Ah yes, I remember this...

Nov. 26th, 2014 11:43 pm
[personal profile] strangecharm
We've reached that point in the year where I'll go to bed not because I'm tired, but because I'm cold.
yhlee: (hxx geese 1)

photo of the day

Nov. 26th, 2014 05:40 pm
[personal profile] yhlee
A disgruntled pelican at the zoo:
[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

The Liberal Democrats monthly magazine Ad Lib is getting a makeover, starting with the edition being posted out to all party members this week:
Ad Lib cover November 2014
As you can partly tell from the cover, the new look sees a larger magazine concentrating more on policy, stories from the grassroots and campaign tips, with rather less of the food, music and assorted other ‘lifestyle’ type stories in the previous incarnation. Education and environment are smart policy areas to highlight given the interests of many party activists.

I hope Lord Bonkers survives to the new regime and indeed that the new magazine will be a success.

The logic of redesign sounds solid, especially as it is based on reader research. It’s big challenge, I suspect, will be how to cover campaigning and policy in a way that is interesting enough to be worth paying for when there are so many alternative sources of information for both already, many of which are free (including, ahem, my own monthly email newsletter which has a larger circulation than the old Ad Lib).

But there’s a big need for better communication in the party, so hopefully that challenge will be overcome and with style. Good luck to the team.

A sneak preview of the new Ad Lib

Nov. 26th, 2014 09:30 pm
[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Caron Lindsay

In the next few days, a relaunched version of Ad Lib magazine will be landing on all Liberal Democrat members’ doorsteps.

It has been redesigned in accordance with feedback received from subscribers. It’s bigger, brighter and bolder than before.

Screen Shot 2014-11-26 at 17.30.26

This issue contains a feature on the manifesto written by me, an in-depth feature on why canvassing is so important. I’m pleased to see that as I think the conversations we have with people are going to be more important in this election than the leaflets. I know that’s a controversial view, but I know that you need to have the conversations before the leaflets can have an impact.

There’s also an in-depth study on the evidence behind the free school meals policy, an article on community environmentalism, and a profile of new Liberal Democrat peer, longstanding local councillor and ALDC stalwart Kath Pinnock.

Once I’ve got my hands on it, I’ll give you a more detailed review.

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

[personal profile] andrewducker
I think the first Kieron Gillen comic I read was his work on Thor, which was great*. I then picked up his indie book "Phonogram", which I enjoyed, even if it felt a bit basic - reminding me of early works by comics writers I liked in the 90s. I was intrigued to pick up the first trade of his new book, which had been getting quite a lot of buzz.

The Wicked + The Divine is clearly the work of a more experienced writer. It's structured better, it's got better dialogue, and the whole thing moves along very smoothly. It's had several moments I didn't anticipate at all, some nice characterisation, and some frankly gorgeous art to go along with it.

The basic setup is _very_ Vertigo - every ninety years a group of twelve Gods reincarnate into mortal forms. Within two years, all of them will be dead. We start with the cryptic ending of the 1920 cycle, and then move to the modern day, where we set up rivalries, intrigue, and possibly even a little bit of murder.

(click to embiggen)

I'm not entirely hooked yet - the writing isn't as good as, say, Grant Morrison at his best, although it's in the same vein (albeit on less drugs). Similarly, the art feels half-way between Steve Dillon and Phil Jiminez - solid, engaging, with some nice flourishes. I'm actually finding it hard to tell if it's not quite as good as the things I loved then, or if it's just much harder to have that kind of emotional effect on a 42-year-old...

It's certainly good enough that I'll be picking up more of it. And if you miss the early days of Vertigo then you'll almost certainly enjoy it.


*Even if it slotted into a rather frustrating situation where JMS had taken Thor from being largely unread to being very popular, causing the publisher to decide to create a corporate cross-over around it, causing JMS to walk away without finishing his arc.

Games I love: Twilight Imperium

Nov. 26th, 2014 07:25 pm
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Posted by James Graham

I held off from getting into Twilight Imperium for years. Twilight Imperium 3rd Edition (“TI3″) – I never tried the earlier editions – is by definition a pretty preposterous game. The main thing it is famous for is it’s length. The longest it’s taken me to play the basic game is 14 hours, including setup time. The shortest, this weekend, was 8 – although that doesn’t include me procrastinating the night before setting up as much of the game as possible before the players were due to arrive the next morning.

Straight off the bat, if you don’t like long games this is not the game for you. This is something you want to play if you like the idea of an intense, full day of negotiation and strategising, as much a test of endurance as it is a contest of skill. Most games I’ve played have included a mid-game lull in which all the players are exhausted and bamboozled, unclear about what the hell they’re doing. It’s a mark of the game’s quality that no-one has ever walked out at that point, preferring to stick it out to the bitter end.

