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Let us all blame him

During Tudor times English royalty were treated in such high regard that they could not undergo corporal punishment for any wrong doing. The answer was simple: get a whipping boy; someone the masters could beat instead of the prince. It was assumed that the young heir would feel such pain and guilt of the victim they would never commit another crime.

Today the Establishment have found the perfect modern candidate, a clever banker has fooled the government out of a large pension while in his 50s. Everyone is directing their anger towards this person. Now we don't have to question who are responsible for agreeing the terms and signing off the paperwork we have a single figure of hate. We don't have to wonder about the quality of civil servants, members of parliament, reporters, and us for not checking the small print, because we can focus our attentions on the greedy fat cats.

Again, and again the media, politicians and the public aren't looking at the system. They are trying to find the quick fix, the cancerous tumour that can be plucked out and we can all go back to how it was. Whitehall and its followers don't worry about signing over a few extra million here and there, they want to push the problem onto the next generation.

A fraternal, secret system were deals are completed behind closed doors doesn't work in today's society. Too much reliance on the old boys network has lead to the problems and could be easily replaced using technology and skills available in the wider community. Making all the documents available to public scrutiny before anything was signed would have giving others the change to spotting the flaw or at least spread the responsibility over many shoulders.

By moving to an open, accountable civil service would question the need to for high salaries, generous pension funds, guarantee employment prospects so dearly loved by those at the top.

What I want, when I want it

Last Friday I went shopping at my local supermarket. A shop similar to many hundreds of others across the country and around the world. On the entering the food hall is the produce section; showing how fresh, green, sensitive, and nutritious the corporation is, before making you walk pass every other item to the overpriced, pre-packed dinners.

On the right pass the flowers, fresh herbs, and exotic fruit where the apples, pears and bananas. On the left was a special offer: large, fresh tomatoes. A netted bag of 6-8 plump, juicy tomatoes, two for £1.50. I picked up a pair from the top shelf, away from other food fondlers, and went back to selecting some bunches of bananas.

It was when unpacking the groceries into the fridge that it stuck. It is January, I live in the UK, it was 6C outside and I have bought tomatoes. The epitome of a late August Sunday afternoon tea's salad and I dropped two bags into shopping trolley right in the middle of winter. There was no social conflict when seeing the special offer, no thought about green miles, no sense of guilt, nothing when making a snap decision.

We have become so accustomed to have instant gratification, the now generation, that I seriously doubt our society would ever adopt a more community based structure. Me especially.

Walking around in their shoes

One pair of Wellington boots, four pairs of proper shoes, three pairs of causal boots, three pairs of trainers, and two pairs of slippers shod my feet. One pair of the black shoes costed over £120, a pair of trainers £50, boots £40 (waste of money), while most were around £15.

I can attempt to justify each one; shoes for work or leisure, boots for walking, trainers for cycling and jogging, and list goes on. The truth is less clear. Mostly I bought them because I can. I had available income at the time to spend on these without noticing any cost. I think I should be guilty; one person doesn't need over a dozen pairs of footwear. Around the whole people are making do with much less.

This is difference between meeting basics needs and purchasing optional wants. The basic need for shoes could be made available with a stable economic while letting others spend their disposal income on those extras. Removing the profit motive from supplying defined basis commodities reduces the costs to practically zero

starting with a farming group

A group of twelve or twenty people, who leave close to each other, meet and decide, barring a revolution, to purchase some farm land. Not individual allotments for growing garden vegetables. This is a market farm growing the essentials items, and few luxuries, for the kitchen.

Every tools and sector of technology is used to make the collective lives as easy as possible. Nature is encouraged, few chemicals are applied, and manual labour kept to the minimum. This farm is not a re-enactment of some bygone halcyon times. We want the greatest productivity of the least amount of effort. With the greatest of care regarding our natural surroundings.

It is worth calculating how much land a couple dozen people would need to supply an annual food ration. Judging by the small number of people working the land it shouldn't be many hours required if the workload is shared by the stakeholders. Next is the amount and type of food we need for a healthy diet and some in reserve for the bad times.

My consideration is dividing up the bounty. Under the western protestant work ethic, those who physically worked the hardest should not matter. The reward should go to the property holder, while those who tilled the soil should receive a wage. I believe there is method to share the wealth equally based on entitlement.

Britain's fear of the new establishment

Recent reactions to bankers annual bonuses shows how scared our existing political structure has become of financial institution. Labour don't want to upset as they are funding, or at least oiling the corrupt engine, of the huge increase on Government debt. Conservative are either related to, or old school friends of, those causing the debt mountain. While they all pretend to criticise their antics in a few years little legal corrections would be enacted.

After thinking about how little influence UK politics have over the financial industry I understand we could define it as the new fourth Establishment. First is the Monarchy, next is the Church, followed by the BBC, and now Banks. It might have always been so, or at least never so apparent. They, by default, have become too big for no-one in Parliament would ever seriously consider any significant adjustments to these columns they believe are supporting Britain, fearing the whole edifice could come tumbling down.

