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It is Saturday January 24th, 2015. Greece is going to the polls tomorrow, in an election triggered by the main centre-right coalition's inability to form a consensus on who the president should be. (The Greek President is elected by members of the Parliament rather than by the public or an electoral college.) It takes place against a background of traumatic externally-imposed austerity that is familiar, in watered-down form, to anyone living in the UK outside of London and the south-east, and to many elsewhere in Europe. And it is looking as if Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left, is on course to win an outright majority and form a new non-coalition government.

This is not an insignificant regional event. Events in Greece set a precedent for the next election in Spain, where support for Podemos ("We can") is growing rapidly. It may also provide a precedent for the UK, which is due to undergo a general election this May, and where polling suggests that the once-dominant share of the vote held by the Labour and Conservative Parties (around 97% of votes cast, in 1950) has declined to around 60%, and where hitherto marginal parties (UKIP on the right, the Greens on the Left) are rising towards, or passing, the 10% milestone.

Syriza is a left-wing party, unapologetically opposed to the policies of austerity and IMF imposition of deficit-reduction on the Greek public. They don't want to leave the Euro (to do so would cause, at a minimum, a banking crisis and a worsening of recession), but the widespread pain of austerity has reached the point where the downside of leaving the Euro may be seen as less unpleasant than continuing along the current path. (Nor is austerity without its critics; it's deflationary, damaging to growth, and there is some evidence that it is being chosen as the course out of the 2007/08 crisis by the rich for ideological reasons rather than efficacy—it doesn't harm continued accumulation of capital, but it places a disproportionate burden on the poor.)

Predictably the big political guns throughout the EU have been wheeled out against Syriza, to frighten them into going along with the post-2010 arrangement. But it's looking increasingly likely that the Greek public are about to say, not merely "no," but "hell, no!"

So what happens next? Monday's papers are going to be an interesting read ... as for me, I'm speculating idly if, now that Lenin's not-so-excellent experiment has been dead and buried for a generation and the crisis of capitalism has given us a salutory lesson in the consequences of unbridled greed, we aren't now drifting back towards the realization that it's time to try Socialism 2.0.

322 Comments

1:

... just as the ECB embarks on its quantitative easing campaign. It's not that the QE is likely to have much effect, but it's indicative that the ECB considers deflation to be the immediate threat, and by implication has limited respect for the philosophical basis of austerity. These are genuinely interesting times. On the whole I'd prefer to be reading historians pick at the entrails a century or so from now, rather than live through them, but you have to eat what's set in front of you I guess.

2:

I have an uncomfortable feeling that there will be something else dominating the newspapers, maybe a contrived fuss over Page 3 between The Sun and The Times. There are other things that could be used, arguably hitherto under-reported. And they may well just echo Chamberlain when he spoke of "a quarrel in a faraway country between people of whom we know nothing".

Heck, how often has Greek politics ever been reported in this century?

3:

On the word "radical": the Greek people I know have characterized Syriza as no further left (comparatively) than say the middle of the Labour party. The radical label keeps coming up (on last night's radio it was 3 times in 10 seconds), which they're incredulous about.

However, they also said that many of the other "true" left parties have essentially disintegrated and so their members and activists have ended up in Syriza by default.

I don't have the expertise to judge these claims, but those that I know that should seem very sceptical as to how "radical" Syriza really are (which of course says nothing as to how radical their impact might be).

4:

What we've got is Socialism '-1.0', in which the labours of the people and the resources of the state are devoted to the common good of... Banks.

The bailouts for Greece aren't bailing out Greeks; they're bailing-out the creditors.

The Greeks are trapped, twice over: their political class are making no progress in the reforms that would give them a working system of taxation - it's stil ineffectual, capricious, mired in corruption and universally evaded; and austerity is crushing the life out of their economy so there will be no recovery in production, consumption or, indeed, paying the taxes to maintain a government capable of maintaining a minimal state that can support any economic activity at all.

Plus, of course, no taxes to service their debts.

The weak point in the trap is that every round of bailout cash postpones *and worsens* the inevitable losses to the banks. There will, eventually, be a default: it is ironic that Syreza (and Podemos) may well be the only 'stop loss' mechanism in place to halt the cycle of ever-growing bailouts before the accumulated loss is big enough to bring down central banks as well as the commercial beneficiaries of 'Socialism -1.0'.

5:

Before these elections I don't remember hearing anything about Greek politics. Heck, I'm kind of a news junkie and I'd struggle to name Greek presidents. I did at least know they had them.

Syriza may not be radical in the sense of a Maoist revolution and the Little Red Book or whatever other revolutionary ideology you want to dredge up. Che Guevara maybe, beloved of so many British students and others. But their response to austerity and the ECB is pretty radical. It seems to go "You bailed us out. The cure might be OK for you, but it's killing us. Either sort out something that doesn't kill us or we're going to default and screw you."

That's playing well in Greece and scaring the rest of the Eurozone, especially the Germans who are, according the news reports, being characterised (again) as the bogeymen behind Greece's woes.

We won't know what would happen in Miliband stood up and threw out (or threw up and my first Freudian slip of a typo had it) the neoliberal austerity budget handbook and went for a genuinely left-of-centre rather than just left-of-the-Tories economic policy. But I think defaulting on the debts to the ECB is quite a bit more radical than old Labour economic policy would ever have got to.

Heck, this election is important enough that the Today programme did a special with the show coming from Athens today I think it was, or yesterday. They don't do the whole show from America for the US presidential elections, although they did several from Edinburgh in the build up to the Independence Referendum.

Personally I think they'll try to negotiate a settlement and an easing of the terms. But I wouldn't be surprised if the two sides fail to meet and Greece says stuff it and defaults: I think it will be bad for them but they think it will honestly make things better or at least make the pain shorter. What the shockwaves of that will be through Europe I don't know. The shockwaves into the UK depending on the timing viz-a-viz May could be fascinating too: Tsipras will have a grace period to try and negotiate something but will it be as long as 3 months if there's no clear progress?

6:

No one outside Greece really cares how radical Syriza's domestic policies may be. If they're in favour of a debt default, then they're radical -- certainly more so than the Labour party, who I don't believe have ever proposed defaulting on the UK's debt. Of course it's not yet clear if they are proposing a debt default, as they (incorrectly) believe (or at least claim) that they can negotiate a debt write-down instead.

7:

As long as the European Left hears the rallying cry and doesn't let the momentum bleed away to outorganize Golden Dawn, UKIP, AfD and all the other Nazis, I'm more than okay with that.

8:

What polls are you looking at? The ones I've seen suggest that Syriza will be the largest party, but will fall short of an absolute majority. And they may struggle to find a coalition partner.

9:

Interesting. Not so long ago, defaulting on national debt was the preferred way to get out of the problem. Yeah, things sucked for awhile, but the risk rebounded on the investors where it belonged, and after awhile, things sorted themselves out.

What we may be seeing isn't just a socialist resurgence, but a power struggle between the financial sector and the political sector. Normally we think about politics as the sole realm of power, but really there are a bunch of power sectors: finance, politics, religion, and military. For the last decade or two, finance has held the upper hand, but what we may be seeing is the weakening of their power, and the resurgence of the politicians. If so, we'll see politicians making decisions that "make no economic sense" and which especially hurt large banks.

Yes, interesting times indeed.

10:

The best option for the Greeks is a default and re-introduction of their own currency.
Just coincidentally, the size of the Greek debt and the size of the UK "quantitative easing" are about the same. The latter having mostly gone to the already rich. I know who I would rather bail out.

11:

Defaulting on your debt is a lot less painful if you have your own currency, because you can finance government spending by printing more of it. Greece can't do that (unless it withdraws from the Euro), and so a debt default would be a complete disaster (even if they do leave the Euro).

12:

BTW, the UK national debt which is justifying all our "austerity" is about 4x the size of our "quantitative easing" - which suggests a way to get rid of a fairly large percentage of it. So why isn't it being done?

13:

On the contrary.

The ECB just announced the QE.

The Euro is *ALREADY* crashing, and is predicted to hit 1-1 with the US dollar VERY soon.

See http://www.xe.com/currencycharts/?from=EUR&to=USD&view=1Y for more information. Play with the timescale buttons.

14:

There is no major currency that is not burdened with massive debt. It is a matter of confidence in which one is going to fail last.

15:

The dollar, pound and yen are not going to fail. Because they can deploy quantitative easing without limit to keep them afloat. No country that controls its own currency and can borrow money in that currency can ever go bust, except through failure of the political process. Of course, there aren't many countries in that happy band -- the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, China. After that you start to struggle.

16:

Of course we could reduce the UK's national debt at the stroke of a pen, by cancelling the bonds currently held by the Bank of England. But they're better off where they are, because they give the BoE an extra tool to deploy to manage inflation. If the economy starts to overheat again, they don't have to increase interest rates; instead they can simply sell some of their bond holdings back into the market to mop up excess liquidity.

17:

We have here economist Jamie Galbraith, who apparently advises Syriza, on the economics of the matter.

The questions, I think, are: (1) Can Syriza form a government? and (2) Can they make it work? Greece will be in uncharted political and economic waters, if Syriza wins, and some of the left of Syriza's coalition will relying on Marx's 19th-century economics. Keynes critique of Trotsky is still a live thing, unfortunately.

I suppose there is a (3): What do the various political organs of the European Union do when they encounter a leftist member state that opposes Union policy? The punitive impulse is going to be very strong, and there are nationalist prejudices at work as well. Is military action on the table? Even if not, economic and trade sanctions could hurt badly, though I can't say if they would hurt worse than what has so far been done.

18:

We've already been through a period of inflation, and nothing was done. The cost of living in the UK is 20% or more higher than before the great recession started.

The chances of any future inflation taking off are remote, as said above the biggest problem is deflation, and there are reaosns not to pay the UK debt off with QE money, one being that you can use the excuse that we are broke to cut public spending until the plebs fuck off and die.

19:

Yeah. Deflation and unemployment are the risks, but still we have people worrying about debt and inflation.

Our economic thinking is seriously upgefucked.

20:

If you want a distraction in the newspapers for the next few days, we might have one.

UKIP MEP Amjad Bashir has been suspended by the UKIP over "financial irregularities" which the party is talking about reporting to the Police. But he had already talked to David Cameron and the BBC, with the apparent intent of announcing his defection to the Conservatives, who he thinks can better deliver on immigration control and an EU Referendum.

21:

Have you looked at the yen lately?

22:

I read Stiglitz's "Freefall" recently, and it gets, for a book written by such a person with such a career, rather annoyed at the way modern economics has been ignored. I reccomend it to anyone who has any interest in economics but doesn't know much, and also wants to know about the great recession and how it worked.

23:

Is military action on the table?

No. The likelihood of German-led military action against Greece in the foreseeable future is zero.

24:

No. The likelihood of German-led military action against Greece in the foreseeable future is zero.

What if the Golden Dawn comes to power in Greece? It would be a perfect opportunity for Germans to shoot Nazis. :-)

25:

" They don't want to leave the Euro (to do so would cause, at a minimum, a banking crisis and a worsening of recession), "

Hmm? I do seem to recall various non - fatal to economy of Country of Choice - Banking Crisis’s?

Even skipping lightly to the most recent Crisis of Dear Memory?

I detected the sameness of the financial Musical Chairs of Financial crises back in 2007ish and abandoned All Hope of my personal Financial Portfolio being able to meet the costs of a transition to the South East of England in the midst of the latest property boom.

What I did way back then was adopt the tactic of Go at least half of portfolio to CASH, but I then spent said cash on extending my modest Semi Detached House to twice of its size and at same time updating all of my technology.

Why Not?

I'm/was Not, a Fucking Dragon that was/is sitting on a pile of Gold and Biting on the Leg any Tory who came anywhere near...not that this isnt a Good Option .. but Stomoch Upsets and So Forth? I have enough problems just watching the T.V. News lead up to the U.Ks Elections in May without developing Really Serious Gastric/ Colonic Upsets through devouring any Tories that come anywhere near my .. Metaphorical? .. Pile of Gold.


But I did hang onto my holding of ... LLOYDS BANK that had such a reputation for staid dull high street bankness that it was regularly criticised for its lack of ambition by City Pundits.


Wot could possibly go Wrong? ...


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/10313747/Lloyds-timeline-from-financial-crash-to-Government-stake-sale.html


So, small scale investor moans about World Wide Euro Scandalous Multi National/N.G.O. plus Real Government Conspiracy type thing? Not really. U'K. Gov at that time was frantically holding on to the very edge of a tumble into another Great Depression and in the Great Banking Corruption it turned about that most of the Banking Sector had been lying about their stability that they might preserve Bankers/Politicians ongoing Income.


We shouldn't have been all that surprised should we?

Evidently the Greeks were suprised by their financial plight?

But .. the Greeks? They KNEW just how corrupt their political system was! Well didn't they?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_evasion_and_corruption_in_Greece

They KNEW that their political class had lied furiously when it was in their interests to enter the Euro Zone, but, well Don’t know the Greek for Manana ... but International Finance makes no allowance for Cultural differences in the Work Ethos.Not just in Euroland either. See here...


http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/6405379.stm

Whilst the German State - just a bit smug at having absorbed East Germany after the colapse of The Russian Empire Euro Zone - appears to have made the assumption that all of the Southern States of Europe really WANT to be Germans.

It's a bit like the U.S. of A s assumption that the entire world would be US of Americans if only they could and would try hard enough. In fairness to the US ians, though, the UKs Governmental Class has done its best to convince them that they are Right - and Right Wing Politically correct? - in this assumption, since every Toryish Prime Minister since Tory Blairs New Labour has longed to be P.O.t US.

BUT!! ...


Never Fear dear Amerifriends for Our /Your U.Ks Tory P.M/President in Waiting - Boris Johnson - has dual Citizenship and is at least as likely as Sarah Palin is to become Great Pot- a-to of the United States of Americas plus One.

Come to think of it I suppose that Boris Could always Marry...

http://www.sarahpac.com/


True there are people who would mate Palin with Nigel Farage ... but that would place all sorts of strain on the Space Time Continuum and would be uncontrollable by even the Ancient Old Ones of the Republican Party so I submit that it's Boris /Sarah for the Socialist Greek/French/ Spanish - and all other Damn Commies - crushing " Dream Ticket " .....

BorSarah is the RightWingNut Ideal ...isnt it strange that this doesnt appeared to have occured to them yet?

I can't be the only Political Great Thinker hereabouts ... so why hasn't anyone mentioned the obvious pairing?

And if I were a Greek? I'd go for financial breakout from Euroland on the basis that National Bankrupcy would be a Huge Mess but at least it would be a Greek Mess and maybe this time it would drive us into sorting out the Greek kleptoctracy.

26:

Defaulting on your debt is a lot less painful if you have your own currency, because you can finance government spending by printing more of it. Greece can't do that (unless it withdraws from the Euro), and so a debt default would be a complete disaster (even if they do leave the Euro).

Greece could try an additional currency to the Euro for taxes and internal economy.

I don't think there is a feasable procedure for leaving the Euro. I also don't think the EU has a proper procedure for when a member defaults, so we will be in uncharted waters anyhow. Oh, and if the choice is between a 70% debt cut or a default of Greece (= 100% loss to the creditors), I'm not convinced the EU will opt for escalation...

27:

That's voter percentage or seats? AFAIK the winning party get 50 seats extra.

28:

As I understand it, Marxist theory assumes that the Industrial Age will go on forever.

This appears not to be the case.

I'm sure there are Marxists who have done some adjustments to the theory to account for computers and other innovations.

29:

that is familiar, in watered-down form, to anyone living in the UK outside of London and the south-east
AND there as well - do not believe what you read in the papers!

As long as "socialism 2" isn't the pathetic, poorer misearble "vision" espoused by the Watermelon party, or the revived Calviniosm & secret police-state of the SNP ... then maybe.
William Morris Socialism?
Never been tried yet, actually.
[ Note: William Morris is an unlimey hero for me, but he was a loca biy & a truly great artist ]

VoR @ 7
"...UKIP ... & all the other Nazis"
Do bloody grow up, mate!
If only because UKIP are against the insanity that has further destroyed the remains of the Greek economy courtesy of the EU/ECB

30:

The likelihood of German-led military action against Greece in the foreseeable future is zero.

Did somebody suggest a tremendously unwise military adventure with no possible good outcomes?

This looks like a job for Uncle Sam!

Seriously, I think military intervention in Greece isn't on the American military's radar (yet). OTOH, if at some point the neoliberal system seems to be under attack, there's a pretty damn good chance that the U.S. will do something incredibly counterproductive on a 5-10 year timescale.

Just ask a Latin American what happens when people talk too loudly about repudiating their bonds. Bad times.

31:

That's what I thought…but…but…hmmm, maybe they'll call it debt collection!

32:

The last serious attempt at implementing a planned economy I am aware of was in Chile under Allende, and it used computers. (Look up Project Cybersyn if you want to know more.)

The problem with Marx's economics is that it is 19th-century, the economics of Adam Smith and Ricardo. There has been a scientific revolution in economic thought since then.

33:

I can add two data points to support Ian's (comment #3) scepticism about Syriza's 'radical left' credentials:

1. My niece - who lives in Greece, is intelligent and politically aware, and comes from a left-of-centre background - told me last week that she does not consider Syriza a left-wing party at all. Rather, she thinks of them as right-wing, given the policies and discourses they use.

2. A French friend told me that a certain Mme Le Pen - not known for her cuddly left-wing sympathies - has come out an supported several Syriza policies. My own Google search reveals a 'Le Monde' article (21 January 2015) bearing the title, "Marine Le Pen : >" (Yes, we hope Syriza wins). By your Eurosceptic friends be ye known.

Interesting times indeed.

34:

We DO NOT want a replay of "The Colonels" (Who were CIA-backed) thank you very much.
Or were you being ironic?

35:

And, like all so-called "econimc thought" ... errr ... wrong.

36:

"Radical" doesn't seem like an unfair term for Syriza, considering that Syriza is an acronym for "Coalition of the Radical Left". ("Synaspismós Rizospastikís Aristerás.")

That said, being in government is very, very different from being in opposition. So they may get a lot less radical once they are actually responsible for governing a country. Wouldn't be the first time.


There's a bigger question though. What would a "Socialism 2.0" look like? There's a huge range of possibilities we can imagine, from a tweaking of modern welfare states, to an early-Soviet-Russia-style effort to totally reinvent society, psychology, and economics.

At least in this forum, "Socialism 2.0" is probably mostly about reducing inequality of outcomes, and ensuring that nobody can possibly become destitute as an individual. (Which means no "wage slavery", since the safety-net would mean that nobody really needs any particular job.)

So --- what would that system actually look like? Especially in Greece? And what problems would it have to overcome, since I am prepared to guarantee there would be some of those ... ?

37:

Broadly, intense regulation or nationalization of investment with the goal of maintaining full employment and a moderate income distribution.

The big problem it's going to have to overcome is public distrust of taxation. In Greece where, even before the depression, tax evasion was a way of life. The very wealthy also aren't going to like being regulated.

There is going be reaction from Greece's own fascist party, probably violent, as well as the European Central Bank, and the very wealthy from all over the world. When the people who think they own you are threatened, the reaction is usually swift and intense.

38:

Just ask a Latin American what happens when people talk too loudly about repudiating their bonds. Bad times.

Argentina in 1998-2002?

Syriza would probably argue that this was a better outcome than the recent Greek experience.

39:

"Full employment"?

Isn't that pandering to a Reformation-era puritan shibboleth? "The devil makes work for idle hands" and all that?

I'd rather see a guaranteed basic income and subsidies for certain labour-intensive/caring jobs -- including teaching (and being students).

40:

Mmmm. The last sentence might better have read, "When the people who think they own you feel their property rights are threatened, the reaction is usually swift and intense."

41:

A guaranteed basic income has its own problems. It can be an excuse for shutting people out of society: "you have your basic income, now go away."

As to the broader issue, I don't know. Part of the reason I cast my proposal in those terms is that it's something I think we can implement relatively easily. "Work" may not be the best way to organize society, but it is at least one most of us understand. Get the basics under control, and then we can experiment. Personally, I'm very career-oriented, so I don't mind working and with being totally insane about it, I think most people do want to work in some way.

In any event, if this were to be implemented, I am quite sure of a reaction. I think that's enough radicalism for one proposal.

42:

The guaranteed basic income also has two effects that are seldom mentioned. The need for hard identity proof, and closed borders.

