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Posted by Tim Worstall

Jail them! Jail them!

Britain’s biggest independent co-op has made the highest single payout to a worker for breaching low pay laws and is examining whether 200 others may have been paid below the minimum wage, the Guardian can reveal.

Midcounties Co-op, which turned over £1.2bn last year, underpaid a newspaper delivery man for four years by more than £14,000 and has also paid more than £4,000 in missing wages and expenses to another delivery worker, who claimed he earned as little as 69p per hour on some days.

The payouts come after HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) pursued the complaints of two newspaper deliverymen about what they were being paid by the UK’s largest independent co-op, which trumpets its desire to create “a better, fairer world”.


Of course, this is a co-op, there are no capitalists here. Bit of a bugger that for the SJWs, no?

And it’s much, much, more interesting than it seems. This is a newspaper delivery round – or at least newspaper delivery. Being done on a piece rate. So wages aren’t paid by the hour at all, but by the work done. At which point:

After an internal review overseen by an HMRC low pay inspector, the co-op has admitted that it failed to take into account how much Sharpe’s disability slowed down his round.

His disability makes him less productive. His pay must be by the hours he works, not per his productivity. What is this going to mean for the employment prospects of people with such disabilities?

Answers on a postcard to the Job Centre please.

We’ve come a long way Baby

Sep. 26th, 2016 07:51 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

A failure by Guardia Civil to provide female officers with bulletproof jackets specifically designed for women is discriminatory, dangerous and is affecting their ability to protect the public, a major Spanish policing group has said.

The United Association of Civil Guards (AUGC), which has 30,000 members, has launched a campaign demanding the nationwide police service affords equal protection to male and female officers.

I’ve no idea what Franco’s translation of Kinder, Küche, Kirche was but that is roughly how he viewed the Good Society. A generation later the patriarchal oppression crying out to the very heavens for vengeance is that police issue bulletproof jackets are not tailored for tits.

If you told the Young Millennials of today quite how far we’ve come they’d not believe you.

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Posted by Gerard Thompson


Imagine our surprise on Saturday when news of Jeremy Corbyn’s re-election of the Labour party came through hot off the wires. As it happened, my partner, who is about as a-political as you can get (and that’s saying something, considering we have been together through multiple elections, not least of all the General Election last year, somewhat inconveniently we were moving flat the day after – a story in itself) had made a special study of this election and mentioned the news.

In this age of anti-politics, the figure Corbyn cuts has great appeal for people like my partner, who are not necessarily overtly political, but are reasonably well-informed with no fixed views or attitude. In a sweeping generalisation, it is much akin to what we see in America right now with Trump, albeit in extremis politically to what the Hon. Member for Islington North has to offer. This is the stark zeitgeist we are operating in.

I was reminded yesterday, thanks to social media, of a status I had written some six years ago to the day, an observation I made about Ed Miliband’s election as Labour Party leader. “We (as Liberal Democrats) have the result we want”, I wrote. How wrong I was. At the time, I felt an inherently weak leader in the mind of the general public would only serve us well. The folly of this idea had its apex in the early hours of May 8th last year, when the very idea of Miliband and Scottish nationalists cobbling together a coalition drove the so-called ‘soft Conservatives’ – crucial to securing victories in all our Tory-facing seats – to the ballot box not caring really how brilliant their Lib Dem incumbent was, because the national situation required they duly vote blue. Which they did. A lot.

You think it was hard then? Imagine our task now. The political masters at work, unseen, and unheard now, but who wait for their moment at Tory HQ, will be perfectly aware of this come 2020.

For me, I became active in politics because I was convinced the political colours I nailed to my mast were my beliefs and ultimately of benefit to the society in which I lived. I still do, more so than ever before. This is why I brood, probably unfairly, on movements such as ‘More United’, offering a new way funding candidates of any colour, especially when the principles here are so close to our own as a Party.

Look at Labour; a movement of half a million people across the country. It doesn’t seem to stem their losses, however. They are winning support, unfortunately for them in areas already a stronghold for their party. I am cheered to see our own party membership figures rise, and gains at the (local) ballot box. I am acutely aware however it is not by any means the whole story. We must not be lulled into a false sense of security, and we must learn from the past.

Our duty now is to capture hearts and minds through our own party colours, be unafraid and fight, fight and fight again to ensure success. And capture the zeitgeist. Because only then can we offer a realistic alternative opposition to the current Government.

* Gerard Thompson is a Liberal Democrat living in the Eastbourne constituency, and formerly Party Agent and Campaigns Manager for Eastbourne Liberal Democrats and Stephen Lloyd.

Erm, really?

Sep. 26th, 2016 07:10 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

Go back home! / Go! Back! Home! This was a troubling if not entirely unexpected chant to hear in downtown Minneapolis last weekend.

Fortunately, the source was not a rally for America’s incorrect answer to Nigel Farage, rather a rowdy tailgate party taking place before the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings faced the Green Bay Packers.

The majestic tailgate towers above all of America’s other great institutions – the state of the union address, Saturday Night Live, maple syrup as a crucial component of breakfast. There is no equivalent in British sporting fan culture.

Take a generous car park, fill it with extrovert vehicles with names like Patriot, Renegade and Wrangler, set up a barbecue, decorate your area with allegiance-pledging trinkets, BYOB, have a wonderful time.

Twickenham car parks?

