Shorter working day = happier, healthier workers

May 20, 2016

An experiment in Sweden seems to indicate that a reduction of 2 hours to the working day leaves workers “brimming with energy” and has “sharply reduced absenteeism, and improved productivity and worker health”.

Nurses at the Svartedalens retirement home have worked six-hour days on an eight-hour salary. They’re part of an experiment funded by the Swedish government to see if a shorter workday can increase productivity. The conclusion? It does.

Arturo Perez, a caregiver at the retirement home, used to come home frazzled from work.  His eight-hour stretches of tending to residents with senility or Alzheimer’s would leave him sapped with little time to spend with his three children.  But life changed when Svartedalens was selected for a Swedish experiment about the future of work. In a bid to improve well-being, employees were switched to a six-hour workday last year with no pay cut. Within a week, Mr. Perez was brimming with energy, and residents said the standard of care was higher.

“What’s good is that we’re happy,” said Mr. Perez, a single father. “And a happy worker is a better worker.”

The experiment at Svartedalens mandating a 30-hour week seems to have worked wonders. An audit published in mid-April concluded that the program in its first year had sharply reduced absenteeism, and improved productivity and worker health.  Daniel Bernmar, leader of the Left party on Gothenburg’s City Council, which is running the trial and hopes to make it the standard, said:

““We’ve had 40 years of a 40-hour workweek, and now we’re looking at a society with higher sick leaves and early retirement.  We want a new discussion in Sweden about how work life should be to maintain a good welfare state for the next 40 years.”

But not everyone in Gothenburg sees it as a success.  If Gothenburg, let alone Sweden, were to adopt a six-hour workday, opponents say, the economy would suffer from reduced competitiveness and strained finances.

Maria Rydén, Gothenburg’s deputy mayor and a member of the opposition Moderates party, says bluntly: ““We can’t pay people to not work.”  Which, on first glance, seems obvious.  But think about it: why can’t we people not to work?  Because companies else where would undercut us?  Well, no, if they also adopted this freer, healthier way of doing things.

The world is so in love with Capitalism, and with the idea of buying workers’ labour as cheaply as possible, it dare not imagine alternatives.  Because Capitalism has been the system for so long, it must continue, say its advocates.  That same way of thinking would ultimately claim that feudalism and slavery are the right way to run the economy as they survived for many hundreds of years.

We need a radical rethink about these matters.  Or we will continue to be slaves to the Capitalist economy that sees individuals as units of work-hours to be exploited as efficiently as possible.  Why don’t we live in the long-heralded science fiction utopia where increasing mechanisation frees us up to enjoy ourselves?  The robots exist.  But it is easier to hire, exploit and fire human workers who have few employment rights.

Maybe it would be good if Skynet took over.  At least they don’t pretend that we are equal to them.  Our managers like to make out that we’re all in it together.  What a joke.


How to defeat tear-gas in a riot

May 18, 2016

Tear gas is a right PITA.  Not only does get into your lungs, causing inability to breathe etc, it’s also a skin irritant, to make any contaminated skin experience pain on the discomfort spectrum.  Lips, mouth, nostrils and nose, all mucous membranes will hurt.  So how’s a standard protestor (or revolutionary) supposed to evade this shite?

The simple answer is: you can’t evade it (unless you’re an armchair revolutionary).  You have to accept the possible dangers, and hopefully find a work-around.

A full NBC suit would be cool.  Except they’re not easy to find, they’re expensive, and if you turn up at a demo wearing one the snatch landrovers will target you.  So, you need a covert “NBC” outfit.

tear-gas-in-a-riot

  • DO NOT PANIC!  Everyone’s gonna be freaked out, blindly running in all directions trying to find a way out of their personal hell.  But you are (somewhat) protected (if you take this guide seriously) so you’re not blind, not panicking (much), everything’s cool so far as you’re concerned (if you’ve taken this guide seriously – FFS take it seriously!).
  • A gas mask (aka “respirator”) will be the best kit to get.  But they’re not cheap, and by wearing one you are marking yourself as a “ring-leader” or some such shit.  Not so bad if you’re wearing a fully accredited press card… the the cops will be busting skulls first, examinating press ID later.  So maybe the respirator will be a problem.  Also, independent bloggers don’t qualify for pass cards.  The world is still playing catch-up with the world of tech.  Stupid world.

