Wednesday, 29 December 2010

How's the State Doing?

From the Guardian:-
His call was echoed by Glyn Roberts from the Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, who said:"Heads will have to roll for this. Why on earth is Northern Ireland the only part of the UK where there has been this massive disruption since the thaw?"
It couldn't be that nearly all the rest of them were privatised (Scottish Water is state owned), could it?

Statement by the head of NI Water:-
Historically, we have had an amount of underinvestment here.
We had the Troubles and that has led to a level of underinvestment in the network which is now manifesting some problems for us which we're trying to deal with as fast as we can.
Hmm, sounds like it, doesn't it, boys and girls?

Thursday, 23 December 2010

The Bribery Act

From The Telegraph
Corporate Christmas gifts of a gold fountain pen or a case of Champagne may be caught by the new Bribery Act, according to a Serious Fraud Office "Secret Father Christmas" test drawn up by the country's largest professional service firm.
That's absurd.

I've sent small gifts to clients for Christmas. It's not a bribe, it's more of a coda, marking the end of a successful year of a relationship. It's not big, and certainly not of the sort of amount where I'd expect them to sway their decision in future (especially as they own the company and are therefore not corruptible).

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Possibly Interesting Information

I recently heard that our school was hiring a teaching assistant. The 6 candidates they are interviewing all have degrees.

A TA is a good job, and you want people with some intelligence and skill to do it. But degrees?

Raise the fees, lower the number of graduates and we'll actually all be richer.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

The Big Fascism Rolls On

From the Daily Mirror
David Cameron is to spearhead a clampdown on using sex to sell products to children.
The PM has ordered a major review of the problem - as well as the use of "pester power" to get children to nag parents to buy sweets or toys.
He is expected to ask Reg Bailey, boss of Christian campaign group the Mothers' Union, to consider new powers for parents to complain, Whitehall sources disclosed.

So an unelected organisation of 93,000 members is going to tell the rest of us how to live? I think that people who play Call of Duty or drink absinthe have as more representation than that.

The review will look at how to fight the sexualisation of children and efforts by shops and advertisers to exert "excessive commercial pressure" on them.
The clampdown could see Education Secretary Michael Gove bring in punishments for firms breaking any new rules - possibly a three-year ban on bidding for government work.
The correct process is to create a law, and then bring people before courts for breaking that law where the government has to present the evidence for the crime.

Banning companies from government contracts (without good reasons like being fraudulent or incapable) is simply an arbitrary use of power to get people to do what you want without having to define clear laws. It is the way of the dictator.

Far from Cameron's "big society" being a genuine attempt to roll back the state and to give people the power to run their own lives and to improve the lot of others through their own actions, it is instead simply the same old big government dressed up in the clothing of liberty.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

It's time...

To all ladies and gentlemen of a small government persuasion:

This blog requests your presence back on the blogs. Wipe your monitors, dust down your keyboards and express yourself for Harry and St George.

We've seen the electorate do the decent thing of booting out the last bunch of ne'er do wells, a high spending group of bansturbators keen to raise the police state and control your lives. We have since that day rested easily, content that this lot wouldn't be as bad.

I put it to you ladies and gentlemen that while not as bad as the last lot, this lot are now showing themselves to be almost as bad as the last lot. We have recently seen Cameron agree to shovel large amounts of cash at the EU and at Ireland, but the tipping point, what has brought this call to blog is Andrew Lansley new White Paper.

For while the Conservatives are talking society, they are walking in the same footprints as the previous government. We are to see the government introduce minimum pricing for alcohol, the pointless blank labelling of cigarette packets and introduce rules on business to provide time, space and fridges for breastfeeding mothers (like small businesses really need some extra regulatory burden). Apparantly, this will be up to 2 hours a day.

What do these fucking chumps think they're up to? Do they think I'm going to hire someone in this country and risk getting a woman who could take a year off work, who I then have to keep a job open for, only to then have them taking an hour and a half out of their day to express milk, to get some office space just so they can do that and pay for refrigeration? Fuck, no. I'm going to hire a Mahir or a Ranjita in Hyderabad who's going to not only work for a fraction of the price, but is going to be working when I pay them (yes, I expect a little goofing, but not 25% of the day).

These are not our friends. They're barely going to be less bad than the last lot. It's time to awaken from your slumber and get angry at them.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Claire Perry on Internet Porn

From This is Wiltshire

We already successfully regulate British TV channels, cinema screens, high street hoardings and newsagent shelves.
“Why should the internet be any different? British internet service providers should share the responsibility to keep our children safe, so I am calling for ISPs to offer an ‘opt-in’ system that uses age verification to access pornographic material.”
Trouble is that's not actually a very good solution.

An adult might want to be allowed to visit some gambling or violent movie sites while keeping their children away from them. So, a blanket setting on an ISP account won't support that.

But we already have a solution to this problem: separate family member accounts. If you don't have this already then you should, and not just to keep your kids away from unsuitable material. It also means that your kids can keep their documents and favourites away from yours and that they can't go installing dodgy software because they don't have the rights.

It's been in Windows since Vista and in Mac (but I'm not sure which version). Setting it up takes a matter of minutes, and requires no government to pass a whole load of hideous, expensive and useless Think Of The Children legislation.

I don't expect the government to be full of ubergeeks, but it would be nice to have people who are at least a little computer literate running the show, especially if they're going to comment on it.

The No to AV Campaign

If Labour and Conservative parties are so keen on FPTP, why do they use other electoral systems to elect their leaders? (Labour is quite close to AV, the Conservatives use a system that's quite similar to the X Factor).

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Plan to Get the Feckless Back Into Work

Some strange stuff from Iain Duncan-Smith:-

From the Telegraph:-
"This is what he is trying to achieve from a 21st century perspective. When he brought in the welfare system, work was a much simpler system. You were pretty much in work full-time or you were out of work.
"It was pretty much men who were in work and it was dominated by a huge amount of manual hard graft labour. Society has changed dramatically since then."
From Sky:-
Long-term dole claimants thought to need "experience of the habits and routines of working life" could be put on month-long unpaid placements of 30 hours a week doing jobs such as clearing litter and gardening.
So, despite the fact that IDS admits that society has shifted from a huge amount of manual hard graft labour, the work that they're going to get people to do is in... manual... hard graft... labour.
He said: "One thing we can do is pull people in to do one or two weeks' manual work - turn up at 9am and leave at 5pm, to give people a sense of work, but also when we think they're doing other work.
Oh, and presenteeism too, despite the fact that many companies are starting to recognise how absurd that is as a way to measuring people's output.

I'm pretty suspicious about the whole idea of dragging people into a job for a couple of weeks and expecting it to change very much. You'll have the same sort of 3rd party private consultants running them, making sure that the right boxes get ticked that show that the claimant turned up because that's what everyone below the minister down will want to see. Most of the people getting them in will be councils because they're the sort of people who need people to pick up litter, and most of the people managing them will see them as a burden, so as long as they don't bother anyone, they'll tick some boxes.

I guess IDS thinks people like private sector firms will hire people being effectively paid £1/hour who aren't going to be there for more than a few weeks. Well, guess again. The odds of someone coming in and pinching the computers is pretty high, and anyway, you can't get someone up to speed on office work within a few weeks.

I've seen some comparisons with what some states in the US did, and they just ain't the same. Those schemes cut benefits if you didn't take a job from an employer. Not some Potemkin activity clearing rubbish, but actual useful work that needed doing, and properly paid.