OK, rather more British etc but…..

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Posted by Tim Worstall

Labour MPS have been forced to run a gauntlet of hard-left activists calling them “traitors” and demanding that they were deselected because of their opposition to Jeremy Corbyn.

Group including the “Labour Party Marxists” and Socialist Labour were on Sunday stationed outside the entrance to the party conference in Liverpool demanding that moderates are not allowed to fight the next general election.

The groups called on its members to “use all the weapons at our disposal” to take on the MPs trying to depose Mr Corbyn.

Purge the candidates list of everyone not calling for immediate revolution!

Let’s kill off the Labour Party once and for all……

legionseagle: (Default)

Autumnal Thoughts

Sep. 26th, 2016 07:38 am
[personal profile] legionseagle
Very long and very severe were the equinoctial gales that
year. We waited long for news of the Lone Star of Savannah, but none ever reached us. We did at last hear that somewhere far out in the Atlantic a shattered stern-post of a boat was seen swinging in the trough of a wave, with the letters “L. S.” carved upon it, and that is all which we shall ever know of the fate of the Lone Star. (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Five Orange Pips)*

Autumn equinox is a funny time of year for me, because I cannot abide the slow dying of the light on the road to midwinter. So I end up doing things on or immediately after the equinox in order to prolong the illusion of summer for as long as possible. Hence my preferred time for holidays being the first or second weeks of October. "When the Flying Scotman fills for shootin' I go southwards..."

It was, however, only a few days ago that I remembered how long ago this tendency started.

September 1984. That equinoctial weekend, I was in Algonquin park, Ontario. I had landed in Canada slightly less than three weeks earlier, and in the gap between graduate school starting, the graduate student advisor had told me to go and see a bit of proper wilderness before winter started, and given me the name of a firm (Canadian Wilderness Tours) through whom to book.

And so I found myself in an expanse of 2700 square miles with only one road, learning to paddle a Canadian canoe, somewhat implausibly dressed in summer frocks (which aren't absolutely dreadful wilderness wear if the daytime is warm and still) and coping with the culture shock of sleeping in a tent in a place where we had to put the food up trees because bears.

On the night of the equinox itself I was on the banks of a lake the best part of two days paddle into the park, with, among others, a retired druid from Cleveland Ohio (apparently it's very hard to get mistltoe in Cleveland Ohio, which should be the title of a lost song by Gordon Lightfoot, whose Canadian Railroad Trilogy I heard sung round the fireside for the first time that night.) He offered lake water as part of an equinoctial dedication, there were loons out on the lake and the Milky Way was unbelievable.

And then the expedition leader trod in the two pans of water that had been boiled for the washing up and scalded both feet, and it all went to hell in a handbasket.

Happy days...

* I wonder if Doyle had any recollection of Villette when he wrote that.
The sun passes the equinox; the days shorten, the leaves grow sere; but -- he is coming.

Frosts appear at night; November has sent his fogs in advance; the wind takes its autumn moan; but -- he is coming.

The skies hang full and dark -- a rack sails from the west; the clouds cast themselves into strange forms -- arches and broad radiations; there rise resplendent morning -- glorious, royal, purple as monarch in his state; the heavens are one flame; so wild are they, they rival battle at its thickest -- so bloody, they shame Victory in her pride. I know some signs of the sky; I have noted them ever since childhood. God, watch that sail! Oh! guard it!

The wind shifts to the west. Peace, peace, Banshee -- 'keening' at every window! It will rise -- it will swell -- it shrieks out long: wander as I may through the house this night, I cannot lull the blast. The advancing hours make it strong: by midnight, all sleepless watchers hear and fear a wild south-west storm.

That storm roared frenzied for seven days. It did not cease till the Atlantic was strewn with wrecks: it did not lull till the deeps had gorged their full of sustenance. Not till the destroying angel of tempest had achieved his perfect work, would he fold the wings whose waft was thunder -- the tremor of whose plumes was storm.

Peace, be still! Oh! a thousand weepers, praying in agony on waiting shores, listened for that voice, but it was not uttered -- not uttered till, when the hush came, some could not feel it: till, when the sun returned, his light was night to some! (Charlotte Bronte, Villette)
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Posted by Richard Chirgwin

'Obscene songs' also get the ban-hammer in the Australian State of Victoria

Buttnote  Public service announcement: if you're going on a bender in the Australian city of Melbourne, do not indulge in the practice of “mooning”, because you could end up with your arse in jail (and the rest of you).…

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Posted by Mike Smithson

In previous White House Races the first debate has been seen as a sort of official start to hostilities. This is said to be the point when voters start to get engaged. This time that is much less so because public interest in the fight to succeed Obama has been far higher than anything we’ve seen before.

The fight for the GOP nomination saw the biggest TV debate audiences ever and records are expected to be broken overnight.

The reason is, of course, the ultimate marmite contender, the real estate magnate turned TV star and now GOP nominee, Donald Trump. He’s a totally divisive figure who is up against an opponent who arouses equal hostility or backing. Never before have the two contenders had such negative personal poll ratings.

As the CNN report at the top shows it is going to be very hard for TV viewers to avoid the debate because it is being carried on so many networks and no doubt Tuesday will be dominated by reporting, analysis and reaction.

For WH2016 punters there’s a good chance that things could look markedly different tomorrow. There’ll be the initial polling reaction on who won and this will be followed by new national and state voting polls over the next few days.

