Thursday, 5 May 2016

An Eighteen Year Gap

I did actually order this, in a free service online and wasn't sent it or notified. But I went searching yesterday, and found it. It's my very own Ph.D thesis. I was never able to keep it because it was created and edited on an Amstrad PCW 8256 and the reading of the 3" disks went funny. I was unable to transfer the content on to a second disk below, size of 3.5" floppy disk, as became standard. Through the post (in those days) I obtained software to change the CP/M of any disk to DOS, to contain unformatted text files, and thus transfer content unformatted to my new PC computer running Windows 95. It wasn't long before Windows 98 appeared, but was a very long time before I used Windows 98 (and that was on a second PC computer when I had Windows XP! I jumped from 95 to XP via a new computer construction and purchase). All the time my website had the MA dissertation, as I did that on MS Word via Windows 95, but only summary and derived material relating to the Ph.D. I also lost a novel on these 3" disks. I never found a temporary or any PCW or any service by which to claw back this material.

But now someone else has done it. All I can say for these hybrid Optical Character Reader (OCR) scans into a .PDF is that they allow the user to extract the real text and correct it against the image of the text. My Ph.D image shows the Locoscript font and dot matrix output. Back then I wanted to print it out myself, despite the slow printer and danger I might knacker it for page after page. I was advised before the operation that it was only just acceptable - I wanted to avoid printing it in bold. I did avoid this. It did need new ribbons however and many of them. The given tendency to overuse a ribbon was not an option. Once it had gone round once that was it - replace and the next one.

I remember the disappointment of all that effort and discovering mistakes, and my tutor just saying it's OK enough and correcting by hand. I tried for replacement pages in my copy, but this scan shows the crossing out and of course the OCR can't handle the handwritten replacement.

Anyway, here is the thesis.PDF and it is a wopping 15 mb because of all the page images. Of course I am working on a text version, with so many corrections to make. My usual method is to make a webpage of it all - very long! - and indicate where the page breaks were in the original for people wanting to use it.

My view is it is open for others' uses. Now a John Seed years earlier wrote a Ph.D thesis on the social structure and middle class culture of Unitarianism. Completed in 1981, the fact is that it contains material I have not seen before (as well as some I have). The link I give to it is where I found it, but I have produced extracts relevant to Hull on a webpage and that is where the link is found. I note that this Ph.D was typed, and had some inserts for missing Part 1 and Part 2 titles. The text scan underlying it isn't too bad but far from mistake free.

With these updates I have taken the opportunity to remove the Learning Area Sociology of Religion menu links to Social Science only, and my own academic work with Ph.D is more accessible now. In Social Sciences my academic work used to jump (and still can) to an explanatory page for a list of items. This was an inheritance from the website in its earlier days.  Now the Religion area is more purely Religious Education and its subsets, including Theology and the Social Sciences section has a more immediate menu of this material.

I am aware that some items can appear in several sections. Local religious history could appear in Religion, History and Localities. There are some multiple menu links but mostly I try to keep with one. Nevertheless some rewritten Leonard Chamberlain material is in the Localities Area because it is about places where he functioned and where his legacy continues. A rewritten piece on the Charity of Chamberlain is in the Localities Area. History I want as much about issues of doing history as well as about history.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Website Updates

I've been busy with my website, so here are some updates that have taken place. A number of introductory pages have had menu improvements for less scrolling and more clicking. Partly this is due to increased content, so here goes.

Much has been added to the Localities Area (its menu improved). I sorted out a lot of information regarding the comings and goings of Hull Protestant establishments into a time-order and denominations webpage. My fantasy proposals for London Rapid Transit must be complete now, with more geographical and diagrammatic maps. Meaux and the abbey (now vague remains) gets a page. Leonard Chamberlain, as according to his Will, did not own the land, but the Trust does now. Selby had some Trust housing changes in 1970. Back in Hull, although the Bowl Alley Lane Unitarian chapel ceased to be that in 1881, personnel connections with it continued. Sutton-on-Hull had a railway station, so this describes what it was like.

In addition, the opening of the new Unitarian Church in Park Street in 1977 has a revamped webpage that shows the full service in the Unitarian Worship section of the Spiritual Area. There will be no more Galapagos Penguin articles in the Hull Unitarian Magazine but it will give a link to where people can find what happened to Juan online in the Fictional Area. As I edit my novel, updates go there from time to time as well.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Bedroom Tax End. Careful What You Wish For.

