Sunday, January 29, 2012

Labour Discovers Localism?

Labour have come up with one good idea over the benefits cap- the Shadow Work and Pensions secretary Liam Byrne has proposed setting local benefits caps to meet the needs of different regions with different costs of living.

This is a great idea, it does not make sense to have the same limit in London as in Doncaster where property is much cheaper. Has he considered following through the logic of his idea into other areas though?

If taking account of the different costs of living is the right thing to do when setting a benefits limit- then surely it also makes sense to take different costs of living when setting pay scales for public sector workers. Also the minimum wage should be set for local conditions- very few jobs in London will be extinguished at £6 an hour but many jobs in Wrexham might be.

Sympathy For Jamie Oliver

When parents send their children to school with a Smarties sandwich you do begin to wonder whether the thick tongued mockney control freak has a point.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Why Not Just Go And Talk To Them?

Polly Toynbee writes:
No, said the Department for Work and Pensions, you can't visit a jobcentre to talk to social fund claimants. That's the first no I've ever had from the DWP's press officers, always helpful under both Labour and Tory governments.

Coincidentally I was picking up a friend from the Jobcentre yesterday, I managed to get inside and speak to people. I wasn't interviewing anyone obviously but I didn't get the impression I'd be told to get lost if I had. It's not like a prison or a Tuscan villa where you need a permit to get over the wall.

I'm told some inner city Jobcentres have guards on site but even then surely she could wait outside- or get some Guardian intern to wait outside- and speak to people going in or out.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Fun With Numbers

Proposed benefit cap (defeated in the House of Lords): £26000 per year.

Typical working year including holidays: 48 weeks.

Typical full time working week: 37.5 hours.

£26000 / 48 / 37.5 = £14.44

So getting benefits of £26000 a year is the equivalent of earning £14.44 an hour after tax.

I can see why the noble Lords and Bishops feel this is plunging hardworking families into debt.

* I'm haven't worked it out myself but apparently for £26000 after tax income you'd need to be earning £34000, which works out an hourly rate of  £18.89!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Quote Of The Day

From This is South Wales:
A CARMARTHEN scaffolder who took to drinking after being unable to work through a drink-related injury squared up to police outside a town pub
I maybe going out on a limb here, but I think he may have started drinking before the accident.

Via Ambush Predator

High Speed Rail

The projected cost of building the London to Birmingham section is estimated at £17 Billion.

The time saved on a journey from London to Birmingham is 23 minutes.

Obviously when Manchester and Leeds are incorporated the time saved will be greated but it seems like a lot of money for the times involved.

Besides which I've always believed that the UK's biggest transport problem isn't between cities but within them.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Good Die Young

A couple of weeks ago Johannes Heesters, described as "Hitler's Favourite Actor" died at the age of 108. Now the world's oldest person famous for a reason other than being old is probably the Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer who is 105. He was and probably still is an unrepentant supporter of Stalin. Both men were working past their 100th birthdays.

So clearly the key to a long and healthy life is to cosy up to a genocidal mass murderer.

George Galloway will probably live to celebrate his 120th birthday.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Lee Siegel's Socks Appeal

I didn't know this when I wrote my previous post about the race baiter Lee Siegel, but he was fired from the New Republic for ethical failings. In particular he did a Hari*, and created multiple sock puppets to praise himself (when all the real commentators were slating his ineptitude).

Getting fired from a magazine which has published the likes of Stephen Glass, Johann Hari, Andrew Sullivan and Scott Beauchamp is some achievement in it's own right. Come to think of it, is it worth checking Siegel's Wikipedia page tomorrow and looking at edits made prior to him getting caught being his own biggest fan?

