Wednesday, 28 December 2011

No Different? I think not

Bill Wasik in Wired on Internet Communications
Acts of communication, by themselves, aren’t especially interesting. We’ve always had protests, riots, and revolutions, and the people who carried them out have always found ways to spread the word. If the medium for those communications shifts from word of mouth, to printed flier, to telephone, then to texts and Twitter, what does it really matter? Technology becomes an important part of the story only if it’s changing the nature of the events — and the nature of the social groups that are carrying them out.
The difference is that someone who owns a printing press can't reach such large numbers, can't so easily have their information redistributed, or redistributed across such a multipurpose transport mechanism.

One problem for the internet for governments is that unlike TV or newspapers, you can't so easily control it as state media. Because the internet isn't just about media, but also commerce and something as trivial as someone sending family photos to a friend, and the huge volume of traffic being sent around from so many different locations, it's almost impossible for the state to police. Someone in company A selling canned fruit in the UK can send someone in company B producing fruit in Egypt a photograph or tweet from an anonymous account, and you'll probably never find it amongst the mass of traffic floating around. You'd never find it amongst the millions of emails floating around.

The only solution of a fascist state is to completely shut down the internet, at which point you start to also damage trade because the rest of the world communicates commerce via the net. 

Sunday, 11 December 2011

John Redwood Needs to Get His Facts Straight

From John Redwood's Diary (10th Dec 2011)
The government can often ignore rebellions as it has a large inbuilt majority. So far it has not mattered if  30,40 or even 81 Conservative MPs defy the whips on the EU, because Labour has always been there to swell the government’s vote, or has abstained, leaving the government with enough votes to do the business.
Back in May 2010, John Redwood wrote the following:-
Could UKIP supporters explain why it helped to prevent Eurosceptic Conservatives winning in 21 seats, so giving us a a more pro EU Parliament?
So, back in 2010 he suggested that these 21 would have been Eurosceptics, but is now saying that had they achieved a majority that Cameron would have had enough people to get this legislation through parliament? Doesn't that mean that those 21 wouldn't have actually been eurosceptics, then?

Redwood has exposed the great lie about the Conservatives which is that they not fundamentally a Eurosceptic party. He is saying that Cameron wanted the treaty and would have got it through parliament, except for a few backbenchers. 

So, let us be clear: on Europe there is little difference between Labour and the Conservatives, when it comes to action. If you want a referendum, best to vote UKIP (who it seems you can now thank for serendipitously blocking our entry into this treaty).

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Let's Get Something Straight Here...

Nick Clegg has committed the government to a crackdown on excessive executive pay, saying that austerity in the public sector had to be balanced by curbs on "irresponsible and unjustifiable" pay rises in the private sector.
Let's get something quite straight here, matey: the word "private" has a pretty clear meaning. It means that it's none of the government's business. If I think an employee is worth £10m/year, then what's it to anyone but me and him?
I think we need to make sure that people in the public sector do not feel that they are doing all the heavy lifting, that people who are in a sense living by completely different rules in the private sector are also held to account
They are held to account. By their employers.

Look, should we legislate against which women that billionaire's shag or marry, which charities they decide to give money to, which football clubs they bankroll? Same thing.

This is nothing but infantile politics of envy by the Lib Dems, that someone out there was in the right place at the right time and played some suckers for more than they were worth. Yeah, they're not suffering like the teachersandnurses, but so what? Some people happen to be born to billionaires. Do we take them into care for that? No.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Go on, quit then...

Many years ago, I did some work in a public sector computer department. To describe it as hard work wouldn't exactly be accurate. I had about half a day of work each day.

Now, the thing was about back then that it was hardly something to be resented, because quite honestly, the pay really did suck back then. People got paid pretty badly in that department. The upside was things like a low risk of job losses and yes, a decent pension. It's probably fair to say that Blair, in his early years restored the balance between public and private sector.

But the public sector are living on a different planet now. I watched someone on the news complaining that they had a pay freeze for the past 2 years. I know people in the private sector who haven't had a pay rise in 5 years.

The ultimate measure of your value is whether you can quit and get something better. And I suspect that most of the people striking can't. So you'd better take it. The private sector won't support you and the more you strike, the more likely the public will find a Thatcher type who'll really ruin the party.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Some NHS Analysis (2)

Following on from the previous post, here's where we get into a little speculation.

While writing my last post, I had a moment of clarity. As I said, a reminder system for the NHS based on the costs they provide are a no-brainer. Really, you'd be mad not to implement it if such savings were there.

Have you ever worked with a can't-do guy? I have. I had one work for me once, and after a few weeks I wanted to fire him. What such people do is anything to avoid work, and then as much as they can to cover their own arse. They'll look for reasons not to do things, especially if they can create some form of organisational anarchy which makes measuring their delivery hard to prove.

I've realised is why the Doctors spend so much time involved in fakecharity and departmental work about smoking, obesity and alcohol. It's not that they're power mad fascists (although some are). It's about them diverting the blame to you, to try to accept that the ever increasing costs of the NHS aren't down to their inefficiency and lack of improvement, but because the population is doing it.

Missed appointments are part of this. I'm sure that many appointments are missed, but the NHS' figures are obviously bogus. It doesn't cost £650 for an appointment. I've been private and it costs around £150-200. And many missed appointments will simply mean that a day that's running late gets back onto schedule. What that's about is an indirect call for more money, or at least defending the money they already get.

It's designed to divert attention from the systemic problems of the NHS, to get you to think about the problem as simply being about the resources provided to them and the demands on the system, that these are the causes of the problems that we have.

Some NHS Analysis (1)

While this post covers a subject in its entirety, I think it's really two separate points, so I'm going to divide it into 2 parts.

The first part concerns a story I spotted on Google News about hospital appointments:-
Ashford and St Peter's Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has hailed its new appointment reminder service as a great success, with the proportion of appointments missed in outpatients having dropped by around a third since the initiative was launched.
That's very, very good because we were told a couple of years ago that NHS Missed Appointments were costing £600m every year.

So, if we implemented such a system across the board, the NHS would save £200m/year.

I happen to work in software, and some years ago I worked on a system that had to send SMS messages to customers when their bills were ready to be viewed online. So, I know that setting such things up are quite straightforward and quite cheap (take the customer phone number and message and send it across to a bureau, job done). The bureau would charge us nearly 10p/SMS, although this is now down to nearer 5p/SMS. We then had to build and support the software. And 2 of us basically did this, along with everything else.

The Ashford trust used outbound dialing which has slightly higher costs, including slightly higher support costs. So, for the sake of argument, let's double the price.