You want to know how to solve this? Citizen's income and get rid of most employment law.Make it cheap and easy for employers to hire (or fire) people and they'll actually hire a lot more people. And try to get young people doing stuff that they might be interested in.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Page 3 News

Someone at The Sun has turned the lovely byline into a parody:-
RHIAN was glad to see Miriam O’Reilly taking a stand against ageism and sexism after being dropped from BBC show Countryfile. She said: “It reminds me of the American playwright Clare Boothe Luce who said, ‘Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed’.”
I'm sure they'll be one of them turning up on Tim Worstall's blog to debate Pigovian taxes.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The US Elections

The Guardian are absolutely going to shit a brick if Tea Party candidates win. Because if it happens there, it's going to happen here...

XKCD Spot On

Of course, there's always some argument like "ah, but big pharma can't make as much money out of homeopathy" which forgets that someone would make money out of it..

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Nick Cohen On Google

Oh Dear...
Google spokesmen say that they are not selling the information on to junk mail companies and they will destroy the data they've collected when they find time to get round to it. Google was inadvertently breaking into networks without their owners' consent, they said, because collecting the positions of Wi-Fis allowed them to triangulate locations and produce better directions for mobile phone owners using Google Maps, which, in turn, will allow Google to generate more advertising revenue.
What was that saying about ignorance? Better to shut the fuck up and be thought an ignorant twat about computers than to write about it in the Guardian and remove all doubt?

Google weren't "breaking into networks". What they did was to record information that was floating around unencrypted in the ether, the equivalent of someone walking past a table in a pub where someone had carelessly left a document lying around showing details of a merger between 2 companies and mentally recording that fact (before going off to buy some shares).
A fall will inevitably follow such hubris. Apple supplanted Microsoft because consumers thought it the more friendly and anti-establishment company. Users do not have to believe that Google is evil for it to suffer an identical fate. They just need to think that it, too, is a part of an establishment that wishes to exploit them. As soon as they do, the search engine that will break Google's monopoly will be waiting for their custom. Just one click of the mouse away.
Supplanted? Apple has 5% of the PC market share, and its phone market share is slipping to Android. Which is created and run by.... Google.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Is the movie industry actually... an industry?

I was just looking at the news and I noticed that Jackass 3D had taken $50m at the US box office in a weekend. It cost $20m to make.

The simple rule is that a movie is a hit if the box office gross is 3 times the budget, so my guess is that they'll be a certified hit by next weekend.

Which begs the question... why aren't more people making Jackass-type movies? Or if you look at certain genres of movies, they seem to make money hand-over-fist. Critics might like Martin Scorsese and Spike Lee, but they actually never make much money. The movies that make the best returns are horror and teenage movies. You don't need an expensive cast for something like American Pie, yet there's a huge teenage audience for it.

My theory is that a lot of movies get backed by people who are drawn into the glamour of Hollywood, rather than on making a return. Thoughts?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Philip Green's Somewhat Bizarre Report

Download from here

Now, I sort of get what he's saying... If you're BHS or Tesco, you can use your size to gain more purchasing power and save heaps of money:-

There is no standard specification across departments.
•We found the following variations in price for laptops: Highest price: £2,000 Lowest price: £353 Differential: 82%.
•At this level of volume, the Government should buy direct from a multinational manufacturer.
So, what you then end up with is a centralised Department of Computer Purchasing which buys computers for everyone. The manager at a council puts in his 25 page, triplicate request into the department who then process the request and send out the laptop.

Is it going to save any money? Well, no.

The real problem that Green doesn't understand is that there's a huge difference in how retail sets its incentives and how government sets incentives. Something goes wrong in government and the press will be all over you, public enquiries and so forth. Make your department 3 times more efficient than the next guy? No-one cares.

So no-one in that purchasing department is really going to care because everyone above them and below them is spending other people's money. In fact, if they get tight on budget they can then plead poverty and ask for more next year.

That laptop isn't just expensive now. It's expensive + the expense of hiring some more bureaucrats to order it + the cost of the paper trail + the extra delay to people trying to do their job.

I've seen these things in large companies vs small ones, where the small company I worked for ordered PCs from Dell for less than the large company with its supposedly excellent buying power. Why? Because my boss owned the company and got me to spend 5 minutes shopping around for a PC. He cared about the price which some middle manager doesn't care that much about because he's spending his own money.

So, what's the solution to government spending? It's quite simple:-

  1. Privatise everything that can be made competitive. Let the public buy things. They'll soon find value.
  2. Reduce the laws and taxes to be as simple as possible. That way government has less to do.
  3. Take out all unneccessary functions of government. You want arts, you pay for them.
  4. Make government more accountable. If something is delivered locally, then people vote for it locally.
Other than that, accept that those last remaining parts of government will piss money away. I've read reports around the world, and no-one has cracked how to make government efficient, except by trimming it down, or giving the public quite direct powers to fire the useless.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Lansley Goes to War

And jolly good, say I. The BMA, as the trade union of doctors has a quite typical response to a bit of competition:-
Dr Meldrum said: ‘The BMA has given very careful consideration to these wide-ranging proposals, and we hope the government will demonstrate that it really does want doctors to be in the driving seat by listening to what doctors are telling them. 
‘Doctors want to build on the principles of the NHS, and to maintain and improve services despite the hugely challenging financial climate. 
‘However, success depends on working in partnership with others, a holistic approach to care and a reduction in bureaucracy. The insistence on a market-based approach risks fragmentation, inefficiency and increased transaction costs.’
The problem is that there isn't a scrap of evidence anywhere in the world that says that more competition causes inefficiency, and I challenge the BMA to produce some. Introducing competition into the opticians market in the 80s is what gave us cheaper spectacles from Specsavers. Competition for airlines gave us cheaper fares. More recently, the arrival of Firefox on the browser arena is what gave us better, faster, safer internet browsers. Microsoft had disbanded the Internet Explorer team because they didn't need to make it any better.
As I like to tell people here, I would have fired a couple of people who dealt with a health problem of mine, if I had a choice, and I like the idea that they wouldn't get the gravy but that someone else would instead.

And yes, it works inside organisations too. Tom Peters in In Search of Excellence talked about how certain companies had sales teams competing for the same turf, and they all worked harder as a result and achieved better sales, despite the fact that it looks wasteful to the sort of bureaucrats that run most large companies.

Car Shopping

OK. I'm after a car. Nothing too fancy, a few years old.

But I don't want to go to a garage and do a whole gigantic and ludicrous dance just to knock a grand and a half off. I know that's already factored in to the forecourt price.

What I want is someone to say "Car X costs £Y, that's the price, take it or leave it". But that in exchange for not employing oily sales guys on commission, and instead just employing what's basically a glorified checkout girl, you knock a large chunk off the price. I don't even mind if the ultimate thing of that is that I only get £1400 off, instead of the £1500 I'd have to squeeze off the price if I worked my socks off. Sorry, I'd rather just have that.

So, can anyone recommend a UK based car sales company, someone who'll do this sort of thing?

