seen a number of the other episodes yes. I have.

Oh dear.

Perhaps he should heed the call of the show’s writer himself, who once said it would was dangerous to create policy based on the show.

It is possible that a few thinking viewers, after experiencing a season or two of The Wire, might be inclined, the next time they hear some politician declaring that with more prison cells, more cops, more lawyers, and more mandatory sentences that the war on drugs is winnable, to say, aloud: “You are hopelessly full of shit.”"



Now, the interesting bit: the statistics:

Why, he may be talking directly about Chris Grayling himself.

And what about the stats themselves then? Michael White writes:

Now down to the stats. The city of Baltimore, where The Wire was set by local reporter David Simon, has a population of around 640,000 and a murder rate – falling, I am happy to note – of 234 in 2008, down from 282 in 2007 after rows about fiddled figures – a detail which echoes the TV series.

Is that around 40 murders per 100,000? That’s around six times the New York rate of 6.3 per 100,000 in 2008 (523 murders, slightly up on 2007) and a lot, lot higher than the UK – where the murder rate per 100,000 is around 1.4, slightly higher than France, lower than Scotland (2.56), a lot lower than South Africa (49.6). The overall US murder rate is 5.5 – a quarter of post-Soviet Russia’s.

In fact, the common thread linking murder rates in every country appears to be extremes of wealth and poverty, despair, plus the easy jump that makes to drug-related crime.

PS Context: of the 1,574 youngsters who died between 10 and 19 in 2008 half did so because of illness, 546 in accidents, and 84 in suicides – slightly more than those murdered.

But when you’ve got a ‘Broken Society’ narrative to sell, who cares about the stats or thoughts of whether it’s wise to make judgements after watching a couple of episodes of a TV series?"

I like the end bit so much i'm going to say it again for added effect:
"But when you’ve got a ‘Broken Society’ narrative to sell, who cares about the stats or thoughts of whether it’s wise to make judgements after watching a couple of episodes of a TV series?"

Recession in Britain 'at an end'?

According to this report from the BBC, the recession is unofficially over, while we wait for the figures to formalise themselves so we can tick over into growth again.
Interesting stuff eh?
I find it a bit odd that even though we were one of the last countries into the recession, many in the media are noting how others (France, Germany) have come out of recession before us. Can't win.
Whether this is a sustained recoevery or just a boom/bust/bounce/double-dip recession remains to be seen over the passage of time, as is whether any lessons have been learnt from the structural weaknesses that lead us into the problems in the first place. I'm not holding my breath on the last one

Cheap fun

Today I have the worst rated 'comment' on a story website of the Harmsworth Lie Machine, Daily Hate Edition.

"Brown is the right man to see the UK through the recession. His action has saved our economy and let's hope he can win the next election to carry on his good work"

Has got lots of red 'bad' marks. Yay

Monday, 24 August 2009

Opinion polls

I've never been a big one for opinion polls, but Julian told me about this latest poll.
Con 41% (-1)
Lab 24% (-)
LD 18% (-)
Other 16% (-) UKIP 5, Green 4, Nationalists 3, BNP 3.
So Tories still 17 points ahead, that's pretty big.

Interesting that:
when voters were asked whether they agreed or disagreed that "The NHS would be safer under Labour than the Conservatives", only 39% agreed and 47% disagreed.
So no moves there, despite Hannan's best efforts. Pants.

On the economy:
The Conservatives have the right ideas about how to get Britain out of recession:
Agree 37% (Feb 35%, April 38%)
Disagree 48% (Feb 45%, April 49%)

On the High Pay Commission:
A High Pay Commission should be set up to curb excessive pay and bonuses:
Agree 65%
Disagree 31%

with the latter, I think the chances of Labour jumping on this populist bandwagon are very low, it's not really New Labour style. Also, I think that may be sound political judgement because I don't think the enthusiasm for it will last. Britain is not THAT far left, unfortunately

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Pragmatism vs idealism

Larry Elliot, always good value, raised some interesting questions.

Now, he says "They want a bigger state when it suits, and a smaller state when it doesn't. They want to both concentrate power and devolve it. This is not a policy;"

But if the Tories took the opposite path, to be ideologically wedded to e.g. spending cuts and were willing to sacrifice all to do that, would he criticise them for being too dogmatic?
I mean, can politicians win? They can be dogmatic, or they can be a collection of hotchpotch policies decided by 'focus group' or some simular criticism. But can they ever be right? Can they ever win?

The size of the state

Roy Hattersley provokes some thoughts on the size of the state.
He believes that a lack of regulation caused the global financial fuck up, rather than too much intervention. There are those that believe both.
Naturally, as a socialist, i'm in favour of big government, but not for it's own sake. In Britain, and maybe in other places too, the government is never the right size. It often manages to be too big and too small all at once. Social services are criticised for taking children from their parents, then criticised for not doing so (see Baby P).
Tough choice.
Very interesting on the differences between those who believe that the state is always a hinderance to liberty, and those who see the state as an enabler

Government intervention and jobs

Polly Toynbee raises some interesting point about how to tackle unemployment, especially amongst the young.
Rather going on about how bad mass unemployment, the bit that interests me is how to tackle and stop it.
At the end of the day, government intervention is what matters. Putting up money is important. Possible schemes involve subsidising wages, guarenteeing places in education or training etc.
She compares schemes for encouraging people back into work against ones designed to stop people loosing their jobs (the latter in Germany). To me, that highlights a cultural differences between Germany and the UK, with the UK having more emphasis on a 'flexible labour market'. The thing is that it's easier to go from job to job than from unemployed to employed and so i would probably come down on the side of keeping people in their jobs.
As ever, the question of how to pay for it is massive. I like her idea of taxing (bankers) bonuses with an explicit link to keeping people in work. People might buy that

Friday, 21 August 2009

Ban the bastards

From Pickled Politics
"From Hope Not Hate:

The Home Secretary has just announced that the anti-Islam march in Luton will not be taking place. In fact, as a precautionary measure, all marches have been banned in the town for the next three months.

