[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Mike Smithson

Burnham the big loser after survey had him 3rd

One of the great features now on the Betfair exchange for those who like trading is that with one click you can cash out and instantly get to a position where you are equal on all outcomes.

Yesterday evening just after news of the latest private polling came out there was nearly £10,000 available on Betfair for those who wanted to lay Andy Burnham at the price of 2.1. Effectively this was a bet on all three other contenders at slightly shorter than evens.

Given the Mirror story the price was then out of line with Burnham’s perceived chances. Tissue Price and others highlighted this on the thread and I took as much as I could.

The price then moved out over the next 45 minutes and I cashed out leaving me with a very nice all green book making a pretty good profit whatever the outcome and having no money at risk whatsoever.

I can’t call this race and I doubt if others can with any confidence. Best play for safety.

Mike Smithson

Hey, Kids – Colors!

Jul. 29th, 2015 12:18 am
jimhines: (Snoopy Writing)

One Week Until Blood of Heroes

Jul. 28th, 2015 08:24 pm
[personal profile] jimhines

Fable: Blood of HeroesFable: Blood of Heroes [Amazon | B&N | Indiebound] comes out in exactly one week.

Making life more interesting, Revisionary is due to my editor on Saturday, August 1. It’s going to be a hectic week or two in the Hines house.

Anyway, since it seemed to go over well last time, I figured I’d give away another book. Next week, I’ll be sending out another author newsletter about the book, and when I do, I’ll pick one subscriber at random to receive an autographed copy of Blood of Heroes.

If you’re interested, you can sign up here.

And on that note, I gotta get back to revising Revisionary… Have a lovely night, all!

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

Jupiter Submarine

Jul. 28th, 2015 12:00 am
[syndicated profile] what_if_feed

Posted by xkcd

Jupiter Submarine

What if you released a submarine into Jupiter's atmosphere? Would it eventually reach a point where it would float? Could it navigate?


Nope! Jupiter's pressure, density, and temperature curves are different from ours. At the point in Jupiter's atmosphere where the density is high enough for a submarine to float, the pressure is high enough to crush the submarine,[1]Which makes it more dense. and the temperature is high enough to melt it.[2]Which makes it harder to drive.

But there's another problem: Jupiter is a gas giant, but submarines—as you can figure out from etymology—go under water.

Air and water are different. This seems straightforward enough, but they're also the same in a lot of ways. They're both "fluids," and some of the same rules apply to each. In some sense, when you look up at the sky, you're looking up from the bottom of a deep sea of air.

Things float when they're less dense than the fluid around them. This works the same for balloons in air and boats in water. The late Terry Pratchett wrote a truly beautiful passage about this, in the prologue to his book Going Postal. He says that since water is in many respects a wetter form of air,[3]Sounds reasonable enough to me. as ships sink, eventually they reach a point where the water was too dense to sink any further. This layer forms an underwater surface on which shipwrecks collect, drifting around beneath the waves but far above the sea floor:

It’s calm there. Dead calm.

Some stricken ships have rigging; some even have sails. Many still have crew, tangled in the rigging or lashed to the wheel.

But the voyages still continue, aimlessly, with no harbour in sight, because there are currents under the ocean and so the dead ships with their skeleton crews sail on around the world, over sunken cities and between drowned mountains, until rot and shipworms eat them away and they disintegrate.

Sometimes an anchor drops, all the way to the dark, cold calmness of the abyssal plain, and disturbs the stillness of centuries by throwing up a cloud of silt.

I love that passage. It's also completely wrong. Ships sink all the way to the bottom. (Sir Terry knew this, as the rest of the passage makes clear, but he's describing how ships work on Discworld, not Earth.)

Air follows the ideal gas law. The more pressure you put on it, the smaller (and denser) it gets.

Water, on the other hand, is pretty much incompressible. When you dive into the ocean, the pressure increases as you go deeper (rising by one atmosphere every 10 meters or so) but the water's density barely changes all the way down to the sea floor.

Buoyancy depends on density, not pressure. There's a point in Jupiter's atmosphere where the pressure is equal to a little more than an Earth atmosphere—which is the pressure a submarine is used to—but the air there is barely a tenth as dense as ours. A submarine in that layer would fall even faster than it would in the air on Earth.

