Tolerance and intolerance of intolerance

12 Jan

I heard Vince Cable, the Lib Dems deputy leader on Question Time last Thursday. He quoted from Voltaire that the only thing which can’t be tolerated is intolerance. I looked it up and it isn’t Voltaire.. Sorry, Vince, but it does sound like the sort of thing he would have said. Though he did write his  “Treatise on Toleration” in 1763. A better explanation is in this article in Wikipedia about the paradox of intolerance.

Quite a lot has been said by Karl Popper, Michael Waltzer and John Rawls.

Oh, and by me in a previous post.

If we are to live in an open and liberal society, we can never afford to tolerate certain types of intolerance.


Christmas is coming and ……

12 Nov

It has got to that time of year. In fact the decorations and muzak has permeated the shops for some weeks. I love Christmas and all that schtick, but does it have to start so early? I have some outside work coming up until the middle of January, but do I have to get ready quite so early. There will only be the two of us on the actual day. Son, daughter in law and 2 grandsons in China, daughter and her husband much nearer, but wanting their own Christmas, for which I don’t blame them.
In the meanwhile I have some work coming up which should take me, with the Christmas break to the end of January, which will help to pay the bills. Currently I am writing a children’s story, specifically for boys at the age when they should be reading, but which has little to interest them. It is called, “Dean Riley, Pet Finder”.

Weekend Break, Bonfire and Kipling

11 Nov

We arrived back from a long weekend away late yesterday afternoon. England is a small country, but to travel between small towns can take ages, as the roads wind endlessly and all sorts of delays can occur; for road-works, tractors, school runs and weather. Our journey down to Kent was mostly painless, and the area where David and Debra and Rebecca live is delightful and countrified. Rural Kent still exists, and together with most of Sussex, Hampshire and even part of Surrey, forms a distinct region. If you are annoyed with the all-snouts-to-the-trough attitude of Westminster and the City, don’t extend your ire to the rest of the south east.

On Saturday we visited Rye for the bonfire ceremony / celebration. This is an East Sussex speciality, where Lewis, Hastings, Rye and other places compete to give the most spectacular and worrying bonfire and fireworks, Until recently Lewes used to burn the Pope in effigy. All this to remind people of how an act of terrorism was foiled on November 5th, 1605, when Guido (Guy) Fawkes was arrested while minding a large number of barrels of gunpowder placed under the Parliament buildings, just prior to the opening by King James 1st (England, he was James 6th of Scotland). All the worthies of the nation were to be there, and a coup was scheduled for the time immediately after the explosion.

Masked and painted revellers marched through the narrow streets brandishing flaming torches, drummers drummed and a fire breathing dragon completed the parade. Then down to The Salt where a large bonfire had been built. The torches were tossed onto the bonfire, and as it flamed a firework display lit the sky. Thunderflashes echoed around, sending gouts of wet mud into the air. The entire event was a release valve for the anarchy in us all, and a Health and Safety nightmare. Long may it continue.

On the Sunday we visited Batemans, a National Trust property that was Rudyard Kipling’s house. He brought in the furniture and decorations and reorganised the gardens and grounds. The place positively reeks of his personality. At a time of reflection for Remembrance Day, it is also a stark reminder that the great poet of empire lost his only son in the Great War.

I shall be reading more of Kipling’s work soon. He was a much more complex writer than the jingoist he is often made out to be. He knew the value of perspective and how travel broadens the mind. Billy Bragg slightly misquoted Kipling in one song. The real verse is this:

Winds of the World, give answer! They are whimpering to and fro —
And what should they know of England who only England know? —
The poor little street-bred people that vapour and fume and brag,
They are lifting their heads in the stillness to yelp at the English Flag!
IMG_2061 IMG_2082 IMG_2098 IMG_2099

At a time when the yelpers are voting for UKIP they should know that Kipling would not have agreed with their narrow-minded view of the world.

