4th July, 2011

Call centres choose Britain over India

by Rumbold at 9:31 am    

This is good news, and a consequence of rising costs in India, China and other places, as workers get paid more in those countries:

New Call Telecom, which competes with BT and Sky to offer home telephone services, broadband and low-cost international calls, is opening a call centre in Lancashire after being attracted by low commercial rents and cheap labour costs…

[The chief executive] said: ‘We did a cost and service analysis of returning home and there was an absolute parity between what we are paying for a third-party call centre in India and here in the UK.’ Mr Eastwood will employ 25 staff at rented premises in Burnley.

It also reflects non-wage issues too:

He says using British staff will also cut costs in the average amount of time taken to deal with customer inquiries. ‘The average handling time in the UK is three minutes. But if you go out to India, you need to add another minute unless it’s a very efficient operation, so that means we can actually reduce the headcount with the saving. In India in the past decade, as call centres have grown, real-estate prices have gone up massively, while salaries have also crept up.’

New Call will pay £4 a square foot for space in Burnley, which Mr Eastwood says is similar to that in Bombay and New Delhi.

As emerging market economies get richer, setting up businesses in places like the UK will become more attractive. Already companies from places like India are buying up companies in the UK, and thus employing tens of thousands of people.

Filed under: Economics,Economy,India
27th May, 2011

Leading by example

by Rumbold at 5:17 pm    

It has been revealed that David Cameron spent around £680,000 of taxpayers’ money on Downing Street last year:

Records of all government spending reveal nine bills for the refurbishment of Downing Street including £30,000 for work he and his wife Samantha carried out on the No 11 flat last summer. The centrepiece of their revamp was the kitchen, revealed this week in official photographs of the President Barack Obama’s state visit…

The other £653,192.34 was spent on external and internal renovation work to the offices and reception rooms in Downing Street, including cabling, plumbing and energy efficiency improvements. No 10 declined to specify further what the money was spent on and has previously refused Freedom of Information requests asking what changes have been made to the Grade I listed building since the election and the costs.

Clearly the Camerons should have a small taxpayer-funded allowance for repairs and renovations for their flat, since they live in Downing Street for work and security reasons. The money allocated should also reflect the cost of Central London and the need for vetting of staff. Yet the money spent seems excessive. It would be useful to have a breakdown of the money spent of thing like plumbing (it might or might not have needed doing, since there are offices there too).

However, the £30,000 for a kitchen, unless it was a complete shambles, is expensive, and David Cameron shouldn’t been lecturing the nation on the necessity of cutting back whilst spending excessive amounts of taxpayers’ money on a kitchen as opposed to something a rape crisis centre. Is it a small amount of money in the grand scheme of things? Yes. But it is the principle of it, as well as being real money which could help people. Some will also say that Labour were more wasteful in government. They were, but assessing the proper use of taxpayers’ money shouldn’t be measured at the lowest common denominator.

Filed under: Economics,Economy
6th March, 2011

More EU largesse and waste

by Rumbold at 8:57 pm    

At a time when important services are being cut in this country, eGov monitor highlights yet more waste and largesse from the EU, where MEPs have voted themselves thousands more to run their offices for spurious reasons:

While Europeans are struggling with a sluggish economy and fears of inflation at a time when wages are stagnant, MEPs voted to increase their office allowances by another 1,500 Euros today to run their offices. Nice touch from our elected representatives. MEPs, now have 18,820 Euros to run their offices while most Europeans are finding it tough to make ends meet. This latest move would add 13.2 Million Euros to the European Parliament’s operating budget.

The European law makers or most of them argued that they need the additional money to handle the extra work Lisbon Treaty has entrusted in our elected representatives. But didn’t they use the Lisbon Treaty has a justification for last year’s increase of 1,500 Euros as well? Yes, they did. But the Parliament’s bureau, which is comprised of the parliamentary leadership of the President and his 14 Vice Presidents, thought their colleagues deserved some more of tax payers’ money. According to research by eGov monitor, no other group of legislators are as pampered as our representatives in the European Parliament [read more]

What I have never understood is the reluctance from many on the left (though not all) in this country to criticise the EU’s wasteful spending. Perhaps because most Conservatives now dislike the EU the idea that “my enemy’s enemy is my friend” is seen to apply. This is a clear and repeated case of money being wasted that could be spent on things which are actually useful and are being cut. Criticising the EU doesn’t make an individual anti-European any more than criticising the Coalition government makes one anti-British. Yet how often do we see high profile left wing politicians or commentators condemning EU waste and calling for the billions to be better spent in this country?

