Category Archives: Politics


Business as Usual in the US
New UK statistics authority web site
Ditch the firkin pint mile and pound
Rogue Education Conference
London Tube Workers Strike
The citizens wage
Talking about wages is not the same as price fixing

Business as Usual in the US

I’ve no idea why so many people’s hopes have been raised by a change of figurehead in America, perhaps it’s desperation. The two party system in the US, just as in the UK currently, offers an electoral choice between two almost identical sets of policies and values, both pro-capitalist and pro big business. Some of the rhetoric is designed to appease the little guy, but the strategic vested interests are all very well entrenched, it really doesn’t make any odds whose face it is that reads their chilling speeches:

“We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense”

But that way of life, the over consumption of resources, the cultural imperialism,  the  meddling and bullying  is going to have to change anyway whether they like it or not. The trouble is, declining superpowers can be tempestuous:

“We will undertake a full review of the situation in Afghanistan in order to develop a comprehensive policy for the entire region,” Obama said.

The entire region is the whole of Asia, including the Indian subcontinent with Pakistan implicated alongside Afghanistan.

Obama said that US troop levels must increase in Afghanistan. “For at least a year now, I have called for two additional brigades, perhaps three,” he told CBS. “I think it’s very important that we unify command more effectively to coordinate our military activities.

No war in Afghanistan has ever been won for hundreds of years,  and in a time of huge and persistent economic crisis where will the money come from to pursue these campaigns and occupations around the world? The demand for oil has temporarily dropped, which may give some respite but insistence on defending a system which depends on permanent economic growth and expansion of markets is always going to make trouble ahead, sooner or sooner.

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New UK statistics authority web site

UK Statistics Authority

A new independent body to oversee the quality of UK quantitative statistical data publication was launched yesterday.

UK statistics authority

The UK Statistics Authority run by Sir Michael Scholar is outside of government control, (like Torchwood) being answerable directly to the elected Parliament, not to ministers or any single government department. The USA has a remit to restore public confidence in the neutrality of government statistics, an urgent task since a survey revealed that only one citizen in five actually believes them! A poll by the European Commission about public trust in 27 member countries’ government statistics ranked Britain 27th out of 27.

USA can issue and take away a “kite mark” of quality assurance to each of the 28 UK Goverment departments which issue statistics, and will also act as a central reference for the vast amount of data which gets published. The website at publishes a link to any new statistics which have been released daily at 9.30am, which is also available as an RSS feed

As another gesture towards open government, the USA will publish the minutes from their monthly meetings onto the website as well. Other plans for the website appear to include a new taxonomy and some kind of maps mashup.

What new figures are out today?

Today’s new stats include a tour of emergency services in Wales, Scottish manufactured exports for the last quarter of 2007 and a survey of construction industry materials but the one which caught my eye was a publication of UK Sea Fisheries Statistics for 2006.

United Kingdom Sea Fisheries Statistics

UK Sea Fisheries Statistics provides a compendium of statistics relating to the UK fishing industry. It includes information on the size of the UK fishing fleet, the number of fishermen, key economic indicators and the quantity and value of sea fish landings, imports and exports. Comparisons are made with the fishing industries in Europe and the rest of the world. The level of exploitation of the main European Union quota stocks is also considered.

Fishing stats

It’s interesting to me for example, to see how Newlyn in Cornwall compares with other large fishing ports but there’s also an overview of the world fishing industry:

The world catch figures from marine fishing areas fell by 2 per cent from 85.5 million tonnes in 2004 to 83.7 million tonnes in 2005. In 2005 China caught the largest volume of fish, 14.7 million tonnes. Peru had the second largest annual catch at 9.3 million tonnes. The USA, Japan, Indonesia and Chile each caught between 4 and 5 million tonnes. Of the 83.7 million tonnes of fish caught in 2005, 63 per cent were caught in the Pacific Ocean, 26 per cent were caught in the Atlantic and 11 per cent in the Indian Ocean. Marine catches from the Pacific Ocean have shown a long-term gradual increase reaching a maximum of 53.6 million tonnes in 2000. Landings in 2005 were 52.5 million tonnes, a decrease of 1 per cent on 2004. In the Atlantic, the 2005 catch is 12 per cent lower than in 2001.

Here are some more tasty extracts:

In 2006, the UK fleet landed 21 thousand tonnes of cod (26 per cent of the 1996 level) and 40 thousand tonnes of haddock (44 per cent of the 1996 level). This represents a combined decrease of 109 thousand tonnes. Landings of the relatively low value blue whiting have increased over this period from 14 thousand tonnes to 82 thousand tonnes.

Herring landings by the UK fleet were higher than mackerel landings for the first time in over 10 years. Since 2002, mackerel landings have decreased by 49 per cent while herring landings have increased by 50 per cent.

In 2006, 41 thousand tonnes of nephrops were landed, a 35 per cent increase in two years. Landings of cockles fell to their lowest level for over 10 years.

This is all fascinating stuff but some of the vocabulary is unfamilar so I welcomed the opportunity to learn:

Nephrops are lobsters, langoustines, dublin bay prawns, scampi etc

What are Demersal Fisheries?