In past elections it is not who is deemed to have came out of the debate best that mattered but how they looked and what their responses said about them. In 2008 when McCain faced Obama a big and damaging story was that the Republican had not even looked at his opponent for the entire debate.

I am long on Trump after betting on him on July 25th on Betfair when his price was not as tight as it is today. I can’t decide whether to take my profits now or risk things changing post debate.

For UK viewers both Sky and BBC news will be showing this live.

Mike Smithson

yhlee: Sandman raven with eyeball (Sandman raven (credit: rilina))


Sep. 25th, 2016 08:46 pm
[personal profile] yhlee
I've read and enjoyed Mary Roach's nonfiction in the past; the one I definitely remember reading is Stiff, which looks into the world of cadavers. The latest book of hers I've read is Grunt, which is about the military. Roach's particular approach to her subjects is what endears her most to me. She is frequently funny, self-deprecating, and able to see the ridiculous side of subjects that we don't necessarily automatically see as funny or ridiculous. At the same time, she has a sense of humanity and compassion. When reading Grunt, I was frequently reminded of a book I read and enjoyed in high school, Wayne Biddle's A Field Guide to Germs. Biddle managed the trick of discussing an abecedary of diseases with both wit and kindness toward the human sufferers.

As Roach says in her introduction to Grunt,
"People think of military science as strategy and weapons--fighting, bombing, advancing. All that I leave to the memoir writers and historians. I'm interested in the parts that no one makes movies about--not the killing but the keeping alive. Even if what people are being kept alive for is fighting and taking other lives. Let's not let that get in the way. This book is a salute to the scientists and the surgeons, running along in the wake of combat, lab coats flapping. Building safer tanks, waging war on filth flies. Understanding turkey vultures."

I'm someone who tends to get hypnotized by the tactics/strategy/logistics/great commanders perspective on military history, so books like this are a useful and necessary corrective. And my dad spent some time as a US Army surgeon, and I'm interested in histories of medicine in general, so that got my attention as well.

This book is not for the faint of heart. Some chapters have medical grue; if you're a sensitive reader, you may want to proceed with caution. I grew up with full-color photos of open heart surgery lying casually on the living room table and thought that was normal for much of my childhood, so I am hard to squick with either pictures or verbal descriptions. (It also helps that I can't visualize jack.) In person would be a different story, largely because I've never desensitized my sense of smell.

Table of Contents: Read more... )

All in all, this is--I hesitate to use the word "fun" given the subject matter, but Grunt is engaging written, the chapters flow interestingly into each other, and Roach brings up a number of topics that I wouldn't have necessarily thought to research otherwise. Recommended.

Thank you to the generous person who donated this book!
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Posted by Mark Pack

Oh dear:

The Liberal Democrat party is being pressured to take disciplinary action against a former MP who posted a series of antisemitic tweets.

Matthew Gordon Banks, who served as a Conservative MP for Southport before joining the Liberal Democrat party after he lost his seat, wrote on Twitter: “What fascinates me is that Farron’s leadership campaign was organised and funded by London Jews.”

Shortly afterwards, he tweeted: “I tried to work with them. Very difficult.”

When challenged over his “disgusting” remarks by another Twitter user, Mr Banks replied: “I don’t care. It is not good for Farron to be funded and supported by one religious group.” [Jewish Chronicle]

The reference to “one religious group” is particularly odd because of course Tim Farron is known, even well-known, for being a staunch Christian and has at time faced questions about some of the Christian sources of support for him. To therefore claim that he is being funded and supported only by Jewish people is rather at variance with the facts… and indeed with what I know of the religious views of the key people who organised Tim Farron’s campaign. They have a mix of religious and non-religious views.

Here are screenshots of some of the tweets in question:

Matthew Gordon Banks Tweets

Matthew Gordon Banks Tweets 2

UPDATE: His membership has been suspended, pending a disciplinary hearing.

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Posted by Jessica Rose

You’ve probably already heard that Yahoo suffered a massive data breach in which hackers accessed passwords and personal information for 500 million users back in late 2014. But 2014 was ages ago. And you haven’t used a Yahoo account in years (who has?!). So why should you care about hacks like this? Here are 3 […]

The post 3 reasons the Yahoo hack does affect you, actually appeared first on Gadgette.

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Posted by robinince

To escape from the quicksand of demographic groups, to be free of market research, to fail on your own terms, maybe over and over again…

Some alien words hastily die on the vine, others soon become mundane.
I remember the TV development meeting I was in when someone brought up “podcasts”.
“What is this podcast you talk of”, we questioned like extraterrestrials asking James Kirk, “what is ‘love’?”.
Now there are more podcasts than there are humans to listen to them.

It was about eleven years ago when I started podcasting. My first one was Show and Tell. It was a spore from the Paramount Channel, now rebranded as The Comedy Channel to make things easier for the bottle fed listings reader. It was produced by Englishman Adrian Mackinder, now rebranded as Scandinavian to make things easier for him, and Helen Quigley, who now does the voices herself.

I suggested a sidekick, Josie Long. In moment of madness, we elevated her to co-presenter and so the seeds of her mid twenty first century dictatorship of the world were sown.