15th February, 2011

The benefits system and ‘fitness to work’

by Rumbold at 1:26 pm    

The benefits system can be pretty confusing. There are currently around thirty benefits/tax credits, ranging from Incapacity Benefit to Carer’s Allowance. Benefit entitlements to things such as Working Tax Credit change every year; others are income-related, others dependent on children. The complexity of the system means that there are frequent misunderstandings about what is involved, especially with regards the newish sickness benefit, ESA. What system there should be for those on sickness benefits is a much wider debate, and not the focus of the piece; rather, it is to do with how the system works (or doesn’t).

ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) was a benefit introduced under the last Labour government, which replaced Incapacity Benefit and Income Support (on grounds of incapacity) for all new claimants. The DWP is now retesting existing Incapacity Benefit and Income Support (on grounds of incapacity) recipients, in order to move them onto ESA. The ESA testing regime (the ‘Work Capability Assessment’) has been pretty controversial. It is administered by a private company, Atos Origin, which is paid in part on how many people it fails and so declares completely fit for work. It frequently ignores medical evidence, and claimants complain about inadequate testing and unsympathetic doctors. Those who have undertaken the assessment are placed into one of three categories: they are found fully fit to work (and moved onto jobseekers’ allowance), or placed in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG), or the Support group.

The recent reassessment of Incapacity Benefit and Income Support (on grounds of incapacity) has led, according to newspaper reports, to two thirds of these claimants being found fit to work. Mr. Excell takes issue with this, saying that only 29.6% were removed from the benefit (so found fully fit to work), whilst 39% were placed in the WRAG. Given that a percentage of those removed from the benefit appealed successfully against this (at a tribunal), and were put in the WRAG Mr. Excell believes that the figure of benefit claimants fit for work could be as low as 25%.

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9th December, 2010

Regarded as stranded Pakistanis: Banarasi weavers

by guest at 8:21 am    

This is a guest post by Tithe Farhana. She has previously written for publications including The Daily Star (Bangladesh).

Bihari Banarasi weavers are regarded as stranded Pakistanis, as they are the descendants of Muslims who lived in Bihar, the Hindu dominated states of India, who then migrated then newly East Pakistan during partition of India & Pakistan in 1947. Benarasi weavers of present Bangladesh are mostly living in the Mirpur area of the capital city of Bangladesh since 1947.

In the 1930s Dhaka set up its own Banarasi Silk Industry centre. In the1940s a significant geo-political change in this subcontinent enforced to migrate of a large number of Muslim population from one region of India to another region of Pakistan who packed up their looms and came with high hopes to Dhaka to survive with dignity & start a new life in a new country; their second & third generations are still living in Mirpur area and fighting hard against manifold impediments.

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Filed under: Bangladesh,Economy
2nd December, 2010

Russian taxpayers rescue English ones

by Rumbold at 3:54 pm    

Here

Filed under: Economy,Sports
4th November, 2010

So the banks didn’t do anything to cause the financial crisis?

by Sunny at 10:02 am    

Here’s an excerpt from the New Yorker:

You’d think the Street would have learned its lesson. Instead, it’s now threatened by an even bigger back-office crisis: Foreclosuregate. Banks, faced with a flood of delinquent mortgages resulting from the bad loans they made during the housing bubble, have done exactly what the brokerages did forty years ago: they’ve cut corners. They’ve foreclosed on homes without having the proper documentation, and relied on unqualified people to sign affidavits attesting to things they didn’t know—so-called “robosigners.” In a few cases, they seem to have actually tossed people who didn’t have mortgages out of their homes.