Demersal fisheries target species which live on the or near the seabed and feed on bottom-living organisms and other fish. Although fisheries may be directed towards particular species or species groups, demersal fish are often caught together and comprise a mixed demersal fishery.

In 2001 the total landings by the Scottish demersal fleet were in excess of 130,000 tonnes and had a first sale value of around £150 million. Cod (Gadus morhua), haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus), whiting (Merlangius merlangus) and monkfish (Lophius

What are Pelagic Fisheries?

Oily fish generally swim in the pelagic zones of the oceans.

So to the consumer or cook, roughly speaking demersal = “white fish” and pelagic = “oily fish”. The oily fish live in the deep cold waters (clue) and the demersals are more coastal, except that the continental shelf extends a lot further out from some coastlines than others. And the Mackerel do come in close to shore in large numbers at certain times, as witnessed in Lekeitio recently:

Mackerel Boat Mackerel dinner

Back to the UK Statistics authority website, as you can see it has the potential to provide considerable distraction as well as having great educational and informative uses, quite possibly marketing and business use as well. Perhaps one day it will also be considered to set up an authority site for aggregating national qualitative data in a similar but appropriate way.

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Ditch the firkin pint mile and pound

Is this good news?

EU gives up on ‘metric Britain’

The European Union is set to confirm it has abandoned what became one of its most unpopular policies among many people in Britain.

It is proposing to allow the UK to continue using pounds, miles and pints as units of measurement indefinitely.

I don’t think so. On the one hand it’s correct that the decision to continue using antiquated units of measurement is up to the British to decide. Joining the metric club should be a voluntary progressive decision, not something imposed by a less than democratic European Commission. On the other hand if we carry on talking about miles and pounds indefinitely it’s going to make the struggling UK culture sound even more like a part of America and less European oriented. Besides all that, the base ten system is clearly more logical and simpler to learn than the historical mish mash of imperial measures.

Posted in Politics, UK | 2 Comments

Rogue Education Conference

Via an intriguing flyer for Rogue Education Conference in Melbourne this weekend.

From Friday 14th – Sunday 16th September, a gathering will take place at Trades Hall in Melbourne where people can critically examine this profound shift and build networks to resist it. We want to share stories, build networks, learn, argue, and inspire. We want to create a space that breeds engagement and resistance outside of elite institutions known as “Universities”.

INSTITUTIONS – students’ experiences of education institutions that have been radically altered under a right wing political system

CAPITALISM – all they taught you at school was how to be a good worker/ boss

DISSENT – we can learn a lot from campus based struggles and alternative approaches to education, both nationally and internationally

Rogue Education Conference flyer

Upon downloading the conference programme, a calendar of speakers and discussion sessions includes such as the following:


An amazing documentary account of the New South Wales Builders Labourers Federation in the 60’s and 70’s. This story of a trade union whose social and political activities challenged the notion of what a union should be, is incredibly relevant to education activists and student unions today.


Margaret Thornton: ‘The Impact of Commodification on the Student Experience’
Geoff Boucher: ‘Crisis Tendencies in Higher Education—Market Failures, Neoconservative Moralism and Technocratic Solutions’
Damien Cahill: ‘Neoliberalism and the War on Terror: The RealRoad to Serfdom’


Engagemedia: the state of online independent media and how to use it as a campaign tool

Dave Eden: Treasonous Minds: Capital and Universities, the Ideology of the Intellectual and the Desire for Mutiny

Anja Kanngieser: It’s our Academy: Autonomous and Free Universities as a Strategy for Reclaiming Knowledge

Carol Peterson: Sick of the job networks compulsory bullshit training? Ways to resist for those people who haven’t given up on the social wage

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London Tube Workers Strike

London Underground tube mainentance workers went on strike today, as planned five weeks ago. The dispute is preciptated by the employer Metronet going into bancruptcy and the RMT union is campaigning for the maintenance of Transport for London’s undergound infrastructure to be brought back under public ownership. Labour Prime minister Gordon Brown and London Mayor Ken Livingstone both spoke out against the union but the strike was solid.

london tube workers strike

RMT leader Bob Crow welcomed last minute talks today:

That is a positive development and we hope that Metronet and its administrator will now take our members’ legitimate concerns seriously.

Instead of shouting insults and pointing accusing fingers, all those involved should now recognise that those concerns need to be addressed.

It is five weeks since we gave the company notice that we were balloting over the issues involved, yet there was no sense of urgency until it became clear that our members were determined to win the unequivocal guarantees we are seeking.

Our members have shown their determination by delivering a rock-solid strike and, pending any positive outcome from today’s talks, it will remain on.

Posted in London, Politics, UK | 2 Comments

The citizens wage

This is a conversation which took place on Facebook at the weekend, copied from my “wall-to-wall” with Samantha Murphy who runs

On Facebook, just as on MySpace, ( and years ago on JellyOS ) the convention is to reply to comments left on your profile page ‘comment wall’ by visiting the poster and replying over there, on their space. On mySpace that means you have to keep flipping back and fore to make sense of the conversation, but on Facebook they have coded in a workaround through the view wall-to-wall function, which puts the conversation back together, albeit in an upside down sequence. I put it back the right way up, here:

Samantha asks…


How much do you think an MP3 is worth (One you want that has NO DRM, of course)?