Now, the Ashford trust said it had a 7.9% missed rate before, so with 6.5 million missed appointments, we can assume that the NHS makes a total of something around 100 million appointments. So, we'd have to send out 100 million SMS messages. Let's assume a total of £1m to run it and 10p for each call.

So, we'd have to spend £10m/year sending out reminders + £1m to run reminders, and the total saving would be £199m. If I could offer my clients such a high return on such a relatively small investment, they would bite my hand off.

And let me remind you, every figure used here for costs and percentage savings are all from the NHS. They've claimed these losses and also the percentages saved. And my figures are conservative of the sort of costs of implementation.

So why is it the case that this isn't across all hospitals? I know at least 2 trusts that don't do this. I also know that my dentist has had this in place (using SMS messages) for 4 years. The difference is of course that my dentist personally sees the benefit that a bureaucratic NHS manager doesn't see. 

Saturday, 12 November 2011

One for Mr Wadsworth, I think

From CiF
Unlike Tottenham, Brixton's cultural appeal appears to be untouched by the recent disorders. Middle-class families still want to move to Brixton and the area continues to have an appeal beyond its boundaries. Whereas the Tottenham MP, David Lammy, has pleaded with the British public to remember Tottenham, Jowell was able to boast about Brixton's popularity when stating that "people come from all over London to eat in Brixton and enjoy Brixton". This contrast is curious considering the parallels between the two areas: both have had the same turbulent relationship with the police and a similar history of riots and radical activism.
Here's some data from Google Maps: it takes 40-45 minutes by bus from Tottenham to Bank. It takes 23 minutes from Brixton to Bank, and 19 minutes from Notting Hill to Bank.

So, here's my hypothesis: the city boys have already gentrified the East End, Notting Hill and are now doing the same thing to Brixton, because these are reasonably close to the city. Young people, not much money at first, need somewhere to live, prefer it lively, don't mind the risks, but don't want to be too far away. Gradually the coffee shops and organic groceries and galleries move in as these people have money and become nicer areas. But Tottenham is just too far from the city to make it worthwhile, at least right now.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Private Healthcare

From the Guardian (in January):-
In Nottingham, Parsa says the company turned around the centre, raising productivity in a single year by 22% and lifting patient satisfaction to 99.6% – one of the highest in the country. Further he says it now has a lower return to theatre rate with 90% of staff rating themselves as happy in the job.
22% in one year? What the hell were all the fucking consultants in the NHS doing for all these years that Circle could raise productivity by so much, so quickly? This doesn't just suggest that they found novel ways to do things, but that there were big and obvious problems with the processes that they took on, because most established businesses can't make those sort of improvements, because they've already refined productivity.

But envy of the world, and all that..

Thursday, 10 November 2011

More of Our Money Pissed Away on Sports Days

From the Daily Telegraph:-
Mr Cameron said: "I don’t want anyone to be in doubt. We want to bring the World Athletics Championships to London in 2017. The government is behind the bid. Our althletes and sports fans are behind the bid. Our country is behind the bid.
Right, and who's going to pay for it? We are. Yet again, the productive bits of the economy are going to pay for more folly from the supposedly prudent "cutting" party of this country.
"For London and for Great Britain, there is no better way to follow the Olympics, and to build on its legacy, than by welcoming the world's greatest althletes back to London for the 2017 World Championships.
"We have what it takes to host a spectacular Championship…With fantastic facilities, full of passionate fans…In the most exciting, multicultural, sports-mad city in the World.
What "legacy"? Look, just about no-one cares about athletics. When people are sports-mad in this country, it's for cricket, rugby, football, and motor racing. Try and get a ticket for Twickenham. There are events held at 15,000 seat Crystal Palace and the main stand is half empty. This isn't like building up our internet industry, or even the bits of sport that make money. Building up our prowess in a sport that is a subsidy junkie is just nuts. East Germany were fantastic at athletics, and where did it get them?
We want our stadiums to bear witness to World Records….That's why we have invested in state-of-the-art facilities for 2012 and beyond. We want to inspire the next generation of althletes…
What? What the hell is the value of having World Records in our stadia? Honestly, who really cares? Most of the world will watch it on TV. Are we going to get richer because they saw some doped-up Bulgarian she-male throwing a discus 2cm further? No, we're not, are we?

Golden rule: if a politician supports the Olympics or any major athletics event, they're probably not the best people to vote for. I'll give Major a pass because there wasn't enough data on how much wealth the Olympics destroys when he backed the Manchester bid, but there's no excuse now.

I'm Missing a Trick Here

I was in Bath recently and saw this "art work".

Basically, it's a print of Frank Sinatra's mugshot, selling for £285. Now, this is public domain. You can find it all over Google Images. So, download it, apply a bit of photoshop, send it of to bonus print and £5 later, you'll have your own bit of art.

Personally, I like the Bill Gates mugshot better (Bill liked driving fast and got nicked a few times for it). It's not just that he became the richest man in the world and then probably the biggest philanthropist, I just really like the "it's a fair cop" grin.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Smoking Ban In Pubs.. explained to non-smokers

Imagine if you get home and there waiting for you in the lounge is Marillon Cotillard*, covered in whipped cream. Would you go down the local brothel and pay £50 to shag Ann Widdecombe?

You see, beer is just beer. Yes, you can find some obscure ale from North Yorkshire, but most people go to the pub for social reasons. And they want to sit and talk to their buddies. If some of that involves talking to their buddies in the pissing rain, or interrupting their conversation to go outside occassionally, then that's a worse experience than just drinking at home. Oh, and drinking at home is also cheaper.

Now, there's certain things that break this rule, such as going out to the pub to meet up as a group. At that point, the pub wins. If you want to pick up some skirt, you won't do it staying at home. So, even if you're a smoker you'll go to the pub just to get some, despite the downsides.

*Marillon Cotillard is this blog's current definition of top totty

Friday, 4 November 2011

This is, of course, Illegal

Via the Conservatives...
This morning, the Home Secretary, Theresa May, announced that the Government will fund 5,000 mentors for new and existing female entrepreneurs who want to start or grow their own business.
Just because it discriminates against men doesn't mean it's OK. Or legal (1975 Sex Discrimination Act, Human Rights Act).

Already contacted the EHRC and my MP about this.

The Higher Education Bubble

Sam Bowman points out the serious problems with higher education in the USA over at the ASI. Definitely worth a read.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Et Tu, Salvation Army?

The usual suspects of political charity are of course behind the Robin Hood Tax, but I'm sad to see the Salvation Army among their number.