India's poor reluctance to revolt

People seem comfortable with their status quo. After watching a recently popular film set in the slums of Mumbai, India, I was struck that such conditions continue so close to the visible wealth created through the growth of information technology industries. There must be certain factors that cause people to revolt against the existing political powers.

There must a tipping point when that which could be gained from participating in the revolution is greater than defending the current situation. This argument doesn't force people to make their decision from the start. They can wait and watch others attempt the change and see whether their world would be improved. It doesn't even consider the political merits at this stage, only the out come.

Riots take place in India. They can't be classed as social-revolutionary as other people don't see the advantages of the cause. These physical attacks appear to have a religious context, Hindus against Muslims, with the normal political motives behind most faith based campaigns. Popularity is limited be the very nature of the internal conflicts. A poor Muslim wouldn't become involved in the campaign, because they associate themselves with poor Hindus. Such violent forces tend to lead to separation instead of economic unity.

Häuserzeile might describe my housing

While searching around the internet for the right picture I came across the term 'Häuserzeile'. Its literal translation could be house line. Judging by the images they are more than English terrace houses. They are the multiple-storey and multiple-occupancy required within village and parish boundaries to stop urban sprawl. I need to find out more information on these types of homes. They look perfect.

Bank nationalisation

Over the past six months the British Government has given our High Street financial institutions billions of pounds attempting to regain confidence between companies and release credit facilities. This is the wrong approach.

Banks are insolvent. They owe more than they can pay back. They are greedy. They are selfish. Senior executives haven't suffered any penalties for their decisions. Pouring every more public funds into the existing systems will not work.

My answer is for new state funded banks; twelve of them. I think they should be organised, but not limited, by region. A parallel structure to the existing commercial banks without the debts or liabilities. These new institutions willing be respected, public accountable, boring; deposit, saving and lending organisations.

There would not be flashy shop fronts, highly paid executives (10x max), limited financial products and heavy oversight be local council audits. There would be structured plans available to take money from the banks into a fully insured bank. Lower interest earnings for stability. Higher interest charges for access to funds.

Trains are pricing themselves out of the debate

According to the FT, the UK Government is planning to spend £20 billion on a high-speed rail link between Manchester and London. This cost builds new track for the 300km (185 miles) between Manchester, Birmingham and London.

Some simple maths shows that is £67 million per kilometre of rail. Taking it to the extreme; £67000 per metre or each £1000 gets 15mm of line (I keep checking the calculations as figures don't make sense).

When the British state is willing to throw that much public funding for a single project it is no wonder why our national budget is in the dire situation we find it. I wonder if there is an alternative motive: making inter-city railway travel appear so expensive that people reject that mode of transport. Suggesting to spend this level of costs continues to alienate the public from state involvement in national projects.

High speed railway is one of central parts to answer UK future growth, others includes urbanisation, local transport, and broadband technology. It is a shame the current political structure doesn't let us do what is best instead of feeding to many self-interest parties with their corporate noses in the public funded feeding trough.

Addressing the housing lottery

Lets destroy one of society's greatest inequalities - housing. Give them away for nothing; no agent fees, no stamp duty, no purchase price, free. This idea is a work in progress. This idea is not soviet style communism, which was nothing more than Russian fascism. Society owns the freehold and doesn't charge rent. Rent is based on the buildings worth, we all pay taxes.

Here is how it works. Every one over the age of 18 that meet certain conditions gets a token every year on their birthday. When they see a house that is available they put their accumulated tokens into a hat with anyone else and draw is made. The winner gets the house, bungalow apartment, or flat for life or until they move again. The winner is the only one that loses all the tokens entered into the draw.

Once they are given the house it is theirs. Paint it, extend it, neglect it, abuse it (within the law), or cherish it. Treat the house as would any other piece of property. Most would treat their home with loving kindness, taking great care when making improvement. Standard planning law would continue to apply.

People who don't understand gaming theory would rush to the Capital's large villas with the rest of herd. Others might pause and think about their reasons to enter that lottery. They can't afford the heating, let alone the upkeep. Remember listed building must maintain a certain standard or you are thrown out. Living in such a house wouldn't be a mark of your success we all know you won it.

Cuban system should work

When thinking about what is wrong with the world and how to put it right there is nothing more satisfying than pointing to a country or region that adopted similar ideas and made them work. Cuba should be a perfect example. If only life was that simple.

Cuba is located in the best position, has an island nation mentality, a good education system, ready access to free health care, and is full of creative and intelligent people. Yet it doesn't work. It is not a success. This country should be a beacon of collective community spirit, instead it appears as another third world communist state.

After decades of single party rule nothing has improved. There are no great discovers, not constant stream of artists, no free thinkers, nothing substantial has emerged from what should be the model of collective effect. Central control, soviet style intimidation, fixation on cash crops, and failure on the international stage have all lead to a stale and backward facing economic instance.

From the outside it seem that state fear, nepotism, corruption, and lack of a proper economic model caused the problems. It could have been so different. Ten million people spread over 100 000 sq.km offers a worldly paradise. Organising the basic supplies, while permitting human ambition to flourish and benefit everyone in the region.

not looking after the elderly

A recent visit to a local nursing home, caring for the sick elderly showed the number of foreign workers looking after our senior citizens. I am not attacking people from abroad coming to work in the UK, more our attitude to this working in this sector.

