Tuesday, March 27, 2007

So that's where the money's gone ...

Pub Philosopher with one of the more important posts I've read in a long while. I've been watching house prices rise for 15 years or more,waiting for the crash which hasn't happened. I look at the average cost of a semi and wonder how anyone on average wages can afford it. Who keeps buying ?

We've been reading about vast city bonuses for a long time now. Each year directors of large companies get 15%-odd salary increases while shopfloor Joe gets 3%. Don't get me started on the share options.

My late mother's house was bought by an investor. So was my late father's.

Before the second world war, even middle-class people, for the most part, lived in rented property. Home ownership was only for the wealthy. In many European countries, it is still unusual for people to buy houses until they are in their late thirties. Might the rise in home ownership since the 1950s be thrown into reverse? And what will be the social impact of wannabe house buyers being forced into the rental market?

You really must read the whole thing.

Blogging will be light for the next two weeks. If I have time I'll post from Mexifornia.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Here We Go, Here We Go, Here We Go

Remember the last Guardianista line on EU immigration ? After the 'only 13,000' figure turned out to be over half a million, the next line was 'they're only coming over for a few years to earn some money, then they'll go back'.

It was my impression that while some (like the philosophy student I gave a lift to last summer) were here for the quick buck (and nowt wrong with that), many are in for the long haul. We've got the first wee Poles at the primary. We're printing the Mass service sheets in Polish as well as English. I'm seeing a lot of bumps and pushchairs in Poundland.

The BBC has been told the influx of eastern Europeans to the UK has led to a massive rise in pregnancies and abortion requests in some areas.

Health professionals warn that some antenatal services are stretched to breaking point.

More than 500,000 eastern Europeans have migrated to the UK following the accession of eight new member states to the EU in 2004.

The impact on services appears to be far greater outside major cities.

Doctors say the new arrivals are largely young, fit and fertile: the number of pregnant women has doubled; one in four women asking for an abortion is eastern European.

This is particularly informative.

Lisa Cunningham, manager of the BPAS in Luton, said her centre dealt with 663 abortions last year.

"We have noticed an increase with the Eastern European clients.

"Some women have said to me that they would want to continue with the pregnancy, but they haven't been in this country for very long, and they are not entitled to the benefits.

"If they were entitled to that then they would continue with the pregnancy. It's sad that that is a big factor."

Tragically "there is no basic state help - even child benefit - for unemployed migrant workers from these countries until they've worked in the UK for at least a year."

The BBC have discovered a whole new job the locals don't want to do - that of the "unemployed migrant worker". Apparently with more state aid it could be a vibrant sector of the economy.

When the Europeans overran North America and 'marginalised' the indigenous peoples, they repented (admittedly very late) and established reservations into which no non-native can go without the tribe's permission. How that fits with discrimination law I don't know - just another example of the one-way ratchet I guess. Anyway, we're hoping to pay 75 bucks each next week to tread upon the half-million or so acres of Hualapai land and see their snazzy new Skywalk.

In the comments to this post Guardian Apostate said :

"... underneath many people are unhappy with what's developing. Without any seeming alternative they just quietly leave. I know many people of Afro-Caribbean descent, many of whom I like a lot, but sadly, on balance, I've come to the conclusion I'd rather live in a more English setting. It's not just British culture that's affected. The days of the blues parties and sound system clashes are pretty much over. It's just too dangerous. I'm not overly taken by Indian culture either. I have 4, living in a tiny one bedroom flat above me, and I appear to have absolutely zero in common with them. They talk in their own language amongst themselves and mostly listen to Indian music and radio. My culture is slowly falling away in so many subtle ways. It is't only immigration Labour has got wrong. For me, in some ways quite worse, is the state of Education. That seemed to be the tipping point for most of my friends with families who've left."

I don't think he's a racist. He doesn't hate people of other cultures or races. Like most people in the world, certainly like most immigrants to Britain, he just wants to live among his own.

I know America's a much bigger country - but do you think they could put a bit aside for the English ? Shropshire would be nice.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

British Understatement

... has moved to Zimbabwe.