Show and Tell was exactly that. We would have a guest, such as Steve Merchant or Sarah Kendall, and they would bring in an object to talk about. We soon found that we would become sidetracked and never get around to talking of the object, so changed the title to Robin and Josie’s or Josie’s and Robin’s Shambles.

I now dabble in three podcasts, The Infinite Monkey Cage with Brian Cox, Josie and Robin’s Book Shambles and Vitriola, a foolish and angry and absurd music podcast with my friend, Michael Legge. I love making all three as I am fortunate to be working with friends, none of these partnerships have reached Lewis and Martin hubris yet.

Though Monkey Cage exists as a podcast, both in the form of the Radio 4 broadcast version and an extended format, it is primarily a BBC show. Nevertheless, from the outset we wanted it to have the feel of a podcast. My definition of this would be that it does not sound too rigorously planned. That’s not that it should sound slapdash, but that it has the momentum that occurs when nervously script-less. (that is me being nervous, as you know, the replicant Brian Cox is perpetually unruffled, suspiciously so…).

The Comedy Channel eventually forgot about Josie and I and, despite healthy listener numbers, they spent the budget that once was ours on novelty King of Queens beany hats (this may not be entirely true, though some of it is).

After a long pause, I managed to woo Josie Long, now known as Carlito, back into the podcast organisation. Trent Burton, who I also made the Cosmic Genome app with, came in as producer, as Josie and I are knuckle-headed with technology.

The freedom of the podcast is its potential looseness. We try to be informal and unplanned, though constantly wary of being boring. Messy conversations that erratically leap from idea to haiku to confusion are wonderful to create as long as we avoid being dull as much as possible. Sometimes even being dull is a necessity for a moment so that we can pogo out of it into delight.

Our pre-show planning is limited to deciding on guests and hoping they say yes. On top of that, we may bring in a carrier bag full of books, most of which will go unmentioned.

We have recorded 9 episodes for our new series starting with Alan Moore, though he was our last interview. I have finished Alan’s vast physical, metaphysical, psychological and mythical examination of Northampton, Jerusalem and I recommend it to you all. Do not be daunted. Here is a book that is both the map and the territory. Halfway through reading it, in the midst of adventures with ghost children and Oliver Cromwell, I found that this work was not satisfied with occupying my waking hours, and I started having dreams and hypnogogic occurrences that had both starring roles and cameos from Northampton and its population. We were lucky that Alan was our final guest of day two. We had had four guests already in the muggy mini submarine under Soho which we record in and our brains lacked sugar and oxygen. Few questions are required for Alan to create elaborate and lengthy concepts and theory of anarchy and magic. (I have recorded ten podcasts with Alan Moore and Grace Petrie, recorded in Northampton under the title Blooming, Buzzing Confusion, but they seem to have got lost in the LA Podcast smog).

72 hours before, I had been filming a TV musical about the entire universe with Noel Fielding. In our performing intervals, while dancers were occupied in the choreography of being particles that come in and out of existence, we talked of paintings and The Man Who Fell to Earth and adjectives we most delight in, as well as the wrong and right species for punchlines. We continued this conversation in the submarine three days later. I received a Richard Brautigan book and Josie was given a book about Basquiat, so he leapt up our chart of favourite guests.
We have talked to Sarah Bakewell, author of my favourite book of 2016 so far, about Nausea and dangerous walking…And Simon Ings on cyberpunk and Georgia O Keeffe…And Johann Hari with some devastating stories from his Chasing the Scream book…
And John Dowie told us of Ivor Cutler and the revelatory moment he saw Spike Milligan on stage in the Bed-Sitting Room…
And Nick Offerman told us of how he delighted in Margate and carpentry…And Chas Hodges impersonator Ralf Little talking of the perfection of Caroline Aherne’s writing and video games (VIDEO GAMES! on Book Shambles?)
And Helen Czerski on popcorn and physics….
And there were more, but you get the general idea.

Because we are delighted our guests are there and as we love reading and books, we can get overexcited, and maybe we mention Kurt Vonnegut too much, but I hope we create a conversation worth eavesdropping on…free to fuck up.

One year ago, we started Book Shambles with Stewart Lee (we talked over each other a bit too much that day), then Sara Pascoe on her book Animal, Chris Hadfield on space, well, you’ll find the list (and the shows) here.

All Book Shambles podcasts are free, but we finance them via Patreon subscription (you can sponsor the podcast for anything from $1 per show and we give away a box of books to a randomly chosen Patreon supporter every show) and if you don’t want to regularly donate, you can make a one off donation via Paypal (you don’t need a paypal account to do it)

I also listen to Richard Herring’s podcasts, Scroobius Pip’s Distraction Pieces, Suzi Gage’s Say Why To Drugs. Please feel free to recommend your favourite podcast under this blog.

Patreon supporters will get a bonus 60 minute Alan Moore podcast.

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Posted by Mindy

Sunday Funny: Are kids natural scientists? (via SMBC)

Mad Art Lab

Monarch of Crystallography: Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin and the Structure of Large Molecules (Women in Science 73)
Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin is the groundbreaking crystallographer and Nobel Prize winner no one remembers.

Mad Art Cast Episode #69 — Kendall Jenner and the Art of Advertising
Ashley, A, and Brian talk about truth in advertising.

…And Your Little Cat, Too
How does a “semi internet famous cat” named Captain Pancakes violate Facebook’s terms of service? When he happens to be owned by a photographer who uses Facebook to promote her work.

