Monday, 28 December 2009

Bank Holidays... for the hard of thinking

From the Daily Hate:-

Millions of workers will be given a special four-day weekend to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, it was revealed last night.

To mark the Monarch’s 60 years on the throne, her official birthday on Monday, June 4, will be declared a one-off Bank Holiday.

That's the thing... they won't be "given" a Bank Holiday, they'll pay for it.

OK, some employers might choose to take less profit from the business, but most won't. So, your bank holiday either means that some days of holiday get lost, or your pay rises don't go up so much.

Something that's occurred to me about Bank Holidays is that they're a good example of Bastiat's broken window fallacy. People see them as a "good thing", a freebie. They don't see the lost opportunity that occurs because of them, that they lose flexibility because the government decides when they should take time off. They don't see the waste of time and energy that occurs because of the peaks of demand that bank holidays create on roads, entertainment and hotels.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Rage Against The Machine vs the X-Factor Bloke

OK, first up... I've not heard the X-Factor single. It's probably some bland, inoffensive shite like most of the Cowell factory output. Just not my thing at all.

But the campaign against it, in the name of buying Rage Against The Machine's Killing In the Name Of... strikes me as interesting for what it says about the buyers.

Most of the people tweeting about how terrible it is that a piece of Cowell crap will get to number 1 are not regular chart followers. They don't care about the charts. Why would anyone be? We no longer have our choice of music driven by Top Of The Pops or the playlists of Radio 1. We can get tunes from thousands of different channels on cable and internet.

The campaign to get RATM to the top of the charts was a rockist campaign. It meant getting someone who made commercial, manufactured pop off the top of the chart in favour of an act which ticks all the right rockist boxes (politically aware, play their own instruments, write their own material).

It also stinks of control and oppression. Keeping something else off the top of the charts, like the charts have to be controlled. The people buying the Cowell crap don't care. They just like the record for what it is, what it should be. And that's how music should be, not a way to score points against people because you think they're stupid or lower class than you.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Farmer Mandelson

From The Spectator:-

f you ask me where in 15 or 20 years’ time I’d like to be, it will be probably on a farm somewhere close to the land, getting up early in the morning... I want to be near land. I want to be able to grow my own food. Look after my own farm animals, worry about the weather and get the timing of my harvest right.

and in his spare time, ploughing up the dirt track?

Economics and Climate Change

I was watching a report on TV about a town in Kansas which is "going green", spending a fortune on a green school, houses powered by sun and wind and so on, and how it would create jobs.

Now, this is a "nails down the blackboard" thing for me because "creating jobs" using government money simply means "destroying jobs" elsewhere. It may be desireable as a public service, but it doesn't "create jobs".

But I had a new thought tonight. Why is "climate change denial" considered to be so criminal, yet "broken window fallacy denial" OK? And why are so many broken window fallacy deniers quick to talk about science when it comes to climate change, yet ignore the (very simple) science behind the broken window fallacy?

To anyone not familiar with Bastiat's theory, it says that one way of looking at someone breaking a shopkeeper's window is that they're doing a service. The broken window means that a glazer gets employed by the shopkeeper". What's not seen is that the shopkeeper now has less money to spend on the things he wants to do (such as buying some new shoes or a book) which would themselves employ people.

Now, Bastiat's fallacy doesn't take much proving. You can do it with a diagram with 4 stick men. It's been around since the middle of the 19th century.

And let's remember Gordon Brown, the man who talked about the "flat earth" climate change sceptics was also the man who backed a chancellor who believed in quantitative easing. The history of QE (or printing money) is basically proven. The science is settled, if you like. The Mongols and Persians tried it in the 13th century. The Chinese carried through to the 16th century. Germany in the 20th century and Zimbabwe now. As a model being tested, it's run for a lot longer than the CRU models on climate have, and we know that it doesn't work, and the science says it shouldn't work too.

The reason is, of course, that most greens are watermelons who will gladly wave the flag for science when it suits them (climate change) but when it comes to economics, mathematics, psychology, medicine or genetics, they frequently choose to ignore it.

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Copenhagen: Insane

From The Times:-

China has indicated that it is likely to scupper a far-reaching climate deal at Copenhagen as Gordon Brown downgraded his ambitions for the outcome of the 192-nation summit on global warming.

The Copenhagen Summit is like a bacon producer phoning up an Israeli supermarket, getting politely declined and sending their sales team anyway: a team selling something that has not only been refused, but which the client has no incentive whatsoever to buy. Anyone in a company who did this would be fired or sent for psychological evaluation.

But no. We sent thousands of people at a huge cost to the taxpayer (and the environment) to a conference which was going to result in nothing but political blather (and anyone who'd read the position of China and India knew this).

Climate Change Update

From the Daily Hate:-

The Met Office said 'disruption to travel networks' was likely tomorrow following heavy snow showers across London and the home counties.

It issued a severe weather warning, with forecasts of two to four inches of snow on lower ground and six to eight inches over hills.

I've got this wonderful vision in my head... a story about the Copenhagen agreement following a story about traffic disruption due to severe snow

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

The G77 Man

Watched the G77 representative (from Sudan) talking about how the west was killing Africans through climate change.

I guess they don't like the competition.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Arctic Ice Predictions

Here's Al Baby:-

COPENHAGEN (AP) — New computer modeling suggests the Arctic Ocean may be nearly ice-free in the summertime as early as 2014, Al Gore said Monday at the U.N. climate conference.

We could go back to 2007, when the scientists predicted it would all be gone by 2013.

Or 15th October when a scientist predicted it would be gone "within 20 years".

But I guess those Germans might be suggesting it's not going to happen for a decade as their model predicts no further warming for a decade in 2008.

Tuvalu

Of course, the BBC simply had to mention people in Tuvalu protesting they could disappear underwater.

One simple question: Who gives a shit?

No, seriously. Tuvalu has a population of... 12,000. That's right, something like 1/500000th of the global population.

BA Cabin Crew Strike

Good. Fuck 'em.

Let's just say that I had a customer service problem with BA, and this just reinforces my view from that day that BA somehow think they're fucking special somehow.

You provide a bus. A nicer bus than Easyjet. One that flies into more centrally located airports, but unless you're going to be competitive, not a bus most people will fly on.

A bit of advice for the BA staff: people have tried this before. They've seen their position eroded, either by regulation or by technology. The history of strikes is overwhelmingly that strikers lose. Your customers will go elsewhere and you'll be out of a job.

They Stole Our Words...

... it's time to steal some back...

I'm thinking mostly of how many people on the left have used the word "liberal" to mean "not very liberal, actually".

So, the two I have in mind are:-

- Social Justice
- Progressive

Both of these are of course, utterly meaningless. "Progressive" isn't a philosophical statement, it's giving yourself a gold medal before you've even put your running shoes on (and while the left is sometimes socially progressive, it certainly ain't economically so any more).

And "social justice" is just an utter "blargh" expression. The socialists have rarely delivered on it. They've just made

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Those Bloggers Can Never Replace the MSM, CAn They

From Francis Davey, a piece about the powers in the Digital Economy Bill which would be given to the Secretary of State to close down websites.

You know, because I'm sure that you've seen all those papers doing the sort of Analysis of it that Francis Davey has.

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Excellent News For Messrs Dromey and Timney

Pre-Budget Report 2009: new scrappage scheme for old boilers

Magic Non-Carbon Burning Pixie Dust

Definition:

A special type of non-polluting airline fuel used to transport celebrities, pop stars, politicians and musicians around the planet to make them very rich. Not to be confused with standard, polluting airline fuel used to transport evil capitalists around the planet to make them very rich.

Green Sacrifices

One of Groove Armada writes in The Times:-
Our careless use of energy has reached amazing levels. An average European uses enough energy to keep 60 light bulbs shining for every minute of their life. This manic consumption is easy to solve. We have total control over it. We choose what we use.
Here are just a few of the things we can all do straight away:
1) If you can afford it, install a rooftop solar water-heater. In China, where this technology is spreading fast, they are already harnessing the equivalent energy of 49 coal-fired plants. If you live in a block of flats, get together with your neighbours.
2) Bottled water has to go. It takes 70 million barrels of oil a year to make the bottles, and that’s before you’ve got the water out of the ground and flown it from Fuji to Fulham. Fill a reusable bottle before you leave home.
3) Think before you buy. A plasma- screen TV consumes four times as much energy as a normal TV.
4) Walk, cycle or take the train. Drive the most efficient car you can afford.
5) Install top-grade insulation and the latest fluorescent light bulbs. If everybody did this we could turn off all of our coal-fired stations tomorrow.
From his blog:-
Amsterdam is the nearest hotel room to Copenhagen you can get. It also happens to be where I’m doing press for the new Groove Armada album.
I wonder if he'd like to share with us how he got to Amsterdam.

