Valerie Yules Letters

February 22, 2011

Reforming our financial system to prevent poverty

Filed under: Political reforms, social problems — Tags: , , , , , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:59 am

The capitalist system rewards providers of capital and labour for their entrepreneurship and industry in meeting the needs of us all. It has changed the world for good and ill, and we have no alternative economic system that does as well.

But we still need innovation in removing its weaknesses.

The cycle of booms and busts should not be accepted as part of nature like the weather. Speculators make their fortunes by these, and help to produce them.

More money-wealth is made today from financial and land dealings than from production. More income is made from buying and selling stocks and shares than from dividends through providing capital.

The increasing differences between rich and poor are great social injustice. The rich get richer and the working poor cannot make a living without state help.

The worst problem is that continual growth is required, when the end of growth is a necessity for world equilibrium. Resources are the third element in production, but are not considered in capitalism yet, because capital and labour are all that are considered – now resources are finite. Pollution must be stopped.

Short term gains are aimed for  – the long term gains or losses are not considered.

The expansion of capitalism means globalisation. That has advantages – and drawbacks.

Democracy is government by the people, of the people, for the people. We all know that. However, elections tend to be ruled by money – particularly the money for advertising. Those who are elected to the chief positions either have money or owe their position to those who have. The United States has a myth of origins of Presidents in log cabins, but all recent Presidents have been millionaires. It makes it hard for the defects in capitalism to be cleaned up by governments. The recent events in Egypt are welcomed as aimed at becoming a democracy – but we hear the English-speaking educated middle-class who have liberty as an aim. We do not hear the majority of Egyptian youth who are lowly paid or unemployed, and who seek economic aims first – jobs and bread. How can our economic system provide them with their basic needs?

Whoever fails in a business can have their lives ruined. Owning one’s home becomes increasingly impossible as mortgages can take a lifetime to repay instead of a few years.


. .

This is a short list of some areas where capitalism must change its ways and its thinking.



Many possibilities are put forward.  They must be trialled in small experiments because we do not know all the consequences.

For greed and power to be considered the only human motivations for progress is mistaken. There is desire to serve, curiosity, to use one’s talents, honour and status. The media, the arts and education have a role to play here, in arousing these motives – but the media is often in the pay of the rich. Glory and honours are not to go to those who collect most money for themselves.

Our economic and political leaders must be given every opportunity to see what is happening in the world. For this to happen, they must have salaries more like the common man, not more than ten times his earnings. Those who desire more, display their ignorance of the world, and are not fit to be CEOs of vast enterprises. Everyone must realise this. A cap on earnings is the first step to executives’ understanding of the world situation.

Governments must have power to regulate international corporations within their borders. In recent years, private corporations have demonstrated their inability to self-regulate in the interests of the wider public. How to stop the growth of bureaucracies of regulation is also a matter for innovation.

Economics departments in Universities need to have more interest in developing and evaluating innovation, rather than being identified with schools of thinking.

Regional currency that does not interact with national currency allows small businesses to start up and money to circulate within regions without it all pouring out for imports.

CEOs of big corporations must be those who know the businesses, rather than whizzes in finance.

It is part of global capitalism that the cheapest goods are the most popular everywhere – regardless of the exploitation that may make them cheap.

Tax havens are iniquitous; it is not beyond the wit of man to eliminate them, to reduce the trend for the rich to become richer.

Huge riches are made by selling what harms – cigarettes, alcohol, junk food, armaments – and the advertising that pushes them, are promoted wherever the law allows.

Supposing stocks and shares had to be held for a year or more before sold on – what would happen? More emphasis on dividends, less on the selling price. The bear-pits where shares were sold in the blink of an eye would cease. Day trading needs to be illegal across the world.  Among the benefits would be that the ‘new investors’, the small people who trust financial advisers, would be turned to long-term investing for dividends, which means more productive investments.

