Amazing Spider-Man #16

Dec. 10th, 2016 02:31 pm
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Posted by Andrew Rilstone

Duel With Daredevil

The Ringmaster and his Circus of Crime

Supporting Cast:
Aunt May, J. Jonah Jameson, Betty Brant.

Guest Stars:
Matt Murdoch/Daredevil, Foggy Nelson, Karen Page


This is the first issue since #12 that Flash and Liz have not appeared in.

Daredevil identifies Spider-Man as 17 years old; 5ft 10 “and in excellent health.”

Spider-Man says that Ringmaster makes “Thor sound like a teenager”, even though Spider-Man and Thor have never met.

Jameson announces that he is not going to spend so much time attacking Spider-Man from now on. Nothing follows from that in this issue, and next issue he is back to attacking him as usual.

Peter Parker’s financial position: Peter Parker hasn’t sold any pictures to Jameson “for days”

The Ringmaster has a science hat which enables him to mind-control large numbers of people. He refers to it as “hypnotism” but it actually “creates an electronic energy flow which magnifies all the thoughts of the one nearest the hat and projects them outward with irresistible impact.” However, anyone can resist the irresistible impact simply by shutting their eyes. He also has a Circus of Crime, including clowns and human cannonballs and a lady with a big snake. He once tried to capture and exhibit the Hulk, which went about a well as you’d expect. Someone called the Ringmaster of Death had an disagreement with Captain America during the war, but we’re assuming that was his dad. (He had a rather fetching swastika on his purple hat.)

Unlike Doctor Octopus, Mysterio, the Green Goblin and Kraven, the Ringmaster has no particular interest in Spider-Man. Having the power to command huge groups of people to do exactly what he wants, he has very reasonably decided to focus on small-time property crime, and come up with a very practical scheme. He gets lots of people to come to his circus; he uses the Science Hat to send them to sleep; and while they are asleep he steals their wallets. Simples.

Being naughty, the Ringmaster puts up posters saying that Spider-Man will be guest starring in his circus, to ensure a full house, and even claims that the proceeds are going to charity. But “he makes one small miscalculation! He didn’t stop to think what might happen if Spider-Man himself saw the ad”. Duh! Almost as silly as missing out on becoming Supreme Crimer because it didn’t occur to you that a cave in New Mexico might have a big green monster living in it.

Spider-Man does see the ad, and decides that he’ll surprise everyone by putting in an appearance at the charity gig. And who should be in the audience but newish hero Daredevil, still resplendent in his original yellow uniform. Daredevil is, like, blind. Did I mention what you had to do to avoid the power of the Ringmaster’s mind control spirals?

Stan Lee loves to have characters from one comic book appear in another comic book: partly because he wants to weave his titles together into a single Marvel Universe; partly because he wants to promote less popular titles in better selling ones; and partly because it’s fun. Up to now, the guest appearances in Amazing Spider-Man have largely been told from Spider-Man’s own point of view. The Human Torch and the Fantastic Four are less “special guest stars” as occasional members of his supporting cast. The Human Torch presents to us, as he does to Spider-Man, as an arrogant, entitled, rich kid — even if we readers know how brave and heroic he can be in the pages of his own comic. The Hulk is just a monster living in a cave. “You think I’m a brainless fool! If you only knew the truth!” he explains. If you don’t happen to be a reader of the Mighty World of Marvel, then you have no more idea that Spider-Man about what that “truth” might be.

This issue, on the other hand, seems to be have been conceived mainly as a promotional tool: to appraise readers of the Amazing Spider-Man of the unique selling points of Daredevil: The Man Without Fear. We are introduced to Matt Murdoch, his alter-ego Daredevil, and we have his powers carefully explained to us. We get that Matt is blind, but that he can get by because of his super-enhanced other senses. Spider-Man never finds this out. We see quite a bit of Matt’s relationship with Foggy Nelson and Karen Page. But we see proportionately less of Peter Parker: Aunt May nags him for three frames about Mary Jane; Jonah huffs and puffs a bit, and Betty does her Jealous Lady turn. (“If you want to go to the circus without me that’s all right! But you could have told me! I don’t care if you’re taking some other girl…!!” Note that she still says “some other girl” when she met Liz last issue. And why, for flips sake, does Spider-Man have a ticket for the circus when he’s starring in it?)

