Archive for August, 2013

Minimum wage reality and those who want them to eat cake.

August 28, 2013

Minimum wage rates, in the UK, are about £10k p.a.

Year

21 and over

18 to 20

Under 18

Apprentice*

2013 (from 1 October) £6.31 £5.03 £3.72 £2.68
2012 (current rate) £6.19 £4.98 £3.68 £2.65
2011 £6.08 £4.98 £3.68 £2.60

Minimum Community charge is about  £1k p.a.
Average Gas,elec,water are about £2.5k p.a. (and rising)
Most basic media package plus TV licence £0.6k
Average commute, by rail, £2.5k p.a. (by car: £5K p.a.)
House rent £5k p.a.

Whoa! total is £11.6k p.a. (or £14 k p.a. if you have a car)

Then there’s starvation food (beans on toast) @ £0.2 k p.a. . Add in,  prescription’s, dentistry, clothes, soap, toilet paper and various other consumables.

It’s a Mr Micawber nightmare but it’s, also, obviously possible to get by, because people do.

(Let’s ignore those who turn to crime).
It’d be nice if kaffee-klatch socialists, Tory grandee’s and BMA pontiff’s could look at these figures before prattling on about “paying to see the doctor”, “minimum pricing of alcohol” and other “let them eat cake” equivalences

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A tip for the rich. Wetherspoons are cheaper, have a better class of customer and you don’t have to tip.

August 28, 2013

I read the papers, nowadays, and see the gap between poor and rich racing backwards to the Victorian age.
One area that epitomises this is that of restauranteurs and their diners.
Typical of the mindset of the diner’s is a recent interplay, between Alan Davies and Stephen Fry, on restaurants, on QI

They were talking about tipping.
This practice is pervasive in America, where workers have been indoctrinated into believing that minimum wage is a luxury and reliance on tips for a living wage is patriotic.
In this country, tipping is something done by the rich, where they come into contact with menials, who don’t work for them, or their friends.
So, here, in the UK, tipping is reserved for waiters, cabbies and, to a lesser extent, railway porters (this seems to have died out as the rich have moved to flights, rather than train journeys).
In the QI digression on tipping, Davies expressed real disgust at the low level of tipping by fellow Brits.
Let’s face it; how many ordinary Brits would tip in a McDonalds or a Subway?

In a pub, do people still tip?

How much would you tip when you’re often told that the proffered tenner is insufficient to cover the cost of a few cordials?

The point is that only rich pratts would pay restaurant prices, which is the whole point of dining in a restaurant.

You pay the hugely inflated prices to prove to yourself that you are superior to the riff-raff, who are kept out by the sheer economics of the exercise.

When a single plate can cost more than a week’s State pension, you are not likely to bemoan an extra 20% “service” charge.
It must be even more cheering knowing that restauranteur’s, such as public schoolboy, Jamie Oliver, believe that his staff should  be prepared to do 48 hour stints of feverish activity, in a hot kitchen and then show their gratitude at their meagre wages.

One last thought.

We are told that the class system has gone the way of Socialism, so why do we first class and second class train carriages.

How long before we get a return of third class carriages?

@BTCare @Virginmedia Greed is not good

August 19, 2013

A while back my nintendo WII got bricked by a hiccup in my BT connection, during an automatic update.

It cost £26 to get Nintendo to unbrick it, although if they had put a little more thought into the software, it shouldn’t have happened and the reload should have been free.

Nevertheless, I had to apportion some of the blame to BT, whose feed also hiccups at other times, often requiring an automatic re-boot of the TV kit. Annoying but doubly so, as it’s the wife, who has control of it and, who then complains to me, as if it’s my fault. (she has to have the ability to freeze her soaps to answer her phone, whilst I watch the Freeview progs.). Add in the slowness of the Internet connection, where the upload is only 1Mps with most sites demanding to know more about me. (data-mining)

I rang BT to find out when my contract ran out and check on my 10 Meg limit. (trying tio keep expenditure down. On that occasion, I got through quite quickly and I was offered a deal on an upgrade to match the cost of Virgin basic package. I wasn’t interested at the time, although he was keen to push BTsports, because it committed me to another 12 months.