    If you already have a gas mask, make sure it is working properly and is correctly fitted. Any masks purchased online or in military surplus stores should be checked by an expert to ensure they work correctly.

    The next best thing after a gas mask is an escape hood, which is cheaper and is not subject to the same export rules.

    You can also use a builder’s respirator that covers your nose and mouth – but make sure that you use appropriate filters. Failing that, a dust mask for DIY and building and airtight goggles will provide some degree of protection

  • Tight-fitting, water-tight swimming goggles will help protect your eyes.  But you’d be best advised to buy them by the box: tear gas will eat away at them, so if you do end up having to use them, get rid of them and find replacements for the next time…
  • DON’T use oil-based creams, sunscreens and make-up; they also absorb tear gas, so avoid wearing these when covering protests where it might be used.
  • Carry a large bandana and a bottle of vinegar.  Soak the bandanna in vinegar before putting it over your nose and mouth to breathe. The combination (although not ‘neutralizing’) will act as a filter to some extent, better than nothing.
  • Wear long-sleeved tops rather than t-shirts, trousers instead of shorts.  Basically, keep exposed skin to a minimum, as tear gas likes fucking with exposed skin.
  • Get upwind or escape to high ground (like a hill or building roof top) – The gas stays low to the ground and high ground may be gas-free.

To write this blog post, I used the following webpages to help in my research:

Check out these sites, I’m sure they’re full of handy hints for the would-be civil disobedient-type.

More on the issue of bloggers and press passes.  It’s next-to-impossible for a blogger to get a press pass, but there nay be ways around this problem.  I’ve thought of one possible solution, if anyone else has an idea please post it up in Comments.

My off-the-top-of-the-head plan:  give “respectable” news producers some great footage.  You can get really high-quality AV equipment relatively cheaply nowadays, and if you offer (not for free, I think) “first use” rights to a news organization, they may at a later time be more amenable to giving you that oh-so-useful pass.  Video important clashes between police and activists, probably focusing on the poor down-trodden folk; interviews with those whose lives have been destroyed by the state.  Stay clear of those “benefits claimants are scroungers let’s kill em all” type shows, maybe focus on BBC News and ITN (producers of Channel 4 News), maybe papers if you trust them (bear in mind that the Guardian have become more and more like govt stooges lately…).  If you provide a channel with front-line coverage, maybe that channel will give you a press pass.  A passport for Sodom and Gomorrah!  My advice: do it!  A reach-around now may give you unfettered access to everything later.  Power to you, dude/dudette!

Good luck!

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Flies

May 17, 2016

Under the blasted tree the horse lies dead,
Its face upturned, eyes black with flies,
Nostrils and lips encrusted
With chitinous, rank coagulate.
The insects crawl on the lolling tongue;
Its belly bloated though two days past
It starved, ribcage protruding.
And here, there, the horse hair parts,
Skin and hidden layers uncoil
As maggots eat their way out
To the wider fly-blown world.

dead-horse-1

image stolen from  www.newmexicobackroads.com


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Ooh ooh another quick post about Dredd (2012)

May 5, 2016

I just thought that anything about Dredd (2012) that doesn’t include Ma-Ma’s long fall to her death from the top of a Megablock while on Slo-Mo is not complete.  So here it is.  Poor Leana Headey – I hope her Game of Thrones death (if Cersei ever does die) is quicker… though it’s kinda hard to tell if Ma-Ma is actually enjoying this fall…

Also, shouldn’t Dredd have failed Anderson because she lost her gun?  She’s told right from the start that  losing her firearm would be an automatic fail.  And letting the computer-whiz kid walk – regardless of his bad treatment etc, he aided and abetted some pretty gruesome and unforgivable crimes… surely he should have got some cube time for that?  Don’t agree with me?  Then don’t suffer in silence… it’s been Web 2.0 since forever, douchebags – use the drokking Comments willya!

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Judge Dredd 2012 -grrrowl or grrreat?

May 2, 2016

Movies based on comics are a big deal nowadays.  So, to show how up-to-the-minute I HATE HATE!!! really is, here’s a review of a 3 years old film!