To reach a depth where it could "float" in Jupiter, the submarine would have to go halfway to the center of the planet, where the intense pressure turns the air into a metallic soup that's hotter than the surface of the Sun. The pressure there would be so high that not only would the submarine be crushed, the substances that make it up would probably converted into new and exciting forms. It's hard to create those kinds of conditions in a lab, so we don't know a lot about how materials behave with that much pressure pushing down on them.

In the sea, on the other hand, the density of the fluid stays relatively constant. That means the submarine can find its appropriate pressure range and float there. In other words, submarines only work because water doesn't follow the ideal gas law.

But there's one more twist: Water sort of does obey the ideal gas law. The equations governing water under normal pressure are similar to the equation for a gas under about twenty thousand atmospheres of pressure. In a sense, this is why water seems incompressible to us—it behaves as if it's already compressed so much that an extra atmosphere or two hardly makes a difference.

So, in some ways, water and air are more similar than they seem, but in the ways that matter for a submarine, they really are different.

Which, of course, brings us back to why it's called a submarine—it operates under a "mare". A vehicle designed to operate beneath a sea of air would be called a subaerine.[5]The "gas" in "gas giant" is from the Greek word for void (χάος, kháos), so maybe a vessel (σκάφη, skáphē) that travels through a gas giant's atmosphere would be a khaoskaphe.

Which, come to think of it, is a perfectly good description of a car.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by Jakob Whiten

I finally decided to leave UKIP in June this year.

Let me first say, this has not been an easy decision. It has taken me a year of talking to fellow party members, scrutinising Lib Dem party policy and wrestling with my own personal & political convictions. In the end the right choice was for me to join the Liberal Democrats.

When I look back at my time within UKIP I struggled with many of the party’s policies. I would frequently tell myself that soon the party would reform it’s politics and views. I was always conscious about the party’s image and how the wider electorate saw us. I would be constantly at odds with members over certain policy areas such as immigration, foreign aid, climate change denial, poverty and education.

For me UKIP was and is all about ‘good’ sound bits which carries little substance. During the European and general election campaigns we saw many disturbing jibes at immigrants and people with HIV which was fuelled by right wing populism. Some members were brought to the media’s attention over racist and anti semitic remarks over social networking sites. For me the party does not fit my view of an inclusive society.

Looking at the issues we face today we have a Tory Government that is against personal freedoms and human rights. We have a a Labour Party that is running around like headless chickens. In my view it’s down to the Liberal Democrats to set forth an agenda that stands up for the oppressed and those who just want to get on in life.

Looking back on their time in Government they (Norman Lamb) led the way in championing for mental heath which is something I feel passionate about.

Being in the Liberal Democrats gives me the opportunity to fight for the things I truly care about.

My position regarding the EU and Brexit

I have always been a Eurosceptic, I will continue being one however at the same time I am a pragmatist. While we are in the EU it’s important that we work hard in securing the best deals for our country, joining partnerships in helping to create sensible and reformed policy.

This is something that is foreign within UKIP. UKIP’s voting record within the European Parliament is rather worrying for a party that claims to be putting Britain and her interests first.

I have always believed that we need ‘radical’ EU reform, one that is transparent, ethical and gives a hell lot more power back to member countries. Until I am convinced otherwise, I am currently considering voting OUT

Even though the Liberal Democrats are mainly pro-EU, the party is very much a broad church.

* Jakob Whiten is a Classic Liberal who is passionate about social justice, and was a member of UKIP before joining the Liberal Democrats.

[personal profile] james_davis_nicoll

Gwen Jacob was acquitted on December 9, 1996 by the Ontario Court of Appeal on the basis that the act of being topless is not in itself a sexual act or indecent.

And yet, a mere 19 years later:

Kitchener women say they were stopped by police for cycling topless

Thus (facebook warning)

On Saturday, August 1st, we invite all people of all genders to march with us revealing as much or as little of their torso as they feel comfortable (please wear sunscreen though) in solidarity to support women's right to be topless in public, and also to show support for desexualizing women's breasts. We encourage you to bring your children and friends and ask that men and allies allow women to lead the march by taking a step back toward the back of the train to show their support.

This event is a celebration of all body shapes and types. Individuals who are not supportive of all bare-chested folk will be asked to leave.

Sen: Is Kepler-452b Really Earthlike?

Jul. 28th, 2015 05:16 pm
[syndicated profile] badastronomy_feed

Posted by Phil Plait

I recently wrote about the newly discovered exoplanet Kepler-452b. It’s bigger than Earth, but it orbits its Sunlike star in the habitable zone, where water could ostensibly exist on the planet’s surface.