This is a massive victory for everyone who joined our protest yesterday. Over 14,000 letters were sent urging a ban and our voices have been heard. Thanks to everyone who sent off a letter. We have won and Luton is a safer place because of it. This is just further proof of what we can achieve when we get organised."

I'm not in favour of banning things. I mean, the left would be up in arms if an anti-war march or anti-racism march had been banned, or if all marches had been banned for three months. It's very difficult, because i'm a liberal sort and anyone going against that naturally rubs me the wrong way. But where to draw the line? The whole idea of being a liberal is tolerating those who disagree, but if they really are racist or anti-Islamic they may deserve to be banned. It's a bit of a liberal paradox.

I don't like the glee that lefties of this sort take in banning people who disagree with them.

If they are an illegal group then fair enough i suppose as they have fallen foul of the law

Hitler and Usain Bolt

http://www.pickledpolitics.com/archives/5578
amazing

Labour in opposition

It's not something any Labour people want to think about, but this is a very good piece on how important it is not to tear ourselves apart when it finally comes.
"Some people think that not talking about it makes it less likely to happen. Others consider any public discussion of the possibility of Labour losing a future election to be an act of treachery and disloyalty"

I've come across that very thing too, which seems to me like too much of putting your head in the sand. The best way to go about things is surely to be as realistic as possible.

"Labour lost the election for not being socialist enough, because the recently-ejected ministers lacked proper socialist conviction and resolve, and because the Government lost touch with the rank-and-file. Aside from the obvious contradiction contained within the contention that millions of people vote Tory when they think Labour is not left-wing enough, this post-defeat narrative is all about Labour’s culture of betrayal. It suits some (Compass springs to mind) to blame Labour’s leadership and centrist policies for failure, because it forces people to take up left positions."
Good point, like that.

"I heard a Tory say this week that Tories are always looking for someone to recruit, whilst socialists are always looking for someone to blame. It was the underlying truth of it that rankled the most."
Too true i feel

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Capping high pay

The facts are stark: an employee working a 40 hour week, earning the minimum wage would have to work for around 226 years to receive the same remuneration as a FTSE 100 CEO does in just one year.

Bloke in the office thinks Labour will either introduce a maximum wage or a quango or body to look into it, or the publication of wages.
Haven't yet had time to look into this at length, but the lefty in me likes the idea.

The Socialist Workers Party

From here:
"If 'Marxism' is anything to go by, we're screwed. The SWP are happier the further they are away from actually getting anything done. They are, in majority, a useless bunch for whom carping from the sidelines is far preferable to the compromises that will lead to anything actually getting done.
I was disgusted by the Marxism even when I attended, too many people from too many parties just there to proclaim themselves more left than the other, stuck with their heads in the clouds, expelling hot air and not trying to move anything forwards. They are happy in their complacency that waiving placards will bring the evil capitalist class to it's knees, but even if they did achieve that they would have no idea what to do next".
They are as bad as the Adam Smith Institute, blinded by dogma and usually too far up their own arses

Jon Stewart on health care

The code is broken so i can't embed it, but here's the link
http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-august-13-2009/glenn-beck-s-operation
The guy rocks
from here


Late addition:
Fox news blames state healthcare and foreigners for terrorism, mainly state-run enterprise. Typical of Fox eh?
One of the results of state healthcare in the US would be more terrorists coz da govemtn iz to stuit to c fings rite

Monday, 17 August 2009

War in Afghanistan

An article in the Mail today has pissed me off. Nothing new there.
Now I support the war in Afghanistan, not something I thought i'd say, but i do.
The Mail ran an article about how we shouldn't be there, if course blaming 'the lies of our leaders'.
What rubbish, as is this comment:
"I totally agree, there is no way our troops should be involved in this war, its too costly.
What we should have done is conduct just one mission; a massive bombing raid to blow the taliban back to the stone age!
Simple really....."

That's not helpful

My two pennies:

I totally disagree with this article. The lack of a stable government turned Afghanistan into a breeding ground for terrorists and their masters, same as in parts of Pakistan and Somalia.
If we want to make Britain safer we have to win the peace in Afghanistan rather than putting our heads in the sand or trying to keep out foreigners.
Those soldiers died to protect our freedom. The more countries involved in stabilising Afghanistan, the better

Friday, 14 August 2009

More good work on the NHS

Some great lefty work here, including this:
"@ Arthur Bough

Whether or not the NHS has problems - and it has many, as you rightly outline - the alternatives, which could potentially be given free reign should even a slight crack open up in the avalanche of defensive postures adopted by many over the NHS when right-wing Tories mention it, would be worse.