It's like this: if you're a charity and lobby to take my money by force then you get nothing. It's really that simple.

I'll find another home for my donation this Christmas.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

E-Petitions: A Summary

  1. There won't be enough time to debate them all
  2. A group of snakes politicians will get to decide which of them is the most important

So,it's just a bit of PR.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Wankers... utter wankers

From the BBC:-
Canon Dr Giles Fraser, who has been sympathetic to the protest camp outside the London landmark, is expected to announce his resignation within days.
Differences over the handling of the protest are thought to have prompted his decision, says the BBC's religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott.
Demonstrators, who are protesting against corporate greed and inequality, have vowed to remain at the site for several weeks.
Oh, that's real nice. Here's a guy who's stuck his neck out for you and refused to move you because he thinks that using force to do this is wrong. He could have told the police to come, but he didn't, and as such, put himself in conflict with his employers.

Now, there's times when the weak have to let the strong fight for them, but in the case of a group of spoilt swampies, they really could have done the decent thing, packed up their tents and let a man keep his job. They'd probably have earnt some public respect. Instead, they're prepared to sacrifice someone who was once their saviour.

Wankers... utter wankers

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Brownfield Sites

From the Telegraph:-
He suggested that it was not a coincidence that a requirement forcing councils to allow new homes only to be built on previously developed brownfield sites was dropped from the draft planning documents.

This decision was “incomprehensible” because there was so much brownfield land from England’s industrial past which could be used for building.
Today's homework:-
1) Colour in the parts of England that count as their "industrial past". Yes, I know it's all over the place, but what's the really big places?
2) Colour in the parts of England that people want to live in.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Phillip Hammond... Public Servant

From The Guardian
The willingness of their elders to put them through it was encapsulated by Philip Hammond with words that ought to be etched on the minds of a generation. The richest man in the cabinet justified taking on interns for the princely wage of £0.00 by saying: "I would regard it as an abuse of taxpayer funding to pay for something that is available for nothing."
Re-inforces my view that he's about the only man in cabinet with any ability.

House Swap

From The Guardian
The government is to launch a "house swap" programme, reminiscent of Norman Tebbit's call for the jobless to "get on your bike", in an attempt to encourage people to move around the country to find work. 
The controversial plan to tackle the unemployment crisis means people living in social housing will be helped to uproot their families in order to chase jobs. Details of the scheme are yet to be finalised, but it is understood the plan would involve a nationwide database of house swaps and the removal of any barriers to people in social housingmoving between regions.
This sounds like a good idea, but there's only one problem: who is going to volunteer to move out of London to say, Manchester? You're an elderly couple, why are you going to do that?

This is one way in which council housing is a mess. With the private sector, people downsize and realise some capital by moving house. They have an incentive to move out of London and go to Somerset when they retire. For someone living in London in a council estate it means moving away from family.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

NHS Reforms

From the Guardian..
Dr Middleton said there was no great opposition to the planned move to place public health services such as smoking cessation within local authorities. "But the letter is a recognition from the public health community that the reforms proposed around the NHS are deeply damaging to the public health in themselves," he said. There was concern that they would lead to inequalities in healthcare and less access for the poorest and most deprived to the services they need.
"The experience of other countries that have 'liberated' their health systems has resulted in very poor health services for their communities. I'm thinking of Russia and China where a free market in health resulted in major falls in life expectancy and systems that had provided some safety net cover have failed," he said.
OK, the guy has this completely wrong. The research in The Lancet was around the effects of privatisation of the former Soviet Union in general and the unemployment that followed it, not of their health service.

And China?

life expectancy looking like a pretty steady upward climb to me....

and what do The Economist have to say about healthcare in China?
Privatisation, or at least greater private involvement, may therefore have a lot to be said for it. In Huailai County of Hebei Province, 75 km (45 miles) north-west of Beijing, officials quietly decided four years ago to allow township hospitals to be taken over by private contractors. Hospital staff there say treatment costs remain the same, but far more people use the facilities because of improved service and investment in new equipment. With a nice sense of irony, one hospital has even decorated its forecourt with one of Chairman Mao's slogans: “serve the people.”

Saturday, 1 October 2011

I Predict a Riot (Payout)

From the Telegraph:-
Police warn they may not be able to afford Tesco's £3m riot compensation bill
Tesco has been criticised by a police force after tabling a request for riot compensation that included a claim for just £40.
It's funny to see the police in this position. They can normally get away with being useless and doing nothing for the people that pay for them, but they're in a position where they're facing a law that will tell them to do it. For once, they don't have a choice.

And so what if one of their claims is for £40? If that's the cost of riot damage then the police had a right to claim it, and at no more than that.
In total, the retailer has asked for nearly £3m in compensation from police forces around the country, following the riots that tore through some high streets in August. It is likely that this is the biggest request from a single retailer.
The company is claiming under the Riot Damages Act, a piece of Victorian legislation that allows businesses and individuals affected by riot damage to claim directly from the police, rather than their own insurer.
Who cares if it's "Victorian Legislation"? It's on the statute books, so Tesco can use it. And I rather like it. Yes, it might mean the police have less money, but frankly they'll piss it away on some diversity bollocks anyway. I'd rather give it to Tesco shareholders (which in reality means our pensions).
In the immediate aftermath of the civil disturbances, the British Retail Consortium urged small retailers to put in their claims to make sure their businesses were not harmed.
However, the Greater Manchester Police Authority, which has been hit with 280 claims totalling £4.4m, has criticised Tesco for using the Act, saying there was no guarantee the police force would be able to afford all of the compensation. The force faces £134m budget cuts in the next five years.
Uh no. That's not how it works. If a court rules that Tesco get £4.4m in compensation then you'll pay it. If that means less money on speed cameras or busting narcotics sellers then that's what's going to happen.

And frankly, the Police should be entirely neutral about people enacting their rights under the law.
Peter Fahy, the Greater Manchester police chief, said: "Sainsbury's must be applauded for taking the moral high ground and recovering its own costs.
"I would like to encourage other large retailers to consider Sainsbury's stance. Absolutely we want to help small businesses and sole traders but punishing the police for the disorder is a bit like punishing the NHS when there is a flu epidemic."
That's a ridiculous comparison. You can get a flu jab, but you can't own a Glock. And in the absence of security guards owning Glocks, it's up to the police to deal with rioting. The response was terrible by the police. They only woke up to what was going on when it was basically over. I'd have some sympathy with the police if they'd stood up to anti-gun legislation in this country, but they never have. They could have told the government that law and order is helped by responsible members of the public owning guns, but they simply never have. They monopolised defending property, so it's down to them to do it.