Friday, 24 September 2010

RIP Eddie Fisher

Not sure about your music, but I, and thousands of Star Wars fans would like to thank you for this.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Women defends herself from Bear with Courgette

From Yahoo News:-
"The bear growled and was very aggressive and tried to come inside of her back door," Maricelli said. "She was able to stop the pursuing bear by improvising."
The bear took a swipe at her with its paw and tore her jeans. The woman jumped back and grasped the nearest object on her kitchen counter inside the doorway — a 12-inch-long zucchini she had harvested earlier from her garden.
She flung the zucchini at the bear from a distance she estimated to be 3 feet. The vegetable bopped the bruin on the top of its head and the animal fled, Maricelli said.
I suppose it's why we rule the earth and wiped out lots of bears. If you're going to get scared by someone throwing 1 vegetable at you then you're not going to be the top species, are you?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Journalism Rent-Seeking

It was only a matter of time before the people who cut-and-paste press releases decided that they needed special protection (from EurActiv):-

The main journalist trade union in Europe and the UK wants citizens to be given 'European Democracy Vouchers', funded by internet service providers, which can be used to buy newspapers and pay for online media subscriptions.
The vouchers, which would work in the same way as restaurant vouchers currently used in several countries, would be funded through a levy on internet service providers (ISPs), according to the National Union of Journalists in the UK (NUJ).
The idea was aired in a submission to the European Commission's consultation on creative industries, published in April (EurActiv 30/04/10).
How about you go fuck yourselves instead?

Bono's ONE Foundation

From the New York Post
The Bono nonprofit took in $14,993,873 in public donations in 2008, the latest year for which tax records are available.
Of that, $184,732 was distributed to three charities, according to the IRS filing.
Meanwhile, more than $8 million was spent on executive and employee salaries.
This is the man who accused Bush of not doing enough for world hunger.

Cable on Capitalism

From the BBC:-

The business secretary will tell his party's conference that "murky" corporate practices threaten UK firms and "capitalism kills competition".

He will announce a consultation into issues such as executive pay and the role of directors in takeover battles.

OK, assuming that Cable means "capitalism" in it's correct term, using Britannica's definition of an Economic system in which most of the means of production are privately owned, and production is guided and income distributed largely through the operation of markets, then:-
  1. Every player in the system would like to wipe out the competition but...
  2. It's still the best system around for delivering competition
As for all this boardroom stuff, you have a very simple choice: don't own shares in companies that you don't like. I ended up with a philosophy that derives from Gordon Gekko - I only buy shares where the people in charge have a large stake in the company. Steve Jobs gives a shit about Apple in a way that most executives don't. 

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Working from Home and Carbon

From The Telegraph:-
Shoppers need to buy at least 25 items from a website, before any environmental benefits take effect. If a consumer buys fewer items than that it would be better to drive to the shops, than rely on a lorry to make the delivery to their home.
This is the finding of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, which looked at the so-called rebound’ effects of activities that are commonly thought to be green. Rebound effects are the unintended consequences of policies.
Prof Phil Blythe, chairman of the IET transport policy panel, which produced the report, said: “We hear a lot about the environmental benefits achieved as a result of working from home. However, on closer inspection it does appear that any environmental benefits are marginal.”
First of all, you have to strip out those parts that are common between say, Amazon and Waterstones. They both have suppliers, who both deliver to warehouses. The next part differs, but has similar levels of fuel use - delivering packages from the warehouse to depot (in Amazon's case) vs delivering from depot to Branch (in Waterstones' case).

But the real difference is what happens next. In the case of Amazon, they transport your book from depot to home, along with hundreds of other parcels. Whilst it's not going to be the most direct route to your home, it's going to be part of a large optimised delivery (these guys have software to work out the best route). If you consider that a van is going to deliver to even 5 houses in the same estate, it's going to use almost the same energy than one householder will use going to town.
Maybe I'm missing something in the chain here, something that adds a whole load of extra fuel to internet use, because I really don't buy this.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Those Hard Spending Cuts

From the Perthshire Advertiser
PROVOST John Hulbert has been given the green-light to organise a council-funded trip to Canada costing £2950 – in the face of severe cuts.
The council figurehead’s sub committee members agreed on Wednesday that a trip to visit twin-town Perth, Ontario, in September or October next year would be viable.
Yup. Rather than spending £3K on fixing roads or educating kids, they're going to go on a jolly to Ontario.

But I'm sure there's a justification for it
Provost Hulbert, whose wife will travel at her own expense, explained that on a previous visit to the town he felt that there were business benefits which could be taken advantage of.
He said: “They capitalise on their craft industry, it is part of Lanark County which has a large number of craft industries.
“When I was there some years ago I thought that we should be doing something along those lines here.”
Doing something about crafts? And you have what experience of business, Mr Hulbert?

Of course there's another old chestnut...
Defending the costly jaunt, which will be funded from the twinning-budget, councillors pointed out that strengthening links between the towns was important.
Councillor Alexander Stewart said: “There is no doubt that the arrangements create business links.
“We would have to spend a little to get there but more comes back, so I am happy to support this.”
I'd love to see Perth provide some figures on this, because twinning rarely creates business links. Yes, it's going to happen, but at what cost?

Twinning was created for a very simple reason... it was to foster friendship links with Europe after WW2. It was to show that Johnny Foreigners were actually quite nice people. And it probably made some sense back then, but in an age when half of Britains holiday abroad and frequently work for international companies, it's pretty much redundant

I've decided to go on a hunt for lots of these stories. Councils pleading poverty in the face of cuts, yet still able to fund luxurious spending. Any more examples gratefully received.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The AA Gill incident.

So, the PCC have ruled against AA Gill.

Here's AA Gill's original quote:-

Which brings me quite naturally to Clare Balding on a bicycle in Devon. Some time ago, I made a cheap and frankly unnecessary joke about Clare Balding looking like a big lesbian. And afterwards somebody tugged my sleeve to point out that she is a big lesbian, and I felt foolish and guilty. So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise. Sorry.
Now back to the dyke on a bike...
Maybe you're reading that quote in context, and still don't get the joke. Let me try to explain it to you...

1) Gill called Clare Balding a big lesbian.
2) Some people complained about this despite it actually being true.
3) Gill uses irony to express guilt over saying something which is true (because you shouldn't need to express guilt over saying something that is true).
4) Says something that is quite deliberately designed to juxtapose his already fake apology by saying something even more offensive on the same subject.

If you can't grasp that, then you should probably add some tequila to your breakfast and lighten the fuck up.

In which Ratzy Really Pisses Me Off

I was quite ambivalent about the pope's visit. If idiots want to take a day out of their lives to see a bloke behind 3 inches of bullet proof glass instead of doing something useful like playing Super Mario Galaxy, then I don't see it's my business.

But as an atheist, I'm somewhat offended when people call me a Nazi. Rather than dropping into lazy attacks about him being in the Hitler Youth (which wasn't his choice), it's worth pointing out what the catholic church in Germany and Rome did about the Nazis. In a brief summary, they did absolutely nothing to stand against the Nazis, and in many ways, colluded with them.

The way that Hitler gained power was not through a coup, but by a combination of democracy and a piece of legislation called the Erm√§chtigungsgesetz or Enabling Act. Not only did the Catholic Centre Party vote in favour of the Enabling Act, they actively campaigned for other parties to support it, based on achieving concessions for the Catholics.

So, far from being a buffer against tyranny, the church helped to bring it about.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Tower Climbing

A fun video. If you don't like heights (like me), you may find it uncomfortable.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Life in Charts: The Pope's Visit

Chart comparing the total cost per day of the Pope's Visit vs the Olympic Games (in millions of pounds).

Catholicism ain't my bag, I don't agree with a lot of the pope says, but as a cost issue, it's a complete irrelevance compared a lot of other things (I'd have put the deficit in there, but the line would have disappeared.

Wonderful! Wonderful!

From The Guardian
Cuba has announced it will lay off more than a million state employees in a sweeping privatisation drive that will transform the island's socialist economy.

