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Monday, 28 February 2011

New disability test 'is a complete mess', says expert

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/feb/22/new-disability-test-is-a-complete-mess/

"During the preliminary roll-out of the test, people with terminal cancer, multiple sclerosis and serious mental illnesses have been found fit to work."

Disgusting isn't it. And I wonder how many of those stories made the front pages of the news papers in the same way as 'benefit scroungers' stories do. Bloody Tories

Tebbit advice to Merthyr unemployed 'move to get jobs'‏

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-south-east-wales-12526733

Same Tories, softer spin

Monday, 21 February 2011

Cameron public services plan is 'classic nasty party stuff'

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/feb/21/david-cameron-public-services-private-bidders

"Unions reacted furiously after he outlined his plans to "completely change" public services by bringing in a "presumption" that private companies, voluntary groups or charities are as able to run schools, hospitals and many other council services as the state."
I personally don't think there should be a "presumption", there should only be a matter of who is most able to provide the service.


"Unison, the country's largest public sector union, warned that the proposals would result in a "postcode lottery" of services and a mountain of bureaucracy generated by a welter of private sector contracts"
These found fair enough objections, it's just a matter of whether they're true.
I have to say that I'm inclined to think he has a point with this:
"Barber said Cameron's suggestion that the plans would reduce bureaucracy was "particularly laughable".
"Privatisation replaces democratic oversight and accountability with a contract culture that is a job creation scheme for lawyers," he added.
"Voters and service users lose their say in what will be a get even richer quicker scheme for the companies that win contracts."

Youth unemployment: finding your first job is the toughest task

I think there is some really important stuff here.
My fear is of a lost generation, and primarily from my own point of view. My fear is that having started looking for work around the time of the economic fuck up, younger people will soon have more experience and overtake me in my search for a good job.
This situation is made worse by those more privileged than I, far from unfortunate myself, who are able to work for free. I need to pay my bills, and during university had to work to pay my bills. That some people are able to work for free being subsidies from elsewhere makes this situation worse when many people are seeing experience, but the little experience that is available is monopolised by those who can afford to work for free and, on that count alone, need it least.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/feb/20/youth-unemployment-first-job-ema

Gloom over household finances dents recovery hopes

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/feb/21/household-finances-markit-index

"He said an unhealthy combination of high inflation and job worries caused households to report that their financial outlook has slumped back to the levels seen during the worst part of the recession."

Sums up my position exactly

David Cameron to end 'state monopoly' in provision of public services

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/feb/21/david-cameron-public-services

Now, personally I've long believed in that. unlike many of my lefty mates, I don't believe that the state should have a monopoly on the provision of services. I think that the best provider should provide it, I don't really care who it is that provides it so long as it is there. In my view, the role of the state is to ensure that those most in need are provided for, and to provide that service if it is the best provider, but I don't think it should be the only option.


But, as ever, the coalition government under Cameron makes plans and outlines them in purest conservative philosophy and dogma. Personally, I think his statement that "The state will still have a role in ensuring "fair funding, ensuring fair competition, and ensuring that everyone - regardless of wealth - gets fair access" is as much bollocks as David Willett's promise to ensure that poor children can reach the best universities. The problem was that the key question was the last asked and he ducked it without being held to account.

Omar al-Bashir will not stand for re-election in Sudan

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/feb/21/omar-al-bashir-sudan-no-reelection

Wow, we live in amazing times.
Dictatorial bastards the world over are falling. Let's hope that what follows is an improvement. I dearly hope that those who are able to take advantage of these democratic reforms are themselves democratic reformers and not the type who make those they replaced look decent, honest and soft-hearted.

Libya uprising

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/blog/2011/feb/21/arab-and-middle-east-protests-middleeast

"Hague spoke to Muammar Gaddafi's son Saif last night, "warning him of global disapproval of the regime's actions", PA said. The use of sniper fire, automatic weapons and heavy artillery against unarmed protesters is "dreadful and horrifying", Hague said."

Sadly, to me the idea of 'global disapproval' being the only sanction against sniper fire, automatic weapons and heavy artillery (heavy artillery for the sake of fuck) is a bit pathetic

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Official statistics hide true increase in cost of living

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2011/feb/15/official-statistics-hide-severity-uk-inflation

I think there's some truth in that. certainly housing costs are huge, especially lower down the scale. But I wonder how much the general public are really a part of this debate. I mean, I don't sit down and compare my costs of living against the government's official measure then tut at key differences, and I'm the sort of person who would. So I wonder how much people care. I think people will care if inflation is said to be at 2% but felt inflation is up nearer 5%, for example. That would have me pissed off as all the policy decisions would be made with a 'never had it so good' time in mind when in fact times are tough.
Let's hope that doesn't happen, inflation is a worry for me, but then so are my low wages

Big Society: volunteering in government‏

I got an internal email today about how great it would be to volunteer and all that. how civil servants get up to 3 days off to go volunteering.
My boss tells me that this has existed for ages, but now has 'Big Society' stuck on to it

Nick Clegg blocks housing benefit cut for jobless

http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/feb/17/nick-clegg-housing-benefit-cut-dropped

I wonder if this was a genuine victory for Nick Clegg or he's just borrowed a competent spin doctor to get some support back from Lib Dem supporters.