There's nothing immoral about what Tescos are doing. Sainsburys probably had lower claims because they don't have so much electronic stuff as Tesco, so not worth the trouble. And morally, why should Tesco get higher insurance premiums because of Police incompetence?

Seriously, I hope Tesco get all they can, and maybe the police can go even further downhill. Take them down far enough and we can get some proper reform in this country.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Get Orrrf Our Laaaand

A major attack of NIMBYism in the Daily Telegraph

The Planning Officers’ Society (POS) has told ministers their proposals will mean homes are “blighted” by the prospect of new developments in their areas.
The society, which represents senior planning officers and managers for local councils, also said the supposedly pro-growth rules would make it harder for companies to do business and create jobs.
The criticisms are the latest blow to the planning policy framework, which is also under fire from the National Trust and the Campaign to Protect Rural England. The Daily Telegraph’s Hands Off Our Land campaign(1)is calling on ministers to reconsider.
In a formal submission to a government consultation on the draft paper, the planners’ society said the framework should be significantly rewritten. “The basis for planning for housing has not yet been clearly thought through,” it said.
“The consequences are likely to include excessive land releases(2), resulting in blight(3) or sporadic development.(4)"
“Blight” is a legal term indicating a property’s value has been reduced by the prospect of nearby developments.(5)
Mike Holmes, the POS president, said the framework as written would have “detrimental effects” on property prices.
“The risk is you get a big splurge in development in an area – or the prospect of it – and prices go down for properties already there,(6)” he said.
Ministers have said they hope their planning rules will mean more houses are built.
Grant Shapps, the housing minister, has said the Coalition wants “house price stability”, leading to criticism from home owners who benefit from rising prices.(7)
The planners’ society also told ministers that the framework would make it harder for small businesses to grow because land now set aside for such enterprises would increasingly be used for housing instead.(8)
Current rules allow councils to designate some areas as “employment land”, effectively reserved for business premises instead of residential development, which is more lucrative. The POS said the proposed rules would “weaken” protection for employment land.
“A local reservoir of such land is essential to facilitate the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises, to provide … employment and to attract inward investment."
The framework “goes too far in fuelling pressures for land to go to higher-value uses”.(9)
Mr Holmes said the changes on employment land could have dramatic consequences for even large firms.
He said: “Under these rules, Jaguar wouldn’t have expanded in the Midlands because the land it built on would have been used for housing instead.”(10)
The criticism is a significant blow for the Government, which claims that the reforms are vital for economic growth.(11)
The policy is intended to replace more than 1,000 pages of planning rules with fewer than 60, and give more power to local communities over planning decisions. Critics say the framework unfairly favours development.(12)
Mr Holmes said the Coalition’s intention to simplify planning rules was positive but the proposal was flawed.
“Babies should not be thrown out with bathwater,” he said. “There is a danger of unintended consequences here.”(13)
Ministers are consulting on the policy until next month, when they are expected to make substantial changes.
David Cameron last week promised “appropriate protections for our magnificent countryside”. The Department of Communities and Local Government said: “The Government is maintaining strong protections to safeguard the countryside.”(14)
A National Trust spokesman said the number of people supporting a petition calling for a rethink had passed the 100,000 mark after just two months,(20)

1. It's not your land. It's the landowner's land. You'd think that a newspaper that likes to claim it's Conservative would know that.
2. Yes
3. No
4. And the problem with sporadic development is?
5. No, it isn't. According to a leaflet from Lincolnshire County Council, ‘Blight’ is the legal term for the negative effect that proposals for major public works, such as new  road construction projects, can have on private property. Public works, not private. It's not about your house going down in price because of more housing, or linking your FBRI to the nearby town, It's about someone building a tip, airport or a dual-carriageway that adversely affects living in your home, to the point where you can't sell it.
6. Prices going down is a good thing. Same as with computers and cars.
7. Home owners don't benefit from high house prices. Some might win or lose sometimes, but it's a zero-sum game.
8. So, give the businesses some more land. We've got plenty of it.
9. What we want is land to go to the highest-value uses. There's a quite posh village near me with some office units and they're quite cheap, because most people don't want an office in the country. The owner would make far more, and create more happiness in the world by turning them into houses. But he can't. Likewise, there are shops near me that are empty that could be turned into houses. But they have to stay as shops. That's blight - empty shops.
10. Well, if you can make more money from a house then why shouldn't Taylor Woodrow have the land instead of Jaguar? But considering that the plant is in West Bromwich where the semi-detached house price average house price is 100,000, I think it's unlikely. Oh, and there's plenty of land around there. Honda in Swindon has 3,000 staff in an area of 370 acres, so that's about 100 acres for the Jaguar plant, I guess. Hardly going to make a dent in the Midlands.
On top of that, if we have cheaper housing then more people will have more money in their pocket to go and buy more Jaguar cars. Throw in some LVT that will benefit employers in places like the Midlands and the North where they'll pay little tax and you'll do far more to help the car industry.
11. They are vital to economic growth.
12. Anyone critical of development can move to Mongolia.
13. OK, let's do it and see what "unintended consequences" appear, shall we, then change things accordingly.
14. Hopefully Cameron is bullshitting as usual.
15. 100,000 people is about 1/5th of the number of people that saw Take That on their last tour. So, we should ask Take That fans about whether to build more houses.

Someone described these people as rural stalinists, and that's bang on. Once it's about building homes, all that free market stuff goes out of the window in favour of protecting their turf.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Yet another victim of the war on drugs

So, I get a call from the parents-in-law last night. They've been robbed on holiday, running very short of money, very bad situation.

At one time, there was a simple solution to this. You found a branch of Western Union, handed over some money and gave a code and password, and someone collected it at the other end.

Nowadays? Can't do it. Money laundering laws and all that, and basically about drug money. You need to show some ID. Oh, but parents-in-law also had their passports robbed too.

It might be a small cost, but next time someone weighs up the pros and cons of the War on Drugs, it's yet another thing to add on the "cons" side.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Riots, Crime and Society

Not entirely unpredictably, I see that the Green MP Caroline Lucas is talking some foolishness about the riots:-

Green Party leader Caroline Lucas has said "unrestrained capitalism" created social divisions which were partly to blame for August's riots.
Ms Lucas told her party conference that the government's "repressive crackdown" on those responsible for the disorder would "solve nothing".
Underlying issues such as lack of jobs and wage inequalities must be tackled, activists in Sheffield heard.
What sparked this post was a thought as I started swimming: Had I locked the car*? And you know, I realised that it just didn't matter. Because I honestly can't recall the last time that someone told me that their car stereo had been stolen. Part of the reason for that is the security that's built in (removing the stereo means you need a code), and part of that is that stereos are so cheap that they aren't worth stealing/fencing. Put together, that's a big disincentive to steal car radios.