Historically, say before the 1950s, it was expected that some elderly relative would move with a young family for the rest of their life. This family social welfare was part of the duty of the family nucleus. Whether it was because women started to seek paid work or, I believe, it was a class issue, we started to put the old into home. Some people might have preferred their independence, but that could have been maintained in a shared home.

Looking after those who can't care from themselves is respected by the general public, but it is too much work for us. We would rather work in an office or take part employment in a shop. Those of us unemployed wouldn't do what the foreign workers have to endure; especially considering the low wages.

Farming Co-Op

Reading an website about American's thank giving lunch lead to the idea bouncing around in my head. I want to belong to a farming co-op. I haven't worked out the details, but here is a start.

Everyone invests £1000, you would need a 100 members to start the process rolling. It would have land near where I live, so I cycle to work. Each person would have to commit 4 hours a week to working on the farm. Everything would be shared equally, everyone getting 1%.

As I write I can hear people scrambling for their copy of George Orwells' Animal Farm. That was an attack on the Soviet interruption of the communist ideas. It was not criticising Marxism or the work of Engels, only mankind's inability to share

Class is dead, long live class

Listening to the radio about the Jarrow marches and workers demonstrating for jobs started me thinking about current workers and our attitude to the owners. Gone are the days when the employed are a separate class to the employer. Perhaps the lost of distinction has a deeper affect on whether our demands consolidate as a group.

People do march for international peace, environmental causes, and special political interest. They don't, or haven't started, to protest for social inequalities. We don't look at ourselves as work-class. Our parents did similar skilled jobs, owned their houses, paid into a pension plan, yet many people would place them a sub-class higher. It could be that our parents worked in grubby factories while we spend our times in grubby offices.

By not using the social-economic structure our society is placing itself apart from common man, our neighbours and their rights we can ignore the responsibility of liberty, equality, and fraternity.

Banking CEOs and politicians

Western governments are addicted to corporate finances, and crave the indulgences of the dealers that supply them with the latest packaged deal of the week. These ministers and officials either don't want to, or are incapable of understanding their affliction; while they accept their next fix without questions.

Everyone with a modicum of economic principles could predict the latest state of play with largest banks. Politicians accepted the throw-a-comments from the banking CEOs as promises. These highly paid executives treat these elected lawyers, as they would a menial serf only to keen to follow their master's bidding without argument.

Over the past twenty years the UK democratic principles were replaced by some form of meritocracy controlled from with London's square mile. Whether it was the glamour of the City, the worthless trust in the 'new paradigms' using mathematical models politicians were too scared to admit they didn't understand, or perhaps it is the retirement plans of non-executive directorships on offer to any junior cabinet minister or higher. It doesn't matter Britain was not sold, but given away on a promise.

We don't escape the blame so easily. Ignoring the corruptions of the State while we watched our house rise by 10% per annum. Because our home was worth hundred of thousands, we must spend like as if we had the cash in our pockets. The biggest problem is; I don't think we have learnt our lessons.

Annoyance with 'Saving the planet...'

With all the other problems around the planet it seems strange to be irked by phase worn-out the 'We must save the planet...'. It isn't the sentiment behind the cliché, it is the words; especially the planet.

According to most respected scientific theories planet Earth is 4.5 billion years old and survived many global mass extinctions during her life. I don't think one more is going to destroy the Earth and all life forever. It will destroy us.

Everyone should be concentrating on what our current actions are doing to human habitation. We are burning our own life raft. Lets find another phase that direct attentions to finding a balanced living while on Earth. The search is on.

unrestricted offshore windfarms

While initially sight of the hilltop wind turbine impresses the engineering achievements in today's hunger for energy, it has to be noted they are a blight. Gone at those tree level dutch windmills slowly turning in the summer breeze, pumping water or milling grain. White stalks of three petal generators spread as weed of the English landscape.

It doesn't have to be so. Britain is blessed by a gentle sloping coast that easily could give room to thousands of these turbines. Suppliers could be given be unlimited access to any land more than a few hundred metres from the hide tide mark. There might be a few navigational, military, and scientific objections, but these should only be used in exceptional circumstances.

Through greater tax breaks, easier planning rules, and improved infrastructure the whole UK inner coast line could be filled with these turbines, giving us back the countryside.

Personal pride over saving the planet

By wearing thicker socks, a couple layers of jumpers, and fingerless gloves, makes it possible for healthy adults to survive the mild British autumn and early winter with little or no heating. But we don't.

Our automatic reaction to any drop in temperature outside is to turn on our home's central heating without considering the impact both on natural resources and our personal budget. Wrapping up warm is old-fashion, frugal, even misery; especially with Dickens' Scrooge in our minds during the seasonal festivities. I don't want people think I can't afford spending on keeping the house heated.

Personal spending as measurement of success

Two neighbouring families live in identical houses in a good estate on the edge of an English market town. These are those moderately, size four bedrooms semi-detached houses that litter the country side with there little front garden, attached gargen, patio and lawn at the rear.

