Springingtiger's Blog


The End of In-Work Benefits.

As it’s Super Thursday, just a thought rather than a blog. What if the Tories really did believe in allowing ‘market forces’ to regulate the labour market?

The Tories quite rightly want to get rid of in-work benefits. So do socialists because if a worker’s pay has to be topped up by benefits they are being underpaid. Or to put it another way exploited.

The Tories answer is to chip away at benefits piece by piece forcing workers to take extra jobs just to survive. My answer is far more radical than the Tories’. I would end all in-work benefits.

That’s right, I would end all in-work benefits. However prior to ending the benefits I would repeal all restrictions on trades union membership and activities. The Tories believe in allowing the market to regulate itself. It is not a free market unless Labour is equally free. With unfettered unions the consequence of removing in-work benefits would be to allow the free interaction of workers and employees to bring wages to a socially acceptable level. This would in turn adjust prices and profits, at present artificially distorted by a regulated labour market, to their true level.

There should never be a need to make up wages with benefits. Either the market should be regulated equitably so that a fair wage underlies all production or it should be completely unregulated to allow market forces to adjust wages and prices organically. Justice unlike wages should not be negotiable and certainly not in the hands of one interest group.



Brexit and the Cuban Example

 

I shall be voting for the United Kingdom to remain within the European Union primarily, I must admit, because if the English vote to drag the UK out while Scotland has voted to remain it will precipitate independence. The question of whether Brexit is a good idea or not has not been adequately answered by either side in the debate. The possibility of Brexit has allowed my imagination to take flight. I make no apology for any outrageous suggestions in this piece, it is merely an exercise in possibility.

I am one of those who thinks that if we insist on an economic model that depends on trade and trading agreements then Brexit makes little sense. Those who support Brexit suggest we might have a trading relationship with Europe and the world modelled upon Norway or Canada. However the USA and Europe have made it very clear that a trading agreement with a UK that has withdrawn from the European Union would neither be high priority nor favourable to Britain. For a trading nation Brexit seems counter intuitive.

Brexit could make a lot of sense were we to adopt a different economic model, that of Cuba. After Castro’s revolution freed Cuba from a quasi colonial relationship with the USA, American economic sanctions effectively denied Cuba international trade. Despite a concerted campaign to starve the Cuban people into submission they have survived and I believe can teach us a thing ot two.

The proponents of Brexit want to control the movement of people. They forget that a closed border can also control the movement of goods and money. Brexit provides an opportunity for the british peoples to be truly in it together. Like Cuba there could be an emphasis on becoming self sufficient in food production. We need not ban imports of foreign food, but a UK outside Europe could employ protectionist tariffs to promote indigenous agriculture and remove the expectation that luxury and exotic produce could be easily available from overseas.

Rather than trying to keep foreigners out we could use our closed borders to keep our own people in which would mean we could adjust taxation to equalise living standards without providing the unpatriotic the opportunity to move elsewhere. The Brexiteers complain about being bound by European agreements and they have a point. Post Brexit we can nationalise companies without compensation free from the European accords that would prevent us. We can use tax receipts to provide whatever subsidies our indigenous agriculture and manufacturing needs to make the UK self sufficient. There is no reason why we could not cease, like Cuba, to focus on trade at least until we no longer were dependent upon it. Once we are no longer dependent on trade we can make whatever agreements we like without anyone being able to coerce us into unfavourable terms.

Of course if we were to focus on self sufficiency the real losers would be those with excess assets as they would find their standard of living falling. To put it more accurately they would find their extravagant self indulgence at the expense of the people curtailed. They are the ones who would most want to leave the UK, but they would have no way to do so unless they were allowed to. We could allow them to purchase their exit visas in return for the assets they currently hold overseas.

Freed from outside influences we could spend our money on building our own country. Withdraw from all expensive treaties particularly those that allow other countries over UK political, economic and military decisions. All it would take would be for Brexit to be accompanied by the election of a committed socialist government unafraid of a little ruthlessness. Oh dear, I’m in danger of converting myself into an ‘Out’ voter!



Let’s Hear It For Paula Pierce!