The title of the episode is not Ruck With the Ringmaster but Duel With Daredevil. It is unthinkable that Daredevil should appear in Spider-Man's comic without the two of them having a fight. With some characters fights are easy to arrange: Spider-Man and the Human Torch are two school boys who scuffle every time they meet; and obviously the Hulk smashes anything he see on general principals. Sometimes, Stan has to work a bit harder to arrange a Big Misunderstanding. In Tales to Astonish #57, Egghead sends a message to Hank Pym via his Ants that Spider-Man is about to attack him. ”He won’t suspect the report is a trap — he’ll believe his ants!…The two them are sure to destroy each other…never dreaming that I am the real enemy!”

There is no problem in getting Spider-Man to tackle Daredevil: indeed one wonders if the reason for using a minor Hulk villain like the Ringmaster as the antagonist was precisely so that he could use his Science Hat to force the Man Without Fear to fight the Web Spinner. But mind control and amnesia are two of the most boring tools in the writerly trick basket. There is a certain amount of fun to be had in watching two heroes leap to the wrong conclusions about each other: but it’s not that much fun to watch Spider-Man hitting Daredevil because the Ringmaster's Hat has reduced him to a spider-zombie.

The two heroes fight for a page or two until Daredevil steals the Science Hat and makes Spider-Man snap out of it. Daredevil then beats a tactful retreat and leaves Spider-Man to fight the other members of the Ringmaster’s circus by himself — well, it is his comic. Neither the fight nor the repartee is as much fun as they usually are

”We’ll beat you! We’re the kings of the high trapeze”
“Well, here’s where you lose your crowns!”

At the beginning of the story, Spider-Man bumps into Matt Murdoch while stopping a burglary (Matt had been planning to stop it himself); Spider-Man notices Matt in the audience of the circus; and Matt even applauds, in Daredevil’s voice, when Spider-Man defeats the Ringmaster's friends. Spider-Man knows that Matt is blind; he knows that Daredevil is the only one unaffected by the mind control; and the only way he knows to remain unaffected is to shut his eyes.

“It all happened so suddenly that only a blind man could have been unaffected” lampshades Spider-Man “Well, naturally that can’t be the answer.”

Oh, deary dear me.

There is nothing actually dreadful about this story, but it feels awfully like a filler between the four “villains” issues and the magisterial triptych with which we are going to wind up our second spider-year.

“If you don't say this is one of the greatest issues you’ve ever read, we may never talk to you again” enthuses Stan on the splash page.

In that case, we’d all better shut up, hadn’t we.

Charles Paris

Dec. 10th, 2016 03:19 pm
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Posted by Harry

I’m a pretty enthusiastic fan of Simon Brett’s Charles Paris mysteries—they are light, charming, and funny, rather like Simon Brett, if a little bloody and boozy (which, for all I know, Simon Brett is too) Decent Interval, his comeback appearance, is a good place to start.

The Charles Paris Mysteries on the radio, however, are simply exquisite. Bill Nighy is, as you’d expect, brilliant as the down-at-heel irresponsible, formerly philandering, lush. Jon Glover is hilarious as his neglectful agent, and Suzanne Burden makes his long-suffering estranged wife with whom he often lives as believable as anyone could. The scripts are terse, witty, and filled with in-jokes (I love his ring tones for his wife and Maurice, his agent). And, as in the books, nobody seems to have noticed the a very large fraction of all the murders in the UK seem to have happened with Paris in the next room. Radio 4’s Christmas present to us all is The Cinderella Killer. I haven’t listened to it yet, because they only just broadcast episode 2, and my preference is to wait for them all, and then binge (its only two hours—I’ll listen while shoveling snow some day). But I guarantee it will be perfect.

Oh, and incidentally, what is going on with Brian Protheroe? He seems to be in everything on the radio these days. When’s the next album coming out? Has anyone other than me heard of him?

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Posted by Charles Lawley

Anyone with a slight interest in UK Boxing will probably be watching the unstoppable Anthony Joshua (17 wins, 0 losses, 17 KOs) defend his IBF heavyweight title tonight and almost certainly demolish Erik Molina. However, on the undercard is another heavyweight, Luis Ortiz, known as the “Real King Kong”, who has an equally impressive record (26 wins, 0 losses, 22 KOs). He’s quite interesting because Cuba has produced many great boxers, but no great heavyweights – Ortiz is considered the greatest ever Cuban heavyweight.

As you may know, despite producing legendary boxers, the Stalinist regime in Cuba forbids them from turning professional, so they have to stay amateurs for the rest of their lives – or defect.