I checked out Virgin, on-line, but the moment I tried to depart from the basic pack, the charges shot up. E.g. the basic landline charged for calls during weekdays. Although we don’t use it much, that’s when we’d want to use it, for certain people.

So, I let it ride.

Then BTSport came up and running. Again no problem, because I can watch the odd game on my laptop, but the first weekend of it, I got a viewing card and my son (on a visit) expressed a wish to watch it on the large screen TV.

Problem is that I’d have to register and commit to 12 month contract, which means, I might as well take up the deal that I’d been offered and which was supposed to be on hold, if I wanted it. My original contract had ended and I’d lost a £5 allowance that I hadn’t been aware of. I.e. my monthly cost had gone up by £5 anyway.

Now, obviously, there was a surge of interest in access to BT Sports, so you’d think the Main National Telecom outfit would have geared up for it. No chance, that’d have cost money, so the lines to BT were over-loaded.

My first attempt to get through, I was told that instead of being made to hang around like a Lewis’s dummy, I could press button 1 and they’d ring me back within an hour. This turned out to be the equivalent of a two finger goodbye.

My second attempt, delayed until after the Weekend, wass not much better. A quarter of an hour and a human voice, only faint but I responded. Unfortunately it was a one-way conversation, as I soon realised, because I could just make out the operator discussing it with her supervisor. The line then went dead. Remember that this is a multi-national company, which is supposed to be selling its services and expertise in this very field. Hampered by getting greedy with excess efficiency (cost-cutting) on its tele-sales.

I tried again; this time dialling the complaints dept.

I got fed up being queued and checked Virgin again with an interest in the now advertised BTSports access.

They have a clever “Let’s build you a package” facility. Unfortunately, it’s geared to a minimum charge for any tailored package. Try cutting out one item and it’ll incorporate some other item e.g. cut back on TV channels and you’ll get increased broadband speed. GREEDY!   Obviously I want as much as I can get for as little as possible; that’s the the name of the game: So why not make a sale by offering me what you’re prepared to give, instead of trying to force me into buying what I don’t need?

I guess I’ll have to try doing my own mix and match and maybe even checking out Sky, although past experience is that they invented this approach squeezing customers.

 

@Daily_Express @David_Cameron Every Cabinet / Ministerial decision should carry an accountability clause

August 19, 2013

Sent as a letter to the Daily Express

The big problem with Ministers pooh-poohing the claim that the bill for HS2 will not be £80B, is that they are not subject to any retribution.
By the time the final bill is made known to the British Public, we will be a generation on from here.
Those Ministers not having already had prayers said over them, will be retired from office and may be safely ensconced as Directors of the companies presenting the bill.
They have no accountability, any more than those responsible for The Dome and numerous other financial catastrophe’s that the present generation are having to face the cost of.

The HS2 isn’t something that politicians can lay at the doors of the Banks, The E.U., The European Court of Justice, NHS Trusts, or the privatised Utility companies.
To all appearances, it is something that they are claiming credit for, rather than their E.U. friends.

Let’s have an element of accountability.

There have been calls for Police etc. to have their pension pots seized for cases where they have mis-used their official positions.

I suggest that all members of the Cabinet involved in such matters take corporate responsibility.
Those Ministers claiming that the bill for HS2 will not rise above the £42B (or whatever figure they are prepared to admit to) should sign an agreement to forfeit any pension tied to their official roles, as well as any private remuneration that can be tied to companies involved with HS2 contracts in any form.
I would suggest similar penalties for Civil Servants, except that they have the defence of having to comply with the wishes of their political master’s, no matter how mendacious, they are.
If every Cabinet decision had had to be tied to an accountability clause, then perhaps Tony Blair might have had more difficulty in dragging us into an illegal war, perhaps Gordon Brown would have thought twice before bailing out the banks and perhaps George Osborne would have been in less of a hurry to sell them back into private owbership, ata a discount, as soon as the regained profitability.