So what’s it about? The setting of TI3 is a decayed galactic empire in the far future. A race of four armed aliens, the Lazax, ruled the galaxy for millennia but were eventually overthrown and vanished in a cosmic huff. Each player runs one of the remaining factions as they attempt to realise their own imperialist ambitions and take over. The game involves building up fleets of spaceships, discovering new worlds, warring with rival factions and politicking in the galactic assembly. Everyone has their own secret objectives and a series of public objectives are revealed as the game goes on. Meeting those objectives earns you points, and the first player to reach 10 points wins the game.

It looks beautiful. The artwork on the cards and hexes (the game uses a modular board of hexes which is different each game) is beautiful, as are the space ships. It’s huge. Admittedly, we tend to play using the “larger map” option, but our dining room table cannot really accommodate more than four players – last time a friend of mine ended up bringing over a couple of desks to give us somewhere to put stuff on.

Mechanically, the game is interesting. I read an article yesterday in which Scott Nicholson argues that the current boom in tabletop gaming is due to a fusion of European (resource management, economic, somewhat abstract, strategic) and American (thematic, conflict oriented, dice-heavy) styles of games. I hadn’t thought of it quite like that before but I think it’s true, and nowhere is it more apparent than in TI3 which blends the two to the nth degree.

On the one hand, it is the ultimate “Ameritrash” game, yet at its heart is a game in which you have to carefully make use of the planets in your empire’s limited resources, and one of the main mechanics is “role allocation” – a mechanic that first came to prominence in the classic Euro game Puerto Rico. As such, you can play the game as a roleplaying game or a strategy game. In reality, most players tend to do a bit of both.

It isn’t a perfect game by any means. The game length is, frankly, because of its flabbiness. Some will find that lack of sleek design a real turn-off. Personally, I don’t mind. What I mind somewhat more is that some of the factions/alien races are significantly weaker than others, and that the system for politics is underwhelming. The latter is something that I am the most disappointed with. A number of games “do politics” better than this one. Warrior Knights and even the Game of Thrones board game has a more interesting system, and I just received my copy of Democracy: Majority Rules which focuses on this aspect, which I will hopefully get round to reviewing soon. Yet what promises to be a really exciting central aspect of TI3 – there are dozens of “politics cards” which you can potentially use in the game, all of which include a proposition the galactic council must vote on which adds new rules or even gives individual players additional points – all too often falls completely flat.

But one of the great things about TI3 is that it is so modular. The base game and especially its two expansions include a whole series of options which you can include or omit. I have to admit that I’m a bit of an all in kind of player, and prefer to include as many as possible. Introducing house rules is not only straightforward but, I get the impression, almost required for any group which plays the game regularly. If you’re going to spend an entire Saturday playing, it only makes sense that you would want to play it “your” way. Because of its modular nature, hacking a new rule is quite straightforward – as will probably be the case with politics the next time we play (I shall certainly be making use of the Democracy: Majority Rules gavel!).

Interestingly, Twilight Imperium itself is responsible for the creation of an empire. It’s designer Christian T. Peterson is the founder and CEO of Fantasy Flight Games and its initial success is what gave that company the start it needed. I’m always a little surprised that they haven’t tried making more of its IP than they have. In the early days it had a spin off RPG and a collectable card game, but these days only Rex: Final Days of an Empire, itself a reimplentation of the classic Dune board game, is in print. I would probably buy a Twilight Imperium Living Card Game in a hot second. I suppose Star Wars fills this slot for FFG these days.

This game is not for everyone, but if you like the idea of spending a day – or even a weekend – immersing yourself in a grand space opera, there is no other game that quite delivers in the way TI3 does. You won’t get to play it every week, but every time you do play it will feel special and you will be thinking about it for days afterwards.

[personal profile] synecdochic
...so they sent a cookie bouquet. So awesome.

Read more... )
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Given that Apple just recently breached the $700 billion stock market valuation we are of course getting articles comparing the net value of the company to the net value of other things. And sometimes those valuations are appropriate: and sometimes, sadly, they’re not really. The problem here from a public policy or more general economic view is that if we run around making inappropriate comparisons of value we can end up making equally inappropriate arguments about what public policy should be. It’s a regular trope that corporations are more valuable than many countries, therefore that we’re all ruled by corporate power rather than the democracy that includes our own views. The problem with such listings is that they’re simply not true: they don’t compare like number with like number and thus grossly inflate the size of corporations. I have, for example, seen people compare the turnover of a company (often Exxon) with the GDP of a country. Such a comparison then shows that Exxon is the size of a large country and look, look, corporate power!

