Author Archives: keithlmelvin

What is Poverty?

What is poverty? Why are some people ‘poor’ and how do you even begin to define poverty in western societies when much of the world lives in squalor and disease?

Poverty has an arbitary definition in the west. Relative poverty measures are used as official poverty rates by the European Union, UNICEF, and the OEDC. The main poverty line used in the OECD and the European Union is based on “economic distance”, a level of income set at 60% of the median household income.[89]

“Poverty is being actively swept under the carpet in the hard right western societies so as not to twing the consience of the middle mass of voters. “

This definition damns though a lower proportion of society to the definition, whether or not they can afford to feed and clothe themselves, given that most European societies offer medical assistance and at least assisted housing to the poorest in society.

David Cameron took a swipe from his Eatonian Ivory tower, in following up Gordon Browns disasterous economic policies of helping people in work with tax relief and paid benefits. Cameron’s government firstly wanted to deny that those in work are in poverty, because of Brownist neo liberal policy in appeasing the part time, temporary nature of work in many service industries. The Cameron government then went on to remove the policy of erradicating child poverty from the UK.

“In the UK, more people are on government benefits and tax deductions who are in work than unemployed, sick or disabled”

Fundamental to conservative, neo liberal and new hard right thinking , is the notion that poverty is a choice people make in not working or progressing themselves,  an outcome people deserve for their lack of economic initiative. Many prominent Conservatives and Republicans came from very poor, troubled families and see themselves as of course the self made example that capitalist society has opportunity for those prepared to advance themselves. Poverty is then a natural result and punishment for not working hard enough. It is a state of discomfort to be worked out of.

(to neo liberalists and the new nationalist right )….Poverty is then a natural result and punishment for not working hard enough. It is a state of discomfort to be worked out of.”

A state of discomfort to be worked out of. Yes that is a very good starting point from any political stand point in fact. Discomfort. Not being able to feed you and your family enough calories, protein and other nutritions to grow normally and healthily. That would be the very base line. Discomfort and hunger , to be fought out of in social unrest and revolution. Discomfort has different levels. Not being able to work because there are no job opportunities where you live, and you cannot afford transportation, and if you moved you could not  break even in the places there are work because rents and mortgages are too high. Metropolisation. Discomfort in not being able to keep up with the Jones’- not affording foreign holidays, the latest iPhone , designer label clothes for our kids?

“We need to steer clear of the concept of total social equality as a policy goal in order to actually tackle poverty by means which are acceptable in common sense grounds to the voting populace of the middle ground.”

The uberliberal would like the state to provide the social equalising material goods however, that is bound to feed the furnaces of the new, hard right wing in being able to show money from hard working, struggeling families is going via tax to those who have given up, and worse, immigrants and refugees. We need to steer clear of the concept of total social equality as a policy goal in order to actually tackle poverty by means which are acceptable in common sense grounds to the voting populace of the middle ground.

Poverty can be defined by statistics, and I have blogged earlier about this in ‘ a new definition of poverty’. Here we looked at some ucomfortable truths for politicians. Net incomes less than 60%  of the average, for example, That the poverty line is a net function of the cost of living and mean incomes over time. The ‘proletariat’ and insecure nature of employment means that more people dip in and out of poverty. Some can take on debt or down size, while others find themselves locked into longer periods of income not covering the basics of living.

We have a simple break even, where housing and energy are the two key variables (they may seem like fixed cost overheads, but are variable). Will the free market provide? Well the simple answer to that is before Social Democratic policy and social engineering, capitalism did not provide because it does not need to plan for poverty. In itself, capital invests in housing and gains a return on that from sale and rent, it only acts to uphold profit. Yes it can and does act restrictively so that less housing is built, such that profits are kept high and risk is reduced. That is the nature of capital. It will never solve problems of income not covering out goings for the lower element of society because it does not seek to.

Capital will campaign and lobby to be free of legislation which alters this affair. Extra taxation of undeveloped land, rent tribunals and fair rents, the building of social housing. However when welfare (benefits) payments can be converted via rent into private equity then they are keen not to interfere, or actually promote policies which flow tax payer’s money into this.

Will the utopian, free neo liberal society free people from poverty by there being boundless economic opportunity, and ample charitable acts to cover those unable to participate? Like lennist marxism, the Neo Liberal utopia is becoming a dystopia in the lands it is most fervently followed, while the rise of globalisation of advanced industries once the preserve of the west, has lead to less economic opportunity for many workers locked into the ‘proletariat’ of low skill, low income, temporary work. Social Democratic policy for its failings, has delivered an over educated society with a glutt of  graduates, where accordingly necessary practical skills are locked into a self serving educational system with access denied for those without any qualifications or too poor grades to enter. The neo liberalist utopia is essentially what we had in the 19th and early 20th century. A chaotic free market, with nationalism re emerging as a potent power to offer hope to disaffected workers, and create conflict over resources and empire. It should be no surprise that history is repeating itself at the end of a decade of economic chaos, as in the 1927 to 1939 period.

 

The failings of both Capitalism and Social Democracy meet in the poverty line, where it does not pay to work, but rather to be sustained by benefits. This is the arch evil of Neo Liberalism, and also of socialism in fact. Work not putting food on the table. Capital argues for more capitalism to solve this, socialism argues for more socialism. THe compromise was Brownism – ” Making work pay”, while in effect this was making uneconomic service industry business models pay, and feeding more money into rental investments because higher rents could be extracted from this set up. Brownism was petrol on the flames of the laisez faire, anarchy which capital is. It lead to a removal of the term ‘uemployed’ in the UK today, from anyone employed for more than one day per fortnight. 

What of econmic opporunity then? The dynamic that people can and will work themselves out of poverty? The goal of Neo Liberalists was to remove the notion of safety net, and let all be free existential beings rewarded fairly by the free market for their labours, and picked up in their invalidity by ample private initiative and charity. Cameronites have argued that poverty figures reflect a transience, like unemployment, that by the time you have measured it, people have exited poverty and new people have fallen temporarily into it. In itself this is not a terrible outset for policy making. Accepting that there is a churn, that the economy will create more jobs and net wealth for all if it is free to employ on a temporary and part time basis, which then allows people to interact economically and progress themselves. This has however not be borne out in the reality of Brownism or ten years of austerity. Poverty is being actively swept under the carpet in the hard right western societies so as not to twing the consience of the middle mass of voters.