Featured image credit: zeevveez via Flickr

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Posted by Antony Hook



Britain faces a challenging time in the next few years.  We can meet these challenges if we are the best Britain we can be:  open in our minds and hearts, tolerant and united.

I am one of those who believes that history has much to teach us about ourselves and the present.  Past and present are not the same.  But by studying the mistakes of the past we have a greater to chance to do better in future.  My 3 years as a history student have formed my mind as much as 13 years as a working lawyer or 18 years as an active Liberal Democrat.

In 1940, France faced an existential military crisis.  The crises that Britain may face in the next few years are more likely to be environmental or economic.  Arthur Koestler’s book “Scum of the Earth” published in London in 1941  concerns the failure of France to meet the challenge of 1940.  It has given me pause to reflect on where our country is now and where we are going.

Arthur Koestler was one of the most important, albeit controversial, writers of the mid-twentieth century. He was originally a Hungarian Jew but by 1940 was in France as a freelance reporter for British newspapers.  As a young man he had been a Zionist then he became a communist, as many idealistic young people did in the 1930s. He fought in the Spanish Civil War, as well as acting as a war reporter for Fleet Street, then captured and sentenced to death by Franco. He became moderately well known in France and Britain.

By 1939, he had rejected communism because of the murderous nature of Stalin’s regime and the requirement “to say a lake is a table if the party says so”.  He became an opponent of “totalitarianism of all kinds”, a moderate humanist and defender of democracy.  When war broke out he tried to leave France with his English girlfriend and wished to volunteer for the British Army.  Visas to travel to the UK were taking months so he volunteered for the French Army.  He was refused and interred as a foreigner.  He escaped and remained in France, on the run from the Gestapo and Vichy French police until the autumn.

His account, from a journalist’s eye view, of France before and after surrender to the Nazis on 17 June 1940 is fascinating, moving and surprisingly relevant to today.

In 1940 France was republican and democratic, with a vast empire and alliance with Britain. On paper, defeat to Germany should have been avoidable.  Koestler describes 1940 as “national suicide” or “collective nervous breakdown”.  He describes France as divided, pessimistic, afraid, intolerant.  “National suicide” was not only surrendering to Germany but also, in the unoccupied part of France, the installation of a proto-Fascist regime, who replaced “Liberty, Egality, Fraternity” with “Work, Family, Country” and surpressed all expressions of French democracy, the Rights of Man and republican values.

The roots of national suicide that Koestler describes are:

First, division between young and old.  When France surrendered a significant number of young people, including young army officers, wanted to fight on.  There was a real sense that surrender to the Nazis was a decision by the old that robbed the young of their chance to fight for freedom.  Refusal by old generals to adopt new strategy and tactics advocated by De Gaulle and a new generation (mobile armoured units, rather than static defence) was what led to the inability of France to defend itself in Spring 1940.

Second, huge political  and class division.  Left and Right in France loathed each other, distrusted each other and had rarely found common ground to move the country forward.  There was huge appetite on both sides for salacious propaganda.  People liked to share outlandish claims rather than real political facts.

Third,  a failure to give people hope. Whereas Hitler went to war promising the German working-class everyone they could want, France’s conservative establishment promised nothing to anyone.  The Right was afraid of communism and thought Hitler “was a gentleman”.  The Left was influenced by the Soviet-Nazi pact and was lukewarm about supporting capitalist Britain against the Nazis.  The part of the Left that was against appeasement was cast as “war mongers” by the tabloid press.

Fourth, xenophobia was rife.  Koestler describes the casualness of racist comments and attitudes in high and low places.  People blamed problems on foreigners.  Jewish politicians were blamed for the war and were prominent among “guilty men” executed by Vichy for having declared war on Nazi Germany in 1939.

Fifth, an obsession against “plutocrats” and tendency to blame problems on rich men, especially in Britain and the USA.

Sixth, a further obsession about “decadence” and belief that too much freedom was making society weak.

Seventh, poor morale. All of these attitudes produced soldiers  and people who at the outbreak of war had poor morale, poor equipment and limited appetite to fight.  Peasant soldiers had nothing to defend.  Too many middle class officers had not belief that immigrants in France rather than Germany were the real enemy.

Eighth, most of all France had a rabid press that drove home anti-immigrant, anti-jew, anti-war messages while being at best lukewarm that parliamentary democracy had much to offer.

The parallels to Brexit Britain seem clear.  Today, we have diverging views between young and old, who tended to vote differently in the recent referendum and who polls show are more polarised in which political parties and policies they support.  Our main Left and Right parties are distant from each other, advocating policies where they know there is no common ground to be found with the other side.  In the referendum, Leave promised much, Remain promised nothing.  Xenophobia is a problem we are all aware of.  The obsession with plutocrats is matched by Leave’s inane/insane claims that the EU is a conspiracy by the super-rich.  The obsession with decadence has some parallel in beliefs held by some that this country’s ills warrant reduced human rights, conscription or to “bring back hanging”.  I hardly need say anything about the existence of an anti-immigrant press.

France in 1940 was unable to meet a national crisis.  It was closed-minded, intolerant and divided.

We have the capacity in Britain in 2016 to be better.


* Antony Hook was #2 on the South East European list in 2014, is the English Party's representative on the Federal Executive and produces this sites EU Referendum Roundup.