Back in 2012,  I wrote a post about the then-soon-to-be-released movie Dredd and my thoughts on the concept of a new  Dredd movie, sight unseen.  Although comics producers have far more respect and even control in the movie industry than used to be the case, I still was wary.  The ghost of Sylvester Stallone’s 1995 crap Judge Dredd  had to the struggle with the “A new 2000AD movie?  Cool!” components in my brain.  I ended that piece with a note of wary optimism.  And I was right to be happy (yeah yeah, not so happy that it didn’t take 4 YEARS to write this piece here, but what can I say to placate any comics fans out there?  I got a life beyond I HATE HATE!!! and comics-based movies, y’know?  On second thoughts, you probably don’t know.  But anyway.

“There’s ten of us and only two of you.”

One point in the movie’s favour is the fact that Karl Urban. who plays Dredd, doesn’t take his helmet off once.  The uninitiated probably don’t see the significance in this: but it is a big deal.  in the near-to-40 years of 2000AD history, Dredd has hardly ever been seen by readers with no helmet.  I seem to remember from my childhood days that there was once a picture of him taking a shower with his helmet on!  Comics-illiterate Stallone and his handlers have no understanding of the importance of comics tradition.  But someone in the 2012 Dredd production did see the importance – long-time 200AD Judge Dredd artist Carlos Ezquerra was a co-writer, working with SF movie writer Alex Garland (Ex Machina, 28 Days Later, Sunshine)  – and Karl kept his hat on throughout.  Yay Dredd!

The female eye-candy, Olivia Thirlby, doesn’t wear her helmet at all, but the film creates a plausible-sounding excuse for revealing her face: she’s a “psi” judge, meaning she has telepathic powers, and a helmet would affect her brain waves or whatever. 2000AD enthusiasts will blow holes through this in a second – her character, Cassandra Anderson, in the comics is far older than the movie Anderson, and there is no way a judge like Dredd would be overseeing a psi cadet’s final assessment anyway.  But this is movieland, not 2000AD, so I feel I can forgive Dredd‘s sins much more easily than the Stallone attempt.  And Thirlby is certainly a pleasant-looking “Anderson” rookie.

olivia-thirlby-as-anderson-1

Instead of creating a colossal event that might destroy Mega City one or even the world unless Dredd manages an edge-of-your-seat mission, the viewer gets a sort of “everyday life of a Judge”.  Dredd goes to pick up a wanted perp and ends up in a life-or-death struggle to fight his way out of the Megablock against the forces of the block Queenpin, Ma-Ma (played by Lena Heady, aka Queen Cersei in Game of Thrones)

.  There’s some corruption involving a few judges, a fun,  over-the-top Ma-Ma (her final scene has a wonderful, dreamlike-yet-visceral feel), a lot of gun-play, but no ominous end-of-life-as-we-know-it threat hanging over our valiant heroes. A proper “this is what judges do” kind of film.  Kind of depressed that other 2000AD movies of a similar vein haven’t been made.  Or have they?  Tell us in Comments if you know of any!

dredd-2012-pic

At the London Film and Comic Con in July 2012, Alex Garland claimed he was planning not only a sequel to Dredd but a trilogy! When I read that I emitted a little “ooh” but then remembered the Matrix Trilogy and cried “Nooo…!” like I was a slo-mo addict taking a tumble from the penthouse of a Megablock.  But never fear: in March 2015, Garland said that a direct sequel would likely not happen in the near future, “at least not with the crew involved in the original film.”  Kind of a shame: a Judge Death-related flick could be good, or one about the pro-democracy terrorists (a contemporary idea that might put some real-life proponents of democracy on the spot).  But sequels can kill good ideas (the bloody Matrix, innit?) so let’s leave Dredd alone.  But Strontium Dog, ABC Warriors, Slaine… 2000AD is full of wonderful material that any scriptwriter ought to want to kill for.  In fact, once I’ve finished this blog post I may unearth my 2000AD collection and look for the Next Big Thing!

The rottentomatoes.com page for Dredd is at www.rottentomatoes.com/m/dredd/ and is interesting.  Lots of positive comments.  Lovely.  Dredd was also nominated for a few film prizes, and won a few – see here for details.