The spare money of the poor – and often the money that is not spare – often goes on money gambling; there have been attempts for the vast sums this resulting to go to more productive gambling, such as on the stock exchange, and premium bonds. This substitutes short-term aims for longer-term, but government oversight must prevent sharks taking advantage of the naïve punter.

The world is more expensive for ordinary people because ownership of ‘rights’ –  as in land, water-rights and taxi-rights –  makes housing, water, and taxis very much dearer than they need be. New owners must pay thousands of dollars to previous holders of the rights, and must make their businesses pay in spite of this. Here is an obvious way to make a difference.

If we change our goals from short-term profit, all sorts of developments are possible. If we can see all the problems together, it may be more possible to fix one of them.

As influences combine, a society can change direction, and still keep a spirit of entrepreneurship and innovation.



A different sort of spelling bee

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:51 am

A different sort of spelling ABZ

A spelling ABZ  is a treasure hunt about what you know about spelling, not about odd spellings, like a Spelling Bee. The winner of a trick can ask everyone any spelling question. If nobody knows, it’s up to the judges to find out. The element of chance is that some questions are easy and some are hard.


Spelling ABZ
1 How many letters in the alphabet?
2 How many speech sounds in the English language? (That is, needed to distinguish words)
3 How many spelling patterns in English spelling represent these basic sounds?
4 Are any letters always sounded the same way?
5 Are any sounds always spelled the same?
6 How many letters can be silent? (For example, e is silent in private.)
7 What sound has the greatest number of possible spellings?
8 What letter has the greatest number of possible ways to pronounce it? (Not counting when it is part of a letter combination like ‘th’)
9 What consonant sound has the most possible spellings?
10 How many sounds can be spelled with ough?
11 Did you know that most other modern languages in the world have improved their writing systems in the past 150 years, and the French made a major reform just recently, in 2008?
12 Name five languages with major changes in their writing systems in the past 150 years.
13 Name five languages making minor spelling changes in the past 150 years.
14 How many reasons can you think of why English spelling can never be changed?
15 When did the English start saying that their spelling needed spelling reform?
16 Name three English dictionary-makers who tried to make reforms of English spelling
17 Name a historical celebrity who wanted English spelling to be reformed.
18 How many ‘contradictory facts’ must children accept in English spelling?
19 Name as many principles of education as you can which are contradicted when children are taught present English spelling?
20 Do we learn about the history of our words from their spellings?
21 How do people in other countries learn about the history of the words in their language?



1   26 letters in the alphabet.

2   Around 44 speech sounds (phonemes). Consonants are: h l m n r w y hw ng and voiced-unvoiced pairs b-p, d-t, v-f, th-th, z-s, g-k, j-ch, zh-sh. The 19 vowels, including fused diphthongs (merging sounds): a e i o u ae ee ie oe ue ah er air aw ow oy oo(boot), oo (look) plus the most common vowel, slurred ‘shwa’ as in proper, dependant.

3 A J Ellis worked out 658 ways of spelling 44 speech-sounds.

4 No. Even k and m are sometimes silent as in knot and mnemonic. 5 No. 6 All 26 letters can be silent. 7 The unstressed obscure vowel ‘schwa’ has 66 possible spellings. Next come sounds as in I and A, with 51 possible spellings each. (Sound as in A can be spelled as in baby made maelstrom champagne dahlia maim raise campaign straight trait halfpenny gaol gaoled plague plaguing gauged gauging may played mayor re they great fete feted matine«e veil dossier Seine reign reigned eight weighed ballet conveyed eyre applique bouquet.)

8    Letters a, e, o can all be pronounced in ten ways, as in man about many stomach was making tamtam part fall Isaac egg open fern sergeant feted femme pretty be azalea have on orb atom reason women woman mother over do choir.

9    The sound s has 25 spellings as in: sit hiss kissed scene coalesce schism case dishonest raspberry thistle isthmus Mrs sword cell ace Gloucester Worcester psalm worsted boatswain waltz next except exhibition pizzicato.

