Analysing the British Working Class

This is pretty good:

What do you think of when you hear the phrase \’white working class\’? Tattoos? Dangerous dogs? Shellsuits? Scratch cards? Chips? Binge drinking? The BNP? It would be no surprise if the images conjured are negative; in the past four decades, the image of the white working class has gone from hero to less than zero.

In these tolerant days, the one underprivileged group that it\’s OK to find intolerable is the white working class. In our multicultural society, they\’re the unlucky ones deemed to be without a culture. Last year, for example, the editor of Eastern Eye went on television to condemn Channel 4 for allowing \’illiterate chavs\’ on to Celebrity Big Brother. Eyelids remained unbatted. Trevor Phillips was not called upon to issue a statement. The Sky News presenter to whom this comment was made simply nodded his head in silent agreement.

But it wasn\’t always open season on proletarian whites. Back in the late Fifties and early Sixties, the working class was flavour of the decade. Films such as Saturday Night, Sunday Morning found something noble, if harsh, in the condition of the indigenous poor. The theatre was filled with angry young men with earthy accents railing against the class structure. Pop music was transformed by cocky lads from humble backgrounds, as were photography and advertising .

A working-class hero was something to be, as the only middle-class Beatle, John Lennon, later sardonically sang. And then, almost overnight, white and working class became a deeply unfashionable combination.


Back in the Sixties, there was a nobility to the working class and also, crucially, a mobility. It was on the way somewhere. But that optimism has gone. Those who could get out have left, joining an expanded middle class, and those left behind have become the underclass: ugly, obnoxious, feckless and amoral.

Recast the phrasing. There always was a distinction made between the proletariat and the lumpenproletariat. The proletariat have become the bourgeois, petty or not, leaving the lumpens alone to be described as the "working class".

Here\’s an idea though: not one I hold very strongly, rather, I put it forward simply as an idea. Something to be explored.

Say that this rather Marxist distinction is in fact true. Does this explain both the social mobility of earlier decades and the decline of it now? That there was a group both desirous and capable of such, held back by the institutions of the time, and when those constraints were removed, they moved? And that there is no such group now so constrained or desirous?

Observer Leader

Oh dear, oh dear oh dear oh dear:

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) has the difficult task of deciding which treatments from an increasingly expensive menu should be available on the NHS. To make the right choices, it needs access to all available data. And yet a report last week revealed that some antidepressants, taken by around four million people in Britain, work no better than placebos in mild cases of the illness.

Nice had been unaware of the fact because the data had never before been published. Most research is conducted by drug companies and Nice has no authority to compel them to reveal their findings. If a study casts doubt on a drug\’s benefits, it can be buried.

You should try reading your sister paper, my little bubberoonies. From yesterday:

In fact the new study added nothing (and it was ridiculously badly reported): we already knew that antidepressants perform only marginally better than placebo, and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) guidelines has actively advised against using them in milder depression since 2004.

Why do they bother, eh?

Working at The Observer

You know, I don\’t think I\’ll apply for a staff position there:

As things stands, verbal insults and yelling in the work environment are becoming commonplace. Grown people, who are supposed to be professionals, think nothing of shouting and hurling abuse at colleagues they are annoyed or frustrated with, even going so far as to throw BlackBerrys or glasses of water at their heads.

Quote of the Day

Q Does everyone have a novel in them?

ALK: They have all kinds of things in them – liver, spleen, perhaps recklessly inserted lightbulbs. Whether you want any of those things to be removed and then sold to strangers is the question.

AL Kennedy.

Silly Boy

David Cameron last night pledged to give a third of jobs in his first government to women in a highly controversial plan that risks infuriating male MPs. The Tory leader wants to ensure female politicians are not mere \’window dressing\’ but can influence decisions affecting women\’s lives.

Leave aside all the arguments that positive discrimination is still discrimination: give the likely number of female Tory MPs after the next election he\’s going to be trawling in a pretty shallow talent pool.

Promising to employ incompetents because of their haplotype isn\’t the most compelling reason to vote for someone.

That Gender Pay Gap Again

Melanie McDonagh puts it about right:

Well, not so fast. There are two ways of looking at these figures. One can be summed up by The Guardian\’s take on the story: "Study finds a third of mothers slip down the career ladder". Another might be that some women are deciding to walk right off, or indeed under, the career ladder to do something better instead. Indeed, the whole metaphor of a career ladder is pretty loaded, suggesting that the only thing to be done is get to the top of it.

Obviously, given a choice between a highly-paid and stimulating part-time job and a rubbish part-time job, no one would voluntarily opt for the latter, and the Economic Journal report makes that clear.

But what the discussion leaves entirely out of account is whether the woman is making a rational choice in opting for part-time work in the first place. What if she actually enjoys spending time with her children and regards the trade-off as being worthwhile? What if you put the argument differently: "Women opt for better quality of life as opposed to running themselves ragged in the rat-race"?