Or how they went to Auckland.

Or Brisbane.

Or Sydney.

That Met Office Data In Full...

The Met Office has released some land surface climate station records.

The data subset consists of a network of individual land stations that has been designated by the World Meteorological Organization for use in climate monitoring. The data show monthly average temperature values for over 1,500 land stations.
But without the full list of stations, we can't verify if the station set is either correct or complete using their algorithm.
The data that we are providing is the database used to produce the global temperature series. Some of these data are the original underlying observations and some are observations adjusted to account for non climatic influences, for example changes in observations methods.
 So, it's not the raw data. Which means we can't verify the adjustments being correctly made.
The data set of temperatures back to 1850 was largely compiled in the 1980s when it was technically difficult and expensive to keep multiple copies of the database.
The unzipped database is 33mb in size. You could comfortably fit that on a mag tape.

Let's be clear about this from a data processing perspective: You don't delete raw data. You keep it because you can always then reconstruct things. Mag tapes weren't so expensive that someone couldn't afford to keep all the data on one.

This is not a new data set. Data sets are only released when they have gone through the proper process of scientific review.

Can someone explain this? We've got altered temperatures, yet no original data and no program code for the alterations. How was this peer-reviewed then?

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Climate Change: A Question of Trust

I've been thinking about the question of Gordon Brown describing people who are sceptical about climate change as "flat earthers" and a little lightbulb went off about the questions about climate change and trust.

Since Climategate kicked off, I've noticed something quite disturbing about the attitude of the scientists, their fans and the bodies that support them: none of them have tried to come up with a convincing argument to support the case of the scientists. They have attempted to reassure the population "there's nothing in these emails to disprove it" or to make accusations about the people who did it, or to call sceptics by names like "flat earthers".

What they don't seem to realise is that climate change has been, for most of the population, a matter of trust. It isn't like "flat earth". I, despite few scientific qualifications can prove the earth is round in about 4 different ways. I don't have to say "trust me, it is round".

Millions have been spent by the UK Government on climate change, and nothing in there has covered how the climate models worked, or why it is warming up, feedback and so forth. Go to a site like Act On CO2. The statement on there about climate change says "The scientific community agrees – climate change is happening and human activity is almost certainly the cause.". The current ad on TV talks about "scientists found that the warming was faster than they thought it was". There is nothing to try and educate people. It just tells them to trust the men in white coats because they know best.


The reason why suddenly Gordon Brown finds himself calling 48% of the population "flat earthers" is because having based the whole thing on trust in scientists, when some emails come out which might set a tone which is that they aren't trustworthy, then you're going to find the argument falling apart for many people.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Let's see how long it takes for the BBC...

From The WSJ:-
The British scientist at the heart of a scandal over climate-change research temporarily stepped down Tuesday as director of a prominent research group amid an internal probe that follows the release of hacked emails involving him and other scientists.

The University of East Anglia in the U.K. said Phil Jones, head of the university's Climatic Research Unit, had decided to step aside from the director's post.
 That was at about 9:30 on the 2nd December.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Football

I was amused by the reaction to Thierry Henry's "Hand of God" goal by football supporters.

The thing with football is that it is the sport most prone to luck of any sport out there. It has insuffient judging (considering the space), lacks episodic play (so it's not easy to check refereeing decisions) has low scoring and lacks scoring requires on confirmation of victory.

Its opposite is tennis. Tennis has judges, computer judging and the tournament referee can be called in. It has plenty of points and has 2 levels of confirmation (win game by 2 points and set by 2 points). So, the person who wins the match is extremely likely to be the best performer of the day.

Rugby doesn't have enough judging nor action replays, but does have high scoring. So the luck evens out across a match and while the best team may lose because of luck, they would still have to be quite close to the better team to win.

But the level of luck in football is its attraction. It's why fans will turn out for matches - their non-league club might, just might put that one goal in the net against a league club and win by defending for the rest of the game. It also, I believe, explains it's near religious and tribal following.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

You Fucking Cockwipes

From This Is Surrey:-

A former soldier who handed a discarded shotgun in to police faces at least five years imprisonment for "doing his duty".
Paul Clarke, 27, was found guilty of possessing a firearm at Guildford Crown Court on Tuesday – after finding the gun and handing it personally to police officers on March 20 this year.
The jury took 20 minutes to make its conviction, and Mr Clarke now faces a minimum of five year's imprisonment for handing in the weapon.

An utter travesty of justice by the sounds of it. A badly worded law, police and CPS who want to raise their statistics and a judicial system that doesn't like jury nullification.

But I really do think the jury were also utter cockwipes in this case. You're going to take away a man's livelihood for 5 years for making what could best be described as an honest mistake? Had the police questioned him under caution about finding it, I'd understand. But it seems that there was no evidence presented of any criminal activity.

We need to have far more information given to juries about previous cases of jury nullification, where juries ignored the law and cleared people because the law was an ass and allowed the superior moral code to take precedent.

Acronym FAIL

From CBS:-
MANILA - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Friday that she is optimistic a peace pact between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will happen before President Arroyo steps down in 2010.
Might want to check what else that stands for

Saturday, 14 November 2009

What the Fuck Fucking Fuckity Fuckwittering Hell???

From the BBC:-

A woman convicted of murder has gone on the run during an escorted visit to the shops in south London.
Patricia Gillette, 41, from Streatham, south London, was detained indefinitely in 2007 for killing Mark Murphy, 38, at his home in Streatham in August 2006.


Murderers going shopping? Presumably non-handcuffed murderers at that? Has the world gone completely batshit insane?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Question Time:-

Good:-

David Dimbleby is to miss Question Time for the first time tonight - after being knocked out by a bullock.
I don't wish ill on Mr Dimbleby, but I won't miss him on QT

Bad:-
John Humphrys, the veteran presenter of the Today programme, will deputise for Dimbleby on tonight’s episode of the political panel show

Fucksocks.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Seat Tipping - Labour's Potential Long Term Disaster

Reading Jackie Ashley's column where she stated that some Labour politicians got me thinking: how many Labour seats are going to "tip" to the Lib Dems.

One of the things about the 1997 election was how much tactical voting occurred. People who desperately wanted the Conservatives out chose the strongest opposition candidate in their seat, whether Lib Dem or Labour. It's one of the features of wretched First Past The Post voting systems.

Now, if Labour don't get their vote out, or if voters who are left-leaning decide that they can't stand Labour any longer, then the LDs will get that vote. Which could mean that following the election, a lot of seats may end up with the LDs in 2nd place, which could then lead to them holding a lot of 2nd places come the following election.

Could we see a hung parliament in 5 years time?

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Pointless Climate Talks

From The Telegraph:-

In the latest round of UN climate change talks in Barcelona, the US said it was unfair to expect rich countries to cut emissions while developing nations like China and India continue to pollute.

It is the latest blow to the negotiations and puts any chance of a deal in Copenhagen at the end of the year in serious doubt.
 I'm sure that the left will find some way to blame this on Bush, though.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Olympic Condoms

From The BBC:-

When the Olympics hosted by Beijing ended, a collector snapped up the 5,000 condoms left over from the 100,000 distributed free to athletes.
 The Olympic village, according to many accounts is a major shagathon. A whole load of young people in very good condition away from home with lots of time to spare thrown together in a village.
Each condom wrapper carries the motto of the Beijing Games - faster, higher, stronger - in English and Chinese. 
I think most ladies would appreciate "slower" instead.

I'm waiting for my London Olympics ones to arrived, seeing how us taxpayers are getting right royally fucked over it.

Is this like Teabagging?

BBC Headline:-


MPs seek answers on Nutt sacking

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Fuckwit of the Week

This is just nuts:-



An electric car created by ex-McLaren Formula One designer Gordon Murray has been unveiled.
Three prototypes of the T.27 model will be developed over the next 16 months.
The manufacturing process, called iStream, has received £9m of investment, half of which came from the government's Technology Strategy Board.

So, that's £9 million of your money going on a golf cart with no roof and no sides.

All the parts are designed by computer and welded together rather than being stamped out of metal sheets, explained David Bott, director of innovation platforms at the Technology Strategy Board.
"It's a very radical approach to manufacturing," he told the BBC. "Usually you talk about high value, or low carbon, or resource efficient manufacturing - this ticks all those boxes."
"Cars don't tend to be heavy because of safety; they tend to be heavy because of luxury," added Mr Bott. 

Like a roof? And windows that can be wound up? No-one is going to buy this. They'd rather take the bus. If there was demand for such a vehicle (and let's face it, a Land-Rover is not dissimilar), they'd be buying it already.