The NHS may not provide the service we want - but to say it does not provide a good service to the working class is ludicrous. Sure, there are very few NHS dentists, and an ever-increasing list of drugs the NHS can't afford, and the quality isn't as good as private healthcare. But it still keeps people alive.

What you'll notice about the defensive ramblings of people on Twitter, on blogs and elsewhere, is that it brings out the personal connections which people have to the NHS. You should conclude from this that defending the NHS is a perfectly valid way to build up class consciousness - and be under no illusion, Hannan's attack, even on a state-capitalist organisation, is the siren-call of the capitalist class for unrestricted markets.

Moving from defence to attack is not difficult either. Daniel Hannan has a very cushy healthcare plan, I'd be willing to bet, and yet he and his party are willing to sack health workers and reduce pensions and wages. A defence of the NHS is easily connected with these things - and if encouraging workers to be more proactive, and to seize organisational responsibility from the state bureaucracy is what you're after, then the first step is in building the confidence of workers in their own defence."






my contribution:

I'd throw in Julian Le Grand and New Labour on this, believe it or not.
Le Grand wrote about how the middle-classes benefitted significantly more from public services than the working class (can't remember how he defined them, sadly).
So the left has a point when criticising the NHS for working for the middle and upper classes more than the working class, but you're spot on when discussing the alternative being the free market.
I'm a huge fan of Bevan for realising that the NHS as he saw it was very much a compromise, based on the workers co-operatives he saw in Wales amoung the miners' unions.
I believe that the NHS serves it purpose well because it delivers health care based on need, not ability to pay

Has nothing been learnt?

Larry Elliot, always good value, has a very cautious take on any economic recovery.
He draws attention to the lack of any real fundamental change in the economy having resulted from this period of recession. Bonuses are back, regulators have been proven toothless in the face of money and vested interest, Western over-consumption and Asian over-production are still rife.
He makes a very vallid point that the changes that would have prevented the recession in the first place have not been implemented which means there is a very good chance we'll see a repeat in the shape of a 'double dip' recession. Let's hope not, unless doing so would bring about the changes needed to make a more sustainable economy

Pensions

Pensions is a huge issue at the moment, and for the forseeable future.
I get to do some on this at work, and it's huge.
"Nearly a quarter of the biggest companies on the UK stock market will be unable to pay off their pension deficits, a report says."
Deficits in pensions schemes are huge at the moment, and funding them from companies would pretty much bankrupt them.
I'm not really comfortable with people who have got pretty decent pensions now pulling up the ladder by closing the schemes to new employees.
So far, about the only option i can see as positive would be one large, central pension pot run by the government. How this is run is another matter, but to that anon.
Investing in the stock market was always a very dangerous idea, as the recent falls in the markets have shown. it is largely as a result of the recession that deficits have increased so much. This is very simular to the housing market, in that the reliance on an inflated bubble has made the situation inherently unsustainable.

So this returns to a central government pot. Having a large pot of money held by the government is many people's idea of a nightmare, especially if it's their pension. Well, rather than outsourcing the money, i'd like to see it invested but with provision made that the money is accessible when needed.
Not exactly a great and detailed answer, but I just don't know government well enough (yet) to give concrete proposals.
Rather than having a retirement age, i'd rather that provision was based on length of service, otherwise the differences in life expectancy according to income become even greater. For example, someone rich who leaves university at 21 or later then works till 65, then lives to 75 gets far more for their pension than someone who leaves school at 16, works till 65 then dies by 70. For example.
This doens't seem fair so should be addressed

France and Germany out of recession?

Interesting to hear that France and Germany have pulled out of the recession.
There has been some good commentary from Liberal Conspiracy on this. The different approaches to financial stimulus is interesting. France and Germany both undertook larger stimuli than the UK, when they had more scope to do so. Fair play. Maybe that means that the UK will be come out slightly later too?
Also, it seems to show that the fiscal stimulus worked.
It also appears to show the folly of the Tories' calls for cuts, which I believe is a silly idea.
Comment on the Liberal Conspiracy article:
"I would add to the OP:

“The irony that Conservative policies of drastic cuts in pubic spending are the exact opposite of what the French and German governments have undertaken appears completely lost upon Osborne, in his rush to deride Gordon Brown with the sort of punch and judy politics his chum Dave promised to do without”
"


like that

American Healthcare round-up

Wow, is this a big topic right now.
Very interesting piece in Liberal Conspiracy on the numbers involved, to which I had to add my two pennies: "It is very odd to see the fuss being made over some very modest plans for reform. In the 1940s Bevan was treated in the same way when he tried to bring in the NHS. He was called a Little Hitler, Stalin etc. etc. but when the dust settled most people realised it was fuss about nothing.

We have a healthcare system that covers everyone. Also, I believe, the single biggest cost to the NHS is expensive new drugs, so take those out and it's actually pretty cheap considering what it does.
I personally think having a medical system based on ability to pay above need is disgusting and very wrong."


