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Put plainly, what it shows is that the recovery of the employment rate to previous levels has been driven entirely by growth in numbers of people who aren’t full-time employees. That doesn’t mean there haven’t been any new full-time employee jobs created, but it does mean that no more have been created than have been lost. The population has grown considerably since 2008, yet the economy has been able to provide additional employment only in the form of part-time employment or self-employment.

Much of this additional employment doesn’t pay very well. Real average earnings are still 10 percent lower than before the recession or, when you include all those self-employed people, probably more than 12 percent lower.

So the important point to remember is that all three political parties are in favour of neoliberal economics, the sort which says there's nothing you can do about this situation. And teh Tory cuts are yet to fully take effect; the reason they've not been fully implemented is unclear to me, but might include them actually knowing that cutting government spending just now would be insane. If you doubt that, go and learn some economics.
Also, when the media tell you, on behalf of the powerful, that the economy has returned to the GDP it was when the recession started, you should remember firstly that this has taken 6 years, a new record for the UK to recover from recessions,
and secondly, the actual GDP per head is still back at 2005 levels or worse, whilst the cost of living has increased.
Make no mistake about it, financialisation of the economy and 'market' based 'free' trade is bad for people in developed countries. The question is, what to do about it. The tory approach is to continue and ignore the problems; new labours more along the lines of continue, but get some pennies from the rich to pay for palliative care.
26 July 2014 @ 03:07 pm
Firstly, the UK economic recovery is not as clearcut as the media tell you:

GDP is doing well, but GDP per head has stagnated. This is because the corporations are taking more of the profit and paying their workforce less. Why people don't notice or care about this is not clear, but certainly the media plays its part in the propaganda wars.
Graphing CEO pay against stock market performance doesn't produce any correlation; yet another point in the argument about pay for CEO's not being directly linked to company performance. If the market worshippers point about performance related pay etc. actually had any truth in it there would be a closer correlation.
For a mere £6.65 an hour, you are expected to have excellent communication skills, ability to work alone or following company policy, have excellent customer facing skills.
Basically my brain has trouble processing how you are expected to be so wonderful and excellent, yet are only being offered a mere 6.65 an hour, which on a 37.5 hour week (note we often used to get 40 hours weeks, i.e. lunch breaks were paid. Not anymore), turns out to be £12,967 a year, which nowadays simply isn't a living wage. The cost of living has increased by at least 20% since the recession began, but salaries have declined or stagnated for most people. And that's not including the cost of housing.

So the word excellent is being tortured in service to the usual exploit the workers situation.
02 July 2014 @ 08:28 pm

when something important wasn't getting done by private for profit companies, the government, acting on behalf of taxpayers, spent our money on research in universities and the like in order to get stuff done.

. But Mr Cameron told the BBC it was important to have an economist heading the review:

"There is a market failure; the pharmaceutical industry hasn't been developing new classes of antibiotics, so we need to create incentives."

A problem so bad that even the PM can be persuaded to talk about it, antibiotic resistance has been known to be an upcoming major problem for over a decade. Eventually, the gvt seems to have noticed, but the soundbite comment is simply that incenctives need to be created.
I've got a better idea - publicly funded research.
But that doesn't fit the PM, for whom markets can do no wrong, even when they fail, they have to be rescued by the taxpayer. Which admits that markets can fail, yet the answer is a public subsidy for the companies, not to sidestep them altogether. The market is perfect, even when it is not.
01 July 2014 @ 06:25 pm
I've seen some guesses as to how many of them there are. This one claims 250:

Possibly the only halfway authentic thing in that photo is the headscarf; the accoutrements and clothing bear little resemblance to anything I've ever seen, although the idea may be based on some sort of peasant clothing of the 10th century or suchlike.
Anyway, if they're 250 strong why only 60 or 70 at Bannockburn? Since last year there's been PR about them having international branches and lots of friends. Instead what was at Bannockburn was them and mostly B and C class re-enactment groups from Scotland and some good foreign ones, totalling maybe 150 people. Not the 300 that were advertised.
No, not really. PLenty of people put work into it, and there's no doubt that fighting 3 times a day is hard work, but the PR was too much for the reality of it.
Years of phenomenal research, work and dedication will result in a fantastic and historically accurate living history show at Bannockburn Live on June 28th and 29th. ..... Clanranald’s Malin Heen-Allan has been spearheading the design and development not only of the battle show and re-enactment itself, but also the historic immersion experience of the Medieval Village.
Nope, the village was hardly a village and not immersive, unless they have a different idea of what that means than I do. There wasn't any design of the camp anyway, stuff was just laid out as usual in rows. Moreover it very definitely wasn't historically accurate. Malin herself was wearing some fashionably tight trousers with thonging lacing them tight shut at her ankle.