So, the government has spent £9 million on a car based on what it thinks it needs, rather than what the public wants. Fantastic.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Not Letting Matters Rest

From The Telegraph:-

It was the referendum, however, that had to be dealt with first. “Blair”, “Brown” and “Labour” were the key words here, with Cameron keen to associate broken promises with anyone other than himself.

Well, that was a waste of 3 words. We know Blair and Brown are cunts of the highest order. They're yesterday's men, and we're looking at the possible successors and what they might do.

So the first Tory promise was really quite simple: “never again”. This is a message, Cameron said, that will appear in the Conservative election manifesto. If he is the next Prime Minister, a Conservative government will attempt to ensure that that there will be a British “referendum lock” to which the British people had the key – any future EU treaty will be voted on, in other words, following Ireland’s example.

One everso teensy problem you've got there, Dave: Ireland has a written constitution. We don't. Whatever you promise, Labour can come along and tear it up. Then again, the Conservatives seem to blindly think that we can rely on the monarch to protect us from tyranny.

Britain would look further afield for inspiration on other fronts. There will be a new “United kingdom Sovereignty Bill” along German lines which would make it clear that ultimate authority rests in the British parliament.

That sounds suspiciously like the amendment that Bill Cash put forward at the time of Lisbon being signed, the one that David Cameron didn't vote for. I'm sure he'll give us all one of those iron-clad guarantees about this...

Good Things That Labour Have Done

One of the things that some political types can't seem to get with me is that I have no political loyalty. UKIP currently get my support because on balance, I prefer their policies to anyone else (and I balance this against the pragmatism forced on me by the wretched FPTP system). Someone comes out with a better balance of policies and I might go elsewhere.

But I thought that fair's fair - there's some things which Labour have done which have actually been quite positive amongst the sea of shite. So, here's a brief list of things off the top of my head:-

1. Liberalising the licensing hours
2. Proposing more building on the London greenbelt
3. Allowing gay sex at 16 and civil partnerships

I would have added:-

4. Independence of the bank of England in setting interest rates, but as the whole area is a massive cock-up, I don't know.
5. Lowering cannabis to class C, but the idiots have gone and reversed that.

Any other suggestions?

Sexual Entertainment Classification

Just reading something in The Sun about a benefit cheat who was a "pole dancer" but the headline refers to her as a stripper.

Now, I've never been to a pole dancing club, but I thought that there wasn't any stripping involved. That the state of undress that they arrived on the stage was the same as when they left.

Am I wrong?

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

This Treaty Thing...

This thing about "not being able to rescind a treaty"...

Why can a government change the laws of a previous government, but when signed with someone who they shouldn't give a shit about, can't?

Personally, I think the Conservatives should sign a treaty with Sierra Leone giving them governance over various Labour heartlands. As it's a treaty, there's nothing Labour can do. Right?

Fisking Widdecombe

From The Guardian:-

I am not a fan of Alan Johnson, the beleaguered home secretary, but he is 100% right to sack Professor David Nutt, who seems to think that it is possible both to be the government's senior drug adviser and to rubbish that same government's drugs policy in public.

I don't see a conflict. He advised the government, they ignored his advice so he rubbished them. And don't be giving me none of that "united front". He's paid for by the taxpayer for his advice, which we should hear completely and is entitled to his opinion.

From all the uproar, you would think science was united around a fixed view that drugs are harmless – whereas there is no such universality of opinion, and the government's own Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs is not united either.

That's a massive straw man. No-one is saying that drugs are harmless. Not Nutt, not Danny Kushlick of Transform. NOBODY.

Drugs account for about a third of all crime and around 80% of all acquisitive crime (theft). They are present in about 20% of road traffic accidents. People have died as a result of taking ecstasy and committed crimes under the influence of cannabis. This so-called soft drug also produces psychosis. For some, it is but the gateway to hard drugs and death. Indeed, some studies in Amsterdam, where soft drug use is lawful under certain circumstances, suggest that when soft drug use increases, so does hard drug use. That is not exactly a litany of reassurance.

1. Acquisitive crime comes from the fact that the price is far higher than it would be if we had the NHS prescribing it or if we had a free market.
2. The DFT research on this (http://www.dft.gov.uk/rmd/project.asp?intProjectID=10834) says this is less than alcohol and also points out that cannabis is the major drug, and that this is based on detectable levels which remain traceable in the bloodstream for 4 weeks.
3. The raised risk of psychosis is not proven, and may be down to self-medication. The Department of Health asked Philip Robson to look at the research and wasn't that convinced of a strong link. And personally, I'm far more worried around a drunken crowd than a stoned crowd.
4. Jan van Ours of Tilburg University found no link between soft drugs and hard drugs after looking at four studies and that the evidence was circumstantial.

When this government downgraded cannabis from class B to class C, it was criticised by the World Health Organisation, headteachers, members of the medical profession and sections of the press. Admitting the error of its ways and reversing that unfortunate decision should have won it plaudits. Instead, it is attacked by its own senior adviser.

Well, yes. I'm sure I can find people who believe the earth is flat, that the moon is made of cheese and that 9/11 was a conspiracy by the illuminati including the lizard monarchy. Doesn't make any of them right.

Nutt says some drugs are less dangerous than alcohol. He may or may not be right – although it is possible to die from a single ecstasy tablet but not from a single glass of wine. Even if he is right, that is not an argument for reclassifying cannabis – to send out a signal that we do not take the health dangers seriously. We have seen from alcohol and tobacco exactly what legalising certain substances can do to health, so why on earth add others?

We don't know exactly what's causing those MDMA deaths. It could be "the ecstacy", it could be something about how it's prepared. We know that people in the 1920s died because of contaminated gin.

"Sending out a signal". You mean, lying, Ann? Because that's what it is. LYING. I'm all in favour of the government telling people the risks of smoking, drinking, playing rugby or skiing, but I want the truth. Lying to people, pretending a drug is going to end up with them living the Trainspotting lifestyle is just wrong and has it's own consequences. I want people to know that there's a big difference between the effects of ecstacy and crack cocaine, but the classification doesn't tell them that.

The former drugs adviser is entitled to his views, but if he wishes to express them in controversial language in a public forum, then he cannot reasonably expect to continue to advise a government that takes a different view. Presented with divided scientific opinion, an escalating crime count and the experiences of other countries, Alan Johnson – and not a single professor – is charged with the responsibility of making a decision.

Escalating crime count? Again, caused by their illegality.

Experiences of other countries? Those that try an alternative to the "war on drugs" tend to end up with less problems?

And yes, the buck stops with Alan Johnson. But he acted like a complete arse by sacking him rather than simply disagreeing or making an alternative argument.

He got it right.

No, he didn't.

Into the Storm

If you missed this last night on BBC2, I'm not sure if it's available anywhere, but as a biopic of Churchill during the war years, it was quite splendid.

A N Wilson: Twat

From The Daily Mail:-

But he was not content simply to give advice, of course. What he appeared to want to do was to dictate to the Government, and when it refused to acknowledge his infallibility, Professor Nutt started to break ranks and to denounce the country's law on drugs.

"infallibility"? Er no. Alan Johnson could have come up with some sound arguments why Professor Nutt was wrong. He didn't. He just fired him for speaking out.

"Now he has been sacked, the scientific establishment is in an uproar of self-pity and self-importance. How dare mere politicians question their judgments? They are scientists, aren't they? And what scientists say must be taken as true."

Plainly A N Wilson understands nothing of scientific method. You've got a problem with someone's beliefs? You throw an argument against their argument. I'm no believer in credentialism, but no-one against Nutt seems to have done any such a thing.

The trouble with a 'scientific' argument, of course, is that it is not made in the real world, but in a laboratory by an unimaginative academic relying solely on empirical facts.
Yup. I'm sure those people who fell off horses did so in a laboratory.

It is one thing to argue Professor Nutt's case in a university common room or over a Hampstead dining table, but another to translate his arguments to murkier parts of our society.

Try saying that ecstasy is safe in the sink estates of our big cities, where police, social workers and teachers work to improve the lives of young people at the bottom of the heap. Try saying it to those who see, every single day, the devastation wrought not only on the youngsters themselves, but on whole communities by the casual abuse of drugs.

Professor Nutt didn't say it was safe. He simply compared relative harm.

Nor would I ever wish to suppress scientific inquiry or to undervalue the good which scientists have done for our world.

But there is an increasing presumption among many intelligent and good-hearted people that science is an absolute truth, that its methods of arriving at the truth are infallible and that scientists must be listened to at all times.

I blame schools for not explaining scientific method and instead leaning towards credentialism.

A Home Secretary who sacks a plucky little scientist for daring to speak his mind - correction, daring to speak 'the truth' - is surely worthy of our contempt? That is how the scientific establishment has portrayed the story as they line up to denounce Alan Johnson.

and rightly so...