* I wonder what Johann Hari is doing today with no Wikipedia to vandalise.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Race Baiting In The New York Times With Lee Siegel

Apparently Mitt Romney's campaign is succeeding because he's waycist!!!!! According to Lee Siegel:
But there has yet to be any discussion over the one quality that has subtly fueled his candidacy thus far and could well put him over the top in the fall: his race.
Yes, why haven't people noted the role of Romney's whiteness in beating Gingrich, Perry and Huntsman? I can't work it out.
Of course, I’m not talking about a strict count of melanin density. I’m referring to the countless subtle and not-so-subtle ways he telegraphs to a certain type of voter that he is the cultural alternative to America’s first black president.  
"Subtle" is the race baiter's code for "invented".
In this way, Mr. Romney’s Mormonism may end up being a critical advantage. Evangelicals might wring their hands over the prospect of a Mormon president, but there is no stronger bastion of pre-civil-rights-America whiteness than the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
What about the New York Times editorial board? Mitt Romney's father George was a prominent supporter of civil rights and was spoken of favourably by Martin Luther King.
Yes, since 1978 the church has allowed blacks to become priests. But Mormonism is still imagined by its adherents as a religion founded by whites
So no Mormons can be president. I think Lee Siegheil needs to look closer to home for subtle racism.
It’s true that Mr. Romney’s opponents are all white as well. But each is tainted in his own way. Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich appear soft on Hispanic immigration, and Mr. Gingrich is hardly the standard-bearer for the invincible nuclear family.
Rick Santorum is an Italian-American Catholic
 What? So Catholicism means Santorum is insufficiently mainstream but Mormonism doesn't?
And Ron Paul’s isolationist conspiracy-mongering recalls, if anything, the radical-right fringe of the ’50s and ’60s, of the John Birchers and the followers of George Wallace, a manic moment even most evangelicals would rather forget.
So his being Mormon is even more racially provocative than you know- hating black people.
Contrast that with Mr. Romney’s meticulously cultivated whiteness. He is nearly always in immaculate white shirt sleeves. He is implacably polite,
Ah, so being polite and well dressed are white traits. Who's the racist here? Barack Obama got praised effusively for being polite and well dressed back in 2008. I'm glad I can prove my anti racism by saying that Lee Siegheil is a gutter dwelling, race baiting whore.

The whole fundamental conceit of Seigel's rant is that there is a significant body of opinion that is uniquely uncomfortable with Barack Obama and regards him as illegitimate because he is black. No evidence is made to support the notion that opponents of Obama would be perfectly relaxed if a white person was enacting the same policies or if Obama faces more delegitimisation than other Presidents (the conspiracy theories over Bush's wins in 2000 & 2004 would be an interesting place to start).

On the other hand the author clearly does regard Mr Romney as illegitimate because of his ethnic identity.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quote Of The Day

DJ on the likes of Ken Loach demanding subsidies:
Nothing sums up the demented nature of the modern left better than a soi-dissant socialist party that supports taxing janitors in Leeds to give money to millionaire luvvies in London, so they can make films about how folk in Yorkshire are ignorant bigots.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review: The Cleanest Race

The Cleanest Race: How North Koreans see themselves and why it matters.- B.Z. Myers

This is a magnificent book that brings a genuinely fresh perspective to a secretive country.

The great philosopher Eric Hoffer once said that "Mass movements can rise and spread without a belief in God, but never without belief in a Devil"-and in North Korea the Devil is the non-Korean world. The regime derives it's legitimacy not from material success (it acknowledges that the South is wealthier) but from having a strong protector and nurturer to keep impure foreign un-Korean influences at bay.

Myers' argument is that far from being a Stalinist redoubt with a fierce adherence to Marxist-Leninism or a society influenced by traditional Confucian beliefs- the North Korean ideology is about the purity of their race and it is derived to a large extent from the Japanese emperor cult that ended in 1945.

Using sources like North Korean novels and museum exhibits he demonstrates how the regime's propaganda exults Koreans as inherently superior to the other races of the world- not because they are stronger or more intelligent but because they are "purer" and have a childlike innocence that others do not.

Myers dismisses the notion that the leadership don't believe in their own propaganda. The contempt for foreigners and belief in their own inherent superiority does explain much about the behaviour of the regime- the rude demands for aid, overt contempt for even supposed friendly countries, aborting the babies of North Korean women who've been to China and the willingness to cheat in any deal with international negotiators.