On the left are Jones; husband, wife and two teenage kids. On the right are Smith: same married couple with two teenage children. Mr Jones works as a sales director for a local company, he stays away from home one or two nights a week at conferences or sales meeting. Mr Smith works in a factory, as he done is entire life: 8am - 4pm, including a couple hours overtime. Mrs Jones is a legal secretary: 9-6pm and Mrs Smith works as a school assistant a few hours a day.

The Jones replaces one of their two cars every three years, have a large wide screen television with all the gadgets, and kitchen full of useful utensils. Fashion conscience children have the latest clothes and their own laptops. They go on two foreign holidays and couple short breaks every year. A second mortgage paid for the small extension and cleared those credit card bills.

As expected the Smiths a second hand year television and a four year old PC thrown out from the office. Mrs Smith repairs small tears in clothes and uses the local charity shops for the odd item, especially for Mr Smith. Their one car is rarely used, as the shops are local and Mr Smith cycles to work. Holidays are spent at the family across the UK.

Jones are a success, he is converted by the media, political parties, advertisers, and we all look on jealously at their life. By contrast, the Smiths are failures (British logic) who have achieved nothing. Their impact of the planet is tiny in proportional to the Jones. They use and reuse everything they can, while the Jones squander their riches. Yet, it is the Jones that are the winners.

Until we considerable re-adjust our measurements, living standards and life ambition there is little opportunity of balancing the natural resources with achievable humane qualities for all

Comparing land ownerships - fields and gardens

Taking a walk in the country along a small lane there is another road with a interest view. It would be possible to reach the other road by a long walk. There is a direct route through a gate, across the field, over a solid stone wall, around the edge of another field, and between a gap in the fence onto the new road.

That was trespass, It leaves the offender open to civil court action.

Take a similar walk in a town. Two rows of back-to-back houses, it would take a long walk around the estate to reach the other street. Alternatively, open the gate, up the drive, through the front door, hallway, kitchen, out through the back door, down the back garden, over the fence, and the same via the neighbouring property.

Again, that was trespass. More than illegal, it was morally wrong.

Two identical scenarios, but society's attitude is completely different. Even reducing the impact by not entering the house, the effect is serious. Accepting the latter has more potential for mischief, I am faced with the conundrum if a single principle could cover both situations.

definition of capitalism

Many defend the term without explaining their definition. Capitalism is the State protecting ownership of property, for both individual and corporations. By controlling ownership, people believe their other rights gain protection by default.

Economics is an art, not a science

I heard a lecturer defending Economics as a science, then stating it can not be used to predict the future. This is whole purpose of a science; develop a logical model of the natural world that consistently reproduces the same results.

When I let go of a ball from my hand, it falls down to ground - predicted by physicists. When I have a certain symptoms or chemical imbalance in my body, a certain prognosis is suggested - predicted by biologist. When I see a pattern of cloud formations, the weather can be forecasted - predicted by meteorologist. All of these sciences offer a structure that tells the future.

There is too much reliance by self-interested media corporations, government agencies, and funding seeking academic departments on a flawed pseudo-discipline.

British Media never seems to learn

While the world is shocked into confusion over the size and extend of the financial aid given to corporate banking institutions, our great fourth pillar of the Establishment - the British media watches as a child awed by a carnival. The bright lights, flashing symbols, impressive magic tricks and colossal scale makes them stop investigating, probing and questioning; happy to watch the parade.

Only a few years ago, with the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq the press lost its role and fell into the same corporate role by accepting, without questions, anything fed to it by the national governments. No one is asking about the small print, guessing it will work out for the best - knowing that the financial plan is constructed on flimsy foundations.

In a few years when the truth is explained and everyone understands how tax money was given away to bankers pay or bonuses (it will termed something different, but the result will be the same), the media will throw their hands in the air asking how it happened and why they didn't spot it.

Left hand banking

Sinister, dark suited men meet in private, secret offices deep in Whitehall. They are there to shared out the country's debt without supplying a single guarantee or making one iota of sacrifice.

H.M. Government has stated publicly that they will not interfere with forcing banks to start lending to business nor the size of their bonus packages. That must be to protect them when the politicians leave office and start looking for non-executive directorships.

I suggest an alternative answer. The old system is corrupt and broken. Leave it to die on the vine, starting again with new state funded financial institutions. It shouldn't be to difficult to create a dozen new national banks spread across the country. These new corporations would run under very strict rules, both internal management and external policies.

Competition would be insured by letting these companies national coverage while encouraging local investment.

Practical hydrogen power

We pump crude oil thousands of miles of pipe lines across many different countries. Lets make a green alternative fuel and send that to local combined heat and power stations. My original suggestion was using hydrogen gas produced from water using solar or thermal engery. As with most half thought through ideas, you end up with more questions than answers.

Q1. Why has no one done this before - cost effectiveness
Q2. Is hydrogen the best source of transporting the energy
Q3. Why not send electricity through the cables (distance too long)
Q4. How dangerous is pure hydrogen in pipes under water and on land


Costing Comfort

About three years ago I was sat reading an interesting book, when I suddenly noticed there was a chill in the air. Not especially surprising, there was a significant frost outside, which hadn't moved all day. A light wind might have started a draught, or the weak winter sun might have dipped below neighbouring houses, either way I was getting cold.