43:

"drifting back towards the realization that it's time to try Socialism 2.0........" "Hell YES" is my first instinct but further reflection reminds me about the baby and the bathwater, i.e. capitalism does have its merits like spurring tech innovation. Maybe not full fledged socialism to crimp incentives harmfully but there's plenty of leeway left to work with. LOTS. Just plain old strengthening of existing social safety nets, paid for by adopting Piketty's recommended 1% yearly taxation of large asset holdings, would be huge. He estimates Europe and U.S. assets at about 6 times yearly GNP, sake of argument say 40 trillion dollars GNP for both areas, times 6 is 240 terrabuck of accumulated assets . Of that he estimates 20% held by the top tenth of a percentile, or 48 tril. Taxed at 1% would be half a trillion; guess Europe and America's combined population at a billion and that's 500 bucks for every man woman and child. Not a panacea but a huge improvement in funding existing welfare programs. Go with 2% yearly asset tax and the top tenth of a percentile would still be just fine, raking in at least that much return on their investments with the best financial advice in the world, which only they can really afford.

45:

Just to experiment with specifics a little, and think through how this might work out in practice ... what level of guaranteed basic income, and who's eligible?

For instance, is it a fixed amount to all citizens regardless of anything? Or restricted to over-16, or over-18? Any preconditions? Does it vary by recipient's other income, or dependents, or local cost of living? I assume that residents and visitors (whether legally authorized or not) aren't eligible?

Basically trying to get a little more concrete on how this would be set up for a country like Greece, or for that matter the UK, or USA.

46:

"Go with 2% yearly asset tax "

We have that (more or less) here in Oz

http://www.osr.nsw.gov.au/taxes/land/about

That's levied at state level. Our state is teetering on bankruptcy and it selling the state owned monopoly infrastructure into private hands as fast as it possibly can.

Meanwhile basic incomes are being cut and the pension age has jumped 15 years since I joined the workforce (with further increases being foreshadowed all the time). This is in concert with generous tax breaks and subsidies for the mining and fossil fuel industries. http://reneweconomy.com.au/2014/the-2000mw-coal-generator-the-nsw-government-sold-for-0-59474

So while it sounds good, never underestimate the government's ability to line their wealthy friends' pockets at the prole's expense.

47:

I'm with you Charlie, I think a basic income is going to become a necessity in the next generation. And I'm a libertarian, so this isn't an idea limited to one political view.

48:

I think the chance of "Socialism 2.0" is extremely low.

Realistically, whilst things are bumbling along in an approximation of BAU, we can be sure that both governments, and those with the money and thus their thumbs on the balance of power, are going to jump up and down on the idea of the rich paying more. With the cultural mindset of socialism = evil failure in so much of the western world, there is little call for it either. In other words, it's an idea that's dead and that can have a stake driven through it if it ever looks like it might get up again.

And post any rebellion (probably as a result of GFC II and the financial system curling up) the evidence suggests that we'd end up with a fascist dictatorship, probably with an add-mix of religion. Just look at the 'arab spring' outcomes. People would be searching for 'how it was', and thus whilst there would look to be some redistribution, it would be for show only. In reality the jackboot would come down harder.

You can't get there from here.

Paradoxically, the best hope for something different is those same 1%ers who were meeting in Davos and can see as well as we can that the current economic structure isn't stable. They need a solution that keeps their heads on their shoulders.

Maybe that is more of a surveillance state and suppression of freedom.

Maybe that is moving around the tax a bit, so those most likely to riot are supported a bit more (probably paid for, again, by the middle class).

Maybe that is a rich man's bolt hole - a place where they can escape to.

Maybe it's a rise of surfdom and the master/servant relationship again.

Maybe it's mass extermination of the prols.

Whatever it is they decide on, it's more likely that they will have their way than that "Socialism 2.0" ever stirs itself from the grave.

If you want a different outcome to that - you both have to come up with one that can work AND that you can chart a roadmap to that's practically workable and can't be derailed.

Otherwise, can I suggest that being part of the 1% is probably your best option?

49:

There are a variety of methods for implementing a basic income. Generally I would say all legal residents over 18 get a basic income a bit above the poverty level, combined with a flat tax on all forms of income (so wages and capital gains are taxed the same). It may make sense to have a small basic income for children, or a credit paid to their parents that decreases as family size goes up (to encourage 2-3 kids but not 4+).

I wouldn't vary it by other income, the flat tax will take care of keeping things fair. A billionaire will still be getting the basic income, but it will be massively outweighed by taxes they pay.

Immigration is a potential problem. If you take the US as an example there would be millions of non-citizens illegally in the country who would not qualify. If they didn't leave, they would be at a relative disadvantage and suffer more from poverty.

Another problem would be cost of living variation in a country. In the UK, for example, London is more expensive than not-London. So a basic income that worked for most of the UK wouldn't be enough for Londoners. Or in the US, the Northeast is more expensive than the South or Midwest. In those cases the local governments may have to run their own supplemental programs.

50:

Oh, just to further expand on that sale of the power plants. The old 2GW plant was sold for 0 dollars, the implication being that it was somehow rolled into a fair price for the newer 2.6 GW plant that was sold for 780 million AUD. Replacement cost for a 2.6 GW coal plant is about 5.2 billion AUD.

51:

Seems like a pretty sensible base case ...

So if we look at the US example (picking the US because that's where I'm most familiar with the numbers), and gave everyone over 18 a basic income that would keep a household of 4 just above the poverty line,

That's $11,925 per head (half the poverty line of $23850 for a household of 4, we're assuming that's 2 adults and 2 dependents),

To every over-18, which according to the 2010 Census is 76% of 308M or just about 235M people,

So $11,925 x 235 M people = $2.8 Trillion. That's just about the same as current total US tax revenue. So, the cost of putting that in place in the US, if we kept the deficit the same and didn't change anything else, would be about equivalent to doubling all federal taxes.

Does sound like a tough disruption to absorb - although probably more plausible for a rich country with solid finances, than for a case like Greece where they've got a pretty severe fiscal balance problem to begin with.

It also raises new questions - what happens if a society decides to ~double its tax rates, in order to redistribute a living allowance to everyone? Who moves in (or tries to), who leaves? Does anybody try to outright secede? What happens to immigration policies? (Now there's a hot button.) What happens to job choices, school choices, family behavior ... ?

52:

It's a lot, but keep in mind it would replace (at least partially) a lot of other programs already in effect. And depending what the tax rate is, the basic income would gradually be taxed away. It might even be possible to make it revenue neutral. You could possibly replace social security, food stamps, unemployment benefits, school lunch programs, rent assistants, public housing, education grants, student loans, and who knows what else.

53:

Anyone talking about basic income would do well to remember three things.

The first is inflation. Maybe not overall inflation, but the price of some still scarce goods (land) will go up.

Second, I would point out that the welfare state was far closer to basic income when it started. It gradually changed over the years, and not just due to liberals.

Finally, there are some people who still have the belief that "you don't work you don't eat". I don't care how Puritan you view them, this is a core belief. To put it in context, it is as important as the idea of freedom is to most people. Whether they're right or wrong, they exist, and in some areas make up a majority of the population. How are you going to handle them in a democracy? They can't be wished away.

54:

Basic Income again, hmm. Common topic-

It's not as bad as it sounds, although it would require a tax increase - my guess is you'd need to increase federal tax rates across the board and have the states all increase their sales tax simultaneously in a hybrid-funding scheme, or just implement a national sales tax like most other rich countries. In the long run, you could build up a Sovereign Wealth Fund that took on the burden of payments out of its dividends, but the sheer necessary size of it means it would take decades to assemble.

@Ioan

1. I doubt it would be large enough that it couldn't be offset by monetary policy in terms of inflationary impact. Plus the US and most other rich countries are very economically flexible - that demand is more likely to create additional capacity in the economy rather than driving up prices.

2. Which welfare state? There's some truth to that with ADFC abolishment in favor of TANF, although that's also an object lesson for Basic Income advocates on why programs with cross-class support survive while those for the poor suffer. Meanwhile, the EITC is basically a shitty Basic Income/Negative Income Tax that only applies to certain categories of people, and it works quite well.

3. If you don't think a Basic Income is politically possible, then why are you having this discussion? We all know it's rather off-in-the-future at this point, although widely discussed.

In the mean-time, the impetus for a Basic Income would presumably be a long period of income stagnation and declining labor force participation (in the bad way, with people dropping into the grey economy and poverty). Same thing with a Guaranteed Jobs Program, which is more targeted but is also way more vulnerable to corruption and costly in terms of administration.

55:

Anyways, back on topic-

If Syriza manages to form a government and press the EU on debt relief, then the whole situation is Win-Win for them.

1. If the EU relents, they get some serious debt relief and can ease off of austerity. Of course, they're still on the Euro and thus vulnerable to another crisis down the line because of no control over their monetary policy, but they'll be better off in the present.

2. If the EU doesn't relent and cuts off their access to new Euros, then Greece defaults and re-introduces the Drachma. There's massive capital flight and issues with importing sufficient food and fuel if the Syriza-led government uses their dwindling supply of Euros poorly . . . but after about 1-2 years they'll be much better due to massive devaluation of the New Drachma and an expansionary monetary policy.

Either way, I'd expect Syriza to disappoint people in terms of what they can do, especially if they can't borrow money. My guess is that if they form a government and do this, in about two years you'll have a bunch of thinkpieces in Jacobin and elsewhere bemoaning the "betrayal" of the country's leftists and the "sellout to neoliberalism".

56:

It's seats. Polls suggest Syriza will get about 30% of the vote, giving it 125 seats out of 300 (30% of 250 plus the 50 seat bonus).

57:

While I don't know for sure, I think it highly likely that the rules for being in the Euro prohibit a country from running a second currency in parallel. Also, look up Gresham's Law.

58:

At an extremely crude level, which I'll make no attempt to defend seriously, what Socialism 2.0 looks like is a less corrupt version of what Greece had before they let the Eurozone buy them out.

59:

I think the euro rules are pretty low on the totem pole of priorities.

What I wonder is what happens if greece just prints euros and ignores brussels. Who needs drachma when you already have a bank printing euros?

I can't really weep for the eurocrats; they should have seen this coming and done more to help greece, and punish the bankers. The other way round really doesn't work out.

60:

Err, Gresham's law would indicate people hoarding the "stronger" currency and using the "weaker" one, which in this case would likely mean the neo-drachme driving out the Euro.

Problem is Gresham's law depends on some premises, namely people are forced to take both currencies; if people reject the neo-drachme, it doesn't apply that much, AFAIK.

(I recently had a similar idea to reintroduce the Deutsche Mark in the Eastern German areas high in support for the AFD. It ended with this old Wessi dream, building up the Wall again, but I digress).

61:

If Greece were actually to print new Euro notes without going through the legal processes to do so, that is the one thing that might lead to military action. Forging another country's currency (which is what it would amount to) is an act of war.

62:

To respond to your points

1) Any form of basic income would have to account for this at the beginning, or it will spend the next few decades under attack from the 1% who would use this to sabotage it

2)Well, I'm going to use American examples, due to my lack of familiarity with Europe's systems. I was thinking Social Security and Medicare. I mean, both of these institutions are less effective than they were in the 1950's because of both inflation and the fact that mostly Republicans have had various success in restricting access them. For instance, they set an upper limit above which Social Security tax no longer applies. Something similar could be used to weaken basic income legislation. That wasn't put in by FDR.

3) Basically, I'm participating in the discussion because I do think that a modified form of basic income IS politically possible. What's wrong with pointing out an idea's weaknesses? I figured the discussion would be better served by having a few critics join in. Either way, the form of basic income this discussion creates won't be the final form.

This will be the final point on Basic Income, since this is not the topic of this blog.

63:

...nd subsidies for certain labour-intensive/caring jobs -- including teaching ....
Err ...
Can I put caveats around that?
Far too many so-called "teachers" still espouse the utterly hopless & discredited "mixed-ability" model.
And, at least 90% of "primary" teachers, so-called, are little better than licensed child-minders.
I know whereof I speak, too.
If however you meant "real" teachers - people who teach their students to THINK, then, I'm with you all the way.

64:

Since the mixed-ability model is discredited and you claim to know whereof you speak, I assume you have well sourced primary research to back up your claim?

65:

A "basic income" would theoretically be used to pay for housing, food, and perhaps healthcare.

Rather than just giving people money, you could cut out a lot of potential profiteering and abuse by simply providing those services directly, from "barracks and a chow hall" to whatever level a society feels appropriate.

Of course, if anyone could just walk in and grab a bunk and a meal without having to make a reservation or go through time-delaying paperwork (and why should they have to, if it's their right?) the fast food, hotel, and realty industries would have conniptions.

66:

On the subject of a guaranteed basic income:

1. The cost of living in a metropolis gets addressed two ways. Firstly, a Piketty style wealth tax. In the long term that's going to hit the cost of housing (which badly needs deflating anyway) -- if your 3 bedroom maisonette in east London is nominally valued at £1M, you're going to end up paying £10,000-20,000 in wealth tax a year on it (1-2%). In the short term ... [wave hands] we need some way of deflating the metropolitan housing market from the bottom up -- can I propose a return to council house construction?

2. As for immigration, put a residency qualification on the basic income -- you don't get it until you've lived there legally for 3 years. Immigration status reform for people already present is a vital prerequisite, of course. In fact, the current immigration restrictions in most developed world countries look to me like an attempt to reimpose serfdom -- labour tied to land/territory -- at a national level: if you've got millions in liquid assets you can buy an "investor's visa" pretty much anywhere, but if you're a Bangladeshi cook who wants to work 60 hours a week in a curry shop you're not allowed to move unless the government(s) grant you permission because they need your skills. This, I submit, is onerous, inhumane, detrimental to family ties, and frankly abhorrent.

67:

The 1% are going to resist a basic income under any circumstances. As Raven put it (comment #40)

"When the people who think they own you feel their property rights are threatened, the reaction is usually swift and intense."

One of the primary effects of a basic income is to refute their belief that they own us, so it's a huge threat to them.

68:

I think the "neo-Puritans" who equate leisure with sin are a bigger problem for Basic Income than the 1%. The 1% will at least like that the basic income is a more efficient way to address poverty. What they won't like is that they'll be asked to pay more in taxes without a bunch of loopholes to hide in.

Being a libertarian, I tend to get into discussions with (US) conservatives on the topic more than (US) liberals. And their main objections boil down to it being sinful for people to not work, and evil for governments to use their power to take money from those who do work and give it to those that don't. They will only grudgingly accept welfare programs with a lot of requirements and hoops to jump through. Something like a basic income that gives everyone money just for being alive pisses them off. Which is silly because it is by far the most conservative welfare program we could have.

69:

Liquidity - where is the cash going to come from to pay that wealth/asset tax? (There's a difference in being Balance Sheet rich vs. having money at hand.)

Timing - unless you're going to value these assets on a weighted year-round basis, it'd be pretty easy to crash the market to coincide with time-of-valuation. Everyone's gotten pretty used to the on-again-off-again market crashes. And the 0.1% would probably not be averse to taking a hit on their market valuations one day out of 365 just to minimize their taxes.

Russia-Greece alliance ... Russia/Putin probably wouldn't mind bringing Greece into its territories... common ground is more or less the same religion.

70:

their main objections boil down to it being sinful for people to not work, and evil for governments to use their power to take money from those who do work and give it to those that don't.

It all depends how you define "work". The Libertarians take a hard line that work is something you get paid to do. The wages-for-housework folks, on the other hand, have a really good point. Most of our social interactions are not monetized, and for every paid care worker (typically on minimum wage, changing geriatric diapers and cooking for elderly clients) there's an unpaid family member doing the same thing in even worse finncial straits.

It's work that needs doing, and often doesn't get done because nobody's paid to do it (and in many cases folks who need the service can't afford to buy it). I see a basic income as likely to generate economic activity, rather than reducing it.

71:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mincome

"Mincome was an experimental Canadian basic income project that was held in Dauphin, Manitoba during the 1970s. The project, funded jointly by the Manitoba provincial government and the Canadian federal government, began with a news release on February 22, 1974, and was closed down in 1979. The purpose of this experiment was to determine whether a guaranteed, unconditional annual income caused disincentive to work for the recipients, and how great such a disincentive would be.

It allowed every family unit to receive a minimum cash benefit. Participants who worked had their mincome supplement reduced by 50 cents for every dollar they earned by working.[1] The results showed a modest impact on labor markets, with working hours dropping one percent for men, three percent for married women, and five percent for unmarried women.[2] However, some have argued these drops may be artificially low because participants knew the guaranteed income was temporary.[3] These decreases in hours worked may be seen as offset by the opportunity cost of more time for family and education. Mothers spent more time rearing newborns, and the educational impacts are regarded as a success. Students in these families showed higher test scores and lower dropout rates. There was also an increase in adults continuing education.[4][5]

A final report was never issued, but Dr. Evelyn Forget (/fɔrˈʒeɪ/) conducted an analysis of the program in 2009 which was published in 2011.[5][6] She found that only new mothers and teenagers worked substantially less. Mothers with newborns stopped working because they wanted to stay at home longer with their babies, and teenagers worked less because they weren't under as much pressure to support their families, which resulted in more teenagers graduating. In addition, those who continued to work were given more opportunities to choose what type of work they did. Forget found that in the period that Mincome was administered, hospital visits dropped 8.5 percent, with fewer incidents of work-related injuries, and fewer emergency room visits from car accidents and domestic abuse.[7] Additionally, the period saw a reduction in rates of psychiatric hospitalization, and in the number of mental illness-related consultations with health professionals."

73:

Default may be an option for Greece, but grexit is not an option for Europe.

Angela Merkel said a few week ago, grexit doesn't have threat potential any more. That might (or not) be true financially for the EU, but not politically. First of all it would be a messy divorce. Then, once the grexit is done, it's not as if Greece were just gone. After the EU cuts its support, there are basically two outcomes: A) Greece manages on its own B) Greece does not.

A) would be a bad precedent for the other EU nations with debt problems. EU might manage grexit, but ptexit, esexit, and definitely itexit would kill the EU.

With B), the EU would have another failed state at its border, in addition to Syria and Libya (and Lebanon, Egypt and Algeria aren't as stable as one would like, either). You think, the EU has problems with illegal immigration now? Just wait till Greece stops protecting the southern-east land border. Would NATO want a failed state among its members? Would NATO want to loose Greece as a member?

From a Greek perspective, if the EU lets it fall, where could it find allies? Turkey would rather occupy Greece than help it. For the US it would be easier to put pressure on the EU to help Greece than get involved itself (why should they do the EU's home work?). If the West isn't willing, Russia could be a useful ally (look what they did to keep just one harbor at the Black Sea).

Any way I look at it, none of the options looks geopolitically good for the EU. It just doesn't make sense to risk all that for a mere 230 billion € when the ECB is spending 1.2 trillion € on quantitive easing over the next 20 months.


74:

Were there any differences across ethnic groups in terms of social outcomes? (My understanding is that Manitoba has a largish First Peoples/North American Indian population who may or may not have been part of this experiment.)

75:

No idea. However, the point is that there is some experimental data on the effects of Basic Income

76:

If Basic Income is implemented in any country in the next 10-20 years, it won't be the US. Just look at all the ideological hate that was spent against ObamaCare.

77:

Below is a link to a 2013 article about Denmark's basic income policy ... written by an independent senator from Vermont.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rep-bernie-sanders/what-can-we-learn-from-de_b_3339736.html

My understanding is that Denmark is not at present in any dire financial straits, that is, not any worse off than any of the other western European countries. And that the present oil-price-crash is not hitting their economy nearly as much as other oil countries, say, U.S. and Canada. (What's the oil crash done in the U.K./Scotland?)

Not sure what the commonalities are between Denmark and Greece, i.e., what Greece would have to do/change in order to become more like Denmark.

78:

Denmark doesn't have an unconditional basic income, just a very good social system.

Main difference to Greece appears to be an effective tax system.

79:

Close to unconditional/universal ... not sure who would not be covered given that "... people who are totally out of the labor market or unable to care for themselves have a basic income guarantee of about $100 per day."

80:

Well, layabouts for one thing. "totally out of the labor market" means to me unemployable or or long-term unemployed. "I don't want to work" isn't covered by that.

81:

But Greece isn't protecting Europe's south-east border; Slovenia and Hungary are. Greece is in Schengen, but is isolated from the rest of the Schengen area. If an illegal immigrant gets into Greece, it's still difficult for them to then get anywhere else in the EU -- I guess a ferry to Italy would be easiest. And Europe coped with a failed state (Serbia) rather closer to the rest of Europe than Greece is.

82:

Given a basic income, the roof over the head, and the food on the table for workers is not so much an employer's problem. The paycheck will be more for savings and having a bit more than bare necessity. For actual working capitalists, it means their life is simplified, and at far less expense than returning to tax rates of fifty years ago. I expect most of the rejection will come from those with little stake in it, rentiers.

83:

And the first exit poll actually does put Syriza in spitting distance of an absolute majority. They need about 37-38% of the vote (40.4% of the vote after excluding parties with less than 3%), and the poll says 35.5%-39.5%, 146-158 MPs (with 151 needed). https://twitter.com/MacroPolis_gr

84:

The BBC has started claiming that Exit Polls in Greece give a clear victory to Syriza.