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Posted by Tim Worstall

One of the nastier political debates is over immigration–and of course not all of that is about the economics of the subject. Some of it is undoubtedly about the fears of the indigenous population that the place they know and love will be changed by said immigration. That’s not a totally invalid observation of course either, as the various Amerinds of the Americas found out and as the Celts of the my native UK did. But the economics of immigration is relatively straightforward–of course it’s economically beneficial, how could it be otherwise? There are though various levels to the benefit and we’ve an interesting new report that walks through them.

This new report is from the National Academies of Sciences and can be found here in all its 500 page glory. Rather than you reading through all 500 pages through it’s rather easier to just pick up the highlights from others who have done so.

As Timothy Taylor points out the conventional economics of the subject is that immigration doesn’t change employment all that much.

The conventional wisdom on the economic effects of immigration is that the effect on jobs is minimal. The number of jobs in a developed economy expands over time as the population expands–whether the growth in population is from native-born workers or from immigration. Unemployment rates rise and fall with recessions and upswings, but there is no long-term trend to higher unemployment rates over time.

Just to explain that a little more. Sure, of course the immigrants take jobs when they get here. We might think that that leads to there being more unemployment among the indigenes. But that’s not quite how it works. The immigrants bring their labour with them, sure they do. But they also bring with them their demand for the goods and services produced by others. So, what we mean is not that immigration doesn’t affect the number of jobs, rather, it doesn’t affect the unemployment rate. Because the addition of demand by the immigrants increases the number of jobs by about the number of immigrants. Or, to say the same thing, immigration increases the amount of work to do, and thus the number of jobs, in the same manner as any other population increase.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report on immigration assesses the economic and fiscal impacts of immigration, offering a broad look at a phenomenon that has moved to the forefront of the presidential race, with both candidates debating the downsides and merits of immigration.

The conclusion runs counter to a popular narrative suggesting that immigrants take the jobs of U.S. citizens, though it does acknowledge some costs for segments of the population. It highlights research showing an influx of lower-skilled workers can lead to lower wages for earlier waves of immigrants and native-born high-school dropouts. And the study found that immigration can burden government finances, especially education budgets at the state and local levels.

This again is standard economics–those whose wages or hours do suffer from the immigration are the previous wave of immigrants. If each wave were of distinctly different education and or skill level then this wouldn’t happen–an influx of computer engineers would be felt in the computing industry, not the janitorial. But the recent waves have been largely of poor people from poor countries. Thus each successive wave has been competing against the previous one.

As an aside this is a partial explanation of the high inequality of the US. The US is open to immigration in a manner that very few other places are. And if immigration affects only low end wages then the gap between low and high end wages is going to be higher in a country with high immigration.

There are those who insist on picking up rather different information from the report. Breitbart:

President Barack Obama’s policy of allowing a record level of 132,000-plus Central American migrants to cross the Texas border this year will cost Americans at least $28.4 billion in extra government spending.

Well, yes, but..

On average, a nonelderly adult immigrant without a high school diploma entering the U.S. will create a net fiscal cost (benefits received will exceed taxes paid) in both the current generation and second generation. The average net present value of the fiscal cost of such an immigrant is estimated at $231,000, a cost that must be paid by U.S. taxpayers.

Someone born in the US who goes on to not graduate from high school will cost the government rather more than that over their lifetimes. For those immigrants are coming in later in life than someone born in the US does. This is a statement about the US having a welfare system, not one about immigration.The majority of the population actually cost more in government spending than they pay in taxes over their lifetime. This is an inevitable side effect of having a progressive tax system, one where the rich pay more in taxes than the poor do. So while those numbers are true they’re not really to do with immigration. The report points out that immigrants do cost more than the native born–but that’s not controlling for the characteristics of the immigrants and the native born.

George Borjas was on the panel, is known for his work on the costs of immigration and isn’t, generally, known as a great fan of unlimited such. He has a useful guide here and this conclusion of his is important:

The NAS report does not conduct the final (and obvious) calculation that adds up the economic gains and compares that number with the fiscal burden. But anyone with a pencil and a proverbial back-of-an-envelope can do so using the numbers in the report. The only time the NAS comes close to estimating the total gains is when it reports the “immigration surplus”–the increase in the aggregate wealth of natives resulting from the productive contributions of immigrants. Although much is left out when calculating this theory-based surplus, it seems evident (at least to me) that the bottom line is very simple: The economic impact of immigration is, at best, a net wash for the average native-born person. The gains accruing from the immigrants’ productive contributions are probably offset by the fiscal burden. But even though the mythical average person is unaffected, some groups gain a lot and some groups lose a lot.

So, to sum up the economic effects. Yes, immigrants cost the taxpayer money, more than the tax they generate, simply because the majority of immigrants are poor people from poor countries. The economy does grow as a result of the immigration, there’s very little effect on wages in general. And the net overall economic effect on the average indigene is around and about zero. That’s very much the standard view of the subject too.

Which leaves us with the puzzle of my headline. If this is so, net effect is zero, then how can I be so confident that it is all economically helpful?

“Immigration enlarges the economy while leaving the native population slightly better off on average, but the greatest beneficiaries of immigration are the immigrants themselves as they avail themselves of opportunities not available to them in their home countries,” the report said.