Poverty requires the definition within this picture, because in defining it correctly and understanding the cause of the inequity between income and outgoings, between basic need and ability to work and between planning and controlling legislation and freedom for economic activity to flourish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Referendumdrum

Often described as emotive and even labelled divisive,  the continuing campaign for Scottish Independence in the context of the  Westminster government’s push for Brexit, throws up questions on what is democratic choice and rightful decision making based upon it?

The Indicative vote for Brexit was as we are reminded, 17 million voted to leave. Experts in the economy Herr Gove will have us believe. However of course 16 million voted Remain and in fact only 37% of the total electorate voted Leave.¨

Now let us put this back into context of 2014 , the “indyref”, where a solid No was 55%, on a relatively high turn out of the electorate. What if this indyref, or a future one, achieved a 52%  Yes, as Leave had?  There would be no end to the bickering then about what weight for politicians to decide this national divorce,  could  be placed on such a slim majority.?

Referendums (referendii to be latinly correct)  need an overhaul to have the punching weight to be more decisive tools for governments across Europe. Otherwise we risk the tyranny of the minority which we have with Brexit today. That a minority government, as in fact the UK has been for many decades with the first-past-the-post electoral system and three main party system. Furthermore we now have a minority parliamentary government due to May’s disastrously misjudged snap election which is being propped up by a strange, “special interest” minority from the region which is Ulster!

PR ( proportional representation )  isn’t much better than first past the post in many ways, it can lead to indecisiveness, and over representation of minority interests, which we otherwise rarely encounter in the UK,  but such of course as the DUP ‘s lever they exert on public spending in Northern Ireland now.

Referendums are good things, we haven’t had that many in the UK or Scotland, but they are useful as indicators of public opinion on very important issues, or on such issues that are cross party and of course as with Cameron’s choice, divide parties internally and need to be opened for a more direct level of democracy which is then indicative to our elected democracy via law making in Westminster. In fact it has to be asked why Tony Blair didn’t give the country a referendum on the second Gulf war? After all it exposed more British citizens to danger and death than the EU ever has or will.

Back then to indyref, and what if that momentum had carried on from 37% start, up and beyond to 52% on a turn out of well over half the Scottish electorate, but not 80% say? If this had been the 2014 context then there would have been no end of bitter fighting over it, and the SNP being a liberal party would have not only this to cope with and sooth say and deliver concession and reasurement to the large 48% minority, they would have had the Oil Price Crash of later that year to contend with too. It would have been a hell time with attempts to appease the baying crowd of mixed English white settlers, war veterans, Orange Lodgers and general project fear believers. Doubt can be raised with retrospect, if there was any chance of an indicative Yes in 2014 ever coming to fruition.

Far wiser the SNP would have been if they had for seen the Leave vote of 2016. However that kind of crystal balling was impossible given the opinion polls, and even Nigel Farage was “resigned” to losing half way through the night, with a wry smile, and when they won he looked positively nervous. No more being the over-paid, filibustering cynic and clown in the EU parliament. The SNP failed to make a good enough economic case for security and self sustainability, which is now being made over time and with the better input of industry who no longer think they need to worry about a second IndyRef, or at least a successful one, and for some in industry, confronted with Brexit, the option of Independence in Europe with a slight uncertainty of gaining entry to the club for a while, is preferable to being locked out the club by the ruling conservatives for several parliaments.

 

Really what we need in referendums ( referendii to be correct ?)  can be found in the constitution of many sports clubs, local trade unions,  community organisations and probably the scout movement. We need to have first and foremost a quorum of the electorate to validate the vote as something binding and not just indicative for parliament to take to debate and law. This should probably then be around 75% turn out. Less than that we start to get into questions about how valid not the overall vote for or against that wins is, but how valid the margin is. So in the Brexit vote, 72 % turned out and of those, just over half voted Leave.

 

We then have that methodology so wanted by the Tories to be imposed on the trade union movement, but something they themselves would never accept for their own party, parliament, the house of lords or any other organ of power or capital. Qualified majority voting, where by only a majority large enough is binding to leadership to act upon. This is sometimes taken as 66% or two thirds, and this is the Tories’ vision of imposing a leash on Trade Union power to strike. This seems to take us away from the principle of democracy that yes, there are losers as well as winners, and they should accept two key aspects of British democracy. First past the post in the constituencies, and 51% of the votes either in parliament or via the referendum mechanism we are all a bit tired of.

How then do we qualify a majority from a referendum? Should it not maybe be a majority which represents all the electorate, ie you must get 50% of the entire potential vote? So in this case Leave would need 23 million votes , or a 69% Leave? Or do we take the mean general election turn out to be quorum for a  simple 1 % point majority to be accepted for example ?

 

Or do we factor in some kind of variance in turn out and availabiluity to vote? For example bad weather, or natural variances in turn outs, and stipulate a percent point majority via some statistical model for eliminating variance? Or should we in fact have a referendum on whether say 55% ie a ten percent point difference, becomes a mandatory threshold below which enough of the voters are so disgruntled that they wont need to accept the vote anyway?

 

Here we come back to the solid, brick wall safe NO vote of 2014. This to many was done and dusted, until Brexit came to mind. In the NO stats, there was a majority of 600, 000, which is more than 10% of the population as a whole. However there were a significant number of EU citizens in that vote, somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 who were afraid of losing their rights in new nation excluded from the EU. Also those who are UK nationals but had major reservations on this issue? Plus then now, those who see the potential loss of money due to Brexit and an unsure trade deal future?