I can almost hear you asking, “Who is Paula Pierce?” and I don’t blame you. All I know about her is that she is a driver working in the film industry. If you sit through the end credits of ‘Captain America: Civil War‘ waiting for the Marvel Teaser eventually you will see her name appear for a few seconds under ‘Drivers’, that’s how I came across her. I am not even sure under which unit I saw her name, possibly the second, but it is there. If you check out IMDB you’ll see more films she has worked for

Most people leave the theatre as the credits roll and so the work of the vast majority of those who work on any film passes unrecognised and unacknowledged by the public. I think this is sad and so I have chosen Paula Pierce to stand for all those we tend to ignore. Sometimes we forget just how many hundreds of people are involved in providing us with entertainment and I would just like to express my appreciation for them all. We all recognise the names of the stars and directors, some producers and perhaps the better known designers and music directors, but what about the ones who don’t make it onto chat shows and the posters? Behind any film and particularly behind an action film shot on location in several countries there is an army of crew making it all possible. Okay, I know that many of the backstage crew could be replaced without affecting the film, however they each contribute to its success and they deserve our gratitude as much as the actors whose names we know.

Every spring millions of people sit and watch the various Entertainments Industry award shows on television. Whole programs are devoted to the actors and directors, the writers and composers get mentions although at a lesser length. Most of those who win awards on the technical side are lucky if their name appears on a list on the entertainments pages of a newspaper. Still that any of them get any recognition is something for which to be grateful. Very few of the crew become famous, although we all know, “Rostrum Camera: Ken Morse” that one name is an exception. We do know more than we used to because of the various ‘Making of…’ documentaries included in the extras on DVDs, but for the most part, I suspect, the only recognition the crew get is their pay and the phone calls offering their next job.

I have selected Paula Pierce not quite at random, because she drives trucks and women who drive trucks are special. My mother drove a truck as part of the support crew of a major epic, the Second World War. She was a navy driver and one of the millions who played a part in securing victory. We all remember the Generals like ‘Ike’ and ‘Monty’ and the politicians like Churchill, but the supporting cast and crew tend to be forgotten. We have tombs for the ‘Unknown Soldier’, in fact for most people most soldiers are unknown and even more so the crew who serviced the whole endeavour.

Films are like wars and industries, they need a few stars to attract attention, but were it not for the unknown millions, over the years, who worked unseen behind the scenes not one would have been successfully completed. So today I am choosing to have Paula Pierce symbolise all those whose appearance in the end credits rolls past as the audience bolts for the exit and to them all I say a huge ‘Thank You’!



A Happy Holiday

Some days plans go awry and sometimes that just works. Today is a bank holiday and, as our grandchildren are off school, Neelam offered to take them and our daughter out. The kids were given a choice of things to do and they plumped for a visit to our local soft-play place and a meal at the World Buffet in Sauchiehall Street.

It was only when we got to Cheeky Charlies that we discovered it was closed. However there was another soft-play place in Possil so off we went. The Jurassic Jungle was open, unfortunately half the children on North-West Glasgow were before us in the queue and even after paying we aould have to wait half an hour before actually getting in.

It’s difficult to negotiate with a disappointed six year old, but we got to a compromise. We would visit the play-park in the Botanic Gardens while the sun was out and then go and eat. As we searched for parking we spotted a small and almost empty play park and so the kids led by the little one decided that, rather than struggle to play in an overcrowded Botanics they would use that little park. My daughter was all for them playing before eating so that they were hungry enough to do justice to the buffet. I think playing in the open air for free was infinitely preferable to the extremely busy soft-play business which would have been unpleasant for most of us apart from my grandweans. They did not take long to develop an appetite and so we were soon on our way to the World Buffet.

The good thing about the World Buffet is that the variety of dishes is wide enough to have something that is acceptable to everyone even a picky eater like my younger granddaughter. She ate well although, I must admit, the bulk of her meal was desert! No one raises an eyebrow at the strange culinary combinations it is possible to have on one plate, nor at the quantity consumed. No one looks askance at a child eating Singapore Noodles by loading them onto a prawn cracker and treating it like some sort of Asian taco. It is very satisfying to take the kids somewhere where, without constant cajoling, they will happily fill their tummies.