I just learned this

3 Nov

OK, I had the title of the book, “Eating the Owl”, for some years. But I had never realised that owls get a mention in Leviticus as unclean beasts:

Leviticus 11 New International Version

13 “‘These are the birds you are to regard as unclean and not eat because they are unclean: the eagle,[a] the vulture, the black vulture, 14 the red kite, any kind of black kite, 15 any kind of raven, 16 the horned owl, the screech owl, the gull, any kind of hawk, 17 the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, 18 the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, 19 the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe and the bat.”

Low wages equals low growth

22 Oct

I was interested to hear a report on the BBC News that George Osbourne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, (finance minister) will fail to make his target of reducing the borrowing requirement. It is increasing instead. One of the chief reasons for this is that so many people are so badly paid that they do not pay tax. In fact they require benefits in order to support themselves and their families. This is a double whammy for the treasury at a time when the fall in unemployment  numbers has been loudly trumpeted.

I have already described these employment figures as meaningless. The base line has been moved so often it is impossible to get an idea of the true figure. What is certain is that many of these new jobs pay very badly. The national minimum wage has not changed for many years, and is largely unenforced. Many of the jobs are part time on the minimum wage or involve ‘zero hours’ contracts. Worst of all are exclusive zero hours contracts, where no work is guaranteed, but you are not allowed to have other ‘jobs’. With such jobs you cannot get loans at decent rates, including mortgages.

Living costs are rising, so wages buy less. There is a slump in the High Street as many people have no spare cash to spend in shops. This depresses the entire economy. The value of labour is too low and the power too weighted towards the bad employers, allowing for real abuses to occur. Until wages rise and people have money to spend the economy will not recover.

Meanwhile, while the government fiddles the figures, the trust in politics and politicians is at an all-time low. Among working class white men there a huge surge in support for UKIP, almost solely on the myth that the party is somehow outside of the mainstream. This rise of a populist right wing party with links to neo-nazis is very worrying.

There is a long held belief that we are all in the same boat, and that when the water rises we all rise. Not so. Many people have already been thrown out of the boat and are economically drowning. Britain is the only G7 country where the gap between rich and poor has increased since 2000. We have food banks operating and many people are well below the poverty line in a supposedly rich country.

In the USA Warren Buffett was rankled by conservative implications that the President’s attempts to follow the “Buffett Rule” and raise taxes for the extremely wealthy to meet the rest of the nation was “class warfare.” He pointed out that, were it a war, it was pretty unfair since his side, the ultra rich, has the “nuclear bomb.”. In the UK things are worse. Class war has been declared, the rich have hijacked the boat we are all supposed to float in, and the government fiddles the figures while the state burns.

Support the campaign for real jobs.

Campaign for Real Jobs

16 Oct

The latest government figures indicate that unemployment is now under 6%, at just under 2 million. The trouble with these figures is that the rules by which the figures are calculated have changed significantly, many times, over the course of the parliament. Trying to work out the true comparison from four and a half years ago to today is almost impossible. It is like trying to compare apples to bananas.

One significant change was that that of a definition of a job. Almost any form of occupation, even that which is hardly paid at all, or is wholly unpaid, is counted as a job. Many “jobs” are part time, short-term contracts or zero hours contracts. Worst of all are exclusive zero hours contracts, where  the employee is paid by the hour but not guaranteed any work or wage, while still not being allowed to seek other employment.

Meanwhile the cost of living has risen while wages have stagnated.  At the same time, Britain is the only country in the G7 group where the gap between rich and poor has significantly grown during the 21st century. The Prime Minister’s solution to our economic ills is to reduce spending on welfare while reducing taxation for the richest.

I might believe the existence of real jobs if they had some link to a living wage. This is currently estimated at £14,400 p.a. for a single person. The legal minimum wage for persons 21 years and over is £6.50 per hour, a figure which has remained the same throughout this parliament.  This wage does not allow for having dependents.