We were told after the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith that there were no further plans to cut welfare. However, the Budget was a shambles and shown to be no more than an accountancy fiddle of the stupidest order. In this sneaked out news, Stephen Crabbe still maintains that he isn't cutting welfare, but he is. We all wished for it, but the Government's announcement that it is scrapping the Bedroom Tax should fool no one (especially as George Osborne is behind this, of course), as it is being replaced by the so-called Second Person Subsidy.

At present, if you are in social housing, a spare bedroom means £15 off benefits and £25 if you have two spare bedrooms. It is mean, nasty, targets the poorest, and tells all you need to know about this government and its predecessor. So ending the Bedroom Tax it sounds great, until you realise that the Second Person Subsidy applies to everyone receiving the new Universal Credit regardless of accommodation type - and (given the drift of criticism that they were always protected) applies to pensioners too.

Anyone living alone will have an immediate deduction of £15 from the Universal Credit. But it isn't just unemployed people who will get Universal Credit. It is the working poor, it is people whether they get Housing Benefit top-ups or not. The basic State Pension will also come under Universal Credit, and thus everyone gets clobbered regardless.

Talk about 'Universal'. The government thinks that even single houses have one double bedroom as a minimum, so the idea is that if we all move in with each other we suddenly free up the housing stock - not just rented housing but private housing too, helping towards a downward pressure on houses mainly from the cheaper sector. But if we don't, then the government cashes in from everyone affected starting September.

What we have to do to avoid this benefits penalty is couple up. September 1st then is the target. So straight away I am going to increase my efforts to find a woman, particularly a woman who herself is facing a loss of £15 a week - £30 a week recovered between two people! I shall have to put lots of effort into this, to get a new woman into my bed. Presumably the government also thinks this will increase the national birthrate, although surely not when it comes to pensioners shacking up with each other. But then everything works at the margins and by percentages. And the trade figures are the worst they have ever been.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Gone Missing

I have submitted this story to Newsthump:

The Metropolitan Police are launching a missing persons enquiry after reports from concerned politicians that a man has gone missing from the Downing Street area.

A man identified as George Osborne, who sometimes responds to the name 'Gideon', has not been seen for many days now and police are growing increasingly concerned for his mental health.

He was expected to appear in the House of Commons or thereabouts on Monday 20th March. He was last seen presenting a Budget and listening to immediate reaction before going missing.

Psychological profilers think he could be very depressed. The Budget began to unravel almost immediately as its main money grab against the disabled was exposed as unacceptable even to mad Tories and the rest of it was analysed as an accounting swindle.

Then one of George Osborne's long standing friends, a Mr Iain Duncan Smith, who sometimes responds to the name 'Bastard', came out and said some very rude words about George without actually saying any rude words about him. Police are keen to interview Mr Duncan Smith, who first appeared all across the TV screens and then, in his own way, vanished for some hours. He is expected to reappear in public, however, as he is always keen to be noticed.

Police issued a late statement about their investigation, that concludes: "With any luck he will be in the Thames, because that way, with the cuts to policing, it won't take long to drag him out and arrange his political funeral."

Sunday, 20 March 2016

IDS: Reading the Lines

Look, I have a sociological background, and I don't just 'not forget it' but embrace it. And one of the dictums of sociological research is to listen and take people at face value before any analysis. It is a very important point: you can talk about motives but the expressed motive must be given its place. The more hidden motives may not be personal but institutional and systemic.

So I listened to Andrew Marr interviewing Iain Duncan Smith and also a bit of Faisal Islam. IDS is clear that his entire motive for action is around his particular interest put into this job.

He is on the side of the angels, although he leaves "morality" to "churchmen". He wants the Conservatives to have a method and means of social justice, to support the poor. But he has to make compromises. Against analyses like mine he says he has no motivation regarding his known Eurosceptic views.

What he does is gives us a view inside government, that since the coalition forced cabinet government, government now is - well Marr put it as "Ant and Dec" in charge. There is a chaos to policy formation because things get proposed and then withdrawn somewhat without best communication to the department with direct responsibility. Second, he wants to reform a system to help those who even would not vote Tory, to have the Tories as properly a one-nation party, whereas it comes under the Treasury cash-cow extraction approach, one that takes away the welfare to work incentive in IDS's proposals.

