Saturday, May 15, 2004

This looks pretty desperate
“KERRY-McCAIN AGAIN....More speculation about a Kerry-McCain ticket, this time on the front page of the New York Times.”

Maybe Bush should put Michael Moore on his ticket to show that he can take criticism?

Update Hey, just watch Kerry work his magic on John: zzzzzzzz.

The Good News:
“The British bloke is slobby, saggy and self-deluded... and that's just the way we like him!”

The bad news it’s a guardian moose that feel this way.

The clothes are starting to come off Brown’s economic miracle :
”Frank Hoole, 50, was last in a job 11 years ago. That was the year he was made redundant from his job with TSB, the bank subsequently taken over by Lloyds.
He is one of 2.4m people in Britain on incapacity benefit. Add the 311,000 who receive the government’s severe disablement allowance and 2.7m are on health-related benefits, three times the figure in 1979.
An increasing number of people, like Hoole, are suffering stress and other mental health problems. Since Labour came to power in 1997 there has been a 38% rise in those getting incapacity benefit for such reasons. The figure now stands at 718,000.
They are not the only ones excluded from Britain’s apparently booming job market. Official figures show that these benefit claimants are part of a near-record 7.8m people of working age who are “economically inactive”.
This sits strangely with other government figures showing employment at record levels and the number claiming jobseeker’s allowance, the main unemployment benefit, down to a 29-year low of 876,300.
Gordon Brown, trumpeting those figures last week, declared that “Britain is working”. [as in massaging the figures gordo?]…
There are many reasons for economic inactivity. Some of it reflects higher numbers of students, or women who were working and have taken time off to have children. Early retirement, particularly among men, and the legacy of the industrial shakeouts of the past, when men were left with obsolete skills, also account for some of the inactivity.
But there are also less explicable developments. Among men aged 25-34, who would normally be thought of as the most employable in a strong job market, employment has dropped by a quarter in the past two years.
Even the record on youngsters, regarded as a success story by the government with its New Deal programme, may not represent quite the achievement it appears. According to the Tories, more than 1m of those aged 16-24 are without jobs, educational qualifications or training. They call it the “lost generation” and point out that Britain’s youth unemployment rate, one in eight, is higher than the 10% in sclerotic Germany.
The apparent good news of a rise in self-employment, up 300,000 to 3.6m over the past two years, is also open to challenge. Critics say much of this reflects “involuntary” self-employment — people who have lost jobs and have had no option but to try, often unsuccessfully, to make it on their own as consultants or tradesmen.
The biggest puzzle of all, however, is the rise in incapacity, particularly the big increase in people who are off work for long periods — more than 80% of those on incapacity benefit haven been claiming for over a year — because of stress and associated problems. “

The Guardian reports
“Encouraging schoolchildren to experiment with oral sex could prove the most effective way of curbing teenage pregnancy rates, a government study has found.”

And will also increase the demand for interns.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

While debate on the media’s attitude to the Iraqi news rages, I’m surprised that this excerpt from escaped hostage Thomas Hamill hasn’t received more attention:
“COSBY: We’re looking at a picture of you now, Thomas, on TV when the Australian TV [crew] came over to you and you were interviewed briefly. That’s how we all knew that you were taken hostage. What did they say to you — the captors that had the masks on?

HAMILL: Those captors. They didn’t speak much English and they didn’t say too much to me. They just pulled up where this TV crew was and I was so angry and so mad that they were there, this close after this attack. I just felt that they knew somehow that this was going to happen, and that’s why they were there, that close and that quick. And I was just quick and to the point and short, and just ready to get away from them.

It’s time more of the media started to ask themselves serious question about whether they are reporting or inciting violence against their own audiences.

Monday, May 10, 2004

Was Abu Gahrib caused by a breakdown in command, Donald Rumsfeld or inadequate training? No, stop trying to being so reasonable. According George it was the result of sexual abstinence:
“America's virgin soldiers are on their way - ignoring the dangers of abstinence for teenagers”
But before you break down in laughter, there’s a warning:
“The flame of sexual liberation may soon have to be kept alive by us geriatric delinquents…., I urge you chaps to lock up your daughters and send them on their way. It's up to the older generation to keep our young whippersnappers off the straight and narrow.”
Yikes, . steer clear of pubs in SE1 girls.

“SHAMEFUL photographs showing British troops abusing Iraqi prisoners ARE fake, the Government confirmed yesterday.”

No surprises there . But why pay any attention, Blair likes apologising and the pinckos love bashing him. Win win.