Ortiz took the decision to defect to the USA in 2009, not to secure a lucrative professional contract, but to able to pay for his daughter’s illness. Despite the Cuban propaganda, the healthcare system in Cuba is terrible. Their answer to Ortiz’s little girl being born with necrosis in one of her fingers, despite everywhere else in the world being able to treat this, the only answer from Cuban doctors was to amputate. Ortiz was left with two choices, stay in Cuba, fight as an amateur for the rest of his life, stay in relative poverty and have his baby daughter go her life without a finger or risk his and his family’s life by making a perilous journey to America where he can make an incredible living for his world class talents and his daughter doesn’t have to have a finger cut off and face a lifetime of backwards medical practice. 

Needless to say Ortiz took his young family on a dangerous high-speed boat journey through the Gulf of Mexico to America, has become a world boxing star, his daughter has fully recovered, her finger has been saved and her illness shows no sign of exasperating.

Ortiz’s story typifies Fidel and post-Fidel Cuba. Like all Communist dictators they lie about their achievements and hide their failures. The idea of Cuba may sound good for UK socialists, but the reality of Cuba is hell for ordinary Cubans.

* Charles Lawley works for a humanitarian aid charity and is a Liberal Democrat activist from the High Peak, Derbyshire. Charles is hoping to contest the Chapel & Hope Valley Ward for the Lib Dems in the Derbyshire County Council Elections in 2017. He has previously written for Bleacher Report, 4Music, The Football Ramble, The Orator and was responsible for the social media comedy project Tower Bridge Awareness.

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Posted by Tim Worstall

And not a single accounting professional took to the podium during the day to explain the role of the accounting profession on this issue. The ACCA and ICAEW were in the audience, the latter being silent, as ever. But the IFRS Foundation, Financial Reporting Council and other regulators with responsibility for ensuring that financial statements deliver relevant, reliable, consistent, comparable and comprehensible information to their users were notable by their absence. And I chose to point this out.

I was told by at least two journalists that the steam could be seen to be rising during my intervention and I am unapologetic for that. I am profoundly ashamed of the fact that my own profession refuses to engage on this issue. I think it negligent on their part that they will not discuss the most important accounting issue of our day. I am furious that they simply claim that country-by-country reporting is just tax data and not accounting information at all, as one very senior Big Four firm accountant told me during the day, when this is utter nonsense: since when was data on turnover, profits, accounting provisions for tax, investment and employment tax data? This is just an excuse to justify opacity.

The fact is that all the bodies to which I refer are supposedly run in the public interest. And what this issue makes clear is that they are not being run in that way: they are being run in the interests of tax avoiders and tax havens. I think consideration has to be given to sanction for that failure.

Quite remarkable isn’t it?

A reminder of age creeping up

Dec. 10th, 2016 02:17 pm
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Posted by Tim Worstall

Saw someone referring to BDS in political context.

Immediate thought was, they can’t still be going on about Bush Derangement Syndrome can they?

It appears that acronyms stay, it’s just meanings that change.

Isn’t this just great?

Dec. 10th, 2016 02:12 pm
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Posted by Tim Worstall

John Podesta runs Think Progress. John Podesta was Hillary’s campaign manager. That campaign which fucked up royally. So, what happens next

What can you do? Resist.
Support the Trump investigative fund. Get a T-shirt. Give someone a hug.

Everyone should give money to John Podesta in order to resist the result of the campaign that John Podesta fucked up.

That cake and munching thing comes to mind….

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Posted by Robert

Since my ramble last week about the different ways in which Donald Trump could break America, I have been drawn to articles which seem to be saying the same thing, only better.

Ian Millhiser’s piece ‘Democrats will botch The resistance against Trump‘ is an good example. He catalogues the ways in which democracy itself might be undermined by a president and a ruling party intent on consolidating their power. Millhiser also notes the terrible conundrum liberals face, which is that ahrence to the Rule of Law can often award power to those who are eager to undermine the Rule of Law!

We have brought a sheet of parchment and a set of abstract principles to a knife fight. We’re going to get cut.

The pedant in me wants to point out that it’s also possible to get cut by paper… but the point is important.  The article also cites the example of Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice appointed to the Supreme Court of the United States, who made the point that adherence to rules is crucial.