Authorities said layoffs would begin immediately amid loosened controls on private enterprise which, it is hoped, will kickstart the private sector and create new jobs for former public workers.

The official Cuban labour federation, which made the announcement on Monday, said 500,000 jobs would go by March and eventually 1m would be cut in the biggest economic shakeup since the 1960s.
I've looked up Cuba's economy on Wikipedia. As of 2009, it had a labour force of 5.1m, with 78% of the workforce in the public sector. Or about 4 million public sector workers. So, Cuba is going to reduce its public sector workforce by 25%, which will take it to about 58% public sector.

So, the Cuban people are going to get richer. Which is a massive plus.

Now, assuming that the US doesn't change its embargo, are those who blamed Cuba's ills on the US going to admit their error when the Cuban people get richer?

Just a Thought

Now that Lady Gaga has shown off her meat dress, are we going to get a visit to her home to see her beef curtains?


The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, last week warned that crime and anti-social behaviour were likely to increase if the police had to reduce officer numbers as a result of spending cuts.
Look, the only reason we bother to call you if something gets nicked is to get a crime number for insurance purposes. We know that it's going to make sod all difference to our goods being found again. The idea that crime, despite the police being completely incompetent at solving most of it, is going to go up because of a few spending cuts is just laughable.

Reeking of Bias

BBC unions last night declared war on the Conservatives with an extraordinary threat to black out coverage of David Cameron’s keynote speech to the Tory party conference.
That demolishes Mark Thompson's statement that the BBC was once left-wing, but isn't any longer.

The effect of party conferences is that coverage raises the polling for the party being covered, at least temporarily. Not showing the Conservative conference (or scaling it down), would be a boost for the other parties.

Regardless of whether this goes ahead, the government should now get onto replacing the licence fee with a subscription.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Joy of Clients

Potential client calls up.

"hello, I'd like some programming work doing"
"OK, how much"
"Oh, about 4 months"
"Well, my rate is normally £x/day, but as it's for 4 months, I'll give you a discount of £y/day"
"Sounds reasonable"
"Yes, but that's based on a firm commitment to those times".


"OK, looks like it's actually about 4 weeks of work, and I can offer you £z (£z being about 20% less than my £y rate)".
"The rate you're talking is lower than the market rate"
"Well, I can offer you a 20% bonus based on the project succeeding. OK, and that 20% then takes me back to my rate, but I'm going to take on some risk and the timescales are less than the discount"
"Let me think... No".

OK, bit of a rant, but I'm tired of cheapskate bastards who want a professional job doing, but want me to take on risk without offering anything in return for that risk. Every other call I'm getting at the moment is from people offering me less than agency work. And agency work means:-

1) I get paid very quickly
2) Someone provides me with an office, desk and coffee
3) If the hardware breaks or the client can't decide something for a day, I still get paid for loafing around on Facebook.

In fact, I don't mind the genuine, honest cheapskates. I don't mind the people who say "ooh that's a bit steep" when I tell them my rate, and say that they'll go elsewhere. It's the people who are vaguely in agreement with a rate, and then fuck around over it at the last minute in the hope that I'll cave in, having invested some time in talking to them that piss me off. Don't waste my fucking time, assholes.

James Cleverly on Trade Unions

Rather splendid metaphor from James Cleverly

We now have completely different circumstances to the ones when the unions were created. It could be argued that the unions have won their real battle, employers care for their workers, exploitations is now unacceptable and indeed illegal, the Ragged Trousered Philanthropist is an history work of fiction. The dragons that the unions sought to slay have been slain, Bob Crow, Tony Woodley, Matt Wrack et al are like those Japanese soldiers alone on Pacific islands in the 1950s refusing to believe that WWII had ended.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Any Excuse for a Fall Song

From The Guardian:-

Towns and cities in England's industrial heartlands are the communities most vulnerable to the deep cuts in public spending planned by the coalition government, according to research released today.

Research? Captain Obvious could have told you this. A lot of places in the north live off the state, whether that's dole, government jobs or whatever else. It's why areas like the South West aren't going to suffer much from the cuts - they mostly make money out of being productive.

But more importantly:-

The Fall - Hit The North

A Message to Radio 2

Please, I beg you, stop playing that new Phil Collins album of covers of old soul classics.

I'm sure there's someone out there who can do something interesting with Stevie Wonder's Uptight, but a single which is arranged in exactly the same way, except with Phil Collins singing has no place in a good world. It's like someone offering you a juicy, shiny apple or a slightly bruised apple and telling you they cost the same. There's just no reason you'd choose the slightly bruised one.


The parents of two prostitutes who allegedly had a ‘threesome’ with Wayne Rooney spoke of their sadness yesterday at the impact of the revelations on his long-suffering wife Coleen.
In an extraordinary statement, privately-educated Jennifer Thompson’s father Hamish and mother Danuta offered their ‘most sincere apologies to Coleen Rooney and her family’ and said they would ‘never condone' what the 21-year-old is alleged to have done.
I can't help wondering what kind of upbringing these girls have if their parents are going to "apologise" to a stranger for their children taking part in a consenting act where the stranger's husband was arguably the only guilty party.

Maybe there's a reason they became prostitutes...

Massive Fisking Of This Statement

Regarding the attack on a boy at the Ridgeway School in Wroughton near Swindon, the boy's mother said:-
The review doesn’t mention what needs to be done to improve race relations in Swindon which is an urgent concern considering the increase in the vote for the BNP.
Let's be clear about this: there isn't a "race relations" problem in Swindon. It's mostly white with a small Bangladeshi population around Manchester Road and a few Indians dotted around the town. Is it perfect? No. I'm sure there are isolated incidents. Do people mostly just get on here? Yes.

And that "increase in the vote for the BNP"? That was in North Swindon, because the BNP put up a candidate this time, and so the vote went from 0% to 3.1%. They got 0% of the vote in South Swindon because they didn't put up a candidate.

Now, where do you think Ridgeway School is? In South Swindon. Where is Manchester Road? In South Swindon (the border is the railway line). So, areas affected by this incident, and the BNP are completely unrelated.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Bomber Command Bleg

I don't like to do much blegging, and generally only on behalf of charities. In order to get the bomber command memorial built, they need about £1.9m in 6 weeks. Please give generously.

Friday, 3 September 2010


Town Hall planners have used new powers to throw out “garden grabbing” plans to build homes on a country lane.

The planning committee on South Ribble Council rejected the plans to build six two-storey detached houses on land behind a home on Marsh Lane, Longton.

Committee member Graham Walton said: “This amounts to garden grabbing and we have been given an opportunity to do something to stop this happening in a beautiful area like Marsh Lane.”

And building 6 houses on this land is going to turn it into downtown LA. Right?

View Larger Map

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Blair's Autobiography

The tome has already shot to the top of's best-seller list.
I  really don't understand this. So many people are reading it that all the juicy or interesting stuff is going to get filtered in the press anyway. Plus it's coming through the filter of Blair, a man who is a certified bullshitter.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

I don't see this working out well...

From The BBC
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is extending its remit to cover the online realm.
It means that online marketing and ads will, from 1 March 2011, be subject to the same strict advertising rules as traditional media.
The ASA will also have the power to ban marketing statements on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
In simple terms, this means less stuff gets produced in the UK. If you're a UK games site, you now have to comply with ASA regulations. Meanwhile, your foreign competitors can do what they like.

Pity really. I thought that the internet was the way to finally ditch these dinosaurs like the ASA and the BBFC.