From the official website:
there will be more than 300 living historians working and preparing for battle throughout the day within the interactive medieval encampments allowing you to experience the sights, sounds and atmosphere of 14th century Scotland. ... Each day there are three opportunities to watch the battle performance ensuring plenty of time for all to enjoy the action,
That last bit was a lie; there were queues, and thanks to changing they way they let people into the stands, by closing the gates into the 1314 area, they made sure a lot of people couldn't see the battle at all. And there were only about 50 liuving historians and 100 people actually fighting. If I'd contracted for 300,000 widgets and only received 150,000 of them I would be a bit annoyed.

There wasn't any concerted effort to make any real sights, sounds or smells of medieval scotland, just the usual re-enactment camps cooking and such.

From February this year, the scottish tourism alliance PR:
A large scale battlefield involving over 300 re-enactors who will recreate the atmosphere of the most famous battle in Scotland’s history, the largest event of this nature seen in Scotland. Battles will take place at 12noon, 2pm and 4pm.
Encampments that evoke the preparations for battle and of medieval times including a fully operational kitchen, blacksmiths, armouries and living quarters.

As above, they got the numbers wrong, there was only one blacksmith who spent most of his time hitting a helmet and not a lot of chat about smithing went on that I could see. Armouries? What on earth are they? Living quarters was a handful of tents open so the public could see mock up beds etc, and they weren't so well equipped ither.

From March this year:
Employing traditional fighting techniques that would have been used in the 1300s

Was just a lie. The fighting done was standard re-enactment fare, with extra shouting and screaming and play acting as seen in films. Real fighting techniques involve attacks to the face, joints and vulnerable areas.

And of course this is in addition to the well publicised issues with ticketting and access to the event. And the lack of food suppliers and the stupidly small farmers market tent.

Basically Bannockburn live was no better than any of the previous bannockburns; a great opportunity wasted. THe mix of VisitScotland and Unique events simply wasn't up to the mark, and the re-enactment side, although you could see they had put some thought into it, wasbn't anything special. They had 5 hours practise for it on the Friday, on top of allegedly months more work beforehand, yet didn't do anything more that we have done in the past.
See this post by Charlie Stross on Amazon using it's monopsony power or whatever it's called to lean on publishers:

Oddly enough, if they lean on publishers enough, they'll go out of business, which leads to Amazon being the Emperor graciously publishing the puny works of mere mortals who have signed the correct (i.e. beneficial to Amazon) contracts. That the authors won't make a living out of it is besides the point.

Now eventually some other organisations etc would arise to challenge the emperor, but in the meantime a lot of people will suffer. That's the thing about market capitalism, it destroys and rebuilds, but that all takes time, and it leaves gaps where pain and suffering and abuse can easily occur. Which is also why privatising public services en masse is a really stupid thing to do.
Some fellow called Bear Grylls has made a name and a living by being a hard macho survival man who can live if you drop him alone into Siberia or the amazon or wherever.

I noticed he was pontificating about modern men recently, but think he's being silly.

“Men really struggle nowadays with what it means to be a man,” he said. “In the olden days, it was clear – you use your spear, your brains, your resourcefulness, your courage. All that sort of stuff made a man.”
OKay, well, we'll ignore women for now. But it is hard to see how certain activities translate into actual meaning. What is the meaning of sleeping, for instance?

Now, he added, the use of technology means people are “only using a fraction of what nature or God or whatever has given us to be human”.

“Therefore there’s always going to be a disconnect of actually, what does it mean?” he said. “In the modern world, what does masculinity mean?

Are we really using a fraction of our personal resources nowadays? I look around and see people carrying out complex activities that require enormous attention, from driving to gaming to medicine. We can see plenty of people doing physical activity too, whether climbing a mountain or playing football. It is of course totally unclear to anyone who isn't Grylls why the heck this has any impact on our masculinity at all.

In fact, to borrow his line of thinking, he should just man up and realise that you can make masculinity mean whatever you want it to mean.

“If you strip man of everything – no microwave, no bed, none of the stuff we take for granted – are the skills that man has gained over thousands of years or mistakes and errors and development still here?

“Have they just gone in a generation? Or when pushed are they still somewhere in there?”

Well, no, of course not. The skills necessary to survive on a desert island are not the skills necessary to survive in medieval Europe, or 19th century cities. Any suggestion otherwise is silly.