Published version:

Ministers will be long gone when HS2 cost is known
THE big problem with ministers pooh-poohing the claim that the bill for the high-speed rail link will not be £80billion is that they are not subject to any retribution (“HS2 line `will cost taxpayers -£80bn”, August 19).
By the time the final bill is made known to the British public, we will be a generation on from here and those ministers will most likely be retired from office.
They have no accountability, any more than those responsible for the Millennium Dome and numerous other financial catastrophes that the present generation is having to face the cost of.
Let’s have an element of accountability among politicians.
There have been calls for police to have their pension pots seized for cases where they have misused their official positions.
I suggest that all members of the Cabinet involved in the HS2 decision take corporate responsibility and forfeit any pension tied to their official roles if the project rises above the Government’s estimate of £42.6bn.

My MP’s response on lobbying, with my preface.

August 14, 2013

I am not convinced by the phrase “Lobbying is a normal and essential part of an active democracy.” but somehow MP’s have persuaded themselves that this is true.

OK! Charities and businesses need to present their case to Parliament and Parliament needs an input from them.

That does not mean that my MP should be representing, or merely presenting, the views of an organisation, instead of mine.

In fact their views may be contrary to the best interests of those who voted for her.

This applies generally to all MP’s, who in this “Democracy” are supposed to represent the interests of the plebiscite, NOT those of vested interests, who may not even be domestically based.

An alternate means of achieving an input into Parliamentary decision making needs to be found.

If the upper chamber is to be unelected, let them be sponsored by these vested interests, as was their historical role. Better still, let’s have select committee’s filter and distil these representations and present them as reports, available for reference by individual MP’s, who solely represent their constituents.

Anything, other than through MP’s.

If by chance an MP has a vested interest then this should be declared, in the HoC, when standing to speak.

If it is found later that an MP has neglected this duty then he/she should be subject to strong reprisal with no mitigation allowed.

This is the only way to rid Parliament of corruption.

The proposed lobbying measures, referred to, in the following letter, will not end the corruption.

Thank you for contacting me recently regarding lobbying and the Government’s current proposals for a register of lobbyists.

Lobbying is a normal and essential part of an active democracy.

However, as a number of recent scandals have shown, it is clear that the professional sector of the lobbying industry needs to be properly regulated and I agree it is important that lobbyists operate in a transparent way so that everyone can see how and why decisions are taken.

That is why I support calls for real lobbying reform and would like to see the introduction of a statutory register of lobbyists, a code of conduct backed by sanctions and measures to ensure that anyone doing a senior job for the government of the day who is a professional lobbyist must be declared.

This would make the whole lobbying system much more transparent and help restore public trust.

The Government have failed to take any action on this for three years but have now finally published a Bill — the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-party campaigning and Trade Union Administration Bill — which is currently being considered by a House of Commons Select Committee and is scheduled to be debated in the House of Commons after the summer recess.

It is clear, however, that the Government’s Bill includes totally inadequate proposals which will only apply to a tiny proportion of the lobbying industry. Indeed, the Government’s proposals would establish a register only covering third party lobbyists — who make up just 1% of all ministerial meetings and less than a quarter of the whole industry. This could mean for example, that lobbyists working directly for big business groups would not be required to register.

I know that organisations such as the Public Relations Consultants Association (PRCA) and Unlock Democracy have also expressed serious concern that the Government’s Bill will not bring about the wide-ranging reform of lobbying that is needed to regain public trust and help clean up politics.