That is when it hit me. My middle-white, middle-income, middle-class, liberalism hypocrisy struck me straight between the eyes. I was sat reading an interesting book, in late November, in a pair of shorts and a light tee-shirt, with central heating turned up to maximum and the fire blazing away in the hearth. Once I dressed, turned off the heating, and unplugged everything not essential, I sat covered in guilt and shame.

I started understanding what I was doing wrong and thinking about correcting my life style.

Charity Director Salary List

Christian Aid £88,428
Oxfam £94,179
RSPCA* £99,999
Age Concerned* £120,000
scope* £120,000
Macmillan* £130,000
Barnardo* £159,999

* Figure not declared on financial report, using the highest salary in summary list

State Pension £4,716.40

using the latest documents - 2007

It is mine, mine, all mine

I own a digital camera. I paid for it. I have sole use of it. It is mine. That makes me uncomfortable. Laura Brace in The Politics of Property states 'property as sole and despotic dominion, with a particular emphasis on exclusion'.

Six months ago after months of reading reviews, running price checks, and overcoming nagging doubts about the costs, I made the long considered decision to buy an expensive low end digital SLR camera, and I love it. This basic model suits my skill and artistic abilities, while the quality of images is superb. Over first couple months I took it everywhere, snapped thousands of photographs, and keep dozens. I do like this camera.

There are many people in my neighbourhood that don't have the disposable income to buy a toy as a camera and who would love to use this gadget. They might make greater use of it than me. I should share my gadget, but I don't. Whether my long embedded and lapse Christian propaganda or my emerging communist utopian ideals, I am questioning how ownership restricts society and human progression.

Many people, including me, believes territory should belong to society and not the individual. I make a difference between the state and society. We should all have more shared rights over land. This ideal may break down when replacing land which I don't own with something I do. Whether it is physical or intellectual property we are indoctrined that once owned there are rules which everyone agrees to follow.

Sharing property is harder than one thinks. The other person might not appreciate the item's worth, they might not give it back, they could break it, they could past it on to someone else, they would sell it or loss it. Whether a family member, a neighbour, or a complete stranger there are many occasions household items, pets or entire homes are shared without issue. Yet, there is rule of ownership.

Assuming the ideal, I spend my money and buy something I need. After the first few months of constant use, experimentation and play the object becomes familiar and only brought out when required on those special occasion. This stage would be perfect time to share. The term ownership makes a moral dilemma that my floundering beliefs must address.

Water footprint dilutes the argument

Hearing about Water Footprint concept shows how by emphasizing on a particular environmental subject we dilute the general principles required for a persons life balance. Concentrating on a particular these statistics, especially the natural and renewable resource, that has no constant value of worth confuses arguments placing unnecessary conditions on the general public.

Taking water footprint as both a the volume of water required to produce some individual commercial product or virtual usage as domestic usage minus exported product plus imported product at a national level, only adds tenuous arguments and more confusion. Stating we use 140 litres for each cup of coffee does not add to the wealth of human knowledge, such figures reduces environmental discussion to trivial facts and sceptical statistics. Newspaper article overburdens consumers, making us reluctant take any stance about the 'tread lightly' principle.

A more positive approach would be examining various nations, companies, organisations approach to their water usage, finding best practises and suggesting to farmers or producers the most efficient use of water. Using figures (page 4) towards positive influences shows producing beef places more strain to a nation's resources than other crops.

I have doubts about the worth of the final calculation about a nations water consumption described in the reports as they seem to fail to take into account the availability of water replenishment - rain fall. A better method of a region's measurement of virtual footprint is consumption divided by supply. Here in the south west of the UK we are fortunate for a near unlimited supply of water; while on the east of England they experience regular shortages. Supplying these ratios should highlight conversion needs, more than it takes 250 litres to make one loaf of bread.

Why read Marx today - Jonathan Wolff

Both as explanation of Marx communism theory and a lesson in critical analysis, 'Why read Marx today' scores high marks. Each section of this 125 page book shows how enjoyable philosophical writing can explain Marxism and offer insights into the reasons behind the achievements of one industrial era greatest philosophers.

Looking at the early years of Marx's life, with the influences of Hegel, Feuerbach and Kant, the book explains the four principles related to Marxism. Time is spent in the second section sends time showing how Marx reacts to the current capitalist culture and economic conditions.

Jonathan Wolff is certainly a worthy author and educator. Professor of phil at Univeristy College he seems, judging from his bibliography knowledgeable of Noviak. He style is conversational, instead of that expected dry and monotone critical analysis writing. It shows that you can explain difficult subjects without impressing your readers with long words.

As a novice of political analysis and philosophical I am having to learn how to read text book for the first time. When at school I would jump to a paragraph, grab a date or relevant fact, before returning to the essay. Read 'Marx today' needs more consideration, perhaps a student needs to more work into a book than the author did writing it. This revelation is beginning to strike home. From feeling smug about 'knocking off' a small book in a few morning readings to understanding the effort that required to knowing the subject. It is going to be steep hill to climb.

