Tag Archives: UK

The Grexit Wave

There are 2 competing political visions for Europe:

  1. a loosely coupled trading conglomerate of nation states, an economic Masons, to keep our independent economies intertwined and shut out competitors.
  2. an integrated European nation with a single economy. The US of E.

Obviously there is a third option, much loved by Right Wingers and radical, idealistic Lefties who believe a one-world nation might still be possible if everyone would stop believing in the wrong imaginary friend and give up killing each other.

Perhaps the nations of Europe should have been more honest about the split of opinion and agreed which vision we wanted, before forming the unsustainable Euro-zone that assumed Option 2 and allowed the destruction of the economy of Europe’s oldest nation state. The unseemly fight to take ownership of the scraps started today. I’m not sure we can even save option 1 now but that hasn’t stopped the more blinkered supporters of option 2 trying to ignore the evidence and turn the crisis in their direction – another leap into the unknown.

I wonder if the people of an independent Scotland would still feel safer in Europe than in the United Kingdom. I imagine a lot of shaking heads across this whole Island and gratitude that our governments’ instincts were right for once.

The address of most 7 year-olds I’ve met was …, England, United Kingdom, Europe, the Earth. Kids know stuff.

See also: https://andywootton.wordpress.com/2014/07/02/european-skepticism-small-pieces-loosely-joined/

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Paths Through the Forest of Ideas

I wrote what hangs below on Facebook, before I saw the irony:

My current model of the creative world has everything as a multi-dimensional network of interconnected ideas, some of which may be ‘fictional’. Narrative is a path through the maze. Writers, teachers and consultants are all selling their services as guides to the pathways that can lead you to enclose a chosen ‘volume’ of ‘knowledge’. Or I’ve been sitting in a room on my own for too long.

It grows more difficult to gain funding for work that expands or enriches the network for the good of everyone and increasingly profitable to enclose information for profit. We appear to be approaching The Inclosure Act of the Information Revolution.

On Wednesday, I plan to attend the initial meeting of the Open Rights Group, Birmingham. See Meetup for details(!)

A Democracy Fix – “None of the above”

There appears to be general agreement across the UK that parliamentary democracy isn’t working properly. During my time as a voter, we’ve only had two parties with any chance of being elected. First they formed governments alternately at every election, spending most of their time reversing the previous parliament’s achievements. More recently we had such ineffective oppositions that governments have stayed in place until they were ejected on charges of croneyism and corruption. Despite the easy ride, they appeared to run out of ideas during their second term.

The proposal to move from the first-part-the-post voting system to a poor form of proportional representation was rejected by the electorate. Many said this was because they didn’t want a system that might lead to a coalition government. At the very next election we got a coalition government.

Politicians blame voter’s disinterest. Voters blame politicians who don’t represent what they think. Many feel strongly that they want ‘none of the above’ but the only way to signal that is to spoil their vote, which is indistinguishable from apathy. I have intelligent friends who argue that it doesn’t make sense to vote for the party you want – you should vote tactically, against the party you don’t want most. We have turned our democracy into a game, attempting to influence the outcome by betting on our prediction of the¬† behaviour of others, while they try to guess at ours. It is no wonder that election night looks like a bookie’s advertisement.

Worst of all, is that when a party is elected, they claim to have support for every one of the policies that was in their manifesto. There is no mechanism that a voter with a casual interest in politics can use to advertise lack of support for any policy or to put forward new ideas for consideration. Young people of voting age refuse to participate in such a corrupt system, so low voting numbers allow in extreme ideas.

  • The Right want to put a fence around our island and return to 1930.
  • The Left want to smash the systembut don’t offer any new ideas about what should replace it. @RustyRockets appears as a new messiah, leading the anarchists to an unknown destination.

Most voters don’t care because they can’t see any difference between the parties.
They believe politicians lie, misuse statistics and tell us what to think without telling us why. The media conspires to keep the general population politically ignorant.