There's going to be some error in any numbers, but exit polls can be good at this. It's not like the polling before the Scottish Referendum, this is asking people who have already voted.

85:

True about the Schengen area. Guess immigrants will not be an additional problem then.

But how was Serbia a failed state? I don't see a breakdown of government or predominant civil unrest. Also, there was no danger of Serbia flogging NATO equipment to the black market.

86:

Although I hear that exit polls an be fairly unreliable in Greece due to the difficulty of putting together a genuinely representative sample of polling stations to survey.

87:

Serbia had widespread civil unrest and breakdown of confidence in the government between about 1996 and 2000. Not to mention fighting a losing war against NATO and getting its capital bombed. Plus, of course, the earlier wars in Slovenia (admittedly short), Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. If Europe could cope with all of that, I think it could cope with problems in Greece, which is further away from the rest of Europe.

88:

A Greek petition to join the Russian Federation would be an interesting event.

The mechanics are simple - just follow the methods used to turn various Eastern European nations into Soviet satellites.

Whatever Greek party made the bid would be assured to remaining officially in control, even if subject to Moscow, which would lend whatever force was needed to maintain the new status quo.

It'd be a win for some clique of Greek politicians, a minor win for Greeks who want *any* stable government, a major propaganda win for Russia, and they'd regain a secure operating base in Mediterrenean Europe.

The downside is, the Russian Federation really can't afford to keep a failed state on economic life support. Greece's debts still have to be serviced somehow. The Russians know all about that, from when the Soviet government found they were still expected to service the Russian Empire's debts.

89:

I wouldn't call that "coped". I don't think that anyone wants to see such stuff again.
And Greece isn't far away from Europe, Greece is a part of Europe.

It's also different if a member of the EU and NATO falls apart or a former political enemy of the West.

90:

Greece's debts still have to be serviced somehow. The Russians know all about that, from when the Soviet government found they were still expected to service the Russian Empire's debts.

Not so sure about that. It's different for a large country that wants to be accepted in the global economy. Greece could import/export stuff indirectly and still be part of the global economy. It just needs a big ally.

91:

The "barracks and a chow hall" proposal would definitely be a lot cheaper than a basic income, although the downside would be the loss of flexibility. It would have the same issues for the poor as SNAP/food stamps does today - sure, you've got money for some kinds of food, but what if you need money for desperately needed car repairs, or the like? There's real value in letting people control how they want to use the "stipend".

92:

Yep: one corollary of a basic income is that you don't need a minimum wage.

(However, I'm very wary of the barracks/rations model. It's too damn close to the 19th century poor house model which evolved when an earlier dole/basic ration scheme for agricultural laborers finally disintegrated in the early 19th century.)

93:

As someone who was unemployed for six freakin' years during the 1990s, unemployment is one of the most labour intensive career 'options' likely to be forced upon anyone.

Much, much harder than working in an menial admin job, which is what I've done for the last fourteen years.

Not to mention deleterious to one's health and morale.

Many of the true costs of austerity and unemployment aren't even on the same balance sheet.

I hope Syriza do win in Greece, a resumption of genuine left vs right politics somewhere in the world is devoutly to be wished for. Even if does all go to hell in the end.

94:

Yeah
Exam results
People leaving schools unable to read or write.
Deliberately stampoing on "elitism" (Meaning getting the best out of pupils) except in "sport" of course, shudder.
Also academic research in the subject.
Thos who are still sticking with "Mixed-ability" are goin "la-la-la-" fingers in ears.
It's disgraceful to the point of criminality.

95:

NO
NEVER
What happens to people like me ... ??
My father paid £2600 for the house in which I live, in 1948. I can'r presently afford the approx 10-15k to get underpinning, but the house is still worth £800k & inflating. ( Location fro good transport & quiet road )
I have no intention of moving out, except in a box.

96:

Yeah, there is a risk that too low a basic income would not eliminate poverty, but rather trap people at an uncomfortable level of poverty. The other risk is that if it is too generous, a lot of people won't work at all leading to a labor shortage and generally hurting the economy (the Swiss proposal was too generous, IMO).

Ideally, it should allow people who don't want a traditional job to live with security and without stress while giving them the opportunity to supplement their income with casual work. I'd like for it to be reasonable for one parent to stay home to raise kids, or for someone to support themselves while in school. It should be enough to make it easier for someone to take a risk and establish their own business, or to be able to afford to build their reputation as an artist.

I think writers, for example, would benefit greatly from a basic income.

97:

Can I recommend your opinions in spades?
All horribly true.

98:

Yeah, I don't think the US would be the first to implement a basic income. We're a pretty large country to experiment with for starters. I don't think it is impossible that it will come here, especially if a country like Canada implements one first.

I think it is a policy proposal that will have a better chance if it comes from the Right, rather than the Left. The way ideology is right now any sort of proposal from the Left is going to be attacked without a second thought.

From the Right, however, there is the Negative Income Tax route to a basic income. The term was invented by a Tory and promoted by Milton Friedman and Richard Nixon so it can't really be attacked as "Socialist". And from a Right-wing perspective it is good because it shrinks the size of government, simplifies taxes, stops government from social engineering and meddling in the economy as much. Though even then in might need to be combined with something like repealing the corporate income tax.

99:

"There ain't no such thing as a free lunch." --unknown

100:

the house is still worth £800k & inflating. ( Location fro good transport & quiet road )
I have no intention of moving out, except in a box.

Then the house is valueless to you except as a house.

If the Communism Fairy arrived tomorrow and waved a magic wand, nationalizing your house but letting you live in it, you'd be no worse off except insofar as your father spent £2500 on it ... money which would otherwise have gone in rent over a period of years (back in the day).

Meanwhile, the speculative bubble that's driving house prices ever higher is deadly to those of us who (a) want to move somewhere else, or (b) want to have somewhere to lvie where we're not bleeding rent -- i.e. the young.

If we reintroduced cheap council house construction tomorrow, the only folks who'd be 'worse' off financially would be those who'd bought into the pyramid scheme a bit too late in the bubble. Which could be defused somewhat by reintroducing Mortgage Income Tax Relief (remember MIRAS? Before the LabTories phased it out?) for a period, for that specific demographic (ideally targeting first-time buyers who'd bought into the market in the last 10 years, or something like that).

101:

If you offer to pay someone a living wage to be a deadbeat, you will find lots of deadbeats willing to take you up on the offer. The UK is seeing this phenomenon, RIGHT NOW, in council housing.

102:

I suggest that spouting short talking points at the host isn't a good idea. A more reasoned approach will help you out.

103:

Au contraire, the origin of that phrase pretty clearly tags it as a US libertarian talking point. In other words, it's freighted with unspoken ideological assumptions.

104:

I will also note that the UK doesn't build council housing any more. Hasn't since the 1980s. That's when the bubble really began to inflate, as Thatcher privatised the housing market in order to financialize assets and generate revenue for her bank-owning cronies.

105:

The funny thing is that we tried having a basic income before. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries there were a lot of aristocrats swanning about on the money earnt by their estates, but because other people did most of the work, they could use their leisure for various other things.

For instance, natural history research. Or mind broadening travel. Or writing history. Or doing many of the jobs that we now pay people for. It always irritates me when conservatives go on about getting the voluntary sector to do things, because the way things are just now people have to work all the time to be able to afford a reasonable life which leaves no time for voluntary work. Although of course in the 18th century some of such rich folk did rather waste their money on living high and causing scandal.

Or in other words, worrying about people on basic income doing nothing all day is contrary to historical fact. Yes, some will sit about watching Sky all day, but that's better than them begging for their bread in the street. Meanwhile the rest of us would be doing other things like research into history and science, or making up various local organisations or services.

106:


Hummmmmm ? This wouldn't be You - and your Minions - would it Greg ?...

"Armed police arrest five men after fight in Bromley as officers seize AK47 rifle, WWII machine gun and rocket launcher "


http://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/armed-police-arrest-five-men-arrested-after-fight-in-bromley-as-officers-seize-ak47-rifle-wwii-machine-gun-and-rocket-launcher-10001102.html

Looks like a fairly quiet road.

107:

Agreed. From a US perspective, it's especially easy to see how it would go bad - a lot of US public housing in the cities ended up being terrible because of fierce opposition from the real estate business about any sort of public housing that might "blend in" or "compete" with privately-sold and owned housing.

The same issue would come up today, with lots of whining about "unfair competition" unless the program was set up as the government paying landlords to offer affordable rent housing.

108:

My own preference is for councils to build housing of last resort -- small self-contained units available to rent on demand (no waiting lists allowed) at a fixed rental, maybe half of the basic income. I'd suggest 40 square metres per adult or 20 per child, including bathroom and cooking facilities.

109:


Supplementary to that, Charlie, and for the benefit of the Young and the Foreign...Poor Benighted Souls that They were not born in the Kingdom! Rule Britannia and all that sort of thing? ...

And just in case there are those who believe in the incorruptibility of the U.Ks Democracy and Father of Parliaments...well there may still be a few people out there who dont appreciate that whilst the U.K. is LESS politically corrupt than some nations we aint all that Nobel and incoruptable. So...

"Homes for votes scandal
Main article: Homes for votes scandal

The Conservatives were narrowly re-elected in Westminster in the 1986 local council elections. Fearing that they would eventually lose control unless there was a permanent change in the social composition of the borough, Porter instituted a secret policy known as 'Building Stable Communities'.[nb 2]

Eight wards were selected as 'key wards' – in public it was claimed that these wards were subject to particular 'stress factors' leading to a decline in the population of Westminster. In reality, secret documents showed that the wards most subject to these stress factors were rather different, and that the eight wards chosen had been the most marginal in the City Council elections of 1986. Three – Bayswater, Maida Vale and Millbank, had been narrowly won by Labour, a further three, St. James's, Victoria and Cavendish had been narrowly lost by them, in West End ward an Independent had split the two seats with the Conservatives while in Hamilton Terrace the Conservatives were threatened by the SDP.

An important part of this policy was the designation of much of Westminster's council housing for commercial sale, rather than re-letting when the properties became vacant. The designated housing was concentrated in those wards most likely to change hands to Labour in the elections. Much of this designated housing lay vacant for months or even years before it could be sold. To prevent its occupation by squatters or drug dealers, these flats were fitted with security doors provided by the company Sitex at a cost to local tax payers of £50 per week per door.

Other council services were subverted to ensure the re-election of the majority party in the 1990 elections. In services such as street cleaning, pavement repair and environmental improvements, marginal wards were given priority while safely Labour and safely Conservative parts of the City were neglected.

Another vital part of 'Building Stable Communities' was the removal of homeless voters and others who lived in hostels and were perceived less likely to vote Conservative, such as students and nurses, from the City of Westminster. While this initially proved successful, other Councils in London and the Home Counties soon became aware of homeless individuals and families from Westminster, many with complex mental health and addiction problems, being relocated to their area. ..."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shirley_Porter

Hereabouts in the North East of England Sunderland used to be famous for having the largest stock of Council Houses in Western Democratic Europe.

First the better houses in public ownership were sold off to their owners at knock down subsidised prices and then, and a little later, the entire remaining Council House Estates public holding was hived off under the Name " Gentoo " thus ..

http://www.gentoogroup.com/for-customers/find-a-home/

Calm, CALM! Deep breaths, Charlie ... do not hit wall with the Glaswegian Kiss when you realise that all of this happened under the Care of a solid LABOUR PARTY safe seated socialist council in the very heart of Ship Building, Coal Mining, Heavy Industry et all land, just South of Scotland rather than in the Deep South of England in the Conservative/Tory Territory of London plus Home Counties.

110:

WE currently have the government giving landlords normal rents so frankly any other option is likely to save money.

I notice in the current edition of Private Eye that the amount of rent lost by empty council houses has increased by 20% to 130 million, and social housing is left empty 5 days longer than before the regressive bedroom tax was introduced. It doesn't exactly give an impression of lots of people hogging council houses now does it?

111:

" It doesn't exactly give an impression of lots of people hogging council houses now does it?"

No, but then it never did .. did it? There really isn't a significant housing problem in,say, .. ITS GRIM UP NORTH


" Last residents of doomed Tyneside estate feel they're being forced from their homes "

http://www.chroniclelive.co.uk/news/north-east-news/last-residents-doomed-blaydon-estate-7579174

The problem is one of the HUGE social attractor of London and its environs. Not just of that area of the South East of course but London is the Bigest of the Big Housing Problems and no one in politics apears to have a practical solution to the problem ..I don't suppose ..well it is a teeny bit obvious, but ....RENT CONTROL?

112:

On topic-

It looks like Syriza is going to win pretty big. The Guardian says there's a chance they might even get an outright majority, which would be very good news.

113:

"Available to rent on demand (no waiting lists allowed)" potentially requires an infinite supply of apartments, in order to have one or more available at all times. When someone walks into the office and makes the demand, the rental agent has to have a key available, right now.

Second, 40 square metres per adult is about 800 square feet for an adult couple. That, by US standards, is pretty generous for a "small" apartment. After graduation, when I moved to Fort Worth TX, one of the apartments I looked at was 400 square feet. It was smaller than I liked. That particular complex, with those small units, was quite popular with unmarried US Air Force enlisted personnel who preferred to live off-base. The place I took was 600 square feet. My upstairs neighbors were a young married couple. He was Air Force enlisted, she was his wife.

40 square metres per adult and 20 per child gives 1200 square feet for the traditional benchmark "family of four". That's a big apartment or a small house.

114:

I recall this as Heinlein's most preferred, frequent quote ... famously anti-'commie'.

115:

You're rather missing the point; people like you were no doubt arguing a century ago that people living in slums had the right amount of space that they required to live in and building new modern houses with actual separate bedrooms for the adults and children would only encourage them to breed or something. Or indeed that old saw that demand for healthcare is infinite.

116:

Heinlein did not originate that quote.

(From Wikipedia) First known use was in 1938. It saw print in various places in the 1940s. Heinlein popularized it in 1966.

It was re-immortalized as the title of one of the late Nobel laureate Milton Friedman's books (Friedman, Milton, There's No Such Thing as a Free Lunch, Open Court Publishing Company, 1975. ISBN 087548297X.).

117:

'Lay-abouts'?

Lay-abouts at work ... unreliable, and gum up the works for everyone else. Much better (and cheaper, long term) to have them lay about elsewhere.

Personally, I've never considered a job as punitive. Yes, there's effort, long hours, etc. -- but overall a worthwhile and enjoyable way to spend my time. The money comes in handy of course, but it isn't my first/foremost criterion.

118:

People tend to forget that the phrase merely means that you should look for hidden costs. For example "free" TV broadcasts in the us are paid for by advertising -- you end up buying more stuff without really thinking about it.

119:

It all depends how you define "work". The Libertarians take a hard line that work is something you get paid to do. The wages-for-housework folks, on the other hand, have a really good point. Most of our social interactions are not monetized, and for every paid care worker (typically on minimum wage, changing geriatric diapers and cooking for elderly clients) there's an unpaid family member doing the same thing in even worse finncial straits.

It's work that needs doing, and often doesn't get done because nobody's paid to do it (and in many cases folks who need the service can't afford to buy it). I see a basic income as likely to generate economic activity, rather than reducing it.

Maybe, maybe not. It would have to do with how the basic income and its associated tax code, and the rest of the safety net were structured. Non-taxation of domestic production is already a tax preference for stay-at-home parents. It isn't really practical (or welcome) for the government to monitor domestic production and tax it, so we will see this tax preference continue. Though it is one that essentially functions like a deduction, making it less valuable than a credit (which is how most minimum income plans propose to work), especially for low-income families.

Which means that, among all the other considerations you'd need to consider in designing your basic income is accounting for these kinds of distortions. In the name of furthering tax revenue to pay for it I would think you would need to structure it in favor of a preference to choose to work outside the home (and hire on for the domestic production).

You would want to make sure that preference is so large that it more than offsets the value of the tax preference stay-at-home parents already enjoy. That value of course varies by income level, family size, family age, etc.

Then there is the rest of the safety net. If you are unfortunate enough to live in a place that structures their basics the same way America does there is further economic inventive to have someone stay at home and do the domestic work rather than hire out. Despite this being non-taxed (and thus noncontributing) to Social Security and Medicare the stay-at-home partner will be able to collect SS at half rate and enjoy full Medicare. So you will need to design your system to account for the long term preference.


As an aside to all this, John Kendrick investigated unmeasured and untaxed household activities in 1973. His conclusion estimated it worked out to quarter of the size of the whole economy as measured by gross national product. So assuming we could structure it so that there was a politically feasible economic preference to hire someone to do the housework you could look at a large growth. Spitballing a way to put numbers to this, I'm guessing consult the BLS or equivalent of your country of choice and look at their hours involved estimates for the domestic labor (cooking, housework, shopping, caring for unemployed household members) for a married woman (still far and away the majority of stay at home caretakers) and compare those numbers for the domestic labor done by an employed woman in the same situation, look at the difference with median wage rates, and take the median tax value to get the immediate tax preference. Of course, then you would want to graph how that changes as the number of children increases, and look at it as the children age. My quick BOTE examination suggests it is going to be around the value someone suggested upthread based off the poverty line. Given that there is a hell of a lot more to basic costs than just the domestic labor (eg buying the food and clothes for the children you are caring for) it suggests that the poverty line estimate is woefully low (known) and that the basic income level will have to be rather high (politically... difficult)

120:

oops, looks like I put the italics cap a paragraph short on my quote.

[[Actually you didn't, it's just you need to reapply it for each para - mod]]

121:

Ah so that's a no then.

People have always left school unable to read and write. We didn't like to admit (and we still don't) but it's always happened.

I asked for primary research... you know that academic research you've alluded to. Is there actually any?

122:

Nice find, everything old is new again. And about time, since wealth concentration now surpasses record high levels of the Victorian era. Makes me want to find an original cast recording of "Oliver" to sing along with. If Dickens can be turned into musicals, couldn't Charlie's novels? That character from the Merchant Prince series seemed particularly Dickensian, the guy running the old curiosity shop and hacking his lungs up until she brought him antibiotics from the future, can't remember his name. That was a guy who could endorse Georgism to the revolutionary council, and probably get purged for taking a revisionist line.

123:

Nope, he comes back in a major role in Merchant Princes book 7, "Dark State" (hopefully due out in early 2016). And hopefully a surprising role, at that.

124:

It's value as THIS PARTICULAR HOUSE is enormous to me - but not, probably to anyone else.
Also, the mere thought of moving the 7-8000 books plus accumulated "stuff" elsewhere & leaving the garden & ... no, no way.
A monetary penalty might actualyy make me decide that I had nothing to lose, since I was going to lose everything anyway.
No guvmint really wants to do anything that stupid, does it?

Though I'm right with you, Charlie on comment # 104

125:

Lay-abouts at work ... unreliable, and gum up the works for everyone else. Much better (and cheaper, long term) to have them lay about elsewhere.

Personally, I've never considered a job as punitive. Yes, there's effort, long hours, etc. -- but overall a worthwhile and enjoyable way to spend my time. The money comes in handy of course, but it isn't my first/foremost criterion.

I was just pointing out that Denmark doesn't take your enlightened position on layabouts.

According to modern psychological research you are not alone - healthy people do not enjoy being idle all the time, they'd rather do some work that matters. Of course some job positions won't get filled any more, eg. call centers promoting stupid products. Not a loss: if you can't find anyone for a job who thinks the job is worth doing, it probably isn't.

126:

Not this week ....
And anway that's Sarf o' river - they eat their babies dahn there ...

127:

Yes - go out & look - oh - & - I used to be (among other things) a secondary-school teaacher.
Benn there, done that, got the T-short etc ad nauseam

128:

Yes
I work on my allotment - food is cheaper & much tastier & nutritious compared to shop-bought.
I potter at the house, trying to keep minor repairs up, until, hopefully I can afford the major repair, which is neyond my skills, though a lot of people don't seem to have even my "simple" skill-set any more. About 20 years back, I re-wired the place myself, too ....
[ The original 1908-12 wirinbg was definietly becoming unsafe & a fire hazard! ]

129:

Maybe the greeks are just doing it wrong? Austerity worked very well for Latvia (where I am from) in 2008 crisis. There were however several key things that can be very tricky to get right. I have not follower what is done in Greece to see what the difference is. First the austerity in Latvia was front-loaded - all government salaries were cut 40%, all budgets cut across the board for at least 20%, taxes increased, recommendations for private companies to also cut salaries, illiquid banks taken over, all that happened and came into effect in a single month. After that initial shock all further news were positive - that was better than expected, this went so well that we can reduce that tax rate back down and so on. And a very, very important part was an iron clad support for the poor - there was an *increase* in budget for help from social services, thousands of temporary street cleaning/repair jobs that did not pay even the minimum salary, but extended your unemployment benefits. Huge efficiency and frendliness reforms in the government happened basically overnight - where before 10 people would handle tax claims and still one would have to wait an hour to get an annoyed tax person to look at your papers, suddenly 6 people managed to handle the same load while also smiling and helping people out with their mistakes and the next year 95% of documents went trought the online system so now that office only has 2 people handling people with special cases (10 minute line max) and 3-4 people reviewing online cases.
I was utterly shocked when in early 2010 I got a call from the tax office and instead of the "you made a mistake, now pay a fine and submit to audit" text I got a very helpful "we see you made a mistake, from other data we think, you probably meant this, could you please fix this until the end of the month in that web system like this so that all is in order?".
I, frankly, have no clue how that was done, but that was one of the consequences of austerity in Latvia. And that is why the government that did austerity in Latvia got re-elected with a larger share of the voter support than before the crisis. And now the leader of that government (Dombrovskis) is helping EU as a whole do the same.
If greeks listen to him, this might end very well for everyone.