It helps if we remind ourselves of what we’re trying to do with an economy, with economics even. We know that we’ve got scarce resources and we’ve also got unlimited human desires and wants. The game is thus to work out how to deploy those resources so as to maximise the number of needs and wants that we can satisfy. That’s the same statement as saying that we want as many people as possible to be as rich as possible–being rich is being able to satiate some or more of your needs and wants. Immigration makes near to no difference to that ability of those who were already in the country. But when poor people come from a poor country into a rich country then their ability to do so leaps. And thus the number of people who are richer, the number of people who can sate more of their needs and wants rises. This is what an economy is for, to enable more people to do this.

Thus, precisely because immigration is so valuable to the immigrants then therefore immigration is economically helpful–how could it be otherwise?

[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by TSE


Just because you know something bad is going to happen does not make it less painful when it does. Since the day that the Labour leadership contest was announced I had been pretty sure that Jeremy Corbyn would win again. I knew with absolute certainty that it would be so one Sunday in late August when I went – nervous, but excited – to an Owen Smith phone bank in the upstairs room of a pub around the corner from my house in Leamington, only to find that no-one else had turned up. So, yesterday was no surprise; but it still hurt like hell.

For Labour moderates like me, the question now becomes what happens next. Some have already made their decision – Twitter is full of pictures of torn up membership cards and the hashtag #LeavingLabour. But while I understand such sentiments, I am not ready for that yet.

I may be hopelessly naïve, but I still think there is a chance to pull the party back from the precipice. I hold onto the fact that among long-standing members – the ones that go to all the meetings and vote in all the internal elections – Owen Smith was a clear winner, as he was among those in the 18-24 age bracket. I tell myself that with 194,000 paid members, the Anti-Corbyn Labour Party is now the second biggest political party in the UK. This excellent blog by Nora Mulready pretty much sums up where I am – now is not the time to give up.

I think there are a few practical reasons for hope. Most significant in the short and medium term is that Corbyn and the hard left do not have control of the NEC. Without that it is very difficult to change the party’s rules on issues such as reselecting MPs and how to nominate leadership candidates, or to get rid of Labour staffers like general secretary Iain McNichol. If, as expected, this week’s conference votes to give specific representation to the Scottish and Welsh front benches then the non-Corbyn bloc on the NEC looks like being in a majority for the foreseeable future (and if that does happen, the oft-criticised Kezia Dugdale deserves the lasting thanks of every single person who wants an electable Labour party).

Corbyn’s big NEC problem is that it is divided into different blocs: MPs, the shadow cabinet, the unions, constituency Labour parties, councillors and others all have guaranteed places. The NEC is not elected on one member one vote – the method Corbyn would dearly love to introduce – and that is highly unlikely to change. The unions, for one, would not stand for it.

Then there is Corbyn himself. Yesterday morning, the newly-elected leader was preaching unity, by the evening it was clear he wanted to overturn the NEC vote on Welsh and Scottish representation, while continuing to stall on shadow cabinet elections. Today on the Andrew Marr show he again refused to rule out mandatory reselection of MPs, while being far from furious about the boundary review. These are not the acts of someone looking to bring the party together.

It is also clear that whatever does finally happen with the shadow cabinet, Corbyn is not capable of leading it effectively. Too many on-the-record stories from too many ex-shadow cabinet members (mostly women) speak of the same thing: someone who lives in a bunker, is not collegiate, does not consult and does not abide by majority decisions. That will not change. Neither will Corbyn’s lack of interest in issues that matter greatly to most Labour members, such as Brexit and the new constituency boundaries.

What the leadership campaign exposed was someone who is inflexible in his views, uninterested in engaging with anyone who does not agree with him and who is more concerned with building a social movement than winning power. Those who voted for Corbyn saw this as much as those who did not; which brings me to the Corbyn tribes.

It is common currency to view those who voted to re-elect Corbyn as one bloc of like-minded people. I have been as guilty as anyone; but it is wrong and it is lazy to see things in that way. Instead, Corbyn got backing from different kinds of Labour supporter and it is only when moderates understand this, and absorb it, that they will have a chance. There are, in fact, at least five types of person who voted for Corbyn:

  • The Trots – these are the entryists, the people from the SWP, the Socialist party and other far left fringe groups who see Corbyn as their way into the mainstream. Corbyn, John McDonnell and the Momentum leadership are probably closest to this group than any other, which is what makes it so significant and dangerous – but it is small. The vast majority of Labour members, new or old, are not Trotskyists.
  • The implacable lefties – not Trots, democratic socialists who see the Blair/Brown years largely as a betrayal of what they think Labour should stand for and who feel that they have their Labour party back with Jeremy Corbyn. They see Corbyn’s weaknesses and they are worried by them, but when push comes to shove they will always support him. To do otherwise would be to risk returning Labour to the “Blairites”; and that would be worse than the Tories winning the next general election. This is the Owen Jones camp.
  • The lefties – they do not subscribe to the idea that the 1997-2010 government was to all intents and purposes a Tory one. Instead, they believe that Blair and Brown did some good things; but could and should have achieved much more. They regard Corbyn as a means of ensuring that Labour becomes more left-wing in outlook and less managerial. They also understand Corbyn has many flaws, but for now (key phrase) are prepared to overlook them because they do not see a more electable alternative. I’d say PB’s Nick Palmer belongs to this camp.
  • The angry – there is a fair bit of overlap here between these folk and the lefties. They are furious that the PLP precipitated “a coup” just at a time when, they believe, Labour could have had the Tories on the ropes. Whatever they think about Corbyn, there was no way on earth they were going to allow the PLP to ride roughshod over the mandate that members had given him in 2015.
  • The anti-Smiths – for me, the leadership election was about whether Labour is primarily a party that seeks to gain power through Parliament or is, instead, a social movement. That’s why I voted for Owen Smith, even though he is to the left of me and clearly was not a great candidate. Others, though, saw the contest in terms of who had the best policies for beating the Tories. Some of those are not lefties or angry, but just did not rate Smith as a candidate – so they voted for Corbyn.