You can also look at house crimes. Burglary is way down from where it was about a decade ago, and that's mostly down to the fact that DVD players got cheaper. Not Blair fighting the causes of crime, or crime itself, but that DVD players just got dirt cheap, so no-one was going to buy one second hand.

And if you look at the crimes, no-one, despite their value, stole iPhones. That's because they can be locked-out and rendered useless very quickly.

So what I'm trying to say here is that we have already seen that incentives affect criminality. We can see that criminals actually act quite rationally. It's not worth nicking a £50 stereo to get £10 fencing it when you're risking a criminal sentence.

Now, let's assume that the security at those shops during the riots had shotguns. A few carfulls arrive at the scene and they start pointing them at the looters. What happens next? Well, they're going to stop looting, aren't they. And to go one stage further, if people thought about getting some looting going, would they risk going down to JJB to grab some sports gear if they thought people might have shotguns?

But the part of me that doesn't want everyone carrying guns prefers another approach: the Citizen's Income. If people earn an amount of money that just about sustains them, but that doesn't disincentivise working, then they'll work. For quite a few grand they'll have it without tax. And the key thing about this working is that they'll want to keep their noses clean, because a criminal record will discourage people from hiring them.

The more I look at things in the country, the more I realise that things like not having LVT and CI are causing a huge amount of damage in terms of national productivity.

Monday, 8 August 2011

MPs: Still Morons

From The Guardian

MPs on the House of Commons home affairs select committee are to conduct an enquiry into the rioting in London amid fears that a "toxic mix" of poor policing and social deprivation are to blame for the worst violence in the capital in decades.

Oh for fuck's sake. We've had decades of blaming social deprivation and poor policing for criminality. At some point, you have to wake up and smell the fucking coffee and realise that these little scrotes are just standing behind this shit. "It's not my fault that I robbed that old lady, it's society's". How much money do we throw at "community policing", turning a blind eye to minor criminality just to make sure that the policeman's everyone's pal, rather than dealing with that shit?

Mark Reckless, a Conservative member of the home affairs select committee, said: "I have been really surprised by the scale of this and its persistence. I am really disappointed because I thought we had advanced so far in terms of dealing with these types of issues – having proper investigations of shootings, having much more caution in the use of lethal force, having much better links with communities where the police have previously had issues. I just hope this is not going to set back community relations and the vast strides I thought the Met had made."

What a fucking chump. We don't even know yet what happened in this case, and he's talking the usual pathetic mantra of community relations.

The whole problem is that politicians and the judiciary have been too easy to explain this behaviour away based on their own views. They don't view violent little scrotes as people whose behaviour needs to be dealt with - they're victims of society. I was hoping that maybe the politicians would realise that despite all the millions spent on "community projects", all the excuses, all the attempts at "community policing" that it isn't fixing the problem, it's reinforcing it.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Aquatic Centre

It is just me?

Or does this look like a giant sanitary pad with wings?

Friday, 22 July 2011

Lucien Freud

Very talented, I s'pose. But if I was that rich, I think I'd be painting people who looked more like this:-

Thursday, 14 July 2011

The Last Living Rose

It's rare to hear a contemporary song about England, so here's PJ Harvey, doing it...

Friday, 8 July 2011

Murdoch and Sky

As one of my recent posts might suggest, I'm not a fan of what one of Murdoch's papers have done. I don't read The Times, Sun or NOTW and I'm going to be ditching my Sky box soon.

But I still don't really understand what the big deal is with Murdoch owning Sky.

OK, I can see that someone owning influential media is a big deal, that they can report for or against one party, and perhaps not having them owning all the newspapers is a good idea. Is that affected by Sky? Well, no. He's not going to own Sky News anyway.

Or, if he was doing something that would reduce competition, that might be a bad thing. Is this deal reducing competition? Err... no.

Does Sky therefore have control over say, oil, food or spice? No. It's movies, footie and bought-in US TV shows. Anyone can live without them (as I'm about to do).

So, why is this such a big deal?

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Euro Flags

From The Northampton Chronicle and Echo
EUROPEAN officials have been condemned for fining the University of Northampton more that £56,000 for failing to display the Euro flag outside the college.
It has been revealed in Parliament that the university was fined £56,477 for not displaying the European logo on a board outside the college’s Newton Building in St George’s Avenue.
The fine was imposed by European officials because money from the European Regional Development Fund had been used to fund new facilities inside the Newton Building.
And that's the whole point of these projects. To have lots of EU flags around showing off how nice they are by funding things. It's about making you think the EU are the good guys. You could probably burn the money and they wouldn't care, but you'd better have that flag.
The fine has been labelled ‘astronomical’ by the Conservative MP for Northampton North, Michael Ellis, who said the money should be paid back to the university immediately

Tell you what, vote down the EU, join Better Off Out, switch to UKIP, or Shut The Fuck Up. I despise two faced tories over Europe. They'll talk tough until it comes time to act, when they make sure that Britain bends over for Brussels.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Utter, Utter Cunts

From The Guardian
The reaction of Milly Dowler's family to the revelation that the News of the World hacked into messages left on her phone was one of shock and disgust, their lawyer, Mark Lewis, said. "Sally and Bob Dowler have been through so much grief and trauma without further distressing revelations to them regarding the loss of their daughter," Lewis said.
This would normally be for my snarky bit, but I think I'll just repeat what I said earlier:

utter, utter cunts.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Alternative Proverbs (1)

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to program and he can buy all the fish he needs as well as Playstations, beer and hookers.

Monday, 27 June 2011

More to This Than Meets They Eye?

Former Justice Secretary Jack Straw is calling for motor insurance companies to stop selling motorists' details to personal injury lawyers without permission.
The Blackburn MP described the soaring cost of insurance - caused by referrals to 'no win, no fee' firms for up to £1,000 a time - as "a racket".
Writing in The Times today, he said: "The quicker it's ended, the better it will be for the law-abiding motorist."
Mr Straw was alerted to the problem by constituent Phil Riley, who was "bombarded with texts and personal calls" following a minor "fender bender" in which he suffered no injury.
Phil Riley happens to be Jack Straw's election agent.

Films where the 3rd one is the best in the Series

OK, here's a challenge for any readers... Which film series were produced where the 3rd film was the best?