Before we get carried away by their bluster, we should recognise the arrogance for what it is. What the scientists are saying basically is that they will brook no contradiction. Yet if we examine the history of scientific experts - and, in particular, scientists advising governments - they do not have a very happy record.

Do you remember the foot-and-mouth outbreak of 2001? All reasonable farmers and vets believed that the epidemic could be contained by vaccine, or simply by isolating animals. But the Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government, David King, insisted upon a massive cull.

The NFU supported it. Mostly for some sound economic reasons.

Oh, and just because one scientist gets things right or wrong doesn't mean that scientific method is wrong.

But the Nazis did not invent these things. The only difference between Hitler and previous governments was that he believed, with babyish credulity, in science as the only truth. He allowed scientists freedoms which a civilised government would have checked.

No, Hitler was a nutjob who politicised science and destroyed any opposing science. You want to find any scientists working today who want to do what Mengele did? Good luck with that.

But I see the same habit of mind at work in Professor Nutt and his colleagues as made those mad scientists of the 20th century think they were above the moral law which governs the rest of us mortals.

Ooh, I'm scared. It's a short step from comparing toxicity of drugs (which no-one is disputing) to experimenting on gypsies, isn't it, you fuckwit.

The worship of science is the great superstition of our age. The scientific adviser speaks and we are all supposed to believe him, whether he is promoting crops genetically modified to withstand huge doses of poisonous weedkillers and pesticides, or tampering with the origin of human life itself in so-called stem cell research.

No, science is anything but superstition. It stands against superstition and asks it to prove its case, and superstition either blusters or gives up.

Those who dare question scientists are demonised for their irrationality. Global warming may or may not be a certainty, but anyone who queries it has his sanity questioned. Cast doubt on these gods of certainty and you are accused of wanting to suppress free expression - which is the argument now being used by Nutt and pals against the Home Secretary.

The thing is that it isn't scientists who want people to be silenced about global warming - it's columnists and politicians.

In fact, it is the arrogant scientific establishment which questions free expression. Think of the hoo-ha which occurred when one hospital doctor dared to question the wisdom of using the MMR vaccine.

The point here is not whether he was right or wrong - it was the way in which the scientific establishment closed ranks in order to assassinate him. There was a blanket denunciation of his heresy, just as there is if anyone dares to point out some of the mistakes made by that very fallible genius Charles Darwin.

Actually, there wasn't a "blanked denunciation". Instead, a lot of scientists started poring over what had been produced and started asking questions and showed how wrong it was. The most outright bonkers writing on MMR was by journalists, not scientists who handled things very calmly.

Science rules - and it does so with just as much energy as the old Spanish Inquisition that refused to allow any creed other than Catholicism, and with the Inquisition's need to distort arguments and control the brains of men and women who might otherwise think for themselves.

Yes, well, science does rule. Prove your argument or shut the fuck up. What's wrong with that?

In complex areas - medicine, agriculture, astronomy - the politicians who make our laws inevitably have to consult 'experts'. But this is not to guarantee that such experts are always right. As Margaret Thatcher once said: 'Advisers advise and ministers decide.' To be governed by politicians is a necessary evil. To be governed by arrogant scientists would truly be hell on earth.

The world would be a much better place if we had more scientists and less lawyers running things.

Listen to the way these scientists are describing one another as they huff and puff at the Home Secretary's treatment of Professor Nutt. 'It will be hard to find a replacement of comparable expertise and stature,' says one pompous ass in the letters column of a newspaper.
Stature? Nutt? Like so many scientific experts, his arrogance is matched by his naivety. Like them, he cannot bear to be contradicted.

Oh, fuck off. Either prove Nutt wrong or shut the fuck up.

And to every one who thinks otherwise, I would ask them to carry out a simple experiment. Put a drug, bought casually on the street corner, and a glass of red wine on the table when your teenager comes home from school. Which of them, in all honesty, would you prefer him to try?

The wine. Because I know what's in it. Legalise cannabis and ecstacy and I might have a different answer.

Don't Hold Your Breath

From The Independent:-

But with Tory Eurosceptics still demanding a referendum, Mr Cameron insisted he had done his best and was still fighting.

Expect some roubst waving of the white flag.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Hot Chicks in Black and White Flicks (Raging Bull)

I found this very funny. Warning it's not safe for work, but language, not chicks...

Sunday, 1 November 2009

New Blogroll Entries

I've decided to add The Croydonian and Squander Two to the blogroll. The Croydonian is full of a mix of interesting content, and Squander Two does some good deep analysis of news items.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

That's One Way to Make Yourselves Look Clean...

MPs Plan Wife Swap to Get Round Expenses Rules
The wives, husbands and other family members currently employed at the tax-payers' expense plan to apply for jobs with other MPs as a way of dodging the guidelines expected to be recommended by Sir Christopher Kelly next month.

It's going to be like that, is it? So, rather than actually understanding and sincerely responding to the rage felt by your constituents by following the spirit of the rules rather than the letter of them, like the "honourable gentlemen" (and ladies) that you should be, you're going to try and get around them, are you?

Watch this like a hawk, people. My guess is that MPs will start buying flats and renting them to each other, too.

Eve Burt, the wife of Alistair Burt, the veteran Tory MP, has worked for her husband for 27 years and is his current office manager. She earns £33,500-a-year and has questioned whether people who have contracts can suddenly be made redundant.

Excuse me? £33,500 for being an office manager for an MP? Someone to manage 2 or 3 staff who have to answer a few constituents calls and copy and paste some letters from central office? Monster.co.uk shows that people doing office manager jobs (in free market businesses) earn somewhere around £25-28K for that in the Bedfordshire area.

Not surprising that MPs don't want this cushy deal to end any time soon, is it?

Models Taking Off Their Clothes For Climate Change



OK, supermodels telling us all to be a lot greener. Right. I've got a few names from that video including a few career highlights:-

Shannan Click
June 2008 Fall Fashion Show, Paris
Sep 2008 New York Fashion Show
Nov 2008 Victoria Secrets Fashion Show (that's in Miami, BTW)

Hanne Gaby Odiele
Sep 2007 Appears on Oprah (that's NY, right?)
Oct 2007 Paris Fashion Show
Jan 2008 Another Paris Show
Feb 2008 NY Fashion Show and Paris Fashion Show
Jun 2008 NY Fashion Show

Heidi Mount
Sep 2008 NY and Milan Fashion Shows
Oct 2008 Paris Fashion Shows

Seems to me like maybe before telling the rest of us about global warming, the supermodels should shut the fuck up and stop travelling so much themselves.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

McDonalds Leaving Iceland

Is this a first? Have they left any other countries before?

Friday, 23 October 2009

World of Goo: Pay What You Like

One of the games that has really impressed me in recent years for its originality and simplicity is World of Goo. It's a physics puzzle game where you have to attach goo balls to make shapes, but bear in mind things like gravity, wind etc.

Normally it's $20, but until Sunday, it's pay what you like.

Runs on Mac, PC and Linux. Get it from 2d boy website.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Trafficking

If you want a good chuckle, track down Tuesday night's Newsnight where Denis MacShane gets very stroppy over the trafficking non-issue with Paxman and a representative of the English Collective of Prostitutes. And for some reason Denis keeps digging here:-
I honestly don't know how many girls are trafficked into Britain. I once quoted a Daily Mirror report in the Commons. Its headline talked of 25,000 women and was based, so the paper reported, on Home Office and Amnesty International statistics.
What Denis actually said in Hansard was:-
The Minister kindly gave me a parliamentary reply showing that 16 men were convicted for trafficking last year and just 11 had been so far this year. Given that, according to Home Office estimates, 25,000 sex slaves currently work in the massage parlours and brothels of Britain, those conviction figures are derisory.
 Note no mention of "The Daily Mirror" then. The Home Office report for 2005-6 said:-
Though this has not yet been published, the Government told us that it showed that there were an estimated 4,000 victims of trafficking for prostitution in the UK during 2003 at any one time. Because the research has not yet been published, we have not been able to judge the validity of this figure. We note that there are no reliable estimates for the numbers of children or adult men who have been trafficked into the UK for labour exploitation purposes.
And the Mirror's own piece said:-
AT least 25,000 girls and women have been smuggled into Britain and sold into the booming vice trade, a Mirror investigation reveals.
Which made no reference to that 25,000 being home office figures (instead quoting the 4,000 number).

