For the past two days we’ve had major debates in our house about whether our children should be in school. I’m now working from home, and am certainly not planning on being out of the house much. Our soon-to-be 13-year-old made some very reasoned arguments this morning about why he shouldn’t go. I tend to agree with him. As he gets older I’m less sure of myself in terms of how much control we should have over his life. I’d never let him stay home from school on a regular day, but what’s happening in the world right now is so irregular that I’m not sure the old rules apply.
From The Guardian: How do coronavirus containment measures vary across Europe? — 16 March 2020
Despite the almost all of the rest of Europe deciding to keep their children at home, the UK has decided not to. I am deeply distrustful of the government, but I can see the reasoning as to why they would be kept open:
– Parents who are unable to work from home may need to ask elderly relatives to look after the children
– We have vulnerable children across the country who rely on free school meals to keep them nourished
– Schools aren’t really set up for teaching via remote means.
For our family, we are fortunate enough where only the last point impacts us.
It’s still not a slam-dunk. My wife works as a teaching assistant in a primary school and she is providing a valuable service to society by continuing to go, for all the reasons above. (She is amazing.) I’m a Vice-Chair of Governors at another primary school; we have to rely on advice from government, Public Health England and others on what to do, and my role is to support the school in this. We also have a friend who works as a Paediatric Matron at a local NHS hospital, and she is still sending her children to school — if she felt that the risk was significant, she would keep them at home.
It’s a tricky one with no easy answers, and I am sure that there are so many people going through similar dilemmas right now.
Dorian Lynskey and Ros Taylor nail it on the latest Remainiacs podcast when they talk about the new UK government being “The worst possible cabinet of fanatics, crooks and incompetents.”
“There is no-one with any decency who would serve under Boris Johnson.”
“Prepare for the absolute worst.”
Chris Grey’s Brexit blog has always been well-written and thought-provoking throughout the process. We’re so stuck at the moment and his latest post has now got me worried.
Unless something radical changes – and it may, precisely because of the desperate plight we are now in – then it seems highly likely that Britain will leave the EU with no deal. That will mean that in ten weeks’ time we will face severe economic and social dislocation, with the probability of food and medicine shortages, troops on the street, disruptions to travel and much else.
It would be an outcome desired by only a tiny minority of grossly irresponsible ideologues in parliament and amongst the public. The division, crisis and extremism it would unleash make that feared were there to be another referendum, or even a revocation of Article 50 without a vote, seem like a walk in the park.
I’ve been thinking about the WB40 podcast discussion on energy use and the difficulty of changing behaviour, as well as the recent news about avoiding climate change. I am sure there is something in the fact that energy is so cheap relative to income that isn’t helping right now. I distinctly remember my dad in the 1980s and early 1990s battling with us over the thermostat and being concerned about the cost of all of our utility bills. We’re all a bit older now, but when I go to my parents house these days — the same house I grew up in — it’s always cosy. I can’t say that I’ve ever not put the heating on due to how much it will cost me. A privileged position perhaps, but I am sure I’m not the only one.
In our school Economics lessons we learned about externalities, defined as ”the cost or benefit that affects a party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit.” They are a form of market failure. As the externalities to our energy consumption are so incredibly massive, wouldn’t it make sense for governments to tax fossil fuel energy consumption to accelerate the switch to renewables?
I’ve been with Bulb, a UK renewable energy provider, for a little while now. Whilst their service is great, I don’t see a great deal of difference in cost from other suppliers. If taxes were ramped up over time to give people the time to switch (and for the country to build capacity), and if taxes were progressive in nature to that bigger users had to bear proportionally more, wouldn’t that make it a no-brainer for people to both switch and use less? Costs of goods and services would go up, but the truth is that those costs are already there — we are just all paying for them together in the form of what’s coming.
I’m sure there are a million reasons why things are a lot more complicated than this. But if we can completely stop the production and use of products containing chlorofluorocarbons worldwide, surely something like this isn’t beyond our reach?
