fredag 25 juni 2010

UK budget row

The budget has caused a deal of uproar with comments like this

"The tories will attack anyone and everyone that they don't perceive to be one of their own - White, Etonian/public school, Oxford/Cambridge, old school tie, land owning, bank running millionaires. Not much chance of most people getting into that demographic, although they will favour their lap dogs as the budget has shown."

It is typical of the criticism coming from the Left. It is off the point. Forget their colour, forget their education. There is only one thing that counts. Land owning on the largest scale.

Britain is run for the benefit of the handful of people who own most of it, such as the half-dozen "aristocratic" families who own the most valuable areas of Central London, their ancestors having got hold of it mostly by near-fraud about 400 years ago. Though do not forget the Oxbridge colleges, some of whom are also big-time landowners and would not allow anything to be taught that brought this state of affairs to wider public attention. All the other privileges follow.

This caste has cleverly got a lot of other people on-side by encouraging ownership of the teeny-weeny bit of land their homes stand on and kidding them that they own it when really the banks usually own it. How many people actually own both the land their homes and places of work stand on?

When there was the threat of socialist revolution, they were willing to give a bit by allowing people to have a welfare state, but with that threat gone, they will gather up all their old privileges and leave everyone else in penury. Think of one of the middling countries of South America - that is where Britain is heading. The squalor in Britain's public realm is already marked in comparison to the rest of Western Europe. It will be downhill all the way.

The only danger is they could miscalculate and then things will get ugly, but the army and the police will always be available to sort things out. A few can and will escape to mainland Europe, which will drain Britain's talent, but for the majority, there is no longer the safety-valve of countries like Australia.

Be afraid.

onsdag 23 juni 2010

Full marks for Ubuntu 10.04

There is plenty of good quality computing to be had without spending more than a couple of hundred pounds.

For the past ten years or so I used SuSE Linux but since version 11.1 it has been troublesome, so I tried out Ubuntu 10.04 on my laptop, an IBM X31 Thinkpad, probably about six years old. They can be picked up for £100 or so now, having been superseded by the X60 and X61 series.

So far, so good. Problems with the sound and problems with wireless connections seem to have been solved and it is fast and generally well integrated. In its overall "feel", it is very much like an Apple, with some slick-looking windows decorations.

System management works in a different way from SuSE and a decent broadband connection is needed to set it up in the first place, but I really don't have any complaints.

fredag 18 juni 2010

Bidragsberoendet

Den Brittiska regeringen, samt Sveriges, har svårt med bidragsberoendet. Regeringen anser att bidragsberoende är parasiter och vill att alla ska jobba. Men vad är bidragsberoendet egentligen? De bidragsberoende är människor som inte vill eller kan jobba och är beroende av bidrag.

Några bidragsberoende är helt och hållet fuskare, förstås. De får bidrag av regeringen men jobbar samtidigt. Några bidragsberoende är bara lata och vill hellre sitta hemma, liggea i sängen och titta på tv-n eller spela på datorn. Några är verkligen sjuka. Och där finns det stora problemet. Det kan illustreras av ett exempel, vilket var typiskt för tjugo år sedan.

För många år sedan, och i många områden av Storbritannien var ekonomin beroende av kolgruvor. Arbetet i gruvorna var hårt och smutsigt. Att vara gruvarbetare var ett jobb bara för starka unga killar. Men jobbet var farligt. Det hände många olyckor. Luften var dammig och många gruvarbetare blev skadade och fick lungsjukdomar. När det hände kunde männen inte fortsätte jobba under jorden men fick jobb på ytan, till exempel som kontorist på gruvans kontor, eller ansvarig för gruvans hissar, säkerhet, osv. Sådana yrke var väsentliga trots att lönen var mindre, och människor kunde fortsätta jobba till pensionsålder.

Men under 1980-talet lades de flesta kolgruvor ner. Det var ett val av politikerna, särskilt dåtidens premiär minister Margaret Thatcher som hatade kolgruvarbetarna. De flesta gruvarbetarna blev arbetslösa. Men de äldre gruvarbetarna blev sjukskrivna. Praktiskt taget var det bara ett knep för att minska arbetslöshets siffrorna. Om de hade funnit arbete som skulle ha passat bra för dem, skulle de ha fått jobb. Men det fanns inga lämpliga jobb.

I början av 1990-talet kom lågkonjunkturen och arbetslösheten ökade. Myndigheterna rådde arbetslösa som inte var helt friska att besöka sina läkare och bli sjukskrivna. Antalet sjukskrivna exploderade. Och kostnaderna också.