Denis continues:-
Rahila Gupta demolished the Guardian report on Comment is free.
No she didn't.
She also drew attention to an outfit of former prostitutes called Esso, which believes only 2% of women freely chose prostitution.
"Believes" doesn't count as an argument, Denis. They also seem to be largely invisible on the web. I'd also suggest that the only former prostitutes who put their head over the parapet are those who want to complain about it, the rest would rather not talk about it too much.
Esso is new to me, and I hope the BBC and other media turn to it instead of always to the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP). I mean no discourtesy to this organisation, which grew out of the Wages for Housework campaign started by the International Marxist Group in the 1970s, but I cannot find on the web any details of its constitution, internal democracy, funding, or membership. The ECP spokeswoman said on Newsnight that only two trafficked women had come to her attention. This sounds far-fetched.
But you can't disprove her claim, nor do you have any alternative figure on this.
The Newsnight report managed its investigation without talking to a single prostituted woman or a single trafficked victim. Instead we had self-appointed "experts" indulging in a futile war of statistics in which the victims are voiceless. But to say that the reports of every international outfit that has highlighted sex slave trafficking do not apply to our blessed isles is silly.
Well, Denis, as you started the ball rolling in 2007 by talking about the number of women involved. If you'd wanted to just make a moral case aga? inst prostitution, then that's what you should have done then then.
Regional newspapers publish advertisements from brothels offering "new girls every week", and the web is awash with offers of paid-for sex from young women brought into Britain to service male needs. The Poppy project, which seeks to help trafficked girls and other prostituted women who try to flee from their pimps and controllers, can house a few dozen at its refuge, but it turns away hundreds more who seek to escape from the slavery of offering themselves to dozens of men a day in massage parlours and brothels. Perhaps Newsnight might go and interview these victims instead of "experts" pooh-poohing the problem.
Oh dear. Denis citing the "Poppy Project" which has been utterly debunked. They turn away hundreds of women escaping from slavery? How come there hasn't been a single prosecution based on Poppy's work?

The real debate turns on what is to be done. Male politicians rarely challenge the conventional wisdom of the Belle de Jour or Happy Hooker books and articles that becoming a prostitute is a voluntary business of pleasure and profit – and just another profession. I pushed the House of Commons and Tony Blair to sign the Council of Europe convention on trafficking, despite opposition from Whitehall and some boy members of the cabinet. Now Labour women like Harriet Harman, Vera Baird, Fiona Mactaggart, Jacqui Smith and others who suffer unspeakable condescension from the media – and, if truth be told, too many patriarchical masculinist Labour MPs and current and former ministers – have edged the debate into new territory.
Straw man. Most MPs don't consider prostitution as "Belle de Jour"/Happy Hooker. It's a mix of sordid street walkers, single mothers making a living, and a few high class types. But what's at stake is the numbers in each of these categories, and the bizarre assertions from some of the New Labour Wimmin about why women are involved in it.
They are seeking to switch the focus of responsibility from women to men in the debate over how to deal with trafficking and sex slavery. The idea is simple. Instead of penalising women, make men accept that paying for sex with a trafficked woman or under-age girl is a criminal activity. If that means more appearances in front of magistrates and naming and shaming, so be it.
If you want that, you bring in regulation of the industry, which would be able to check identification and age of women AND would then drive a wedge between legal women and illegal workers, and the legal women would be able to report illegal women and would have an incentive to do so (reducing competition).
The rough analogy is with kerb-crawling. It was commonplace until police and councils started photographing and publishing the number plates of the kerb-crawling cars. Nothing eliminates the willingness of some men to pay for sex, but there is no need to use this desire as an excuse to turn a blind eye to the tragic exploitation of women, often with murderous consequences, that the sex industry entails.
Kerb-crawling is still quite commonplace. And I guess a lot has just gone "off-street". I guess the internet is used a lot now too.
Last night's Newsnight debate showed how difficult it is to get a serious discussion on this important issue. Perhaps it is time to ask middle-aged male grandees from the Guardian and Newsnight to step aside and allow a different journalism to examine the problem.
Translation: I looked like a joke on Newsnight and completely avoided the points from Paxman and the other women.

Evil Undemocratic Bastard

From The BBC:-


Labour backbencher John Mann, who tabled the Early Day Motion, said he was "delighted" by the result of the vote: "This stops the BNP parading round here as if they're legitimate politicians."
Listen, pal. You might not like the BNP, but the fact is that they were elected to the European Parliament, and that means that they are legitimate politicians. Or maybe you think that people's votes don't count?

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Murdoch Paywall

I've got popcorn ready for the Poseidon Adventure level of epic fail that's going to come from this (via Roy Greenslade's blog):-

As I understand it, general news will still be free but exceptional columnists such as Jeremy Clarkson, Steven Howard and the big-name celebrity 'writers' like Terry Venables, Harry Redknapp and Ian Wright will only be available in the paid-for package...

"Sports will be a key seller, particularly with The Sun service. Subscribers will be offered a free direct-to-your-mobile results service, there will be videos of goals and cut-price offers from all the sports goods and clothing manufacturers.

"This, wrapped up with Page 3 girls at their most alluring, bingo and puzzle games offering huge cash prizes plus a promotional link with Sky will, they hope, make it an offer too good to refuse."
OK, Clarkson's a decent columnist, but in the end, how much better is he than the free options? Sure, I'd miss reading his columns, but I can get the likes of The Daily Mash for free. Sport? I'm not one for sport. Are guys like Venables and Wright anything special? I'm not just asking if they're the best, but if they're better by enough to warrant someone forking out the cash. Goals? There seem to be goals on YouTube. Cut price deals on sports clothing? I'm sure you'll be able to get the same deals elsewhere. But finally: Tits. The idea that getting to see Page 3 girls on the internet is something worth paying money for is just risible. You can go to Google Image Search and get 7 million pages of tits to look at, and most of them aren't the sort you find in your garden.

The problem is that this idea is based on entitled sense of business, the idea that as they've always made $200 million of profit, that that should ever remain the case. But throughout our history we have seen technology come along and ruin certain people's livelihood. I'm sure that Tyndale's bible didn't do those latin speakers a lot of good as English guys could now do preaching. And I doubt that innkeepers were happy when the railways started getting built and people didn't have to stop for the night with their horses. Blacksmiths had to find something else to do when the car arrived. And in recent years, typesetters got put out of business by the computer.

Running based on your entitlement, that somehow, the old models can fit into the new world rarely work. IBM succeeded after Microsoft beat them on the desktop by recognising that hardware wasn't where the money was at - services were.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Olympic Coins

I don't really mind the 9 year old's drawing. It's that it also has that bastard pile of shit fucking logo on it.

Can we do this?

From The Daily Mash:

THE row over MPs' expenses escalated last night as voters across Britain agreed to hire Jimmy Conway from Goodfellas.

With MPs threatening to claim expenses for legal action over their expenses claims, voters said they would now bring in the New York-based consultant to recover their money through a series of intensive, face-to-face meetings.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Heffer on Expenses

I sometimes think that Heffer is off the mark, but he's quite brilliant here on MPs expenses. But one passage got me thinking:-

Of course, if you don't want to stand again, you can tell Sir Thomas where to put his repayment demand. He probably wouldn't have any legal recourse if you do; and you won't care that the public thinks you a crook, because you don't need their votes any more.

Is this going to give us some more data on how bad the Labour defeat will be next year? Any MP that refuses probably know that their seat is sunk already, so see no reason to pay it back

Trafigura

To be sung to the Toreador song from Carmen...

Trafigura, Tra-fi-gu-ra
Tra-fi-gura, Tra-fi-gura,
Traaaaaa-fi-gura, Traaa-fi-gura
Tra-a-a-figura
Trafigu-r-a-a-
Trafigura
Tra-a-a-a-a-aaaaaaa-figura

(bet you wish you hadn't slapped that injunction on now that everyone in the world has heard about it, eh, Carter-Fuck)

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Fingernails Down Blackboards Moment

From Janice Turner in The Times:-
I decided to check out Sainsbury’s booze aisles in the mode of someone with great thirst and little cash. Excitingly, my own under-age teenage fave Babycham — “the happiest drink in the world” — is still a snip at £3.18 but, at only 6 per cent proof, it would take more than four dainty bottles to make you feel like smashing up a bus shelter. Special Brew (two litres for £6 at 9 per cent proof) seemed worthy of Chris Grayling’s opprobrium until I spied this week’s soaraway offer: £7 for two bottles of nice Chilean chardonnay, 11.5 per cent proof. Neck that outside the community centre and you’d be in pole position for an ASBO.
But really there is only one winner, endorsed by maudlin Russians and Scandinavian suicides for centuries: vodka. Just £6 a litre and EU regulations dictate that it must be 37.5 per cent proof minimum. Mr Grayling insisted that he would root out shopkeepers selling alcohol below cost price. But the point of vodka is that, as it is little more than distilled potato juice, it costs pennies to produce.
 Actually, it's a great piece, but one of my Things I Would Do If Made PM is to have people birched for using "proof" when they mean "ABV". Everyone, EVERYONE gets this wrong. We dropped "proof" about 2 decades ago in the UK. Get with it...