130:

I suspect that the whole allergy to living allotments goes back to the problems Romans had with their bread and circuses scheme, and the problems that allegedly brought on the later Roman empire. There are good reasons why the capitol city shouldn't be rioting (it tends to bring down monarchs), but still it's an expensive (and very local) peace to buy.

As a "split the baby" suggestion for the 21st century, I'd suggest welfare for those who demonstrably can't work, and the equivalent of a "go fund me" system where people try to convince others (including the government) to pay for the work they want to do. That's kind of where we are now, actually, except that crowd-sourcing is a public option, not a governmental function. The only reason I mention this crazy notion is that gaming the system would generate all sorts of interesting SF story ideas.

131:

RENT CONTROL

Rent control was instituted in NY City a few years after WWII (or there bouts) to keep housing affordable for all the returning soldiers. What has happened over the yeras is much of the market is either junk because the rents don't cover upkeep or sky high rates for properties that have managed to get out of the controls. There is little to no middle ground.

And yes, I've way simplified a complicated situation but I think from what I've seen over the years is that this does NOT fix housing issues in a city such as London.

132:

40 square metres per adult and 20 per child gives 1200 square feet for the traditional benchmark "family of four". That's a big apartment or a small house.

It is what a large segment (majority) of the US middle class started out in just after WWII. I had a lot of friends who spend the first 10 year or more of their lives in 1200 to 1400 sf with two parents and 1 to 3 siblings.

But most of the 800sf developments failed. Quickly. Most people planning to start a family are looking for 3 bedrooms and hopefully 2 baths. Just to make life less chaotic when you have brothers, sisters, and parents all trying to get ready to go somewhere. You can do it with 1200sf. Below that it gets, share we say, crowded. Not that it can't be done but people will avoid it if they can.

Apartments are a bit different.

133:

As a "split the baby" suggestion for the 21st century, I'd suggest welfare for those who demonstrably can't work, and the equivalent of a "go fund me" system where people try to convince others (including the government) to pay for the work they want to do. That's kind of where we are now, actually, except that crowd-sourcing is a public option, not a governmental function. The only reason I mention this crazy notion is that gaming the system would generate all sorts of interesting SF story ideas.

Richard D Wolff has suggested a was of having a co-operative socialist credit union that would work along the lines of this or Kickstarter - that it would evaluate and grant funding based off what was decided to be in the communities interests or as a way to promote the arts, or promote investigative R & D or tinkering rather than in what would be profitable. The bank would have experts evaluate feasibility, and then the options would be presented to the clients of the credit union for a vote.

Interestingly, he suggested it years before these crowd-funding sites started popping up.

134:

And on the topic of the OP, the amount and absurdity of American conservatives losing their shit on twitter over Syriza winning is amazing. General thrust seems to be that nationalist focused left = socialism = nazis (it has "socialism" right in the name, see?) = we need to "show strength" (read as "threaten militarily") but we won't because Obama is too weak; Bush 2016!

135:

Maybe the greeks are just doing it wrong? Austerity worked very well for Latvia (where I am from) in 2008 crisis. There were however several key things that can be very tricky to get right. I have not follower what is done in Greece to see what the difference is. First the austerity in Latvia was front-loaded - all government salaries were cut 40%, all budgets cut across the board for at least 20%, taxes increased, recommendations for private companies to also cut salaries, illiquid banks taken over, all that happened and came into effect in a single month.

Ah, yes. Everyone gets a "haircut" to start out. In most of Europe and the Americas this gets lobbied out of the discussion. My memory of when this crisis started in Greece a few years ago the government workers did not get a "haircut". And lots of sectors were left as they were.

There are advantages to being a fairly small country. It appears you have about 2 million people. Heck we have 5 times that in my state of NC. And we range 10th in the US with the top spots being so far larger as to be the same relation to us and we are to you.

Of course being small and next to Russia also has its downsides.

136:

Krugman addressed Latvia; this is a search for the articles. His conclusion is that it is far from clear that Latvian austerity "worked," (the employment chart in the early 2013 article is a strong argument not) and it's far from clear that it has lessons for other economies (this is covered in the later 2013 article.) My much less educated thought is that it may be a matter similar to the USA; the US economy has picked up after a lot of pain and perhaps this is what has happened in Latvia.

Syriza has won. In one of those victories that are common in real life and implausible in fiction, Syriza has won 149 seats out of 300. Now let's see what they do with their victory.

Banker Daniel Davies is pessimistic:

Don’t think of the Greek debt burden, either in cash € terms or as a ratio to GDP, as an economic quantity. It basically isn’t an economically meaningful number any more. The purpose of its existence is as a political quantity; it’s part of the means by which control is exercised over the Greek budget by the Eurosystem.

My impression he agrees with me in different language; the Eurozone is going to fight hard against giving Syriza the space to implement its domestic program.

137:

Personally, I've never considered a job as punitive.

Not all jobs are punitive, but some sure are.

Heck, one of my bosses could make drinking in a bar after work into an ordeal. The secret is to insist that people come and insist that they drink. It's very difficult to avoid giving offense to someone you loathe after several drinks.

As long as there are jerks with money, there will be jobs that essentially involve taking abuse for pay.

138:

The problem with "welfare for those who demonstrably can't work" is that you end up killing the people who can't work but can't prove it other than by starving to death.

139:

In parts of the USA, we have the "Barracks & Meals" model, called Homeless Shelters. I certainly have no intention of checking into one voluntarily...

And New York (City) has a "Right to Shelter" law, and still ends up with families in the Social Workers offices.

The US is losing a significant number of "Affordable" housing units EVERY YEAR; Just recently Walmart tore down the Old Motel (next to the old #1 store) to build a new Grocery Store ("Neighborhood Market"), plus more parking for the people working in the Benefits center (store 1.1). The NIMBY's mean no one even mentioned the lost housing, and they wonder why the (old) downtown is a wasteland after 5:00.

One Brew Pub and a Gourmet Pizzeria are not a vibrant downtown.

140:

I thought it was just me... I've had two jobs where I had that. One blue collar job where we were dragged to a pub with strippers and one white collar job where we were dragged to a club with strippers. If you imagine the character "Raj" from The Big Bang Theory, then you've got some idea of how uncomfortable and out of place I was in both situations. Ahhh, contract work...

141:

But this is the basic problem with the world economy, most of the self described "Capitalists" are really Rentiers, especially here in the US>

Make Stuff? That is so 20th Century.

142:

On Deadbeats & etc, would you rather spend $30,000 pa (Or more, once repeat trips to solitary drive them crazy) to keep them in Prison, or give them #12-15K and let them sit around smoking weed (maybe even growing their own...) and playing games on their Tablets and the X-Box?

We already have a LARGE population of low skilled workers who have no real economic role, and our response has been to criminalize them.

143:

Syriza has won, yes.
And the EU's publicised reaction - according to the "torygraph" at anny rate....
Is to immediately threaten & bully Greece - "You keep to our externally-imposed "auterity" plan or elses"
That is going to play so well, isn't it?
I can just see the reaction of a raised middle finger to that one.
If I were them, I's be printing new Drachmas right now ....
Oh & close the banks down internally & immediately, before the EU does it....

144:

In the UK, it costs Dave Taxpayer MORE to send a law breaking teenager to a Young Offender Institution, than it would to send them to Eton College, on a taxpayer-funded two-year boarding Sixth Form Scholarship

Unsurprising when you think about it.

I don't think the outgoing Head Man of Eton would terribly happy with such a policy. They are a bit fussy about who they take.

Would be taking social inclusivity a bit far.

145:

Any job can easily be turned into an ordeal.

Impose hourly productivity targets, training targets in the guise of 'development opportunities' and stacked-ranking worker assessment and you are more or less there.

They are buying your time and labour, not colonizing your consciousness.

146:

That's a great scare-story headline, and no way was it good behaviour, but even the Police, down near the bottom of the page, admitted the guns were decommissioned.

And that means they have a Proof House certificate saying they have been modified to be incapable of firing. The standards for that have changed over the years, and you might as well carve your own dummy out of a bar of soap.

Somebody was brandishing the AK-47 in the street during the Donnybrook, so of course the Police would have reacted in force. There are several classes of gun that, in such a situation, would trigger firearms charges, but you don't need a firearms certificate to possess (NI is a bit different here). Which may be why, when the results of a firearms amnesty are announced, I can usually spot a few airguns in the photo.

147:

Printing Drachmas would probably cause more problems than it solves. Greece can just stop paying interest on its debt, than it has a small household surplus.

AFAIK Greece is supposed to reshuffle its debt in March or May. Let's see what happens then.

148:

One might imagine a society that would work, after a couple of generations of common changed education for everybody.

The Public Schools (private education for a wealthy elite) have been killing any chance of that since at least the Second World War. The education system introduced in 1870 did, in my family, move farm workers' children into such middle-class roles as Estate Agents. My parents' families had to pay fees to get them into Grammar Schools, being before the 1944 Act.

It's questionable whether the British Public Schools are held to the same official standards as the rest of the system, though I know of no general reason to doubt the academic quality. But there are so many non-academic factors (as James Blunt recently pointed out).

What matters is that they reinforce the separation of the governing and owning classes from the hoi polloi.

149:

One of my bosses did once insist that people drink at a works do (for values that involve:-
1) A company funded free bar.
2) Being a bit drunk himself, and telling people like me who're slow drinkers "It's a free bar you know; have another" irrespective of how full our glass was.)

150:

Insanity? Greg, let me show you what true insanity is:

"I was recently wondering who was responsible for the psuedoscience which is integral to many of the manifesto promises in UKIP.

Unsurprisingly I'd already heard of the man, but was not aware that he was the UKIP science and research advisor - although I've always thought he did look suspiciously similar to Nigel Farage.
http://www.abc.net.au/reslib/201106/r792471_6906743.jpg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_Independence_Party#Energy.2C_environment_and_climate_change

Christopher Monckton is a prominent climate sceptic who fraudulently claimed he was a member of the house of lords: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/jul/18/climate-monckton-member-house-lords

Christopher has exercised the view that the current conclusions of climatology are a myth which is intended to result in the dissolution of the American government, and the construction of a global communist government. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wWggYR0D5sU

He has also been involved in publications such as 'the myth of heterosexual aids' and insists that the only way scientists can be trusted to reach the right conclusions is if they are "religious, preferably christian."

He also fraudulently claims to be Margarate Thatcher's former science adviser.
UKIP's CV of the man formerly claimed he has cured Herpes and multiple sclerosis and the common cold etc with a single miracle drug.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hl2lShU6zD0


These are the people that the UK has just given seats in europe. Their science adviser actually believes in hocus pocus miracle cures for HIV and Herpes, yet he is the person to whom the critical job of representing science to government has been entrusted."

Courtesy of a British mate.

My homeland had been the ground zero of one of the worst catastrophes of all time, and that's why I think it's my historical, moral duty to fight Nazis wherever I find them, be they Germans or be the Brits.

Even if you think they aren't crypto-fascists (or not so crypto: http://www.remarkably.com/ukip-fascist/ ), they are fanatic right-wing extremists that are a danger no matter the case. If example A isn't enough for you that they made a figure the science head honcho who's arguably worse than Ted Cruz, then consider that wherever brown wingnuts were in charge corruption and economic ruin soon followed (see the regions formerly under the Front National's thumb and Jobbik's Hungary)!

I will NOT stand for the destruction of Europe's all-time best political institution; one that brought us an unprecedented freedom of movement, the ability to project strength beyond our borders so we can't be pushed around by malicious empires like say Putin's, and our best shot at lasting peace; only because some ignorant knee-jerks who think with their gut instead of their brains fell for the Daily Heil's blatant lies of evil dystopian EU rules that dictate how curved bananas and cucumbers have to be.

Are Greece, Spain, Portugal and other poor countries in dire straits? 'course they are, but name we one country or group of countries where the plutocrats didn't fuck up big time in their avarice and everybody else had to pay for it. You won't find a great many that are as big as the EU.

So, while we're at stronger language, get your head out of your arse, smell the coffee and please stop whiteknighting motherfucking Blackshirts, Greg!

151:
As a "split the baby" suggestion for the 21st century, I'd suggest welfare for those who demonstrably can't work, and the equivalent of a "go fund me" system where people try to convince others (including the government) to pay for the work they want to do. That's kind of where we are now, actually, except that crowd-sourcing is a public option, not a governmental function. The only reason I mention this crazy notion is that gaming the system would generate all sorts of interesting SF story ideas.
That would remove the "minimal admin needed" benefit of universal basic income, as well as the universality (which means it's defended from cuts and raids by everyone - witness the pre-emptive fury about selling off the NHS vs. ATOS needing to actually kill people to lose their disability benefit contract). Also, that "actually kill people" bit? That was related to assessing who demonstrably couldn't work.

Crowdfunding has its own problems; if nothing else, it makes it necessary for everyone who wants to do something to have the skills and personality necessary to become a minor celebrity - before doing the work.


Basically, "split the baby" is exactly the right characterization.

152:

To be honest, there's a lot of things the EU hasn't done yet and doesn't know how to do. Coping with a member leaving the EU is one of those sorts of things, but I dare say it'll happen fairly soon when Britain walks out.

Coping with a Euro-zone country defaulting and/or getting booted out; that'll happen sooner or later, too.

The EU will simply have to work something out when these sorts of events happen; that or pretend that they didn't actually happen and become the laughingstock of the developed world. Mind you, they're already well on the way to the latter, having engaged in a show-down with Russia and found out the hard way that the Russians are quite prepared to turn round and say "No, we're not going to do what you say. What're you going to do about this, send in the armies that you don't have?"

Looking at the EU's record so far, I am not impressed. They are woefully bad at most things.

153:

Hang on, there. MIRAS was originally introduced as a short
term measure, but was renewed because it proved so popular
as voter-bait, and that is HOW the Ponzi scheme that is the
UK's housing market started! And remember the phase when
council housing was subsidised, irrespective of need? That
let to the political attack against ALL council housing,
which is continuing today. I agree that we should provide
more 'public' housing, but it wouldn't be enough to get out
of the Ponzi scheme.

The UK house market is overpriced by a factor of three, and
I full agree that we should deflate it. But I am afraid
that we would need to be both more subtle and more radical.
Yes, I agree that we need Socialism 2.x - much like the
unwritten social compact of the 1950s to 1970s, but more
socialist, less politically correct and better engineered.

Such as rebalancing the distribution of the UK's population,
by reversing the disproportionate amount of money that goes
(mainly indirectly) to the south-east. And I do mean
reversing; infrastructure improvements should start from
the periphery and London would get them last. The point is
that there IS no massive housing shortage, in the country
as a whole, and even in the south-east a lot of it is due
to the process of land-banking by property speculators
(i.e. 'developers').

That would help, but wouldn't be enough, and one would need
other initiatives as well - however, this is your soapbox,
not mine!

154:

Tax relief on mortgage interest was first introduced at a time when owner-occupiers had to pay income tax on "imputed rent" -- the rent that they were deemed to be paying to themselves in order to live in their house. It was foolishly retained (for a while) when taxation on imputed rents was dropped. For a true level playing-field, we should still have tax on imputed rents -- the tax system is very heavily biassed in favour of owner-occupiers and against renters and landlords.

155:

To be honest, it might be a race for Grexit and Brexit and with the way the rhetoric between Greece and the rest of the EU sounds like it's ramping up, Grexit is sounding the more likely to happen first.

But, yes, the EU isn't really set up to handle exits - it's got well established systems for joining, not for leaving. Assuming both exists happen (not guaranteed) it will be interesting to see how the EU copes.

156:

Greece can't just stop paying interest, because the ECB will then withdraw support for the Greek banking system, and all of their banks will collapse. Make no mistake, a unilateral debt default means leaving the Euro.

157:

Yeah, the grammar school system moved a lot my family from being ag labs, licensed victuallers and blacksmiths into middle management roles, but no so much that we didn't slide back down again, even with me being the first in family to go to uni.

The expansion of the public school system in the Victorian was probably the most socially divisive movement, reinforcing the emerging class systems like nothing else. Where I live, there is a school founded in 1551 whose products would be dismissed as inky-fingered oiks by the products of schools founded in the 1820-1840 period. Also the lone private secondary school in my area [int North] is regularly eclipsed in terms of results by two state academies, but people I know still keep buying into it, as a positional good.

Apropos of nothing, I actually went on an exchange trip from my Northern Comprehensive to Eton when I was in the Lower Sixth in 1988. The six of us dragooned into going didn't feel we were hugely intellectually eclipsed by the the sons of ruling class, but YMMV. The top 40% of any socially and academically selective school will leave any state school pupil in the dust, no matter how much money and good teaching you may shove in their direction.

I expect the gap has widened yet more in the intervening twenty-six years

One out of the six boys on that exchange ended up going to Cambridge, and needless to say it wasn't me.

Still, something quirky to put on yer UCCA form, eh?

158:

Preach it, bro, preach it! TANSTAAFL!

Meanwhile, moguls come out pro-feudalism: "You can get unemployed people that cost nothing" http://www.ibtimes.com/blackstone-groups-stephen-schwarzman-says-more-money-wont-improve-public-education-1792794

Turns out: "Ostensibly libertarian tech world is actually partly underwritten by the state" http://motherboard.vice.com/read/a-new-book-claims-the-internet-has-bred-a-different-type-of-capitalism

Silicon Valley shill asks how SillyCon Valley can privatize even more public goods: https://twitter.com/toon/status/559104172063473664

In conclusion we can note that privatization is looting, deregulation is pillaging and that libertarians think civilization is the only free lunch, like the little parasites they are.

I said it once and I say it again, libertarianism is the communism of capitalism (objectivism is Stalinism, of course).

159:

That's very different from the experience of austerity in the UK. Where it's been used as an excuse by the Rich Folks' Party for selling off state assets to their cronies, then renting them back as "services" (for more money than it cost to run them as agencies of the state). It's also an excuse for whacking on class enemies such as the unemployed in an attempt to drive wages down (hint: less money in circulation in the consumer economy to buy stuff with, so the recession continues), increasing the leverage of capital over labour. Oh, and I suspect Latvia's banking sector was (a) a lot smaller as a proportion of GDP than the UK banking sector (the biggest in Europe) and (b) got a much harsher deal; while some of the illiquid banks were effectively nationalized, the investment arm staff still kept getting multi-million pound annual bonuses.

Meanwhile the biggest chunks of UK government expenditure were basically untouchable: the state pension scheme (accounting for around 50% of social security budget) and the national health service. If you significantly cut either of these budgets, large numbers of people will die, and the main users are older folks who vote. The Rich Party's proposed solution -- hollow out the NHS until it resembles the US private system, albeit with a single insurance underwriter of last resort -- seems to be optimized for delivering profits to the Rich People again, rather than actual efficiency of healthcare outcomes ...

Really, the main thing to understand about the current UK government is that its conservative predecessor in 1992-97 was the most corrupt government since 1832 -- and their successors are even worse: they've just learned how to hide it better.

160:

If the ECB wants to play it that way - see my above post about "grexit is not an option"

161:

At my workplace we keep getting

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/movement-to-work-work-experience-in-the-civil-service-for-unemployed-young-people

people off the dole queue, who don't get paid anything other than JSA and will have it cut or stopped if they refuse - they do the accumulated menial admin jobs we don't have the time or staff to do ourselves, then disappear after a month.

My office hasn't been permitted to recruit any additional staff in the last three years, AFAIK.

The road to serfdom has already been built, they are just painting the lines on it.

162:

The problem with "welfare for those who demonstrably can't work" is that you end up killing the people who can't work but can't prove it other than by starving to death.

Spot-on.

And we've got that right now with the long-term disability benefit reviews carried out in the UK by private contractors with a target quota for getting people off benefits by certifying them "fit for work".

To the point where terminal cancer patients were having their benefits cancelled because they were idle slackers -- and dying during the appeals process.

Oh, and don't get me started on the effects of disability reviews and benefit sanctions on people with mental health problems (florid paranoid schizophrenics are not "fit for work" in any sense, and if you try and push someone with chronic depression into that situation you risk making them kill themselves).

