Friday, October 10, 2008

How the hippies turned into their parents

They were the generation of free love, mind-expanding drugs and a contempt for all things conventional. Yet as old age approaches for the hippies, rebellion now tends to be the last thing on their mind. Their retirement years are likely to be spent pursuing home improvements, saving for holidays and going for long walks, a study suggests.

They will be richer than their parents were because of decades of rising house prices - but much of their extra money will go on subsidising children and grandchildren.

The main thing which sets them apart is that they will still be playing the same old music they liked when they were young, according to the Government- funded research. The paper, published by the Economic and Social Research Council, suggests that the baby-boom children born between the end of the Second World War and the mid-1950s still think of themselves as young. But they are beginning to behave in much the same way as did their parents.

'Most members of the baby-boom generation - once the first teenagers of a more affluent consumer society - have modest ideas for their retirement,' said the report. 'Most maintain a traditional pattern - watching films and television, playing records or going for long walks.' The study, based on evidence from existing large-scale surveys and detailed interviews with 150 people approaching retirement age, was led by Dr Rebecca Leach of Keele University. It said there was 'only limited evidence that first-wave boomers are developing new third-age lifestyles'.

Dr Leach said: 'Most have fairly modest aspirations, hoping at best to maintain current lifestyles and activities provided health and finances permit them to do so. 'The range of lifestyles is greater than would have been the case with previous generations but there is little evidence of alternative models of consumption.' She said the surveys showed that only around one in 20 of the hippie generation now uses the alternative medicines which were the height of fashion in the 1970s.

Rather than following alternative lifestyles, the baby boomers are the generation obsessed with their houses, the report said. The explosion in home ownership since the 1950s means a third own their homes outright, half have mortgages and one in six have second homes. 'Home improvements form a significant part of boomer lifestyles,' the report said. 'So does increasing value of homes, especially in terms of using housing to fund retirement.'

The harm done to expectations of income from their homes by the credit crunch adds to other financial pressures that early generations did not have. Four out of ten of those in their late 50s still have children living at home. More than a third are also supporting grandchildren, for example by paying for childcare, and around half spend some time or money caring for their own parents.


Vicious metric law enforcement in Britain

Market trader gets a criminal record for selling fruit and veg by the pound

A market trader was convicted yesterday of selling fruit and vegetables using imperial measures - even though the EU says it should not be an offence. Metric martyr Janet Devers, 64, said she had been made a 'scapegoat' after being sentenced for selling goods on her market stall in pounds rather than kilos. The mother of two fought back tears as she was ordered by magistrates to pay almost $10,000 in costs and told she would have a criminal record after being found guilty of eight offences under the Weights and Measures Act.

As part of the landmark case, the greengrocer was also convicted of selling vegetables for $2 a bowl rather than counting them out individually - a practice commonplace amongst Britain's 40,000 market traders who use bowls to help customers baffled by grams and kilograms. Now the pensioner, from Wanstead, East London, faces financial ruin as the costs of fighting the case could see her lose her market stall in nearby Dalston. It has been in the family for more than 60 years since her mother Irene Hunt became one of the first woman to run a stall in the East End during the Blitz.

The verdict, which has outraged campaigners, comes a year after EU said it would no longer force Britain to adopt the metric system of weights and measures. It became illegal to sell any goods in Britain in non-metric weights and measures under the EU's compulsory metrication policy in 2000. In September last year, Gunther Verheugen, European Commission vice president for enterprise and industry, said Brussels never intended to criminalise those who sold in pounds and ounces. But the laws under which Mrs Devers was prosecuted are still on the UK statute books.

Just a few days after Mr Verheugen made his remarks trading standards officials from Hackney Council, supported by two police officers, arrived at Mrs Devers's market stall to confiscate two sets of imperial, non-metric scales.

Today, at Thames Magistrates' Court, in the first UK prosecution since the EU ruling, she was convicted of using imperial scales without an official stamp and selling scotch bonnet peppers, okra, pak choi and peppers in bowls for $2 without giving the quantity or weight of produce in the bowl.

The pensioner was given a two-year conditional discharge, although magistrates accepted that she was only trying to offer customers value for money. Dr Patrick Davies, chairman of the bench, said: 'We note that you said you were doing this in the interests of your customers, although you ought to have known you were breaking the law in doing so.'

Outside court Mrs Devers said: 'I'm incredibly worried about my financial future. I can't believe they prosecuted me for something that every market trader in London - in the UK - is doing. I've been made a scapegoat. 'The fact that they have given me a conditional discharge just shows that they think it is a big mistake to take me to court. 'Having a criminal record means I can't go and see my cousins in America. My daughter wants to go and live out there which means I might not see her. It's farcical.'

A spokesman for Hackney Council said: 'We are satisfied with the outcome of this case, but regret that legal action is required. It would have been much better if Mrs Devers had complied with the law 18 months ago.'