As a result, federal regulators and attorneys general in all fifty states are now investigating. And, in the weeks since the scandal first erupted, other issues have appeared, calling into question the legitimacy of the way mortgages were packaged and sold, and raising the possibility that the banks might have to buy back piles of bad mortgages. Forecasts of “catastrophe,” “Armageddon,” and “apocalypse” have now become routine.

Doesn’t look like this crisis will explode, but it shows the extent to which banks deliberately and callously oversold mortgages. There’s still major bad debt on those books. This crisis isn’t going away anytime soon…

Filed under: Economy
10th October, 2010

The East India Company today

by Rumbold at 8:39 pm    

Reading the Sunday Times Money section, I was surprised to learn that not only is the East India Company still trading, but that it is owned by an British-based Indian, Sanjiv Mehta. Mr Mehta bought the rights to the name in February, and currently runs the East India Company as a shop selling luxury items.

Mr Mehta claims to have bought the name in part because of brand awareness- according to one survey over two billion people had heard of the East India Company. Given its involvement in, amongst others things, the 1770 Bengal famine (millions dead) and the opium trade, I am not so sure it is a particularly good brand to have. Nevertheless, it does bring to mind the old adage about India ultimately absorbing its conquerors.

Filed under: Economy,History
6th October, 2010

Interesting Bloggingheads on the Economy

by Shariq at 8:28 pm    

I’d encourage people to listen to this. James Pinkerton is a conservative, but an extremely idiosyncratic one. He was anti-war for example and his ideas on economic development are interesting. Some of the arguments he makes on these points are probably in line with what lefties in the UK are/should be making.

2nd October, 2010

“Join us or die”

by Rumbold at 11:08 am    

That’s the message anyway from the new taxpayer-funded environmental campaign, backed by staunch environmentalists such as Peter Crouch (who takes the train or swims to European matches). The video sees two children murdered for refusing to back the 10:10 environmental campaign:

The video, (despite attempts to pass it off as humour) sums up all that is wrong with some elements of the environmental movement; it is smug, intolerant and hypocritical (that’s not to say though that there are not some genuinely committed and principled environmentalists out there).

I think that we need to tackle climate change. Whilst new technologies and improvements in renewable energy efficiency will undoubtedly help, at the moment the best thing we can do is to reduce energy issue by making carbon-emitting energy more expensive. This can be done through the tax system (as carbon emission are externalities). But this alone is not right, as people will just see it (understandably) as a way to raise extra revenue. This is why green taxes rises need to be balanced with tax cuts in other areas, particularly income tax and National Insurance.

Thus businesses and individuals who don’t emit that much carbon will see their tax bills fall, whilst heavy emitters will see their tax bills rise, which should encourage them to cut their carbon emissions , whether through cutting back for investing in more energy efficient products. Over time then, it should also reduce the tax take of the government, as long as the green taxes are significant enough to impact on behaviour. Chris Huhne has advocated such a policy recently:

The Liberal Democrat minister backed a call by his party’s activists which would see 10 per cent of all Government revenue come from green taxes within five years. Revenue from green taxes is currently forecast to fall from 6.9 per cent of the total to 6.5 per cent over the next five years. Raising the proportion to 10 per cent would require an extra £22billion – an unprecedented shift in the burden of taxation.

The LibDems claimed that raising more in green taxes would allow them to reduce other taxes. But critics last night dismissed it as a cynical move to squeeze more tax out of motorists.

16th September, 2010

Papal Spending Challenge

by Rumbold at 9:33 pm    

With the Pope’s visit potentially costing taxpayers millions of pounds, perhaps the papal embassy should be thinking about self-funding, in order to ensure better relations with the British public. That is why Pickled Politics is launching the Papal Spending Challenge, to help His Holiness pay the bills. Ideas so far include:

Sponsorship- Football clubs do it, so why shouldn’t the pontiff maximus wear a major sponsor on his robes? No doubt a big corporation would pay millions for the exposure.

Bar work- Some tourists pay their way by working in bars during their time in the UK. Thanks to decades in the Church, Benedict XVI should be a dab hand at dishing out wafers and wine.

Please make your own suggestions in the comment box.