Friday, 9 October 2009

Public/Private Partnership

From John Redwood's Blog

On Wednesday at conference I attended a meeting organised by private providers of health care who work for the NHS.
Their presentation was well crafted and interesting. They stressed that they were wholly committed to the values of the NHS. They supported as fully as most voters the idea that health care should be delivered free at the point of treatment, regardless of means but based on needs. They agreed that the bills should be paid for out of taxation.

I'm not sure quite why John is telling us this, because a brief answer is "Well, yes. Of course they would". The last thing you want as a businessman is trading with millions of little customers who care about getting good value because they really want to have some money to spend on getting their car fixed.

No, the thing that any sane businessman wants is to trade with a lazy, incompetent bureaucrat who will agree to a terrible contract in your favour, and barely enforce it.

It's where people get so mixed up between business and markets. There is no incompatibility between business and big government. Business frequently likes government (especially if they're a blessed supplier). It's not pro-business we want, it's pro-market.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Why I'm Never Giving To Kiva Again

This

Waiting for a load of donors to give may well be "inefficient", but the fact is that telling people they're giving to one person and not another is, in my opinion, fraud.

I lent to someone through Kiva precisely because he worked in a particular industry in a particular country which I believed in supporting. Me. Not some Gap Year NGO worker or in a bureaucracy.

If the person I wanted to help had already got my money, that therefore means that someone else who might have been doing something that I wouldn't want to support got my money instead.

I'd already been warned off "sponsor a child" programmes which don't sponsor a child, but instead sponsor the village of the child (where spending then gets decided by Gap Year NGO workers), but I'd assumed Kiva was different.

Obviously not. My money will go elsewhere now.

Tory Booze Tax

In case any libertarians had forgotten the dark side of the Tories, Chris Grayling has made a speech reminding you all:-

The cost of a four-pack of high-strength lager would rise by £1.33 and a large bottle of alcopop would increase by £1.50, shadow home secretary Chris Grayling said.


Firstly, there's no definition anywhere in the law for an "alcopop". Any definition will put Bacardi Breezers and Pimms & lemonade together.

He told the Conservative party conference in Manchester the tax rises would not hit "responsible drinkers".


Bullshit. More like "not hit you and your friends". I've drank Bacardi Breezers a few times. Nice refreshing drink on a summers day, and done so responsibly. I drink very strong Belgian beers and do so responsibly.

He said: "The ordinary pint in the pub will not be affected and there'll be exemptions for some local traditional products. But we'll call time on the drinks that fuel anti-social behaviour.


There's the problem, though. As soon as you start taxing one form of liquid for getting shitfaced with, people will switch to another. They might even discover that local 8% scrumpy doesn't taste bad and is normally a bit cheaper than all those branded alcopops.

Mr Grayling also pledged to ban supermarkets from selling alcohol below cost price, warning that this "fuelled Britain's binge drinking culture".


No it doesn't, and Grayling's got no evidence to back that up.

He said that under Labour's "lax" licensing system, "virtually anyone" could get a licence to sell alcohol.


Which is exactly how the licensing system should be. The only requirements for getting a license should be that you aren't going to serve kids or people who are already too drunk.

"We even have all night takeaways selling more drink to people as they stagger home from the pub," he said.


And what's wrong with that?

"We will change that. Local councils will have the power to stop town centres being taken over by pubs, clubs and off-licences."


So, you prefer ghost towns with properties falling down instead?

Look, we already have far too much retail space in town centres as it is. Kicking out the pubs won't suddenly give us lots of independent butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. You'll have the even more unsightly charity shops, empty shops and pound shops.

George Osborne's Speech

OK, I'm really not at all impressed with this.

He started out quite well, talking about how deep the problems were, but then went off and talked about across the board pay cuts (in real terms) in the public sector.

If the Conservatives truly believe in localism, they'd consider this as none of their business, devolve budget cuts (in real terms) to local management and let them work things out.

A blanket pay cut (in real terms) is a stupid idea. It doesn't deal with the real problems which are about inefficiency, lack of discipline, poor processes and the scope creep which has occurred over the past 10 years.

Such a thing may signal to people that they should leave the public sector. This is fine if we're talking about terrible managers or 5-a-day co-ordinators, but the problem is that they won't be the people to leave. They know they've got a good deal and will stay until they're pushed out of the door with a generous redundancy package. It will be staff who know they can make it in the public sector who will go, who are generally the better staff.

I was also glad to see the end of breeding bonds.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

BBC Presenter Tax Avoidance

From the Telegraph:-

They are saving thousands of pounds by using the avoidance tactic – at the expense of the rest of the public.

Insiders say the BBC has advised them to set up 'service companies' so that they can convince the tax man they are legitimately working as freelancers.

Those that have done so include Fiona Bruce, the 10 O'Clock News presenter who also fronts Antiques Roadshow; Emily Maitlis and Jeremy Paxman from Newsnight.

Bruce has set up a company called Paradox Productions; Maitlis has Mouse Inc. and Paxman Out in the Dark.


There's a regulation known as IR35 which was designed to stop this sort of thing going on, what was known as "Friday to Monday" where you leave your desk on Friday as an employee and return on Monday as a freelancer which was only done to avoid tax.

Two of the tests are the time you've been with a client and the number of clients that you service. Paxman and Bruce are really going to struggle to get past that if the HMRC investigate.

A BBC spokesman said: "We are not going to discuss individuals tax arrangements. Clearly how people organise their tax status is something that they would need to take their own personal advice on.

"Some individuals working as freelancers in broadcasting, and a range of other sectors, like IT, set up service companies which deal with their tax arrangements and this is perfectly lawful."


The difference is that most freelance IT people don't spend 2 decades working at the same place, and mid way through set up a limited company (Companies House has all the details on these companies) to work as the contractual arrangement. Or, not if they don't want a visit from the taxman.

Monday, 5 October 2009

What Kind of Fuckwittery Is This?

From The Conservatives:-

The Shadow Universities and Skills Secretary explained that the new places would be paid for by introducing an early repayment bonus for existing graduates repaying their debts to the taxpayer ahead of schedule.

OK... can someone explain the sums of this? People already pay interest on their student loans once they reach a certain salary. If you give people a bonus, that will not only cost money, but you'll lose the interest (which I think is at the rate of inflation). Not sure how it adds up, but I can't see it making much money. Sounds more like a giveaway to people with rich parents to me: borrow money for tuition, do your course, mum and dad pay it off and get an early bonus.

"With one in six young people not in work or education or training, it is vital that we prevent a similar crisis next year. Our plan to give graduates a discount for repaying loans ahead of schedule will give thousands more young people the opportunity to go to university, rather than staying on the dole."


If you're a young person and unemployed, it's either because you've got NO qualifications, are lazy, or are too picky. Universities aren't going to take people with no GCSEs, so how this cuts unemployment I don't know.

h/t Mark Wadsworth

Sunday, 4 October 2009

The Lisbon Treaty

There's something nagging me about Cameron's "well, we can't really undo international treaties" line that he's been selling. Does this mean that a future Labour government could just sign a treaty with various Labour friendly governments like Cuba or Venezuela to send them a couple of billion per annum to each, and the Conservatives would just accept it and not be able to undo it?

Then again, Cameron and most of the Conservatives refused to wait and vote for Bill Cash's sovereignty amendment, so we know how much they really care about this matter.

An Excellent Paragraph from Tim Worstall

From his blog:-

This is perhaps the saddest thing about ASH and all the rest: they’ve poisoned the well. Someone as achingly liberal (classically so) as myself, one who believes fiercely in the power of voluntary cooperation to solve human problems, finds that he can no longer trust those who make claims to be part of the little platoons.


I'd have to agree with this. Any time I read a pronouncement from a charity, I'm off to the Charity Commission web site to read their accounts and see the sources of their funding (although the Iron Rule on this is if they're on the BBC making statements, they're probably a fake).

Thursday, 1 October 2009

A Guardian Post about Cuts in Doncaster

From a Guardian Journalist:-

But when community services are assessed, let us think of Jagtar Singh Dhindsa, who came to Britain without English as a first language. He benefited from funding– in his case, section 11 money that was channelled towards the education of young people from ethnic minorities and. Today, he is leader of the Labour group on Watford borough council and is chair of the National Association of Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority Councillors. If that doesn't represent best value for him and the wider community, what does?


Well, how about not bringing him in to the UK? If the result of this spending is to get yet another politician, then I'd say that burning the money is probably a better idea.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

I'll show you mine, if you show me yours, Polly

From Toynbee yesterday:-

Back in my home constituency, voters may not note the finer points now, but a good case repeated over and over with conviction will get heard. Economists of every hue support the pragmatic Labour view against a shoddy Tory opportunism. Fatally flawed and almost universally derided, Cameronomics might yet fall apart under electoral fire


Unfortunately for Polly, that's completely incorrect. Most economists don't support Keynesianism at all.