More reading:
The Jewish Question - Karl Mark
Socialism: Utopian and Scientific - Engels
Potical Thought - Jonathan Wolff

Chinese international politics after the Olympics

Much has been made on the eve of the Olympics 2008 about China's international relations and their ambition of a trouble free and successful games. Played in the proper spirit of national propaganda, ideological domination, historical emphasis - the might of the state above the individual talent. Then there is the time after the games.

Many times over the past few months the Chinese Government seems to 'bite their lip' as another Western politician makes parochial comments about the lack of human rights, restrictive media practises, worker conditions and many of world ills towards the eastern state. It seems this year's pariah is the current Chinese leaders without considering the games only last of a couple weeks.

After the games there are no more public relation potholes the Chinese government need be concerned. It is widely expected they will score an incredible number of medals, especially golds. Every competitor welcome commend the organisation, facilities. The event will live long in the memory. Then the Chinese can turn back the clock.

hydrogen as the bit in the middle

Today's half baked idea is using renewable energy resources to generate hydrogen from water, then burning that gas when and where required.

Whether power is generated by solar conversion in the Sahara desert or from thermal conversion from Iceland, the resultant fuel (hydrogen, for example) is piped to other countries into off-shore underwater silos waiting for conversion back to electricity.

Ignoring the initial environmental costs for the conversion equipment, storage, and pipework, there couldn't be a greener supply. Unless we all decided to use a little less.

entrepreneur is the word

No longer are there small businesses, tradesmen, or the self-employed; everyone has to be an entrepreneur. A true test for critical analysis for me is the word 'entrepreneur'. I need to explain why this overused media marketing capitalist propaganda sticks so heavily in my craw.

It all started a few years ago when the dot-com boom was under way. Everyone look west to New York and San Francisco as they discovered the twenty first century's economic paradigm - getting lots of investment money with no practical business sense. Here is the UK we don't have the same university structure, nor the greedy venture capitalists, or even the same ambitions. We do have the love of Americanisms, especially about language, and entrepreneur was added to the British lexicon.

No one ever has to define words such as entrepreneur, paradigm, venture, or capitalism. We only have to adopt them to become rich and successful. More over, other more cautious collective terms for people who started their own business became marks of pending failure or lacking ambition. Either you are if the fast lane or on the hard shoulder waiting for roadside recovery to take you to the scrape heap.

Popular BBC programmes continue pedalling this idea of all or nothing, fast pace, high flying, do or die attitude both in their current affair shows and news reporting. Everything has to be instant success or it has failed. People don't learn from small mistakes, growing stronger as they adapt their approach. No, according to BBC - five minutes in front of panel of business entrepreneur is the path to stardom. Steady, careful, considered - organic - expansion is boring, old and dull. God forbid if you are happy with your status quo.

As with the BBC, so goes the British Government - New Labour takes the same attitude. The 'new' is important as entrepreneur would not fit on the billboards. Millions of people work for small business employing less than five people. That includes most shops in the High Street or business units on the small industrial estates around towns. They are happy serving good products to faithful clients at a reasonable price, but to Whitehall it is the old economy. No 10 and Millbank wants high tech service industries 'driving visionary platforms'.

Supermarket attitude of trust

On a recent visit to a large supermarket I noticed a mistake when selecting some apples. At floor was a large display filled with a popular variety priced more expensively than a smaller box of 'exclusively selected' apples placed higher and near by. I smiled at the error, as I helped myself to these specially priced fruit, knowing I had cheated the multinational by a few pence per kilos in profit.

My attitude changed the following week when I went back and found the same price difference. The supermarket had made this marketing decision deliberating. There was no hiding the prices, by law they are displayed in bold on the front. Why were people not spotting this? The more expensive fruit are of lower taste quality. It must be the placement.

By presenting the more expensive apples in a large container at floor level gave the impression of bulk purchasing and cost cutting. Shoppers, without checking the price difference, assumes they must be the cheapest variety. Putting the cheaper, higher quality items higher on the shelf in smaller exclusive tagged boxes gave the appearance of choice and would help when competitor computer systems compared prices.

Here is the dilemma, the supermarket is not hiding anything. They are treating us as adults with the right to choose, while impacting on the advertised trust that they are helping to save us money. Should the consumer be protected by their laziness to compare and contrast, or the supermarket condemned by this tactic.

Learning is for kids

I'm not allowed to go to school. I can pay for it, they don't want my money. I can spare the time, they don't have a lesson available. I can pass the course, they don't want to train me. The reason I can't use our local educational establishment is that I'm too old.

It seems that the British educational system stops when you turn 18 years old. It is fine if I want to do a bit of basket weaving, practise my yoga, or learn how to turn on a computer - there are evening courses for those. But a take an A-level course in a specialist subject, it can't be done at the college less than a five minutes walk away. Life long education seems to involve a 100 mile trek to a university that offers the course, or learn by post (more email in today's environment).

I thought back to time during my late teens, thinking about how my attitude to adults would be different if they were taking the same courses, using the same canteens and having the same success during exams. And their attitudes to us, these alien creatures that frequent the back bedrooms. It can't be media fear. There seems little chance of a persuasive adult grooming a 17 year old surrounded by other students (from all ages).