Some excellent work from Socialist Unity, especially:
"n just eight months, Obama has gone from enjoying the stature and popularity of a fifth Beatle to being compared to Hitler and Stalin incarnate, intent on attacking that American holiest of holies – the freedom to be poor, get sick, and die without government interference."
And it ends by quoting Bevan, pretty good as far as i'm concerned:
"Perhaps, however, the last word on the subject should go to Nye Bevan. During an essay on the NHS in 1952, he wrote:

‘A free Health Service is a triumphant example of the superiority of collective action and public initiative applied to a segment of society where commercial principles are seen at their worst’.

Exactly."



From Next Left comes an American arguement against the NHS:
"Claims that Stephen Hawking would never have been allowed to live had he been British (!) may have been the last straw."


A personal testimoney from grimmerupnorth, about how the poor benefit from the NHS. Something anathema to some on the American right.

In The Sun is a piece "Yanks must stop bashing the NHS".
The NHS really is one of the few institutions we hold dear in this country, let's defend it to the death.

A couple of articles on Liberal Conspiracy attacking Hannan.
I actually thought Lansley did well on Today this morning, managing to put forward the case for reform while also stressing their support, a pretty tricky balancing act for a Tory at the best of times

Fantasy Football

The Bearded Socialist has fantasy football teams. The best one is with Fantasy Premier League, though a friend talked me into doing one on the Daily Mail site. At least it's also called Bearded Socialists.
Fantasy Premier League is better though

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Obama's Healthcare plans

I personally think the UK model (NHS) is excellent. To be fair to the Americans, they are having the same arguements we had in the 1940s. Bevan was compared to Hitler for trying to set up the NHS, then it came to pass and everyone wondered what the fuss was about. As usual, the UK is 60 years ahead of the Americans.

I amused myself

This discussion has moved on to whether a relationship can be described as a market transaction.
It includes such gems as "Only yesterday I found a set of wedding vows in which both parties said something along the lines of “My life is better because of you”. Which describes a voluntary free market transaction quite accurately I’d say!"

and "Indeed Tim, I think the Austrians would in fact define as a “market” transaction as something like “any voluntary exchange of scarce goods in which both parties must gain – something they prefer over what they are giving up to exchange for it” (in the case of “marriage” that would be my solitude for someone else’s company say).

If one or other parties or both do not gain in such a way then it would appear to be evidence that it is not entirely voluntary and coercion is involved."

initially I responded with "What are the chances of anyone involved in this discussion getting a girlfriend and so being able to try the theory out?"

before my favourite bit:
"I vetted my mrs for her political views before we got together (we sat in the pub talking politics).
She’s left of me so if i starting talking about us as ‘market transactions’ i’d get a slap and not much tickle"

i'm here all week

Quentin Letts

Now, I can't stand Letts. But, as a liberal, i support his freedom to say what he likes. This piece is top.

Chris Mullin on David Cameron

"We have an impressive new Tory on the committee - David Cameron, a young, bright libertarian who can be relied upon to follow his own instincts rather than the party line"
I hope that our next Prime Minister is really committed to his libertarian and independent instincts

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Football

Well done to England. Really good fight back, excellent work from the substitutes, Cole, Defoe and Milner were all top.
I've long been a fan of Milner for the effort he puts in, real hard worker. The second goal he made all himself, getting the ball off the defender when many would have been rolling around on the floor is real testament to the man.

Lib Dems = funny

In response to the Lib Dem's thing for women, I remember reading some Lib Dem campaign literature for students, going on about their welfare plans being Well Fair. Pretty much the same level eh?

Apparently: "For what its worth, a quick skim through the content of the paper reveals that its not really a policy paper, as such, its more a loose and, in some places, fairly generic, collection of sound-bites, ideas and proposals which, taken together, set out what I suppose will be the Lib Dems sales pitch to female voters at the upcoming General Election"

Nice one on the men’s version, very amusing.

I personally think everything (men, women) should be included in one place. Not keen on a seperate Woman’s issue. But that’s the way that advertising is going, and politicians love to follow advertising trends

Football, 442

Now, so far football has pretty much escaped these pages. No longer.
Being a geek, i love the tactical side of the game, and this article on formations got me interested. I'm a 442 man because I like 2 wide players and two strikers. It's the most attacking formation because the width allows wide players to go round the outside of a narrow defence. Two strikers apply more pressure to the defence, allowing more midfielders and defenders to become part of the attack too. Wide players also create more space in-field for the other players to play, while forcing the defence to decide between closing them down and allowing space in the middle.
At Roots Hall, i've often seen teams play so wide the wingers just stand on the touch line when they don't have the ball and it opens the game so much. I've seen other teams come and play narrow and our lack of width has caused us to get stuck against a brick wall.
So, 442 all the way

Status or money?

Which is more important, status or money? Having read that "More women than men in the UK now work in high status professions", I got thinking.
Now, it is stated that woman are paid less for the work they do, and I often wonder whether anything is treated as having 'status' these days. But it raises some interesting things about which is better. if either.

The Adam Smith Institute

Are mental. I remember when Gordy stated that free-market fundamentalism had ended, one rent-a-quote from ASI was on the radio going on about how markets cure all ills and governments cause all ills. The banking collapse was the fault of government because governments are rubbish (I paraphrase slightly).
ANYway, there is an interesting discussion of a possible VAT rise here, with some interesting contributions from Tim Worstall from ASI. Mental.

Homophobia

Does it exist?
Does the word in fact mean something it shouldn't?
Is a hatred of homosexuals mean that a different word should be used?