$340,000 a year is spent on an Afghan single mother... A story that sums up the howling insanity of modern Britain

One person who will not be losing any sleep over the impact of the financial crisis is Toorpakai Saiedi, an Afghan mother of seven living in West London and receiving $340,000 a year in benefits. While millions worry about the prospect of losing their jobs, their homes, their savings and their pensions, she is luxuriating in a $2.4 million double-fronted, seven-bedroom Edwardian villa - her staggering rent of more than $24,000 a month picked up by the British taxpayer. Ealing Council has a statutory duty to find accommodation for the family. But because it didn't have anything big enough on its books, it approached a private letting agent - and then agreed a rent five times the going rate.

Saiedi says: 'It's like winning the lottery. It's a lot of money but the council pay it.' This incredible 'Local Housing Allowance' was calculated under new rules introduced in April and is supposed to reflect the market rate, the claimant's income and the number of people living in the house. It's all explained in a leaflet printed in English, Polish, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Gujarati, Punjabi, Somali, Urdu, Vietnamese, Welsh and scribble. I can't even understand the one written in English. Nor work out how they arrived at a rent of 12,458 pounds - when a comparable property in the same street was recently let for 2,500 pounds.

But Mrs Saiedi isn't complaining and neither is her lucky landlord, Ajit Panesar, who is getting the same kind of return from a refugee living in a scruffy suburb as the Duke of Westminster would receive from a maharajah leasing a mansion in Mayfair.

If ever a single news story summed up the howling insanity of Brown's Britain, this surely has to be it. It's difficult to decide on what precise level this lunacy is most outrageous. After the Afghan aircraft hijackers landed at Stansted in 2000, I wrote that in five years' time, they'd still be here. Who could have guessed then that eight years on there would be an estimated 75,000 Afghans in Britain. That's just those we know about. It is not recorded how many of them are working, paying taxes and contributing to the economy and how many, like the Saiedi clan, are living off the State.

Around the time of the hijack, I even invented a spoof game show called ASYLUM!, which is still doing the rounds on the internet. The premise was that all you needed to do was turn up in Britain, utter the magic word 'asylum' and you would be shown directly to a council house and showered with benefits. It was supposed to be a joke, not a template for government. But that is pretty much what Labour's open- door, no-questions-asked immigration policy has amounted to.

We all accept that Britain has a responsibility to take in some of the world's genuine refugees. But the reason we get more than our fair share is because we are both a soft touch and an international laughing stock.

Let me make it clear, I don't blame anyone for coming here to make a better life. But I can't help wondering: if it were not for the lavish benefits on offer how many would bother, when they would clearly be happier in a country with which they were more culturally aligned. It's not the fault of immigrants, or even those international terrorists who set up shop here, that they are allowed to take advantage of our perverse welfare and legal system. It is the fault of those who make the rules and decide how they should be enforced - or not, as the case may be.

Mass immigration is one of the main reasons we have a housing crisis. Council stock has run out. And with local authorities prepared to pay $25,000 a month to private landlords to house an eight-strong family of Afghans, what chance has a local young couple got of ever finding reasonably-priced accommodation?

Given that the explanatory leaflet is printed in so many different languages, it is probably right to assume that the council expects the overwhelming demand for housing benefit to come from foreign nationals....

I sometimes think there are two Britains - one where most of us live and another which the government runs. In this parallel public sector universe, the party never ends. I'm sure the benefit office didn't think twice about doling out $2,500 a month to house the Saiedis. After all, it's not their money. And there's never been any indication that the tap is going to be turned off. The public sector is awash with money. Gordon Brown has hosed them down with our hard-earned cash. Government spending has more than doubled in the past ten years.

And when it looked as if the money was going to run out, Gordon just went on a borrowing spree - which is one of the reasons the International Monetary Fund says Britain is uniquely ill-equipped to cope with the credit crunch.

Officially, there are another 800,000 on the public payroll under Labour, but add in those 'working' for quangos and you can bet it's well over a million. The Guardian jobs supplement yesterday was again offering the usual exciting range of opportunities for 'cluster managers' and 'support facilitators' - salaries up to 86,000 pounds and one for yourself. One in five now works for the State. Not for them the harsh economic realities of the private sector, protected as they are by their taxpayer-funded, gold-plated pensions and index-linked pay packets.

While firms go to the wall every day, there's never any suggestion of clearing out the inefficient, eye-wateringly expensive, unproductive legions of supernumeraries cluttering up town halls and government offices. They spend their days dreaming up new ways to interfere in our lives and waste our money. Any hint that there may have to be economies and Labour, the unions and the BBC start screaming about ' schools'n'ospitals' and 'Tory cuts' and the proposals are quietly abandoned.