 

The author’s preferred option then is to have a qualified majority which is set arbitrarily at 55% but reduced by a percent point at a time for every x % points nearer the total votes cast gets to 100% from a base of 75% turn out. We take a presumption that we will never get 100% and probably never over 90% turn out, so we then elect to take three thresholds up to 85% – five divided by three for each 5% above 75% who turn out, reducing the winning vote from 55% to 53.34% then 51,7% and for an 85% turn out, 50,1 %.  The logic in this is clear. We reflect the will of the majority of the people who bothered to vote, tempered a little by the proportion of those who could vote who then bothered to vote. A low turn out means a higher winning margin is needed, in case there were many Don’t Knower’s out there or there were other factors such as bad weather, a football match, an unfair , or indeed illegal argument going viral.

There are more complex statistical methodologies and some clever clogs will no doubt wow some of the politicians some of the time with something they have to sell along these lines. But a kind of common sense appeal, that as you reach a presumed maximum turn out, your majority over 50% can decrease thus making the absolute margin a sizeable number of people rather than the 1 million who made up the majority for Leave the EU.

 

It’s been an emotive time as was the Indyref. Brexit has uncovered many things. Perhaps just how insecure England feels about her place in the world and the homeland economic opportunities. It does seem that Poles and Latvians come over with their trade and do well, while British youth don’t get apprenticeships in building or mechanics. On the other hand, does UK youth turn their back on trades, and would they work for the pay and conditions the eastern Europeans do anyway? Trades in the UK has long been peed on in a push to technocise the population of the future and turn us into a knowledge economy, Only the UK’s economy is more and more dependent on rentier economics, turning round not on production and export, but purely on our needs for a roof over out heads and to consumer foods and wares to keep ourselves feeling human.

 

To me Brexit is a symptom that 30 years of Neo Liberal economic policy has failed. The welfare state now pays for people to be in underemployment, thus subsidizing marginal cappuccino café business models in the service sector, and seasonal labour in production. As in Soviet Russia, ordinary people in the street are so taken in by the allure of the politicians pouting the so called free market economy, that they believe in market solutions to most ills, and they see that too big a market, the EU, with too federal a governance and especially, too much emigration from abroad to the UK, is a bad thing.

Neo Liberalism has failed larges sections of the communities in the UK and USA, the countries where governments practice the ideology most loyally of all major economies. However it rewards the upper third very well, and keeps much of the main majority in good credit with lowish interest rates, in such a way that it can win and win again.

However post finance crash, a lingering tumour resulting from too much free market, free for all anarchy , bullshitting and corruption, the right needed a new posture and that was back to Nationalism. Rally the troops behind fear of the foreign. People feel dispossessed, wages stagnant or even falling, while they see be it Mexicans or Poles making what looks like a good living in construction and services. Here you have brexit and an 8 billion dollar wall or is it a fence ?

 

 

 

 

 

Feeding the Beasts of the Economy

Modern western economies have made an odd transition away from production industry and over to the realms of funny money and the whole mortgage and real estate pyramid. The amounts which were used to subisdise production and innovation in industry are a fraction of the bail outs of the banks have recieved in the last decade post crash of 2008. Now it is apparent the recovery in this new era,  is really all about feeding the same beasts again.

Wealthy countries of  notable populus, have by in large significant natural resources and  effective, private primary extraction and agricultural sectors. This underpins a certain stability and certainty in the economy and the currency. Above this though, there was always a tacit acceptance that the tertiary service economy would grow to overshadow the production sector, the secondary economy, post the period of hyper inflation in the 1970s in western countries. Even in China, that industrial Mega factory, services now outstrip production industries as a proportion of GDP.

We are now locked  into feeding a tertiary economy, mortgage debt fuelled escalator to sustain growth in the economies of a large proportion of western countries. Every house owner’s goal is that of building captial value in property well above the rate of currency inflation. It is a self fulfilling economic prophecy, fuelled by growth in the population, metropolisation and by a reluctance to sell if the return on investment is weak, yet the mortgage repayments are still afforded.  This is the new, seemingly inescapable beast, but it is a monster which is diseased deep to the bones and vital organs, and fundamentally unsound in its cerebral processes. When it rages, there will be a new financial crisis.

This  beast is made of pure rentier based economics – we all need a roof over our heads and in other tertirary services like transport, we need to get to work. There is no coincidence that  the costs of commuting and parking are now largely privatised, and largely free from price control. The rentier beast feeds from our need to exist and be economically and culturally active as is our human condition.  In our unavoidable sickness and old age, Health services are also on their way to being fully private, with either a direct to consumer franchise or the government tendering processes we see being rolled out today in the UK.  Privatised and in the realms of profiteering yet with restrictions  placed on supply, such as monopolies, and resrtictions placed upon the consumer’s ability to choose and arrest price rises,  and create a true free market.

Like Leninist Marxism, the Free Market is a utopian vision, in reality it is subject to monopolisation, price parity and  worse than this, outright collusion and political corruption. At its’ fringes of supply chain in the third world, its’ ends are served by slavery and child labour.

Privatised services such as health and transport,  become highly inflationary to government and consumers as demand rises, yet mysterioulsy this does not by in large translate to inflationary pressure on currency. There has been was is called the great moderation in the consumer price index as the old RPI is now called. Are then production based, secondary based economies with unions and internal inflation bound to collapse then, and we must all pray to the pyramid-selling, mortgage beast ? This vision for a utopia of small, weak government and corporate freedom?

The answer to the question of a production based economy being doomed to inflation and diminishing returns, is  both yes and no. Contradictory to the inevitability,  you can see fairly clearly that the (western) German economy has thrived on manufacturing in a land with relatively limiting natural resources since entering  this new century.  They have focused on qaulity engineering, high value products and niche technical business and consumer market sectors. On the flip side of the tiger industrial nations in the post war era,   Japan has reached some natural limits on resources, and is in a period of ‘de-growth’, yet ironically this has not seen an actual reduction in standard of living, in contrast to austerity UK and US where average employees have seen their spending power eroded in the decade post the great casino crash.

Moderate growth, and moderate inflation are two of the keystones of the Neo Conservative economic policy, but another fundamental had been the mantra of global free trade. This has become the other great beast and has lead perhaps inevitably to the vast trade deficit between the USA and EU economies and Asia, following the rush to Low Cost Countries, mainly meaning China.