"I do not think that even the most enthusiastic anti-colonial and anti-imperialist advocates would agree in 2007 that the 1st revolution of Zimbabwe has produced a positive outcome that is in line with the expectations of all those Africans who have made the sacrifices to eradicate the artificial man made colonial distortions."

Slavery Days II

I can't find it in my heart to blame the BBC overmuch for their coverage of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade. Given that the government and Church of England, rather than celebrating the fact that Britain was the first nation in history to make a serious (and successful) attempt at abolition, chose an orgy of breast-beating and apology, how could the BBC resist following suit ? It fits with the narrative they were taught in sociology, English and politics classes - how could they not go with the flow ?

Julian Worricker presented his Radio Five show today from Ghana, while actor Kwame Kwei-Armah (ne Ian Roberts in Hillingdon - like Muhammad Ali, he rejected his 'slave name') was in Liverpool.

I think it's fair to say that neither Worricker nor Kwei-Armah are immersed in the history.

When an interviewee asked why slave traders had gone to Africa rather than Russia for their slaves, Worricker was unable to reply that slave traders HAD gone there, that black and Russian slaves worked in Italy as far back as 1300, nor was he aware of probably the most famous Ukranian slave.

Worricker then passed control to Kwei-Armah in Liverpool, whose interview (41 minutes in) with the historian Anthony Beevor is a small classic, as Beevor resolutely failed to play to the script and insisted on pointing out that the British were only one of many slaving nations. Beevor mentioned the Arab slave trade, at which Kwei-Armah asked him why he was talking about Arab rather than Western slavery. Was he in denial ?

Kwei-Armah – "What forms of slavery took away their names ?"
Anthony Beevor – "Well in terms of the Arab slave trade they did worse than this. Recent research suggests that 90% of the males died from castration."
K-A - "I did not ask you that. I asked about the names."
AB – "Well yes. All slaves had their names taken away, back to Roman times."
K-A – "Oh."

(Thanks to Recovering Liberal)

Free Scratchcards

A scratchcard fell out of the Sunday Times - "Win £1 million", and surprise - when the kids scratched it, it turned out to be a 'Gold Winner'. As 90% of the scratchcards that fall out of the paper are.

A long but hopefully educational debate ensued, with a few googles for 'Purely Creative scratchcard scam' or similar. Surprise again - they had been fined by ICSTIS, the toothless premium phone number regulator.

It's a dirty business - give me a good honest shoplifter any day. The phones to claim a 'prize' cost £9. Only prizewinners will phone, as the scratchcards are free. So the prizes - such as they are - read the message boards or google to find out - are paid for by the phone calls. You don't need an economics degree to work out that to make a profit they're not going to be giving much away. I imagine the people who fall for this are either a) young and gullible b) elderly and trusting.

The economics aren't too bad. Let's say the prize is worth £2, the calls cost £9 - £7 a throw. Send out half a million of these, 20,000 mugs ring in (no idea what the response is BTW) - that's 140K. An ICSTIS fine of £2k isn't exactly going to make a hole in that.

Purely Creative are apparently owned by DM plc, who are quoted on the AIM market. They're based in Lancaster, which rang a bell. A company called Monstermob used to be based there, also not unknown to the ICSTIS regulator. I seem to recall the then owner, some sharp young guy, being presented with a Young Businessman award by the local Tory MP. Gullibility isn't confined to teenagers and OAPs.

I took a look at the current board of Monstermob. Blimey - they certainly live up to their name. Santiago Jack ? Where's Frisco Valdez, One-Eye Martinez and Valparaiso Pete ?

UPDATE - just when you think things can't get any lower - some entrepreneurial types have had the bright idea of selling the 'prizes' on ebay ! A £9 investment sells for £100 !

This guy only got £19 back. Look at this for an honest sales pitch.

I have just won a holiday for 1 to Spain on a scratch card. Having already booked my holiday I reluctantly let this one to slip for a bargain price.

You will receive a scratch card with already obtained claim code (cost me £9 to phone 0906 to confirm the prize), so the only thing you will need to do is to fill in your details and send it to the travel agent, Purely Creative, which is a reputable company so there won’t be any worries there. If you have any questions about the holiday you can call Purely creative on 08700 500 755 (9am-5pm Monday to Friday).)