Putting my money where my mouth is and upgraded my Guardian membership from Supporter to Partner. I love that they have kept the site up without a paywall, but it still needs to be funded.
The BBC have a great story about this week’s budget where they show a graph of how much extra money you will have in your pocket based on what salary you earn. I can’t reproduce the graph here for copyright reasons so you’ll have to take a look at their page to see it.
There has been lots of discussion about how the tax system has been made simpler by the abolition of the 10% starting rate of income tax, which is fine, but when this is coupled with the other changes to taxation and National Insurance the net effect is that you are better off as long as you don’t earn under £17,000 a year.
The graph is pretty straightforward to create so I am sure that the Chancellor would have known what the net impact would have been on people of different incomes. If this is the case, I just don’t understand why he has done this – why would we tax low income people relatively more to pay for things that we theoretically all benefit from whereas we actually give more money to the richer in society? How is this fair? It’s even worse than the graph shows if you think how much the £131 loss is to someone £10,000 compared to the £198 gain to someone earning £43,000 – a 1.31% fall in income versus a 0.46% gain. I simply do not think this can be right – we shouldn’t be getting the poorest in society to pay more for benefits of government spending that we all share.
To top it all off, the chancellor dropped corporation tax for large companies from 30% to 28% and raised it for small businesses. It seems to me that, as I previously mentioned here, Noreena Hertz was right in her book The Silent Takeover that the role of the politician has been reduced to making the country a place to attract multinational corporations. Labour seem to be more and more in favour of following trickle-down economics – something that I just don’t buy in to.
I’ve now moved over from my old web host to a blog hosted on the WordPress.com site. I’d been thinking about making a change for a while after reading Rob Newman’s web page about moving to an eco-friendly web hosting company. I had a bit of a browse around but I couldn’t really see anything that was aimed at someone who wanted webspace primarily for blogging – ie quite cheap and with some kind of guarantee that Movable Type would work. I had problems a while back with my current host when I upgraded Movable Type in that certain Perl modules that I needed weren’t available – it took a few emails to convince them that any good web host would accomodate installing the module I required.
Having thought about it even more, I realised that I’ve not had that much time to blog recently and I started to question the value I was getting. I’ve written around 250 posts since April 2004 so at £105 for a year’s posting it has cost me over £1 a post! It’s not that I can’t afford it, but with a baby on the way I’ve started to think a lot more about the fact that what I’m spending is longer really my own money any more. Expectant put it very well in his post back in November and it reflects exactly how I’m feeling. A free blog seems like the answer to me.
My first thought was to head to TypePad, which is a hosted version of Movable Type – the blog software I am familiar with – but it turns out that you have to pay quite a bit for that as well so I wasn’t saving that much cash. A little more delving revealed WordPress.com – a free host – and it has been surprisingly easy to migrate over to this site. Yes, it’s a little more limited in that I don’t have complete control over the site (or the code…or what types of files I can post…) and yes it’s ugly (for now at least until I can grab some of Mat‘s time to help me with the CSS that is), but it is free, has good features built in and seems to have a very enthusiastic and honest company behind it. Ultimately it should just leave me to worry about writing entries and not all of the other gumpf that goes with running a website which will be no bad thing as my free time gets limited when the baby arrives.
I’ve spent quite a bit of time this week fixing images, links, documents etc and moving the videos over to YouTube (which hopefully doesn’t impact the integrity of the original posts). If you find a problem, please leave a comment or email me about it! Thanks.
Sometimes you can’t quite believe what you’re reading. Who on earth would be stupid enough to attempt something like this? Admittedly I saw a bloke once do this at Reading Festival, but I am sure that they were not the standard demonstration-type fireworks that he used…perhaps they were specifically made for that purpose.
Having a quick search on YouTube reveals that this is a more common pastime than you would first think. Has everybody gone completely nuts?
