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Bits and Pieces May 25, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Bits and Pieces.

This is fascinating, the plume from the Pavlof volcano in the Aleutian Islands off the coast of Alaska as seen from the International Space Station. As Phil Plait notes on Slate, the interesting thing about this is, well, okay, the useful thing, is that you can view objects from an oblique angle giving them both scale and depth. And as he says, it is incredibly dramatic. Look at the way in the first photograph the mountain peak beside the volcano pokes up through the cloud base and in the second how the plume (six kilometres high!) stretches in a curve for… well, I don’t know how far. Plait suggests hundred of kilometres ( and the curve is due to it being blown by the wind ). Stunning stuff.

Meanwhile should you wish to know the answer to the question how many people are in space right now, simply go here.

Funnily enough every time I think of the Aleutian islands I think of this particular aircraft, the Grumman Goose flying boat, for when I was a kid it was synonymous with Aleutian Airways.


Kind of equivocal about the following from 2005 or so. Deep Dish good – and Fleetwood Mac too, come to think of it, but what, if anything, new is brought to the song?

For those who like the 1970s series UFO, strange hybrid Gerry Anderson creation that it was, here are some interviews with the actors of the show. This from George Sewell who played Alec Freeman is almost endearing in the way there’s no pretence that this was other than a job for him. In a world of Cons and internet coverage and so on and a fuzziness between actor and role that’s sort of refreshing. Ed Bishop who had the role of Commander Straker plays the game a bit more. Starlog #55


As is customary, let’s end with a libertarian reference. There was some discussion here recently about the way in which workers have little or no autonomy in workplaces. And what’s this? A piece from the UK based Libertarian Alliance whose overall thrust is in agreement with that idea, even if it scurries off to a utopian position at the end. It’s actually quite an interesting leaflet on Classes, Rights and Interests, even if unfortunately it gets quite a bit wrong in terms of analysis of the left and class.

I noted earlier that capitalists have an advantage over workers in that they can earn more wealth from the productive assets which they control. They also have another advantage in that the sources of their income are more secure. The average wage-earning worker is in an insecure economic position because his entire income depends on supplying one single service to one single customer, namely his employer, and if his job is threatened for some reason, his whole livelihood is threatened. A capitalist, on the other hand, can spread his risks by holding shares in several different companies, which gives him an income from several sources. A capitalist has a further advantage in that he can sell some of his productive assets for cash in the event of some crisis in his life, while a worker cannot sell himself or part of himself into slavery.

The economic insecurity of workers is significant because, in a free market, changes in consumer demand and advances in science and technology mean that the pattern of employment is constantly changing. Old industries are constantly declining and being replaced by new industries, with the result that some jobs disappear and new jobs appear in their place. If, however, a worker’s entire livelihood depends on his present job and he has no alternative source of income, it is very tempting for him to demand state intervention or even resort to violence in order to preserve the present pattern of employment at all costs. This has been demonstrated very clearly by events in the British coal and newspaper industries in the 1980s. A worker who is also a capitalist is in a better position to adapt to economic change because he has the income from his investments to fall back on while he is looking for a new job.

Sadly the author doesn’t draw the obvious conclusion from the above which is that given the dubious merits of the system he proposes why would any worker choose a libertarian right system that would even by his own lights perpetuate such instability and imbalance in regard to power relationships with capitalists. Full marks for trying, though.


1. Que - May 25, 2013

That libertarian piece is food for thought even while disagreeing with conclusion provide some interesting threads to pull on.

Is that written by someone exposed to Marxism or is this someone like the great Indian mathematician Ramunjan recreating maths simply because they don’t know its already done. The asymmetry of the capitalist and the worker is clear enough in that piece and it seems like he says well who could blame the worker for seeking help as their industry declines. Workers have always sought to remove that asymmetry. So the writer sees that but then seems to hint from that piece above the answer might be don’t let capitalists expose the asymmetry too much and sure it’ll work.

He may get the analysis wrong but I really like that piece because its certainly someone who is trying to think through the issue maybe reluctant to use Marxist ideas but certainly wrestling with the idea. Now either he will discover the limits of his approach and use a Marxist shovel to dig himself out or maybe he looks at the problem with a fresh view or interprets the world in a fresh way and maybe then we see ideas that are new to us.

I think i’ll give that piece a gander. It might come short but seems like an honest if incomplete attempt to look at the issue.


WorldbyStorm - May 25, 2013


The Libertarian Alliance is an interesting crew. Sean Gabb, their nominal head, has some actually dismal stuff to say about Ireland, but that’s for another day. I do like the way they try to work through the implications of a libertarian societal setup, something the left is particularly bad at doing.


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