Everyone should strive for a more cohesive community, spreading education across all ages, and making the school the centre of society's ambitions.

One day a year - dead stop

Let us stop the world for one day. A single 24 hour period when everything is closed down, turned off, or shut up. It sounds an impossible task, a single moment of absolute peace, a day of personal reflection, or some quiet time with friends and family . Lets try an exercise in public co-operation, community spirit and a stance against unlimited consumerism.

In the U.K. there are public bank holidays, about twelve in a year. These are official rest days, normally on a Monday, when people aren't expected to work. Many treat these days as another Saturday to do more shopping, others do a bit of gardening or visit historic places, some are forced to work. Most agree these days are no longer special, many don't even know the reason why they get that day off.

Here is a new scheme. A day when no one is allowed to work. It shouldn't be associated with any religious event, nor any controversial history anniversary - my suggestion is the 1st of August. From midnight to midnight everything and anyone that is absolutely essential must stop.

Sharing the karma, and the camera, and the...

Guilt in owning expensive toys and not shared with others, mentioned in a previous comment, could be solved using a similar ideas in online sites as eBay and Slashdot. Lets record each others borrower's feedback (or karma), building up a reputation for trust and responsibility.

We can share that information, knowing our property would be returned as it was given. Lenders and borrowers pass on experience through an online, community bulletin board. Limited to a postal region or telephone district, keeping travel costs down, strengthening neighbourhoods bonds, and making feedback more truthful.

It all rests on bottled water

Everyone knows bottled water is a waste of natural resources. I might grab a bottle from a newsagent once a year, or less, when I get short and can't find other drinkable water. Others seems unabashed with their need to hit the bottle.

Many companies with easy access to water supplied by the local Utility corporation opt for the bottled version. It costs considerably more. It's quality is not the same high guaranteed quality. It is much more damaging to the envirnoment than those pipes laid many years ago. Yet people keep emptying the supermarket shelves.

A perfect guide to how green people are. We might recycle the odd free newspaper, buy a few freetrade products and donate to the local wildlife charity; we are ready yet. No one is willing to sacrifice any drop in their current standard of living for the sake on the planet.

Degrees are for snobs

While looking for a part-time course I noticed there was a course at Weston Technical college for a degree in wine tasting. My first blunt, and snobbish, reaction was a sarcastic comment about the entry requirements for that qualification and level of attainment to make the pass grade.

As soon as those remarks were made guilt swept over me. The more I thought about my poor attempt at humour, the more I understood how society's needs changes and adapts to current circumstances, fashions, and trends while someone of us remained fixed in our little cultural bubble.

In certain countries, high quality qualifications in 'trade' skills are rightly respected and honoured, in the UK they are declassed as secondary or minor subjects. It is to our shame we don't recognise the effort and abilities of those individuals spent the time and resources in reaching that level. I, for one, am chasten from my snobbish behaviour.

Cost of Living

I am trying to work out the minimum income required to live in the UK

Annual costs:
£200 = house insurance
£2500 = food (£50 x 50)
£200 = water & sewage
£600 = electric & gas
£1000 = council tax
£1000 = telephone & internet
£5500 = minimum income

Optional costs:
£500 = car tax and insurance
£1000 = car cost (£80 x 12)
£500 = house repairs and improvement

Other costs:
furniture, entertainment, appliances,
gifts, garden, pets, books

No cost
* rent/mortgage
* tv license
* life insurance
* health insurance

Free Lunch by David Smith

Explaining economics to the general public can't be a easy task. While the concepts might appear common sense, there is whole dictionary of terms dedicated to the dismal science. Free Lunch, by David Smith, makes an above average attempt of simplifying the theories - sometimes going to far.

His 250 page book, written in 2002, divides the subject into attending a business lunch. The thirteen episodes discuss the greats: Adam, Friedman, Keynes, Marx, Ricardo; and the concepts: GDP, general theory, macroeconomics, distribution of income, productivity. While some of the analogy is stretched, the book takes a novice through each topic: explaining the principles, people who has important influences on enonomics, the history, and how certain western events work within the economic models.

There was something missing from the book. My reading of the book was as if the case for corporatism, use of an economic model, and the capitalistic political structure was one of the same. The Berlin wall came down, all praise the bankers who made it happen. Any failures aren't the fault of people using economics, more human interference in a perfect science.

The book gives a basic grounding in the subject, but read more before talking about it.

Insurance consumer trust

Some companies seem to treat their clients as lazy, lacking intelligence, unconcerned, or flushed with extra cash. They assume we accept the first quote posted without query. Instead we become cynical, disloyal, annoyed and a little angry.

It happened a few days ago on receiving a quote for home insurance. Their price was reasonable, if a little high. I was more interested by the automatic renewal of the insurance by credit card. No need for me to press a button or make a phone call; everything was going to be simple and automatic. That little benefit started the bells ringing inside my head.

A quick trip to the company's website, a few fake registration details, and a saving of 30%. That is no small sum, it surprised me that they wouldn't offer some discount for existing clients, instead of trying to attract new customers. There must be some calculation that works out the cost of the lost profit by people making this effort; against those who glance at the first quote and file the paperwork. More fool them.