This is a real opportunity for Parliament to bring about much-needed changes to lobbying and it is vital that Parliament is now able to scrutinise and improve the Government’s Bill. I can assure you that I will be supporting amendments to the Bill as it progresses through Parliament to make it more effective and to ensure that it tackles this very serious problem.

Thank you once again for writing to me and for sharing your views. I can assure you that I will continue to bear them in mind as this issue develops.

Yours sincerely

Yvonne Fovargue

Labour Member for Makerfield

Charity Shield: A new Wembley and they couldn’t afford a roof?

August 11, 2013

The ITV coverage of The Charity shield was spoilt for me by the contrasting brightness of sections of the pitch.
The TV software was able to change the brightness, in respect of whether the ball was in the sunlit, or shaded sections.

Unfortunately, when it was in the shaded section, it caused a whiteout in the sunlit section.

Half the field became so bright as to make it difficult to see what was happening in the brightened dark area.
It should be possible, in the absence of suitable roofing, to pick points on the pitch  to match to and control the brightness of each portion of it, so they all appeared equally bright.

There’d still be some visual distortion but you’d be able to visualise all area’s of the play and follow the action properly

Even the money men are worrying about political corruption

August 9, 2013

This is a straight copy from the Fullermoney newsletter. It’s about Washington but it applies Globally.

Your free daily email from www.fullermoney.com  

The root of Washington’s ills – My thanks to a US subscriber for this fascinating article, by Fareed Zakaria, published by The Washington Post. The article is based on the book, This Town by Mark Leibovich. Here is the opening and part of the conclusion:

  The hottest political book of the summer, “This Town” by Mark Leibovich, is being read in Washington with equal parts embarrassment and delight. It is a vivid, detailed picture of the country’s ruling elite, filled with tales of ruthless networking, fake friendships and a sensationalist media. But beneath the juicy anecdotes is a depressing message about corruption and dysfunction.   If you are trying to understand why Washington works so badly for the rest of the country, the book says that it works extremely well for its most important citizens: the lobbyists. The permanent government of the United States is no longer defined by party or a branch but by a profession comfortably encamped around the federal coffers. The result is that Washington has become the wealthiest city in the nation, and its relative position has actually improved over the past five years, during the worst recession in 75 years. The country might be struggling, but K?Street is not.   Leibovich describes a city in which money has trumped power as the ultimate currency. Lobbyists today hold the keys to what everyone in government – senator or staffer – is secretly searching for: a post-government source of income. He cites anAtlantic magazine report that says that in 1974, only 3 percent of retiring members of Congress became lobbyists; today, that number is 42 percent for members of the House and 50 percent for senators.   The result is bad legislation. Look at any bill today: They are gargantuan documents filled with thousands of giveaways. The act that created the Federal Reserve in 1913 was only 31 pages. The 1933 Glass-Steagall legislation that regulated banking was 37 pages. The current version of that law, the 2010 Dodd-Frank bill, is 849 pages, with thousands of pages of additional rules. The Affordable Care Act runs more than 2,000 pages. Bills have become so vast because they are qualified by provisions, exceptions and exemptions put in by the very industry being targeted – a process that academics call “regulatory capture.”   And from the conclusion:   Taking money out of politics is a mammoth challenge. Perhaps the best that one could hope for would be to limit instead what Congress can sell. In other words, enact a thorough reform of the tax code, ridding it of the thousands of special exemptions, credits and deductions that are institutionalized, legalized corruption.   The most depressing aspect of Leibovich’s book is how utterly routine all of the influence-peddling has become. In 1990, Ramsay MacMullen, a distinguished Yale historian of Rome, published a book that took on one of the central questions of his field: Why did the greatest empire in the history of the world collapse in the 5th century? The root cause, he explained, was political corruption, which had become systemic in the late Roman Empire. What was once immoral became accepted as standard practice, and what was once illegal was celebrated as the new normal. Many decades from now, a historian looking at where America lost its way could use “This Town” as a primary source.

Would selling Lloyd’s bank be in the National interest?