10    Ough can be pronounced at least 7 ways, as in cough dough through thought doughty enough thorough.

11    Well, you know now.

12    Languages making sweeping changes in their writing systems in the past 150 years include Indonesian, Turkish, Korean, Chinese, Russian, Malaysian, Vietnamese.

13    Languages making smaller changes in the past 150 years include Dutch, Israeli, Greek, French, German, Spanish

and Portuguese.

14 Huh.

15 The medieval monk Orme was the first to write about English spelling reform.

16 Great lexicographers who tried to promote spelling reforms include Samuel Johnson, Noah Webster, James Murray and H W Fowler.

17 Hundreds of eminent persons seeking English spelling improvement include Bernard Shaw, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Andrew Carnegie, Theodore Roosevelt and Isaac Pitman.

18 Sir James Murray of The Oxford English Dictionary said there were 20,000.

19 The challenge is to name principles of education which are not contradicted.

20 Do you? Only a few ever do.

21 They look them up in a dictionary.


three ways to reduce smoking

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:47 am

1. Think. Who grow tobacco?  Tobacco takes up fertile soil that is needed for food.  Tobacco growers should be encouraged to switch to growing something else.

2. Experiments need to be tried  Plain covers for cigarettes have not been tried. That is a reason to try them, not a reason against.

3. Media should give plenty of publicity to any efforts of tobacco companies to make governments use taxpayers money in expensive legal defences against companies vexatious litigation.


Chemicals in the kitchen

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:27 am

Chuck Gerba in the Journal of Applied Microbiology (vol 85, p 819, cited in New Scientist p 40, 19 February) recommends liberal use of bleach to clean fecal and total bacteria in the kitchen. In view of the contribution of household chemicals to problems of grey water, sewerage systems and even final disposal in waterways and oceans, we could look at other solutions.

Why are there so many bacteria in the kitchen?  If they come in mostly from the food supply, especially raw meat, stop them before they multiply and wash them down the sink.  If the kitchen is moist and wet, keep it dry.  Other cleaners can be considered instead of bleach and similar cleaners – vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, lemon juice and soap are safe alternatives.

Washing-up can be scientific even in manual washing (which does not need environmentally-unfriendly detergent). Have two basins of hot water, in a double sink.  Rather than fill one sink with a pile of dishes and cutlery, the dishes are rinsed if necessary in one sink, washed in one basin that sits in the sink, rinsed in another with one movement, and dried on an ergonomic rack since they are hot. Start with the least dirty, and end with the pots and pans. No germy dishcloths, sponges or tea-towels – use a mop and a scrubber.  Listen to the radio while you wash – never a dull moment.

Many kitchen surfaces never have fecal bacteria on them, but we have been conditioned to make them completely germ-free with different chemicals for each surface. This is unnecessary. Even little children need to get used to a few germs to become resistant to them. Use your cheap vinegar, bicarb or lemon-juice, or just elbow grease to exercise your arms, or pick the mildest cleaner you can buy. There is a book called 400 Uses for Bicarbonate of Soda. Old clothes provide the cleaning-cloths, and can be thrown out when dirty.

The only trouble is that people have  jobs making the stuff that you do not buy.  Well, think of all the other jobs that need to be done, and no-one is doing them.




Music and noise for the elderly

Filed under: Pleasures, social problems — Tags: , — valerieyulesletters @ 6:11 am

Music to elderly ears

The smartphone app described on p 23, 19 February, of New Scientist shows a possible solution to a major problem of the elderly, who do not hear well high-frequency sounds of voices.  They suffer from not hearing the voices in song vocals, or in talks which have a musical background with low-frequency sound, on the radio. They suffer terribly in old folks’ homes which have the TV on all the time at noise-levels pleasant to their carers.

I hope someone will attend to this – I am speaking for myself at age  82 as well as for  my contemporaries, and for the young who will be old some day.


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