All this comes after Roger Helmer starting getting comfortable with the Tories new Euro-buddies. After his statement that ""homophobia doesn't exist", that "'Homophobia' is merely a propaganda device designed to denigrate and stigmatise those holding conventional opinions, which have been held by most people through most of recorded history", he's now saying instead that "it is just a propagandist word created by the militant gay rights lobby."
Long paragraph.
Now, I think it does exist. People geting attacked for their sexuality is wrong, for me. Same as colour, race, etc. etc. etc. Anything expect being a conservative really.

Labour have sprung on the attack. I think there is one party more receptive to non-hetrosexuals than the other, saying nothing of the Lib Dems in Bermondsey in 1983. A long time ago, so won't go in to that as I think the LDs have moved on. They are now well fair, as some of their campaign literature patronises. Still, the Tories may have the odd token, but I don't think they are the party of sexual equality somehow

Unemployment

Grave hearing this morning on Today when they were debating the lastest unemployment figures.
However, what worries me was a Lord saying that the way to cure unemployment is to make it harder to get the dole.
Now I don't want to condemn the man without further investigation, but that's pretty bloomin stupid.

I found it interesting that during this time of rising unemployment, average earnings have been on the rise due to bank bonuses.
Ban the bonus! Redistribute the wealth

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

House prices

Anyone with even a basic understanding of market economics knows that the less there is of something, the higher the price.
For too long house prices in Britain have been too high, as a result of too much easy credit and a shortage of housing.
So the headline "House shortage 'props up prices'" is not a great surprise.
The questions are how to decide where to cut the credit off in an equitable and socialist way, where to find the space to put all these wonderful new houses, how to ensure they are allocated according to need.
And whether John Cruddas can be pursuaded to take the job of housing minister now that Blears has gone. Ideally Bevan would take it back, but he's been a bit off the boil these last 50 years...

Quote of the day

"I think Bearded Socialist has already said all there is to say on this matter"
Ha!

From a cracking debate on taxation, starting with a discussion of the Tories alledged VAT plans on moved onto flat taxation. Bearded Socialist supports a progressive taxation system, opposes a flat tax and supports the removal of almost all direct taxation to be rebalanced by increasing income tax instead in a fiscally neutral measure. mmmmm, higher direct tax *drools*

George Osborne

George Bloody Osborne.
The Progressive, apparently.
This morning, I had the displeasure of listening to George Osborne on the Today programme. As I was in a rush to get to work, I didn't get the full details so I will listen to it again later and add detail.
But the progressive George Osborne was keen to stress the progressive credentials of the progressive Tory party, of which he is a key progressive element. Apparently.
For me, a Tory going on and on about being progressive is balls. I mean, you don't JOIN the Tory party to be a progressive, people join to be a Tory.
Progressive is what alot of people who are scared of the word 'socialist' use.
There was the usual rubbish about how the Tories are going to cut taxes and increase spending. Here I am very light on detail but I do remember him promising to make money appear out of thin air, again.
And going on about being progressive.
Twat


As the 'man' himself says:

"He said they planned to reform public services such as schools in a way which could achieve necessary spending cuts without harming frontline services."

"He added that people should not be "over-taxed" because of Labour's "overspending"."

""Because of the debt crisis the country faces we have a choice. You can either reform the way these services are delivered - so the money goes further and you get more for less - or you can face frontline service cuts."


Ah yes. Now, from what I can see, it's this thing about spending levels that's key. Progressive means lefty means spending money. We love it. To now go on about being 'over-taxed' and how Labour have 'overspent', well, you don't need to be a genius to see where this is going.

From BBC

Monday, 10 August 2009

In praise of Mandelson and Labour's best way forwards

I think this, on the subject of being liked being a luxury:
"He still wouldn't say he can afford the luxury of being liked – "Not if it means not making hard choices, no." "

Top stuff, and something (backbone) lacking in too many Labour politicians at the moment.
That's the best way for Labour to go, win or loose do the right thing for the country and everything else will sort itself out

Atherton on team selection

Well done Mr Atherton, not that he cares what I think.
Amid all the mental goings on in the press, Atherton stands alone as a calming influence.
Amongst the comments posted below is article was a team including something like three debutants. Wishful thinking indeed. Everyone from WG Grace to Mark Ramprakash has been mentioned. Poor Ramps, i wish he'd just retire so we didn't have to go through this every 5 minutes. The bloke has a TERRIBLE test record, to say nothing of his age. He was a very fine player down the order against Australia, occasionally. The greatest unfulfilled talent of my time watching cricket (he's more my era than Hick).
Anyway, good work Atherton. Shame it's in the Times

The superficial nature of beauty, or dating ugly people

There's a piece in the Mail (i know i know) about dating 'ugly' people.
My comment was "Sounds like woman can't get near him due to the huge potato fields on his shoulders.
Lots of people aren't 'good looking', which isn't helped by our celebrity-obsessed culture. But ALL people are helped by having a personality, social skills and a sense of humour. These are things people can work on. I'm no oil painting to say the least, but i don't let it get me down. I have other things in my life than my looks. Try getting that grey matter between the ears working for a start.
Being that picky isn’t helpful either. Try looking beyond their looks too, that might be a start."