Blair on Fox Hunting

From Farmer's Weekly
In his memoir, A Journey, Mr Blair said he deliberately sabotaged the 2004 Hunting Act to ensure there were enough loopholes to allow hunting to continue.
Describing the act as a "masterly British compromise", Mr Blair said it left people able to hunt foxes "provided certain steps were taken to avoid cruelty when the fox was killed.
He also told then-Home Office minister Hazel Blears to steer police away from enforcing the law.
This reinforces my view that Blair is a wretched, dishonourable man who is about nothing but Tony Blair. He introduced the fox hunting law for no other reason than as a sop to the class warriors of the Labour party to help promote himself in power. Yet he actually had no moral desire for such a law, and now that he's long out of office and can't be affected by showing it's a sham, will do so.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Big Government Rolls On...

From the Daily Mail

The Office of Fair Trading says the deals leave shoppers confused and unable to work out the true value of what they are buying. Promotional sales in stores that have an 'end date' which is repeatedly extended are among those targeted.
Masking price rises through promotions will also be banned. Similarly, the practice of baiting – luring customers into stores with cheap products that have extremely limited availability – will also be stopped.

Do we really, really need government to do this for us?

OK, I don't appreciate having my time wasted on a deal with a bunch of charges that aren't up front, and if someone pulls that stunt on me, I'll give them a piece of my mind. I'll also walk out of the shop. Limited time deals? Look, either you like a product at the price or you don't. You have to be a numbskull to not know that shops want you to buy right now rather than next year, but anyone knows that a deal at a price today is likely to be repeated, or replaced with something similar soon after.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Good Riddance, NHS Direct

I used the service a few times, and discovered that it was mostly a waste of time. If I have to call a service, spend a few minutes on the phone only to then go to hospital, then it's cost more than me just going to hospital.

I get the impression that the whole idea was that it was some management consultant wheeze that the government liked the look of because it made them look all 21st century, like all the banks with call centres.

The big difference is that a business generally has the facts at their fingertips about your account, or can ask you questions to solve most problems. With medical diagnosis you often need to examine a patient, check blood pressure and so forth. Can't be done over the phone.

This resulted in a paradox with NHS Direct. They employed fully qualified nurses, yet because of the limitations of diagnosis, were limited in what they could actually deal with.

So, the new 111 service actually makes a lot more sense. Don't employ highly trained nurses, put them into wards where they should be, and hire some people off the streets, train them in 60% of problems that are very routine and get them to tell patients to go to A&E for anything else. That's how ISPs work - put monkeys on 1st line support and put skilled people on 2nd and 3rd line.

The Internet vs Washing Machines

Ha-Joon Chang in the Guardian
The internet may have significantly changed the working patterns of people like you and me, but we are in a tiny minority. For most people, its effect is more about keeping in touch with friends and looking up things here and there. Economists have found very little evidence that since the internet revolution productivity has grown.
The internet has reduced the time of sending, say, three or four pages of text from the 30 seconds you needed with a fax machine down to maybe two seconds – a reduction by a factor of 15. Unless I'm trading commodity futures, I can't think of anything where it's really so important that we send it in two seconds rather than a few minutes.

I might suggest that Mr Chang is ignorant, and perhaps needs to do some more research.
Yes, you can send a fax at almost the same speed as an email, but can you send a customer's transactions in a machine readable form, or information about parts that are going to be delayed in an order, including when it will be available.
Behind the Facebooks, eBays, Amazons, Ocados and iTunes is a whole world of the internet that is unseen by most. They're like the little internet gnomes. Even most employees in companies never see them. There are companies running computers connected to the internet telling the computers of other companies what's going on. These are known in the trade as "web services".
Imagine you're a company making laptops. A customer orders a laptop from you. You can instantly check stock levels and manufacturing time and give them a delivery date. But what you also do is to then consider the impact on that stock reduction.
OK, you need more stock of say, blu-Ray drives in laptops. How do you do that? Does a man phone around to order more? No, your computer automatically trips something which then sends out multiple messages to suppliers to get prices and delivery times and can then automatically select the supplier and place the order.

Having placed the order, the customer will then receive updates on the order of parts. Not by email, but by the supplier computer sending a message to the customer computer to update it. The customer can then factor this into their manufacturing schedule. They might, for instance, decide to increase their staff overtime. Oh, and  this could all be worked out and supplied to a  manager. 

The supplier, having received the order will then factor the order into their stock levels. Again, the computer will automatically do something similar in terms of prices/supplies to the suppliers of lasers, resistors/wiring used to make the blu-ray drive.

Mr Chang seems to think that the internet doesn't make much difference to globalisation, but the fact is that you just can't have this sort of thing without it. You can't have these sorts of complex manufacturing arrangements with faxes. You just can't get the sort of detail that you need.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Mark Thompson in a Muddle

Via the BBC:
Mr Thompson responded to these criticisms, saying Sky was on its way to becoming "the most dominant force in broadcast media in this country".
He suggested that the broadcaster was not doing enough to produce its own original content.
"It's time that Sky pulled its weight... its investment in original British content is just not enough," he told an audience at the Edinburgh International Television Festival.
So, it's becoming the most dominant force in broadcast media without producing enough original content, yet Mark Thompson thinks it should produce more. Nope. Doesn't add up, and as Sky's a private business, I don't see it's anything of Thompson's concern.

More evidence for "Doth Protest Too Much"

Crispin Blunt speaking in 1997 on the debate of lowering the age of consent for homosexuals:-
While I accept that, in law, we should tolerate people's choices to follow a homosexual life style and practice, I maintain that those are not equivalent to heterosexuality—nor should we pretend that they are.
Easier to spot than a moustachio'd bloke dressed in a leather cap walking down Canal Street whistling I Am What I Am.

Because I can't see why any straight man would have a problem with a gay man. Yes, the whole idea of male sodomy makes me feel quite queasy, but no-one's forcing me to be a participant. And the benefits of a man coming out is that there's more totty for the rest of us.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Al Murray - Pub Landlord

It's just Alf Garnett, updated for what would be allowed on TV today, isn't it?


Monday, 23 August 2010

Send in Davina McCall

Thirty-three miners trapped underground in Chile for the past 17 days are alive, but rescue workers may not be able to reach them before Christmas, officials said.
You just need a whole load of cameras, some lights and a Geordie voice-over man. Not sure that you can have weekly evictions, but we could get them to do some challenges for extra food.

Parking at Work

Some lunacy from Nottingham City Council

Nottingham is so far the only local authority to announce plans to introduce workplace parking levies.
Under the scheme employers with more than 10 spaces will be charged £253 a year from 2012, with the bill set to rise to £350 within two years.
So, someone with an office with 10 spaces will have to pay £3500/year for the privilege of parking inside Nottingham rather than 5 miles outside of the city. You could charge £50/year/staff member and people would begrudgingly pay it. But at £350/year, relocating out of the borough will be a no-brainer.

And why do they need this money?
The money raised will fund part of the city's tram extension, refurbishment of its railway station and bus network - but it has come under fire from local employers and motorists.
We ditched trams earlier in the century because buses do a much better job. Anything a tram can do, a bus can do better. You can reroute them quickly, and because they're non-proprietary, you get competition (unlike trams where you're locked into a supplier).

And why is Nottingham funding the refurbishment of its railway station? Get the railways to cough up for it.