You want proof? Here's 300 economists who gave Obama a large slice of Shut The Fuck Up over Keynesian spending (including 3 Nobel laureates):-

http://www.cato.org/special/stimulus09/alternate_version.html

So, Polly, come up with 300+ economists to back your case and I'll believe you.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

A Little Note About Capitalism...

Or Free Markets, if you like....

One of the things I find when people criticise either is that when you talk to them about their criticisms, you frequently find that it has nothing to do with capitalism (or free markets), and that government is more frequently the problem.

Reading an article about Michael Moore's new film Capitalism: A Love Story reminded me of this:-

alongside the corporations (including Wal-Mart and Amegy Bank) which take out insurance policies on their employees and cash in big when they die young. These ghoulish derivatives go by the charming name of "dead peasants" insurance – which says it all, really.


Now, this sparked my interest because I've heard of employee insurance policies which fit into the pattern of "derivatives", in terms of offsetting risk. Imagine a fragrance company - they employ a small number of highly paid, very skilled perfumers. If one of them drops dead prematurely, it could have a major effect on the operation of the business. Now, it's not likely to happen, so the insurance is very cheap. But it offsets some risk.

The thing is that companies don't generally bother for regular staff. It's not worth it. The impact of 1 shelf stacker dying young isn't that great on the profits.

But I found this on Everything2 (a bit like Wikipedia):-

Described as, " A product actively marketed by the insurance industry as an 'attractive, off-balance-sheet asset,'" so far it's been the source of an estimated $6 billion in lost tax revenue to the U.S. Treasury annually and the subject of several pending tax court cases.


So, it's really not about "capitalism", or the free market. It is instead about government and how they create labyrinthine tax rules (often to either please lobbies or to bury how much tax you are paying) and then companies exploit them. Simplify the tax system so that businesses can't bury away money in various ways and this will stop.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Pandas

From The Times:-

The BBC wildlife expert Chris Packham has questioned the millions spent trying to save the giant panda from extinction and suggested that the bamboo-eating bear should be allowed to die out "with a degree of dignity".


I'm with Jim Jeffries on this one (NSFW):-

Err No, Mr Timms

From The Scotsman:-

Financial Secretary Stephen Timms denounced tax avoidance as "morally wrong" and said the PBR would contain measures to "tilt the game back towards honest, hard-working taxpayers".


Well, this is all somewhat dog whistle stuff, of course, hitting big, evil companies, when the 2 biggest problems in terms of the governments budget are the bloated public sector and the benefits system.

Personally, I don't see tax avoidance as morally wrong, especially avoidance of taxes at the current levels which pay for millions of pointless bureaucrats.

Mr Timms told a conference of international tax experts at the Treasury in London that the global economic downturn had created a "different world" in which tax cheats would be pursued more vigorously than ever before."


Fine. But tax avoidance isn't cheating. It's just working within the rules to minimise your tax.

A minority of companies – including large and small businesses – behaved as if they were playing a "game" with the tax authorities, in which their role was to find ways round government efforts to improve the efficiency and equity of the tax system, said the minister.

But the impact of their efforts to get round measures like the new 50p income tax rate was to increase the complexity of the tax system and harm the wider interests of British business.


Oh, do fuck off. The efficiency of the tax system? The government have done nothing about improving the efficiency. They've added more and more complexity to the tax system in order to create more stealth taxes to avoid people noticing that their taxes are going up.

And as for the 50p tax rate, that's completely the wrong way around. It's not that avoidance creates rules, it's that rules create avoidance. Really simple tax systems are difficult to avoid.

Monday, 21 September 2009

It's Over...

George Monbiot in the Guardian

Professor Latif suggested that the long-term warming trend could be masked - perhaps for as long as 10 or 20 years - by a temporary cooling caused by natural fluctuations in currents and temperatures called the North Atlantic oscillation. "Thereafter," he told the Today programme, "temperatures will pick up again and continue to warm."

....

We know that the world's climate system is a noisy one, in which natural variations of all kinds jostle constantly with the man-made warming signal. No one ever proposed that the global warming trend would be a smooth one, in which temperatures move up a notch every year. What we have seen so far are minor fluctuations weaving around a solid long-term trend.


OK, natural variations affect global temperatures as well as man-made global warming. Let's explore this a little...

What this seems to be saying is that 20 years ago, they didn't predict the natural events that are causing temperatures to fall now (there was no mention of it at the time), but that we can say now that natural events which will stop global warming will last for only 10-20 years?

Sounds a bit desperate, doesn't it? And you know that when temperatures go back up in 5 years that there will be another model to match that.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Jack Straw: Legalise Heroin on the NHS

From The Times:-

JACK STRAW, the justice secretary, has called for the NHS to give out heroin on prescription to addicts for whom other forms of treatment have failed.

He claims “imaginative” solutions to hard-drug abuse are needed and believes there could be “huge benefits” to issuing the drug to chronic addicts.

Straw said: “For the most problematic heroin users it may be the best means of reducing the harm they do themselves, and of stamping out the crime and disorder they inflict on the community.”


If I'd heard this from Jack Straw 12 years ago, I'd have welcomed it. I suppose I still should really, seeing as how it's close to my own view on things.

But quite frankly, it makes me seethe with fucking anger. All the reasons for it are reasons that were put to him again and again as Home Secretary, and every time, he shrugged them off with a smile and kept pushing the "War On Drugs" line.

It's one of the reasons I came to despise politicians, actually. Because once their careers aren't at risk, when either they're in the Lords or on the Shadow back benches (and can do nothing to make a damn bit of difference), they'll start saying how dumb the war on drugs is. The careerist cunts.

I'll count Straw's statement as yet more evidence that Labour know they're fucked at the next election.

The Conservatives Cuts List

John Redwood has published a list of Conservatives Cuts. I have my thoughts after...

We recommended major changes in the way Whitehall works, and big cuts in the overhead costs. Our list of cuts included some now familiar items:
1. ID card scheme to be scrapped
2. Abolition of unelected regional government
3. Cutting the number of quangos
4. Recruitment freeze to cut the number of civil servants
5. Reduction in use of external consultants
6. Changing the culture of public sector management, with PM and Chancellor providing a lead for higher quality at less cost
7. Clarifying accountability so any higher paid staff that were retained had specific tasks and performance monitoring
8. More trials and fewer errors – always pilot new schemes before national roll out
9, Break public monopolies – competition will drive higher quality and lower cost
10. Reward best practise


1. Yes.
2. Yes.
3. Yes.
4. No. OK. I want to see the number of civil servants reduced, but are the Conservatives saying that in every single area of government that we are overmanned to the point where natural wastage won't present problems? Because I don't and nor do the Conservatives (although most are overmanned).
5. So, you have a new government requirement because of an EU directive (which the tories will have to implement). Who's going to do the software considering that you've got a recruitment freeze and you aren't prepared to increase the level of consultants?
6. Naive stupidity, as though leadership by one group influences people (rather than incentives).
7. Target bollocks which will be written in haste and the civil servants will game the shit out of.
8. More bollocks. Some things can't be targetted except nationally.
9. Yes. But I'll believe it when I see it from this lot.
10. See point 7.

The real problem with all this is it is soundbite simplification which will be translated into terrible policy. It's "across the board" bollocks and it never works. It requires:-

1) Working out what you want government to do.
2) Planning how to organise that
3) Adding or subtracting the required number of staff to do that in the right places.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

David Mitchell on MPs salaries

From the Graun:-

The expenses scandal demonstrated three things: first, that British politicians can be dishonest, albeit in a petty way that genuinely corrupt political cultures would find quaint; second, that they can be idiotic, either in their stubborn refusal to concede that there were any irregularities or their spineless acceptance of every criticism hurled; third, that they weren't paid enough either to stop them ferreting for perks or to preclude the aforementioned morons infiltrating their number.


Some of the MPs who did things were quite wealthy, actually. And they knew what the salary was before they stood for the job.

Steve Punt did a bit of salary research for Radio 4's The Now Show and takes a different view: "Another way of looking at it is that they do a rather thankless and time-consuming job under relentless public criticism and yet they're paid less than the head of estate capacity procurement at the Ministry of Justice or the head of consumer services at Calderdale Council.


Which might just tell you that those jobs are overpaid, too.

The fact is that most people I know in the private sector who earn what MPs do have much, much more responsibility. They're typically running a team of 100+ people, or running a highly specialised function. Most MPs have what responsibility? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. As someone pointed out this morning, they can get sworn in as an MP and then go home for 4 years and never do a day's work. They can ignore every letter from their constituents and claim a generous pension at the end of it.