From the article, the man's looks don't seem to be a reason why he can't get a woman, his personality seems far more off-putting than his face. He sounds like the chips on his shoulder can be seen from space, he says: "'Celebrities are always complaining about the fact that women are only interested in them because of their fame,' he says. 'Well, that sounds great to me, actually." which to me, makes his sound like a right dick.

Looks do matter, it would be silly to say they don't. But there are plenty of other factors, and then judging others by their looks means he's getting what he deserves

England Team Selection for 5th Test

After the disaster that was the 4th Test, everyone is getting their pennies in early about the final Test, but one comment on cricinfo has summed it up for me:

"No matter what the selectors do, they will be criticised roundly. Leave the team intact and show faith in the players who, at times, have played well. Making wholesale changes has the effect of undermining team morale."

I don't personally buy all this 'one-off test' rubbish. Ramprakash, who I was a massive fan of, should not even be considered close to a recall. His Test record makes Bell look like Bradman, which everyone seems to have forgotten about.
Now, for me number 3 is the important position and Key has the best case, even though i'm not a fan because he doesn't move his feet enough and feels outside off too much. I think that someone like Clark could do for him.
I'd drop Bell, and for a year or two. He should not have been recalled this summer because the odd few runs in county cricket are not enough, he should have been sent away for the whole season and told to top the runs and averages before he comes close to a recall.
Bopara i'd stick with, even though as an Essex fan i'd like him back with us, i think the boy has class and coming in at 4 with a more solid number 3 would do him the world of good.
I'd keep Collingwood, and I only wish his technique was good enough to bat at three because he's a fighter and just what we need, even though he's had a bad test at Headingly.
The bowling needs work, but England have bowled too short for about as long as I can remember. It's the attack of the macho length, trying too hard to intimidate the batsman rather than doing what's needed to get him out. As with many things, look at the Aussie's to see how it should be done.
Broad did really well, he kept the runs down while all around him lost their heads (to paraphrase) and deserved his 6 wickets. I'd been calling for him to be dropped, but he stays now.
Anderson drives me mad when he bowls short, if anything I'd rather he bowled too full to get the ball swinging.
I don't think mass changes are the way forward, but i think that's it for Harmison. Sorry lad, always been a big fan but now I think the time has come. Reason is usally him bowling too short and too stupid.
The odd change is needed, drop Bell and bring in a proper number 3. Who? No idea, it's much easier said than done.
Maybe Bell at 3, Bopara at 4 and say to them that it's up to them to save their careers and win the Ashes. Flintoff in for Harmison as the only change apart from swapping Bell and Bopara

Saturday, 8 August 2009

General Sir Francis Richard Dannatt on Afghanistan

General Sir Francis Richard Dannatt was doing an interview on TMS and discussed the war in Afghanistan.
I thought he spoke with great intellegence and compassion about how important our presence there is for ourselves and the people there. I'm not that into war, but i'm very supportive of the Afghanistan campaign. I don't support our being in Iraq though.
He talked about the potential of places like Pakistan too, both places which have been blighted by some of those who have installed themselves as a brutal ruling class.

And he's an Essex boy

Class and knowing your place

Just listening to a bloke being interviewed on TMS lunch time.
He was talking about Upstairs Downstairs, and saying how good it was when everyone knew their place and no-one was aspirational.
I remember Phillip Blond, the 'red Tory', going on about how good it was back in the day when everyone knew their place.
Funny how the upper classes are always going on about it being good when people know their place. Funnily enough, there don't seem to be too many of the lower classes who pine for the good old days of what amounted to pretty much a caste system.
'Knowing your place' makes me sick. Some say class politics is dead, I think the upper classes' enthusiasm for people being stuck with their lot and knowing their place shows it's still alive and well

In defence of Harriet Harman

Not a very popular thing to do, but Harman has been been defended.
I'm not as bothered by sexual politics as I am by (class) inequality issues. Sexual equality is an equality issue, so something which I am interested in.
Partly because she's Labour, partly because she's talking about equality, partly because I think the abuse she gets has been unfair, i'm sick of the abuse she's been getting.
So well done for defending her and making the case for what she's calling for re: sexual equality.
Now, I went to a Fabian Society thing recently where all different ethnic groups were represented. BUT, despite the colours of skin, I was distinctly LOWER CLASS than many of the others, despite me being white and British. I'm not posh, didn't go to public school then Oxbridge, my parents aren't connected. The point being that this is CLASS inequality, and that skin colour is as irrelevant as sex/gender compared to what's inside and each person's class position.

Friday, 7 August 2009

John Redwood

I hate John Redwood. My word, do I hate John Redwood.
Interestingly, he was offered a role on a reality TV show, which he declined.
According to him, he tried to improve the lot of a fish and chip shop on the council estate that was to be his home.
The programme makers, according to him, had their own script which he did not want to stick to and so he declined their offer.
In his own words:
"I think they wanted a script where I was to fall out with the staff, not one where I would motivate them and help them earn a better paypacket."

I still imagine him trying to motivate the worker by threatening them with starvation.

The interesting word being "script" of course. That's a script in a reality TV show. Interesting is that.
Anyway, I still hate John Redwood

Football rumours

I've never been a good one for football rumours, most of them being totally fictional. Here's an interesting quote:
"

Arsenal's imminent bid for Hangeland?