The planet is actually 1.6 times the Earth’s diameter, and if I were a betting man, I’d wager it’s not Earthlike at all. Given what we think we understand about planets, it’s as likely to have a thick atmosphere like Neptune's as one like Earth's. Maybe more likely. But we just don’t know.

Despite this, a lot of headlines were screaming about an Earthlike planet found, calling it “Earth’s twin.” Feh.

In fact, I feel “feh” so strongly that I wrote all about this for my biweekly column for Sen.com. You can go there to get the details of my “feh”-ness. It’s subscription only, but that includes getting lots of articles by lots of good writers … and there are more to come. You’ll like it.

And to be clear: I am excited about the discovery of this planet, and its implications. I just wish stuff like this weren't overhyped.

[personal profile] strangecharm
Because "cane training" will make my dirty-minded friends think of something else and giggle?

The "rehabilitation officer" from the council rang me yesterday morning. "I'm worried about you, darlin'!" she said. I had a couple of voicemails from her the previous week that I hadn't even bothered listening to once I knew they were from her, which I know is naughty, but once I was in the pub and once I was helping move house, and I'm still in a state where doing even one thing at a time takes concerted effort.

I went for my first training session before I went to Minnesota. I'd been looking forward to this because I was sure I was missing stuff in the fake-it-til-you-make-it tactic I've been taking since I got the thing in April. But when I turned up, I felt like a bait-and-switch had been pulled on me because I was again heavily pressured into trying the "long cane" and not the "guide cane" I have been using. My general agreeableness and some curiosity about the difference between the two kinds led me to have a session with the long cane.

I found it interesting and perfectly okay at the time, but the more I thought about it once I left, the more I found myself unsettled and dismayed by it.

The long cane is intended to give a much richer "view" of the world. Its user taps or rolls it from side to side along the ground as they walk (under normal circumstances; wheelchair users can use them too and there are weight-bearing walking-stick canes for people who need to use a walking stick as well). The pendulum-like movement of the cane therefore has to co-ordinate with the person's steps: it should reach its furthest point right when you take a step with your left foot, and vice versa. This can be surprisingly difficult and tiring at first, especially as the cane is meant to be "centered" at the middle of your body, held near your belly button, and it's too easy for whatever hand you're holding it with to get tired and drop down to your side. This is bad because it means your movement of the cane no longer sweeps all of the area it needs to -- which is the width of your body plus a little more each side so you know if you're right near curbs, walls, people, cars, or other obstacles.

When she'd first assessed me and talked about the canes, the lady was pushing "long cane" at me pretty heavily. If it was a real business, she'd have been upselling. So I wasn't too surprised when I got there and she's like, "Well, you don't need any guide cane training because -- you got here, didn't you?" I boggled at that: I've gotten all kinds of places, even from one continent to another, without any cane at all for my whole life until the past three months, but that doesn't mean I'm doing so in the best possible way! This "logic" was one of the few things I was annoyed about at the time, instead of just in retrospect.

Another thing, which will become relevant in a minute: the canes have different tips, too. Cane users (and this goes for guide as well as long cane) can tap or roll their canes side to side along in front of them. My guide cane happens to have a "pencil" tip, the kind for tapping (I don't know why it's called that; it's not pointy -- indeed I was instructed not to drag it on the ground because that would make the tip pointy and thus both ineffective and potentially dangerous), it's just a smooth plastic cylinder the same width as the rest of the cane, with a rounded end. The other kind of tip is called a "roller" tip, which is also white plastic but bigger and rounder -- maybe roughly the size of a tennis ball, though not quite that spherical -- and as the name implies is for rolling across the ground instead of just tapping to the extreme right and left points of the pendulum swing, lifted slightly off the ground all the rest of the time.

So I went slowly up and down a corridor until I could do this in practice as well as understand it in theory; for maybe twenty minutes or so. Then we went outside. Outside was more tricky immediately because the terrain was more uneven so --

So because I'm used to a pencil-tipped cane, and because I use my guide cane differently from a long cane -- I generally hold it still in front of me, tip near but not on the ground near the middle of where I'm walking -- this meant the roller tip took at least as much getting used to as the techniques for the long cane itself. I tried the pencil tip first in my long cane training session but preferred the roller tip, for the more complex information it gave me about what I was encountering and because it seemed more work than paying attention to how my wrist had to move to get a useful but not too violent tap or to pick it up off the ground in between sufficiently that it doesn't roll across the floor but also not too high that it's awkward or unnecessarily difficult for me to lift. Because your steps match the movements of the cane, how fast you can walk is dependent on how fast you can whip the thing back and forth in front of you without getting it tangled up in your feet and kicking it or tripping yourself or doing something else alarming; walking at what felt like a normal pace (though nothing feels normal when you're overthinking it like this) gave me enough to think about, so I was happier with the roller tip that could just rest on the ground.