At the Conservative conference, George Osborne said that to help people out in difficult times, increases in council tax - which has doubled under Labour - should be capped at 2 per cent. Capped? It should be cut by at least 50 per cent. Councils, predictably, went berserk and said they wouldn't co-operate. They have become addicted to spending and have been encouraged by a profligate government which thinks that at a time of unprecedented economic uncertainty it's a good idea to pay an Afghan family $340,000 a year in benefits so they can live in a house way beyond both their means and their wildest dreams. Your best bet for beating the credit crunch is getting a job in government or claiming to be an Afghan asylum seeker.

In the words of Toorpakai Saiedi: 'It's like winning the lottery.' And she didn't even have to buy a ticket. We are all going to hell in a handcart.



By Richard Rahn

Are all too many in the global political class doltish, or do they just appear that way? The current financial meltdown has revealed an amazing number of revelations from people who were surprised by the obvious.

For years, liberal Democrats in Congress and some Republicans pushed for banks and other institutions to make home loans to unqualified borrowers, and suddenly we find many of these people cannot repay their loans.

The reaction from members of Congress, like the "surprised" Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is to demand investigation of "greedy bankers," while ignoring the fact that it was her left-wing colleagues who created the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) that required the banks to lend to people who were poor credit risks in the name of "housing rights." A Chicago "public interest" lawyer named Barack Hussein Obama was active in this movement.

A majority of members of Congress seemed to be surprised that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac became insolvent when many of the subprime mortgages they had been pressured to buy (by members of their oversight committees such as Barney Frank and Chris Dodd) became nonperforming.

Some members of Congress (including John McCain) did try to pass legislation to limit the size of Fannie and Freddie, but it was blocked by - surprise, surprise - Rep. Frank and Sens. Dodd, Charles Schumer, Barack Hussein Obama, who just happened to have taken major contributions from Freddie and Fannie.

Mr. Obama was particularly surprised when some charged that his nonsupport of the reform legislation might have had something to do with the fact he was the second-largest recipient of campaign donations from Fannie Mae over the last three years. Oh my, how could we possibly think such a thing?

It only gets worse. Most members of Congress seemed surprised that voters think the huge campaign contributions many of them received from Fannie and Freddie might have something to do with the now all too apparent lack of congressional oversight of the two mortgage giants.

The endlessly surprised Mrs. Pelosi ranted against the "privatization of profits and the socialization of costs" in Fannie and Freddie. She must have forgotten that Fannie and Freddie was created and overseen by Congress, and staffed by political appointees (former Fannie CEO Franklin Raines was Bill Clinton's budget chief), and had an implicit (and now explicit) guarantee from the federal government.

Alan Greenspan seems to have been surprised to find out that when he kept interest rates below the rate of inflation, banks over-borrowed and were less careful as to how they lent or invested the money. This "surprise" occurred despite the fact many warned of the consequence.

Former and thoroughly disgraced New York Attorney General and Gov. Eliot Spitzer and his political supporters seemed to have been surprised to learn the company would run into difficulty when they forced out the very able and highly regarded Hank Greenberg as head of AIG (the world's largest insurance company) - on bogus charges of criminality (which have now been dismissed by the courts) - and saddled the company with less competent management and unwarranted huge fines.

Rather than protect AIG stockholders, the government raped them.

Political officials outside the United States are also endlessly surprised. For instance, the Russian prime minister seems to be surprised that the Russian stock market has fallen to half its value in May - just because Vladimir Putin has eroded the legal and property rights of private firms, invaded Georgia, and threatened other countries and outside investors.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown seems surprised that businesses and international business people are fleeing London just because he increased their taxes. He also seems to be surprised the flight has hurt the British economy.

The French, German, Italian and leaders of other high-tax states seem to be endlessly surprised that their citizens will go to great lengths to put their money in less punitive and higher growth economies elsewhere, despite increasing attempts to punish them for looking out for their own self-interest.

Predictable surprises to come: Mr. Obama, if elected, will be greatly "surprised" that his increased taxes on capital gains, businesses and higher-income individuals result in less revenue for government because of the downturn in economic activity and job loss that results from his tax increases.

Michigan's Democratic Sen. Carl Levin and his colleagues, including Mr. Obama, who are supporting greater restrictions on U.S. investment abroad and higher taxes on U.S.-based international companies, will be very "surprised" when their actions cause not less but more capital flight from the United States and more businesses to move or be formed outside the United States.

Some politicians are "surprised" at the obvious because they are ignorant. However, many more are "surprised" because immediate gratification, whether applause or votes, is more important to them than being responsible, and others are "surprised" because they are just plain corrupt.

Being "surprised by the obvious" happens in democratic countries because the media are too fearful, ignorant or biased to ask the tough questions beforehand, and because the population doesn't understand the second-order effects of political actions.

In the private sector, those with fiduciary responsibilities can be fined or even sent to jail if they are surprised by the obvious. Given the great suffering caused by the fiscal mismanagement by the political class, should not the private sector penalties apply to them?



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, OBAMA WATCH (2), EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.


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