Doesn't Take Long, Does It ?

My son's come back from cricket practice :

"Have you heard that Pakistan have given up cricket ? They're entering for the bobsleigh."

Blogging Losing Appeal ?

I think the death of blogging is greatly exaggerated, but then I would say that. The children are much more into bebo/myspace/facebook, but that's a socialising tool.

According to research by a firm of US technology analysts, the blogging phenomenon may have peaked last October, when 100,000 new blogs were being created every day. As well as personal diaries these included corporate, professional, celebrity and other specialist blogs.

Yet the Gartner research firm also concluded that the trend would level off in 2007, with perhaps 100m people still blogging worldwide. Other analysts predict that number will fall to 30m.

"A lot of people have been in and out of [blogging]", said Daryl Plummer of Gartner. "Everyone thinks they have something to say until they’re put on stage and asked to say it."

Some of us seem to only have one thing to say, but they keep on saying it.

This tells its own little story about crime in the heart of our capital city.

The midnight launch of the PlayStation 3 at the Virgin Megastore in Oxford Street, London, will go ahead despite police concerns. Another retailer, GAME, abandoned plans for a similar event after police said young gamers may risk being mugged.

"Progression Has Ceased"

"Eddieareader" in the comments to this Martin Kettle boilerplate. Don't agree with it all, but I get his general point.

Labour has lost its way now for over a generation, certainly since the 1960s. It has become a party to promote the interests of homosexuals, the public sector unions (from where it now derives its funding) and ethnic minorities - giving its metropolitan elite a cosy feeling of being liberal whilst not actually having to live with the consequences.

I come from a mining family. Both my grandfathers were miners, one had his back broken down the pit. My family were virtual slaves a century after the official ones were freed. The 1926 General Strike ran through our (rented) house like a wide river. My mother had a brother born the second week of the strike with no food (literally) in the house. The (old) Labour Party provided food parcels so that they didn't starve. My dad lost his big toe nail after diving for coal from sunken barges and catching his foot in one. I was the first in my family (like Neil Kinnock) to go to university. My mother always voted Labour until Mrs Thatcher.

I was a died in the wool Labour on entering university (always proud that I share a birthday with Thomas Paine and nearly with the execution of Charles II). Seeking out the Socialist Society I soon found it full of the sons and daughters of the middle-class, in 1970 not many working class kids made university especially those from comprehensives! I soon found that my accent set me apart. It was obvious to me as a 19 year old that these socialists, and I guess a good many went on to be something in the movement, had nothing to offer me accept a diferent face to the same exploitation I could expect from the Tories. That changed my life.

Labour got lost in debating societies rather than failitating the ambitions of working-class people. That is why Margaret Thatcher was so effective. Labour simply had no answer to what Margaret Thatcher offered and still don't.
Mrs Thatcher got a great deal wrong (education, the EU) due to her prejudices but she knew people want to improve their lot.

Tony Blair managed Labour well to pursue his own fantasy. It was just a pity that he had the intellectually deficient Brown alongside. Brown has wrecked pension schemes, raised taxes on the low-paid (increasingly after this week's Budget) and wasted the money on an ineptly managed public-sector. Blair could have insisted on reform first and spending (Brown has even spun spending as investment) second. Brown is so dim that he doesn't even understand what drives effective management. His only trick is to pull in Harvard professors to advise on productivity and have a photo opportunity.
The NHS needs to be dismantled and replaced with an insurance-based system as in France.

Their reaction to out-Tory the Tories means wasting billions on Trident, a slavish attitude towards the City, a willingness to tax low-earners but not high-earners and schools that can teach anything as long as an exam is passed.

Whereas the Tories are very mindful of their base (privilege) Labour has ignored the white working class it came from. Stephen Byers, whose constituents have homes (the major source of inherited wealth) worth on average just over £100,000, being interested in the abolition of inheritance tax is one example. The way Labour dismantled the immigration controls on spouses from the sub-continent and has refused to outlaw arranged marriages is another.

When I was planning for university at the end of the sixties it seemed a natural progression that I was doing better and would do better still than my parents. As my son prepares to do the same during the noughties (how apt) I cannot see him doing the same. Progression has ceased.