This is where the vast hipocrisy of the Neo Conservative era has come home to roost, and lead us to the Post Neo Conservative agenda, which we will come back to. We see very clearly that in the most ultra Neo Conservative countries, UK and USA, this so called ‘free trade’ with a command capitalist country run by the communists, has lead to the rust belts and resulting sentiment which ushered in the concurrent farces of Trump and Brexit. More on that Alt Right later as well.

China and to some extent the other asian tiger economies, have become the new production sites for even advanced, innovative products which we were promised by Neo Conservatives in the 1980s,  would be enabled in our home lands. By freeing ourselves from the heavy industry and unionisation of the past, we could realise new super productivity in the knowledge based, production economy.

The Beast from the East arose instead of a science based secondary economy. Even companies making reasonable profits in the west, are relocated to China by their boards who pander to investor demand for higher profit margins from lower production cost, via of course cheap labour. China , where of course the economy is almost a Tito Market Socialism, or Neo Keynsian model where the banks print money yet inflation is tagged by price controls and means of increasing supply via government steered national and global supply chain strategies.

Neo Liberal poltical-economies rely on cheap consumer items subject to low inflation and high competition in order to keep workers satisfied with their spending power on those meagre and often stagnant wages, and to fuel that other great monster of course the credit card beast, and for larger purchases, the remortgage / equity release credit supply.

However what is interesting here is that the secondary sector has remained constant yet if you look at its’ sources of income, government has in some countries become the biggest direct buyer or first link away customer, funding these industries via purchasing. This is in areas of pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, military, transport, IT where the government is a major buyer. Secondary demand to this are things like Medicare where the government is either directly paying employees contributions, or a large source of income is from public employees.   That is what was acceptable to investors upon privatisation. Further  we  then branch over to the keynsian nature of services, recylcing money from a very great deal of public sector spending and wages, and of course the primary sector is moved to rentier services such as commuting, and housing. So for example commuting for governmental employees to the metropoles,  which now is by in large in fact along monopolised transport corridors, or subidised roads for personal cars.

So we have these Beasts, we accept them as if they are necessary evils, and know that they are always hungry. No one can make them go away, because that would be upsetting the cosey way things work.  The way it all works, yes. That an upper third of society in terms of wage income and multiple property ownership,  feel they are free from oppressive tax regimes, while the middle third would like to be that top third, but have such high medical insurance and educational costs that they never will, and the lower third are just proletariat service sector and unemployables who are useful due to their aggregate demand as a portion of society.

All the time a top few percent in society can perpetuate their greed in actually owning the means of extracting wealth, and evading taxation,  from national economies.  While in the UK many hourly wages have stagnated for a decade and take home pay for many is reduced, the wealthiest 2% have been able to triple their capital value since 2008. Pure Marxist comment? Yes but you play the game in the economy where you will in full knowledge of this is how it works, and you just accept that this is all as said, necessary evil. Beasts we must live with and can never change.

If we dont feed the beast of property and capital values, then the whole economy breaks. If we don’t reap the benefits of cheap, inflation free products from China – the beast from the east – then we get retail inflation. Most of all if the beast of consumer credit is not fed by a rising population, then economic growth stops up.

The last point is the back to basics core of the whole rentier philosophy behind Neo “liberal” Economics. That industry is no longer important in the west when the lowest common denominator in labour costs can be found globally, and that very lowest is subsistance living and indeed slavery. That capital value, and in particular real estate, can grow without creating currency inflation, in fact the reverse, currency can gain value offsetting other consumer and supply side driven inflationary pressures. Capital can then do nothing in particular which is more than living off our existence, our basic needs. Or rather it does very much indeed to ensure some key drivers are in place for this.

Firstly metropolitisation driven by government policy of centralising services and administration, and awarding contracts to larger players in the metropoles. Hence demand for housing can be focused, and the ladder of escalation of value exploited more efficiently at a lower risk to investors.  Secondly the privatisation is not in fact reducing inflation as far as the government or consumer is concerned. The best examples of this are in power and railways in the UK, where price rises have risen ahead of underlying inflation yet subsidies to infrastructure and innovation are also higher than three decades ago when adjusted for CPI inflation. Thirdly the removal of irksome legislation – worker’s rights to organise as unions and associations, and collectively bargain ; environmental protection laws which add costs; freedom of speech which leads to demonstrations against corporates. Just this week we see the Scottish Police’s Special Branch have labelled Anti Fracking Demonstrators as ” domestic extremists”  .

The term ‘rentier’ used to have its’ own Wiki entry, but not has been subverted to being soley associated to Karl Marx, in an attempt to marginalise its’ meaning by adding the long term negative sentiment about ‘Marxism’. You can eqaully well call Margaret Thatcher a ‘Marxist’ because she understood how the mechanisms of capitalism can be used to explout a work force and render the ‘entitles’ richer while wages could slow in growth and stagnate for even average workers.

https://rcooley123.wordpress.com/2018/08/19/we-now-live-under-the-rule-of-a-rentier-capitalism-by-paul-street/

There were two inevitabilities from feeding the beasts of the western rentier economies. Once was the massive trade deficits, the other was the crash of 2008. Eventually such a crypto keynsian cycle of private debt stimulating demand, would collapse due to some small bugs along the way which would reveal the corruption in the credit pyramid and erode confidence. The consequence of these inevitabilities is the disaffection of the the lower third of society and the realisation amongst mid income earners that their prospects for personal capital were being threatened.

The political answer to this was the end of Neo Liberalism. The end to small government, rather a new form of big, corrupt government serving the corporates. A new ultra arrogant political era came to be with that old chesnut, xenophobia as the rallying call to the disaffected. Blame immigrants. Blame assylum seekers. Use fear of terrorism, of cultural conflict, of overpopulation diluting wages. Build a wall to keep the people out who have been giving you cheap gardening, house building harvesting, and food processing for years.

Brexit is finally looking like the farce many warned it would be, but it is not until the little Britain , or rather sleeping electorate, start to see that their pockets are being drained of money while the rich just move their capital over borders. In polls amongst the highest brexit stronghold constituencies, it was immigration which was the major concern, yet those self same north of england places had the lowest levels of immigrant workers living there. Xenophobia, fear of the unknown, and scapegoating – blame some other poor sod just not the rich who are so pleased to feed all the beasts. It was an assylum seeker who forced you into a zero hours contract.

