Austerity and hope in South Shields

I’ve never been to South Shields. In fact, I’ve never been to the north of England at all. Well, Manchester and Hull for h2g2 meets, and Marsden in Yorkshire, where I have family history. But South Shields is much further north than these.

It is a town with a mining history. It is a town with a union history. It is a town with high unemployment. And, according to a lovely profile in the New Statesman, it’s doing pretty well, thank you.

South Shields remains the only parliamentary constituency since the Great Reform Act of 1832 … never to have elected a Conservative MP.


How May Day became a workers’ holiday

May Day is celebrated around the world as a labour holiday. One of the few countries that doesn’t celebrate it is the one where it all began, the USA. The origins of May Day as a workers’ holiday go back to strikes, police brutality, and a miscarriage of justice in the USA of the 1880s.

Interesting reading.


British Bankers (and their wives!) tell you how to save money

In what Melissa McEwan described as “the greatest thing you will ever read“, some London bankers and hedge fund managers (and their wives, because all bankers are straight men, dontchaknow), shared some tips on how to save money. It is absolutely hillarious, well beyond the dreams of parody.

The more money you have in your pocket, the more you will want to spend it. “Stop carrying a wedge of cash around with you,” said the ex-Goldman banker. “It reduces the temptation to tip people so much.”

Yes, because when you’re forced to cut back on your spending, the tipping should be the first to go. Do these people hear themselves? Are they actually asking to be put on a tumbrel?

The comments (both on Shakesville and on the original article) are a dream, too. Here’s my favourite, from Mr. Moneybags:

Kudos on finding that delicate balance between classism and sexism.


Elderly trans* people in Indonesia

I have no idea what it’s like to be a trans* person in Indonesia. According to this report from the BBC, many of them are prostitutes. This can happen when prejudice against trans* people is so harsh that it’s all but impossible for them to get any other job. But it’s not a job for life. And that is why Yulianus Rettoblaut (known as ‘Mami Yuli’) has set up a home which provides food, shelter and skills training for elderly transgender people.


Making Money with User-Generated Content

Very many sites (including the ones I spend most time on), have content which is mainly or entirely generated by the users of the site, not the owners. Does this user-generated content have monetary value? Or any other kind of value?

Nick Reynolds, who used to moderate h2g2 when it was owned by the BBC, offers two interesting essays on the values such content has:

Facebook, for example, is in a very different market, financially, to both h2g2 and Stack Exchange. And Wikimedia isn’t interested in financial considerations at all.

Incidentally, over on h2g2, Mr606 points out that the financial figures Nick mentions for Twitter are lower than reality: they have been massaged so that Twitter can declare its profits in Ireland instead of in the UK.


Hans Rosling makes data sing

Over on the blog of Tullamore Toastmasters I posted some videos of the Swedish Professor of Public Heath, Hans Rosling, whose statistics are fascinating, insightful, and, ultimately, encouraging. The world is in many ways better than we might have thought it was. (The world isn’t only healthier than we might have thought; it’s also a lot less violent.)


Mitt Romney, tax, and morality

[Mitt Romney] evidently does not recognise that a system that taxes speculation at a lower rate than hard work distorts the economy.

Writining in The Guardian, Joseph Stiglitz makes a compelling case that a modern economy depends on both tax and perceived fairness. Large-scale tax avoidance undermines public trust in the fairness of politics, and thereby breaks down the whole system.