Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Slave Drivers

Monday, February 27th, 2012
Child Slavery

How much are our young people worth?

Wikipedia  states that that despite slavery being officially illegal in every country in the world, there are currently more slaves in existence than at any point in history, with estimates ranging between 12m to 27m people. The last country to ban slavery was Mauritania, the former French colony in West Africa who only got round to amending their statute books in 1981.

Wikipedia lists three types of slavery: Chattel slavery – where people are treated as personal property, bought & sold commercially which includes the sex trafficking that currently exists on every continent including Europe.

Bonded labour, or debt bondage occurs when a person pledges their labour against a loan. The payback period is often undefined and can be inter-generational. It is the most widespread form of slavery today and Dubai would not exist without it.

The third category is forced labour, where an individual is forced to work agaist his or her will, under threat of punishment, with restrictions on their freedom. So has Cameron instigated this form of slavery to solve the UK’s unemployment problems? In pre-industrial societies, slave labour was economically essential. Had the current worldwide depression swung the balance of power back that way?

Reading some of the sites dedicated to the abolishion of slavery puts modern British workfare into perspective. No-one is being beaten, raped, having their families threatened or being controlled beyond the hours of, ooh, 8 til 6ish 5 days a week for a few weeks. In return, they get money to eat, rent paid, free prescriptions. Put like that, no-one currently protesting is likely to want to trade places with a Ukrainian girl tricked into believing she was going to nanny for a rich British family only to find herself drugged, raped, beaten and being forced to service 10 men a day, or a Bangladeshi builder promised a fair wage who has his passport stolen and is forced to work 12 hour shifts in 40 degree heat with no water or even a bed of his own.

So does Sir Stuart Rose have a point? Are companies being gutless in backing away from offering 3 months work to the unemployed while the taxpayer picks up the tab? Organised demonstrations are resulting in bad publicity for companies, as organised by Boycott Workfare. Reading their site underlines why the situation is unhelpful for individuals, but what does it say about society? In the current post-depression global economy, few are comfortable. Job security is low, new jobs are hard to come by and firms are closing every day. Current low-paid, low-skilled workers are hyper sensitive that an unending source of free labour will do nothing to boost their own employability and just takes them closer to their own P45. And does it not miss the point? The issue is not so much that great swathes of young people are not employable – it is that companies are not employing. How does exploiting the unemployed fix that?

Living it up or scaling down?

Friday, July 1st, 2011

I recently came across a thought-provoking blog: Early Retirement Extreme written by one Jacob Lund Fisker. It chimed with many thoughts I’ve been having; mostly mid-life crisis ones, around what’s it all about?

His philosophy is essentially Bhuddist in outlook – that happiness does not result from consumerism, but rather from self-actualisation. He is unapologetically frugal, earning far more from investments than he spends, but the early retirement in his title is somewhat of a misnomer – he is not promoting an end, but a shift in expectation & outlook. Following his methods may indeed allow you to “retire” in 5 years, but that’s a side effect of living in balance, not a marathon session of denial ahead of an almighty splurge.

Those methods are the antithesis of the usual run of get-rich-quick schemes. They are focused almost entirely on not spending, as opposed to earning large amounts of money to support an unsustainable lifestyle. Affluenza is indeed the disease of our time. I look at couples who feel the need to live in 4/5 bedroom houses, and wonder why?

I’m probably consuming more housing than I need. The inertia that stops me selling the house to buy a small flat outright sends me to a job that takes all my energy and most of my time and prevents me doing the things I might like to do. As a result, I have no time or energy to do jobs such as washing windows (and I’m teetering on the brink of an ironing service), thereby compounding the need to go to work to pay for the things I only need because I go to work. But what is it all for? You spend all your life working yourself to death to assemble stuff that is skipped when you die. What was the point? Polyp sums it up thus:

The problem with Fisker’s philosophy is moving towards it once you are on the hamster wheel of salary slavery. I could potentially live more frugally – I could rent a room round the corner from where I work, sell the car and pay off the mortgage on the house. But inertia’s the problem, solved by another day of life wasted. Hmm.


Weather to believe ’em or not….

Friday, January 21st, 2011

A tale of two headlines: Daily Mail – 2010 was ‘second warmest year’ since records began in 1850. Daily Telegraph – 2010 was the coldest year since 1986. The gist of the story is that pretty much everywhere on the planet had a record-breakingly hot year… except us in the UK.

There are those that will clutch this information as further evidence of anthropological (i.e. man-made) global warming. However, the newsworthy weather events around the world this year are all manifestations of the regular La Nina weather pattern which predicts cooler currents in the central and eastern Pacific, leading to increased rainfall. This impact of this La Nina has been particularly strong, with huge swathes of Queensland, Sri Lanka, Brazil and South Africa flooded (the latter doesn’t seem to have generated so much news coverage though). As I’m sure you all know, La Nina is the reverse of the El Nino warming of the Southern Oceans, reputed to show its impact around Christmas time, hence the name. El Nino episodes reduce rainful and therefore have the opposite effect – droughts and forest fires.

Nasa Satellite Image

Regularity does not imply predictability though:

  • La Nina conditions do not always necessarily follow El Ninos,
  • the cyclic frequency varies from 2-7 years,
  • the length of the cycle from 7 months to 2 years
  • the strength is also variable – effects lasting less than 3 months are ignored, changes in sea-surface temperatures lasting up to 7-9 months are categorised as El Nino / La Nina conditions, and only if they last longer than 9 months is it officially an El Nino / La Nina episode

So what is a “standard” La Nina year? Yes we have unprecedented photographic and media coverage of the impact this year, but does that mean its an unprecedented year meterologically speaking?

I am not a climatologist, but I know something of complex systems, and weather is one of the most complex around. I’m just not convinced that 160 data points is enough to draw any conclusive trend on global temperatures for any more than the 160 years measured. Nasa report that they only have solid La Nina data going back 50 years. That’s not even an eye-blink of time in comparison to the history of the planet. Not even enough time for a synapse to fire to begin the thought of blinking an eye. This is the strongest La Nina in 50 years – that’s all we can state. Anthropological global warming may be true, but be very wary of anyone who declares that to be a fact – we have insufficient evidence to call it that. It’s a hypothesis, and even if it is true, solar effects as part of the sun-spot cycle could easily mask or reverse its effects. I’m not convinced humans are important or clever enough to change anything.


Sunday, January 9th, 2011

The 50’s were a time of great leaps forward in psychology and psychiatry. And great leaps backwards..Four Experiments than should never be repeated. Thanks Martin.