THe most likely explanation is that between him and some marketing person they've cooked up concepts for his TV show, which features the silly sort of thing like challenging contestants to find fresh water, build shelter and catch food. They'll have chosen them in order to maximise TV viewing rather than people who have previous knowledge about living in such areas, or know it alls such as myself.
Meanwhile, back in the real world, men do what they've done for millenia, just in slightly different ways, and usually with less chance for death or injury, which is a good thing.
quotes from the Telegraph;
An anonymous commenter left the following:

“In the olden days, it was clear – you use your spear, your brains, your resourcefulness, your courage. All that sort of stuff made a man.”

God, I am so sick of this crap. For starters, in the intervening millennia between 'olden days' and now, man has added to his spear-and-loincloth skill-set in building cathedrals and universities, developing codified cilvilised behaviour, composing symphonies, putting men on the moon etc. etc. But all of that took real effort and competence, far beyond the scope of some dilettantish "Quest for Fire" weekend.
Well-honed self-reliant character, humility and competence are in large measure virtues that made a man a (worthwhile) man; and a big part of the problem now is this self-infantilizing push to equate masculinity with machismo, a shallow all-mouth-and-trousers "hey look at me!" faux knuckle-dragging. For too many men nowadays, it's a easy way out, and a cheap way to get a sense of pride that used to have to earned through effort and often sacrifice.
And for the record I hunt and fish, and own a lot of tools, which I use regularly. But I think of myself as at least a little more evolved than some heath-dweller (no offence to any heath-dwellers with an internet connection.)
Nice post here:

After pointing to polls which have even a majority of Conservative voters agreeing to re-nationalise the railways, he writes:
It has been true, as long as there has been a privatised railway, that any British politician could do better in the polls by attacking it and by promising to reverse the privatisation. (It’s also true that as long as there was a nationalised railway, we whined about it, and indeed we whined about the railways ever since there’s been a railway.) There is even a simple policy option available to make it happen: stop issuing franchises and just let them all revert. Yet no-one with any power has been willing to take the step of making this option available on the ballot. The political system’s role as a mechanism for limiting the agenda has rarely been more clear.

Yes, that is a good question, if the majority want it and there are no clear downsides to it (as compared to re-introducing the death penalty, where you will end up with dead innocent people), why are the politicians not doing it? ANother example might be the invasion of Iraq, most were against it, over a million demonstrated against it, yet we still joined in.

Later on:
Not so long ago, Rory Stewart MP was quoted as saying that nobody has any power.

"In a way, he says, ordinary Afghans are far more powerful than British citizens, because at least they feel they can have a role in one of the country’s 20,000 villages. “But in our situation we’re all powerless. I mean, we pretend we’re run by people. We’re not run by anybody. The secret of modern Britain is there is no power anywhere.” Some commentators, he says, think we’re run by an oligarchy. “But we’re not. I mean, nobody can see power in Britain. The politicians think journalists have power. The journalists know they don’t have any. Then they think the bankers have power. The bankers know they don’t have any. None of them have any power.”"

I think this is probably the most profound statement on British politics of the last ten or even twenty years. AVPS wonders why UKIP is so resilient to its own pratfalls. There’s your answer; we know that its voters don’t care much about the EU, and don’t agree with the policies the Kilroy-Silk era libertarians came up with. But they vote for them because they at least give the impression of control.

To add to the point, it's funny how, if Rory is correct, and remember he's an MP, went to the right school and university, tutored some royal child and then got parachuted into Iraq to act as a viceroy, the main policies which get enacted, such as selling the Royal Mail (also against the wishes of a majority of voters) enrich only a certain segment of society. See also the ongoing NHS privatisation, school selling off, etc etc.
THe only sensible conclusion is that power is real and weilded by the politicians and money men. THat Rory can't see that indicates he's a moron, or else, he's a good politician and just pretending not to see it because stating the reality out loud would be unpopular.
The alternative is that the glibertarians and their ilk, as well as the orange booker lib dems, tony blair and the tories, are right in that we are living in the best possible world and things are like this because this is how the world works.

A moments consideration of history will demonstrate that this is bunk, yet it is implied in so much media coverage and statements of people that sometimes despair seems like a sensible option.

(Edited to point out that this does't mean there's a secret cabal of world rulers pulling all the levers, rather the point is that there's an amorphous mass of rich and connected folk manipulating what they can to make things run in their favour, and the total effect over time leads to the perception of a specific oligarchy when it's fuzzier than that)
07 May 2014 @ 09:18 pm
So, disastrous, wasn't it?
Oddly enough, I have been informed that it appears on no political party's manifesto and is opposed by the majority of the public.
That's odd, isn't it? A democratically elected government doing something that no party said they would do in their manifesto?
Even worse, they rushed the sale through double quick without consulting anyone, and sold it off at a bargain basement price.

I wonder why?
Anyone got any ideas?