The woman in question may indeed be earning less than her baby\’s father but she may feel that she, at least, is getting to see the baby make its way in the world rather than hearing about it from the childminder. It may be why, according to a report by the Equal Opportunities Commission, 80 per cent of full-time working mothers would prefer to work part-time.

This is indeed the most important question about the pay gap, about part time working mothers, about "downskilling" and all the rest. Is it the result of the choices made by the people involved, or is it something imposed upon them from outside, against their will?

If it\’s the former, then what is everyone getting so het up about?

Booker on the RSPCA

Well, whadda you know. When a private group, with no accountability, gets the power to prosecute, they are over zealous in doing so.

Not really all that much of a surprise, is it?

The Self-Help Group of farmers and others has existed for nearly two decades to put anyone experiencing difficulty with the RSPCA in touch with specialist welfare lawyers and vets. They have never been busier and cite scores of other instances in recent years. None is more shocking than that of PC Jonathan Bell, a Stoke-on-Trent policeman who in 2004 was called to a night-time disturbance where a cat had been squashed flat by a car. The RSPCA could not be contacted, so he put the cat out of its misery with a spade.

PC Bell was prosecuted for cruelty by the RSPCA and the case dragged on for two years, at a cost of £50,000. After his initial acquittal, the RSPCA appealed. Finally, in April 2006, the High Court threw out the case, prompting the Federation of Companion Animal Societies to comment that some of the RSPCA\’s prosecutions "seem to have a political agenda" rather than being concerned with "animal welfare". The growing number of people who fall foul of that agenda would heartily agree.

Thieving Bastards

No other way to describe it really.

The heads of the biggest gas and electricity companies are being ordered by the Government to hand over part of their multi-billion pound profits – or face a new windfall tax.

These soaring profits are due more to a quirk of the accounting system than anything else. Explained here.

There will be a time when raw materials prices start to fall: and then profits will tumble. The government going to give the money back at that point?

Martin Kettle: Nutso!

So Martin Kettle gets all gooey eued at the way that the Daily Mail bounced the government into action.

The Daily Mail did not invent the issue of plastic bag pollution. Paul Dacre\’s newspaper is a Johnny-come-lately to a long-established environmental cause. It is 20 years since Labour\’s Chris Smith first raised the issue in the House of Commons and six since Ireland and Bangladesh caught the world\’s attention by slapping a tax on them. You can find hundreds of speeches by ministers saying something must be done. But until the Mail\’s campaign ministers were still – there is no other word for it – dithering.

Once the Mail went into action the outcome was settled. Ten pages on Wednesday, seven more on Thursday, another four on Friday and the job was done. The Banish the Bags campaign was well planned, well focused, well judged, well timed and was executed on a scale and with a ruthlessness that would have impressed Bismarck. M&S was lined up in advance to create a second-day wave with its 5p-per-bag charge announcement. Even Prince Harry could not shove the campaign off the front page yesterday, as Gordon Brown, who now recycles his garden waste instead of his policy announcements, pledged that the government would "step in and act".

So why were Ministers dithering?

Waste advisors to the Government have today warned against a tax on plastic bags on the basis that it could have a detrimental effect on the environment.

Experts have suggested that a ban or levy on plastic bags would actually lead to much greater volumes of plastic being used because people would need more bin liners and rubbish sacks.

Research by the Government-funded Waste Resources Action Programme (WRAP) found that a levy on plastic bags in Ireland only made matters worse.

WRAP believes that advocates of a tax, such as the 33 London boroughs, have underestimated how many plastic bags are used currently to put out recycling or as substitutes for plastic bin bags.

A levy on plastic would also be likely to mean a switch towards paper which uses more energy in production and releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas, when they degrade in landfill, according to WRAP.

Liz Goodwin, WRAP’s chief executive, warned: “You have to decide which problem you are trying to deal with, litter or the volume of plastic used. We have got to remember that taxes and levies can have perverse effects – such as making people use more plastic rather than less.

“Our focus should be on reducing environmental impacts of the bags by making them lighter or out of recycled content.”

Industry sources say that Ireland’s levy on plastic bags led to five times more plastic being used.

WRAP doubts this estimate but says it calculates that a ban or a levy would still lead to more plastic being used than at present because one form of bag would be substituted by another.

So let us tiptoe through the timeline.

Greenies identify a problem, Politicians go and get some experts together and ask them to work it out: is it really a problem and if so, is the proposed solution one that will work?

Experts come back and say, well, yes, there is indeed a problem but the proposed solution will just make it worse. So the current situation is perhaps the best we can hope for. Ministers thus do nothing until the Daily Mail leaps on the bandwagon.

Ministers now act and make things worse.

And Kettle approves of this idiocy?


Innumerate Guardian Hack

Jonathan Watts in Beijing that is. And the subs in London.

Millions of gallons of water are being diverted to Beijing from areas hit by drought

Millions of gallons! Oh Noes!

Beijing is diverting millions of gallons of water to ensure this dry and dusty city looks its best during the Olympics.