Even ultra social democratic Norway is at the beginning of a slow journey towards realising a Neo Liberal political economy. The cuts in budgets to local authorities and now hospitals, plus the senseless competitive tendering betweeen one state’s rail company and another, are moves along the way, with the 30 billion Euro series of tax cuts to the wealthiest in Society being the gold rush.

But the trouble is that you can’t feed all the beasts all the time, and when you actively call those beasts, as Trump and Brexit have, then you start to play with fire. The key driver of that rather dull but secure economic growth in the UK has been a rising population. Demand for the necessities of life increase, and capital value grows on a multiplier due to the loan-thrice-income escalator.

In the UK though, hat steady growth is not coming from indigenous Britons. They are not anywhere near having that stereotypical 2.4 kids, they were by the early 00ies down at 1.7 and some believe it is now as low as 1.4 per arbitary couple . That means the UK population would decline, and in the course of two generations be half of that it was in 2000. However immigration has abated this, especially from the EU, and in particular eastern europe. They bring with them too a culture for women having children earlier, having over two on average by age 32 when married, and focuising on motherhood and not career.

Why hasn’t the economy crashed as those terrible Remoaners would have had us believe? Well Brexit has not YET happened and all the signs are that this week, the chicken run has begun in earnest. Banks are bowing to the laws on capital holding in main trading zone, ie EU not UK, and moving jobs to the continent. Major companies are moving their HQ out. Inward employee migration is halting.  Warnings about supply chain disruption and resulting factory closures and food infaltion are abounding. The threat of an Irish veto on any hard border or fake open border is present. The most pro EU member state representatives may want a more restrictive and therefore  punitive deal, like that between Canada and the EU. Those trade deals with ‘over half our exports outside the EU’ are now so desperately needed by politicians, that concessions and poorer terms than the current EU umbrella deals offer. Also a great deal of that trade, both export and import,  is linked to supply chains and logistic centres in the EU.

The average conservative MP is now a very wealthy person, with  both capital interests and strong connections to corporates which will offer them a career post parliament. Most don’t have to worry about a crash in the pound, they can transfer much of their liquid wealth to other currencies or assets abroad. Their inland capital wealth, in homes and estates, is a relative wealth which barring complete catastrophe, will remain relatively high value when seen outside the international context. You either own a bit of Belgrade or you don’t darling.  They don’t have to care about the short term effects of Brexit, they play to international corporates who are looking to gain a fifty first state of the USA where they can extract value without having the difficulties of ‘restrictive’ democratic policies in employment, environment and off shore profit exporting ie tax evasion via ‘loan and import’ mechanisms. They are securing the privatisation of the NHS in England as the brexit farce plays out, a long term major gain for their silent corporate sponsors.  Distraction politics.

In effect the Neo New Right, the Alt Right and its’ normalised political power in the UK, Hungary, Spain and of course the USA, have been able to divert a potential class war which was brewing, into a Race War.

 

Immigrants are a very visible force in a local economy, when they are the ones who go knocking door to door at employers and work long hours with little if any time off for sickness. They come with practical skills often in short supply as the culture for a (often useless) University education rolls throughout society. They work cheaper sometimes, but often they go self employed and soon are competing with their old employers on building sites for supplying labour and whole contracts.

 

 

The Malts, they are a-changing…..and not all for the better

I am a mere hoi palloi amongst malt whisky drinkers. I began on standard was it 10 or 12 year old Macallan and that was a fine tiple in its time, and moved onto Aberlour and other Highland styles from the NE corner. I dont collect whisky, I enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed. I have though an axe to grind. No-Age-Specified malts.

A tour through the Islay Malts, which I used to avoid due to the irritating sasenachs so proud of their bottles of ‘Leapfrog’ , lead me to a very nasty night , an OD on a fine middle aged Bowmore which meant smoke was off the menu for several years due to the matters described by Pavlov, Hughy and Ralph. Now it is back, but I am very glad for the continuing journey through Ben Riach and Glen Dronach county where I happened to live before I took up with anything better than bog standard Glen Morangie. Auchetoshan, far from a Romantic western isle idyll, produces a fine la’land whisky

That whiskies from the stable could vary not just by age was a discovery on a flight somewhere where my boss was tucking in to a wee green bottle of Glen Fiddich. Usually I find the standard product to be a peppery item, a little devoid of true character and living off its’ brand name and three sided green prism. Howevver the ‘export’ at a little stronger 43% was a far superior product, with a richness and depth that left me pleasantly surprised.

Now though things have changed. Malt whisky could one day soon displace blended mash crap whisky in value of sales. But the expansion is driven by greed and the marketing guys and accountants have been able to koibosh the blenders and expert tasters into making a far inferior product.

It started with Macallan. Their wonderful bright flavoured, sweet nectar of years gone by was first hidden away by the oak finish and other releases, and around the late naughties it quietly became a far inferior product at the 10 yo or was it 12 standard product. To my palate it became a nothing whisky with the 18 being an interesting side show, but not the sherry finish perfection of what was a whisky which did what it said on the bottle, it was Macallan. Insiders toldme it was the shortage of not only sherry barrels, due to aunty bertha loosing her taste for the later afternnon tiupple and container-donor, but also good enough sherry barrels to facilitate the economic production of a mid priced 12 yo. All sherry barrels are not created equal and Macallan no doubt found themselves competing for a diminishing supply of the best. They then have an issue. Double the price to keep it the same , or decrease the ahem, user experience. I would have been brand loyal and gone to 80 quid a bottle my self.

Some say that Macallanin Japan is the good ol’ girl we all knew.

Anyway that was then and several standard products like Oban or Dalwhinne have actually improved, and the malt content of some blends seems to be so high that you could , when the palate is otherwise overloaded, satisfy the wee heid mellowness with a double-cheap-skate after that vindaloo.