So I listen, and think well, maybe, just maybe, I have been too sophisticated in my political analysis. He really is approaching this from his narrow oh-so-inclusive view.

And then I have problems, and not just with his "compromises" and collective cabinet responsibility. For example, how does he justify the Bedroom Tax, which penalises the poorest on a failed analysis of forcing people into non-existent one-bedroomed properties? How does he justify the sanctions targets, by which DWP "Work Coaches" (but no work, no coaching) had to select out people who failed to turn up on time for an interview or didn't make the arbitrary demands for job seeking numbers? How does he justify the Universal Jobshite website that turns agency adverts into repetition (now even the same agency on the same day, never mind different agencies and one job, and repetition day after day) and therefore a deluge of pointless applications thrown away by agencies? Why did he argue for privatised overseeing of applications where people who would have got jobs anyway got preferential treatment and the difficult cases were 'parked'?

But, more than this, the DWP having to face cuts to its projects is no different from the Home Office facing cuts to the police forces, so that they have been rendered more and more ineffective.

So, devoid of sophistication, the other charge is naivity. He has proven that the Conservative Party and its chosen agenda of cuts is no vehicle for the necessities of social justice. The shell cannot contain that egg. Even under Liberal Democrat vetoes to the elitist agenda, the actions against the poorest were vicious.

And is he really that naive? Does he not realise that timed like this, the effect on the Chancellor is very damaging. He did refer to the Chancellor but his general praise for performance was for Cameron the Prime Minister. I think in his comments he 'overcame; his policy feud to include the Chancellor, probably realising that he had mentioned the PM exclusively rather too often.

It may well be that IDS has his project, as he sees it. But he is also a politician, even if not a very good one. He surely understands politics to the extent that it has another reality to it alongside simple policy mechanisms. There is support, and there is undermining. There is timing. Politics is an art as well as a process. And so I am back reading between the lines.

It is perfectly possible - I have done it myself - to argue purely on the issue at hand and yet know precisely the wider impact of the argument. Will it weaken that person and what they stand for, will it sink the ship, and does the ship sail in a direction that, therefore, one is in the wrong ship.

If he made arguments about supply side economics in the Labour market, this might make sense, but it is not the only sense. The fact is that this Tory party has long abandoned the inclusiveness of Heath and Walker and even (to a more limited extent, and another part-performer) Major. It is an elitist party with that agenda. I accuse Iain Duncan Smith of naivity, and also if he cannot see the European dimension of what he has done (the Eurosceptic nutjobs certainly can, and why they have called him 'principled' etc.) then he really is a crap politician.

Saturday, 19 March 2016

IDS: Read Between the Lines

Let's be clear: Iain Duncan Smith's resignation has little to do with benefits inequality. There may be Treasury and Department for Work and Pensions tensions, but no more than say with police cuts between the Treasury and the Home Office. The Bedroom Tax and the inadequacy of the one room Local Housing Allowance (for others) plus the 20% Council Tax, plus all other cuts, are all approved by this man. There is evidence that he asked Nadine Dorries MP not to rebel over the proposed benefit cuts (unless, of course, she wants to undermine him for the benefit of the Government).

He pre-informed The Times and sister newspapers. He timed his resignation for the 10 pm News. His explanatory letter was held by The Times. His use of "all in it together" was a deliberately phrased knife at Osborne and Cameron.

We know that Osborne is the Chief Executive of all the Government and Cameron is its Chair. Cameron does the PR, with his 'give it a left, give it a right' presentation to waiting microphones before racing off oh so decisively for his fake negotiations, or his 'surrounded by factory workers' shirt-sleeves speeches. He does it better than Osborne surrounded by puzzled and bored children. But it is these two who have led the pro-Europe campaign. Alan Johnson (Labour) has been invisible in comparison.

First of all weeks back IDS complained that he and antis were being denied government papers; the government responded that it is not neutral. So he had the freedom to oppose, but wouldn't get government papers beyond his own department's necessities.

But now he has realised that the best way to skittle the government's pro-Europe campaign is by skittling those in charge, specifically Cameron and Osborne. The more incredible they look, the less they can 'lead' regarding the in campaign.

And so his departure had to be like a Howe or a Lawson, to have impact on the night and impact on the party.