So it is with some of the recent comparisons of Apple’s new valuation at $700 billion. My friends and colleagues at The Register fall into this trap:

Apple’s $700 BEEELLION market cap makes it more valuable than Switzerland
Cuckoo clocks and cheese no match for iThings

Well, no, not really. It is true that Switzerland’s GDP is around $700 billion. But GDP is a measure of value added in a country in one year. That is, it’s the income of the place. Apple’s $700 billion valuation is the total value of the company: this is akin to wealth, not income. And of course the value of a stock is the net present value of all of the future income from it. So, that $700 billion for Apple is the current value (as the market estimates it) of everything that Apple will ever do in the future. The valuation of Switzerland, that $700 billion, is what the place made this year alone. Two very different numbers.

To get to something comparable for Apple we need to work out this year’s added value. A rough and ready definition of that is profits plus wages paid (this is approximately equal to the labour and profit shares in GDP which don’t quite equal total GDP but good enough for rough comparisons). Apple’s profits are around $40 billion, it employs a little under 100,000 people directly. Say each of those is paid $100,000 a year (obviously, some get very much more but when we add in the Genius Bar folks that might be reasonable enough as an average) which gives us another $10 billion. Not entirely accurate but reasonable enough to say that Apple’s value add, the equivalent of GDP, is some $50 billion.

When we go looking for a country at around that we find The Sudan and Luxembourg jointly on some $55 billion. And Luxembourg is some 400,000 people, and roughly half of the people in a country work (take out the kiddies, pensioners, housewives etc, roughly correct) giving us a Luxembourgois workforce of 200,000 people. 100,000 people in one of the most profitable companies on the planet produce about the same value as 200,000 rich world people in a country. OK, that’s impressive for Apple but it’s a much better indication of the company’s economic size than any other measure. It is, around and about, fair to say that Apple produces the same economic value as Luxembourg. And if you could buy Luxembourg for $700 billion (and some of the arguments in the EU over Herr Junker these days are that purchasing the place was rather cheaper than that at times) then their valuations would be the same as well.

There’s also other people making value comparisons and this one I thought was very fun:

It would be enough to buy all of the world’s publicly traded airlines, and still have about $300 billion (roughly Rs. 18,55,935 crores) left over to pay for bag fees, seat upgrades and in-flight snacks.

As Warren Buffett has been known to point out all the world’s airlines have, over time, lost money in total for investors. So, the idea that a massively profitable company is worth more than a loss making business sector shouldn’t be all that surprising.

Apple just isn’t worth the same as Switzerland but it is worth near twice all the world’s quoted airlines.

And to repeat the point at the top, we’re never going to really understand corporate power or the size of the corporate sector (or corporations) until we start to understand what these different numbers being bandied about as valuations and value of production etc really mean. Corporations really are very much smaller than countries: even the largest and most valuable of corporations is really only comparable to a city sized country. To give you a much better idea of the size of Apple relative to economic output of an area then Apple’s about the size of Raleigh, North Carolina, Omaha Nebraska, maybe, just maybe as large as Forth Worth, Texas, or Charlotte, North Carolina. Somewhere in that range at least. Or to use States, perhaps around Rhode Island or Maine.

Corporations just aren’t as large and economically powerful as some seem to think.

ComRes poll of marginal seats

Nov. 26th, 2014 06:57 pm
[syndicated profile] uk_polling_report_feed

Posted by Anthony Wells

ComRes released their latest poll of marginal seats today. As regular readers will recall, ComRes’s marginal polls cover the 40 most marginal Con-v-Lab seats (25 Conservative held, 15 Labour held). Unlike Lord Ashcroft’s marginal polls (which are actually a series of individual constituency polls in seats that are marginals, which we can aggregate together to get an extremely large sample across a group of marginal seats) ComRes’s poll is a more traditional marginals poll – a single poll of a group of marginal seats, meaning it gives us a measure of those seats as a whole, but has far too few people to tell us anything about the individual seats within that group.

Latest voting intention figures in these marginals with changes from the last time ComRes polled them in September is CON 31%(+1), LAB 39%(-2), LDEM 7%(+1), UKIP 18%(+1). These seats had Labour and Conservative equal at the last election so an eight point lead here is the equivalent of a four point national swing and a one point Labour lead in national polls…pretty much exactly what the national polls have been showing lately (actually if you look at the crossbreaks of the poll they suggest a swing towards the Conservatives in the Conservative held seats, a swing towards Labour in the Labour held seats, but given the sample size of those two groups and that the poll is only weighted at the level of all forty seats I wouldn’t put too much weight on that).