Justice Marshall taught Kagan that “it was the very existence of rules — along with the judiciary’s felt obligation to adhere to them — that best protected unpopular parties.” A liberal who casts aside the rule of law today because the cause seems just will have no ground to stand on tomorrow when the strong arm of the state is brought to bear against them.

Millhiser also links to an important post by historian Timothy Snyder, setting out a 20-point guide to defending democracy against a Trump presidency.  The list sets out the ways in which democracy can be eroded and how dictators gather power to themselves. More importantly, it also offers ways to resist.  We need to be mindful of the way politicians try to bend language and redefine what words mean (see, for example, how Republicans will try to claim a ‘mandate’ when they have none). And we should be particularly savvy and calm when some kind of terrorist atrocity occurs, as one inevitably will. 

Those in the legal profession and in law enforcement have a particular rôle to play.  Judges, lawyers and gun-carrying police officers need a strong sense of professional ethics and have faith in those principles.  

One practical thing the rest of we can and should do now is to draw attention to the different kinds of Every Day Resistance that Snyder suggests. A large part of the task is a mental one: refusing to buy in to the framing that powerful people seek to impose on any given situation.  It is a also a challenge of communication: using the platforms at our disposal to push back against shoddy thinking in the media and against the lazy non sequuntur of those in power, even if the stakes seem relatively small (that’s something I try to do with this blog).  Happily, modern technology has made us well equipped to do this.  There has been much chat recently about how social media puts us inside an opinion ‘bubble’, but remain optimistic that it can also fortify us against the mental trickery that demagogues and propagandists would play upon us, and embolden everyone to resist at moments when they must. 

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Posted by Tim Worstall

We’ve one of those usual, ah, we all had it better in the old days, pieces in The Guardian. You know the sort of thing, my grandfather earned 3 shillings a month and yet he was able to raise a family of 19 on that and when you look at the young people of today…..well, quite. We all know how the rest of the piece goes because we’ve seen the argument many a time before.

Except this one manages to go that wondrous step further. By not actually understanding how inflation works.

Oh for the 1960s! People earned less but could afford more

This obviously cannot be true as what you can afford is determined by how much you earn. If someone can afford more then they are earning more, end of. But yes, it gets better than that:

By chance it was the same week my 90-year-old father decided to show me his carefully filed tax returns from the 1960s (yes, that’s what counts for fun in the Collinson household). In 1963-64 his pay as an accounts clerk in London was £1,357 a year. In today’s money that equals a little over £25,000 a year once inflation is taken into account.

In some ways that £25,000 doesn’t look so great. After all, someone working in a similar role with his level of experience at the time might expect £35,000-£40,000 today. But then look at what an income of £25,000 bought in 1963 in London.

His granddaughter now works in the same city, London, for the same pay, £25,000. But what does an income of £25,000 buy you in 2016?

Oh dear.

The inflation adjustment is about right, you can check it here. Note that that calculation uses the Retail Price Index, which includes housing costs.

The important point here being that if £1,357 in 1963 is the same as £25,000 in 2016 then, by definition, £1,357 in 1963 buys you the same value of goods and services as £25,000 does in 2016. No, not equal amounts of the same goods, obviously, because relative prices do change. But the net balance of all price changes over that period must mean that the basket of goods available for each sum is the same because that’s how we’ve defined and calculated inflation over that time period in the first place.

This is quite apart from the fact that we don’t compare incomes over time in this manner, against the RPI or CPI. We compare against incomes. And incomes have generally gone up since 1963, above the rate of inflation. In an incomes sense the value of that £1,357 is, today, dependent upon how precisely you do it, somewhere in the £48,000 to £60,000 range. Agreed, that’s not great fortune in London these days but that’s the sort of income which would put you in about the same place in the relative rankings. And it’s also not far off what a decent book keeper would be making, either.

Our lesson here being that if we’re to compare things over time, something like living standards as here, then we’ve got to understand what it is, and how, we’re measuring. By definition the value of a inflation adjusted basket of gods is the same. Because that’s what we’re measuring, the value of a basket of goods.

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Posted by Caron Lindsay

Last year, Your Liberal Britain was founded by five new members who were keen to set out a clear statement of what a Liberal Britain would look like.

Their work has been supported by the Federal Policy Committee and they have already conducted a wide-ranging consultation. You can read some of the contributions made on this site here.

Now they are taking their work to the next stage with a competition, for which the closing date is 23rd December. Members are asked to set out what Britain would look like in 2030 if the Liberal Democrats were in power. Your Liberal Britain says:

As a party we struggle at times to explain what we stand for: our values mean the world to us, but they can be hard to communicate.