I’m always completely baffled when I hear of motoring groups being ‘outraged’ at the amount of money that is generated by speed cameras, such as in this article that appeared in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago. In my mind it’s pretty simple – if you’re going too fast, you’re breaking the law. How can it be any simpler than that? How can you even think about protesting a fine unless you know you weren’t speeding? Yes, we all speed a little – we’ve all gone a bit faster than we should do as we haven’t perhaps checked the speedo in a while, but wasn’t this covered when we were having driving lessons? I thought that the skill of driving involved being aware of what’s ahead of you, what’s behind you (yes, can you believe it – you have to look behind you for a bit!), who is indicating that they are intending to make a turn, what the conditions are and what speed you’re doing.
The paragraph that really made me mad was this:
‘Paul Smith, the founder of anti-speed camera group Safe Speed, said the haul was the latest example of “innocent” drivers being targeted. “I’m so angry to hear about this camera raking in so much money for the government, when scientific evidence shows us that fixed cameras like this one can increase accidents by up to 55%”.’
Scientific evidence, indeed. I had a look at the Safe Speed website and found it to be something of a joke. I mean, come on – “Road safety is complex, subtle and sensitive like a precision built clock” whereas “A speed camera is a blunt and heavy instrument, like a hammer”. In what way? They don’t really say. The strapline is fantastic – “You can’t measure safe driving in miles per hour.” Well, I have to disagree there and so do the research statistics – according to the Government THINK! Road Safety website. for the time period 2000 to 2004, excessive speed was a contributory factor in about 13 per cent of all injury collisions, 19 per cent of serious injury collisions and 29 per cent of fatal collisions.
George Monbiot gives an excellent opinion of this group on his blog – ‘Paul Smith and Safe Speed – the Self-Exposure of a Crank‘ which pretty much sums it all up for me.
Just in case you missed it, here’s the clip of the BBC News 24 presenter interviewing somebody who she thinks is an industry pundit but had turned up for a job interview. The expression on his face when he gets asked the first question is just brilliant.
Heard from my Mum today that one of my cousins had appeared in The Sun newspaper a couple of days ago. Unfortunately it wasn’t a happy story – my cousin had been to the doctors about a painful lump and they told her it was an insect bite before it finally turned out to be cancer. Hope she gets well soon.
I’m glad we didn’t need to resort to this when we decided to move here.
Seriously, how would this work? Sounds like a raffle to me – does that mean you completely avoid stamp duty since you’ve not actually bought the house even though you win it?
I was sorry to read in the Guardian today that Golden Wonder, the crisp company behind such delights as Wheat Crunchies and Nik-Naks, has gone into administration. A sorry day for crisp lovers everywhere.
However, I don’t think I’m quite as sorry as some…the bottom of the article had the most eye-popping statistic – “Britons now eat over 10bn bags annually, the equivalent of 100 packs for each person every year and more than consumed in the rest of Europe put together.” Well, I don’t really eat that many, so some greedy monster must be eating almost 200 a year. That’s a lot of crisps!
I know this is old news but I thought that this post was great – it shows just how the popular media can turn things on their head and distort what is really there. I personally think that editors at The Sun enjoy trying to shock the public and giving themselves a feeling that they can control the outcome of major events – remember the election that Labour should have won 13 years ago?
90 days is far too long to lock somebody up without any evidence of wrongdoing. I completely abhor George Bush and the rest of his cronies for what they have done in Guantanamo Bay and I’m convinced that Tony Blair is exactly the same. He really has got to go.
For those of you who haven’t seen what happened to Tom Cruise on Monday, you can take a look at the video at Tampa Bay’s 10.
I know it’s great to see stars brought down to earth but I thought he was remarkably cool under the circumstances. It could have been anything coming out of that microphone but he calmly towelled himself off, took hold of the guy and kept himself from blowing his top.
Apparently it’s for a new show on Channel Four which sounds like a more in-your-face version of Dennis Pennis – quite literally it seems here.
This just in – Cisco are buying Nabisco. More at The Register.
Am I the only one who finds this a little disturbing? Poor little fellas. “It’s mainly for the children…” – well, it’s definitely not for the chicks.