Note also that, judging from the tables, ComRes have switched over to prompting for UKIP in their main voting intention question in this poll – as with their last national poll, it does not seem to have had a major effect (UPDATE – I think this is because ComRes have changed turnout weightings, so that there is a tighter turnout filter for the Greens and UKIP than for the main parties). Tabs are here.

There should be another batch of Lord Ashcroft polls of individual marginal seats later this week.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Caron Lindsay

Today has seen the annual celebration of local government on Twitter organised by the Local Government Association in England and Wales. Using the tag #ourday council employees and councillors have been tweeting about the work that they do. The ALDC website has some more information:

LGA Lib Dem Group Leader Gerald Vernon Jackson is encouraging Lib Dem councillors who have twitter accounts to support the LGA in raising the profile of local councils in England and Wales and the hard work you do locally as Liberal Democrat Councillors in your wards. It’s also a good opportunity for you to use social media to let communities know the extent and breadth of the work councils undertake.

This year #OurDay, the day when we ask people working in local government to tweet about what they’re doing to serve their community, is taking place on 26 November. Last year’s #OurDay saw over 3,500 people participating on twitter, sending more than 11,000 tweets.

Here’s a wee sample of some of the tweets from Liberal Democrat councillors which range from the political to practical to ultra cute.

And I know Killan has had one already, but I couldn’t resist this:

If you are a Liberal Democrat Councillor in possession of a Twitter account, tell the world what you have been doing today.

Initiatives like this are good because they show people in a very practical way what local government does and why it’s important.  

* Caron Lindsay is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

I’ve long been rather bemused by Mark Bittman’s columns over in the New York Times. I’m entirely onside with his basic idea: that good food is a joy, we should therefore take joy in eating good food. I’m also not a great fan of much of the very processed food that all too many of us eat in all too great a quantity (as is rather common among middle aged men like me who have just been put on those blood pressure pills by their doctor). However, while that basic point is just fine Bittman does, to my mind at least, take things a little too far. Take this from today’s column:

Such a campaign would propose to improve the lives of working people by raising the minimum wage, establishing better policies for sick leave and family leave, creating better jobs and working conditions, improving the safety net, and supporting the re-establishment of unions, and truly progressive taxation on the rich and on corporations. And so on; these are also “food issues.”

Umm, well, it’s very difficult indeed to see that those are policies that are to do with comestibles really. But I suppose that if what you’ve got is a columnar hammer then every problem will be addressed as if it is a nail. If you want to see a more socially democratic society (yes, that list is often regarded as “socialism” in the US but it really isn’t, that’s social democracy) and you’re nominally writing a food column then social democracy will be a “food” issue.

Of that policy list all except the last two, the taxation issues, are in fact exactly the same problem. And as such they would all be solved by the one single solution which is full employment. As soon as employers need to compete to gain access to the labour they desire (as Karl Marx was wont to point out with his comments about the reserve army of the unemployed) then all of those things will happen. That competition will lead to rising wages, improved terms and conditions, better sick and holiday pay policies (which are simply other aspects of terms and conditions). And of course full employment makes moot any necessary improvements in the safety net or the presence or existence of unions.

It’s also amusing to note that the archetypal social democracies, the Nordics (Denmark, Norway, Sweden) actually have distinctly less progressive tax systems on the rich than the US does. For the way to fund those societies, the only way consistent with having the economic growth necessary to continue to have anything approaching full employment, is to have regressive taxation upon consumption to support the level of government spending.

But the real point I want to make is that insisting that your specific goal can only be reached by an overturning of the entirety of the existing order makes it much less likely that your particular goal will be achieved. More good food in the American diet seems to me to be an admirable goal. I may or may not share Bittman’s desire for more social democracy ( I don’t mind actually, although I’d continue to point out that for the US to get it it’s got to follow what the Nordics do, not what is generally proposed nor what is generally believed the Nordics do). But the conflation of the two makes that aim of better food much more difficult to achieve. Those public policy campaigns that actually succeed tend to be the ones that say “this is the specific problem, this is the specific solution”. Those that insist that “everything must change” tend to fail. For, of course, a specific solution to a specific problem is easier to achieve than changing everything.

I say this as one who has managed to get one policy change into law in my native UK and it looks like a second will arrive in a year or two. Narrow campaigns on policy tend to work better than wide ones.

[syndicated profile] skepchick_feed

Posted by Mary

Editor’s Note: Today’s guest post is by Dale DeBakcsy, who also blogs over at Mad Art Lab. If you aren’t familiar with the history of Wonder Woman, check out the Bitch Magazine article that is linked below (before reading Lepore’s book). 