Friday, 11 September 2009

More Global Warming...

From the NOAA:-

For the contiguous United States the average August temperature of 72.2°F was 0.6°F below the 20th century average and ranked as the 30th coolest August on record, based on preliminary data.


Of course, there might be a very good reason for this, and I welcome any climate scientists telling me where I can download the data and source code for their climate models to prove this.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

This all sounds very good. But....

From David Cameron:-

But perhaps the biggest change will come through transparency. With a Conservative Government, every item of government spending over £25,000 will be published. Online. In full. No ifs, no buts.And if we win the next election, we’re going to publish online all public sector salaries over £150,000 too.
I don’t think people understand yet what a big difference this is going to make to government and how it spends.


Actually, it will make very little difference. If Cameron had any real world operational experience, rather than being a PR flunky, he'd know this.

Because anyone who's been through a bureaucracy knows that getting around these rules is fucking easy.

Let's take Cameron's favourite example: The yacht that the NHS has that sits on the Humber. Yup, it sounds like a spectacular waste of money too. The yacht is valued at £400,000 and used for encouraging youngsters to do healthy things.

Now, if you think that Cameron's plan is going to expose things like that, you should think again. What will happen instead is that instead of buying and running a yacht, they'll just rent one each time they need it. If they have to pay for youngsters to get there, that will be paid for separately. See how that works? Everything disappears into sub-£25000 invoices and none of it appears.

It's just like the impact of targets in how they create incentives. People just work to meet it over and above things like delivering value.

The only answer is to accept that government generally performs badly and that the answer is to just have a lot less of it and leave as much as possible to the market.

Phil Collins Will Never Drum Again

From the Daily Mirror:-


Phil Collins yesterday revealed he will never play the drums again because of a spine injury.


Which is a bloody shame as he's a great drummer. Couldn't someone use a part of his vocal chords to fix it and solve 2 problems?

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

I can't help but smell a rat about this...

I've been having a bit of a read about this Michael Shields case, and got round to reading Jack Straw's statement about it. These paragraph stood out:-

5. However, during the meeting on 28 August with Mr Shields’ parents, important new evidence came to light which, when looked at alongside all the previously available evidence, has now satisfied me that Mr Shields meets the high test set by the Court.

6. At this meeting, following a series of questions which I put to the family, I was told for the first time about a visit by two members of the Shields family to the home of a man alleged to be responsible for the crime for which Michael Shields was jailed. I was told that in the course of the visit that man made an oral confession to the crime in front of several other people. This episode, I was told, happened on 22 July 2005, a day after the start of Mr Shields’ trial in Bulgaria."


Now, I'm not a lawyer, but would the testimony by two members of the accused's family concerning an oral confession ever seriously be considered as evidence that would release a suspect? Wouldn't they consider that as family, you're hardly unbiased witnesses (they may well be telling the truth, but that's hardly the point).

But here's something interesting that we probably all missed at the time:-

The father of a football fan jailed for 15 years for a violent attack in Bulgaria is set to stand against Jack Straw in the next election.

Campaigners say Michael Shields, 22, was the victim of a miscarriage of justice.

His father, also Michael, is considering standing for the Blackburn seat to protest after the Justice Secretary indicated he would not pardon his son.


Then 2 weeks later, he did pardon him.

And this is why we shouldn't have political pardons. Because whether Straw made a sincere decision or not is irrelevant, there's enough about the last 3 weeks of this story to give the appearance of a politically motivated decision.

Political Pardons

I find this really uncomfortable:-

MICHAEL Shields was today set to be freed from jail after he was finally pardoned by Justice Secretary Jack Straw.

The 22-year-old has won his four-and-a-half-year fight to clear his name after a dramatic Government U-turn on his case.

In July, Mr Straw ruled he was not convinced the Edge Hill student was “morally and technically” innocent of the attempted murder of a Bulgarian waiter in 2005.

But today he announced that new evidence has convinced him to release Michael.


The reason why I find this uncomfortable is that it is a bypassing of the legal system by a politician.

Now, I know nothing about Michael Shields' case. Jack Straw may very well have evidence that would free him of his crime. But the process should be that this is presented to the Court of Appeal for them to decide.

It comes after Mr Straw held last-ditch talks with Michael’s parents and City Labour leader Joe Anderson at his constituency office in Blackburn on August 28.

It is understood new evidence presented to the secretary of state for justice at the meeting has led to his re-think.

Mr Straw has also come under increasing pressure from Merseyside MPs and crucially from Britain’s leading unions.


And this is why I'm especially uncomfortable. We have no evidence of this evidence even existing, and an alternative possibility is that Straw has no evidence and is releasing Shields on political grounds. I can't prove that, but nor is my hypothesis any weaker than Straw's.

If there is evidence or witnesses, it should be heard in a public court where judges can consider it in terms of how it affects guilt beyond reasonable doubt. That is the correct process.

More Flight Taxes

From The Times:-

Tens of billions of pounds will have to be raised through flight taxes to compensate developing countries for the damage air travel does to the environment, according to the Government’s advisory body on climate change.


OK, I have no problem with the principle of "polluter pays". If I damage your environment, I should pay for that. How much? Well, that's subject to debate.

But if we're saying that we give these countries something for something, what the fuck are we getting for the billions that we throw at them? And what the fuck are they going to do with any money we throw at them? I don't see much evidence of all this aid leading to much improvement.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Scouting and Knives

From The Telegraph:-

New advice published in Scouting, the official in-house magazine, says neither Scouts nor their parents should bring penknives to camp except in "specific" situations.


Civilisation in the UK is officially over.

Dave Budd, a knife-maker who runs courses training Scouts about the safe use of blades, wrote that the growing problem of knife crime meant action had to be taken.

"Sadly, there is now confusion about when a Scout is allowed to carry a knife," he wrote. "The series of high-profile fatal stabbings [has] highlighted a growing knife culture in the UK.

"I think it is safest to assume that knives of any sort should not be carried by anybody to a Scout meeting or camp, unless there is likely to be a specific need for one. In that case, they should be kept by the Scout leaders and handed out as required."


Oh for fucks sake.

When I was at school at about the age of 8 or 9, about half the boys at school had penknives. I seem to remember that taking one out in a lesson might get it confiscated and that was the end of it. Number of kids who got stabbed that I knew? None. Number of kids who got stabbed in my town growing up? None.

To paint another part of the picture of the fucking dangerous shit that they allowed us in the 1980s, I was a member of a school rifle club at 15. And these weren't little air rifles but .22s. A couple of mates were in the ATC and shot .303s after school.

I never was a scout, but wasn't getting out there and making knots and learning manly stuff like how to make fire part of the point? And yes, this stuff has an element of risk to it.

Gun and knife crime have absolutely nothing to do with the vast majority of kids who used to keep knives or shoot guns. They are about ill-disciplined children and the gang culture that comes from the stupid war on drugs. Getting rid of the guns and the knives isn't going to solve much of this, but dealing with personal responsibility and the war on drugs will.

Not Much Left at the BBC

I have a list of Things I Like At The BBC:-

- Top Gear
- QI
- Eggheads
- Terry Wogan

Now my license fee is even poorer value than it was.

Incidentally, I met Wogan once at a book signing for a friend. The guy was a real gent who really seemed to understand that his fans were the people who put him there.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Hardcore Profits

Unsurprisingly for the BBC, here's a series which is basically anti-porn. Surprisingly is just what a fucking hatchet job it is.

The main thing about tonight's programme seems to be about investment, and ethical investment. Now, I can understand that someone might not want to invest in say, Larry Flynt, but the examples given were ridiculous. They included companies like Vodafone or Amazon, and then went on to do a really nasty bit of reporting about Amazon.

The Amazon report included the fact that they'd bought hardcore porn from amazon.co.uk. Shocking really. Except that it wasn't Amazon, but a 3rd party seller, and they'd been suspended before the report came out. In other words, Amazon had done about as much as they possibly could.

Now, the fact is that you can look at almost any product and say that churches shouldn't invest. If you buy into a bed company, then some of the people who buy them will use them for fornication. If you buy into almost any food company, they will sell alcohol. How far do you go?

And just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, up comes that complete fuckwit Richard Murphy to say that companies don't like to talk about how much money they make from porn and should have to reveal things so their shareholders understand what is being done, despite the fact that that's never been part of what accountancy is about and that people always have the option not to invest in companies because of a lack of information.

It struck me as a one-man anti-porn crusade to try and bully people to get rid of porn, despite the fact that will never work. If someone stops buying shares in hotels because they supply porn, then someone else will. There's plenty of people who don't have a bung up their arse about this.