I faced my usual challenge of being rather full by desert time, but at the buffet you can eat at your own pace and so I did. I had only a small desert (stealing two on my daughters profiteroles while she took the little one to the wash-room doesn’y count!). The younger ones did prodigous work on the desert table, but the highlight for me was the delight on the littler ones face when she discovered the mini doughnuts.

It was not quite the day we planned, but it was perfect. At the end of the day it matters not how much or how little you spend, nor where you spend it. What matters far more is with whom you spend your time and if the people you enjoy being with are your family and they with you then I think life, underneath all the humdrum stuff, is as it should be.



Reflecting on NaPoWriMo

As my last night’s poem emphasised NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month) is ended for another year. I cant help but feel I should take a few moments to reflect upon it.

One thing upon which I am absolutely clear is that I am very strongly motivated by commitments and deadlines. That I produced thirty poems over the month of April came about because, having said I would, my stubbornness compelled me to it. That I posted one a day comes from that being the deadline imposed upon the task.

I discovered that many of my poems are the ensuing product of a single line or perhaps a couple. This is why some of my poems disappoint me because the other lines fail to live up to the initial inspiration. I have had some great lines this month.

If I am honest I must admit that I have been pleasantly surprised by the overall quality of my output over the month. I would normally expect to end the month with six poems with which I am happy. However this time I have exceeded my expectations. Although there are several poems that will require further work, ali in all it has been a good month.

One of the greatest pleasures of NaPoWriMo like NaNoWriMo is the sense of accomplishment one gets from accomplishing the challenge. Although. Unlike NaNoWriMo, there are no certificates of achievement at the months end, the sense of satisfaction is as great.

Because in NaPoWriMo one is working to a time-limited challenge, there is none of the usual opportunity to wait until inspiration strikes before writing. In yesterday’s poem I called this a ‘discipline’ and it certainly imposes a discipline upon the writer. Sometimes one has force oneself to produce verse on a subject regardless. This has led me to appreciate the formal structures of poetry, I tended this month to default to sonnets. Great poems may be free and unstructured, driven purely by the rhyme and metre that flows from inspiration. However when one is painstakingly trying to render an idea into verse the formal structure is a godsend. It provides constraints which actively help to formulate the idea as verse.

I think that the constraints of trying to express ideas in verse actually causes a process of clarification and comprehension in one’s own mind which increases one’s own understanding. It is very much like writing a paraphrase in that it is impossible without a clear understanding of the subject, although in this clarity of understanding is probably more important than accuracy.

Have I enjoyed NaPoWriMo? Yes, despite the usual agonies of writer’s block and insufficient rhymes for an important word to fit a rhyme scheme. I end the month with increased self-confidence and adaptability in my writing; an understanding that where the rules don’t work new rules can be written or old ones written around.

Will I do it again? Hell yes! What’s more I’d recommend the experience to anyone wanting to develop their writing.



NaPoWriMo Goodbye
April 30, 2016, 22:08
Filed under: personal development, Poetry, success, Writing | Tags:

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Today, at last, I write the last I write
In verse for this NaPoWriMo. I know
I have survived the test. I did my best
As I said I would, it was the best I could
Do. It was not all good, but I came through.
There was no time to correct or edit,
To get it right and avoid derision.
I had to forgo revision and then,
Next day, do it again. It was quite a strain,
A discipline or perhaps a training.
Very draining, but now it’s at an end
And I’ve learned to depend upon my pen.
I’ll miss NaPoWriMo with some relief
‘Til next year, when it’s clear I’ll start again.



City on The River

When I was young my politics was full of certainty, as I grow older I find certainties replaced by questions.

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Land-damned the legless sailor sits
Watching set sail the sea bound ships
And the Cunarders on the slips
Swamp spectators up to their hips.
No one warned them of the great wave
That a slip launched ship always gave,
But no one could the shipyards save,
A decline severe became grave.
Grave-bound the legless sailor lies.
No more the Clydebuilt steamer plies
Its trade beneath the island skies.
From where to what will the Clyde rise?

Can we rise, a nation again,
Or must we a province remain?
Can the SNP break our chains
And wash from us the bitter stain
Of submitting to English might
When we should have stood up to fight?
May we not yet restore our right
So never more the worker sits
Because there’s neither steel nor ships?
Reopen the yards and the slips
Let’s build again our trains and ships.




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