If you care to suss out the state of popular American feminism in any particular decade, a good place to start is often the pages of that era’s Wonder Woman.  From Dennis O’Neil to George Pérez to Gail Simone to Brian Azzarello, the writers of Wonder Woman, at their best, have made it the place where comic books grapple most honestly with issues of gender and identity in America.

Jill Lepore’s The Secret History of Wonder Woman is not about any of that, and if you’re going into it expecting a history of Wonder Woman comics that lifts the veil on its various authors’ motivations and political concerns, you are going to be vastly disappointed.  O’Neill is mentioned once, the others not at all.  This is not an exhaustive accounting of the evolution of Wonder Woman, and as long as you don’t approach the book with that expectation, you’ll be in for an engrossing time.

For this is, quite purposefully, a dual biography, of Wonder Woman creator William Moulton Marston on the one hand and of twentieth century feminism on the other.  Marston was an idealistic charlatan so riddled with personal failings and transparent schemes that he is quite irresistible.  He lived with his wife and mistress (and, when she was in town, his second mistress) while crafting cunning plans for the promotion of his lie detection device, his psychological expertise, and, ultimately, his stunningly successful comic book series.

Now, Lepore has a habit of somewhat overstating the obscurity of the rather salacious facts in Marston’s life.  “Stop the presses.  I’ve got the history of Wonder Woman,” she declares in the preface after a listing of her thorough research efforts, and again in the Epilogue she laments how, until now, “The secret history of Wonder Woman stayed secret.”  We’re meant to be rocked back on our heels by the revelation of Marston’s strange love life, his obsession with bondage, and the conscious degree to which he implanted explicitly radical feminism in the early Wonder Woman story arcs.  Except that, for the most part, this has all been common knowledge for some time.  I recall reading an issue of Bitch Magazine back in 2006 with an article by KL Pereira which stated all of those facts quite explicitly.

There is an awkwardness, then, that creeps in from time to time when long-known information is presented as a grand revelation or when an individual is presented as a forgotten figure of history when, in fact, they’ve been quietly celebrated for a decade now.  Lepore clearly worked hard at this book, slogging through archives and carrying out interviews, and had the title been Some More Details That Flesh Out William Moulton Marston’s Private and Professional Life, everybody would have benefitted from the understatement.

Still, it’s a great story, and if you have never read about it, The Secret History of Wonder Woman is an engaging and thorough narration not only of Marston’s curious life but also of those women who lived in the strange world he carved out for himself, and whose work and sacrifice made his constant scheming possible.  Had the book told just that story, it would have been well worth the read, but it also combined Marston’s life with a twisting narration of the events of twentieth century feminism, from Emmeline Pankhurst, through Margaret Sanger (the aunt of Marston’s primary mistress), to Gloria Steinem and Ms. Magazine.  The story of Wonder Woman can’t and shouldn’t be told without reference to these formative figures, and Lepore’s willingness to devote a significant portion of this book to documenting the rise and fall of various theories of feminism throughout the twentieth century, and their impact on the development of mainstream comics, is refreshing.  Comic book fans coming to this book for the Wonder Woman will leave it with a better understanding of the history of gender theory, and that can only have good results in the ongoing effort to make more representative and gender-conscious comics in the future.

It’s not exactly a secret history, and it stops caring about the evolution of Wonder Woman comics after 1972, so it’s not exactly a complete history, but it is a fun and knowing glance at one important chapter in the Wonder Woman story, and about the philosophical and psychological atmosphere that made that chapter possible.  If more comic book history were written this way, the medium would perhaps start enjoying a respect on par with its creative merit.

Here’s hoping.

Featured Image


Dale DeBakcsy writes the Women In Science series at MadArtLab and the Cartoon History of Humanism at The Humanist. He is a regular contributor to Free Inquiry, American Atheist Magazine, and Philosophy Now.

[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

The proportion of Liberal Democrat local council candidates candidates and councillors elected in England who are female rose in the 2014 elections, up on both 2013 and on the previous time the seats were contested (2010). However, the longer-term context is that, once allowing for the fluctuations year by year depending on which seats are up for election*, the numbers have been flat for 25 years.

In 2014, 32.6% of Liberal Democrat candidates were female, up from 29.8% in 2013 and from 31.7% in 2010. The average this century has been 33.1%, however, as it also has been since 1990, so the increases still leave the figure a little below average and not on a rising trend.

In terms of councillors elected, 34.0% of Liberal Democrats were female, up from 30.4% in 2013 and from 32.1% in 2010. The average this century has been 32.7% and the average since 1990 has been 32.2%. That shows slight progress (unlike the candidate figures) but again there’s no clear current rising trend.