Filed under: Economy,Humour,Religion

The snobbery of the TUC (and others)

by Rumbold at 9:32 am    

The Office for National Statistics has published a report into the public-private sector pay gap. The report found that, including pension contributions, public sectors were paid on average thousands of pounds more a year then private sector workers. I haven’t read through the methodology, so can’t comment on any flaws or caveats. What I am more interested in is the reaction to the report, specifically by a senior TUC official:

Adam Lent, the head of economics for the TUC, said: “You can’t make direct comparisons. The public sector has many more professional and highly skilled workers within it than the private sector. Averages simply do not tell us anything useful.”

This might indeed be true. But what does it say about the TUC’s stance? Firstly, it could suggest that the TUC supports a free market in employment, which means they will no longer be campaigning against pay freezes. This can be deduced by the fact that Mr. Lent feels that the market should determine workers’ wages (by their qualifications), and not any external factors.

This may be a incorrect interpretation however. The other way to read it is that Mr. Lent feels that people with degrees/professional qualifications are better than those without, and so deserve higher wages. This is not a fallacy restricted to the TUC. An article in the Guardian recently articulated the same feelings. Why is this so? Well, if we let the market decide, that is not a problem. But if you don’t support a free market in employment (which the TUC doesn’t), then you have to make the case that degree-educated workers deserve more. Why though? Because they have sat in a classroom for a few years, as opposed to gaining experience working? This lacks an inherent logic (pay is determined by supply and demand, not educational achievement), as there is no reason other than market forces why say, a civil servant should receive higher wages than a cleaner. There is also a social mobility argument. Private school pupils are overrerepresented at the best universities, so presumably the way to encourage social mobility is for the state to place less emphasis on degree-educated individuals.

Since there is no intrinsic reason why degree-educated people and those with professional qualifications should receive higher pay than those without, the only justification could be snobbery and a sense of entitlement.

Filed under: Economics,Economy
9th August, 2010

Why some direct EU taxes would be a good idea

by Rumbold at 9:55 pm    

For those who oppose the deepening of the EU state, the idea of that body directly taxing European citizens should be anathema. It would take power from national governments, who are seen to have a mandate from the voters, and give it to the EU, where an essentially unelected and opaque body holds sway. This is what the EU’s Budget Commissioner is proposing, and it is unsurprising that the call has elucidated a storm of protest:

Taxes on aviation, financial transactions and CO2 emission permits are all possibilities, he told the daily Financial Times Deutschland.

However, the UK promptly rejected the idea.

Despite the headline implications though, this could potentially benefit those who wish to see the EU trimmed and focused more on the goal of providing a single market with freedom of movement, goods and services.

The EU state has massively deepened (and expanded) in the last thirty years. It has extended its control into employment, health, law, defence, justice, foreign policy and any other number of areas. When the European Constitution was originally rejected, the EU merely introduced the bits it wanted anyway, changed the name of the rest of it and got it reintroduced. Labour and the Liberal Democrats promised to support a referendum in their manifesto, reneged on the deal, yet were not punished for it electorally. Lacking any mandate from voters, the EU has nonetheless multiplied its power and influence many times over. How? Because the ordinary voter just doesn’t care enough.

The percentage of British laws that come from the EU is estimated to range from around 10-80%. The fact we can’t get a reasonable estimate is damning enough, but for argument’s sake, let’s call it 20%. A body that makes 20% of our laws should be permanently in the public gaze, especially as it can currently overrule UK rulings and law. Yet how often do you see EU policy making headlines on the BBC, or debated on Newsnight? That is not to say that there is some Europhile media conspiracy. The Eurosceptic press concerns themselves with tales of the supposed criminalisation of egg merchants for using incorrect labels. This reduces the EU to the status of a pantomime villain. How many voters who can explain the British political process can explain the EU one?

So why would direct EU taxes be a good idea then? You only have to look at the anger that followed the domestic expenses scandal to see that voters see taxes as ‘their money’ if they think it is being squandered and it has come directly from them. The removed nature of the EU does not create this feeling for most at present. EU taxes should make voters care more about the EU, and pay more attention to how the money is being spent. This hopefully would encourage more media interest in the actual EU apparatus, increasing understanding and thus creating a virtuous circle. There would be more pressure for good governance, something which should please Euro-sceptics and -philes alike.