Of course, I'm sure that Nottingham won't cut their 5 twin towns.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Vomit-Inducing Arguments for Homeownerism (1)

From Save Coate:-

The main badger route from Day House Copse to Coate Water will be blocked by a school. The otter stream runs through the employment zone. The impact on wild-life in general is not acceptable.
Never mind children being educated, or people trying to earn a living. Let's look after the black and white creatures that only come out at night. It's not even like they're endangered, unless you count 288,000 in the UK as endangered.

Any ideas on what we should do with such species-traitors can be given in the comments.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Wheel Clamping

From the BBC:
Wheel clampers are to be banned from operating on private land in England and Wales, the government has announced.
It follows concerns some parking enforcement companies are extorting money from unsuspecting drivers with excessive fees and unclear signs.
But some critics fear selfish drivers will exploit the move.

If you own a flat with private parking, good luck trying to find a space in future. A friend of mine owned a flat in the 80s and they had no end of trouble with people parking in their bays until they got the clampers in. Without clampers, people will just park there and come back to their car, face some abuse and clear off. That's all you can do with trespass laws.

Equalities and criminal information minister, Lynne Featherstone, told BBC1's The One Show: "This is the right answer, an outright ban. It's come about because of the level of complaints."
She said some firms were operating a "sort of entrapment" with poor signage, extortionate fees and vehicles being towed away.
"Motorists find they didn't even know they were parking on private land," she said.
Currently wheel clampers and the directors and supervisors of clamping companies must hold a licence from the Security Industry Authority (SIA).

Well, well. So, because the government couldn't come up with an effective regulator, they're going to just make the problem go away completely. Just like alcohol, where they get all pissy about 15 year olds getting hold of beer, yet they do almost nothing about removing the licenses of retailers who sell it.

Friday, 13 August 2010

This is Brilliant...

From Tom Scott:

It seems a bit strange to me that the media carefully warn about and label any content that involves sex, violence or strong language — but there's no similar labelling system for, say, sloppy journalism and other questionable content.
I figured it was time to fix that, so I made some stickers. I've been putting them on copies of the free papers that I find on the London Underground. You might want to as well.
I like this one best:-

QOTD (Not safe for work)

If you live on the margins of somewhere cuntish, you may go somewhere less cuntish to do your self-harm.
I've been looking for a way to describe why Vegas has casinos, Calais is full of supermarkets and Luxembourg has wall-to-wall cigarette shops just inside its borders, but Obo has the definitive statement on it.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Francis Maude on Big Society Mutuals

They are very different in ambition and range: from NHS staff wanting to launch an employee-owned social enterprise to help homeless patients, to employees from local authorities getting together to form a mutual to deliver children's services, and further education colleges coming together to see if they can set up a new awarding body.
But they do all have certain things in common. At their heart are frontline public sector entrepreneurs ready to take control of the services they run. And there's often a common focus: the desire to join up the services they know so well so that they are actually designed specifically around their communities' needs, or so they can start using potential economies of scale to generate efficiencies. In a time when we need to save money we have to be ready to explore ideas like this.
Following the mutuals or "doing a John Lewis" is very much in vogue with the Conservatives at the moment. On the surface, John Lewis looks like a model for the public sector. It doesn't make profits for capitalist owners, it works very well and it has very happy customers.

The single point that is missed, the single cog that means that the whole philosophy doesn't roll, is that John Lewis exists in a competitive market. As do Baxi, the Co-op and the people who run the health food shop near me. That means that if they have to get customers, they have to do a good job, and if they don't, like any other fat-cat owned capitalist company, they go to the wall.

I'm not even sure what the model of these mutuals is because the whole notion of a mutual that is to do with government seems to be full of contradictions. Are the owners able to sell the company, like the owners of my health food shop can? Who funds them, and if it's the taxpayer, then are they accountable, and if that's the case, what's the difference to a government department? Is there plurality of supply and if so, what happens to the ones that go to the wall?

Because if they're funded by the taxpayer, then they should be responsible to the taxpayer. If they can make private profits, then these people can put in their own cash and should be subject to private losses. If they're fully private, then making them monopolies would be bad.

I don't understand if these are supposed to replace external, contracted suppliers, or monopoly government departments. But what the government seems to think is that they can create something with all the benefits of the free-market like innovation, but without things like incentives or the downsides of people being put out of business. And that simply doesn't work. Experts left in charge to run things their own way will run them in a way that they think is important. Which might match what customers want, but if it doesn't then you're knackered.

I suspect in 5 or 10 years time, we'll see that this doesn't actually work, and something else will be tried, and eventually, we'll get to what is the only way to do government: reduce it down to what can't be delivered by markets, and deliver those things as close as possible to the consumer.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Mr Gnarr, I Salute You

From the BBC:-

The mayor of Reykjavik has dressed up in drag to mark the opening of the Icelandic capital's gay pride festival.
Jon Gnarr, a top comedian who became mayor in June, appeared on stage on Thursday night in a floral-print dress, blonde wig and bright red lipstick.
But the Crowning Moment of Awesome:-

Addressing the opening ceremony of the gay pride festival on Thursday, his buxom alter ego said the mayor could not make it because he "was busy, even though he promised to be here".
"What might he be up to? Maybe he is visiting Moomin Valley," Mr Gnarr said, referring to the fictional setting of a series of Finnish children's stories that feature a family of white hippopotamus-like trolls.
"This is what we get for voting for a clown in elections," he added.

Friday, 6 August 2010

Councils Just Can't Nail That Market Thing, Can They?

From The BBC:-

The Lanterns on the Lake festival in Swindon will not be held again because it is too popular, the borough council has said.
The event, at Coate Water, had been held since the early 1990s to mark World Peace Day.
Last summer's festival and this year's event were both cancelled.
Parks manager Martin Hambidge said the festival had grown to such a size it was difficult for his staff and volunteers to manage.
For once, a council provide something people actually want, so they don't continue to run it.
Volunteers also attended on the day, so it was principally just about labour and the fact it took up an awful lot of volunteer hours and a lot of staff hours and we wanted to do different things.
Oh, I see. Never mind what the public want. You don't want to provide that, so you're not going to. You'd rather do the things that you want to do, never mind that people pay you.

Bristol Demands Cabs to be Painted Blue

A city council has told taxi drivers they must paint their black cabs blue, or face losing their licence.
Bristol City Council has demanded 800 Hackney carriage drivers repaint their taxis in 'Bristol Blue' by May 11 next year, and fund the £4,000 cost themselves.
I'm not even sure why they're demanding that Bristol cabs have to be blue. The only thing I associate with Bristol and blue is the blue glass. It's not particularly associated with the city.

A Bristol City Council spokeswoman confirmed that any taxi driver who has not repainted his or her cab by 1 May 2011 will have their license revoked. She added that the council want all cabs to be painted in the same colour so that members of the public can be confident they are travelling in a licensed vehicle.
The thing is that the national standard is black. Someone coming from London or Birmingham is more likely to trust a cab that's black rather than blue.


Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Best/Worst Prime Ministers

From The Daily Telegraph:-
Mr Brown, who was Prime Minister for less than there years, scored just 3.9 out of ten by the 106 academics specialising in politics or history.
Both Margaret Thatcher (6.9) and Tony Blair (6.4) were also highly rated.
The accumulation of record government debt was seen as Mr Brown's biggest failure while he was also criticised for not calling a general election in 2007.
He scored negative ratings for the economy, society, democracy and foreign policy.
Mr Blair was found to be a major benefit to society and the constitution.

Just a minute... a lot of that "accumulating debt" might have been with Brown as chancellor, but if this is a poll that's being carried out about what's being done on the PM's watch (buck stops here etc), then Blair is equally, if not more culpable than Brown in this regard.