I think Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade may be the best 3rd film in a series, but I still think that Raiders of the Lost Ark tips it. I also quite like Return of the Jedi, but it ain't as good as the 1st two.

The only one that I think might deserve it is Return of the King, which was grander than the originals.

Any thoughts?

BBC Bias Over Roads

From the BBC:-

Two short lengths of road are about to open at a combined cost of £1bn. They represent a last hurrah for expensive road projects in an era of cost-cutting.

At a time of austerity, the idea of spending more than half a billion pounds on a five-mile stretch of road might seem strange to some. But the M74 extension is about to open in Glasgow at a cost of £657m, which works out at £131m per mile or £75,000 a yard (£80,000 a metre).

Go on, try and find an article anywhere on the BBC where a writer talks about the idea of spending billions on HS2 as "strange".

The most expensive road per mile is the Limehouse Link. The 1.1 mile (1.8 km) tunnel in London's Docklands opened in 1993 at a cost £293m. Adjusted for one measure of inflation that would be £445m or £230,000 per yard (£250,000 per metre). It was designed and built in seven years and at the time was the second biggest engineering project in Europe after the Channel Tunnel.
"It was almost insane," says Sir Peter Hall, Bartlett professor of planning at University College London. "But Margaret Thatcher would stop at nothing to get the Isle of Dogs developed." The price tag can be explained by the fact it had to avoid other tunnels and a river basin and incorporate a junction within the tunnel.
Ah yes, the left's favourite old witch. You can use words like "insane" around Thatcher. Of course, the Jubilee Line extension had to do similar things and cost 10 times more, but no-one's calling Blair that.
The advent of the road protest movement - personified by Swampy at the Newbury bypass protests of the 1990s - showed that attitudes had changed. Governments saw roads as potentially controversial and took seriously the arguments against.
Sadly, because they believed that somehow, a few NIMBYs and swampies actually represented the people. I remember what it was like going from Oxford to Portsmouth pre-Newbury bypass, and the word "insanity" summed up what you had. About 60 miles of dual-carriageway on the major link between the midlands and the south, with a bottleneck of about 2 miles in the middle.

People still like roads. The numbers spell this out.
Nowadays the motorway is more likely to be associated with long tailbacks than speed, as summed up by Chris Rea's song about the M25: "This ain't no upwardly mobile freeway, oh no, this is the road to Hell."
More leftist anti-road propaganda. The fact is that while the M25 ain't perfect, I've actually tried the alternatives like the North Circular (for a laugh) and, I would never go back on it.

The Mash Nails the Olympics

We will be releasing a million tickets some time next year, when it finally dawns on the current crop of successful applicants that they've shat away the price of a foreign holiday to watch some obsessive nobody fuck about in a canoe.
The thing with the Olympics tickets is that they're like exotic foreign holidays. People don't go to the Caribbean because the sun shines longer or the sand feels better than Spain, it's so they can show off to their friends that they aren't going to Spain. It's pure oneupmanship.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Damn, this looks good

Not NIMBYism, making the right call...

We've just found out that in the lower field from us, a developer wants to build 60 houses. I'm kinda disappointed, because it's quite a way from us to the next field (I'm on the edge of a large town) and a bit of green space would be nice.

But, I'm not going to protest it. I'm going to protest the access if they don't go via the main road (which they probably will anyway) as we live in quite a small residential street, but anyone trying to get me to go looking for newts will find themselves being told to politely fuck off.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

New Nukes
Ministers have announced plans for the next generation of UK nuclear plants.
The government confirmed a list of eight sites it deems suitable for new power stations by 2025, all of which are adjacent to existing nuclear sites.
Now, I'm perhaps giving the government a bit too much credit here, but whoever decided to release this news at the same time that the most vocal opposition are going to be in a muddy field in Somerset, stoned out of their gourds and away from their laptops was a bit of a genius.

Why Don't Labour Back LVT?

I've been pondering the question for a few days of why Labour doesn't back Land Value Tax (LVT). Consider the effect of it on the electorate:-

1) The Labour base. They would be reasonably OK with this. They live in small flats in cheap parts of cheap areas of the country. They'd be better off.
2) The floating voters (C2s). Basically unaffected by LVT.
3) Productive business owners. Would find little unwelcoming about it (and they're the businessmen that the public like).
4) The aristos and large land owners. Pissed off to hell, but they're never going to vote Labour anyway. And of course, you can get your class warfare out of this.

It would also be economically good too, encouraging growth and therefore doing good for Labour.

There's 3 possible reasons that Labour aren't doing it.
1) They're not aware of it.
2) They're too dumb to work out it's a good idea
3) The Labour Party is no longer run for blokes with flat caps and whippets, but for Guardian-reading Hampstead liberals, who are as much into homeownerism as everyone else.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Just a Thought...

Two things:-

1. We have employment laws, because otherwise, evil corporations wouldn't hire non-white people.
2. Corporations don't seem to have any problems with sending work out to India, China and The Phillipines. In effect, increasing the amount of money they pay to non-white people, far above any statutory requirement.

Now, here's what I suspect really happened about these laws (and also things like bullying laws): the state was a much bigger problem than private industry.

Let's say I'm running a company as a money-grabbing capitalist. It's completely irrational for me to discriminate on race. Forget common humanity. Even in £sd, I should be hiring the best value staff, because they'll make me richer.

The state on the other hand doesn't have such targets. Bigots can hide in places where no-one is pushing you for more productivity and get away with a lot.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Alice's Bucket List

This 15 year old girl is fighting terminal cancer and wants to do a load of things, including Swimming with Sharks, have an iPad, meet Take That and to stay in a caravan. Altogether, heart-crumbling, really.

Maybe someone reading can help:

Normal grumpiness will be restored soon.

Monday, 6 June 2011

A Ray of Sunshine In Swindon

From the Adver

Last summer the council slashed parking prices in the centre of Swindon from £1.20 for an hour and £4.80 for four hours, to £1 an hour, or £2 for four.
Now, a report coming before the cabinet on Wednesday has hailed the move a success, and the council wants to extend it permanently to stop town centre trade falling.
But it also states the cut-price parking rates take an estimated £500,000 out of council coffers each year.
The Brunel Shopping Centre says because of the move, there have been 286,000 more visitors so far in 2011, compared to the same period in 2010 when the car parking prices were still high.


The whole point of parking charges isn't about raising council funds (which mostly comes from residents anyway), it's about rationing of something in short supply. I've been into Swindon since it changed, and the car parks are pretty chocka at 2pm on Saturdays, but there's still spaces (not too many though). Therefore, the rationing is about right.