Female local election candidates in England

Local election candidates - gender balance

Female councillors elected in England

Local councillors - gender balance
As I wrote about last year’s gender balance figures:

Four things strike me about these figures, and the similar long-term patterns in Scotland and Wales:

  1. It’s worth stressing the point: gender balance amongst the party’s local government base is going nowhere. Although wider society has seen continuing trends towards gender equality, for the party and its predecessors it’s been no progress for 20 years. Society shows no signs of fixing the problem for the party.
  2. Is it a problem? With a majority of the population and a majority of the electorate being female, the question really is ‘do you think that we’re get the best individuals for the jobs when women make up over half the potential pool but under a third of the number of candidates?’ (And anyway, talking about the best person for the job misses the fact that we’re selecting teams, not just individuals.)
  3. Whatever the cause, it isn’t the party’s overall membership balance that is the cause, for the party is about 48% female. Slightly less than the population overall, but way higher than the proportions of local councillors and candidates.
  4. It is possible to bring about big changes in a small number of years, as Labour has shown. That doesn’t mean Labour’s measures are ones Liberal Democrats should be comfortable with, but it does mean that leaving the numbers stalled isn’t inevitable; it’s a matter of choice.

For my previous posts on the topic, some of which include data from outside England, see:

(I thought I’d written similar posts in 2011 and 2012 but seem to have mislaid them somewhere on the internet. If you are better at locating my words than I am then do let me know.)

* I don’t think anyone has done detailed research into why some local government vacancies are more likely to result in female candidates than others, but most likely there are two explanations for this. First, if there is more than one vacancy in a ward at the same time – e.g. if all three seats in a multi-member ward are up for election in the same year – then local parties are more worried about standing three male candidates than if it is three separate vacancies in three different wards. Second, the working patterns of some councils – how far away the council offices are, when meetings are held, etc. – is likely to make it harder for people with greater family caring responsibilities, and that tends to hinder women more than men.

Thank you once to Colin Rallings and Michael Thrasher of The Elections Centre at the University of Plymouth and authors of British Electoral Facts 1832-2012 for providing the data used in this post.

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Germany has decided that 30% of the members of the supervisory board positions must be held by women with in two years’ time. This applies only to the largest listed companies, about 100 of them. Of course, once such a rule is in place we can expect to see it expanded and be imposed upon smaller and smaller companies as the years go by. It’s possible to have two entirely contrasting views on this. The first being to welcome it as a solution to the continuing gender imbalance. The second is, the one that I tend to take on this subject in general and more so in Germany itself, is that this is dealing only with the proximate problem, not with the ultimate one.

Germany’s biggest companies have been ordered to ensure that 30% of supervisory board positions are held by women from 2016 under a law agreed late on Tuesday by the governing coalition.

Firms that have not implemented a quota of female directors will have to leave some vacancies unoccupied.

It’s worth noting that German companies have a dual board structure. There’s the “real” board, in the sense that we would use it in the Anglo-Saxon corporate system, composed of the managers and the representatives of the shareholders who actually oversee the business. Then there’s this supervisory board which is really made up of the stakeholders in the business: there’s always a certain number of representatives of the workers in the company and so on. The “real” board does all the detailed work, the supervisory board is supposed to “supervise” the major strategic decisions and so on.

Given that the supervisory board is supposed to represent the workforce it’s less radical than one might think to insist that there’s a certain level of female representation there. This really is very different indeed from the similar demands sometimes made in the Anglo-Saxon countries for female board representation to be equalised in some manner.

We can, as above, regard this as a long-due governmental intervention into the discrimination against women. I rather doubt that , worrying about the manner in which tokenism can take root. If a certain percentage must be x (whether women, people of colour, whatever other distinctions people make with their prejudices) then any of that group who happen to be x can end up being regarded as only being there because of the law. The idea that any of those x from those groups could have got there on merit tends to be discounted. I admit that not everyone agrees with me about this.

We might also regard this a clever piece of politics. There’s no doubt about it that women are very much under-represented in the upper echelons of German industry. But supervisory boards are very much the second best power base in industry. They’re much more talking shops than they are the serious power base directing firms. So, a law that insists upon supervisory boards having a certain make up can be said to be “doing something” without it actually addressing any real and major power imbalance. But it would be rather cynical to point that out.

