KONY 2012 · 8 March 2012, 17:35

(also, some additional info)

— Jay Pettitt


The one where everyone was was the same · 24 February 2012, 07:06

Dear BBC, if you’re going to host Question Time debates, can you please make sure that a range of views expressed, lest nonsense goes unchallenged.

Take Workfare.

Apparently it’s voluntary. And it is, in the sense that you can choose not to do it and lose your benefits. Which sounds a lot like a compulsion to me. It’s that special sort of duplicitous use of nice sounding words like ‘voluntary’ that only Tories could come up with. And the guy from UKIP. And the woman from the Daily Telegraph.

Rule of thumb: use words that are a close match for what you’re describing. Don’t torture unrelated words to fit. Workfare is a mandatory programme.

Apparently there’s a 50% success rate too. Awesome! Except that figure isn’t what you think it is. 50% of JSA claimants who attend Workfare stop claiming within 1 year of signing on. Compared to the norm of, wait for it, 60%.

Apparently the Department for Work and Pensions studied Workfare in the US and found it to be a great success and so brought it here. Really? Here’s what DWP’s report actually says.

“There is little evidence that workfare increases the likelihood of finding work. It can even reduce employment chances by limiting the time available for job search and by failing to provide the skills and experience valued by employers.”

“Workfare is least effective in getting people into jobs in weak labour markets where unemployment is high.”

“Welfare recipients with multiple barriers often find it difficult to meet obligations to take part in unpaid work. This can lead to sanctions and, in the most extreme cases, the complete withdrawal of benefits that leaves some individuals with no work and no income.”

— Jay Pettitt


I'm worried about Dear Esther · 13 February 2012, 11:20

As far as I can tell, there’s nothing inherently awful about computer games. No reason why they shouldn’tt aspire to be something all-together less embarrassing and shameless than 4th rate Steven Seagal action flicks. But for some reason, with fleetingly few exceptions, that’s all you get.

Dear Esther, is rather different.

It’s an experiment in psychology, story telling and interaction hatched in a laboratory at Portsmouth University that is being revived for re-release tomorrow. Dear Esther 2.0 has been reimagined, remastered and generally buffed and polished all over.

In it’s original incarnation it was a minor revelation: a strangely affecting radio play about loss, told in 3D, that only made you wish you had hands – so you could reach out and touch it – to affirm and connect with its bleak physicality. You didn’t play it, rather Dear Esther played mind games with you. The result was a small work of digital art. A first person poem.

But perhaps it was a stroke of luck? An anomalous result, contaminated by a bit of chance brilliance? Can the experiment be successfully repeated?

I’m nervous.

The original had some rough edges for sure, but that hardly mattered. The real world isn’t carefully polished – it is full of disease, disappointments and hard falls – it’s not always meticulously crafted for your convenience and satisfaction. Indeed, that’s just what Dear Esther was, if anything, about. Life is rough around the edges.

Esther set itself apart in a way because it felt like that real world, not a trite fantasy adventure land. The caves in Dear Esther were convincingly carved into the granite landscape by the toil of water and geology over millennia, not by an imaginative set artist. These caves weren’t made for you, you weren’t supposed to be there. That’s an important distinction.

Such mystery and inhospitable atmosphere that helped make Dear Esther a genuinely unique and memorable experience could so easily be lost to traditional ideas about good user centric design.

More than anything though, I’m curious. I’m itching to see whether Dear Esther was a fluke or if it really did know how to deliberately and methodically play games with my mind.

— Jay Pettitt


Dogs do random walks, climate doesn't · 5 January 2012, 10:39

This is brilliant.

So is this.

— Jay Pettitt


Government. Fail. · 10 December 2011, 14:42

As quickly as I can, some first principles for background:

Governments underwrite the Finance Market using the public purse. In return for this arrangement Governments win the right of oversight and regulation. This is the fundamental, legal and ethical basis for the relationship between Government and the Financial Sector.

During the 1980s, Financial Sectors across the globe argued that liberalised finance markets (a nicer way of saying de-regulated) would better serve the public interest through greater tax receipts. Modern finance systems were more sophisticated and safer anyway, it was argued, and the need for regulation and oversight was less. In this globalised era Finance and Banking regulation is negotiated internationally via treaties made in Switzerland known as Basal 1, 2 and now 3.

Freed from regulation and oversight, but with a safety net provided by the public, the Finance sector played fast and loose and in 2008 crashed. Big time. The crash was so severe it threatened, and still threatens, to bankrupt entire national economies. Domestic governments were forced to take on massive loans in bail outs and to underwrite quantitative easing measures in order to sure up the Finance Market.

As a result of the interest on these emergency loans the UK went from having the lowest public sector deficit of the G8 economies under a self imposed limit set by the Treasury under Gordon Brown in the last Government to one of the highest.

The present Lib/Tory coalition government in the UK faces the unenviable task of having to balance the books. It has two choices. A fire sale of public services or imposing a Tobin tax on the Financial sector so that the Banks pay back the loans made to it from the public purse.

The latter may seem fairer, and also has advantages of curbing the incentives to make reckless financial transactions that caused the 2008 crash but the government is choosing, primalrily, the former. Without international agreement, imposing a financial tax in the UK would leave it vulnerable to Financial Sector abandoning the City of London as the premiere location of Europe’s finance markets and setting up elsewhere – taking its tax receipts with it. International agreement could take years or even decades to negotiate. One of George Osbourne’s first tasks as Chancellor was to kick prospects of new financial regulation Banking reform in the UK into the long grass.

Rush forward to December 8th 2011. The European Union, faced with a deepening crisis, has risen to the challenge in double quick time and agreed to measures that would see common EU Tobin Tax on Financial Transactions of 0.05% (though technically it would be optional – but you would have to be dizzy to say no) – raising the funds needed to safeguard public services from the consequences of the 2008 crisis and to invest in economic growth needed to take us out of stagnation and possible recession and economic depression.

Surely an offer too good to refuse?

There’s one last problem. The City of London (the square mile city-state in the heart of London) doesn’t want to pay a Financial Transaction tax. With an EU wide agreement it would have had no choice – no bargaining chip to threaten Westminster, but it has one last ace up its sleeve. The City of London pays more than 50% of the Conservative Party’s funds.

Parliament may not have jurisdiction in the square mile, but with the Tories in power The City certainly certainly has power over us.

So slash and burn it is. With an added twist of isolation from the rest of Europe. Osbourne and Cameron have decided to protect their paymasters in the finance sector while the real economy – the Public Sector, Private sector and the Tax Payer face a decade of hardship and misery. And the Euro-zone rescue package is undermined by the absence of input from Europe’s largest financial centre. It’s hard to imagine a clearer example of the 1% vs the 99%.

This isn’t Austerity. It’s robbery. You, dear reader, have been had.

— Jay Pettitt