17th July, 2010

Losing the argument on the deficit

by Sunny at 10:08 am    

Since the same argument is raging on the other side of the Atlantic, I’ll let Chris Hayes of the Nation mag make my point for me:

The conversation—if it can be called that—about deficits recalls the national conversation about war in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq. From one day to the next, what was once accepted by the establishment as tolerable—Saddam Hussein—became intolerable, a crisis of such pressing urgency that “serious people” were required to present their ideas about how to deal with it. Once the burden of proof shifted from those who favored war to those who opposed it, the argument was lost.

We are poised on the same tipping point with regard to the debt. Amid official unemployment of 9.5 percent and a global contraction, we shouldn’t even be talking about deficits in the short run. Yet these days, entrance into the club of the “serious” requires not a plan for reducing unemployment but a plan to do battle with the invisible and as yet unmaterialized international bond traders preparing an attack on the dollar.

Now, I’m realistic enough to know that the argument over the deficit has already been lost on one level here. The Labour party had no clear message during the election and they let the Tories define the argument for them. Near to the election pretty much everyone was fretting about the deficit and the debt, even Labourites. When your political enemies have forced you on their turf you’ve already lost.

I’m saying this partly in response to the astute Hopi Sen, who still reckons Labour should spend all its time drawing up some deficit reduction plan, as if that will somehow revive their electoral fortunes.

It won’t. The Tories will simply carry on claiming that Labour are playing ‘class war’ by planning to raise taxes and they’ll carry on cutting while saying that even Labour have now started to acknowledge the depths of their own incompetence.

The election is five full years away. Now is not the time to start preparing for government – now is the time to put the Coalition on the defensive and tell voters they are destroying their local communities. Very simple message: you just repeat it continuously. The Cuts Won’t Work. The only time this Coalition has looked shaky over the last few weeks is when Ed Balls repeatedly slammed Michael Gove and when Tom Watson called him a “miserable pipsqueak”. That’s the only time we saw fear in their eyes. You think they’ll be fearful if the Milibands spell out vague ideas that will be obsolete in a year’s time?

And even then, they’ll be trying to carve out very minor difference between the Tories using broad phrases like ‘we’re for fairness and equality and job growth’ – the Tories have already pre-empted that by calling their budget ‘progressive’. It’s bizarre that Hopi, John Rentoul and David Miliband et al believe that if they lay out some of these broad principles that somehow the debate will move on to their territory and they’ll grab the initiative back from the Tories. That intense jostling for space in the centre will do nothing to make Labour stand out at all.

Filed under: Economy,Media
2nd June, 2010

Why Bristol council got it wrong

by Rumbold at 8:25 pm    

Bristol council is at the centre of a media storm after advertising two posts for ethnic minorities only. The council defended its decision by citing the Race Relations Act (1976), as only 7% of its workforce is from ethnic minorities, as opposed to 12% of Bristol’s population as a whole. Whether or not this would fall foul of discrimination laws is debatable, but whatever the legality, I think it was the wrong thing to do, for a number of reasons.

There is a great deal of debate over how to tackle the historical inequalities that exist in the labour market, namely discrimination against women and ethnic minorities, whether it be in hiring or promotion. One school of thought tends to see the solution in terms of positive discrimination, with devices such as all-women shortlists and jobs like the pair mentioned above. The other school rejects this as simply repeating the mistakes of the past (by treating people as blocks rather than as individuals), and puts the focus on meritocracy and treating candidates as individuals. Yet this approach is criticised for refusing to recognise persistent inequalities in the labour market.

I used to be firmly in the second school of thought, and believed that merely creating an ostensibly meritocratic application process would be enough, as this would allow inequalities to be ironed out over time as the best people got chosen. However, while I still believe that should be the main approach, we also need to examine continuing structural issues. Applicants with ‘non-white’ names are more likely to get rejected from jobs then candidates with ‘white’ names, despite having exactly the same CV, which demonstrates continued racism in the job market. Factors like these show why Bristol council got it wrong.