What I suggest is that a job should be based on this rather inadequate figure, and that a part time job of 50% of a full time wage should be regarded as half a job. For all part time jobs the percentage of a full time job should be used on the statistics. As for zero hour contracts, they should also be regarded as half a job, unless proved to be otherwise.  I do not possess the figures, the computer models or the analytical skills to produce my own statistics, but surely someone does.

Until these figures can be produced the statistics provided by the government are wholly worthless and unbelievable. There are lies, damned lies, statistics and government statistics. It is time to start a campaign for Real Jobs.

Rising inequality in the UK

14 Oct

According to the Credit Suisse global wealth report, the richest 1% of the world’s population are getting wealthier, owning more than 48% of global wealth, according to a report published on Tuesday which warned growing inequality could be a trigger for recession.

The report, which calculates that total global wealth has grown to a new record – $263tn, more than twice the $117tn calculated for 2000 – found that the UK was the only country in the G7 to have recorded rising inequality in the 21st century.

Warren Buffet has pointed out, “Through the tax code, there has been class warfare waged, and my class has won.”

So a billionaire has admitted that there is class warfare, that it was declared by the rich against the poor and that they have won. So be it. The resistance starts here.

There are more of us than them. We have a democracy and can vote in a government which is prepared to redress the balance. In principal, that is.

To start with, it must be admitted that the Conservative Party represent the wealthy. David Cameron boasted of it in his keynote speech at the recent conference. They also tell an old lie. This one goes: rich people create wealth and jobs. The lie is retold every few years, and it is so easily refuted it is almost embarrassing. Rich people hold their money abroad, have homes abroad and pay little tax in Britain. They mostly either inherited the money or push money around electronically or gamble with other people’s money. The last two groups caused the crash which has so affected the poor, and never suffered. Instead they are just getting richer while the poor get poorer.

The previous government of the  Labour Party, or New Labour, were as much under the thumb of the financial services sector as the Tories are, they just benefitted less personally (well, mostly). If Ed Milliband wants my vote he had better start sounding like a socialist. And he must be prepared to act like one if he manages to get elected.

The Liberal Democrats have too many broken promises from the last election to be believed about anything.

As for the United Kingdom Independence Party, well, where do I start? They are led by the egregious Nigel Farage. He is a man who pretends to be a political rebel, albeit with the support of the second largest circulation national newspaper and several rich backers. Farage did not go to Eton, as most of our senior leaders did, but to Dulwich College, a second rank public school. It produced Raymond Chandler and P G Woodehouse, but they do make mistakes. Farage used to earn a living as a commodity broker until he went broke. So he is as much a scion of the establishment as anyone else, and one who is so incompetent in business that he failed in a business which is like printing blank cheques. Do I want him in charge of the country? Er…. NO!

We still have old class distinctions in this country. We do, after all, still have a monarchy and an aristocracy. This class warfare was declared by the rich against the poor, from sheer unadulterated greed. What we need is the greatest happiness of the greatest number. Having money doesn’t necessarily make you happy, but at least you can be miserable in comfort.

All the boasts of new jobs created over the last few years show one thing. The vast majority of new jobs are part time, short contract or, worst of all, exclusive zero hours contracts. The entire economy is suffering because too few people have too little to spend. As stated previously, the rich largely spend their money abroad. What we need are proper jobs with proper wages. Jobs that allow people to get decent housing, decent food and sufficient warmth.

It is easy enough to deflect attention away from the real causes of our problems. Blame immigrants; blame the EU, blame the European Convention on Human Rights. But don’t blame the Eton/Oxford/Bullingham Club establishment who are the problem and not the solution. Working class white people are suffering and it is easy to appeal to their worst side. UKIP are being successful on a negative ticket, and the Conservative Party is falling over itself to make concessions to the bigots, racists and Little Englanders. The rise of UKIP seems to mirror the rise of Fascism in Italy in the 1920s. It must not succeed. It must be defeated by telling it like it is. The lies must be exposed, and the underlying racism must be exposed. Britain used to be a great country. If UKIP manage to get a share of power we will become a banana republic.