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Just a quick post nailing together some thoughts:

My working hypothesis, given the evidence from his own statements and his wife's leaked email, is that Gove genuinely stepped into the leadership campaign to stop Johnson, but also that he genuinely doesn't want to be PM. Specifically, he's entered the leadership contest because his presence gives the 1922 committee two candidates (Gove and May) that they can convincingly claim are better candidates than Johnson. That means that Johnson never makes it to the last-two-only election by members (which he might plausibly win) instead being chucked out "with regret" by a group of parliamentary colleagues who are known to loath him. (This calculation is also why Johnson folded immediately. He can't win, and defeated candidates don't get a second chance. Whether he thinks he'll get another opportunity later, or is accepting defeat I don't want to guess.)

Why does this matter to Gove? Well, it's possible that he's genuinely noticed that Johnson would be a shockingly bad PM. But I think Gove has primarily backstabbed Johnson on behalf of someone else: a certain media baron who (according to Sarah Vine) does not regard Johnson as reliably on-side. With Johnson out of the way, the final Tory leader is guaranteed to be someone Murdoch approves of, and who will ensure Murdoch gets what he wants (in the name of "markets", probably).

On the basis of this, I predict that, assuming we wind up with Gove and May as the final two, he will then announce that he's dropping out (in exchange for one of the "great offices of state"). Everything neat and tidy and controlled, with no Johnson and no need for a members' vote. (If they reckon May is a shoe-in, Gove might stay in for the appearance of democracy, but I'm not sure whether they value the appearance of democracy or unity higher.) If one of the others makes it to the final two (unlikely, IMO), then whichever of Gove or May is the official candidate stays in, though I think Gove is the more likely of the two to be knocked out anyway.
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Today's drop in the value of the pound (against the USD, specifically) was, as many people have noted, the largest ever recorded. That's true, but doesn't give a real sense of how unprecedented it is: today's drop - from day's end to day's end - was bigger than the second and third largest drops put together. If you count from yesterday's peak at the start of counting to today's nadir (ie 24-hr high to low), the Leave drop is larger than the second, third, and fourth largest currency crashes in UK history put together.

(For reference, drops two to four are the "Winter of Discontent" in 1978, the UK's ignominious exit from the ERM in 1992, and the 2008 financial crisis, in that order.)

Except that according to Krugman none of that is even remotely true. Which makes me wonder where the BBC (and others reporting the same) got their figures from, given how far off they look to be. (The BBC gives the ERM crash as 4.3%, Krugman says "about a quarter". That's a big difference!)

Correction to the correction: Krugman turns out to be comparing yesterday's single-day change with the longer-term effects of other catastrophes. The original stands. Thanks to [personal profile] ewx for pointing this out.
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Technically, it's not over as I type this, but since the 14 authorities that haven't declared their counts would all need to be in the top 15 remain vote-shares, it doesn't look good. Even in the vanishingly unlikely chance that we do edge the referendum, the country is wrecked, and the world economy looks set to follow; realistically, the singularity has arrived, just not the one we were supposed to be expecting.

I shall continue to hope for the best, but my fears have become much stronger.
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So Sentinel News have a post doubting the idea of a Universal Basic Income, consisting of questions the author thinks you should ask of anyone who proposes it. The author asserts that people "are using Universal Basic Income (UBI) as a euphemism for their lack of understanding of welfare, the labour market, and the economy." But the questions she proposes can be asked to varying degrees about any proposed change to our current welfare system, and her comments under those headings pre-suppose that the UBI is intended to be a magical panacea. I've not met anyone who thinks that it would be a complete solution to the problems with our current system (though I'm willing to belive that such people exist, and that she's had to deal with them, because there are idiots everywhere). The real world is complicated, and full of people who are not only complicated, but also imperfect, and all different from one another in both their complexities and imperfections. You can't have a panacea for societal problems, except perhaps in the very smallest groups (though even there I suspect someone will feel hard-done-by).

Do I want a UBI? Well, I want to massively overhaul the current system to make it easier for people to get what they need (fraud is largely a non-problem, despite what some will claim), and to provide better support for those who need more - or different - than just the basics[1]. It could also stand a good deal of simplification, given how mind-bendingly difficult to understand the current arrangements are. A universal basic income could certainly be a part of such an improved-and-simplified system. Is it the best basis to work from in building one? I don't know. But it could certainly be made to work, which is as much as can be said for any other proposal I've seen.

[1] note of personal interest: my partner and I are both disabled, and need extra support because of that. Neither of us is ever likely to be able to work again. I have a very strong personal interest in ensuring a working welfare state.

However, lets go through the questions and supply some answers:
Read more... )

TL,DR? The benefit system needs reworking, as the author of the original piece admits. Any system can be distorted to punish, rather than help, the poor (as the author also acknowledges), and our current system has become seriously distorted.
Our current benefits system held out for 70 years before the context changed significantly enough around it that we need to replace it. How long will UBI last and how will it respond to changing economic and social circumstances that cannot be predicted?

That's a hard question to answer. But it isn't a question that only applies to UBI, it's a question that needs to be asked of every solution anyone proposes. Unfortunately, I suspect that the answer is actually the same in every case - we don't know, because we don't know what the future will hold. We can only do our best to choose the option that gives the best results now.
Is that option going to be a UBI based system? I don't know, but I'm not willing to dismiss the possibility, given the various promising trials around the world. Yes, a UBI by itself is not an adequate social safety net, but no single measure ever will be.