163:

We already have a LARGE population of low skilled workers who have no real economic role, and our response has been to criminalize them.

You are insufficiently cynical.

The threat of unemployment is a discipline on the wage-serf class, who fear being deprived of their wages. It therefore keeps labour organization and pay bargaining under control.

The threat of imprisonment/criminalization is a discipline on the unemployed class, to keep them from getting fractious and/or organizing ...

Remember that old 1900-vintage anti-Tsarist cartoon?

And here's an American circa-1911 derivative:

It's time somebody did an update for the post-2008 neoliberal world order ...

164:

Coping with a member leaving the EU is one of those sorts of things, but I dare say it'll happen fairly soon when Britain walks out.

If Britain walks out of the EU, then (a) this will almost certainly be because England wants out, over the wishes of the Scottish voters (who when polled show a might higher affinity for the EU than the English), and (b) it raises the uncomfortable question "if the UK can leave the EU, why can't Scotland leave the UK"?

(Oops, did I mention that the Scottish Political Singularity isn't over yet?)

Yes, the EU needs to grow up and develop procedures for dealing with all these issues. But the same problems exist at lower (national) levels as well: we're just terribly good at ignoring them when it's convenient for us.

165:

n conclusion we can note that privatization is looting, deregulation is pillaging and that libertarians think civilization is the only free lunch, like the little parasites they are.

I said it once and I say it again, libertarianism is the communism of capitalism (objectivism is Stalinism, of course).

Yes, a well-formed statement of the problem.

Oh, and there are no external barbarians waiting beyond the ramparts to take down the traitors within the gates, this time round the merry-go-round of history. At least, not yet. (Syriza are both under-armed and too polite to qualify as a barbarian horde.)

166:

What I hate is that Goldman Sachs helped Greece hide a large chunk of their massive debt with financial chicanery before they joined the EU, then once they were in, all of that debt became visible. That's why Germany's pissed, and deservedly so.

Thus you end up with a rise in Nationalism, and I don't see how that'll be good. Austerity is a terrible way to mend your economic woes because the first thing you do is slash service to the needy and start firing people, which increases the unemployment rate. Viscous cycle.

Meanwhile, Goldman becomes 'too big to fail' and knows that it has the US government behind it if it begins to teeter. Again, not good.

The insurance giant Met Life is suing the US government because the gov't wants them to receive the 'too big to fail' label and they don't want it because they'd have to increase their cash reserves, which would reduce profits.

Funny ol' world.

167:

Really, the main thing to understand about the current UK government is that its conservative predecessor in 1992-97 was the most corrupt government since 1832

Charlie, You forgot to mention callously indifferent, administratively incompetent, deeply prejudiced and determined to hang on to power B.A.M.N. - so I'll add them in for you.

And the people in the HM cabinet and No 10 now were the people advising them then...

And the British people are turning to UKIP, in the hope of something different?

It's the politics of cyclothymia.

168:

Inequality is not just a problem of the modern capitalist industrrial state. It's been a problem for every society in history.

From historian Will Durant's book, "The Lessons of History":

Since practical ability differs from person to person, the majority of such abilities, in nearly all societies, is gathered in a minority of men. The concentration of wealth is a natural result of this concentration of ability, and regularly recurs in history. The rate of concentration varies (other factors being equal) with the economic freedom permitted by morals and the laws. Despotism may for a time retard the concentration; democracy, allowing the most liberty, accelerates it. The relative equality of Americans before 1776 has been overwhelmed by a thousand forms of physical, mental, and economic differentiation, so that the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest is now greater than at any time since Imperial plutocratic Rome. In progressive societies the concentration may reach a point where the strength of number in the many poor rivals the strength of ability in the few rich; then the unstable equilibrium generates a critical situation, which history has diversely met by legislation redistributing wealth or by revolution distributing poverty.

.... Good sense prevailed; moderate elements secured the election of Solon, a businessman of aristocratic lineage, to the supreme archonship. He devaluated the currency, thereby easing the burden of all debtors (though he himself was a creditor); he reduced all personal debts, and ended imprisonment for debt; he canceled arrears for taxes and mortgage interest; he established a graduated income tax that made the rich pay at a rate twelve times that required of the poor; he reorganized the courts on a more popular basis; and he arranged that the sons of those who had died in war for Athens should be brought up and educated at the government's expense. The rich protested that his measures were outright confiscation; the radicals complained that he had not redivided the land; but within a generation almost all agreed that his reforms had saved Athens from revolution.

(IOW, Solon as the FDR of ancient Athens)

....The Roman Senate, so famous for its wisdom, adopted an uncompromising course when the concentration of wealth approached an explosive point in Italy; the result was a hundred years of class and civil war.

.... In one aspect the Reformation was a redistribution of this wealth by the reduction of German and English payments to the Roman Church, and by the secular appropriation of ecclesiastical property and revenues. The French Revolution attempted a violent redistribution of wealth by Jacqueries in the countryside and massacres in the cities, but the chief result was a transfer of property and privilege from the aristocracy to the bourgeoisie. The government of the United States, in 1933-52 and 1960-65, followed Solon's peaceful methods, and accomplished a moderate and pacifying redistribution; perhaps someone had studied history. The upper classes in America cursed, complied, and resumed the concentration of wealth.

We conclude that the concentration of wealth is natural and inevitable, and is periodically alleviated by violent or peaceable partial redistribution. In this view all economic history is the slow heartbeat of the social organism, a vast systole and diastole of concentrating wealth and compulsive recirculation.

The Right wants to complain about wealth redistribution? Historically speaking its as inevitable as the sunrise and sunset. So what are our chances of getting a Solon or FDR this time around instead of Robespierre or Lenin?

169:
"What I hate is that Goldman Sachs helped Greece hide a large chunk of their massive debt with financial chicanery before they joined the EU, then once they were in, all of that debt became visible. That's why Germany's pissed, and deservedly so."

No, not really. As far as I remember everybody knew at the time that the numbers in Greece (and other places as well, like Italy) were cooked. It didn't matter, because having a monetary union in the first place, and having it with as many EU-members as possible was a political decision, not an economic one.

It was also the German government that wanted the monetary union more than anyone else. Again, that was as a clear political statement that Germany would forever be a fully committed member of a strong European system (as opposed to single-handedly trying to take over the world). Economic considerations like the fallout of cooked numbers in terms of hidden costs that would have to be subsequently paid played no part in the decision. Heck, at the time the German government was pumping amounts of money into its eastern part against which the costs of saving Greece are laughable. (And more 25 years after re-unification we're still paying. We've had a permanent income tax-raise of 10%, sold at the time as a temporary measure, but surprise! We're still paying it, and won't ever get rid of it again.)

Conclusion: there is no reason at all for Germany to be pissed, even if the current bunch somehow feel the need to pretend to be.

170:

If you're building council housing, sir, then you have to be very, very careful not to build sink estates. Effectively what you ought to be doing is building a lot of nice, 3-bedroom semi-detached houses in deliberate mimicry of the 1950s 3-bed semis, but with the spec improved somewhat.

What you want, indeed absolutely NEED to do is give each house enough land around it to have a garden, space for a garage (not for cars, but for bike storage etc), off-road parking for at least two cars, plus enough room to move around this. The houses need to be well spaced out, and the street plan structured so that the streets group into smallish sub-units of houses, with the through-roads separated off from these sub-units.

That then prevents a lot of rat-running by motorists, permits local shops to be put up in the middle of each sub-unit, and also permits mini-police stations, health centres and what one might term social help centres to be dotted around the estate. You need to design in and build the duct-work for CHP district heating, AND set aside some big areas of land for future building of CHP power stations, preferably in the form of smallish lakes so they don't get used and valued as parkland.

The thing is, you cannot do this on the cheap. You cannot leave this up to house builders to do this, and do it right, because they'll skimp somehow to cut costs and increase profits. You also have the problem that if you leave this sort of thing up to politicians, you run the risk of the previous Labour government's eco-town concept being built, with all its myriad insanities and deficiencies.

However, do this right and you suddenly reduce the demand for one class of housing, thus freeing up a lot of lower-grade, smaller housing for singletons and temporarily unemployed people. What you won't do is subsidise the very rich this way, which is something to avoid IMHO, as you would want to keep an estate like this rental-only, and plough the money back into other housing.

171:

The Public Schools (private education for a wealthy elite) have been killing any chance of that since at least the Second World War... What matters is that they reinforce the separation of the governing and owning classes from the hoi polloi.

Out of curiosity, what's the mechanism for this killing? It strikes me that it isn't as simple as "ahhh, send the kids to Eton, they'll get hothoused to a place at Oxbridge to read PPE, join the Union, get a researcher job for a political party, and in ten years become an MP". What percentage of Etonians actually join the Cabinet or the Commons?

The ability to join the ruling class rests on being both willing and able to move to London. That's where the power is. If you aren't willing to move, you don't get to be part of the "ruling elite". Simple. There's an Eton / Harrow / Winchester bias, because these schools are on the edge of London - many who go there are London residents with rich parents and the right connections. Correlation is not causation; those kids will succeed whether they go to Eton or not - the old school tie is just an easy signifier.

Edinburgh has a unique situation in the UK, in that (AIUI) about 25% of all children go to one of the Merchant Schools - private education, priced at slightly less than the cost of full-time pre-school childcare, with a healthy funded scholarship programme. It also has several excellent State schools - to the extent that the price difference of Edinburgh housing is driven by school catchment areas; your house near to Not-So-Good school X costs roughly "2 kids through secondary education at Merchant School Y" less than a house in the catchment of (say) the Royal High or Boroughmuir.

I'll admit to being biased. Our kids go to one of the Merchant Schools; our oldest is bright enough to have earned a scholarship into the Senior School - but given all of the statistics, why would I (as a successful product of a State boarding school) choose to pay the extra?

The answer is simple - the fee-paying schools do a lot more than just educate (the lunchtime and after-school activities are truly awesome), and have the extra resources to handle more than just the central area under the bell curve. They have the resources to hire good and occasionally inspirational teachers, appropriately qualified for each subject. They have a more "customer-focussed" attitude to parents, so we were actually able to work with the teachers. They handle the playground rather more effectively than I experienced as a nerd of the 1970s.

It's not elitism (although I'll be honest, they provide an instant network for the local area that may or may not prove useful), it's about trying to provide an education for our kids that the state system just doesn't manage to do. The theory of "if the bright kids are forced to go to the local comprehensive, then the interested parents get involved, and it will all work and standards will rise" sounds good until you ask "how, exactly? And when?" - because when our local secondaries moved to a shiny new site, they were having the Police called once a week to sort out fights... by contrast, we've got a son in the lowest decile of bodyweight and the highest ability streams, who isn't being picked on for being "different", and is actually enjoying school (something my wife and I rather envy, after our school experience)

172:

What you want, indeed absolutely NEED to do is give each house enough land around it to have a garden, space for a garage (not for cars, but for bike storage etc), off-road parking for at least two cars, plus enough room to move around this. The houses need to be well spaced out, and the street plan structured so that the streets group into smallish sub-units of houses, with the through-roads separated off from these sub-units.

Disagree. What you're describing is 1950s suburbia, oriented around the car-owning middle class nuclear family. Given that UK housing stock has a half life of 75 years, what should we be building for utility in, say, 35-50 years' time, circa 2065?

1. The population is ageing and family units are shrinking. 1-2 bedroom units are a priority, possibly with utility rooms. Disabled access mandatory because a bunch of these are going to be used by 70+ pensioners from generation X/Y who don't get the relatively fat pensions of the baby boom generation -- otherwise they'll be living and working in poverty and old age.

2. Cars? Bikes? Bikes are no use to 70 year olds and by 2065 I'd be surprised if we don't have self-driving cars. Space for off-road parking and/or a carport, fine. 2 car garages, not so much.

3. Well spaced-out = a nightmare for elderly pedestrians and not so great for kids. Also inimical to public transport. We want them close enough to utilities like local shops, surgeries, and community centres to be inhabitable without regular long-distance trips to go shopping in out-of-town malls. We want them accessible for delivery vans (online ordering). We want them accessible for microbuses and robot taxis. We don't want to make them car-centric deserts where nobody can know their neighbours.

4. Heating: this is the age of climate change. We don't want to be burning natural gas for heating unless it's carbon-neutral (e.g. from landfills, or piped from offshore renewable plants that generate it in situ). So we probably want to plan for well-insulated buildings with passive heating/cooling characteristics.

Separating off the through-roads ... yes, but this ain't new; it's been common for many new-build estates since the late 1960s.

And agreed, you can't do this on the cheap.

173:

With all due respect, the data from the trenches in the US proves pretty conclusively that throwing more money at the schools does NOT necessarily improve them.

If it were the case that money was the answer, then the public schools of New York City and Washington DC would be among the best in the United States of America. Every objective review shows that they are, in fact, among the absolute worst.

A few years back, one of the dirt-poor high schools in the Rio Grande valley in Texas had TWO (2) of their graduating seniors admitted to MIT. You can't argue that money spent on the schools had anything to do with that, because those school districts don't have the kind of money that New York and Washington DC routinely waste. Nor can you argue that it was JUST the talent of those particular students, because they STILL had to pass the SATs well enough to get MIT interested.

The same reviews show that, if percentage of advanced degrees among the faculty and administration of the schools were the key to improvement, Washington DC would be the best in the country. See the same objective reviews for the real story.

174:

Large numbers of the Eton population come from South and Central London - south London is where a lot of the aspirational day prep schools.

The kind of parent who sent there son to Eton in 1984 is a lot different to the ones who send them there in 2014. You can find a lot of upper class whinging if you search the Daily Telegraph website.

There is also a large contingent [10%+] of French/Russian/Chinese/South Asian/American boys nowadays too, AIUI, that would not have gone there 26 years ago. So effectively they are helping a construct a transnational elite.

The Etonians there when I visited were almost as politically apathetic as we were - however virtually all the boys there are trained to debate and contest everything.

I had an argument with an overprivileged boy in an economics lesson ['division' haha] about unemployment. At my state school our argument would have curtailed as a distraction [we'd have been told to shut up, in no uncertain terms] - there, the 'beak' [teacher] in charge encouraged both of us to defend our positions.

BTW I once believed I sat next to this guy in a history lesson

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jo_Johnson

but as we had a long conversation about Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog and Nemesis the Warlock while sat on a playing field, I think it unlikely. Surname was definitely Johnson, though.

175:

Carbon neutral methan fromlandfill gas can never be a significant source of energy. The numbers just don't add up:

http://www.erosioncontrol.com/MSW/Editorial/The_Potential_of_LFG_7846.aspx


Converting the annual methane production rate to cubic feet per minute results in 0.0005 cubic feet per minute per ton of waste, or approximately 1 cubic foot per minute per pound. Methane has an intrinsic heat value of 1012 Btus per cubic foot. The 272 cubic feet of methane produced each year by a ton of disposed waste would have a heat value of over 275,000 Btus.

Each of the 300 million citizens of the United States on average throws out approximately 4.5 pounds of municipal solid waste each day. This is equivalent to 675,000 tons per day or over 246 million tons of waste each year. Approximately 72 million tons of waste are recycled annually and never get sent to a landfill. The remaining 174 million tons that do get landfilled can be utilized for methane generation. Given an annual methane heat energy value of 275,000 Btus per ton of waste, the total amount of landfilled waste has a value of 47,850,000,000,000 Btus nationwide.

With a weighted average heat rate for LFG-fired engines, turbines, and boiler/steam turbines of 11,700 Btus per kilowatt-hour (source: USEPA Landfill Methane Outreach Program, LMOP), the heat value from the methane generated from a year’s worth of waste disposal operations has the potential to generate almost 4,100,000,000 kWh per year. Since the average American household utilizes 11,232 kWh per year, this is equivalent to the electricity used by over 365,000 homes. As a whole, the United States consumes approximately 3,656,000,000,000 kWh per year (source: Energy Information Administration). The potential electrical energy generated from landfill methane would be equal to slightly over 0.1% of this total.

176:

Didn't know what JSA meant. Google yielded an interesting result (Junior State of America) whose recent month's debate topic was: a 'living wage' vs. a minimum wage. (There's also a link to an MIT living wage calculator.)

http://jsa.org/national-debate-month/january/

The U.K. meaning is job-seeker related.

177:

I'm not sure if I agree with you on #3 or not. Would an estate like the "Western Isles Estate" in Old Kilpatrick qualify as "well spaced out"? Most of the houses are detached or semi-detached, with enough space to drive a car (sometimes a truck) between property sides but even with the need to walk out to the access road and back they're nearer to both their immediate neighbours in terms of distance door to door than you are to the 3rd or 4th floor flats in the next closes.

178:

Charlie:

Check your flight status -- the U.S. northeast (NYC and Boston) are expecting to get slammed by a record-breaking nor'easter.


179:

I know; I'm not flying until Thursday. (Hopefully it'll be under control and JFK will be open by then.)

NB: I've been in Boston when it got hit by a record-breaking nor-easter about a decade ago. I know what kind of outdoor clothing to pack! (Four feet of snow FTW ...)

180:

Agree with everything else you wrote — but on this one point I niggle…

Bikes are no use to 70 year olds

My dad was cycling until his seventies, my father-in-law was cycling until his 80's. Around here in ruralshire I see a lot of OAPs cycling — presumably coz it's not as insanely dangerous as it is in the city. Ditto when I've been in cycling friendly cities like Amsterdam.

The two local "elderly" support flats have small storage areas which seem to be used for a combination of bikes & electric scooters.

Fairly low-impact aerobic activity. What's not to like ;-)

181:

Back in the days when I claimed it, it was called Unemployment Benefit - this nomenclature was deemed insufficiently aspirational hahaha - so it became the Job Seeker's Allowance, courtesy of the John Major Conservative government.

And the rules for claiming it became more stringent.

182:

Fairly low-impact aerobic activity. What's not to like ;-)

This is my subconscious bias from living in Edinburgh :)

My wife has a bicycle. It's used on camping/out of town recreational trips, not for casual use around town. Because getting it out/back involves carrying it down/up four flights of stairs, we live on a steep hill that is also a major traffic artery, and everywhere is uphill.

If we lived somewhere flat -- London, Cambridge -- I'd have a bicycle, sure. But not on the scoured-by-glaciers vertical-sided basalt plug of an extinct volcano!

183:

Indeed. My Father-in-Law who is in his mid '80s was riding a bike until about 18 months ago...


...at which point he found that his 500cc Kawasaki was getting a bit much to manhandle out of its parking spot and had to swap it for someting lighter. Still enjoyed getting out and about on the scooter though!

Cool guy. Built my race bike and turned out at to do a track day at Cadwell Park in his mid '70s... :-)

184:

Throwing money at a problem isn't the answer, putting money in the right places is. And the thing that public schools in the UK always do well on, and state schools less well, and that always comes out as a strong significator of success in meta-analyses and so on if classroom size, or student:teacher ratio.

Every other factor basically disappears, but if you teach a class of 6 of 8 (or even fewer) then the students do better than if you teach a class of 28-32 (or more).

Of course class size doubtless covers a variety of other factors. To pick out the obvious ones:

You would expect even an average teacher to be able to get to know and engage their students better with a smaller group.
You would expect the same average teacher to more quickly identify specific weaknesses and be able to support the student more directly and aptly.
Because there's less marking (fewer students, so less marking) you would hope for better lessons and more enthusiasm from the teachers and so on.

And, although it's not quite right, as a first approximation, the cost of education would quadruple if we implemented it.

185:

Krugman weighs in…and perhaps is reading this thread.

The arguments being made to punish Greece even more—and this is punitive, it serves no useful purpose—go back at least to the 19th century. They are not related to economic reality but instead to power politics.

The European Union will not last if it deliberately wrecks the economies of its member states, yet no-one with any power, so far, is willing to say, no, we must not do this. The honest and compassionate voices have been silenced.

186:

The Public Schools (private education for a wealthy elite) have been killing any chance of that since at least the Second World War.
Utter total codswallop
Until the labour party abolished grammar schools, the "public" schools were dying on theor feet.
And it STILL wouldn't have made a difference, IF the resulting comprehensive schools had selected for ability ("setted" or "streamed") internally.
BUT The great majority didn't - they went for mixed-abilty (The "IQ 65 & the IQ 135 children are in the same class)
And surprise!
The publ;ic schools suddenly started doing better.
Talk about perverse incentives.

187:

Yes, I am unfortunately aware of Monckton - have you come across Christopher Booker - another one
SIGH

OK
Question we want an END to the petty interfering EU regulations that do nothing for free trade, or real Helth & Safety & are designed to screw both small companies & individual persons
We want real freedom of meovement in Eurpoe ( I don't mean immigration I mean Schengen )
We want an emd to the backscratching corruption @ the Berlaymont
And we want an end to the race to the bottom in wages & working conditions carefull supported by bothe "the big bosses" & the EU - the reason Wedgie Benn was agin the EU>

Right - methodology, please?