What grinds my gears is also not the silly brand blended malts of unknown origin. Things like Monkey Shoulder. They are smooth enough, cheap and cheerful. They also have soemthign of much higher valuie to eduicate the pallate. They have a slightly sickly , barley sugar and camphor ‘finger print’. These malt scotches are to my knowledge, mostly no age statement. That means they are based to some extent or not , on a young 3 year old spirit, the minimum legal age for Whisky in the UK. The plot would suddenly thicken. ProfessorPlumb, in the library wiht the barley sugar candle stick.

I only remember it was Bowmore of all wee dear places of pagodas and craftsemen, was out without an age statement as goes the single malt marques. I actually think the taster I go I tasted seemed much better, in terms of concentration and length of taste, than the bottle I took home and opened. Maybe my palate was more in the mood at Glasgow Airport’s tax free.

It seems many more distilleries, or rather their conjumated marketing power dressers, have siezed the concept. Brand by suggesting something almost spiritual rather than branding on the age of the spirit. Where as an earlier gentleman’s agreement that Malts would be only sold over 8 y.o. maybe existed, it has been blown away and single malts are wrapped up in a travesty which is maybe in the direction of a nightmare based upon cutting open the stomach of the golden goose to get the eggs out quicker.

The economics are there, if you can make a pallatable product which in particular, reaches new users, 30 somethings or frequent flyer business folk, or dare I say woman folk, and gets them buying malts. Establishing a franchise with the brand. Buying into the heritage via a short cut fancy brand name on a cheaper product in terms of maturation and all the high costs and risks in that.

Barley sugar. A slightly sickly and a wee bit citrus taste, with a decided camphor or sandal wood note in it. A good sweetness and roundness like what good malts should have. But there you have it, a sickly taste with a little after effect which is not all that pleasant.

What have they manage to achieve? What frankensteins monster will destroy the franchise with loyal, 10 to 12 y.o. Malt whisky-drinkers? Who else will enter the market with 3 y.o. sherry and burbon finished concoctions ?

I don’t quite know what they have got up to in the stills, the nosing and tasting room and the blending buildings. The barley sugar is the fingerprint. I have just opened a bottle of Limited Cask, or Casg Annamh, Aberlour and it is not a bad drop,. It is a dark colour, which is promising, a kind of ruby brown rust, a nice brightness to it. At 48% they are near cask stength for an older whisky with a nice pair of figures on the bottle, like 12 , 15 or 18. It has character and is reminiscent of the stable product, but it has those little notes underlying it.

I would not have bought it myself, it has no age statement. I am no longer buying malts with NAS, unless they are a tenner at the barras. What have they done with Malts ?

Well an insider who is not involved directly with the process of blending or tasting, tells me that those processes concerning no age statement batches have become a more hush hush affair than in years gone by, perhaps asking how it was going with the 12 and maybe being invited in for a dram or just a nose after coffee break. Conspiracy, the smoking gun being locked doors and sealed lips.

I suspect and this is with the disclamier to my palate’s experience of these, that they have found a way to make a 3 year old carrier scotch which blends ‘well’ with select casks of well matured malt. I have heard that some barrels of 18 plus are undrinkable on their own, but used in small amounts add a mystique to the blending process ( very few ‘single’ malts are marketed as single barrel. Rather they are blended at one single distillery from various barrels and on an age-declared malt, the YOUNGEST is that age by law) . We are in effect getting a vodka whisky with some extra flavour in it from good barrels. Rather than dilution per se, we are carrying a good tune on a rather rubbish casio keyboard.

This is actually so far as the sharp suited marketeers are prepared to boast about. That not being tied down to an minimum og age maturation, frees them to make exciting products picking from select flavours in the library of barrels they have to hand. They claim they can then present a better, more intriguing product at the key duty free price point of about 50 -80 euro bucks or so per bottle.

I’d say good luck to them, not for me, but good luck BUT, there are two rather large flies in the ointment. Firstly these sly products eat up shelf space and tasting lines in that key duty free shop, where I buy about half my Malts and most of the higher price ones in that. Secondly someone pointed out on a forum, these hipster facsimilie bottles are stealing from the malts of the future.

What do we mean with this, stealing from the future? Well it has to be said that there MUST be a significant amount of 3 y.o. carrier spirit in these malts, vodka whisky if you like. It means that the margin equation can be worked on in capturing people into the brand, but will those punters become franchised into loyalty and up-buying? Or do they want to have wee orgasms of selling to churn customers wandering like sheep through the globe’s tacky taxless shops?

Back to the future, maybe they plan to have a more expensive 12 y.o. upgrade from these , but surely it is plain and simple economics that you can turn over more from your capital assets pushing out at three years rather than 10 or 12 for your volume product??

Some say that todays 3 yo cast up in a funny name brand NAS, is tommorrows loss from the shelves of 12 yo and up over. I suspect worse, that this carrier spirit is a little different in fact from the product which would be matured to 12 years. Perhaps it is better in some way, a smoother distilliation, more select concanamers, a more careful or longer mashing the ‘wort’??

The answer to this dear distiller, is to let me taste three year old malts, or indeed if it is so good as a standard product, bloody well market it Age Statement on the bottle. What is wrong with following the micro distillers and doing some smoother, light matured Gins instead? Or like classic and new cola, is the whole thing a subetfuge to get more shelf space and more excitement going in duty free and super markets.

I might like it if these new, “ageless” malts could debunk the pseud’s and reveal that the product is good as gold without it needing all those damp, dark days in the bond maturing until it makes the magic number which is in consumer’s minds only a sign of quality and brand equity. Unfortunetly many of us and right proper aficionados have lived with the age declaration and loved its vargieries, and lamented some products sliding while others came with new wonder bottlings like Glen Dronnach 18 yo. Malt whisky has been marketed upon a minimum age per batch and bottle for very good reason, because that is when it is best.

As whisky gets older, beyond 15 and 18, it gets much darker and the chemistry developes in new directions, and in fact I am not all that keen on the 18 plus I have tried which are rather dear and not to my pallette, a bit like Malbec versus a matured Bordeaux, I dont like leather and too much dried fruit in my red wine, I like fresh and bright, and yeah ok, some green pepper corns or some tobacco smoke, but I like a fruit in the body. The same goes for Scotch, I love good 10 to 12 yo, a light inspiring drink which takes me back to mellow moments and the odd flirt in my home land of West Scotland.