The downsides of the roller tip became more evident as soon as we got outside. Sometimes the tip would get hung up on some bit of the unevenness, and then either it'd stay stuck and I'd impale my belly on it which would usually eventually cause the tip to spring up out of whatever crack or divot it'd gotten stuck in, or else the tip would jump up with the effort I was putting into shoving it across the ground in front of me. Both of these would immediately get me told off "Don't lift it!" by my ever so helpful instructor. Who was walking behind me, so I couldn't flag up how these problems seemed to me, or ask questions, or anything, without stopping and turning around, which usually got me told off for stopping when I should just keep going, or something.

I don't take criticism fantastically well at the best of times, but I thought that continuing to chastise me every time she thought the tip of the cane left contact with the ground was a bit much after a while. It's hard learning a new thing, being bad at it (especially out in public). There is a point in learning a new skill where you're intellectually aware of what you should be doing but you haven't yet had enough practice to do it reliably all the time, and at that point it stops becoming useful to point out the mistake every time it happens. I found it unspeakably frustrating, especially because I was struggling with the nuance of "using enough force to keep the cane moving at the rate you're supposed to be walking" and "not using so much force that the tip flies up in the air."

Especially because she didn't seem to like me walking slowly. "You walk fast, you're naturally a fast walker," she kept saying, which I don't even think I believe and I was irritated that she was basing this on having seen me once walk toward her office when I was worried about getting there before it closed so of course I was walking fast then! But during this lesson it was just something else to be irritated about, because it surely made sense to practice all this new stuff at a slower speed (though, obviously, moving the cane too slowly would also leave it prone to sticking in all the dips and holes in the pavement...).

I don't know how much this not-getting-a-say-in-the-narratives-about-me was echoing that pattern from my childhood, and how much was me thinking it was like that and falling back into my childhood habits of not arguing when people tell me wrong or just odd stuff about myself because arguing never worked then. I don't want to return to that kind of fatalism but also I think these kind of jobs foster habits of not always listening to their clients, particularly if what we're saying can be parsed as "I can't do that" or "I want to do an easier version of that," and that once what I say has been put into a category like that I'm pretty much doomed for evermore.

What I was supposed to do seemed kind of inconsistent, too. Praised for "avoiding the obstacle" of other people standing in the corridor, I was then accused of "veering" and staying too close to buildings when we were outside. My arm did brush up against a fence that was cordoning off some construction work at one point (all of Manchester seems to be under construction at the moment!), but that was because the space left for pedestrians to walk was really only wide enough for people to go comfortably in one direction at a time but since it's a busy area there were always people fighting past each other in both directions. Asked if I usually stick close to buildings, I honestly didn't think so, but in busy areas like this (on and near Oxford Road by the precinct centre and the aquatics centre and that), most pedestrians tend toward one side of the pavement or another as people walk the opposite way past them. It wasn't as if I was crashing into buildings or anything, just vaguely tending to that side of the pavement, which I guess is a habit I've probably developed so that I'm not going to step off a curb if I encounter someone walking the other way past me? I don't know; I've never examined my reasons for doing this. I'm not even sure how much of a pattern it is. Some of it comes from the fact that [personal profile] magister prefers to walk on the traffic side of any pavement so he can hear conversation better; I've noticed my habit of arranging myself accordingly does tend to bleed over to other people I'm walking next to these days and I really don't think that is a big deal.

But in the eyes of my "mobility instructor," this ticks a box called Veering. So I was told to walk right down the middle of the pavement, to expect other people to get out of my way. My experience had already taught me that while most people do indeed leap out of the way, yank their less-observant companions out of my way (to the point where I sometimes find myself missing the odd exchange of hellos or smiles I used to get with strangers in the street!), some people are so very not going to get out of my way. I get the theory that I'm as deserving of my space in the world as anyone else is (and that walking right down the middle is probably best-practice for people less sighted than me), but I'm really uncomfortable with feeling that I'm making an unnecessary nuisance of myself above and beyond that.