Now, I don't wish to defend Brown, but Blair did some pretty smart timing - the train derailed during Brown's time as PM. The fact that Blair overstoked the boiler and didn't check the brakes is barely noticed.

Personally, I consider Blair to be a real rotter, a devious man of little character and in it for himself. Benefit to society and the constitution? Trying to lock people up for 42 days? Bringing in some of the worst aspects of the surveillance state? Introducing the smoking ban?

The Village "Destroyed" by "WAGs"

From the Daily Hate
Looking at Prestbury High Street, you'd think this picture postcard village had been badly hit by the recession. 
Dusty shop windows hide empty, unused rooms, the long-serving butchers and Post Office have shut down, and corrugated To Let signs clutter the black and white Tudor buildings - as they have done for months.
'The village is dying,' local residents commonly remark.
I know Prestbury very well. I used to work on the south side of Manchester for a while and stayed there for months. It was quite a posh and prosperous village. Sounds like the footballers have arrived and their wives go and do the shopping online or somewhere abroad.
Bill explains: 'It's stereotypical footballers' accommodation which doesn't look lived-in and half the time it isn't. That's part of the problem - they are always away.
'And meanwhile, young local people have been priced out of the area - children who've grown up here have to move out of Prestbury to be able to afford to buy a property.'
Those are young people who would, of course, be spending money in the village if they lived here.
You know what you could do? You could just build a load more houses. There's plenty of land north of Prestbury, and they'd then keep the shops going. It would mean that it wouldn't look like so much of a museum that it does now, though.

Monday, 2 August 2010


Think tank the IPPR and campaign group Internocracy argue private sector firms are "almost certainly" breaking the law by offering unpaid internships. 
The report says many volunteers could be legally defined as workers under national minimum wage legislation. 
It warns the current position leaves employers open to compensation claims.
"We now have entire industries that rely on the willingness of young people to work for free," said Mr Potter.
"In the long run this is bad for business because it damages the reputation of these industries and makes it difficult for them to recruit for the broadest pool of talent.

No, that's completely and utterly wrong. The benefit of internships/unpaid apprenticeships is precisely that it produces the sort of people that industry wants.

I work in the software industry and the bottom line is that a degree in Comp Sci will give you a good education in how computers work and how to program them to a much greater depth than most workers need. What it doesn't give you is all the stuff that you get from working in an office and on real-live projects, which to my mind is about 30-40% of the job. Which is why industry values experience in a computer department over pieces of paper.

No-one has a problem with people paying for a university education and then not getting paid for their time. Internships are no different. You do some work to gain something that can't be measured in pounds and pence (although it leads to more pounds and pence later). Why shouldn't someone choose to work for free?

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Daily Mash Nails the UK Film Council

From the Mash
"Just imagine how good The Godfather could have been, if only it had been part-funded by the government."
I was going to write a post about the UK Film Council, but the Mash piece covers it so well that I'm going to redirect you there.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Oh, Really?

via The BBC:-
A delicate, blue-hued insect has re-appeared in the UK after an interval of more than half a century.

The dainty damselfly, a smaller relative of dragonflies, was washed away from its single East Anglian pond in the severe coastal floods of 1952/3.

Now, a few individuals have been found at a site in north Kent.

Conservationists believe the insects were blown on the wind from France or Belgium where they have become more common, probably due to climate change.

The photo below was taken in my back garden (in Swindon) in June 2008. It's a long way to blow from France to here.

h/t Mark Wadsworth

Government to Roll Back 24 Hour Drinking

From the Daily Hate:-
A war on Booze Britain will dismantle Labour's failed 24-hour drinking laws and ban the sale of dirt-cheap alcohol.
Nice. Poor people have to pay more for booze. Bastards.
Ministers are to introduce powers to stem the drink-fuelled violence which has turned town centres into 'wild west' zones.
Town centres have not been turned into "wild west" zones or "no go" areas since 24 hour drinking. They were always full of pissheads, have been for 20 years.
They hope this will herald the return of the traditional pub, in which the public can drink without fear of assault or abuse.
Almost no trouble takes place in pubs. You have to go to the roughest pub in town to find a fight, which are rarely your young person's pub. The violence happens after the pubs kick out.
Crucially, town halls will be able to reinstate traditional closing times in areas where late-night opening, introduced by the last government in 2005, is causing havoc.
It's not causing havoc. Statistically, violence has fallen since 24 hour drinking was introduced. It's only at one period in the night that violence has gone up (around 3am), and that's a very small number of overnight alcohol-related crimes.
Labour had claimed that more relaxed opening times would lead to a continental-style 'cafe culture'. But ministers say this has been proved a nonsense. 
In future, bars that do stay open late will have to pay a levy to put extra police on the streets.
Alcohol duty more than pays for the health and policing costs, so it's completely unnecessary, and just a tax on people who want to drink later, for no other reason than because you can.
Supermarkets will be barred from selling alcohol for less than cost price. And pubs which sell drink to children repeatedly will be shut down.
I'd sort of assumed that that's why we have licenses. That people who repeatedly break the law get it taken away. But enforcing the law seems like a good idea, if it happens (I have my doubts).
Supermarkets began selling alcohol cheaper than bottled water, as stores used drink as a so-called loss leader to lure in customers.
That's bollocks. They sell the cheapest own brand lager for less than highly branded bottled waters. Compare like with like and they don't. And I doubt that Supermarkets actually sell booze at a loss (or much of a loss). You can buy the booze for sale in Sainsburys at the same price in their wine store, where you're only buying that booze, so it doesn't act as a loss-leader there.
But police warned it was falling into the hands of the young, who used it to ‘preload’, before going drunk to town centres.
Firstly, supermarkets are very hot on selling to the young. It's the last place that young people go because they know that they'll probably get asked for ID. Secondly, you can't preload on the cheap Tesco Value Lager 2% pisswater. By the time you get to town, most of it is out of your system.
Some retailers are likely to protest, but officials said they had the chance to behave responsibly and did not take it.
They won't protest. The government has just legislated the price to cost. They can get richer without fearing competition so much.
Rank-and-file police say the combination of late opening and ‘pre-loading’ has stretched their resources to breaking point, warning that some town centres have been turned into the ‘wild west’.
Stretching their resources to breaking point? The 3 or 4 coppers I see out in the Town Centre every Saturday night? How many police do you actually have?
‘The Government believes that the power to make licensing decisions needs to be rebalanced in favour of local communities, so that they can decide on the night-time economy they want.’
Which would go about as well as Pickles' housing plan - in other words, no-one would want any clubs near their houses.
Labour had made it hard for councils to refuse late-night licences. In particular, town halls could not refuse a pub a licence on the grounds that a street or town centre was saturated with bars and clubs.
This Government wants the situation reversed, in favour of councils fixing opening times. A bar could be turned down if homes were surrounded by pubs.
That's called competition. And what the hell else are you going to put in town centre shop premises now that the internet and large supermarkets have wiped out so many shops?
In some areas, locals could reinstate traditional closing times.
Which will simply bring back the old problem of hard drinking until 11pm, followed by lots of cold, pissed people waiting for taxis, and violence to follow.
The late-night levy would hit bars which stay open after midnight. Cash will be paid into a pot held by councils, which can plough the money into extra policing or improving life for nearby residents.
Or pissed away on their pet projects...
It is hoped the threat of ‘meaningful’ penalties which could run into thousands, will persuade rowdy pubs to change their ways.
We're going to penalise pubs for their drinkers? Which pub do you penalise when someone goes to 3 or 4 pubs in a night? The first, or the last? Pubs will just pay into the council's pet project fund and pass the cost onto drinkers.
Late opening accounts for about a quarter of the police’s £400million overtime bill.
Which is more than covered by the billions in alcohol duty.
Taxes will also be imposed on strong lagers blamed for problem drinking. Last night, Mr Brokenshire said: 'We will overhaul the Licensing Act to give local authorities and the police much stronger powers to remove licences from, or refuse to grant licences to, any premises that are causing problems.
And when you tax strong lager, drinkers will just switch to strong cider, spirits, whatever....
'We will toughen the sanctions for those premises found to be persistently selling alcohol to children and will allow local councils to charge more for late-night licences, which in turn will raise money for extra policing. We will also ban the below-cost sale of alcohol.’
Belatedly, Gordon Brown did acknowledge 24-hour drinking had failed. He ordered a review of the policy. But all it recommended was a three-hour reduction in opening times in problem areas.
That's not actually true. He called a review to address public concern, and to see if it was working.