188:

I agree with all your reasons why Grexit is a bad option for the EU.

That doesn't mean it can't happen. The new Greek parliament has to ask for something vaguely palatable to the other member states. There's a load of hot air being spouted by them at the moment of course but Greece can have a endpoint to their negotiations that is too far away from what the rest of the EU is willing to give and the Greek's seem willing to go for a Grexit. That might be hot air on the part of the Greeks but it's pretty much what their mandate is from what's been reported here, so it doesn't seem that unlikely a position for them if the EU won't meet them.

I don't know how far the rest of the EU will go, how scary the idea of Grexit really is to the other governments (it ought to be pretty scary, but they'll get into the guessing game of "Will Greece survive, what's the chances? If it goes down, Italy and Spain won't be tempted to go.")

189:

Oh yes they can!
( Cue pantomiome horse or something ...

190:

Horribly horribly true & another reason why I an anti-EU.

Oh & Double Plus Good for DD @ 168 btw.

191:

Well, I'll admit rentiers is what they wish to become, but for someone running a small business, having much of an employee's wages & healthcare taken care of is a plus. Large enterprises may fight it, if only to maintain barriers to competition. You know, keep out the riffraff.

192:

Ah, that old canard, that Labour destroyed the Grammar Schools.

Most of them are still going.

Paradoxically the Labour Party created more private schools than any Tory policy ever could.

By getting rid of the direct grant schools.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_direct_grant_grammar_schools

a handful became comprehensives or 6th Form colleges - the rest became private schools [Manchester Grammar, KE VI schools in Birmingham, Bedford School, Perse Schools in Cambridge]

And the first council to go fully comprehensive, was IIRC, Hillingdon, which was Tory.

There was a tendency to believe that parents in Labour-voting areas were better at getting their children into GS than Tory ones....no Tory voter wanted their offspring at a secondary modern, good lord no.

No-one comes out of the post-1950 education changes [I hesitate to call them 'reforms'] with their integrity intact.

Naked parental self-interest as expressed at the ballot box.

193:

"The European Union will not last if it deliberately wrecks the economies of its member states, yet no-one with any power, so far, is willing to say, no, we must not do this. The honest and compassionate voices have been silenced."

Economies of the richer and bigger member states, no.

Screwing over the poorer provinces is what an Empire is for, isn't it?

194:

Fairly low-impact aerobic activity. What's not to like

Requires flat land (not everyone lives in older LA or Chicago), working hips, knees, and heart. By 70s a non trivial number of people will not fit the above profile.

I didn't fit it in my 30s. Bad Knees. I really doubt I'll fit the profile in my 70s (in 10 years or so). Especially if I don't move 100s of miles.

Interestingly much of the flat terrain that would make this more likely in the US will be under water if the predictions of many others on this blog come true about sea levels.

195:

Schooling

Based on my US experience.

There is no one fix for schools. For kids to succeed you need multiple things in general.

1. Kids who want to succeed.
2. Parents who want them to succeed and are involved more than just saying it. Which means a home environment that makes learning a priority.
3. A school environment where learning is expected and not just a warehouse for kids during the day.
4. Teachers who do more than just show up.
and more.

I went to a school in a backwater area of Kentucky (not hillbilly) during the 60s and early 70s. I had all of the above to varying degrees. The best thing I had was a Chem/Physics teacher who was hired in my last year who inspired a lot of us. Basically if you have a few teachers as you go along who are enthusiastic and want to help they kids grow they can fix most of the damage from the slugs marking time at the front of a classroom.

My kids went to school from 96 through 2010 in the 10th largest school district in the US. Many of the above items were true. AT TIMES. It took my wife and I getting our hands dirty multiple times to make sure our kids didn't get shove aside or just left behind due to crappy teachers and indifferent administrations. By being involved we got them into situations with teachers who were involved and admins who wanted their schools to educate. But it was a lot of work and cost us a lot of time and money (gas for that 14 mile each way commute when prices were $4+ / gallon which was eye wateringly high in the US at the time).

And some kids will excel with few or none of the above. But they are the exceptions. And some really bright kids will get shoved into mediocrity by things such as a really bad situation when they are 10 or 12.

And sad to say, I have yet to see a solution to MOST kids who got none of the above and look hopeless at age 12 or 13.

Education of children is hard. And takes over a decade. And experiments can wipe out the hopes of 1000s of people as they fail.

As a side note a cousin of mine (born in 44) was of the opinion in his early life that anyone could be "fixed" and led to a better life. A tour in the army when in his early 20s convinced him that some people are slugs and always will be slugs.

196:

Disagree. What you're describing is 1950s suburbia, oriented around the car-owning middle class nuclear family.

Not quite.

In the US the 50s suburbia was massive grids of 1200-1600 sf housing laid out in grids with 1000s of houses in these grids.

By the 80s they were trying to do what he described. What people wanted by then was to live on a cul-de-sac, in a 2000-3000sf house with a 1/2 acre yard, 5 minutes from an interstate to drive to work, and kids walk to school.

The problem is that these neighborhoods were not dense enough to support local stores. So you got all kinds of small shopping centers that eventually filled with store front churches, nail salons, etc... or were just vacant. And walking to schools was not possible for most of the kids as schools of a size taxpayer would pay for would be too big to allow them to be close to enough people. Plus kids walking home on winding streets with limited sight lines causes safety issues. And in general it's basically impossible to design neighborhood with all of the above. Especially if the geography wasn't laid out just right. Pesky hills and streams and such.

197:

Fun, though, wasn't it?


Have you noticed how, these days, and for some years back, any News Media Story following the 24/7 news cycle, or even News Programmes and Documentaries set in the UK are, almost inevitably, Cued In by a Photo, or a brief News Reel type short movie sequence, of a British Bobby clad in Black and wearing Body Armour cuddling a H and K of various vintages..I understand that U.K. Met police have been recently been up graded in view of Terrorist tm. And so Thus...

https://www.google.co.uk/search?tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=2pPGVNjjEMOV7Aa8oIGICQ&ved=0CDUQsAQ&biw=1024&bih=551&q=police%20h%20and%20k%20carbine

I first realised that Things Had Changed for Our Own Dear Bobbies, way back in the '90s, when a documentary that featured a female police inspector captured her crouching behind a brick dwarf garden wall on a housing estate clutching a H and K MP 5..this at a time when such weapons were supposed to only on display in the U.K.s airports as an anti terrorist measure.

Times Change and since the Mumbai Attack we now have a spread of Armed Force in the U.K. that goes far beyond Targets of Opportunity to terrorists in the U.K being reinforced during times of danger and targets that terrorists of all kinds would find highly desirable being given routine armed support with...


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_police_firearms_in_the_United_Kingdom

Look down that list to...


“LMT Defender AR-15 variant (used By Cheshire Police [5] and British Transport Police)”


Fuck me Pink!


They are carrying Military Grade Automatic Rifles! Thus... a little lower...

“A Ministry of Defence Police Officer on duty with an SA80 L85A2”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SA80

True, she is M.O.D. and there are reasons for her armament but you can count on her armament becoming Standard Operational Support throughout the U.K. any time soon. This especially since Armed Police have started to act up just lately and threaten to hand in their licences to bear arms in view of the deterioration of their working conditions.

Now wouldn’t it be handy if a much reduced by numbers U.K. police force were to be routinely armed and thus unable to withdraw their armed support role?

Still, lets not worry eh?


"Evening All" ..salutes by touching brim of trad helmet ..and also I wont forget to say, " Mind How You Go " ..


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGbKcFMpet4


198:

Agreed. The other problem is that methane from landfills is expensive, because a lot of other gases come out of landfills along with the methane. A few years ago in LA, where they've tried it on an experimental basis, scrubbing the methane enough so that it's burnable costs more than the methane brought in as fuel when they tried that experiment.

Oh well, it's just another one of those imponderable problems on the way to a sustainable society: what to do with the trash? Currently, the most efficient way to deal with recycling is to have a bunch of horribly poor and often sick people picking through the refuse and recycling everything they can. This system works quite well in places like Egypt and Mexico. Unfortunately, if you want every human to have a decent life and you think ragpicking is indecent, you also have to settle for suboptimal trash disposal. And so it goes.

199:

Lots of things can retard your education...

you can move around the UK a lot
- which happened to me, my dad was an RAF NCO, until he was made redundant in the 1980-1 defence cuts

you can go to two different schools before you are eleven
- which means a lot of effort goes into making new friendships, and understanding what your new set of teachers want

you can go to two different senior schools after eleven
- which happened to me

aged 13 you can break your writing arm at the shoulder, just after starting the last senior school you attend
- which happened to me, leaving me unable to write, or attend school for two months while it healed, at which point staff had forgotten I existed.

Luckily I was stubborn little bastard, with a higher than normal reading age, who knew what a library was, and who wanted to learn about the world himself if no-one else could be bothered to show me, rather than kick a ball against a wall.

Of course, some could and did, and a big thank you to them. The rest can just wither and die as far as I'm concerned.

I got just enough good grades to make it through the system, into the sixth form and onto university.

But I wasn't ever going to set the world on fire.

Whenever I read that 'educational standards are dropping' or 'x party has screwed up our schools' I always say 'How can you tell? Compared to whom? Compared with when?'

They were never much good to start with.

No-one gets the education they deserve, ever. It's just the way things are. If the most important time to be educated is arbitrarily placed between the ages of 5 and 21, they never will.

200:

My wife has you beat all over. She was an army brat. Her dad kept getting opportunities to advance but that required them to move. A LOT.

As best I can remember she went to grade school in Ithaca, NY, Va Beach, VA, Fayetteville NC, and Italy. Middle school was in two cities that I can't remember. First two years of high school in Alexandria VA and Huntsville AL, before moving to Germany for Heidelberg and Stuttgart. Then college in Rolla Missouri and U of MD.

At one point her father was the youngest Lt. Colonel in the US Army. :)

But to the point. She wanted and her parents expected her to get a decent education. And she did. Even if a few of the schools were duds. Do folks in the EU know the movie "Remember the Titans"? That school got the upper two high school grades. Her's in Alexandria got the lower two. She doesn't remember much in the way of schooling but a lot about race relations for that year.

201:

I know; I'm not flying until Thursday. (Hopefully it'll be under control and JFK will be open by then.)

There's a decent chance the ripply effects will be mostly over by then. Since this storm is fairly localized to the northeast US a lot of folks from Europe will be given the option to shift to other hubs if the northeast isn't their final destination. It may not be fun to fly to Dallas to get to DC, Cleveland or similar but it may be the only option if you want to fly in the next day or two.

202:

Parents and teachers still expect children to adapt to situations that adults struggle with, and still expect them to turn into nice normal human beings with educational records that will make them proud, as though any of that matters.

Doesn't always happen, but it sounds like it did in her case. Kudos to her.

My experiences turned me into a unrepentantly weird teenager, with numerous unresolved issues bubbling away under the surface, some of which still are still yet to be.

But I'm still here, and I keep going.

Of one thing I am certain however, I never want to have any children of my own.

203:

Hah. My destination is Manhattan. For important business meeting(s) on Friday.

Luckily I'm not flying economy and I suspect the big-ass A380 superjumbo will be the last thing flying into JFK that they try to divert (because who the hell is set up to handle 560 annoyed passengers in one lump?).

204:
...by 2065 I'd be surprised if we don't have self-driving cars.
Well spaced-out = a nightmare for elderly pedestrians and not so great for kids. Also inimical to public transport. We want them close enough to utilities like local shops, surgeries, and community centres to be inhabitable without regular long-distance trips to go shopping in out-of-town malls.

Can I just point out that these two predictions work against each other?

If you have self-drive vehicles, then you have the means to deliver automatic microbuses to deal with the 'last mile' problem of suburbs and connecting the unwalkable with shopping malls/public transport/etc. - utilising EV even.

Thus you *can* ditch the car if you want; accessible != car owning. Autonomous vehicles make a *lot* of difference. Hell, why do you need a shop at all, if what you want can be delivered autonomously? The human driver is a significant part of the total cost of a bus service, and getting rid makes many new models possible.

Mind the suburbs and exburbs are much disliked by the architects and planners. They are majorly into high density housing, tower blocks, and inmates who are totally dependent on external supplies for their existence. Thus that's probably what we'll get forced into.

And the low wage tower blocks make great prison blocks going forward...

205:

A380 superjumbo will be the last thing flying into JFK that they try to divert (because who the hell is set up to handle 560 annoyed passengers in one lump?).

I guess the word hasn't gotten out on your side of the pond. NY and Boston airports are all now closed. Ground Stop. And expect to be closed all day tomorrow. Which is what I meant by my misspelled ripple effect. Flights from Europe to the northeast will not take off for another 12 to 24 hours or more. So people who can be moved to other flights with final destinations elsewhere will be but there will be a backlog of people flying to the northeast US that will get to stack up for a bit.

206:

Re: Bikes for old people
The last time I saw one of my uncles was up in the mountains of Colorado. We'd driven there from Denver. He'd biked. I think he was in his mid 70s at the time. (And yeah, ok, I couldn't have done that at 35...)

207:

Back in October/November, you wrote ...

" ... I'm theorising about the novel I haven't been working on since last March, when it downloaded itself fully formed into my brain and started screaming WRITE ME! WRITE ME!"

So - is it time yet? Something to do if you happen to get stuck at some airport because of weather-related delays/cancellations... as I recall, this is an urban fantasy story.

208:

Returning to the subject (I know, not stylish), Krugman:

If anything, the problem with Syriza’s plans may be that they’re not radical enough. Debt relief and an easing of austerity would reduce the economic pain, but it’s doubtful whether they are sufficient to produce a strong recovery. On the other hand, it’s not clear what more any Greek government can do unless it’s prepared to abandon the euro, and the Greek public isn’t ready for that.

Which leads to the following thought: maybe multiple currencies are an appropriate part of a multicultural socialist 2.0 federation, whereas a unified currency is part of an imperial system. It seems to me that a unified currency necessarily leads to a uniform culture of production.

Krugman fhtagn!

209:

So - is it time yet?

No, because I am working on Laundry Files #7 first (which is under contract with a delivery date), not to mention Merchant Princes #7 (as soon as I've got the next batch of edit guidance).

On the other hand, it looks like it might be getting an official slot in the work queue for some time late this year/early next. Depending on editorial approval.

210:

Air France have cancelled most (but not all) of their Tuesday flights to New York. Wednesday flights, not yet. Thursday ... we'll see.

Yes, I'm following the weather news with interest.

211:

It also presumes that you do not live in an area which is windy enough to make cycling dangerous on 1 or more days of the week for about half the year, and has occasional wind events that make going outside dangerous even for the young and fit!

212:

Yes & no ...
I was conflating the removal of "grammar" & the removal of "direct grant" schooling ......
The point I was trying to make was that state education WAS BETTER THAN "private" a lot of the time & the politicians & some so-called "educationalists" destroyed it.

No-one comes out of the post-1950 education changes [I hesitate to call them 'reforms'] with their integrity intact.

Possibly
I do know that it would be much more difficult for someone to get a really good state education now, compared to my self or my father,when there were only 4 "Scholarships" to University per county, & my father got one; which was just as well, because his father died whem he was 13, leaving my grandmother a a single parent in 1924.

213:

Hell, why do you need a shop at all, if what you want can be delivered autonomously?
Because you can get to actually check the product out
ALSO the advantage of the second-hand bookshop over $BIG_RIVER - you can browse & find interesting things.

It's called free choice

214:

Oh I understand that people like to look - but that doesn't translate into a viable business model that can pay high street rents.

I get the feeling that local shops will fall back to personal service establishments, and maybe supermarkets. That goes double if I can order and get it delivered today from a local warehouse unit.

As such the shape of the local community gets changed and warped by autonomous vehicles - which was the point of what I was saying.

215:

Charlie, may I be the first one to introduce you to a newish concept in cycling? It is called the modern mountain bike, and it has gears. Lots of gears. They range from medium-low, to low, to insanely low right down to "What're you going to do, go plough a field?".

After twenty-odd years, the question of gears and how best to do them has been solved. Also solved is the knotty problem of making a tyre that actually works (this is not trivially easy) and making brakes which work. In this latter case, I have a sneaking suspicion that something distinctly Lovecraftian may have lent a hand some years ago out of sheer devilry, for there is little other explanation for the thankfully late and definitely unlamented Shimano U-brake.

However, this has been solved; bikes now have working brakes. Even the old annoyance of punctures has mostly been sorted out, and bike lights have come on leaps and bounds in recent years. Those of us who are old gits will unfondly remember the EverReady Nightrider, or as we called it, the NeverReady Shiterider; these days a vastly superior device can be had for a fiver, which weighs a few percent of that old horror and lasts ten times as long.

So, eighty year olds can now ride bikes, and enjoy it. Even in Edinburgh.

216:

I thought that was the idea. Even little old me could see that the Euro wasn't a great idea at this time because first the economies of the EU have to come into some sort of alignment, which simply isn't the case at the moment. I reckoned that it would have been better waiting 20 years or so.

217:

Charlie, may I be the first one to introduce you to a newish concept in cycling? It is called the modern mountain bike, and it has gears.

Dude, that's what we've got. Hint: they don't get on well with fifty-year-old knees. Or living on the fourth floor with no ground-level storage. Or living on a, no shit, actual mountain. Okay, a rather short, stubby one that's been worn down by glaciers -- but there are 200 foot cliffs in this city, and the road I live on is (a) a main road with ambulances and idiot commuters tearing up and down on, and (b) something like a 5-10% incline (it rises a hundred feet in less than a quarter of a mile).

I am not sanguine about taking my chances with the local traffic, the local topography, and the prevalence of pot-holes and cobbled streets in this city. Full stop.

218:

Charlie, may I be the first one to introduce you to a newish concept in cycling? It is called the modern mountain bike, and it has gears. Lots of gears. They range from medium-low, to low, to insanely low right down to "What're you going to do, go plough a field?".

Let me introduce you to ancient concepts called "ice", "snow" and "temperatures below -10 C". I have a cyclocross bike, which has all these gears, and is geared towards various surfaces for biking. It's a nice thing to have if I don't have too much stuff, or children, to haul about, but it's a complete pain during the winter. I drive mostly when the outside temperatures are above 15 C, to avoid slipping and falling, and having to dress too thickly to keep out the cold.

I probably could get a better winter bike if I wanted one. There are surprisingly many winter bikers here, so it's doable, but I find it too annoying and dangerous, for various reasons.

However, past 50 or so, biking during the winter, or even rainy weather, is going to be more difficult. I'm 38, though I've had my first knee surgery already, because falling on ice while walking. I still can bike, but if the knee hadn't healed so well, it would probably be more difficult.

The elevation is not so much of a problem here, for me, but for elder or otherwise not as able as me, more difficult.

So, no, bikes are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Electrical motors help a bit, but I'd say that two-wheeled transport has its own problems especially on slippery surfaces.

219:

"The point I was trying to make was that state education WAS BETTER THAN "private" a lot of the time & the politicians & some so-called "educationalists" destroyed it."

Who for?

As someone who went through secondary school during the transition between the old model of Grammars and Secondary Moderns and the Comprehensive model I started out at a Grammar school which became a comprehensive a couple of years before I took my first batch ('O' level) of GCEs. Looking at the number of my contemporaries who started out in the secondary modern scheme before going on to get a good enough batch of GCE 'A' levels to go on to university and comparing with their prospects under the old system (yes, there were theoretical routes through either transferring to grammar schools or going through tech/arts colleges but the numbers who made it through either route were vanishingly small) led me to the inescapable conclusion that while it worked pretty well for those who ended up on the right end of the selective system at age 11 an utterly unacceptable number of pupils who didn't were failed horribly.

After going through the local (Braintree, Essex) state comprehensive system one of my two kids is (unless something goes horribly wrong in the next 6 moths or so) on course to graduate well in Music Tech and Audio Engineering (and, on the basis of the time he's spent working with me at my employer over the last couple of summers is shaping up to be a pretty competent programmer with a rather better understanding of what goes on at lower levels than many of his peers taking Com. Sci. but that's another discussion), the other one is choosing where and what to study right now and is faced with an embarrassment of choices on both counts. Could be that if they'd gone through a grammar school they might have been looking at more illustrious institutions for their undergraduate studies but I'd be hard pushed to say the system had actually failed them and again, significant numbers of their contemporaries who looked, err... "not academically promising" at age 11 have also done pretty well. Not too shabby for a system which has been "destroyed" I'd say.

Was the fate of kids who failed the 11+ of any consequence at all in Tingey-world? Because after seeing one elder brother go the grammar grammar school route, and the other the secondary modern route before seeing a bit of both sides myself it sure as hell didn't look like to me it at the time...