For a while now, I’ve been looking for a solution. “If not me then who?”.
I think capitalism is a problem too but one thing at a time. Let’s shelve that for a while and concentrate on saving democracy.

Recently, I signed a single issue petition, organised by http://www.38Degrees,org.uk. It saved me bothering to write my own letter. Like most people, the time I am willing to give to participation in politics is strictly limited. I discovered I’d accidentally joined a Left-leaning campaign movement. I was mildly irritated by some of the assumptions made about what other campaigns I would be willing to support. I don’t self-identify as a political campaigner or activist, though I may be deluded.

Mostly, I am annoyed by the stupid and dishonest things I hear politicians say.
This morning, I had an idea:
Imagine if:

  • All political parties published their ideas together, perhaps grouped by ‘subject area’ for comparison, colour-coded by parties (Problem: it might be hard to do this fairly.)
    Parties could propose shared policies, if they wished. This would help the electorate to see where parties agreed and disagreed and who they wanted to trust with their vote.
  • In an election, you would vote for a party to make decisions for you, as now. This would choose the elected government.
  • Or, if you didn’t like your chosen party’s view in any policy areas, you could pick different parties for selected areas.
  • Or, you could vote differently down to individual policy level, if you wanted your opinion registered.
  • The anonymised results would be published.

In summary: An individual’s vote on any issue could be specified at individually policy level, or be handed over to a party, at either policy area level or at the top level.

  • In addition, any citizen could put forward new policies for consideration and vote support for ideas. It would then be up to each party to decide whether to support popular ideas or not.
    This is simply an extension of the petition idea that has been tried out by .gov.uk recently.

The advantages I see in this proposal are:

  • a simple, equivalent system for those who are happy with the current system
  • better communication of the similarities and differences between the parties
  • better feedback about which policies have democratic support
  • better evidence when policies do not have support
  • a new mechanism for disaffected voters to fine-tune what they want and don’t want, rather than claiming that no party supports them.
  • it is a small first step towards greater voter representatiion in democracy

I also propose addition of the long overdue¬† ‘None of the above’ option at election, policy area and individual policy level, to give a legitimate outlet for expressions of disgust at the ideas on offer.

Please give me feedback. I’d love to know how people feel about these ideas.

What Fuse to use in a UK 13A Plug (probably not 13A)

I was just chatting to someone who has changed her first electrical plug fuse today. It took me a while to remember how to work out what size fuse to put in, which is embarrassing as I took a university degree that was half physics (obviously, it must have been the half that didn’t include electricity. Take that, Unified Theory!) If I’ve forgotten after 30 years, then perhaps you have too or maybe no-one ever told you. If you are a Mr/Ms know-it-all, skip straight to the bold at the bottom for the exciting equation bit.
(Don’t worry, it’s hardly even an equation.)

A normal household electrical system in the UK consists of a number of circuits running off a central ‘consumer unit’, often known as a ‘fuse-box’. This is very unlikely to actually have any fuses in it because they have probably been replaced by circuit-breakers. If something goes wrong with the equipment in your house e.g. a light bulb blows, there may be a surge of electricity which will be sensed by the circuit-breaker, causing it to ‘trip’, probably plunging part of your house into darkness. Once any fault causing the problem has been fixed or removed, simply reset the breaker switch that tripped.

Similarly, the fuse in a UK 13A plug is there to protect you and your electrical equipment from over-loading. It is called a 13A plug because that is the maximum current it is designed to carry. This does NOT mean it should be fitted with a 13A fuse. Instead of just ‘tripping’, a fuse ‘blows’ and has to be replaced. There can be an easy-access plastic flap that you lever off with a screw-driver or you may have to unscrew the plug case and go inside. Some plugs like to scatter their components across the floor at this point, so watch out for that unless you like puzzles. Plug designs vary but find yourself a table top to work on and you’ll be fine.

Having removed the blown fuse, you need a new one. But how many Amps? They usually have a value (in Amps) written on them and they’re colour coded but the colours often fade or change. The fuse may also have been fitted by someone who didn’t know how to select the correct fuse. Don’t trust them.