To overcome this we need a short, simple, inspirational description of how life in Britain would be better if the Lib Dems had their way. We need to supplement the preamble to our constitution with a temporary vision statement that helps communicate its statement of our permanent values to the people of Britain today.
We can then use this document to guide our policy making, inform our campaigns and communications, induct our new members and support our candidates and elected representatives.

I am going to be one of the judges and another, party president Sal Brinton, explains a bit more about the competition.

This is what you need to do:

Write a down-to-earth description of life in Britain in 2030 in no more than 500 words, that is:

• Accessible, using simple language and straightforward concepts
• Inspirational to members and supporters alike
• Distinctive, setting out a vision no other political party would support
• Grounded in the social problems facing Britain today
• Realistic, assuming the Lib Dems were in government

And that communicates that Liberal Democrats stand for the values set out in Agenda 2020 and the Your Liberal Britain consultation. In short, that Liberal Britain would offer every person without any exception (regardless of their sex, gender, ethnicity, religion, beliefs, sexuality, identity, ability or age)

• The opportunity to succeed
• The power and voice to shape their own lives and communities
• The support to always have a fair chance
• The freedom to be themselves
• The responsibility to contribute and share the burden.

And what’s the prize? You get to join the team shaping that vision document which will be taken to Federal Conference in Bournemouth next September.

All the information you need to take part can be found here.

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

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Posted by Andrew Hickey

The Lib Dems’ health spokesman, Norman Lamb, is normally pretty good. On mental health, especially, he’s done an extremely good job. But yesterday he co-authored a piece about autism that falls into almost every trap.

The reasons for this can be found in one sentence early on: “As a politician with a particular interest in autism, and a parent of an autistic child, we have come together to set out a simple plan of ideas”. Note what’s missing there. This is written by a non-autistic politician, and a non-autistic parent campaigner. No autistic people were involved or consulted at any stage — they forgot the most important rule: “nothing about us without us”.

It doesn’t help that the non-autistic “autism campaigner” is the parent of an autistic child. The interests of autistic people and the interests of their parents can be, and often are, very different. And while there are good neurotypical parents of autistic children (I know several), there are far more who think their own interest in having a “normal” child overrides their child’s interest in being allowed to live their own life.

When thinking about autism, in this respect, it’s best to think about homosexuality in, say, the early 1970s, when it had recently been legalised and societal attitudes were much less tolerant than they are today (which is not to say that homophobia is non-existent now, of course). A majority of parents of gay children, then, would have wanted a “cure” for their child — even those who genuinely loved their children would want that.

The “autism campaigner” in question is a particularly bad example of the “autism parent”, though. When confronted by actual autistic people — many of them experienced campaigners and researchers themselves — he refused to acknowledge even the possibility that he might be in the wrong about anything, or that autistic people might know their own needs better than he did. He was patronising and abusive.

So it’s not a surprise that that piece, which according to its opening paragraphs is about autistic people’s difficulty getting work, completely ignores things that might actually help in that. The only mention of autistic adults *in the entire piece* is:

Transitions to adulthood are a vital area where much more needs to be done. There is very little information on whether children find it easier to work in certain professions (for example ones where routine and structure is required).

That’s it. *Transitions* to adulthood are important — because they involve parents. Note the tell in the second sentence there — “little information on whether children find it easier to work”.

Unless this is an anticipation of the government removing child-labour laws post-Brexit, it says a lot about what they actually think matters. Of course all autistic people are “children”. Of course we are. We don’t matter once we stop being a burden to parents.

In comparison to that one mention of autistic adults, there are eleven mentions of the word “parent”.

It should be borne in mind here that the *vast majority* of autistic people are adults, not children. While we die much earlier than the general population (often not from any physical illness, but from suicide caused by societal attitudes towards us — autistic people are nine times as likely to commit suicide as neurotypicals), that still means that we spend more time as adults than we do as children.

But this focus on parents is the reason for the worst of the recommendations in this piece — “Early diagnosis and intervention enables small changes to be made before behaviours become so ingrained that they are almost impossible to change.”

What this is talking about is “Applied Behaviour Analysis”. This uses Skinnerian behaviourist psychology (a widely-discredited approach which denies that people have any interior life at all) to try to change children’s behaviours. Or, to put it more simply, it’s punishing children for being autistic until they learn to act like they’re not.