A dozenal a dozen

There are certain times in life when you should stand on your egg cartons, marking yourself out from the crowd and say 'dozenal not decimal'. That's right, base 12 is better than counting to ten. Granted 12 is my favourite number, and giving the wealth of choice that is a high opinion.

From the British imperial linear measurement, its original currency (pre 1971), temporal divisions, or even baker's units; twelve is such a simple concept. Add an extra digit to both hands and the world would be a better place. An even dozen can be divided into understandable blocks, whether it is half (6), third (4), quarters (3), or sixths (2). The next possible option would be 30, which would offer fifths, but that is too far to be practical.

We need symbols for the tenth and eleventh digits. The former we can borrow from the ancient Romans and use X as the ISO standard for ten, save us having to learn something new. For the eleventh I suggest _\ or /_ (7 upsize down). Granted a few cultural idiosyncrasies could take a generation to overcome, and some technological machines might need recalibrating, a task we would handle. The goal would be worth the effort.

As expected there are websites dedicated to this lost cause - www.dozenal.org. Unfortunately, at the time of writing the website had a bug with its counter software. As with the decimalisation of time (sinners), our work will be recognised when it is too late. The fight continues.

Drop PAYE for PAYS

Income tax and national insurance is deducted as source in the UK. That is the employer takes the money owed to the government from your gross pay before paying salary. It is expensive for the employer, but the tax authority gets it money with little effort.

A new system would pay full salary straight into a special bank account and pay the tax when sums are withdrawn or transferred to other accounts. This operation would be automatic and controlled by the bank. There would be minimal paperwork for the employer and put fiscal responsibility in the hands of the individual

Paying for Politicians

In January 2008, the UK Parliament agreed to increase the basic Members of Parliament salary from November 2007 to £62,000 per annum. Ministers, party spokesmen, and other senior members are paid more. This pay rise was voted by the MPs themselves.

At the same time the basic annual pension for people over 65 is £4750 per annum, although this income is topped up by other means-tested state funding, if applied for. Most agencies calculate poverty as 60% of the national average. Taking the public sector average gross salary of £26000, gives a poverty line at £15600. This is the gross figure, include income taxes.

MPs pay should be a direct ratio of this figure. Using the current data that would make 4 times the poverty. They are faced with three choices: lose salary increases, increase the national state wage, or improve the minimum poverty level.

Paper Millionaireless

There is a common argument about people buying coffee at £2 or £3 when their parents would scoff at such prices is due to sophisticate pricing structure confusing people into thinking they are getting the best deal. I think there is a simplee reason - we believed the dream, we thought were rich and no one told us the truth.

During the 1990s and the turn of the millennium a couple of young, professional executives saw their modestly expensive property go from £250,000, through £400,000 and onwards to towards £800,000 and greater. They woke up one morning and said we are millionaires, lets live the life. Rich people get new cars every few years, take three holidays a year, and don't care what coffee costs; after all we are now rich.

Banks were willing to lend to these people, who wouldn't give money to millionaires. Governments imposes complicated taxes on these people, they didn't mind, they can afford it. On, and on, for fifteen years everyone played the same game. No one wanted to stop the world and spot the paperwork building up in the corner waiting for the day of reckoning.

Hubble's Deepest View

The greatest photograph every taken is the Hubble's Deepest View Ever of the Universe Unveils Earliest Galaxies

To quote the site:
400 orbits to make the observations
800 exposures
about 1 million seconds or 11.3 days of viewing time
average exposure time was 21 minutes
about 10,000 galaxies

(our Milky Way contains 100 billion stars
- giving 1,000,000,000,000,000 other solar systems in one image)

There are many things I dislike about the United States of America's Government, then they produce this.
http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap080616.html http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap040309.html

Earth Lifespan

There are times when I hear people measure our existance on Earth as a twenty four clock and we live in the last few minutes to midnight. I believe a better time is using the life cycle.

Making some calculated assumptions:
- average western person lives to 80 years
- earth is expected to last 8>Le livre de portraiture d'Annibal Carrache billon years

This length is open to dispute but the maths is simpler to calculate. It is simple division to show:
a Gaian year is 100 million Earth years
a Gaian day is 250 000 Earth years
a Gaian second is 3 Earth years

My life on Earth will last less than half a Gaian minute. The time it takes Gaia to boil a kettle of water I was born, grew up, matured and die. Importantly it puts in context the damage we inflict on Gaia's skin.

Gaia is 40 years old and showing her age well. Humans or our ancestors started to appear on her midriff about 20 Gaian days ago (5M years). These creatures did no damage roaming slowly around until 12 hours ago (100 000 years) when they started to grow plant. Now this Eczema began to itch and grow laster. An hour earlier (10 000 years) it became an infection especially as other creatures disappears from the Gaian skin.

Industrialise humans an one hour Gaian infection.

Annual income...

Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.
David Copperfield - Charles Dickens

How to begin...?

Today, is my birthday. When better to start commenting on my life; as was, as is, and as will.