Thursday, March 18, 2010

March Snippets

Striking Distance

Today's Metro (p23) has the story British Airways 'rushing through' strike breakers, with Unite claiming that the replacement cabin crew have had insufficient training. I don't buy that, they'll have had more than most budget airlines, though perhaps not as much as the usual BA crew - who are extremely competent but frankly overqualified for a glorified waitressing job. Yes, there are things that can go wrong on a flight, and the earliest stewardesses had to be registered nurses, but their safety impact is minimal on a modern airliner - so long as the pilot knows his stuff and the maintenance is correct, there's not much difference from a train: a bunch of bored people sitting around in cramped seats.

Striking resemblance

Meanwhile, this looks set to be the first international strike, with support from the US, Germany, France and (I believe) Australia for their Unite brothers and sisters. The BBC story contains:
US union leader James Hoffa said: "Whatever we have to do, we will do."
That's either a remarkable coincidence, or he's some relation to Jimmy Hoffa. Indeed, Wikipedia suggests that he's the only son of Jimmy Hoffa. It seems that even the most hardcore left-wingers are as prone to nepotism and keeping it in the family as the aristocratic capitalists they claim to provide an alternative to. Then again, we don't need to look much further than our own cabinet to see two brothers, a husband and wife and the son of Tony Benn as clear and present evidence of political dynasties - and let's not forget Jack Dromey (Mr Harriet Harman) being parachuted into a safe seat for the 2010 election.

Going off the rails

Next to the BA story in today's Metro, p22 is a full-page ad from Network Rail's Chief Executive - Iain Croucher - imploring the RMT to negotiate over signal strikes at Easter. I'm vaguely suspicious that the turnout multiplied by the voting ratio means that 50.05% of eligible RMT staff support the strike, but it could be a coincidence.

This is another rather daft strike. The RMT are claiming, as usual, that the Spanish Practices they've managed to accumulate since the age of steam is somehow conducive to running a 21st century railway. It beggars belief that rail maintenance workers are employed Monday-Friday when the work is done at night, on weekends and over bank holidays.

Plus ├ža change

It seems that the French TV 'torture gameshow' has ruffled some feathers. I don't know why. It's just a jazzed-up version of the Milgram Experiment - one of the key results from experimental psychology. Derren Brown re-ran the as part of his show The Heist and replicated the results. Starting in 1961, Stanley Milgram's work essentially proved that ordinary, good people could be made to kill by even extremely weak instruction from authority figures. Before the experiment, psychologists had predicted that <0.1% of people would go all the way; in reality around half did.

With memories of WW2 still recent, this all but demolished the notion that the Germans were "bad people" - they were, as Eichmann's defence claimed, just following orders, and everyone else would have complied in much the same way.

Of course, that's an uncomfortable notion for most people, and a typical response to cognitive dissonance is to shoot the messenger. Bad luck, France2.

- KoW

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