I was also told not to apologize, which again I can see the theoretical point of in being assertive and confident that I am worth the space I take up...but in practice I both come from and live in cultures where people apologize for everything, including other people bumping into them...it'd be a very hard habit for me to break, even trying to break it would skyrocket my anxiety, and my apologies don't mean that I feel I'm any less entitled to my bit of space. So yeah: not apologizing just ain't gonna happen. And that doesn't bother me.

Of course the most annoying thing about all of this is that I've seen a lot of people use these "long" canes, since childhood. Yes never for very long and yes only in certain types of situations, but. I've almost always seen them being used pretty similarly to how I use mine: drifting along in front of the feet in spaces we expect to be relatively free of obstacles (like walking down the aisle of a bus, or along a train platform). I am not saying the synchronized tapping and whatnot doesn't have its uses, but my impression is that it's like driving lessons/tests, versus how you drive after that. You have to do everything ultra-correctly for a while, with just the right amount of rolling and to just the right distance either side of your body with the cane at just the right length from your belly...and then once you pass the "test" and get to keep the cane (unlike the guide cane, I couldn't take that one away with me; this is a matter of policy to keep people from learning "bad habits" apparently), you can do what actually works for you.

It is the nature of my anxiety to second-guess pretty much every decision I make, especially for myself, so I could devil's-advocate myself into the whole "you shouldn't give up on things just because they're not fun or you're not good at them or they're not being taught in the way you'd find most perfect..." line of thinking, but I really don't think I am giving up too easily on this. I really think that the benefits of the long cane for me are nebulous and not worth the stress.

She told me at the end of the session, which was just before I was about to be away for the next two Tuesdays, that I should think about whether I wanted to continue the long cane training and let her know when I got back if I did, and not to worry about getting in touch right now if I didn't. So I had my horrible holiday and by the time I came back I was sure I didn't want to bother with this, not right now at least. And life got busy and I didn't worry about not being in touch since that's what she'd told me would indicate to her that I wasn't interested. But then I had a couple of voicemails from her last week, which I basically ignored -- one was when I was helping friends move house and was tired and covered in sweat, the other was when I was in a pub and actually having a nice time -- but then she me yesterday. This time I actually answered the phone (not having maliciously avoided it before, just not having noticed it when she called) and she told me she was worried about me because I hadn't gotten back to her. Then she asked me if I still wanted the long cane training and I was all ready to say no when she added "...or do you want the guide cane training?" I was so surprised at that I said the guide cane would be good. I hadn't expected this to be an option; I guess she's forgotten about telling me I didn't need any.

But then today I woke up late and didn't want to rush to turn up late (she'd probably think I was an Olympic sprinter if I turned up in a hurry agaiun...) and the weather was awful and I know I should have called her but I am in fact a rubbish human being so just couldn't. And now I have another voicemail from her that I'm ignoring. Nnrgh.
[syndicated profile] skepchick_feed

Posted by Rebecca Watson

Support more videos like this at patreon.com/rebecca

Sorta transcript:

Planned Parenthood is in the news a lot these days thanks to a maliciously edited video making it look like they SELL BABY PARTS.

It’s weird for those of us with two brain cells to rub together, that this is even a thing. Because first of all, obviously Planned Parenthood doesn’t sell BABY PARTS. Jesus fucking christ, get a hold of yourselves. Baby parts!

3% of all Planned Parenthood’s activities are abortions, and more than 90% of those are in the first trimester when it’s about size of a kidney bean, so they do see some pieces of fetal tissue. Which are just going to be thrown away in the garbage, but which the patient can instead choose to donate to important medical research.

HOW DARE THEY! How dare Planned Parenthood allow women to aid in the research and treatment of conditions like H.I.V. and Parkinson’s disease, when instead those women could just be throwing that tissue in the garbage!

So yeah, there’s the fact that Planned Parenthood obviously isn’t “selling baby parts.” And then there’s the fact that the group releasing this video are some of the same people who worked for the group Live Action, which is best known for…editing together misleading videos attacking Planned Parenthood.

So despite the fact that this is an obviously made up and ridiculous accusation, actual politicians are taking it seriously. If you live in the US, your tax dollars are now going toward Congressional Republicans calling for a formal investigation, and the House Energy and Commerce Committee has announced they’ll launch a probe. A probe for baby parts! Good luck, guys!