But by far the most important point we should perhaps make about instructions like this is that they deal with proximate, not ultimate, causes of such gender imbalances or inequalities. Germany is highly equal in the legal protections on offer to men and women. However, Germany is highly unequal in the out turns of such equality when measured by such things as the gender pay gap, women in senior positions and so on. The reason for this is that German society is still highly conservative in one respect. Which is that the cultural expectation is still very much that mothers of young children will not work. In fact, one who does is known as a “ravensmutter“, a raven mother (the cultural background is that folk myth believes that ravens don’t care for their young well). Just as an example of how deep this is in the culture it’s still entirely usual for children to be sent home from school at lunchtime so that they can have a proper “home cooked” meal for lunch (I’ve sat on midday trains in rural Germany and wondered why all the kids were riding a few stops and had to have this all pointed out to me).

Yes, things are changing but a lot slower than they are in many other countries.

As I’ve said many a time here before about the gender pay gap, it’s not really true that in the US or UK there is a gender pay gap. There’s very definitely a motherhood pay gap though. And with that culture in Germany, with that cultural expectation that the mother of young children will definitely stay at home until they are at school, and likely until they are out of primary school, then obviously there’s going to be a shortage of women in the upper management echelons of the society. Because it does take a couple of decades of undiluted hard graft to get into those upper management echelons.

Yes, of course it would take a generation or more to change this but women really aren’t going to be equally represented in those upper echelons until that basic societal assumption changes. Perhaps Germans in general, German women, don’t want to change that cultural assumption (I certainly wouldn’t insist that they must or must not) but that is the root, the ultimate, cause of the imbalance, not that there’s lots of qualified women who don’t get picked for board positions just because they are women. It’s a much deeper cultural cause (or problem, if you think that it is a problem) and thus not something that’s really addressable by this sort of public policy or law.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Simon Hughes MP

The rise of the so-called Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is one of the most serious and dangerous issues we have had to face since we came into Government. Whatever we call this organisation – IS, ISIL or Da’ish – we can’t ignore their brutal activity. The graphic and disturbing images of violence coming from Syria and Iraq show the barbaric way this extremist group has perverted the Muslim faith.

We also need to face up to the reality that this group has publicly announced its desire to bring its murderous ideology to the streets of Britain. The murder of Drummer Lee Rigby is a stark example of the potential threat from extremist ideologues. It is estimated that around 500 British citizens have gone to Syria and Iraq to fight for ISIL and other military groups. Around half have returned and others will continue to do so. This presents a new and unique challenge to the UK security services and police, and earlier this year the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, run by MI5, raised the threat level from ‘substantial’ to ‘severe’. This means that an attack in the UK by violent extremists is highly likely.

Because of this threat, we have had to look carefully at potential gaps in existing legislation and listen to the advice of the police, security services and other experts, such as David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of counter-terrorism legislation. I want to make clear that we have not rushed into a knee-jerk response, as Labour did with its attempt to impose 90 day detention without trial. The Liberal Democrats have made sure that the new Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, published today, is proportionate, evidence-led and protects an individual’s civil liberties as well as improving the safety of all British citizens.

The new legislation will help us to counter radicalisation, making sure that schools, colleges and probation providers help to prevent people being subverted by dangerous extremist groups. We will also make sure that British insurance firms are not inadvertently funding terrorist groups by paying out ransoms. We are improving our border security, including formalising the existing process where airlines provide the UK with information about people travelling on flights to the UK.

The Bill will include powers temporarily to seize the passports of those who attempt to travel abroad to fight for ISIL and other terrorist groups. But, to stop this power being misused, we have made sure that any decision will be subject to a 72 hour check by a senior police officer, followed by a full review by a judge after 14 days. This will give us the opportunity to speak to someone and hopefully divert them away from extremist activity.

A much debated issue has been how we deal with those British citizens who have already gone to fight in Iraq and Syria. Some of those people may have committed crimes and need to be prosecuted, but others may admit they were naïve and regret the decision to travel to the conflict zone. That is why we are introducing a Temporary Exclusion Order that allows us to make sure that suspected foreign fighters travel back to the UK without presenting a risk to the public. This is not a power to make people stateless or ban British citizens from entering the UK. It is a power to manage a very real risk, make sure that we can engage with those who have been fighting abroad, and try to prevent crimes being committed if they return to the UK.

Another part of the Bill which will undoubtedly attract scrutiny are the changes the Government is proposing to make to Terrorism Prevention and Investigation Measures. We have listened to the advice of David Anderson QC, who has proposed the limited introduction of location restrictions. David Anderson is a liberal lawyer, with an impeccable record of analysing counter-terrorism policy. That is why we had to look carefully at his proposals. This is not the return of Control Orders, which could put someone under punitive house arrest for an unlimited amount of time. Instead it is a balanced list of reforms including, crucially, raising the legal burden of proof and creating a tighter definition of terrorism. At present the Home Secretary only needs a reasonable belief that someone may commit or support an act of terrorism. We will change this so that the decision will be taken and verified by a court on the higher ‘balance of probabilities’ test. I know that Lord MacDonald QC, the former Director of Public Prosecutions and one of our own peers, has looked carefully at David Anderson’s proposals and agrees that they are an improvement.