Umm, just what is a million gallons? Ignore the difference between US and Imperial gallons for a moment. An acre foot is some 325,000 gallons and is the annual usage of one US suburban household (I actually thought it was two but Wikipedia says otherwise).

So a million gallons is enough for between 3 and 6 houses.

Scary scary, eh?

If they meant the next order of magntiude up, tens of millions, presumably they would have said so. So the diversion being worried about is for anything between 3 and 60 households\’ worth.

Aaaarg! We\’re all gonna die!

Thanks to a huge diversion, the Shunyi Olympic rowing park project has turned a dry river and its banks into a lush resort with a water surface of 63 hectares (155 acres) and a green area of 53 hectares.

155 acres? Let\’s say 10 ft deep, shall we? And ignore evaporation, leaks, the grass etc. That 500 million gallons just there.

So, what both the journalist and the sub editor really meant was that Beijing is diverting billions of gallons of water.

Out by three orders of magnitude at minimum.

Tens of thousands of people have been relocated for a 192-mile section of the water diversion project, which will open in April, redirecting 300m cubic metres of water from Hebei to the capital. In any year this would be a sacrifice.

Our acre foot is roughly 1,200 cubic metres so that\’s c. 250,000 acre feet or 81,250,000,000 gallons.

Or damn near 100 billion gallons.

Out by five orders of magnitude.

Now that\’s impressive, even for the Guardian.


Screamingly Stupid

They\’re insane:

Ministers are preparing to approve plans that would allow supermarkets to collude in alcohol price rises as part of efforts to stem Britain\’s binge drinking epidemic.

The new arrangements, which would be secured through amendments to licensing laws, will enable supermarkets to get around existing competition rules that impose hefty penalties for price collusion.

Back to this in a moment,. Look at this rather:

The price of alcohol in shops has halved in real terms in 20 years

Nope, not true. A flat, full on, out and out barefaced lie.

The cost of beer and wine has remained relatively stable, meaning in real terms it has got cheaper as income has increased.

Now that is true. It\’s the so called "affordability" of alcohol which has increased by 65% over the period, as calculated by the BMA report.

But what the BMA seem to be missing here is that this is the very point of this whole civilisation business. That as we work out how to do things better, as technology (in the very widest sense) gets better then we are able to create more out of the resources to hand. It\’s called getting richer. Incomes go up faster than prices of goods so we can all have more goods to enjoy with our incomes. It\’s the whole point of the damn enterprise… doesn\’t matter whether you\’re capitalist, socialist, fascist or communist,  while there may be differences in the effectiveness of each system at reaching the goal, the goal is the same: the proles getting richer.

Beef has increased in affordability, chicken, clothes, sneakers, computers, cars…just about everything except houses and taxes (both of which are controlled by government, of course) have increased in affordability over the past 20 years and as I say, this is the entire damn purpose of this society thing, to make it so.

That we live higher on the hog than did our parents and that our children may do so higher than we.

But back to the change in competition law. Utter, utter, stupidity. Supermarkets use alcohol sales and price cuts as loss leaders. That\’s actually what is being compained about in the first place. That they lose money on that to get people into the stores.

So we\’re going to ban them from doing that….or at least allow them to conspire amongst themselves to make sure that no one goes for a beggar they neighbour price cut?

All that will happen is that supermarket profits will rise; it\’s the inevitable effect of allowing such conspiracy.

So, the suggested solution to a free people exercising its will in getting blasted is that we should increase supermarket profits?

Genius, sheer bloody genius.

Can we have our country back when you morons have finished playing with it please?

Republican Smears

Oooh, name calling and all:

Republicans have begun to emphasise Barack Obama\’s middle name Hussein in an attempt to spread doubts about his patriotism and raise fears among voters that he is a closet Muslim.

Yup, no doubt there are Republicans doing that. However, the people to really look out for at this stage are the Clintons.

The release was illustrated by a picture that began circulating on the internet a few days ago of Mr Obama dressed in ethnic Somali garb, which he wore on an official visit to Kenya.

That picture released to Drudge by the Clinton campaign.

Mr Rove also mentioned the senator\’s connections with Weather Underground, the 1960s domestic terror group that planted bombs in government buildings.

The Clinton campaign first pointed out that the candidate met two members of the group at a Chicago social event 12 years ago, one of whom donated $200 to his Illinois senate campaign.


The people running shit scared at the moment are the Clinton campaign, so they\’re the peple fighting dirtiest. At least so far. No doubt the Republicans will catch up though.


No, Really?

The closure of thousands of post offices is being halted by the Government during May\’s local elections campaign, provoking accusations of "cynical" political tactics by ministers.

But, but, politicians would never do something like that, would they? The sea green incorruptibles?

Timmy Elsewhere

At Pajamas Media.

About trade and tariffs n\’ stuff.

My original final line was something like: "Barriers to trade are therefore made up of both the costs of transport and tariffs and quotas. We\’re told that if we raise tariffs and quotas we\’ll become richer: if someone told you that raising the cost of transport would make us richer you would rightly think him insane. So with tariffs."

Editors edit….