220:

That's a point, I spend too much time driving in Edinburgh these days to remember, but surely the cyclists could help the car users in the campaign to get the council to spend money on repairing the roads? Some of the bad points in the roads are teenagers and will soon be voting; many of the others are down simply to no maintenance for a few years. They don't need to turn the capital into a 20mph zone, I have to do that in order to avoid damaging my car.

Of course there are other things to spend money on, like care for the elderly, but this just shows how stupid austerity is.

221:

Did you watch "Top Gear" on Sunday? Richard Hammond was travelling across St Peterburg (Ru) on a "state of the art" MTB, go his front wheel stuck in a tramline (hmmmm, where in the UK can you find tramlines? Edinburgh for example) and wiped out the rear deraileur pretty comprehensively.

222:

There's currently a suit under way from 60 cyclists about their being injured after their bikes encountered Edinburgh's tranlines:
http://www.scotsman.com/news/transport/cyclists-to-sue-edinburgh-over-tramline-accidents-1-3669916

I don't really know what to do about the issue, although obviously some junctions could be improved, and perhaps you could fill the gap between rail and concetre with some sort of rubber that is compressed by a tram and not by a cycle? Do other places like Dublin, Manchester and Sheffield have better separation of cyclists and trams?

223:

Yeah, that was on Reporting Scotland too.

This has been an issue with narrow-tyred vehicles for as long as there have been roads with inset rails (see Genevieve (1953).

224:

Here's a forum thread of Dublin cyclists discussing their problems with the LUAS. It's noted early and often it's illegal to cycle in the trackways in most of the city.

225:

Charlie, may I be the first one to introduce you to a newish concept in cycling? It is called the modern mountain bike, and it has gears. Lots of gears. They range from medium-low, to low, to insanely low...

Faced with a choice between owning either a flat or a car, but not both, I spent my twenties cycling across Edinburgh to get to work (Holyrood Road to Crewe Toll); when the first mountain bikes came out, I bought one (a large lump of Chinese steel with a Shimano brake / gear set, circa 1991).

I can vouch for the fact that large areas of Edinburgh are effectively "no-go" for those without a decent base level of fitness and a lot of hard work. The grain of the land runs roughly east-west, so if you're going north-south it can be quite hard work (understatement); and many of the roads in the New Town are cobbled, i.e. slippery stone rather than tarmac or Shellgrip. Look up Howe Street or Victoria Street on Streetview.

There are even roads where that combination of steep slope and smooth cobbles mean that even the combination of 25-year-old legs, a VO2max of 67, and low gears mean that the friction of the tyres gives out before the bike moves up the hill. Look up where Mound Place turns into Ramsay Lane on Streetview.

Guessing where Charlie lives, I might consider cycling (as a fairly fit fifty year old) but the thought of bike, shopping, and his four flights of stairs (compared with my old two flights) would tip the balance... about as much fun as cycling up the 16% slope out of Roslin Glen :(

226:

When I saw the Hamster approaching the tracks at such a shallow angle, I was already wincing before he came off and broke £9K worth of cycle.

Someone really should have briefed him on cycling in a city with tram tracks.

Talking about 'grain', Dundee is another city with a strong incentive not to go in certain directions. It felt easier to go the 15 miles along the Tay to Arbroath than to go one mile inland.

227:

Sympathy - I went to my seventh school in Primary 6 (sixth grade, for y'all). Scotland, Yorkshire, Kent, Bulgaria, Devon, Germany, Scotland. Three different education systems (England, Scotland, US), and I'm still bilingual in English and American :)

Fortunately, that seventh school was an MoD boarding school for service children (in Dunblane), and I stayed there for the next eight years. The school had a good ethos, some outstanding teachers, and as a result even the kids who weren't academic got solid grades.

If I hadn't got one of the (oversubscribed) places, it would have been Northern Ireland, Germany, and then Scotland just as I reached the exams used to determine university entrance...

228:

Would be curious to get an Amsterdam-based opinion on this, it being the place where I have seen simultaneously the most cyclists and the most trams. Acknowledge that the dedicated cycle lanes must help but they still have to cross tracks at junctions. TLDR, cyclists should avoid invitingly empty tramlines...

Back to the regular programming, and it continue to strike amidst all this Grexit noise there has been remarkably little coverage of the Swiss experience after letting go their peg of the CHF to the Euro (80% FX rate increase in a fortnight, export business hammered). After all, isn't this a dry-run for the German experience if the Euro goes the way of the dodo? And can't we assume that Greece knows this also? As Keynes quote goes, “If you owe your bank a hundred pounds, you have a problem. But if you owe a million, it has.” The trick of the Troika so far has been to point the problem entirely away from the Bank...

229:

Would be curious to get an Amsterdam-based opinion on this, it being the place where I have seen simultaneously the most cyclists and the most trams.

I dunno about their trams, but their moped riders seem accident prone in the extreme. I can testify to witnessing three moped riders in two different locations coming a cropper. Two ran into a stationary car. The third slid out turning on cobbles by a canal bridge. We were only there for a weekend, so I can't tell what the average was.

230:

Junctions are fine - crossing tramlines is a doddle, it's just a bit of a jolt; a very mild version of cycling off a kerb. Cycling along them is where you run the risk of falling in, resulting in bruises at a minimum.

231:

...a bit of a jolt at worst. I need to remember to finish my sentences.

232:

Charlie, may I be the first one to introduce you to a newish concept in cycling? It is called the modern mountain bike, and it has gears. Lots of gears. They range from medium-low, to low, to insanely low right down to "What're you going to do, go plough a field?".

Ah, a true believer. Works for him so it must work for everyone. I owned a very good bike in my 20s and it didn't work for me and again a better one in my 30s and still no go. Gears only made it worse in some ways. Flexing my knees under load created/creates problems. Always has. And I still have my cartilage. And many of my age or less have lost their cartilage and are up for replacement surgery or just not much walking.

Toss in kids under the age of 5 or 6 and bikes are just not a universal option.

To say nothing of terrain issues. I live in an area called North Hills. Nothing like Edinburgh but there's rarely anything "flat" for more than a few hundred feet. And as someone who's lived in Pittsburgh, flat is a term that only applies to standing water. Gears there, well 1/2 hour of the first few gears of a 15 speed gets old for almost anyone not in a competition.

233:

I failed the 11+ and went to a Secondary Modern school. Still managed to get to university, but then I was exceptionally bright compared to almost all of the rest there.
I sometimes get conspiracy minded when I think of it. A primary school teacher who seriously disliked me. Slap! - you are not here to think! (his literal words). A son of the only immigrant in the village. Being told to do my test in pencil rather than ink... And (later) an IQ of 150, yet I fail. Strange eh?

234:

In Sheffield I have seen one cyclist get stuck in a tramline, about 10 years ago when they were relatively new, but mostly there are no problems: where the tracks are on the roads, cyclists are moving either parallel to or perpendicular to the tracks. I believe the issue in Edinburgh is that there are some junctions at which the cycle lane and the tram track intersect at a fairly narrow angle, which is bad news.

I don't know the Manchester system well, but much of it is more like a light rail than a traditional tram - it's running on a dedicated line, not tracks embedded in a road (this is true for some of the Sheffield system too, but not very much of it).

In Amsterdam, as I recall (as in Hamburg, where I used to live), cyclists are generally off the road, in a designated lane on the footpath side of the kerb. The trams are on the road. Thus, few opportunities for tram/cycle interactions, except at junctions, where - as per anonemouse - there's not really a problem provided you can cross the tracks at close to 90 degrees.

235:

Sympathy

My wife sort of enjoyed it. She got to see a lot of the country and parts of others. She has fond memories of being 7 to 9 years old in Italy and of her time in Germany. But not everyone has the personality or parental influence to deal with it.

Interestingly she is the oldest of 3 sisters born about 18 months apart. One a flaming liberal, one a flaming conservative, one sort of middle of the road. So genetics isn't everything. :)

236:

And (later) an IQ of 150, yet I fail. Strange eh?

Treat adults like 3 year olds and they tend to act like 3 year olds. It seems to be human nature that we live at our expectations. You managed to get past it. Many don't.

237:

When I saw the Hamster approaching the tracks at such a shallow angle, I was already wincing before he came off and broke £9K worth of cycle.

In the US we get that show on cable but I'm not sure how delayed they are.

Anyway, it has always seemed to me that finding a way to tear up expensive toys is a goal of the show. :)

238:

I don't know exactly where Charlie lives, but what he's posted before gives me that part of almost every trip must be up or down the hill between George St and the Water of Leith.

239:

That's pretty much all accurate, based on my knowledge.

240:

Dunno either, but it's the first episode of a new series, and between Cockson proving again that he's not a comedian does make some pretty serious points about urban cycling and driving (not all positive).

241:

Greg, I'm very sorry to be the troll under the bridge, but I have *NEVER* heard of a case where private schools were WORSE than the corresponding public schools.

The most basic precepts of economics would seem to argue very strongly against such cases.

I'll grant that it is possible that a private school could open and run BRIEFLY, until the word got out locally that it was a disaster, but I can't see how it could survive the revelation that the for-pay school was worse than the free public school.

(I'll grant a special case for some of the madrassas in the Middle East.)

Would you be very upset if I asked you to provide concrete documentation for your thesis?

242:

Not too far off, as I understand it. Looking at the road on Google Street View, I note the only cyclists in sight are all going downhill.

243:

For clarity, I'm saying that George St runs roughly E-W along the ridge, and Hanover St-Dundas St N-S on the fall line. Since the New Town is pretty much on a rectangular grid, that means that any journey with an N-S component climbs or descends that fall line.

244:
I have *NEVER* heard of a case where private schools were WORSE than the corresponding public schools.
It depends, I'm afraid, on who's using what scale to measure "good" and "bad". An independently-operated school can be seen by its paying customers as good precisely because it doesn't teach stuff that they don't care to believe on the syllabus....
245:

... and public schools are of course notorious for omitting buggery and networking from their syllabus.

246:

That's for the faith schools ...

247:

...don't they rather have S&M and illusions on their syllabus?

248:

On the ground in NYC, the snowfall was much less than was predicted and has essentially stopped by now -- just light flurries. (Boston got hammered, though, apparently.)

I suspect transatlantic flights to NYC should be fully operational by Thursday, though domestic will likely take longer to recombobulate.

249:

"Back to the regular programming, and it continue to strike amidst all this Grexit noise there has been remarkably little coverage of the Swiss experience after letting go their peg of the CHF to the Euro (80% FX rate increase in a fortnight, export business hammered). After all, isn't this a dry-run for the German experience if the Euro goes the way of the dodo? And can't we assume that Greece knows this also? As Keynes quote goes, “If you owe your bank a hundred pounds, you have a problem. But if you owe a million, it has.” The trick of the Troika so far has been to point the problem entirely away from the Bank..."

As part of this, the Swiss Bank interest rates is now negative (-0.75%): customers now have to pay the bank to keep their funds there. So, we might expect to see some local (non-Swiss) banks reporting really encouraging increases in their balances. (Gee - must mean they're really very savvy money managers!) Also, would be interesting to see how many $9,999.99 USD transactions get EFT'd/zipped to U.S.banks.


http://fortune.com/2015/01/15/world-central-banks-on-deflation-alert-as-swiss-cut-rate-to-0-75/

Excerpt:

"Switzerland stunned global financial markets Thursday, slashing its official interest rate to -0.75% and abandoning its attempts to cap the franc’s exchange rate against the euro, against a broader backdrop of central bank alarm at the slowing world economy.

The Swiss National Bank’s move is nothing short of a revolution in the world of finance: no central bank has ever set its official interest so low. In pushing rates so far into negative territory, it is consciously destroying the value of investments in the franc in an effort to scare off ‘hot money’ that has flooded the country in search of a ‘safe haven’ from turbulent global markets."

250:

Boston is still getting hammered (I'm downtown right now; flew in Sunday, flying out Saturday... I should be Ok). It's supposed to taper off today. They've already got plows out. Everything should be back to normal tomorrow.

251:

I never said the "grammar achool" system was perfect & I'm only too well aware of those who just "failed" to make said transfer & were let down.
May I suggest you read what I actiualluy wrote?
A comprehensive syatem can & does work very well, IF & ONLY IF internal slection by ability is practised, usually referred to as "setting" or "streaming" - they ar slightly diferent models.
Far too many did not & some still do not do this, & use "mixed-0abilty" teaching.
How many times do I have to say this before it penetrates, please?

252:

NOT strange at all
This is th other modern disaster area in so-called "teching": Teacher assement of the pupils - what a wonderful way of permanently screwing a child's future if you really want to be a bastard.
This is wehre actual exams are a good idea.

253:

Well, it was the cae in NE London during th early 1960;s when I was in the VIth form.
My local grammar school got better U-entry results than the local private ones.
One private school, now rammed (admittedly they have upped theor game) was referred to by us 15-18 year olds as the one for "athletic thugs with rich parents"

254:

Continuing on Syriza, some commentators hint that racism on the part of northern Europe is a part of the story. That could be right: I hear some of the same things about the Southern Europeans, including the Greeks, from Europe that I hear about blacks and Mexicans in the USA.

Ian Weish, someone I don't agree with very much, comments: "It would have been better if they won last time, Greece is pretty fully looted now. But Greeks thought they were Europeans, and didn’t realize the contempt that French and Germans had for them, and how willing they were to kill and impoverish large numbers of them."--

It is hard for me to see how this can be wrong.

Yves Smith, also someone I don't usually agree with, comments: "even if Merkel and Schauble were to have a Damascene conversion and come around to the idea that radically different policies were the only way to save the periphery, and ultimately the Eurozone itself, they are boxed in by their own propaganda having whipped already strong German prejudice against borrowers and Latins to a fever pitch. Their domestic politics severely limit how generous they could be to the Greeks even if they wanted to be."--

And as far as I can tell, this is correct.

If Syriza fails, I can see the Golden Dawn winning the next election.

256:

The key features are that in most of the UK, the overlap between "private school" and "boarding school" is quite high; and the cost of long-distance travel has dropped over the years.

The highly-regarded state schools don't generally have boarding houses attached; the private schools of the 1950s and 1960s were supporting the children of those working abroad, and moving around. When you consider that there were a couple of hundred thousand service personnel deployed from West to East of Suez, a fair few Foreign & Commonwealth types still administering the Colonies, not to mention an awful lot of business types moving around for multinationals... their children need some form of stable education. The Armed Services still provide a healthy sum of money for parents, as a "continuity of education allowance".

Having a parent who works abroad for (say) Shell or BP may be culturally enriching, but isn't much use if the UK universities won't look at a Indonesian exam qualification...

The private boarding schools of thirty years ago weren't competing on quality of education, they were competing on ability to accommodate. Some set their price point at the funding levels provided by Government to those employees whose jobs required them to move (an Army posting can happen "according to the needs of the Service" with a month's notice, even less in some cases).

I believe that with the drawdown of the Armed Services and FCO, the ability to come home for the weekend, and better-recognised international qualifications (e.g. the IB); the market for boarding schools has dropped, and the low end of the market (think St. Trinians) has all but disappeared.

257:

Sorry, but this happens all the time with charter schools in the U.S. As for this:

The most basic precepts of economics would seem to argue very strongly against such cases.

Well, that most definitely sounds like libertoonian trolling. If you're any kind of libertarian, I don't think you'll feel very welcome here; they are despised for what most regulars deem excellent reasons.

258:

"Continuing on Syriza, some commentators hint that racism on the part of northern Europe is a part of the story. "

I doubt it's racism, just a disdain for a culture not driven by the Protestant work ethic. You might as well claim it's covert religious prejudice.

259:

In the USA we constantly hear that Mexicans are lazy and shiftless, despite their working the fields and doing construction. Is this not the same reasoning?

260:

There was one over the border from me in Lincolnshire proper at Caistor Grammar School [state, selective about two steps up from my comprehensive in results terms], probably due to the preponderance of air bases in the locale, and postings to RAFG/Falklands/ wherever.

261:


"..Lazy and Shiftless ...”? How in... HELL!! Do your political Overlords work that out? Here in the U.K. even the - slightly more intelligent - Right Wing Press knows better.

Thus...


"Drug smuggling tunnels with rail systems discovered under US border with Mexico Tunnels used for the transportation of drugs, linking warehouses in Tijuana, Mexico, and the Otay Mesa area of San Diego and including rail systems, the sixth and seventh found in the area in the last four years ... "


http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/centralamericaandthecaribbean/mexico/10746238/Drug-smuggling-tunnels-with-rail-systems-discovered-under-US-border-with-Mexico.html


This in addition to various news /documentary type channels available on the 24/7 Satellite/cable /interweb thingy channels. So, honestly inquisitive here - this is my prevailing chief personality flaw outside of Prince of Denmark Syndrome of tendency to dip toward Clinical Depression - HOW in Hell can the Average US of American person believe that Mexicans are " Lazy and Shiftless "

Unless...I mean your people must have got over the Racism Thing in the face of all the prevailing evidence and the growing Hispanic Demographic?

Not to worry, this is Charlie's Blog ... if I've got the science wrong then a social scientist will be here to reprove me Real Soon Now.

262:

Sorry, but this happens all the time with charter schools in the U.S.

I recently found out that in the US the term "Charter School" has very different meanings in the various states.

NY seems to have a very bad (in my opinion) way of doing charters. NC seems to get it more "right". Which is backwards from what most folks think.

263:

Where do you "hear" this? I don't. The comments I hear from people I know (far left to far right) is that they will typically work us "natives" into the ground by noon Monday. And finish the week at the same pace.

264:

After my fornight's sojourn at Penguins-on-Thames, the housemaster in whose house I had stayed in, sent me back home with letter containing his warmest best wishes, a 25 quid book token [really a £22.50 book token, once you'd subtracted all the clothing violations the prefects had fined me for] and a Mensa test book and an application form.

I never filled it in.

Which is more depressing, I wonder, finding out you have a 142+ IQ and a alphabetti spaghetti of exam results, or you are just an overachieving 110 on the Stanford-Binet scale?

When ignorance is bliss, tis folly to be wise as the poem says.

I left that particular school without feeling violated in any way, which is more than I can say for three of the four state schools I went to.

Whenever I look through my faded copy of 'The Mighty Eighth War Diary' by Roger A. Freeman, I can't help but think fondly of who paid for it.

265:

More or less, yes. According to my (late) Fitbit, going from my front door to Princes Street was equivalent to climbing twelve storeys. And it's less than half a mile.

(I forgot to add something else that affects my attitude to cycling: poor lung capacity. I've got reasonably good musculature, middle-aged joints ... and about 80% of the lung capacity a male of my build should have. Borderline asthmatic, too. Cycling isn't terribly forgiving if you run out of wind in traffic ...)

266:

Forgot to add that, from the journalistic piece in the Torygraph ....

" No people or drugs were found inside the passageway, and no arrests have been made in the case, authorities said."

So the Mexicans are not only not ' lazy and shiftless ' but also they are more intelligent than their adversaries in the Defiantly Not Drug User of the Americas War against the Wrong Sort of Things?

Come to think of it ... isn't that, potentially, a really Good Political Argument? That, in fact, in the US of As War Against Recreational Drugs the Authorities are at a severe disadvantage?

Thus ... WE ARE REALLY REALLY STUPID BY COMPARISON WIH THE HISPANICS...give us more money to compensate for our disability!!

Do you know what? I suspect that it may well be that I'm the first person to think of this Really Compelling Argument. As a retired - Spin Doctor? - Of many years experience in Management and Business Studies Education I feel that I should ask...
To whom should I send my Bill?

267:

Then again, if the Greeks had the same culture as the Germans do you really think they would be in this mess?

268:
...perhaps you could fill the gap between rail and concetre with some sort of rubber that is compressed by a tram and not by a cycle?

This is a thing. Although it doesn't prevent the rails from being very slippery when wet, which I thought was more of a problem than wheel-in-groove (more common, anyway, if less serious).

Also for winter cycling studded tyres pretty much solve the falling over problem. Rutted re-frozen slush can still be a little challenging.

269:

I know of Caistor Grammar.

It's current status is weird. Its results are good, but it's a selective school taking some kids from out-of-area. And the other school in town has never offered A-levels. What the increase in school-leaving age has done, any figures are going to be hard to relate to other places.

Educational Propagandists of the Tory persuasion will probably talk about it until the cows come home. Without mentioning how unusual it is. It is an academy too.

270:

All this talk about cycling. I’m in my mid 50s and have a bike that I ride on weekends and occasionally to work on the UT-Austin campus when the students are on break. I can tell you from experience that falling off a bike is unforgiving. In fact I had a major bike spill two weekends back that I am still recovering from.