On Sky last night there was in interview with AW in which he went out of his way to say that Arsenal hadn't contacted either Fulham or Hangeland and did his best to pour cold water on the idea.

Sky managed to turn this into the headline Wenger confirms interest in Hangeland.

As an example of rumour-mongering it was pure genius.
"

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Car 'Scrappage'

Apparently, "Scrappage scheme boosts car sales", and "Nikki Rooke, Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders: "It has been a success"."

If I were in government, i'd be dancing around singing 'i told you so' as they copped alot of stick for it yet it seems to be doing well.

Mandelson as PM

Apparently, there's a good chance that Peter Mandelson will be PM by Christmas. I wouldn't bet on it.
"I am not saying that this will happen, or even that it is likely, merely that it is possible. Peter Mandelson could, if the cards fall right, be our Prime Minister before the year is out. If the Labour movement has an ounce of survivalist sense left, he will be."

Labour's survival will not be helped by Mandy as PM me thinks.

Holiday

Wow. An article from the Daily Mail that borders on the fair and balanced. With an opinion that I agree with, that Gordon Brown needs to chill out and take a holiday.
I agree. He needs to take some time to relax and come back fresh, ready for a year-long battle that will determine the fate of the nation for years to come. The last thing we as a party or country need is a knackered bloke who looks like a zombie at the helm, with pretty much the same results. Well, to be fair it's still better than a Tory government, but i know what i mean

Tories on the take

And Michael Howard is lining his pockets again, nice to know eh?

Working in a supermaket

I know I shouldn't, but I was reading something in the Daily Mail.
I've worked in a supermarket, part time. It was horrible. The staff were treated like crap, we weren't allowed to talk during the shift other than to help customers. All I was doing was staking shelves.
I'm lucky that I didn't have to stay there long, and I wouldn't want to go back. I've had other simular jobs, working in what i called the 'arse end of the service industry' and others have agreed with that assessment.
What struck me about the article was how horrible and rude most people are, how people expect things to be landed on their plates, not only from the people mentioned in the article but the comments section too.

Daily Mail bollocks story of the day

"Modern hairdressers? They're as bad as Guantanamo Bay"
No, they're not. End of.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

British Citizenship Test

I took the test,
and failed. I even cheated as I thought that was very British of me.
I was one mark off gaining UK citizenship. Hmmmmmmmmm.
Not keen on that.
I mean, how you can quantify and qualify the nature of national identity into a test like that? How about name the Prime Minister, football and cricket captains? How many gallons of tea do you drink in a day?

Decent idea, stupid questions not at all relevent to UK life. No mention of liking tea, beer or banging a cricket ball into the middle of a lifeless pitch in order to out-macho the batsman.

Not that I could do better, I doubt

High-speed rail networks

Good work Andrew Adonis.
I'm very much in favour of HUGE investment in British transport infrastructure. Lord Adonis' plans for this high-speed network, which will also cut flying and thus carbon emissions in theory, have been dismissed as 'insane' by those people who would probably have the most to loose from it. So no surprises there then, the world carries on as usual.
If we could indeed put these plans into place, it would be fantastic and this level of investment might start to bring us somewhere near the standards of somewhere like Germany who are so far ahead of us it's embarressing.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

City AM part 3

"Allister,
Thank you very much for getting back to me. An unexpected pleasure.
My view of the current mess is along the following lines:

too-free markets coupled with too much power concentrated in certain hands, e.g. banks.

I back this up with my view of the excessive payments for failure. Why have we seen failure rewarded with such amounts? I would like to answer this myself, in the mean time I speculate that concentrated, unaccountable power is to blame. Shareholdings is a perfect example as the majority of shares are owned by rich powerful blocks, not numerous poorer people.


I agree that aiming vitriol just at bankers is simplistic and therefore silly. I believe that the blame rests at the feet of bankers, governments, electorates, shareholders, and consumers. But primarily with the bankers because of the prevalence of debt and the excessive leverage against property which has underpinned the consumer boom we have seen. I would include the addiction to debt more widely as another example of this. This is why I blame all the parties involved, and whilst you blame monetary decision makers, I would partly agree but look at the bankers who have exploited this situation for their own ends.


Banks going to the wall has very important implications for staff and savers, who I believe should be protected. There are places like north England, south Wales and Cornwall still recovering from the recessions of the 1980s. All I mean by that is the importance of considering the social consequences of letting large businesses going to the wall.


Bankers are getting hated because they are getting huge bonuses, on top of huge salaries, at a time when people are loosing their homes and jobs. Credit is still squeezed, especially for SMEs. The latter being an important part of my work.

I am certainly sympathetic towards this view, even on a purely emotional level."

Lame duck governments

A thread i forgot to get the notifications from and so is progressing more slowly than I would like. from Julian's musings on the subject of our fourth term:

Bearded Socialist said
August 4, 2009 at 9:25 am

You’re not alone, as I too think we can still win this one.
As far as I can tell, our core vote is pretty annoyed with the gov, and I think they will hold the key (as they usually do).
Being the Gov in power helps to stay in power, my fear is that a scraped win will leave us as a lame duck gov., thereby working against the interests of the country and the longer term interests of the party. Ideally, we can turn the economy round and convince our supporters that we are doing enough of the things they want to keep us happy, then they will come out and vote for us. If not, we could be in trouble.