A fuse is there so that if there is a power-surge, the fuse blows before anything else does. It needs to be the ‘weak point’ in the circuit. You want to fit the lowest-powered fuse there is which doesn’t quite blow when everything is operating normally. This is how you calculate the value:

The ‘current drawn’ by your device (in Amps) = the ‘power of your device’ (in Watts) divided by ‘mains Voltage’ (in Volts)

Mains Voltage is 230V Alternating Current in the UK, though many people still think it is 240V. We changed in 2002 so that new devices can be sold to be used across Europe.

Find the power rating of your device, in Watts. It may be written on the device or you may have to look at the instruction manual or look it up on the Internet. If it is given in kiloWatts then multiply that number by 1000 i.e. a 2.5 kW kettle is 2,500 Watts.

Divide the Power value of your device by 230. You will get a number that will not be more than 13 (Amps.) Pick the fuse that is the next up from this number. You can normally buy 3A, 5A and 13A fuses.

[ The PHYSICS: this is all so simple because Power (in Watts) = Current (in Amps) x Voltage (in Volts). Aren’t SI units clever? ]

Free Anarchy

The following has been conceived and written in one day. Please consider it a first draft of the manifesto for the ‘share nicely’ revolution – the happy face of Anarchy in the UK.

As predicted, The Revolution will not be televised. It will however be streamed, live-Tweeted and blogged as the State has only just noticed that it has temporarily lost control.You’d think they’d be putting some sort of controls in place to limit our freedom of speech… They’ve what? Oh dear… Well that sucks!

This week, four ‘comfortably off men’, representatives of the UK’s State: Prince Charles, David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband (in my unresearched order of richness) met to encourage young people who face a possible future of economic failure and joblessness to ‘get on their bikes’ and work for nothing for the good of The Big Society (them.)
Obviously only the richer kids will have a bike; just as only middle-class parents will afford to buy their kids a job by funding them during a couple of years of internship or an industrial apprenticeship. I imagine the ceremony to have been accompanied by a backgound chorus of press representatives singing “get a job, you scroungers” to the older siblings and parents of many of the assembled kids.

I fear I spot a discontinuity and I have to agree that Occupy, Anonymous and Russel Brand have a point. Something is seriously Wrong and I don’t know what to do about it either.

The problem for those calling for revolution is that we’re already having one and whilst I applaud our leaders for embracing the uprising of ‘Free culture’, I’m not sure that this is quite what most of us involved at the grass-roots level of the movement had in mind and we’re not ready to be ploughed-over just yet.

A brief review of my superficial knowledge of European history today has informed me that revolutions come in two flavours:

  • technological: (which travel in pairs, the second a direct consequence of the first) with ‘the management’ in charge but showing no real forethought, then
  • political: the violent response from an angry population that has somehow been displaced by the ruling class’s selfish exploitation of the change. This revolution results in major changes to political and economic systems.

The Industrial Revolution led to the start of modern Capitalism. The next one seems likely to end it.

Political revolutions are often inspired by intellectuals but implemented by people who enjoy the sound of boot on brain. Let’s hope we can avoid that outcome this time around, before Occupy take their Internet back. We’ve had the ‘Computer/Information Revolution’ and we’re in the ‘Information Sharing Revolution’ but They aren’t sharing nicely and I’m angry. A lot of people are. Science recently showed that 2-year old humans are pre-programmed to expect their fair share of the rewards from anything they worked for. Fairness is in our DNA. We’d like it now please.

Our economic revolution seems likely to remove capital as the primary constraint on human endeavour, as agricultural and industrial labour were devalued by earlier revolutions. The Information Sharing Revolution may make ownership of the means of production and mythical Intellectual Property rights and management of the state out of the hands of leaders. Hive society needs a shared purpose not management. ‘Leaders’, please collect your tools of control, today’s meetings are cancelled. We’ll govern ourselves thanks.