Still TLDR? The benefits system is complicated, and currently broken. It needs fixing, and a UBI could be part of that fixed system. Is it part of the "best" solution? I don't know. I don't even know if there is a "best" solution. But some UBI-including solutions could certainly work.

[NB: responses to comments likely to be slow; I've spent about two days' worth of spoons getting all this on screen since the piece was posted yesterday, and I'm unlikely to have many spare while I recover from the exertion.]
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I'm aware that the man in question is now largely serving a different constituency[1], but I'm still more than a little surprised to hear a major political figure admit that their policy was wrong in any way. Especially given that the specific example at hand involves first-world food subsidies; it's practically impossible to get a politician to admit that these lead to problems (in their own country - obviously everyone else is bad for doing it).

But, according to Oxfam and the BBC:

"It may have been good for some of my farmers in Arkansas, but it has not worked," said Mr Clinton, a frequent visitor to Haiti.

"I have to live every day with the consequences of the lost capacity to produce a rice crop in Haiti to feed those people, because of what I did."

[1] of course, he still has a wife and friends who are involved in US-national politics, and I can't help suspecting that unpleasant hay will be made of this by their opponents
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Incidentally, for those who think that there's no need to worry because this year's Queen's speech is "all posturing for the election", you do know that this bill is being fast-tracked and has already had its second reading in the Lords, yes?

Further to my last two posts, more information on the appalling "digital economy bill" keeps coming to light. There's a nice post at booktrade.info describing how the bill "inadvertantly" imposes potentially huge new costs on small publishers of pretty much anything (books, games, photographs... anything with copyright potential). (Specifically, it creates new registration and licensing requirements for any 'organisation' which licences any copyright material created by more than one different individual, or acts as agent for any such owners. So of course, that applies to authors' agents as well as small creative companies.) The Open Rights Group has a post up from a specialist lawyer, giving chapter and verse on what's wrong with the bill. It's long, and fairly detailed, and well worth reading. One simple point of particular note, though, is that the so-called 'three-strikes rule' is nothing of the kind - not only is there no requirement for such disconnections to relate to a number of "strikes" there is no need for disconnection to be linked to infringement of copyright. Nor is there any requirement for evidence of any wrongdoing, or any allowance for an appeal. (Although I believe the EU is hastily passing some legislation to insist on something resembling a fair judicial process; somehow this seems likely to be the one piece of EU law that the UK gov't doesn't insist on applying over strenuously. Sigh.)

Tell everyone you know, and complain to your MP, please. The bill is very nasty indeed (for everyone except big media, natch), and needs to be stopped.
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There's now a Number 10 petition against a small part of the proposed law; please go and sign it. Petitions don't mean much, and there are a lot of other things wrong with the proposed bill, but every little helps.
tigerfort: (Default)
In case anyone has missed the BBC's round-the-clock coverage of absolutely no articles at all, or the slightly better information in the papers (being this 'we support big media' piece in the Torygraph and this slightly better one in the Gruaniad), our beloved leaders have published a "Digital Economy Bill" as part of this year's legislative program.

The proposed law scares me, and not just me. It scares everyone who actually has an interest in constructing (rather than preventing) some kind of useful digital economy; it scares every serious creative worker who knows anything about the subject (I imagine the record companies will wheel out the usual collection of hugely rich tools who know nothing about computing to support the insanity, but...); if you know about it and it doesn't scare you, then it should. Why? I think I'll let Cory Doctorow at Boingboing express some of the problems:

It consists almost entirely of penalties for people who do things that upset the entertainment industry (including the "three-strikes" rule that allows your entire family to be cut off from the net if anyone who lives in your house is accused of copyright infringement, without proof or evidence or trial), as well as a plan to beat the hell out of the video-game industry with a new, even dumber rating system

In addition to which,
These changes will give the Secretary of State (Mandelson -- or his successor in the next government) the power to make "secondary legislation" (legislation that is passed without debate) - including creating new remedies for online infringements, the ability to "confer rights" for the purposes of protecting rightsholders and also the authority to impose such duties, powers or functions on any person as may be specified in connection with facilitating online infringement.

There's a good deal of additional discussion elsewhere (see, for example, Charlie Stross, Talk-Talk's understandably unhappy response to a proposed law requiring them to spend vast amounts of money spying on their customers for the benefit of another industry, and the thoughts of the Open Rights Group. [ETA: I'm pleased to see that at least one UK political party appear to have their communal head screwed on correctly about this; can't say I'm surprised which of the three main parties it is, either....]

Join the ORG, write to your MP, express to someone somewhere what a really bad idea this is. Either that, or move to Sweden.
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Sorry about inflicting more US politics on people. So, we have the promise of something better ahead from the next president*; I can hear W's team firing up the shredders in the White House from here. And, yes, that's the main thing. But I'm really sad to see so many bigoted proposals (California Proposition 8 and its companions in other states) getting through. I can only hope that this is the last stand of the morons, and that sexuality will finally get its proper place alongside gender and skin colour as something that people who want to call themselves decent human beings are obliged to recognise as being totally unacceptable as a basis for discrimination.

* although I will confess that I can't help sharing [livejournal.com profile] emperor's memory of the disappointment afforded by Tony Blair....
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Following on from various coverage of the current American pre-presidential excitement, I was interested to read recently (in Counting Sheep, Paul Martin's excellent book on the 'science and pleasures of sleep') that Republican supporters were three times more likely to experience nightmares than their less conservative Democratic opponents. Even the non-nightmare dreams that Republicans reported were generally more frightening and more aggressive in content.

So do paranoia and aggressive instincts cause Republican voting, or are they its effect?


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