It also makes the town more competitive. Perhaps not for people in Swindon itself, but for those people half way between Swindon and elsewhere, in Faringdon or Cricklade, this might tip the decision. And those are typically people with a bit more money.

Monday, 30 May 2011


From the Daily Mail:-
Germany will shut down all it's nuclear reactors by 2022 in a dramatic reversal of their nuclear policy following the Fukushima disaster in Japan.

Officials immediately shut down seven of the country's oldest plants in the aftermath of the massive earthquake and tsunami.
How does anyone come up with that in the aftermath of Fukushima? We saw a nuclear power plant tested to well, destruction, and it ended up with 1 death (non-nuclear, probably down to a heart attack) and nothing but relatively small amounts of low-grade radiation being produced.

It might be that you're against nuclear power in general, but I don't understand how anyone who was OK with nuclear before Fukushima could be against it afterwards.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Window Dressing

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "The High Street should be at the very heart of every community, bringing people together, providing essential services and creating jobs and investment; so it is vital that we do all that we can to ensure they thrive.
No, the High Street is somewhere we go to buy stuff. And if we buy stuff there, we create jobs. If we buy stuff elsewhere, we create jobs. Honestly, didn't the E in his PPE stretch to Basquiat?

I'm in a minority of people who actually likes what we have right now. I mix up my shopping in the following diverse ways:-

Tesco/Asda: most of my shopping. It's cheap, convenient, reasonably good quality
Local shops: cheap, fresh coriander from the Indian shop, excellent bacon from the butcher, proscuitto from the Italian shop, some wine from the wine shop. The last 3 cost a bit more, but I appreciate the better product/service quality.
Internet: for the variety and price. Wii games and Livarot cheese.

Living in the provinces, we've never had it so good. Get in a time machine to the mid-80s and try to buy Australian Riesling or Hawaiian Kona. You would be going to London to buy it. The first you can get in Tesco, the 2nd on the internet, delivered in a few days. And you don't have to waste your time getting in a car to go to town to buy a book, find it's not in, order it, go back to collect it. Just hit Amazon or Book Depository and get on with your life and it'll come to you.

Labour said people must be able to influence the make-up of High Streets in their areas and proposed legislation on giving local communities more powers currently being debated by MPs could be used to protect small traders and promote retail diversity.

People already influence the make-up of High Streets in their areas by their actions. We might say we like local shops, but when it comes to spending money, we value price, convenience, range and service in different levels. For most people, price and convenience win.

Now, here's a question for all those people who either profess to believing in the free market (Conservatives) and progressivism (Labour): at what point do you have to admit that Tesco is the pinnacle of the free market in action (Conservatives) or a very good way to make the poor richer (Labour)?

We have 3 failed parties in this country. At least Wilson believed in a technological future. And while Major might have liked his spinsters on village greens, he at least believed in the free market. We now have political parties offering nothing but a look back to Camberwick Green.

Monday, 9 May 2011

This sounds like a stitch-up

If so, come and join me on The Street That Cut Everything – that’s the title of a programme to be shown on BBC1 next week. The street in question is in Preston, but it could be pretty much any street in any town or city except for one thing. The residents of this street agreed to take part in a unique experiment. They agreed to live without all the services their council tax pays for – all, that is, except for schools for their children and the emergency services – and to let the BBC film how they got along or, more often, how they did not.
The residents weren’t paid for taking part, but they were given back their council tax money for those six weeks to spend – not on themselves but on the needs of their community.

And what about the rest of it? If you live in Preston, 60% of income comes from central government. Then there's things like parking charges that make quite a few millions.

It's not really surprising that people couldn't do as well as the council, if they're not getting as much money, is it?

Booker on AV and deeper thoughts about problems

Now the demeaning little farce of the AV referendum is over, we can appreciate just how absurd was the pretence that tinkering with our voting system might somehow have given us any greater degree of “democracy”. In no way did it address the real crisis of our politics, which is that any real semblance of democracy in how we are governed has all but drained away.
It is not just that the political class which has allowed us a referendum on this trivial sideshow has denied us one – despite its promises – on the far more significant abdication of our power to govern ourselves that is implicit in the Lisbon Treaty, aka the EU constitution.
As I seem to frequently have to say to people who talk in this tone "yes, and that's terrible, now what practical fucking solutions can you find to change it?".
The problem of blaming the political parties for being pro-EU is that it's as futile as blaming a lion for chasing you when there's no gazelle around for lunch. Blaming the lion isn't a solution. Running away, getting in a car or shooting it are.
The thing is that I've looked long and hard at politics and watched elections, and seen the vote share diminish over time, and I've looked at comparative facts, considered incentives, looked at how parties have acted and basically the ONLY way you'll get anything done about the EU was to have supported the AV referendum. 
Let me try to explain:-
1) Duverger's Law. This means that people will generally tactically vote which means that people will vote to keep the other side out.
2) Duverger's Law. Which means that parties focus their efforts on the voters at the centre because they know that the hardcore voters will vote for them anyway, even if they'd prefer the other guys. The result being that they pick watered down policies that are a fag-paper's width apart.
3) Duverger's Law. And because people tactically vote, it signals to people that other people would like that party, leading to people voting for those parties again and creating something of a vicious cycle.
At some point parties will grow enough that people might think it's worth backing them to try to push them up to win, because they have a chance. How long does this take? Well, it took the SNP about 33 years to get 1 seat. They now have 6 seats after being in existence for 70 years. The Green Party have 1 seat after 37 years. Plaid Cymru have 3 seats after 85 years. UKIP have 0 seats after 17 years.
I'm not going to make any claims that electoral reform will deliver an EU referendum. That would be dishonest. But I will say this: you absolutely, positively, definitely won't get an EU referendum without some form of electoral reform for half a century.