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Filed under: Culture,Economy
17th May, 2010

Britain Could Lose Its Economic Sovereignty Tomorrow

by guest at 10:01 pm    

This is a guest post by Shamit Ghosh

Britain can now be forced by ECOFIN to change its own budget and we do not have a veto – thanks to the Lisbon Treaty. In effect, we have lost our economic sovereignty – thanks to the former Labour Government and Lib Dems who refused us a referendum.

Tomorrow Spain and Portugal Governments would be presenting their national accounts to EU’s Council of Economics and Finance Ministers (ECOFIN) to highlight that both countries have taken appropriate fiscal measures to reduce their deficit. This was a requirement set out by the ECOFIN last week before it approved the 750 Billion Euros to bolster the Euro. In other words, fiscal policies of EU member states are in effect now under the control of the European Union.

Last Wednesday, the President of the European Commission, Jose Barroso, announced plans to integrate European economies further. He said “In the end, we cannot have a monetary union without an economic union,” and this was reiterated by the unelected President of the European Council, Herman van Rompuy, when he told the media ““We can’t have a monetary union without some form of economic and – er – political union.”

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12th January, 2010

If you like slums so much, why not go live there?

by Sunny at 9:30 am    

I know that Slumdog Millionaire was a good film, though it didn’t deserve to win that many Oscars, but I never thought it would encourage slum-fetishism.
Here’s some dude called Kevin McCloud in the Telegraph telling the government: ‘Forget eco-homes and look to the Mumbai slums‘.

“I’ve come back with a sense of renewed hope about how we can do that,” McCloud said. “If I have one message for developers and the Government, it’s to focus less on eco-housing and green buildings – because, frankly, we know how to do that. Let’s start focusing on the social stuff, on how we can make people happier.” His words are likely to dismay the Government, which is pressing ahead with the plans to build 10 sustainable “eco-towns” by 2020.

No, actually the government probably isn’t dismayed because only a complete idiot would tell people they should think about living in slums than eco-towns. But I suspect this is more down to the Telegraph’s own agenda against ZaNuLabour and anything ‘eco’ related.

Further commentary from Stroppyblog:

You know what won’t make people happier, Mr McCloud? 1 toilet for every 1400 people. No hospitals or public sanitation programmes. Typhoid, maleria and cholera. McCloud also brings women’s oppression into his praise of the slums: “Because women don’t have huge kitchens, they rinse their pots in the street. That has to be the most civilised, sociable way of doing the washing-up – outside in the sun, chatting to your neighbours.” Women engaging in arduous domestic labour in the streets; what a pretty picture indeed!

Do people even think before they write up these news stories or give these interviews?

That interview is actually part of Channel 4′s Indian Winter of programming, which takes this fetish to another level.
Neha says:

Of the six programmes, four are somehow or the other based on slums. And the one film is Om Shanti Om. Ugh.

Damn straight. Now, I realise India has lots of slums but there’s no need to turn them into a fetish; there’s plenty more interesting stuff to the country. This just looks like cheap, lame programming. And there’s no need to start worshipping people who live in slums – 90% of them want to escape the poverty and live somewhere with proper sanitation.

Filed under: Economy,Humour,Media
9th January, 2010

A university professor writes in…

by Sunny at 4:45 pm    

Got this email from a US university professor today:

Dear Mr.Hundal

I have just read your article on “Note to Neocons: Universities Don’t Create
Extremists’. As a university professor,m I am in complete agreement, This view is an example of the anti-intellectual attitude that is damaging our democratic society whereby expressing views differing from the norm is considered radical and unpatriotic.

Perhaps a university education would benefit those holding these . I suspect they may arise from a feeling of inferiority that they try to compensate by diminishing the status of those having these differing views.

Thank you for you offering

Brilliant.

8th January, 2010

News roundup: Galloway, terrorism and pornography

by Rumbold at 10:10 am    

George Galloway has been deported from Egypt after apparently trying to cross into the Gaza strip. The MP had been part of a convoy that has been dogged by numerous problems and infighting.