This all reminds me of a course I took in college on heresy. I remember learning about how multiple times throughout human history, various groups of people have been accused of the very specific act of gathering together and hosting orgies, and then taking the resulting babies from any past orgies and burning them into ashes, which are then formed into cakes, which are then eaten. Usually it’s supposed to be the Jews doing this but plenty of other marginalized groups have been accused as well. And it always baffled me to think that people could really, truly believe that their fellow humans were doing something so obviously stupid and made up.

Well, now it’s 2015 and an organization that is mostly responsible for making sure poor women have access to basic medical care including cancer screenings, checkups, and birth control, are accused of convincing women to abort their babies and then tearing them into parts and selling them on the black market.

And I realize, that if it helps you achieve your goals — whether they be persecuting people of a different faith or cutting funding for poor women’s health care — it becomes surprisingly easy to believe something unbelievable.

Bonus gif:

planned parenthood is not selling baby parts you idiots

watervole: (Default)

Planted Rocket

Jul. 28th, 2015 06:18 pm
[personal profile] watervole
 Planted a row of rocket where the shallots have just been dug up.

The shallots didn't do very well.  Maybe they were planted at the wrong depth, or they weren't watered enough.

The onions sets did better.   We had some white skinned ones and some brown ones (think the Brown ones were 'Shakespeare').  The brown skinned ones did best of the two.  Some of the onions bolted (threw up a flowering stalk - this is not what you want as they put the energy into the flower instead of the bulb).  Probably not enough watering when it was dry - plus there was a spell when I didn't do enough weeding.

Rocket is a handy crop. It lives up to it's name and grows really fast.  It's a leaf veg with a good flavour - Richard really loves it and often puts it in sandwiches with tahini or cheese.

I cleared a row of sugar snap peas that had finished. Sugarsnap are delicious and half of them never make it home as they get picked and eaten on site!
[syndicated profile] political_betting_feed

Posted by Mike Smithson

It’s hard to comment on private polling and I’ve no idea about the veracity of it. But I don’t think that the Mirror would be flagging it in the way it is without it having some confidence about the source.

The Corbyn lead is extraordinary and fits in with other indicators.

The question is which of Cooper/Burnham/Kendall will get to the final round of counting against Corbyn.

    One of the crazy misjudgements of Team Burnham was that the Corbyn second preferences would come their way. If JC is in the lead then his supporter’s 2nd and 3rd prefs simply are NOT going to be counted.

Thanks again Labour for all the entertainment you are giving us during what is usually a quiet time.

Mike Smithson

[syndicated profile] markpack2_feed

Posted by Mark Pack

The Daily Record reports:

Ex-fire chief Brian McLaughlin – the first person in Scotland convicted of electoral fraud at last September’s vote – had been expecting a jail sentence…

But McLaughlin, of Troon, walked out of Ayr Sheriff Court with 200 hours’ community service…

He claimed he cast the second vote on behalf of his stepson who couldn’t make it to the polling station despite it being open for 15 hours.

Interested in more stories about how our elections are run? Follow my dedicated election law channels on Facebook or Twitter.

[syndicated profile] lib_dem_voice_feed

Posted by The Voice

Tim Farron has written to party leaders and cross-bench peers calling for Lords reform in the wake of the Lord Sewel scandal.

Tim argues that this is not just about one bad apple, but rather it is about a system which is rotten to the core and allows unelected, unaccountable people to think they are above the law. It is yet another sorry reflection of an undemocratic system, and more than ever highlights the Liberal Democrat case for reform.

He calls for a wide-ranging constitutional convention including members of the public.

The case for reform of the House of Lords has been brought into sharp focus this week following the resignation of Lord Sewel.

This has been yet another sorry reflection on our undemocratic system, and more than ever highlights the case for a major shake-up of the Second Chamber.

Any system which continues to allow life-time appointments of people unaccountable to the public risks undermining confidence in our law makers. It could also devalues the important scrutiny work that should be performed by an elected second chamber.

It is time for progressive politicians from across the political spectrum to come together and not only campaign for change, but make it happen.

Lib Dem peer Jeremy Purvis has tabled the Constitutional Bill in the House of Lords which sets out ways to reform the chamber.

The Bill also outlines plans for a year-long convention comprised of politicians from all political parties and representatives from wider society.

While it may be difficult for this Bill to become law given the time available to it, the principle behind it must be accepted and agreed.

We urgently need a Constitutional Convention to reform our constitution and restore faith in our political system.