As with anything, there are opinions on all sides of this (and I say this because I *do not speak for all autistic people* — just for more of us than a “parent campaigner” ever will), but I only know of one person whose opinions on autism I respect who thinks there is even the possibility of anything good about this, and even then only in very limited circumstances. The vast majority of autistic self-advocates consider it child abuse, plain and simple. It’s exactly equivalent to “gay cure therapy”.

Even if you don’t go that far, though (and again, the vast majority of autistic self-advocates do), the Lib Dems’ constitution says, in its very first sentence, that our purpose is to build a world where “no one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity”. ABA is the epitome of enslavement by conformity.

And not only is it abusive in itself, by instilling the idea that you should react in the way that neurotypical people around you want or expect, rather than according to one’s own emotions, it makes autistic people *much* more vulnerable to abuse by others. If you’re punished every time you say “no”, your capacity to refuse consent is taken away.

So, if the solution to autistic people only having a 17% employment rate isn’t child abuse, what *would* help? What possible solutions could there be, if even punishing children for not smiling doesn’t work?

Well, I’m an autistic adult who has held down jobs for most of my adult life (I’m currently freelancing, but spent the last twelve years in continuous employment). My recommendations will only help *some* autistic people, because they’re based on my own experiences — the challenges I’ve faced in my time as a software engineer or a technical author will not be the same ones that an autistic plumber or bricklayer would face — but they’d be a good start.

My first recommendation is a universal basic income. This would, of course, benefit more people than just autistic people — but then as with most accessibility and rights issues, one tends to find that improving things for disabled people also improves them for not-yet-disabled people.

Even if we manage to triple the employment rate for autistic people — an absolutely massive result — that would still leave almost half of us unemployed. Yet the whole ethos behind our current benefits system is about getting people into work. For autistic people who are not suited to the world of conventional work — probably a majority of us — this leads to benefits sanctions and, for a lot of people, just not getting any benefits at all.

Theoretically, disability benefits should cover this, but for those autistic people who are not formally diagnosed (which is the majority of those with no comorbid learning disabilities, as the waiting list for diagnosis is essentially infinite — the “normal” wait for an adult diagnosis is two years, but you only get that “normal” wait if you keep putting pressure on the overworked diagnostic services. Most autistic people are incapable of applying that kind of social pressure, and so just don’t get diagnosed if they weren’t as a child — and almost no autistic people over the age of thirty or so had any kind of diagnosis) it’s essentially impossible to claim those benefits. A basic income would stop us falling through the cracks.

Second: massively more funding put into diagnosis. The diagnostic tests themselves only take a very short time. There is no reason there should be *any* backlog at all on this. While diagnoses are in some senses unimportant — they don’t, after all, lead to any kind of “cure” — they can be vital for people who now at least know *why* they’re different, and can help mental health enormously.

Third: ban open-plan offices open-plan offices are bad for everyone — they cause high blood pressure, stress, cardiac problems, and increased transmission of infections. But they’re especially bad for autistic people, who don’t have the neurotypical ability to ignore our surroundings. For many of us, they’re essentially torture chambers. They don’t even provide the efficiency savings to employers that are their main justification — they tend to lower productivity, rather than raise it.

Fourth: Strengthen flexible working rights. One of the better things the Lib Dems did in government is to give people the right to request flexible hours and working from home. But that’s only a right to request these things, not a right to be given them. The default should be that unless employers can demonstrate an *overwhelming* business case, working from home and flexible hours should be an employee’s basic right. This would help those autistic people who simply can’t be around other people for extended times, or who have sleep conditions which force them to keep odd hours.

Fifth: Ban interviews and “culture fit”. Job applications should be anonymised, and people judged only on their ability to do the job, not on how well they fit into a corporate culture. This would also help with people discriminated against due to gender, sexuality, race, and class. Similarly, “attitude problems” and similar should not be grounds for bad evaluations.

And finally get rid of ‘professional appearance’ standards. Many autistic people have sensitivities to texture that mean we are unable to wear certain fabrics or some styles of clothing. Others are unable to shave, or to wear certain cosmetics, or in some cases to have their hair cut. Unless someone’s job is actually to serve customers, dress and other matters of appearance *should not be a consideration in their job*.

There are many more things I *could* suggest, but those would do for a start. But the most important thing of all, as I’ve said — If you want to know what would help us, ask us. Not neurotypical “campaigners”, not eugenicist organisations that want to get rid of us. *US*.