The rest of the article is outlined by the nastiest elements of Tory philosophy

A rotten sort of recovery | John Harris

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/17/rotten-recovery-low-pay-job-insecurity

In amongst all the lefty outrage is one nugget that I think could be really important in years to come: "What that means is obvious enough: for millions, the same deepening insecurity they experienced under the last government, and then some."

I think people are right to fear the lost generation of which I fear I may be a part, and a deepening inequality in terms of security. More and more people are going to have job insecurity, which when added to increasing financial pressure could well be a recipe for social disquiet. I'm certainly not advocating it, but that's what happens when you come down too strongly on the side of private sector employers and harsh supply side reforms.

"week's inflation figures showed prices rising twice as fast as average pay." This can only continue for so long
"To everyone I speak to, the combination of stagnating pay and rising cost of living seems cruel and increasingly unmanageable." Quite.


"the workforce is made anxious by ever-increasing numbers of agency workers, employed on inferior terms, who come and go at speed"
It's not nice being one, I tell thee that

I do wonder if all this will see a re-rise of union membership. It would certainly seem a logical solution to poor pay and job insecurity.

Same-sex marriage cannot be the same as heterosexual marriage | Michael White

Having read this, it seems that some people get all worked up about something when I personally don't care. As far as I'm concerned, if people want to marry, they can. Gay, straight or whatever I couldn't care less. My own form of religious tolerance: couldn't give a shit

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2011/feb/14/same-sex-marriage-heterosexual-marriages

Curveball's confession: another dent in the Iraq conspiracy theory | Michael White

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2011/feb/16/curveball-confession-dent-iraq-conspiracy-theory

The stuff at the start of the article is a bit boring. I mean, we all knew the Iraq war was dodgy. Well, the grounds for it were both there entirely and not at all. Going to war on one bloke's say so show the war had long been decided on.
What I find interesting is a military man criticising the military and the patriotic paradox something like the Sun finds itself in. hero attacks heroes, a military man (or 'hero' as they're all now called) has criticised the military. Criticising the military is treason and he's therefore evil. But he's a hero but can't be, but criticised the heroes so can't be a hero etc. etc. etc.

The more hard headed stuff at the bottom is of more interest to me, how China and America worked together and all that. very interesting.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Innovation: Britain's other deficit | James Dyson

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jan/31/invention-deficit-engineering-exports-growth

I certainly agree that innovation, R&D etc. are important. When my lot were in office they invested too much time, effort and money in the city to the detriment of a balanced economy.
It comes down to investment. Investment in education, skills, graduates, engineers. Even the author Mr Dyson acknowledges that, even while saying government should be cut back. He means cut back in the other areas. At the end of the day we need to be investing in education all the way through, and incentivising areas such as engineering. But that costs money, as do the tax cuts he's calling for.

And one last thing: it's all very well and good having an export-orientated economy, as everyone now wants to, but in order to export, someone has to buy it. Who will that be? USA, China, India, EU?
Upon that may rest a great deal


http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/feb/03/investment-the-mother-of-invention/print

Interestingly, the first letter is pure protectionism. Is that the path our government wants to take? I have no doubt there would be tit-for-tat reprisals if it did but it's always worth considering

" James Dyson calls for "patentable exports" in his piece. Is this the same James Dyson who closed the Dyson factory in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, in 2002 to move production to Malaysia, resulting in the loss of 560 jobs? Sack British workers, move production abroad, still made £190m profit last year – no wonder he is one of Cameron's advisers.

Alan Quinn

Manchester"

Very interesting that. ouch

Charlie Brooker: Ed Miliband, the Labour leader now known as CUBE DX-9

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/feb/07/ed-miliband-rebranded

oh it's funny coz it's true.
I can't help but feel that we've got another Michael Foot as leader, but without the flair and personality.

I like the bit about the German chancellor at the bottom:
"a German chancellor who consists of nothing but a runic symbol flickering on a monitor accompanied by a vaguely menacing drone."

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Does the government need a 'Plan B'?‏

A lot of this is clearly speculative, but I did tell (everyone) so.
Taking demand out of the economy has seen a slowing of the economy. The stimulus package kept the economy going reasonably but the cuts have begun to hit it, and hard. Another problem is confidence as if people think there will be a recession then it is far more likely to happen.
Aside from my gloating, there are some pretty serious issues here. I feel the economic problems with my inability to get a decent job or even security in the shitty one I have.
The political bits of this really are not as important to me as the effects on my life and prospects, but this would be hugely damaging to both coalition parties if the economy tanks. If that's the case Labour will have an open goal for 5/10 years. And given Ed miliband's performances I think we might need it. Ed Balls is a heavy weight so might add something there but has the potential to fuck everything up and piss everyone off.
What matters to me is my job and lively hood, my prospects in the short, medium and long term. The inside of the Westminster bubble does not greatly concern me at the moment

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/nickrobinson/2011/02/does_the_govern.html