I’d be in favour of a citizens’ wage for all artists and creatives who feel they are working towards making a contribution to society. That way there’d be no need to commoditise art as products, and there’d be a genuine range of free choices available.


Hey Andy!

I’d also be in favour of a citizens’ wage for all artists and creatives but only those who ARE making a contribution to society. Lots of them feel they are, however…
Only question is, who would be the judge of this?



Hmm, well I don’t think any contemporaries can really judge. That way anything very innovative or forward looking would get filtered out. Only time or history can tell. Granted there will be more than a few who overestimate their own talent, but I think we can afford to carry them on a modest citizen’s wage. After all, we presently carry plenty of fat cat parasites who live off the results of other people’s work. Thanks for batting this one back and fore by the way 🙂


All good points, but how would one go about applying for and getting this wage? How would it be paid/collected? Perhaps like the TV tax you have over there? Who does the TV tax money go to anyway? I lived in London and was having this conversation with someone last night, but couldn’t remember how much it was and who was the beneficiary (probably the government).


Two quite different things really. The citizens wage will be paid to anybody who needs it. A bit like claiming a pension or social security, but with full personal dignity because you’d be unquestionably entitled to it, just like every other citizen. Many people would probably opt for a higher standard of living through conventional types of work though, but without building empires out of exploiting others. Through the abolition of advertising, middlemen, pointless duplication of effort and waste, there would be plenty of food , shelter, creature comforts and even luxuries to go round, without anybody needing to work more than a few hours a week, unless they wanted to.

The present TV tax in the UK is collected by the govt and then dished out to the BBC, who then use it to make and buy in programming (and to run itself). Much of it goes on the rights to sporting events, films, celebrity presenters, independent production companies etc. Not to ordinary people.


I think you’re right on, Andy. How can we implement this new world?

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Talking about wages is not the same as price fixing

My friend Miguel read the discussion in the online facilitation listserv and decided to note it on his blog rather than reply there, which is fair enough. I do that sometimes.

eme ká eme
Price-fixing and communities of practice.

This week there was an exchange that ended thus:

On 21/06/07, Elissa Perry wrote:

I belong to two other “professional” lists and both have stated in their rules and enforce a no pricing discussion clause as this can be construed as illegal price-fixing.

One group¹s rules state “Rule: 1.5 Please don’t discuss freelance rates on this list, as it potentially violates antitrust/price-fixing laws. This is non-negotiable.”

Another group has a rule which states

“Rule 72b: Anybody who interferes with a free flowing discussion by introducing unnecessary words of caution, calling upon laws of foreign lands and quoting rules from unspecified other groups shall be 1) cautioned 2) banished 3) deported to Australia.”

Andy Roberts

Andy’s quip is worth reading :-). But Elissa had raised an interesting point. Indeed that was not the first time that I have seen debate about freelance prices quashed in a community resource. A printing and pre-press forum is notorious for the squabbles whenever labour issues are raised.

Communities of practice are a queer beast in this sense. They are somewhat of a “vertical labour union” gathering different levels of professionals, often bosses and workers side by side, so they are awkward places to debate the sharing of the spoils.

And, when the members are indeed all independent service providers… they become a prime coordination environment. In the unlikely event of a profession-wide membership (or a membership wide enough to determine prices) it can indeed be perceived as a cartel. Which can be illegal, or not, depending on the country.

I’m glad you liked the quip. I’ll probably blog a reply myself but meanwhile I’d like to say that I view communities of practice as essentially horizontal, not vertical. What practices do managers have in common with workers? Employers have more to discuss with each other, even in competitive corporations, as do workers of the same trade regardless of who they work for. So I would think it perfectly reasonable for practitioners who organise together in communities to discuss pay and conditions.
The confusion with price fixing cartels of the rich and powerful is not helpful, nor ever likely to be applicable.

( Read Miguel’s further comment on his site )

The mention of deportation to Australia, by the way, for readers unaquainted with UK history is a reference to the Tolpuddle Matryrs, who were dealt with such in the 1830s precisely for organising a combination of agricultural workers against poverty wages in the rural economy.

In response to another post, I wrote:

I would reject the idea that a group of people disclosing
their individual pay rates could constitute a cartel. Monopolies which
seek to inflate profits through artificial price fixing of commodities
and workers seeking to ascertain a going rate let alone a decent
living wage, are two very different scenarios.
The issuing of warnings about implausible legal ramifications is not a
neutral action, however well meant. For a start, there is the
question of which counry’s legal system, if any, holds sway over
different individuals. Presumably the people who would urge caution
would logically need to take the laws of the most repressive state
represented in this international group, and quel the discussion down
to a level which complies with the most draconion of legal systems.

It can’t be illegal in many places in the world simply for folks to
talk to each other, and if that were to be the case then the best
attitude to take is not to voluntarily export such repression onto the
internet, but to secure new freedoms there.

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Thanks for reading Andy Roberts articles about Politics on the DARnet Blog