EU bureaucrats and the European Commission are to take EU member states (and by extension EU taxpayers) to court in an attempt to get a 3.7% pay raise. They devised the formula which continues to award themselves pay rises despite the state of European economies. There are worries about the impartiality of the court as if the measure succeeds, those judging the case will also receive the same pay rise.

Eyal at the Spittoon writes on Jewish terrorists, who are threatening politicians who push for a freeze in settlement building.

Gracchi on the fluidity of the notion of kingship in late antiquity/early middle ages.

KJB argues that the increase both in quantity and explicitness in porn due to the internet feeds into the wider rape culture. It’s a long piece but worth reading in full.

Chris Dillow questions the received wisdom that a particular type of immigrant is more desirable to Britain’s collective mind.

29th December, 2009

Defending China in Copenhagen and green tech generally

by Sunny at 10:12 am    

I got a bit annoyed with the ‘it’s all China’s fault‘ rhetoric that came out of the Copenhagen failure for various reasons. It turns out I wasn’t alone, and blogger Madam Miaow posted a message on CIF in response to such an article but had it curiously censored.
Anyway, she says:

The US and the rich nations use up almost all the carbon allowance in the atmosphere over the past 160 years, the US dithers over ten years of Bush, they refuse to ratify Kyoto, the Danish summit chair has to resign when she’s caught fast-tracking the rich nations’ deal, the West fail in their Kyoto pledges, Canada rips up its Kyoto deal and proceeds with exploiting its huge reserves of dirty oil, the US will only reduce emissions by 4% against the 1990 base year and not the 17% you describe as “serious cuts”, while China makes real strides in green technology, and so on.

But it is all China’s fault.

What other country has an entire city using solar powered appliances? Who else has planted such huge tracts of forest while loggers tear down the rest? China aims for 15% of its energy from renewables, it has revolutionised wind-turbines, makes a key component of electric car batteries, and so on. We in the UK can’t even meet our Kyoto promise.

This is spot on and makes the two points I wanted to. Firstly, the US and European stance has been completely hypocritical and China became a whipping boy for their failure.

Secondly, and more importantly, China knows there is serious money to be made from Green technology, renewable energy and ways to reduce pollution. That way lies the real technical innovation of the future. In fact all the big powerhouses from Asia are pouring money into R&D in this area. Meanwhile we’re held back by right-whingers who are still peddling conspiracy theory about global warming from Russia and Saudi Arabia. Amazing. When we fall way back in technical innovation in 20 years time then these people will realise their folly.

28th December, 2009

Chris Mounsey: raising taxes is like kicking Pakis!!

by Sunny at 9:25 pm    

There’s a hilariously dumb-headed post at Devil’s Kitchen called ‘Sunny Hundal: condoning class war. Would he be so keen on a race war?‘ – which basically boils down to libertarian idiot Chris Mounsey equating raising taxes on rich people to kicking the crap out of someone for being black or white.

OK. So, my class must be defined by my parents; Sunny’s race is defined by his parents. I can no more help the income of my parents than Sunny can affect the race of his.

So, there is an equivalence: yes?

Where do you even start with such stupidity? I suppose the concept of progressive taxation – advanced by Adam Smith himself – must be a form of discrimination against rich people because they can’t help their income. Perhaps they should complain to EHRC! Rights for rich people! Stop the discrimination!

I actually pointed out what Class War strategy meant not long ago here:

The ‘class war’ is narrowly defined as being about bankers’ bonuses and higher taxes. Labour needs to expand this to include: Tories increasing IHT, deploring fairer taxes on the super-rich, their privileged backgrounds, the £250,000 “chicken-feed”, MPs “forced to live on rations”, Cameron not knowing how many houses he owned. In fact top Tory gaffes reek of how out of touch they are. Re-framing the debate would allow them to talk about wider issues than just bankers’ bonuses.

I also pointed out that rather being seen as against aspiration, New Labour should re-frame the debate as being for the deserving rich and hard-working small businesses rather than fat-cat bankers who get big bonuses for screwing up the economy.

All that has clearly gone over the head of the new leader of the Libertarian Party who just wants another excuse to swear like he has tourettes. I’m sure he will lead the party to great heights.