The march of employees’ self esteem the primary goal of work gathers pace in the public sector
“The younger generation of specialised nurses is in danger of losing touch with the basic principles of the profession by becoming "too posh to wash", the Royal College of Nursing was warned yesterday.

Beverly Malone, the college's general secretary, said at its annual congress in Harrogate that nurses who did not want to give patients intimate personal care were missing the whole point of the profession.”

A very good article by Charles Moore
“I was grimly amused to see this confirmed by the letter from a British serving officer in Saturday's paper, who said the people of Basra were constantly urging torture upon him, in order to deal with the gangsters who make their lives a misery.

The Americans think the British – and those in their own State Department and the CIA who think like them – don't get the point that the old way of dealing with the Muslim world has failed. It drives them wild to see Jack Straw sucking up to an Iranian government that still sponsors terror. They believe that the modern elements in Iraq – the surprisingly strong urban, educated, politically secular middle class – need the chance to build a civil society there.

They will never get that chance if the coalition temporises with the old order, and sits still as rejectionists flood in from neighbouring countries. Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia, they point out, all want the experiment in Iraq to fail, and can use their porous borders to help bring failure about.

It sounds feeble to say it, but each view has some right on its side.”

Its often the case that the value of a coalition is not in the cooperation it brings but the competition in ideas it forments. Co-opertition.
The Telegraph reports
“Mothers are rejecting equality in the workplace and prefer the idea of becoming full-time housewives - but not ones who actually do housework……

And what we're seeing is a serious gender divide regarding women in the workplace. This time around, it is the women who want to stay at home and the men who want to keep them in the offices and factories."

Anecdotally this seems to have an element of truth to it.

More importantly it calls into question some currently accepted wisdom in economic policy.
The highly expansionary monetary and fiscal policies being pursued in the United States are in part motivated not by high unemployment by weak jobs growth or, as some Economists such as Brad Delong have put it, the low employment to population ratio.

But what if the low employment to population ratio is in fact an individually rational response? The expansionary policies are likely to result principally in inflation [the dangers of which are well outlined in this article in The Guardian ]. There is a lot of research currently going on into the female labor supply and this anecdote is perhaps good evidence that it seems to follows a RBC model. In any event I smell interesting data over the next few years.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

The right to change your nameis a fundamental human right.
The childish drive towards “caring” capitalism under new Labor continues unabated. Patricia Hewitt of the DTI is trying to introduce something called the Operating and Financial Review which is “going to oblige all listed companies to provide details of factors affecting future performance, including the social and environmental risks they face.”

Neil Collins in the Telegraph fisks the vacuity of this whole drive – it distorts the personnel relations within a firm – employees should not be valued over and above their economic value and as dangerously it corrupts the professions – the regulations have of course been endorsed by the Institute of Chartered Accountants who smell a fat bill.

However the unintended consequences are more interesting – as this legislation is imposed on publicly listed companies it places them at a disadvantage to private companies. But investing in private companies is only really possible through private equity funds which are primarily an investment only available to the wealthy. End result – its the pension funds of middle income that pay the cost.

I’m still waiting to read the first article about Abu Ghraibigatthat doesn’t include the obligatory injection of the word “atrocity” “abhorrent” or whatever the journalist’s random superlative thesaurus generates. As an old public school boy I’d have to say much of the so-called “torture” wouldn’t have even made afternoon tea gossip. Add the perspective that many of these “victims” [hey steady on those scare quotes gi] had presumably killed or attempted to kill American soldiers and the “interrogation” looks to me reasonably mild.

Barbara Amiel puts it better
Three weeks ago in Highland Park, Texas, Mrs Dolly Kelton was arrested and handcuffed for failing to pay a traffic ticket after her car was stopped for having an expired registration. I doubt that Mrs Kelton was a threat to the safety of the arresting officer. She is 97 years old.
We handcuff her - or a white collar criminal such as Michael Milken - because some Western societies, and America in particular, use these procedures as a way of softening up the accused by humiliation and to underline the power of the authorities. We routinely use measures in normal police matters that, very strictly speaking, violate the Geneva Conventions. Interrogations may use some form of psychological menace. Noise or lighting may deliberately create some sort of sleep deprivation for a short period.
This is not to say we should withdraw from the Geneva Conventions in order to fight drug dealers and child molesters, but only to note that in some circumstances, our police may use such tactics. In Iraq, we are fighting men and women who routinely blow up civilians in a guerrilla war of the most merciless kind. If a 97-year-old woman is handcuffed for a traffic offence, what is the appropriate procedure for murderous guerrillas?

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