Julian Ware-Lane said
August 4, 2009 at 9:34 am

I share your fears about a narrow win, or even a hung Parliament. But even these scenarios have got to be better than the prospect of a Co


Bearded Socialist said
August 4, 2009 at 7:24 pm

If I can explain myself, i think a parallel with the Tories in 92-97 shows the problems of a lame duck government, which is then out of power for much longer.
I’m certain that there will be a Tory government after either this election or the next. My fear is that if we win 2010 we will be out for 18 years again, but if we loose in 2010 we could be back in again at the next election, 2014ish.
Better a term out of power than a generation

City AM

Reply to my ranting email:

"
I doubt we’ll ever agree. But my point – as I have often argued — is that following in the line of many economists over the years, I believe that the main drivers of booms, bubbles and busts is inadequate monetary policy i.e bad decision from central banks. I don’t think commercial banks are generally anything other than the conduits for these errors. When excess liquidity floods the markets, private agents and investors become drunk and take stupid decisions. It has happened time and again — in this case, what mainly went wrong was a massive global bet on the property market. There was also a secondary reason for the crisis: an intellectual error which meant that most valuation models were wrong. These points fed off each other, in my view.

You are obviously entitled to disagree, to think this is all nonsense and that I reflect the view of vested interests (I don’t: I hate bailouts and would rather that AIG, for example, not be bailed out). But you should then present an alternative theory of the way the world works and refute my explanation. I’d also be keen to understand exactly how Goldman Sachs (for example) helped cause the recession. I don’t think they did in any meaningful way.

Best wishes

Allister"

Open primaries

So the Tories have selected a parliamentary candidate using a open primary system.
Cool. I'm all for this, it sounds like a cracking idea. Get the people involved to get involved.

City AM

I hate the bloke who writes editorials in City AM.
He pissed me off this morning by going on about how great it was that banks were paying bonuses and how bad it was that people would dare criticise banks.
So I wrote this to him. Reply, if any, will follow:

Dear Mr Heath,
Once again I had the misfortune of reading one of your editorial pieces in City AM this morning. Whilst I understand that it is your job to stand up for certain sections of the business community, I find your continued disregard of glaringly obvious facts starts to grate after a time. To attempt to absolve all well-paid businessmen from blame for this recession would border on the unbelievable if it were not your stock in trade. To say that “Goldman Sachs did not cause or exacerbate the recession; neither did JP Morgan” is stretching the truth to the limit.
While there are the occasional attempt at sorrow in your pieces, it goes against the vast bulk of your articles, where your line that ‘it’s someone else’s fault’ is roughly on a par with Labour’s conviction that they will win the next election, or that David Cameron has stuck to his guns.
It is unusual that I am motivated to write in in this way, usually I would put the paper down and walk away, but your pieces have almost caused me to throw the paper out of the window on more than one occasion. As a result I would ask you for at least some balance in your ‘reporting’ so that my attempts to catch up with some very important business news are not interrupted by my anger at the dross presented on the inside page.

David Cameron's joined-up Government

I've always had a suspicion that Cameron changes his policies towards things a bit too quickly for me. On this, it's taken him a year.
Now, this criticism comes from a source that is hardly a bastion of left-wing ideology, it's from the FT.
They contrast how two days ago Cameron is praising Tesco for providing great value and going so far as to say that "the government could be run more like Tesco".
One year ago he was criticising Tesco for abusing their power:
"The Conservative leader used the address to renew his criticism of the big supermarkets and to hold out the prospect of cuts in taxation and red tape for their smaller competitors.

“If small independent shops have a greater social value than chains or larger shops, then it makes sense for them to benefit . . . from an advantageous tax and regulatory regime which tips the balance back in their favour against the larger retailers,” Mr Cameron said. But he failed to specify any details of such an “advantageous” regime.

In contrast to his praise for independent retailers, the Conservative leader criticised the relationship between the big supermarkets and farmers as “another example of inadequate regulation”. While the supermarkets’ “habit of using their market power to squeeze the margins” of suppliers could produce welcome price cuts, Mr Cameron warned about abuse of that market power."


Typical of the two-faced twat

Benefits and Gov spending

Labour list has done this article on the Express.
Now, to say that the Express has an opinion which they like to make pretty clear is like saying that Real Madrid would be favourites against Southend.
Now the comments dispute the figures used to tackle the story, of course they do.
But the Labour List author, Shamik Das, has a point. The implication is that £186 bn is handed out to every Tom, Dick and Ahmed that turns up without a job to the local benefits centre. That seems to provide most headlines in the likes if the Express and the Mail. So the breakdown of the figures is the right thing to do. Take out the money spent on pensions and it's a VERY different matter (37% of the £186bn according to Das).
As to whether the benefits are deserved, well the Tabloids just like to have a rant and rave about them, it's their stock in trade.
To be honest, it's not that amount that's the problem for me, it's where it goes as against where it should go.
It's disgusting the way my girlfriend has been treated and messed around with her benefits, and that is something that needs sorting, but is a very different issue.
Moral of the story: the Express are a shower of bastards

Tom Baker returns as The Doctor

This has really excited me.
I love Dr Who so to see the great man return is good news all round.