I was out riding on a sunny Saturday and ingested copious amounts of cedar pollen (there’s no such thing as winter in central Texas). After having an allergy attack I took some Benadryl and very stupidly decided to ride my bike to a local bookstore. A while later in the bookstore I became drowsy (a side effect of Benadryl). I of course thought it a good idea to ride my bike home. I had just crossed an intersection when I adjusted my book bag on the handle bar … suddenly my front wheel was going the wrong way and I was falling toward to the pavement. I scraped and bruised my hands, and banged my kneecap. Needless to say I became a grumpy old man for several days hence.

I’m about 95% recovered. The swelling, scrapes and the bruises are fading. And am walking without a pronounced limp. I will ride again, but not while taking allergy pills.

271:

I know of few people [both girls] who have been/or are Caistor Grammar, and it's very academically focused, to the exclusion of much else in the case of some pupils.

Not a place for gazing out of the window

I think the boarding house closed after demand fell away in the nineties.

If you want that sort of thing for your offspring, St James' in Grimsby is the only game into town.

Both the comprehensives I went to, in Peterborough and North-East Lincs are academies, now.

272:

What with my scoliosis [and related C of G issues], wretched knees and [like you] inadequate lung capacity, learning to ride a bike is something I've avoided.

Judging by the number of people who have added to their afflictions through bike riding accidents [one lost his sense of smell after hitting his head on the pavement - and yes he was wearing a cycling helmet.]

Two of my school acquaintances were killed by motorists whilst on bikes before their eighteenth birthdays, too.

No thanks.

273:

My memory is not that great, but I'm certain that some public schools (In the proper definition) get better exam results than some private schools.
However I'm from Edinburgh, which has the highest concentration of private school pupils in the country, with the corresponding effect of much less achieving public schools because all the middle class kids are in the private schools.


On the educational changes in England by in effect giving schools away to private interests and turning them into centrally controlled schools (With the usual lying misnomer of labelling them 'free' schools) with the concomittent lack of local control, strange that, it is essential to note that they do so usually against the wishes of the local people who actually use the school. All too often councils roll over and say yes because it either takes away something they otherwise have to think about (Who wants to oversee a school, thats hard work) or they are under such budgetary pressure anyway that they can see it's easier to say yes.

It's a great reason not to vote Tory, because to them black truly is white and vice versa.

274:

I'm not going to go too much into this.

That is an older stereotype. Basically, it comes from the right wing belief that people who use the social safety net in any function are "lazy and shiftless".

Latino Americans tend to use social safety programs at a higher percentage than White Americans.

Note that many illegally arrived immigrants have been in the US for over a decade, long enough to start their own families. Contrary to popular belief, they are not eligible to receive state or federal benefits, with a few exceptions. Exceptions include access to schools for undocumented children and the fact that if someone is dying on the spot, the hospital can't turn them away for any reason. Since their children are US citizens, they have access to programs like food stamps, which help citizens who live in poverty. Theoretically, the food stamps are for the children, not the parents.

However, it has been a long time since I've heard that stereotype. It's mostly in movies from the 80's to early 90's. The newer stereotype is that they're drunks, drug users, and criminals. Still, I really haven't heard that "newer" stereotype since I graduated high school in 2004, so it's probably not that popular anymore.

Hope this answers your question.

275:

Note that even then, the "lazy and shiftless" accusation was directed towards the children of the immigrants as well as to any immigrant who was granted amnesty by President Reagan in 1986. The implications are obvious.

276:

You know, Aigarius makes a very good point: there is more to fiscal policy than just Austerity vs Not Austerity. How the government spends its funds, and run its taxes, makes a big difference.

In the case of Greece, the government doesn't seem to be making an especially inspiring show of cleaning things up, and tax collection has been a problem for a long time.

http://www.economist.com/news/europe/21565657-greek-tax-dodgers-are-being-outed-national-sport-no-more

Which makes me feel some sympathy for anybody who has to run the Greek government. But at the same time, the ECB, Germany et al have to be wondering why they would lend Greece any more money at this point, no matter what promises the new Greek government made to its constituents. If you lent somebody a lot of money in 2010 because they couldn't make the next payment on their loans, then lent them even more money in 2012 (plus wrote down half their debt), then found yourself called upon for still more in 2015, you might well decide that the one sure thing is that you're not going to lend them any more money ... and if nobody is willing to lend Greece any more money, then they're pretty much back to Austerity.

Syriza's got a treacherous road ahead ...

277:

Except that Greece is erm .. "Orthodox" not RC.
There is a strong & abiding suspicion of the RC church in "protestant" Europe, even at this late date.
Historically speaking & jusdging by the scandals regardin paedophila & the Magdalene Laundries, one might venture to say that suspicion of such a powerful & corrupt organisation could be well-founded.
But ... "orthodox" isn't even on most "protestants" radar .....

278:

(One of the) Alternative to that is what The London Borough of What the Fuck Waltham Forest used to operate - boasted of how much they spent on education - with no notice of the truly terrible academic results - because approx 52% of the monies was bing kept cwntrally, in-borough & not going to the actual schools ....
This was about 20 years back & they have since been reamed, I'm glad to say.

So actual local control of schools, out of the hands of moronic (& in one case functionally-illiterate) councillors & in to the hands of the schools' governors etc is actually a good idea. Certainly compared to what went before, anyway.

279:

I already said - were I them, I'd be printing New Drachmas RIGHT NOW ........

However it goes, it's not going to end well.
Because of course "I wouldn't start from here" - Greece should never have been allowed IN to the Eurozone with it's dodgy & much-dodged tax system & flaky accounting. Everyone knew, no-one did anything.
It is at least as much the fault of the "central authorities" as the Greeks, if not more so.

280:

Cheers. All I really needed to work that out was the knowledge that you live in the New Town, and that the New Town is built on the side of a drumlin.

281:

Looking at that, it neither addresses the "wheel in groove" issue over long distances (which is what got Hamster in the Top Gear item) or the turning over a wet rail one.

282:

Except that Greece is erm .. "Orthodox" not RC.

A major fault line in European politics is "Orthodox vs. Catholic". It's Poland vs. Russia, it's Serbia vs. Croatia/Slovenia.

283:

The new town isn't built on the side of a drumlin. They are such distinctive features I am sure my school geology lessons would have mentioned it, not to mention taken us on an excursion to view it like we looked at Arthur's seat and some other places.
If anything it is a glacially sculpted terrace; you might be thinking of the crag and tail of the Castle and Royal Mile.

284:

And the guarantee that the school governors, overseen by the department of education are any better than your cherry picked example of a bad council is? Nothing at all. The evidence is clear now that 'free' schools and Academies allow any old weirdo, from islamic fundamentalists to YEC's to brainwash not just their own children but other local ones too. Did you miss the bit about them being imposed against the will of local people?

285:

One of my sources tells me that the historical performance figures for Caistor Grammar have some rapid changes when the headmaster changed.

My father used to tell me that the idiot who was headmaster when I was at Primary school was only on the shortlist to make up the numbers, and got in because of some local village politics affecting who was a Governor, and how they decided. Such things were not ever entirely decided by the County Council, and local school governors are not a reliable safeguard against maladministration.

Perhaps the big problem, until the 1980s, was that there was so little reliable testing of the results of any school. But even then the idiots kept control. And the whole Academy concept might favour opportunistic business skills over teaching management.

One moderately obvious problem is that any change to an exam of to the management of a secondary school takes time for it's effects to work through. There's some changes known in child development that take place around age 14 and 15 (and of course with no definite date, plus effects of age in school year, and not strongly related to physical puberty) and a change that has good effects on the older kids, showing quickly, might not look so good when you get the younger kids coming through the system.

Sometimes you need a rapid change, because of the harm that can be done by the discredited system, but that rapid change could do a lot of harm which you can't see for several years. This is not an easy problem.

286:

AFAIK Greeks work longer hours than Germans, so it's still racism. Keep in mind that Germany's praised "productivity" doesn't come from better and more industrious workers but from a higher level of automation and paying less workers for the same job. Work ethics doesn't come into it.

287:

You might well be right, but the terrain levels in Embra vary so much from the natural in places (even ignoring the crag and tail of the castle + Royal Mile) that I'd be reluctant to be too definitive about features as a rule. After all, from St Andrew Square down Leith Walk, London Road et al you do get a relatively gentle slope down, but then there's Calton Hill to consider the other way...

288:

A major fault line in European politics is "Orthodox vs. Catholic". It's Poland vs. Russia, it's Serbia vs. Croatia/Slovenia.

I doubt you can blame the Russian Orthodox for the falling out between Russia and Poland. After all, Ukraine has 67% Orthodox itself and it still doesn't help with the relations to Russia.

Trust me, if religion becomes a dividing factor between people, it's usually because some politicians goaded them on for economical reasons or power struggle.

289:

Nope, I disagree entirely. (Did I mention I'm an Edinburgher exiled by sky high property prices?) A steep slope does not define a drumlin, it's the size and shape and what it is made from, and by definition they are individual features, even if they often come in groups.

What I did just find out today is that there are other crag and tail features in Edinburgh, such as Corstorphine hill. Calton hill is also volcanic, i.e. the opposite if you like, of the glacial deposition feature called a drumlin.

290:

NOT "cherry picked" I live htere _ & have taught there, as well.
Agreed, there is no necessity that the new people will be any better, but at least a new start can be made ....

As for "any old wierdo" you obviously have not met some of LBWF's councillors ......

291:

Did I mention I'm an Edinburgher exiled by sky high property prices?

Us too. We discovered that while selling two flats, we couldn't afford a nice house with a garden - so we moved out to Midlothian, five minutes from the bypass, and have a much nicer house as a result.

Slightly less fantastic Secondary schools, although the local Primary is excellent...

Are you sure about Corstorphine Hill as a crag and tail? Its ridgeline runs north/south, and doesn't really have an obvious scarp to the west (more to the east, if anything); it's a gentle slope upwards from Cammo to Drum Brae, and then down again to Ravelston. Although I will vouch that running uphill along Drumbrae from Ferry Road to the peak was... taxing :(

292:

That should read: gentle slope upwards and eastwards from Cammo to Drum Brae to Clermiston, and then down from the ridgeline to Ravelston.

293:

Well it was a web page about the geology of Edinburgh from some local geology society :)
It's because of the tilted nature of the intrusive volcanic bits, they are what give you the craggy stuff at the top, even although they are running north-south, so I suppose it depends what the stuff on the east side is made of - if sedimentary then it's a crag and tail. On the west though, that's a good point.


Greg - the cherry picking is your assumption that all other councils are bad and evil and terrible re. schools. Your personal experience does not prove that they all are, it's like saying that all policemen are evil wannabe murderers on the basis of the Tomlinson case, or all landrover owners are old men with beards on the basis of yourself. WE're arguing in general across the entire population, you seem to be arguing by personal experience, which only gets you so far.

294:

I wouldn't wish to schlepp a bicycle up and down 4 flights of stairs either. Have no idea what Edinburgh traffic is like, but it's not likely to be any better than Kansas City traffic, which I did ride in decades ago, when I'd more health and less sense. If your situation changes, I'd suggest the mountain bike variant with 700C wheels, and an available 1-1 low, which can be handy on some of the hills here (Several river valleys here.), and likely just as handy there. Knee pain while cycling suggests too slow of a cadence, 60 ~ 100 rpm at the cranks should be more comfortable. Derailleur systems are still more maintenance intensive than internal gears, but much improved, in ways I shouldn't bore you with, over what was available 40 years ago. The SF fan in me says "Don't", as the idea of potentially damaging your hands would endanger the future reading pleasure of many.

295:

A quibble.

Be careful about Eastern Rite Catholic vs. Eastern Orthodox.

They are easy to confuse, and they are not the same.

Eastern Rite Catholic and Roman Catholic maintain common communion. Their split was strictly political, and both sides agree. Eastern Rite Catholics are welcome at Roman Catholic Mass, and may receive communion, and vice versa.

The same is NOT true for Orthodox and Roman Catholic.

296:

Knee pain while cycling may also indicate improper seat adjustment, seat height being the biggest one.

I bought a bicycle a few years back, hoping to start getting more exercise. (Wasn't able to, for unrelated reasons.) The shop set it up.

After I got it home, and rode it once, I readjusted the seat and the handlebars. It made a SIGNIFICANT difference in my comfort level.

297:

Knee pain while cycling suggests too slow of a cadence,
It may also indicate arthritis.

298:

Strange how it isn't racism if I call the Germans clever and industrious.

299:

No, it's not strange at all: racism requires a power dynamic. We could accuse you of racial prejudice, if you really want.

300:

Well, I'm certainly "culturist"

301:

Knee pain while cycling suggests too slow of a cadence

It could also just be that someone has knees that don't do well with flexing under stress.

Too much walking makes mine hurt. Bike riding makes mine hurt. Playing tennis makes them hurt.

This is not an immediate hurt but something that grows over days until the inflammation makes them actually hard to bend if I do too much over a week or few.

Not everyone who doesn't want to bike ride "can just do it".

302:

Likewise - I discovered at age 21 that I had chronic bursitis i both knees, but that it took repeated hard impact to inflame it.

So cycling wasn't a problem, running in good-quality shoes wasn't a problem, but running in boots, on tarmac, carrying load was a problem. I slowly realised that kneeling on a hard bathroom floor beside the bath, while trying to bathe an infant was a problem. And nowawadays, this has extended to "playing football on astroturf"*, so that's the Thursday lunchtime game at work stuffed :(

* Cultural note for y'all - by "football", I mean a game played by using your feet to control a ball. Not "hand-egg" :)

303:

Brief note: my further thoughts on Greece, austerity, and religion may be read on my own blog at: http://adviceunasked.blogspot.com/2015/01/northern-europe-vs-greece.html

304:

Planty of other councils, both labour & tory have ( & some still are) royally screwing with the lack-of-education-syatems in their areas.
I mean, chidren's education is so nice to fuck up, if you are a doctrinaire local politico, isn't it?

305:

* Cultural note for y'all - by "football", I mean a game played by using your feet to control a ball. Not "hand-egg" :)

You mean "Wendyball" (so called because it's mostly played by a load of Wendys)? ;-) In Rugby Union you may play the ball forwards with your feet, or by carrying it.

306:

People in American ken "footy" now. You can watch the Barclays on weekend mornings if the mood takes you. Throwing tomatoes is good fun; using rotten ones is just unsporting.

307:

Re: Greece & the Eurozone ...
Here's an interesting argument or analogy
Discuss.
Incidentally, it will be noted that the arrogant whingers of the SNP will not accept the supposed facts underlying the case presented.
Well, they're wrong ....

308:

Err, I guess it's somewhat more complicated than that; for starters, converting to any religion in the past was quite often a political decision, and even if it was just "the particular creed of tge first Christian missionary to show up", this might indicate whatever place the missionary came from had a better trading connection with the place to convert than any other onee. Same goes for military force, which quite often boil down to issues of logistics, and in Ukraine the disstinction between Roman Catholicism or Eastern Rite Catholicism and Orthodoxy had quite a lot to do with the latter one:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Union_of_Brest

Also, belonging to the same religious subgroup might lead to all kinds of shared religious events with personal encounters, and religious indoctrination might lead to some cultural similarities, which might facilitate trading.

So religion might be a proxy for some underlying interest groups and power structure, just as language or any other form of "ethnicity".

As for any "Orthodox unity", Russian Orthodoxy is mainly under the Patriarchate of Moscow, with the status of the Kievan Patriarchate one of the issues Russian-Ukrainian rivalry is showing at, Greece is part or somewhat affiliated with the Patriarchate of Constantinople. And it seems there is some rivalry with the two, e.g. AFAIK the Patriarch of Constantinople has a good relation with the RCC, while the Moscow one not so much, the Eastern Rite Catholics in Ukraine being one issue, though I'd have to delve into some vaticanology and like to look it up.

Also note the Greek Royal family was neither autochton nor from the "Orthodox world", but a Bavarian, Greece was the only Orthodox member of NATO etc., so its relation to the rest of the "Orthodox bloc" might be superficially similar to the status of Turkey in relation to the "Islamic bloc", to dive headlong into Huntington.

That's not to say some Greeks or Russians might not disagree:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2015/01/greece-religion-and-geopolitics

310:

" .. Too much walking makes mine hurt. Bike riding makes mine hurt. Playing tennis makes them hurt."


Indeed? Try this as an imaginative exercise... oh, the clip linked is deliberately chosen as being a less than convinciningly physicaly fit Karate Master...there are others in parallel to that u tube video...


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GeHr_tQzrw


... ..Though not that Wicked Sod Kato, who I remember from back in the '70s. Anyway, I think that it’s him.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n12ZWPvby50

Though how is this possible when SO many people wanted to KILL him... even touching him in free sparing would have done!
This was before my spinal condition was diagnosed by a Consultant Neurologist who gave me a lecture complete with illustrations.

Well, he knew that I'd read everything that I could lay my hands on the subject ...I recommend, Lord Brains " Diseases Of The Central Nervous System " as being a wonderfully simple exposition of a complex subject: though possibly not a cheerful read if you don’t want to be told that you just have to give up all of your most physically demanding interests.

311:

Anyway...Enough of Political, and Physical Exercise, Gloom and despondancy... HERE ...Sorry, it's the Daily Heil ... can't think why they should have posted this but it made me smile and that is quite an acomplisment at the moment ...


" ... Angela Merkel joined by Carnival Princes and Princesses at Chancellery for pre-season celebrations ...It is tradition for the Chancellor to receive Germany's Carnival Clubs ahead of the season "

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2930026/Not-fan-Angela-Merkel-looks-away-female-dancers-perform-splits-upside-reception-Berlin-man-certainly-happy.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490


Those German dancers will PAY for all of that exertion when they are Middle Aged!!They may Never Ride a Bicycle Again when they are much beyond age 50, and serves them right too!


312:

Actually, female carnival dancers are a late innovation, they were finally established in the 1930s.

Till then, this was man's work. In drag, of course.

Gotta love early modern identity politics...

BTW, sore legs is the last concern you've got to have in carnival, but let's not elaborate.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HwYXabYFFbM

313:

Indeed? Try this as an imaginative exercise...

Indeed. My point was that not everyone has the physical makeup to ride bikes as adults. My knees are congenitally bad. The cartilage didn't form up right in my early teens during my growth spurts. Exercise makes it better but doesn't cure the core problem. If I do too much I get to the point where my knees start sounding like someone popping their knuckles.

Again, bikes are great for some people. I was a big bike rider during my youth. But they are not for me now. And not for many others.

314:

"So religion might be a proxy for some underlying interest groups and power structure..."

No shit Sherlock, as they say.
Religions are not about mysticism, nor God(s), nor theology. They are about cultural identity, mutual support and ideological conformity. If Jesus and Mohammed were conclusively shown by science never to have existed, nothing would change, because ultimately it's not about that.

315:

Err, theology is part of cultural identity and ideological conformity (or inclusion, most RCC decisions regarding christology, salvation and like boil down to a "well, you're right/wrong, and you too", vide Nestorianism vs. Miaphysitism, Pelagianism vs. total depravity, Apokatastasis vs. "no salvation for the virtuous pagan" etc.) and thus quite important.

Mysticism, well, there are only so many failure modes of our brain, so whatever mystics tell sounds quite similar; OTOH, never underestimate the influence of culture on experience, vide cross-cultural psychiatry.

Gods, well...

As for the things going on as before even if you show some person never existed, might be, might not be, though that's more of an exercise in random events vs. great laws in history.

316:

Religions last longer than nations, languages and political ideologies. They are arguably the most fundamental unit of Human culture.

317:

And the most demented & pernicious, too ....

318:

Just had our election in Queensland - the LNP government that won a massive landslide at the last election (Labour was down to 9 seats out of 89 after 20 years in power) has been three years of 'we know best' austerity, sackings, and plans for mass privatisations. The premier lost his seat, Labour is within an ace of an outright majority and shouldn't have any trouble making a coalition if they need it. Everyone was expecting a correction but where surprised by how far it went (I've seen the word massacre used) - a narrow majority might not seem like much but the size of the swing is historic and its completely unknown in Queensland to dump a first term government - but then Victoria has just done the same and things are not looking good for the federal government either.

319:

It seems that the Greece election is going to put a new pile of ground on the grave of Socialism X.0. "Their way" is going for a very public humiliation and debacle, and it's going to reflect on other pro-socialism parties in Europe. It's going to be a precautionary story for anyone who dares to dream about a new ways in EU. What a shame.

320:

No, it will show Creditor Europe valuing a commitment to economic masochism over the lives of Debtor Europe citizens (and those of migrants, given Greece's status as entry point). Greece's being forced out of Euro should make southern Europe very nervous indeed - the "Devil take the hindmost" strategy has the flaw that there's always a hindmost.

321:

Well, considering the erratic behavior of Greek politicians, I don't think EU needs to force them out. It seems that they just need to wait and the whole thing will crumble by itself.

322:

If Syriza cannot sort out the problems, the next to step up will be Golden Dawn.

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This page contains a single entry by Charlie Stross published on January 24, 2015 3:17 PM.

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