On my third dram of Casg Annamh and it doesnt grow on me. It is a fantasy whisky made up as a limited cask, with a good colour, but it is not a true heritage malt,. In fact I prefer their standard 12 yo, but this is different and offers something once a tea spoon of water is in it. But I wouldnt buy it myself not just on principle but because I have tasted enough of these NAS malts to be fed up with it all, and like any cheap product, the after taste soon takes away from the initial flattery on the tongue.

Lumix LX 100 mark 1 musings…..

A month in and I am still loving the camera….

but first the drawbacks

First up is the default lens extend when on, which renders the camera cumbersome and it mneeds to be shut down to pop backin a pocket True it does seem to keep the last settings up and there are a lot of hard dial operatiuons I use. I find it annoying between viewing . I will look into all this, it gets all hard and pointy out at the merest tap on a wrong button!

Secondly there is the zoom reach. It is about 30mm short of ideal, which would be a camera with a 24 /105 mm reach. That would be a bigger camera, cannae defy the laws of physics if you want to maintain say f 1.7 to f 4 in that range,. I suppose the camera would be even more pleased to see me when it auto extended.

Here is though where the new Mark II comes in, with bags more megapixels, it makes post cropping more attractive. But I think 24 /90 would be a magical camera.

Thirdly there is the wifi transfer which is awkward and I see it delivers compromised jpges!!! They are down at 2 megabytes. Raw needs direct exchange of body fluids.

Then there are the luxury issues………

Depth of Field.

As you can see the camera offers a wonderful shallow depth of field wide open. However that leads to a luxury problem, quite a few shots look like they have camera shake, because SO much of the image is unsharp!

See below for what I mean.

Here the image looks unsharp beccause the edges of the lead are out of focuis. With no edge cues to help the eye , it fights to find some ‘hard ground’

The other luxury problems are in choice paralysis, but luckily menu and settings resume make for some easy progress when you are a little innatentive.

Next non luxury issue is the ISO and associated to that the dynamic range. High ISos of 1600 upover, are to my eye, unusable in jpeg mode. Perhaps RAW work can save that, bnut you are in the realms of ‘documetning something happened’ like the dgitial crop zoom.

Dynamic range is ok, It is better than many cameras from ten years ago, and better than most all mobile phones until the latest ones which cost twice that this camera does. The HDR mode does not use wide enough a bracketing to do anything more than tickle the scne, and my two year old mobile does a better job. Manual work after bracketing for hyper dynamic range, but for my preferred extended dynamic range, there is plenty detail and little noise in the three quarter tones *light shadows , so you can easily lift the dynamic range to that of APSC standard like the D7000 series for example. Which is very nice.

I hear that the Mark II has better dynamic range so that is better again. Not that I would rush out to buy it. I am very pleased, and know what I wan.t. An FZ1000 type bridge camera with the same sensor !!!

Canon have come oh-so-near to trumping the lx100 witheir G1 X , but it doesnt live up to what it could, is expensive and much bigger.

The Lumix LX 100 Mrk II – Panasonic Follow Sony’s Strategy

With today’s launch of the mark II  LX 100 from Panasonic, it seems a lot of people are disappointed and not going to be replacing their LX100 original anytime soon, But they are kind of missing the point completely.

I like it. A mark II rather than a new distinct product, l.ike the imaginatively divised LX200 could have been. I don’t recall Panasonic having done this before, but it has long been used by Sony in their benchmark RX100, which is around the same ballpark as the LX100 i.e. an enthusiast’s compact. They are following Sony’s communication and product lifecycle management pretty much to the ‘t’,  in sticking to the ‘form factor’ . Like Sony’s iterations of the RX,  most of the hardware and human interface are still there, same old same old, so panasonic are evolving the camera rather than revolutionising it.

Within panasonic there is though going to have to be internal conflict because the product managers were allowed to reveal that the LX100 uses an mFT chip, all be that cropped in on a smaller light circle from the obviously more compact lens. They must surely be worried about cannibalisaiton of their mFT compacts and furthermore, lenses because as fast a zoom lens as this from their range costs twice as much as the outgoing price tag on the ‘100.

In effect this is an update, a minor upgrade, a getting up to where mFT cameras are these days with a higher resolution mFT sensor which is reported to demonstrate lower noise characteristics. A touch screen is added, and the rest it seems are very minor new features.

Amongst these new features which will work emmenently well with a touch screen, are two new focus modes. One is focus stacking, very useful in macro photography and hopefully also when you are doing things like HDR montage using a wide open lens to build up a landscape or street shot with a marked depth of field from very near the camera to infinity. Within the set up for then what is focus bracketing, which I presume builds a single image vis a vis stacking, availability in RAW outputther is probably absent. In addition to stacking,  they have perhaps thrown in ‘post focus’ based on the same software as stacking.  ‘Post Focus’  I am presuming is essentially an autobracketing of various focal points as single images, and you then touch select which area of the photo you want in focus most, and that image is chosen on screen and the others duly deleted. A bit like poor man’s light field camera. This is actually a really useful feature for things like foliage in the way, and candid shots of people when there is movement and varied light. As I say though, this probably isnt very fancy pants,  because it will be no doubt restricted to jpeg output, and wont work in combination with for example exposure bracketing, which could make for some really cool macro and HDR shots.

While on consumery stuff, never having used much filter in camera myself, there is an improved BW choice there, and I wonder if they have done anything with their HDR mode, because it was pretty rubbish and you are better off exposure bracketing and using either your home PC ‘s weapon of choice, or even some on line offerings for merging layered exposures. I quite like my HDR Mode on my mobile, it suits a roughly 35 mm lens with foreground and a lighter background working good enough for social media.

The dust devil is maybe addressed with this camera, but the so called bete noire of the LX100, is actually a pretty common bug bear on compacts with zooms and medium sized sensors. Not that it ISNT a concern and that it ISNT always easy to get a service job by Panny where you may actually live.