Finally, we are legislating to ensure that communication service providers keep a record of IP addresses. This is simply a way of identifying which computer or smart phone is using the internet and it does not require the retention of private data, such as the websites you visit. As Mark Pack has explained, this is akin to giving internet-enabled devices a listing in the phone book, or way of identifying them if they come up as part of a criminal investigation. Liberal Democrats have always supported this and can rest assured that it is not the return of the so-called ‘Snooper’s Charter’, something we continue to oppose. Instead, it is a sensible proposal which will improve public safety. But, as part of this, we will also be establishing the independent Privacy and Civil Liberties Board. This is based on the American body which holds the government to account for its laws, regulations and activities related to counter-terrorism.

So in conclusion, by carefully examining the specific threat posed by the so-called Islamic State, we have produced draft legislation that provides sensible and proportionate tools to tackle the threat of violent extremism and terrorism. I have no doubt that both Houses of Parliament will need carefully to scrutinise these proposals. But, as the party of civil liberties and now a party of government, I am confident that the Liberal Democrats are on the right track, and that we are doing the right thing.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Paul Walter

Israel Jews Wall Photo by Premasager Rose
The Guardian reported this on Sunday:

A controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people has been approved by cabinet despite warnings that the move risks undermining the country’s democratic character.

Opponents, including some cabinet ministers, said the new legislation defined reserved “national rights” for Jews only and not for its minorities, and rights groups condemned it as racist.

The bill, which is intended to become part of Israel’s basic laws, would recognise Israel’s Jewish character, institutionalise Jewish law as an inspiration for legislation and delist Arabic as a second official language.

There was “rancorous” debate within the Israeli cabinet about this, with the vote going 14-7 in favour of putting the bill before the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. The Justice Minister and the Attorney General were said to be against the move. There are suspicions that Binyamin Netanyahu pushing this change is not entirely unrelated to forthcoming primary elections within his party, Likud. He is burnishing his “tough guy” credentials, perhaps.

Is this move perhaps a “foot shooting” exercise? During recent debates about the behavior of the Israeli government, there has been a recurring argument put forward in Israel’s defence. Defenders say: ‘Israel is a true democracy with 20% non-Jews who play a key role in society, including in the Knesset’.

If this bill becomes law, that particular debating rug will be pulled out sharply from the under the feet of Israel. It seems that it would not help Israel’s international reputation, to say the least.

What do you think?

Comments will be moderated.

Photo by Premasager Rose

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist in Newbury and West Berkshire. He is Wednesday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Liberal Burblings.

jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

Two Thoughts on Ferguson

Nov. 26th, 2014 11:13 am
[personal profile] jimhines

I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading, and mostly trying to just listen. But there were two points I wanted to put out there in response to people complaining that all of the anger in Ferguson and throughout the country is somehow misplaced.Comparison of People Killed by Law Enforcement


Statistics on “justifiable police homicides” in the U.S. (chart 1) are far from perfect. But when police are three times more likely to kill a black person than a white person, then we have a serious, widespread, and ongoing problem.

Of course, if you grew up black in this country, you probably knew that already…

Graph 1 Data:

Reported Number of Civilians Shot and Killed in 2011
# Killed Total Pop. Percentage
USA 404 311,582,564 0.00013%
Australia 6 22,340,000 0.00003%
Germany 6 81,797,673 0.00001%
England & Wales 2 56,600,000 0.00000%


Graph 2 Data:

People Shot and Killed by Police in the US, from 1999-2011, by Race
# Killed Total #s from 2010 Census Percentage
White 2,151 223,553,265 0.00096%
Black 1,130 38,929,319 0.00290%

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Newsmoggie

Nick Clegg with 2010 manifesto at Glasgow 2014 by Liberal DemocratsWriting in the Express, Nick Clegg explains why he is making mental health a top priority for the Liberal Democrats:

I have ­decided to make mental health one of my priorities for the next parliament, something no political party has ever done before.

I want this commitment to ­continue to overhaul our mental health services on the front page of the Liberal Democrat manifesto at the next election. That will ­include setting up a fund to seek out the best new treatments and spread them across the NHS. And we will boost funding by ­£500million.

Mental health is as important as physical health and it is time it got the status it deserves.

You can read the full article here.

* Newsmoggie – bringing you comment on the Lib Dems whether it's deserved or not

matgb: Artwork of 19th century upper class anarchist, text: MatGB (Default)

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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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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