Just ask. We will tell you.

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Tagged: autism, politics

Interesting Links for 10-12-2016

Dec. 10th, 2016 12:00 pm
[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_forbes_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Monte dei Paschi is Europe’s oldest bank and it’s also in dire financial trouble. This, in and of itself, is not a dire problem for we know how to fix bad banks. Investors put in more capital and if they don’t or won’t then the government does. Or, in the extreme, a split is made into a good bank and a bad bank, all the problems are dumped into the bad bank and that is wound down over the years with whatever level of government help is needed. Yes, this is different from what we do with companies in other areas of the economy that look close to failure–but that’s just a feature of fractional reserve banking and the network effects across the economy. Not one that we actually like but one that we put up with for the other benefits of that fractional reserve banking system.

So, we know how to deal with a bank in financial difficulties. So, why is there no solution here? Because we’ve now surrounded the European banking system (to be more accurate, the various European banking systems) with certain controls and regulations about how such a rescue or a sorting out must take place. They’re also entirely reasonable regulations up to a point. But only up to a point–after that they imperil the rest of the banking system rather than save it. This is probably not a good set of regulations therefore. And matters are rather coming to a head:

Fears that the Italian government will have to prop up Monte dei Paschi di Siena (MPS) are mounting after the European Central Bank refused to give the world’s oldest bank more time to find major investors to back a €5bn (£4.2bn) cash injection.

Trading in the troubled bank’s shares was repeatedly halted on the Italian stock exchange on Friday. The MPS share price closed 10% lower as the bank’s board held a meeting that had already been scheduled before the reports that the ECB had rejected its calls for an extension to the deadline to bolster its financial position.

The banks is actually in the middle of a capital raising exercise–exactly what it should be doing of course. But that share price drop isn’t helping and the general assumption is that the capital raising exercise will fail. Hmm, well, so the government steps in, what’s the problem?

Monte dei Paschi had sought a three-week extension until 20 January to seal a private sector €5bn rescue plan.
If the ECB does deny the request, the Italian government will be under more pressure to bail out the country’s third-largest bank.

If the government could just step in then it wouldn’t be a problem. Note that we’re not in favour of government bailing people out of economic mistakes. But we do like having a banking system and we also like having a fractional reserve banking system. And such a system is always, but always, potentially subject to errors like this. No, we really just don’t want to abolish the problem by abolishing the basis of the system–by moving to full reserve banking for example. We gain far too much value from the maturity transformation that fractional reserve gives us (a bank takes in short term deposits and issues out long term loans–this is a vital economic function but it inevitably leads to these risks). So, on balance, OK, shareholders should lose everything but the bank itself, plus all the deposits in it, are rescued through government action. Why not?

Italy’s third-largest lender had asked for an extension of several weeks to try to conclude a EUR5 billion ($5.31 billion) equity raising and avoid forcing losses on bondholders, as required under new European Union rules.

That’s our problem right there. The new rules about what must happen before the government can step in.

Bankers and politicians had wanted to avoid forcing losses on debt holders as required under new EU rules on government bailouts. But the ECB feared if MPS’s troubles were left unresolved, it could lead to a systemic crisis across Italy’s banking system, according to people briefed on the deliberations.

And that’s the point at which the new rules get up to a certain point. The rules are just fine if we’ve got just the one troubled bank in a banking system. I think perhaps of recent events in the Portuguese banking system. There’s one bank in trouble, split it into that good and bad bank, bondholders as well as shareholders lose money and, well, OK, we’re done. But when we’ve a whole system in trouble then we’ve gone beyond the point at which this is a god idea.

No, it is not true that all Italian banks are bust. But they’re all under a great deal of financial stress as a result of there having been no net economic growth in Italy for near 20 years. They could all do with more capital, they could all do without people worrying about their solvency or liquidity. And they could all do without people worrying about whether their bonds or, in extremis, deposits are going to be forcibly converted into equity.

It is my colleague Frances Coppola who has all the gory details (and she is worth reading on this for that reason) but this is the major problem here:

Unless, that is, government bails it out. But there is a problem. The bailout rules in the European Bank Resolution & Recovery Directive require creditors to take losses. Specifically, 8% of liabilities must be bailed in before taxpayer money is used. Subordinated debt must be bailed in before senior debt (bonds and deposits) are touched. So the subordinated debt holders that did not participate in the debt for equity swap will be wiped.