August 2, 2013

Another letter to the Daily Express but prompted by a BBC News release.

The Chancellor is looking joyful at the thought of selling off Lloyd’s Bank at a profit and recovering the money that was needed to bail it out.

There will obviously be a quick reduction in the National debt, which will look good on his resumé, but shouldn’t he be taking a longer term view?

We had to borrow the money for this bail-out and for the day-to-day running of the Bank.

We are still paying the interest on that borrowing and still trying to run an understaffed NHS to manage those payments.

I would hope that the Chancellor has enough prudence to consider whether the potential profits would be sufficient to pay off the interest and act in the best interest of the people of this country, rather than the short term interests of his political party.

I could have added that the debt incurred was the excuse used for sacking nurses and othe public sector worker’s. I could have said it as used as an excuse to close A&E’s (putting plebian lives in danger) and pillaging plebiam pension funds.  But then It would have stood less chance of being published.

Better to try turning water into wine than running a car on it.

August 2, 2013

Letter to Daily Express.

Fred Forsyth is such a knowledgeable and knowing man, that it is depressing to see him waste six column inches on the notion that cars can be fuelled by water.

If he had an education, which involved basic Science, then the relevant teachers would be spinning in their graves.

His Chemistry teacher would be concerned that the statement that Hydrogen and Oxygen were both flammable gases would betray the fact that he had not, successfully, put across the concept of combustion.

More disappointed would be his Physics teacher.

One of the most basic laws is that Energy can be neither created, nor destroyed.

All we can do is exploit the conversion from one form into another, invariably releasing/wasting some, as less useful heat and sound.

In the car, we turn high grade chemical energy into lower grade kinetic energy, releasing/wasting most of it as low grade heat and sound energy.

There are only two known ways of creating high grade chemical energy  from water.

Plants use Light (Plus Carbon Dioxide) in photosynthesis, to create sugars (and this is being researched).

The other is electrolysis (This would be a better way of exploiting wind turbines than the present dumping into the National Grid). 

This would necessitate an alternator, running off the car’s engine.

I’m sure Fred doesn’t believe in perpetual motion machines but that is what you would need here.

The alternator converts motion into electricity, creating Hydrogen, which is burned in the engine to provide the motion.

At each stage, most (70%) of the energy is released as heat and sound.

It’d be very hot, very noisy and, possibly, unable to pull the tanker of water needed for it to run for any length of time.

@George_Osborne chancellor’s choccy choice

August 2, 2013

Posted to Daily Express, regarding the closing of a posh chocolates shop on Osborne’s (rich people) constituency

The balance sheet of the chocolatier, Simon Dunn, seems to present a conundrum for the Chancellor.

Should he rush to the aid of similar High Street shops, or should he stick to his austerity guns and face down his electorate.

Obviously, it would be fraught entering his local Conservative club, if its High Street resembled that of other towns, full of bookies, money lenders and charity shops.

What can he do?

The problem is, according to Mr. Dunn, not a lack of customer’s, but that of taxation and fixed overheads (dependent on privatised utilities etc.).

Can we expect an adjustment of the local Council’s budget, to reduce the tax burden on its High Street?

Published version

Chocolatier’s fate is a poser for Chancellor

THE balance sheet of the chocolatier Simon Dunn seems to present a conundrum for Chancellor George Osborne (“Chocolatier to the stars forced from High Street”, August 2).

Mr Dunn spelled out the plight of struggling small businesses in a note of apology to customers in Wilmslow, Cheshire, in which he revealed takings of £4,000 a week would give only a £100 profit.

Should Mr Osborne rush to the aid of similar High Street shops or stick to his austerity guns and face down his electorate?

Obviously, it would be fraught for him to enter his local Conservative Club if its High Street resembled that of other towns, full of bookies, money lenders and charity shops.

What can he do? The problem is, according to Mr Dunn, not a lack of customers but that of taxation and fixed overheads.