The implications of such an ideology are interesting- firstly negotiating to reduce tensions with North Korea is futile because without an external threat there is no justification for the regime's continued existance.They do not make provocotive moves to get aid but to bolster the regime when its neighbours inevitably respond with the cycle of outrage, condemnation, more talks and finally more aid. The best response would be not to simply ignore their actions.

Secondly evidence of a strong and successful South Korea that preserves it's national identity is a real threat to Pyongyang.

I am not sure I believe all Myers' arguments- the Communist influence may be less than is widely believed but it is there (farm collectivisations are a very Soviet idea not one derived from Imperial Japan). However assuming that that the evidence he presents is not cherry picked then the case that North Korea has made extreme paranoid racism it's national ideology is compelling.

End Nato?

I see Ron Paul is running away with the Fun Online Poll.

Since most voters are British and the most significant aspect of a Ron Paul presidency for Britain would be the end of NATO and similar alliances- does this mean that people think NATO should be disbanded.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Arbitrary List Of The Day- Best To Worst Republican Candidates For President.

Still active candidates in bold:
  1. Gary Johnson (former governor of New Mexico)
  2. Mitt Romney (former governor of Massachussetts)
  3. Jon Huntsman (former governor of Utah)
  4. Tim Pawlenty (former governor of Minnesota)
  5. Rick Perry (governor of Texas)
  6. Ron Paul (Texas congressman)
  7. Herman Cain (Businessman)
  8. Rick Santorum (former senator for Pennsylvania)
  9. Michelle Bachmann (Minnesota congresswoman)
  10. Newt Gingrich (former speaker of the house)

Shroud Waving As A Defence Stategy

I wasn't too bothered by Diane Abbott's comments about white people wanting to "Divide and rule" black people. It's mildly racist at worst- like other things that she has said in the past- and people are quite right to think that it is foolish for a shadow minister but in the grand scheme of things it isn't bad enough to lose sleep over.

What was much more offensive was the small horde of apologists for Diane Abbott insinuating that to focus on a prominent black figure's remarks about white people was in some way trivialising the murder of Stephen Lawrence because "OMG!!! ITZ THE SAME WEEK 2 OF HIS MURDERERS WERE CONVICTED!!!!*

Given that Abbott's original remark was made in the context of a discussion stemming from the convictions it is a stupid argument- it could not happen at any other time. It's such a brazenly cynical strategy of circling the wagons to protect one of their own that it's amazing that anyone thinks it would work.

* So far the shroud waving defenders of St Diane include Gary Younge, Laurie Penny, Steven Baxter, at least one Guardian cartoonist and tons of Twitterers.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Quote Of The Day

BBC history magazine asks historians to name over rated figures from the past:

Churchill was chosen by the historian and former BBC journalist Christopher Lee, not on the basis of a wartime record which has already seen him chosen as Britain's most celebrated hero, but because of his ministerial and political failings much earlier in his career.
Quite a few of his Tory colleagues might have concurred with Lee's view of Churchill's hopeless judgment and over-zealous use of the military, at least right up until the summer of 1940. "If it had not been for the fact that he led Britain to victory in the second world war we would have scant memory of [him]," Lee reckons.

Well true.

One of them should have nominated Muhammed, just for the laughs as the BBC go into panic mode.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Educational Standards In Britain Today.

This is a genuine text conversation I had this week:

Stranger: Is dis ross?

Me: Yes. Who is this?

Stranger: Its fran ave u go ne ringin cred

Me: Sorry I don't recognise the name "Fran". Are you sure you've got the right Ross?

Fran: Haha u tryin 2 b funny, sum1 jst gave me da numba so its obv u,jst a txt 2 say du kev a favour nd keep away frm im cz me nd is bruv dnt want im goin bk 2 jail nd im sik ov im liein 2 me nd e onli seems 2 du it wen es waiv u

Me: Seriously I don't know you. My guess is that someone had my number on their phone along with this other Ross and got them mixed up.

Fran:  Ye alryt ross

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Killer Cabbies

Is it me or have so many recent mass killers and rapists* been taxi drivers that even truckers think they're going too far?

* Michael "not the cricketer" Atherton, Derrick Bird, John Worboys, Delroy Grant, Christopher Halliwell. etc.