The above is crude and if I had more words to play with I would go into more detail and probably break things down further, but you get the picture: the 314,000 votes Corbyn got were not all from the same kind of people. There is no way on God’s earth that the first two categories are redeemable; the following three are: they want a Labour government above all else and will do whatever they can to secure one.

My contention is that over the coming years Corbyn’s words and deeds will alienate more and more of his supporters: this is a man who cannot unite, cannot lead, cannot collaborate and cannot engage with non-believers. Labour will continue to languish in the polls under Corbyn and will continue to do badly in real elections; his personal ratings are unlikely to improve all that much. This will all be happening as the government – mediocre and unloved – continues to flounder over Brexit and panders to the Tory right over issues such as grammar schools. That will concentrate a lot of Labour minds – especially in the unions. But it will not be enough.

Moderates cannot just wait for Corbyn to fail. They also have to reach out, to think through what it is that they want and to develop policy platforms that can win broad support. Corbyn is in place because Labour moderates failed to make their case, because they were too timid, because they took the Labour membership for granted. Managerialism really isn’t the answer; policy and projection are. So, now is not the time to be planning the next leadership contest. Instead, we need to be working to develop a coherent, left of centre vision that reflects the realities of Brexit Britain. It is only when we have done this and stopped seeing the Labour membership as our enemies that we will deserve to succeed.

Joff Wild


How do you get people to do things?

Sep. 25th, 2016 01:45 pm
[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

Here’s a smattering of experimental research findings I first covered back in 2009, courtesy of the Fostering Sustainable Behaviour site (which also provides sources for the data):

  • When asked if they would financially support a recreational facility for the handicapped, 92% made a donation if they had previously signed a petition in favor of the facility, compared with 53% for those who had not been asked to sign the petition.
  • Residents of Bloomington, Indiana, were called and asked if they would consider, hypothetically, spending three hours working as a volunteer collecting money for the American Cancer Society. When these individuals were called back three days later by a different individual, they were far more likely to volunteer than another group of residents who had not been asked the initial question (31% versus 4%, respectively).
  • A sample of registered voters were approached one day prior to a U.S. presidential election and asked: “Do you expect you will vote or not?” All agreed that they would vote. Relative to voters who were not asked this simple question, their likelihood of voting increased by 41%.
  • Ending a blood-drive telephone call with the query: “We’ll count on seeing you then, OK?” increased the likelihood of individuals showing up from 62% to 81%.
  • Individuals who were asked to wear a lapel pin publicizing the Canadian Cancer Society were nearly twice as likely to subsequently donate than were those who were not asked to wear the pin.

Many of these scenarios marry up easily with political situations. For example, the finding that people are more likely to donate if first asked to wear a pin maps perhaps to being more likely to donate if first asked to put up a poster.

Looking beyond the detailed possible parallels, there are two broad conclusions I would draw from this sort of research.

First, the benefits of having a sensible sliding scale of actions that people can be asked to move along.

In political parties it is often a very simple, lumpy scale: be an armchair member, spend lots of time delivering, run the local party / be a candidate. Coming up with more inventive, smaller increments along that scale is important.

It’s worth bearing in mind though that other research more specifically into political parties points towards there being two sliding scales – one for supporters (vote for party, put up poster, donate etc.) and one for those keen on getting involved in politics (attend meeting, help organise event, run for office etc.). Although some people migrate from the former to the latter, people who want to be on the latter can be really put off if all they are offered are options on the former scale.

Second, these examples highlight the benefits of having good data which can be used in a joined-up way (which is why Connect is so important for the Lib Dems). Not all the data needs to be in one database, but there needs to be sensible sharing of data and accurate cross-references in order to be able to make the best of opportunities to move people from voting to posters to donations and so on.

If you’ve got any good examples of what has worked for you or in your area, do share them in the comments and more ideas are of course also in the expanded 2nd edition of 101 Ways To Win An Election.

supergee: (coy2)

Worker Ownership

Sep. 25th, 2016 10:11 am
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British Liberal, house husband, school play leader and stepdad. Campaigner, atheistic feminist, amateur baker. Male.

Known to post items of interest on occasions. More likely to link to interesting stuff. Sometimes talks about stuff he's done. Occasionally posts recipes for good food. Planning to get married, at some point. Enjoying life in Yorkshire.

Likes comments. Especially likes links. Loves to know where people came from and what they were looking for. Mostly posts everything publicly. Sometimes doesn't. Hi.

Mat Bowles

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October 2015


Stuff and nonsense

I'm the Chair of the Brighouse branch of the Liberal Democrats & the membership secretary for Calderdale Lib Dems and run the web campaign for the local candidates. I have a job, a stepdaughter and a life.

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