När man blir sjukskriven är det mycket svårt att få jobb igen. Arbetsgivarna är motvilliga att anställa dem. Sjukskrivna själva är motvilliga att ta jobb i fall att deras sjukdomar försämras och de inte kan arbeta igen.

Regeringen har försökt att minska antalet sjukskrivna genom att införa tuffare reglemente men har aldrig lyckats. Faktum är att tuffare reglemente gör de nuvarande sjukskrivna mer motvilliga att jobba, eftersom om de blir sjukskrivna igen, får de minskade bidrag.

Finansminister George Osborne annonserade att bidragssystemet ska reformeras så att arbetslösa och sjukskrivna vill ta jobb. Vi får se. Faktum är att arbetsmarknaden är så dålig. Varför det? Experterna och politiker anser att dessa problem är någonting som påverkar hela världen men det är bara en ursäkt. Egentligen ligger orsaken under våra fötter. Man behöver bara titta runt stadens centrum här i Brighton. Det finns många tomtar, som har varit tomma i mer än 25 år. Tomterna ägs av spekulanter. Men på tomterna finns rum för byggnader som kan användas av affärer, kontor, lägenheter och så vidare. Samtidigt kan affärsmän inte hitta lämpliga fastigheter. Marknaden kvävs och resultatet är att hela ekonomin inte kan fungera effektivt. Och så är bidragsberoendet oundvikligt.

onsdag 16 juni 2010

Catholic Bishops screw up again

The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales have an unlimited capacity for making a muck of things. In preparation for the visit of the Pope, they have produced a 32 page booklet called "Heart Speaks unto Heart".

Rarely can such a amateurishly produced piece of typography have been printed in such large numbers - at least a million copies, probably more.

There was a time when many of Britain's leading typographic designers were Catholics. There is Eric Gill, of course, designer of the famous Sans and Perpetua typefaces. There is Edward Johnson, who designed the sans-serif Johnston typeface that was used throughout the London Underground system from around 1916 until it was re-designed in the 1980s, as well as the famous roundel symbol. There is Stanley Morison, who designed what is probably the world's most-used typeface, Times New Roman.

So what have the Bishops given us? A publication that breaks every rule of typography. The recommended length of a line is 2 1/2 alphabets, that is about 65 characters. The average line in the book has well over 80 characters and some have as many as 95. Most fonts need white space between each lines, known as leading. This booklet has none. These two defects make the book very difficult to read at all, so it probably will not be. I have not read the thing and have no intention of doing so. The Bishops have just wasted our money.

The general design of the publication is appalling. Those fliers that supermarkets send out with a list of the current bargain offers are sophisticated in comparison. The pages are cluttered and confusing. There is little white space, which makes it difficult for the reader to orientate himself. Most of the pictures are of poor quality, of little interest, and not worth publishing.

And all of this in full-colour printing throughout, which is never cheap.

If the Bishops cannot get arrange for the production of a simple booklet without it having the mark of incompetence and ignorance stamped on every page, what can they get right? The message that comes across loud and clear is "We are ignorant, incompetent philistines!"

Considering that the Catholic Mass has brought forth the ultimate in world art, there is something very wrong here.

söndag 13 juni 2010

Liturgy problem

Today I went to Mass at a church in a cathedral city in the south of England. It was a children's service and a group were receiving their First Communion, so it was a family affair. I would guess that a good number of the congregation were not Catholics. Good to see a flourishing parish with plenty of young families.

But oh, dear, the liturgy was dreadful. We had the notorious "Clapping Gloria", and a collection of the most banal hymns and mass settings composed by I won't say who. We had bidding prayers read by the children, which would have been fine, but some of the children could hardly read.

This kind of thing is almost the rule in Catholic churches in Britain. What is the effect of tailoring the liturgy to what adults imagine are children's tastes and needs? The music is actually incredibly dated, being firmly rooted in the early 1970s, before the arrival of Punk. And so once children reach their teens, they regard it a babyish and unsophisticated, as something to grow out of. Which most of them promptly do, most of them never to darken the doors of a church again.

If on, the other hand, the liturgy was something they could only just begin to grasp, they would feel that growth in understanding was part of growing up into adulthood.

This is not unrealistic. There is plenty of scope for children to participate in the traditional Latin Mass, through the responses, and through being present with Christ in the silence of the consecration. This latter is certainly not something that is beyond the understanding of children, but if it is crowded out with jolly hymns with the subtlety of TV advertisement jingles, there really is nothing for them when they approach adolescence.

lördag 5 juni 2010

6th June



Flags are just bits of cloth but like all symbols they carry meanings that change over time. What does this one mean today?

The Journey East #2

The state of the Catholic Church A few years ago I visited Riga, the capital of Latvia. At 9.30 in the evening, a crowd of young people cam...