It's a pity the government is going to reverse one of Labour's few good policies, while leaving the disastrous smoking ban legislation in place.

Monday, 19 July 2010

The French Burqa Ban

From The Independent:-
The French internal security services estimate that only 1,900 women in France wear the full-face veil Рroughly 0.1 per cent of the adult, female, Muslim population. Supporters of the ban, on both the left and the right, say the burka is an affront to the principle of Liberté enshrined in the French constitution. Opponents Рand the "sages" of the Conseil Constitutionnel Рsay the ban is itself an assault on individual liberty.
I tend to side with the latter group. Liberty, to my mind, includes the right to choose not to be free. If you ban the burqa, then you should also ban people from participating in sado-masochistic activities.

(incidentally, it includes a ban on covering your face in public, which presumably also means brides.

School Rebuilding

We are, by nature, taken in by appearances. For most of us, it's only experience that teaches us to look at the data instead.

When they built a new hospital in my town, we were told that it would be the answer to all our ills. It wasn't. It barely made any difference.

In my experience,schools are even less compelling. The best 2 schools in the town I was raised in were a boys' comprehensive and a private (but not especially posh) girls school. Both were mostly made up of buildings that were 50 years old. I'd go further - all the schools which had been built within the past few decades were the ones that people tried not to send their children to.

Now, it's possible for me to get data on league tables, but anyone know where to get tables on the ages of schools?

School Rebuilding

We are, by nature, taken in by appearances. For most of us, it's only experience that teaches us to look at the data instead.

When they built a new hospital in my town, we were told that it would be the answer to all our ills. It wasn't. It barely made any difference.

In my experience,schools are even less compelling. The best 2 schools in the town I was raised in were a boys' comprehensive and a private (but not especially posh) girls school. Both were mostly made up of buildings that were 50 years old. I'd go further - all the schools which had been built within the past few decades were the ones that people tried not to send their children to.

Now, it's possible for me to get data on league tables, but anyone know where to get tables on the ages of schools?

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Film Review: The Counterfeiters

One of the things that the BBC's iPlayer has which is quite nice (and well worth enabling for your Wii if you have one), is the occassional movie. I'm not sure what the deal is as it's not all movies, but one that I decided to try is an Austrian film called The Counterfeiters.

The story is a fictionalised version of Operation Bernhard which was a WW2 German operation to produce forged Pounds and Dollars using known Jewish counterfeiters at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Anyway, it's a pretty damn good film and well worth a viewing if you don't mind subtitles. As you might imagine, there's a some violence, but not that much.

Jobsworth of the Year (so far)

We should have an award for things like this
Workmen painting white lines on a road left a gap for a dead badger because they said it was not their responsibility to move it.
The animal had been killed about a week before on the A338 near Downton, on the Hampshire-Wiltshire border.
Hampshire County Council said the workers did what they thought "was best" because it is the district council's job to remove carcasses.
Hampshire County Council is responsible for the line painting but New Forest District Council is responsible for clearing road kill.
The two failed to arrange the clearance before line painting began.

"Did what was best"? In the time it took you to make the call to "arrange the clearance", you could have just fired a hose in it's general direction, or picked it up with a shovel, or stuck a pair of plastic gloves on and moved it.

It's funny when socialists talk about how socialism makes people more co-operative . The reality is that they actually do far more job demarcation than the free market. In the world of the free market, people just get on with things where there's a bump in the road. Companies actually don't work like jobsworths to contracts - they aim to please, because people then want to work with them again.

If a client sends me a spec with what seems to be an error, I don't just implement it. I give them a call to clarify, or in their absence, I rectify it and clarify it with them later. I do what I consider to be delivering a good service. The reason? Professional pride and the desire to get more of their business.

Graduate Tax

According to Cable:-
It surely can't be right that a teacher or care worker or research scientist is expected to pay the same graduate contribution as a top commercial lawyer or surgeon or City analyst whose graduate premium is so much bigger.
But they're already making a greater contribution - they pay a huge amount more in tax. This reflects the fact that we actually want people doing degrees in law, medicine and for a city analyst, I'd guess math (if we're talking quants). These people are not a problem, and we want more people doing those sort of degrees precisely because we actually want those sorts of skills.

So, the result of Cable's idea is that we don't deter people from doing degrees where there is little demand for the resulting education (Philosophy, Sociology). We still incur the costs of worthless degrees. On the other hand, we're going to encourage people with the sort of skills/abilities who earn lots of money and pay lots of tax to go and work elsewhere.

Here's a better idea: lower targets about higher education and drop the amount of spending to an expectation of less than 10% of people going to university. The best of the best will go to university. We just don't need 40 or 50% of people with degrees. Take computing... the likes of Google, Microsoft and Pixar need people with comp sci degrees and PhDs, but most corporate programming doesn't. A degree has only become a requirement because of the number of people with degrees.

Dropping the spending would focus universities on the courses that they really need to provide rather than the slurry degrees they do now.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Cameron - my thoughts so far

I didn't like the look of this government in opposition, but I'm starting to warm to it. I'd generally assumed Cameron to be a bit of a wet lettuce, but I had in the back of my mind that possibly he was just playing a smart, tactical game. I now believe that this is what is happening.

Firstly, Cam/Osborne had to get elected. BBC and Labour propaganda has been for years that the Conservatives would cut and there would be disastrous consequences. A lot of the public actually fell for this. So, the Cameron strategy was to basically say "we don't want to cut anything". Then, you get into power, dig through the accounts, find things are pretty awful, and what you start doing is cutting the really, really useless parts of government.

Now, Labour's part comes into play - they start protesting about how disastrous all these cuts are. Of course, cutting the arts is not disastrous in the least. Other than a few Guardian readers and the people involved in producting kabuki theatre, or plays about paraplegic lesbians in Iran, no-one else is affected. Certainly not the people who spend their money going to see Toy Story 3.

The effect of this is that people start to see that actually, cutting parts of government aren't too scary.

At the same time, the Conservatives have cleverly left the NHS alone. The NHS is totemic for Labour, the NHS is also something that a lot of people don't use that much (unless they're old). But a lot of people know about good and bad schools, and how terrible many of them are, and many parents in good schools would opt for private schools, if they could afford it. Parent-run schools are going to take off like a rocket. People are going to meet people whose kids are at parent-run schools who will have great stories about how much better their schools are than under the old LEA. This then sets up the government to go after health afterwards.