Monday, January 20, 2014

Parasite Street: see how subsidies to the rich cost us 54x as...

Parasite Street: see how subsidies to the rich cost us 54x as much as benefit fraud #benefitsstreet

Parasite Street: see how subsidies to the rich cost us 54x as...

Via Tumbler.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

The Truth About #Immigration ? Not From The #BBC ...

The BBC Documentary on Tuesday night - 'The Truth About Immigration' - was hardly that.

Fronted by current Political Editor Nick Robinson, the program addressed the issue with rather a broad brush - but then it was only a 1 hour show, far too little time to cover the biggest issue on every politicians lips.

It was certainly well put together technically, but it's such a shame that Robinson spent so much time on the vox populi. The program spend a great deal of it's airtime examining the British population's misconceptions of the immigrant population, even managing to find one Hampshire man who was certain that 75% of the population North of Birmingham were not British-born. Strange that it went on to focus on public opinion polls fuelled by those very same misconceptions.

The blame for the current situation was laid firmly and squarely - but correctly - at the door of the Blair Labour Government, which made the decision - described as the most momentous political decision in the last 20 years - to allow free unrestricted entry to those from the former Eastern Bloc nations wishing to come to the UK. Jack Straw, the former Home Secretary, and former Cabinet Secretary Lord Gus O'Donnell fought their corners well, effectively passing the blame on to the Home Office staff who's research had fed the decision.

I certainly would have liked to hear more from current Politicians: What most people wanted to hear was not 'How we got here' but 'What now?'. The only current Party Leader really featured was Nigel Farage of UKIP, a party with no Westminster seats, who was generously given unchallenged screen time, a great deal of it in a relatively short program - a criticism usually levelled at BBC's 'Question Time'.

The main issue here is the choice of presenter. The Beeb is often accused of Left-Wing bias, but Nick Robinson balances that out nicely. A former President of the Oxford University Conservative Association and of the Conservative Party Youth Group, he has stated that his affiliation with the Conservative Party 'per se' ended a while ago, his alignment with Tory views is all too often on show.

"Immigration is good for the country. The economy gets wealthier. We all get richer", he was postulating, followed by "Are we now in danger of ignoring the upsides of Immigration [for the nation as a whole]?". I think you won't find many relatively lower-paid workers seeing those upsides.

Robinson closed by stating that "Perhaps now is the time for that frank, honest open discussion we've really never had.". It is indeed. But this wasn't it.

The Truth About Immigration? No.

An opening salvo by the Government in the fight for UKIP voters? Almost certainly. With Nick Robinson on lead vocals.

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

A Girl Called @MsJackMonroe - A Working Chef's Opinion ... (She's Damn Good) ...

If you're into food, or politics, or both, you can't have failed to notice Jack Monroe.

She's a writer, journalist, chef and food poverty campaigner (for Oxfam and Child Poverty Action Group) in the UK who has gained a big profile for, initially, her ultra-cheap recipes, followed by her media appearances campaigning on various social issues, and more recently her stern defence of criticisms from those who try to shoot her down.

She was forced to leave her employment with the Fire Service as their inflexible working arrangements meant it became rather difficult to care for her child. On benefits, she did what many people suggest those on very low incomes should do - she became very crafty in the kitchen. I mean, *really* clever.

Nowadays she's not so poor. Her media career (with The Guardian and The Independant, among others) has blossomed, she has 30,000+ followers on Twitter and she remains resolutely grounded. But recently, various critics have been taking shots at her, mainly from publications on the Right Wing of politics - after all, "who does this Left Wing, Tattooed Lesbian Single Mother Amateur Chef think she is?" It seems there are those commentators who just can't see past her inkwork, her sexual preference or her politics.

Who is she? I'll tell you. She's a well educated and articulate person who is fighting various social injustices, by stating her strong political views in a convincing fashion. And unlike many, she's been there and lived it (and she would have bought the t-shirt if she had any spare money.)

Oh, and she's a damn clever cook. I was asked recently if I'd heard of her ('Of course') and if she was actually any good as a chef ('Yup, damn good'). So here's one of her simple, cheap recipes, for an excellent veggie curry, with a few comments from myself, afterwards.

The Sainsburys tinned Veg Curry she used as inspiration - oh, man, do people really pay money for that? It looked like the worst kind of baby food. With her recipe, Jack's first thought - to dispose of most of those ingredients - is bang on. Who can taste 35 ingredients? Keep it simple.

Out in February
I might have pre-soaked the lentils, I can't see whether she did or not. With some brands, though, you don't need to. Tinned potatoes? Nothing wrong with them at all, a very cheap and useful store cupboard ingredient, and a real lifesaver on occasions. Using own-brand pre-cooked frozen veg? Why not. Very cheap, and who knows? I'd not worry about the mustard, though, personally I don't think the flavour would come through anyway, although to be honest she only used about 4p worth.

The dish that Jack cooked probably cost less than the tinned version, was far more nutritious, much bigger (would have served 3, easily), and way tastier. And at a guess I reckon it probably took between 8 and 12 minutes. That's pretty much a win all round.

But what I like about Jack Monroe is her instincts. She has a natural 'feel' for food, an intuition for quantities and method, a smartness for what will work and what wont (probably honed sharp after a long time having to get it right). She remains totally unpretentious and enthusiastic about sticking to her culinary principles despite her change in circumstances.

Her food is simple, cheap, tasty and very easy. Often the best food is.

You can follow Jack at @MsJackMonroe on Twitter and her site is at

#Ubuntu #Linux Upgrading - Why It's Better To Wait ...

13.10 - Do you actually *need* it?
As official support for 13.04 'Ringtail' ends soon and Canonical encourage users to upgrade, I tweeted earlier today that users should *not* upgrade to 13.10 'Salamander'. So let me explain why, seeing as I've had a lot of requests.

Ubuntu releases come in two 'flavours' : Regular and LTS

Regular releases are rather short-term - six-monthly, to be precise, in April and October, hence the .4 and .10 designations. Yes, 13.10 comes *after* 13.4.

Sure, upgrade if you want, to get new features - but if you examine the Release Notes for the new version and don't see anything there that will totally rock your world, then why upgrade? You many end up losing settings or introducing a new program version that won't play nicely with others.

LTS releases, however, are different. Canonical decided that every fourth release, issued on a two-year basis, would receive this long-term support, and *this* is where you want to upgrade. This is where major changes occur - any other releases are generally tweaks. The next LTS is 14.04 - that's only 3 months away. You can wait that long.

I'm currently very happy with 12.04 'Pangolin' - which is fully supported until 2017. That's a long way off. Come April, yes, I'll jump to 14.04 'Tahr', because it has a few features I want, and it's supported until 2019.

If It Ain't Broke ....