Filed under: Economy,Humour
23rd December, 2009

The Olympics is a disgraceful waste of money

by Rumbold at 11:52 am    

The title is hardly news. But watching BBC London news last night just reminded me how much the 2012 Olympics will cost, and how hypocritical its goals are. The occasion, ironically enough, was a press release, disguised as a news story. The story (summary here) celebrated the setting up in poorer countries of sports clubs which are designed to help children stay out of trouble. I heartily approve of this. Any spending of taxpayers’ money on sport should be targeted at the worst off in society, in order to provide them with basic equipment and pitches.

Yet the Olympics is doing the opposite of this. Estimates for its net cost (after ticket sales, land sales, private investment, etc.) are currently running at between £7-16 billion pounds. Little of that money will actually go to those who benefit most from sport (ordinary people), but rather elite athletes, officials and hangers-on. And why should these people receive taxpayers’ and lottery money? They do a job, which many of them get well rewarded for. Let the Olympics pay for itself.

The facilities will not benefit the majority of people, and instead the money should either be given back to its rightful owners, or spent on making sure that more swimming pools aren’t closed down, nor playing fields sold off.

Filed under: Economy
14th December, 2009

Poor countries want to tackle global warming

by Sunny at 2:47 pm    

The Guardian reports:

Victor Fodeke, head of the Nigerian special climate change unit, said any attempt to remove the Kyoto track would be disastrous for the talks. “Africa is on death row. It has been sidelined by some countries. If there is any attempt to remove one of the tracks of negotiations, then it’s obvious the train will crash.”

“This is of paramount importance. We cannot, we can never accept the killing of the Kyoto protocol. It will mean the killing of Africa,” said another spokesman for the group.

This is worth highlighting because a common excuse of climate denialists is that tackling climate change would condemn poor countries to their economic state and not give them the opportunity to become rich on the back of economic growth. Not surprisingly, this view almost always ignores the views of poor countries themselves who realise the impact climate change will have on their fragile economies. They are always the one pushing for more action not less.

30th November, 2009

IKWRO under further attack

by Rumbold at 11:10 am    

After losing monies for a specialist outreach worker, The Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation (IKWRO) has had its funding cut yet again after the government decided to focus on large charities instead:

The Ministry of the Third Sector abruptly diverted funding of £750,000 from 35 small charities under the ‘Campaigning Research Programme’, including IKWRO, despite the existence of a Compact. The monies will be reallocated to 15 larger charities through the Hardship fund while the smaller charities may suffer yet more losses in the difficult climate of recession.

In a corporatist state, the government, large corporations and large charities work closely together. Employees are able to move between the three with ease (especially politicians/top civil servants who are looking for a job). Large charities, like corporations, are preferred by the corporatist state not only because of greater job opportunities but because, like small businesses, smaller charities are harder to control. They are away from the centre of power.

That is not to say that large charities don’t do anything worthwhile (they do), or that there isn’t a need for large charities (there is). But IKWRO and others are suffering in part because of their size and remoteness from power.

5th October, 2009

Peter Hitchens frothing at the mouth again

by Sunny at 4:05 am    

Here an extract from the latest outpouring of rubbish from Peter Hitchens:

The Passport you hold is not British, but European. You are a European citizen. British Embassies are European Embassies – as they already show by flying the EU’s meaningless and tasteless blue and yellow dishcloth. Shouldn’t somebody have pointed out that in the recent history of the Continent, yellow stars call up only one dismal image, the mass murder of Europe’s Jews.

What, you’re surprised a man so odious could use the Holocaust as a stick to beat the Lisbon treaty? I’m not. I’ll let the excellent Left Outside blogger say the rest:

The jaw dropping ignorance of the man is palpable. The coy manipulation of history is truly sickening. The holocaust still matters. It is as impossible to understate the horror as it is to visualise the scale of what occurred. And Peter “in fact, just shorten that to Cunt” Hitchens wants to use it to attack the fucking EU?

JCM has more under the appropriately titled ‘Why it’s hard to take eurosceptics seriously

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