In order for us to be able to do what we know we should do to sort out a troubled bank, the government steps in, bondholders and then depositors (those above the €100,000 deposit guarantee, but in real extremes even that limit could possibly go) must be bailed in. Must have their money forcibly converted into equity.

At which point, what happens to bonds and deposits in other Italian banks which might possibly need government aid in the near future? Well, quite, who is going to keep their cash in a bank when it might be converted into shares in that bank? We’ve thus recreated what was the Great Crash really. And do note what that Crash was–it was a wholesale bank run. Yes, sure, we can argue about why, real estate, those syndicated bonds and all that, but the actual crash itself was people just not being willing to lend money to, make deposits in, banks.

Again, these rules about government bail outs might indeed make sense if we’ve got just the one bank in trouble. All investors (and a depositor is an investor in a wide and liberal meaning of that word) get to lose money. Well, tant pis, eh? But if we’ve an entire banking system–well, not in trouble but let’s say delicately balanced shall we?–potentially requiring aid then these rules increase the problems for the rest of the system.

Thus there is no good solution to the Monte dei Paschi problem. A government rescue is the solution, but we’ve set rules around such which make that problematic for all other Italian banks. We’ve actually set things up so that a rescue of one bank weakens the entire banking system–that entire banking system’s preservation being why we even think about rescuing individual banks in the first place.

Not for the first time we find that the European Union isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sr. Barroso once pointed out that the purpose of the EU is to stop Germany invading France. Again. Quite how potentially crippling the entire Italian banking system aids in reaching this goal is not well understood. But that’s what they’ve done and that’s what they’re sticking with. A Good Thing we’ve left then and in my own opinion the more who leave the better that will be.

Ignorant fucking twat

Dec. 10th, 2016 11:09 am
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Posted by Tim Worstall

“Dirty fuel” has earned the name because it is imported diesel with sulphur levels as high as 3,000 parts per million when the European maximum is 10ppm. To be clear, “African quality” fuel, is fuel not fit for European humans. Racism has always been about the sanctioning of exploitation. How else can one justify one nation siphoning the wealth of another thousands of miles away if not by believing “those people” are inferior and thus “deserving” of servitude?

It’s cheap. Which is why Nigeria uses it, because Nigeria is a poor country.

Dear Lord, not everyone in Nigeria has the equivalent of a two up two down either, nor three squares. That’s not racism, that’s poverty.

[syndicated profile] tim_worstall_feed

Posted by Tim Worstall

Outside was panic. Barely a couple of hours after Donald Trump had been declared the next president of the United States and even the political columnists, those sleek interlocutors of power, were in shock. At the National Gallery in London, however, one of the few thinkers to have anticipated Trump’s rise was ready to see some paintings. Over from Germany for a few days of lectures, Wolfgang Streeck had an afternoon spare – and we both wanted to see the Beyond Caravaggio exhibition.

Nothing in his work prepares you for meeting Streeck (pronounced Stray-k). Professionally, he is the political economist barking last orders for our way of life, and warning of the “dark ages” ahead.

Streek is a sociologist, not an economist.


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Posted by Caron Lindsay

Sal Brinton Sal @ Crohns & Colitis Rec _2 CROPPED Nov 13At last, there was a Liberal Democrat on a political programme panel on the BBC last night. It was such a welcome relief after the recent rightwash on all of these programmes.  Sal Brinton did us all proud.

I lost count of the times she was cheered rapturously by the audience. This was not just polite applause, but real, vocal agreement as she gave great, clear answers on all the questions. The best, I thought, was on the daft idea of private schools wanting money to offer bursaries. Excellent comprehensive education is the answer, she said loud cheers.  She said that all the evidence suggested that the most disadvantaged families wouldn’t apply for these sorts of schemes because they thought it wasn’t for them. The bit I found most moving was when she talked about her friends being separated at the age of 11, something which “really mattered to them.”

This took place in Norfolk, a place that voted Leave in massive numbers, yet the most popular person on the panel was the Remain supporter who offered a say on the final Brexit deal.

Our position on this and other issues that matter is liberal and empowering and we should not waver from it.

Tory schools minister Nick Gibb was all over the place and Labour’s Corbyn supporting Clive Lewis showed exactly why Labour is in such a mess that it is beaten into fourth place in a by-election.

You can listen to the whole thing here.

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


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Mat Bowles

October 2015


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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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