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Ken Livingstone: antisemitic? just relating history? or just stupid?

April 29, 2016

Ken Livingstone has been suspended from the Labour Party for making allegedly “antisemitic” statements.  But Livingstone claims that he was not saying anything antisemitic and was only relating historical events when he said Hitler supported Zionism when elected to the leadership of Germany in the 1930s.

So: what did he actually say?  According to the Independent, Livingstone said:

“[Naz Shah] is a deep critic of Israel and its policies. Her remarks were over-the-top but she’s not antisemitic. I’ve been in the Labour party for 47 years; I’ve never heard anyone say anything antisemitic. I’ve heard a lot of criticism of the state of Israel and its abuse of Palestinians but I’ve never heard anyone say anything antisemitic.

“It’s completely over the top but it’s not antisemitism. Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism – this before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews. 

“The simple fact in all of this is that Naz made these comments at a time when there was another brutal Israeli attack on the Palestinians; and there’s one stark fact that virtually no one in the British media ever reports, in almost all these conflicts the death toll is usually between 60 and 100 Palestinians killed for every Israeli. Now, any other country doing that would be accused of war crimes but it’s like we have a double standard about the policies of the Israeli government.”

About the “Hitler supporting Zionism” point (which I have emphasized above):  that’s not an antisemitic statement, it’s about what Hitler said and did “before he went mad”.  Interestingly, in 2015 the prime minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, said that Hitler wanted to deport German Jews to Palestine, and that the  Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, opposed this and told Hitler to kill them instead:

In a speech before the World Zionist Congress in Jerusalem, Netanyahu described a meeting between Husseini and Hitler in November, 1941: “Hitler didn’t want to exterminate the Jews at the time, he wanted to expel the Jew. And Haj Amin al-Husseini went to Hitler and said, ‘If you expel them, they’ll all come here (to Palestine).’ According to Netanyahu, Hitler then asked: “What should I do with them?” and the mufti replied: “Burn them.” [link]

If we are to take Livingstone’s statement as antisemitic, we must also say that Benjamin Netanyahu is an antisemite.  I think it’s ridiculous to claim that the prime minister of Israel has antisemitic views.  The worst that can be said is that Netanyahu, and Livingstone, were incorrect in what they said.

Looking at Livingstone’s statement, he says “Israeli”, not “Jew”.  He is opposed to some of  Israel’s policies.  Why is it that anti-Israeli arguments are equated with antisemitism?  “Israeli” does not mean “Jew” or “Jewish”.  Israel is a nation, whose population consists of members of many (or no) religions.  There are Israeli Arabs, who are Muslim.  There are Israeli Christians.  There are Israeli atheists.  Are these people Jewish?  Of course not.  If you make statements against any of these people are you being antisemitic?  Of course not.

You can look at the Wikipedia article on the “Haavara Agreement”, which basically says the same as Livingstone.  Yes, I know Wikipedia is not the font of truth.  But it does tend to support the suggestion that Livingstone is not antisemitic.

However, it was not very politic to say these things at this time.  And as Livingstone is a politician, he really ought to have known better.


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Canada to legalize cannabis by 2017!

April 24, 2016

Another one bites the dust, eh?  Good on ya, Canada!  And not the namby-pamby “medical marijuana” excuse either – full-on legalisation of recreational use!  Interestingly – surely not coincidentally – the announcement was made on 20 April: an unofficial holiday among cannabis advocates.  Marajuana users celebrated with a spliff outside Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

But what about the UK?  When will Brits be able to relax with a cup of tea and a spliff without worrying about stormtroopers battering the door in and hauling them off to some concentration camp?  When will the UK government grasp the nettle, poo-poo the US federal government’s ridiculous stance on the issue and do what more and more Western-style democracies are doing: leaving users alone and concentrating on real criminals?  Are they worried that if the police delved too deeply into the issue of real crime, they’ll uncover more than a few culprits in the Houses of Parliament?

So: good on ya, Canada!  And Cameron, when are you going to wake up and sniff the roses (while your mates are sniffing something far worse than weed)?

 

Cannabis users celebrating the news with a joint outside Parliament Hill. Image stolen from the BBC.

Cannabis users celebrating the news with a joint outside Parliament Hill. Image stolen from the BBC.


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