I would therefore ask you to support the Bill and to take a wholesome part in the convention to ensure we see the change our democracy craves.

We cannot continue with piecemeal reform that acts as a sticking plaster over the fundamental issue of the democratic deficit that the Lords embodies. It needs wholesale changes and it needs them quickly.

Yours sincerely,

Tim Farron, Leader of the Liberal Democrats

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

It was Adam Smith who said that there’s an awful lot of ruin in a nation. This is usually taken to mean that you’re going to have to really work very hard at it to completely mess a country up. But it does appear that President Maduro and his merry band are achieving that in Venezuela. We now hear that the black market rate (and that means the real price, a price being what someone is willing to pay, not what the government says it ought to be) for the bolivar is now at an exchange rate of one hundredth the official rate, somewhere up in the high 680s to the dollar. This does mean that the country’s official minimum wage is somewhere just under $11. Umm, no, that’s not per hour, not even per day, that’s per month. Which is, by the standards of these things, really pretty good going. It’s taken what, no more than a couple of decades, to turn an oil rich middle income country into something worse than most sub-Saharan economic wastelands (the minimum manufacturing wage in Ethiopia is currently $21 a month or so).

While there may be a lot of ruin in a nation behold the power of truly stupid and ignorant economic policy:

Having tumbled beyond the 500 per dollar mark in the black market at the start of the month, and then the 600 mark just eight days later, the bolivar is now within sight of crashing through the 700 barrier.

This means the bolivar’s value on the black market is now less than a hundredth of the main government rate of 6.3 bolivares to the dollar – and underscores the growing inability of Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela’s president, to stabilise the country’s fast deteriorating economy.

The FT, like everyone else, is taking the exchange rate from dolartoday.

As to why this is happening there’s a proximate cause and an ultimate one. That proximate one is that there’s yet another set of elections coming up, the government doesn’t want to be running out of money when an election is looming so it’s printing more money with gay abandon. The money supply is up 85% over the past 12 months which is really rather out of whack with the shrinking economy. The inevtiable result of that is the inflation we’re seeing.

As to the minimum wage calculation that minimum was just raised:

Minimum Wages in Venezuela increased to 7421.67 VEF/Month in July of 2015 from 6746.67 VEF/Month in May of 2015.

Which, at that black market exchange rate is just under $11. And that is, let me remind you, $11 per month.

But the ultimate cause is that the entire economic policy from Chavez through Maduro seems to have been designed by those entirely ignorant of the basics of economic policy. The basic aim they laid out (and let’s leave aside whether they actually meant what they said or not) was that they wanted the poor of Venezuela to get a better shake of the stick. Nothing wrong with that and depending upon how you go about doing it you might even get the support of real free market maniacs like myself. But there’s ways to do it which don’t ruin the nation just as there are, obviously from this example, ways to do which do ruin the nation.

The sensible way to do it is to tax one part of the economy so as to provide some money which you then give to the poor people. In Venezuela they could have taxed the rich to do this. Or perhaps they could have taken some of the vast oil earnings. Or, even, they could have charged properly for the gasoline at the gas stations within Venezuela (the government distributor doesn’t charge the gas station for deliveries because the retail price of gas is lower than the cost of running the gas station) and used that money. If poor people have more money they are no longer so poor and so the job is done.

Out In One Week

Jul. 28th, 2015 01:12 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Look, it’s the paperback version of Lock In, which arrived here at the Scalzi Compound just yesterday. It looks great, feels great, and while I can’t legally promise anything, anecdotal evidence shows that when you hold it, you are three to five percent more attractive to those you wish to appear attractive to (and also, to dragonflies. We haven’t figured out the science on that one). This edition is officially out in exactly one week, although, as I am not JK Rowling, I’m sure that release date will be leaky and you will find copies available before then.

This is the “virtuous cycle,” incidentally — release the previous hardcover as a paperback on or near the release date of the new hardcover in order to take advantage of the publicity and excitement around the hardcover release. And then next year, repeat, with a new hardcover and the old one in paperback. Easy! Simple! Fun. And useful for book tours, curious new readers, and so on.

This also means the hardcover release of The End of All Things, not to mention my tour, is just two weeks away. Those of you coming to the tour will be happy to know that I will, as is my custom, be reading something new and exclusive on tour, which you won’t be able to read or hear anywhere else. Plus other stuff! So it will be worth your time to show up, I promise.

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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