 

Disappointments for me personally are that they havnt stretched the focal length of the glass to 90mm. I would then like a sister camera with a range of say 40mm-200mm which could be a bit bulkier, but is based on the same sensor and user interface. Or maybe they should do a video optimised version in a different body?

Another little pandering to the phillistines in the LX100 is the digital zoom, which is only useable if you want to document something happen, like the martian invasion three houses up the street. The mark II will have much better digital zoom in the portrait and sports critical focal range of 90 to 120 mm, due to the higher resolution sensor.  So I am guessing without having done the maths, that around 100mm crop zoom will be the same resolution as the LX100 at 75mm full optical legnth (?) .  Now that is very useful for portraits, and any loss of blurry background can be made up with layering those post focus shots in your software at home.

With a price point to maybe try and keep to, guessing around €/$ 750-950 at launch, then why need to retool the whole production line, when you can upgrade and entertain new buyers who are downsizing from APS-C DSLRS or upsizing from their mobile phones?  The three big main asks from the moaners in internetland are tilt screen, weather and dust sealing and a longer reach lens, and all of those require majore retooling and alterations to the supply chain.

Why change a winning formula? Sony hasn’t done it with the RX100, Canon had the 5D, and now Olympus are also at it. It says something to the market, that this brand is so strong a franchise of qualities that we are sticking to it. Also it allows for a fancy assed, and may I remind the bitches and flamers, larger camera, with a mic jack point and a big super zoom lens and a whippy, flippy screen etc etc . Not a bad camera, just not an elegant, jacket pocket one.

I hope people who are disappointed with the Lx100 Mark II  stop in the evolution of a very good camera, and just go off and buy one of the APS-C offerings from CaniFujiKon or who ever makes them. I dont need a tilt screen.

2HFVA Nøkkel Læring II Helse GH1

Behovsirkelen  / Behovspyramide

Fysiske, Psykiske, Sosiale og Åndelig Behov

Psykiske behov – øverst er TRYGGHET  –

  • TRYGGHET følelser at fare eller andre trusler er fraværende.  Følelse av å være tatt vare på og i stand til å takle utfordringer.
  • KJÆRLIGHET  – og OMSORG av familie, venner eller hjelpepleiere
  • INKLUSJON  – å bli sett og hørt i familie, sosiale krets og inkluderte i samfunnet

Sosiale Behov  –

  • SAMSPILL OG DIALOG MED ANDRE MENNESKER ,
  • RESPEKT I KRETS OG SAMFUNNET- besøk av familie og venner, kontakt utenom besøk, å bli i et nettverk av mennesker,

Åndelig og Kulturell Behov

  • Trosfrihet – rett til å praksisere troen din
  • Å føle felleskap og at begevelse og meninger bidrar til positive virkninger i sammfunnet  ( tro og politikk )
  • Delta i og erfarer kulturelle begivenheter
  • Erfarer det estetiske i kunst og musikk

Maslows behovspyramide viser at fysiologiske (dvs biologisk) behov er grunnlaget for liver og danner bunnen av pyramidet.  Ovenfor det kommer våre behov for trygghet som husly, så sosiale og så kultrurelle, og på toppen er det anerkjennelse for våre tilværelse og bidrag til samfunnet eller familien og krets, og så selv realisering gjennom yrket, det sosiale eller gjennom tro.

Levekår

Ytre Rammeverk rundt våre livet.

Objektive og nokså bestemt som en forutsetning.

Trygghet skapt av felleskapet. Samfunnets systemer, lover, moralske grunnlag og sosiale velferd og tilbud.

Økonomi – muligheter for arbeid og tilrettelagt systemer for tilgang til bolig , velferdstjenester osv.

Demokratiske Lovverket, politi og rettsystemet. Brannvesenet og Helsevesenet. Rett til skolegang og videre Utdanning og sosiale tjenester.  Tilrettelagte muligheter for trening og fritidsaktiviteter.

Livskvalitet

Livskvalitet er mer subjektiv enn levekårene man befinner seg i.

Livskvalitet er hva enkelte mennesker mener og opplever som positive eller negative i sine liv.

God livskvalitet dreier seg om trivsel i hverdagen. Det er å oppleve livet ditt som noe godt med glede og mestring når det gjelder utfordringer eller ferdigheter.

Det er bygget på personlige omstendigheter og følelser

  • Å være Aktiv
  • Å ha sosiale relasjoner
  • Å ha positive selvfølelser og selvbilde
  • Å kunne få glede fra livets hverdagen alt ovenfor

Personlighet er en del av det som bidrar til livskvalitet.

Livskvalitet kan måles ved bruk av spørreskjemaet og observasjon. Skandinaviske land og andre land med statlige ordning for velferd dvs høye levekår formidlet av staten i en  demokarti, er de høyeste når livskvalitet måles.

Mennesker med sykdom eller nedsatt funksjon kan opplever forholdsvis bra livskvalitet og å opprettholde en så god livskvalitet som mulig,  er et stort formål i helsepleie, vernepleie og omsorgsarbeid generelt.

Levekår og Livskvalitet?

Livskvalitet er mer subjektiv enn levekårene man befinner seg i.

Livskvalitet påvirkes ofte av Levevilkår i et samfunn, men enkelte kan mene eller erfare negative påvirkninger fra samfunnets regelverk som ellers er til felles godt.

Noen kan mistrives til tross for at det finns veldig bra levekår i deres samfunn. Livskvalitet  er bygget på personlige omstendigheter og følelser . Det er da basert på hvordan man som enkelte opplever livet innenfor levekårene omkring.

Gode muligheter for helsetilbud, skolering, videre utdanning og jobb bidrar veldig til livskvalitet.

Livskvalitet kan måles blant annet ved bruk av spørreskjemaer. Skandinavisk land og andre land hvor staten har gode ordninger for utdanning, helsetjenester og hvor det er lav arbeidsledighet og fattigdom, er høyeste i poengsum år etter år i flere store undersøkelser som utføres av anerkjent organisasjoner.  Dermed er det en klar sammenheng mellom levekår, velferd og de enkeltes livskvalitet.