Perhaps the reason the government machine sounded uncertain on the Benefit cuts was because they knew that close politics was bubbling. The argument for the IDS defence is that his department had to uphold a policy of benefit cuts and tax benefits, including to MPs (Nadine Dorries included), while the government wobbled. The government bigwigs wanted to take away the basis for IDS's and others' complaints, yet at the same time did not want to back down. So it was a question of timing for IDS - go before the government backs down.

Corbyn and company are right to ask for the Chancellor's resignation, as here is another Budget shambles. As I blogged just after the Budget, Osborne has run out of road space evidenced by his creative accounting, never mind the despicable cuts while giving the rich a treat. The ideas are sour and competence utterly lacking. Productivity and investment are stuck. But the IDS target is Osborne and Labour needs purchase fast and here is a gift. Nothing will benefit Labour more than the incompetence of the government and shaking it to its foundations. After all it might lead to what  many have considered impossible: a compassionate and yet productivity-seeking Labour government.

However, let's be clear. It isn't Labour that is causing this. It is Cameron's miscalculation. A referendum should follow a party in government decision that needs confirmation by the wider public, not a situation where the public vote is to sort out a fundamental disagreement in the party. So Cameron is a gambler, to finally put paid to the Eurosceptics. Instead, the tension of the vote either or is proving too much for the Tory Party, and it is more likely to split. Indeed, a number of Tories so-minded can vote against the Budget and do for Osborne and his campaigning for Europe now.

If Cameron/ Osborne wins the referendum, the Eurosceptic nutjobs (including IDS) will never forgive him or them and make government impossible, and if Cameron/ Osborne loses there will be a clear-out at the top. Iain Duncan Smith will be back and under Boris Johnson or someone similar. The gamble is greater than this institution can bear.

So this is a good example of that. By timing, the skids are put on the Budget and on the leadership itself, and its competence to discuss Europe at all. But as regards this resignation: read between the lines, because they are the only lines worth reading.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Time for Osborne to Call it a Day

No one has said it, but there is a sense in which this is George (Gideon) Osborne's last budget. He is a failure. He has not achieved any of his financial objectives (at considerable pain to the many) and he is now resorting to creative accounting regarding years 2019-2020.

At the same time this posh boy Chancellor shows the despicable side of this government, paying for his failure by taking from the needy like the disabled in order to afford tax cuts. On top of other cuts in benefits, the Bedroom tax, Council Tax at 20%, sanctions and sheer uncertainty, he is removing chunks of money that keep people cabable and keep them mobile. This man borders on the evil with his ignorance about how tough some people find it to live.

Gideon talks codswallop about the 'Northern Powerhouse' - a phrase created for the media - while the need for revival at a time of cheap money is to spend and spend and invest.

There is no economic policy of use that lowers interest rates to near zero and then is forced to 'create money' that then sits in financial centres or leaks into a wealth economy of Central London property and finance, and once again boosts property elsewhere. No use to anyone - except the already well off.

Keynes would be spinning in his grave. You have to distribute money to the poorer, who are more likely to spend it. It is called the Multiplier effect. When money costs next to nothing, you make it to invest it in productive assets. You get firms to make things and generate jobs that are worthwhile jobs. It is a joke to cut benefits and then encourage people to save what they do not possess.

Osborne's cheap labour economy mitigates against capital investment. This so-called Living Wage is feeble, plus investment comes about through participatory industry - everyone involved. Firms that can employ cheap labour to do its tasks, the ever reliance on the service sector, do not improve productivity. This takes capital, capital investment that allows labour to be used elsewhere and in producing more. There is never a demand ceiling: if we are more efficient, innovation will increase what we can do. And, in any case, with greater efficiency comes greater value and surely more of the leisure the prophets of automation once promised. When you have cheap underemployed supposedly flexible labour markets to rule the roost, you descend to the floor of trying to scrape together basics and doing so longer rather than enjoying retirement.

The economy is made for us, not us for the economy. This is how it should be. Osborne has run out of road.

Well, let's hope the European Referendum either clears him out with an out result or forces Cameron out as his internal opposition become bitter about the remain result. However, Osborne in power as PM would be nastiness writ large, especially if they repeal the Parliament Act and go for an election. I know the alternative is another Eton boy. Nevertheless he has come to the end, there is nothing more he can offer: he has been oin the job too long and, like all politicians, he has finished this with failure.