Caroline Spelman on Wifi and Temperature

She warned of intense rainfall, droughts and heatwaves in the next 50 to 100 years because of man-made global warming. The signal from wi-fi cannot travel as far when temperatures increase. Heavy downfalls of rain also affect the ability of the device to capture a signal.
"Our economy is built on effective transport and communications networks and reliable energy and water supplies.
"But the economy cannot grow if there are repeated power failures, or goods cannot be transported because roads are flooded and railways have buckled, or if intense rainfall or high temperatures disrupt Wi-Fi signals.
1) Wifi actually has relatively small impact on our economy. I'd rather use a PC with wireless where I can sit anywhere in the house to work. It's handy occassionally to be able to sit in a cafe and work. But most corporations and even quite small companies use wired networking because it's more reliable, faster and more secure (no, I'm not saying wifi is insecure, just that if you can guess the password for a wired network, you still need physical access to it).
2) Google, Apple and HP and thousands of tech startups are all based on California. If wifi was a problem, we'd have soon heard about it from all the geeks out there.
I'm sure this is true, but one of those theoretical things, like that you have to add 60 degrees before you lose 1m of distance. I doubt it has any impact whatsoever on real-world distances affected by 1-2 degrees in temperature.
As for all the other stuff...
3) If you want to stop power failures, build some more nuclear power plants.
4) At worst, our weather ends up something like Toulouse in 100 years. They run TGVs down there just fine.
I assumed for a few years that the environment was the tories trying to sell themselves as not being the nasty party, but they'd have shaken that by now if they were. They seem to be, despite claims of wanting smaller government, to be just as signed up to global warming scaremongering as Labour.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

AV: A Post-Mortem, of sorts

So, sadly, AV was not won.

I've been pretty angry about it for about 48 hours, which is often my reaction to when the public do something that I class as brain-frying stupidity.

To understand why the public voted against AV, I'd like to try to recall another event, the fuel protests of  2000. The immediate reaction by the public was to support the fuel protests. Fuel was expensive and all that. What I discovered in the week after, sitting in pubs was people actually debating it and thinking more about it. And quite a lot of people started to realise that there were downsides to such protests. You won't see the same level of support for the ones happening now as happened in 2000.

The problem for AV is that going into it, most people didn't have a clue about it. The YouGov poll of June 2010 showed that 11% of people understood it well, and 27% of people understood it fairly well. The vast majority of people were blank canvasses, open to very easy influence by liars. Had people been kicking the subject around for a while, they might have voted differently and laughed at claims that "some people get to vote twice".

The Tories won't be fighting electoral reform now. But we can now not only debate it, but can do so by repeatedly pointing out the lies. And if people realise that they got cheated, perhaps we get another chance.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Local News

From the Advertiser
South Swindon MP Robert Buckland denied the poor turn-out spelled doom for local politics, but said more needs to be done to get people off their sofas and into polling booths.
From Wikipedia:-

Political scientists are divided on whether proportional representation increases voter turnout, though in countries with proportioanal representation voter turnout is higher.
And yet, the Swindon South MP thinks that FPTP is the least worst system.

If you want to see for yourself, IDEA have tables of electoral turnout:

Monday, 2 May 2011

Probably a Minority Opinion, but...

From Haaretz
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called U.S. President Barak Obama on Monday to congratulate him on the assassination of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden the day before.
I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the idea of the US President ordering the murder of another man. I'm uncomfortable with it for the following reasons:-
  1. It's what "they" do, the bad guys. They murder people who they don't like, rather than bringing them to trial for it. By doing the same, we become them, a little. And before anyone says "but it's Bin Laden", Eichmann and Goring were tried in a court of law, so it isn't.
  2. It raises him from a criminal mass murderer to a political martyr in the eyes of many people. Bringing him to trial might have meant that people around the world could see him as a criminal mass murderer. Killing him in this way will do nothing to help that "hearts and minds" thing.
  3. Somewhere deep down, I don't like the words "congratulate" and "assasination" in the same sentence. It's probably my Christian upbringing, but I consider killing to be what you do once other options are exhausted. A policeman in the US would be facing trial if he saw a suspect and just shot him, but would also be allowed to shoot a suspect leaving the scene of a crime.
  4. I really don't trust the government. No, I'm pretty damn certain that OBL did it. I don't believe there's a conspiracy between Bush and some lizard men to blow up the World Trade Center. But I know that if someone like OBL can get a trial, then so can I. And if the government thinks it's OK to go and assassinate OBL then who else do they think it's OK to assassinate? (there are times when government shoot-to-kill actions are quite legitimate, like hostage situations).

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

More No2AV Drivel (Telegraph edition)

Robert Colvile

Want an example? Let’s invent a seat called, say, West Borsetshire. It was held by the Tories for ages, taken by Labour in 1997, and recaptured in 2010. There is, however, a strong Lib Dem presence, so any of the three parties could theoretically win it.
Now, let’s assume (taking the minor parties out of the equation) that Tory and Labour voters would probably tend to put the Lib Dems as their second choice, and Lib Dem second preferences would divide a bit more evenly. As a Tory candidate, one of your main priorities, under AV, would be to make sure the Lib Dems finished third, so that you got enough of their votes to take you over 50 per cent. If Labour were eliminated first, and all their votes given to the Lib Dems, the chances of keeping your seat would be far lower.
You can change the specifics, and the names of the parties, but the point remains – under AV, the order in which the candidates are eliminated can matter hugely, to the extent of determining the result. That turns the ballot into a species of game theory, in which party strategists come up with freakishly complicated scenarios that could deliver victory.
To vote to create such an outcome would require a Conservative voter to vote Labour 1st, Con 2nd. This would then push Labour up the vote, knocking the LDs down. Of course, it could also mean that if enough Conservatives did likewise, then Labour would secure a majority.

Quite simply, this just isn't going to happen, and it's yet another bit of No2AV drivel.
The consequence – in Australia, at least – has been the emergence ofparty voting cards, in which your chosen party asks/instructs you to list your voting preferences in a particular order, to maximise its chances in that constituency. Under AV, such cards would almost certainly become a common sight in British campaigns – further increasing the sway of politicians over voters.
You'd think he'd read the actual article he linked to. It says nothing about tactical voting and everything about preference voting. In other words, Big Party A cuts a deal with Small Party B that Small Party B asks its voters to put B first, A second, they'll give them something in return. It's about saying "these guys are a bit like us" to their followers. It has no effect whatsoever on tactical voting and certainly doesn't fit Colville's dumb as a pile of rocks example.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Ming Gets it Wrong on AV

From the Telegraph:-
Sir Menzies told BBC’s Radio 4 that he believed the public disagreement between Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg was part of a deliberate move by the Prime Minister to appease those who feared that the Coalition partnership had become to close.
It's got nothing to do with that. Cameron is opposing AV because it has the potential to put his party out of business in the long term, and cause quite a lot of damage in the short-term.

And because there's really little good reason for FPTP, he has to resort to the same combination of personal smears, scaremongering and confusion that the No campaign uses.

Incidentally, has anyone noticed how often the Conservatives and the official No campaign (despite being disconnected) seem to use the same themes about AV at the same time?

Saturday, 23 April 2011

AV: The Major Attack

Has there ever been a dirtier campaign waged in British politics?

When the country “desperately needed to get rid of that [Labour] government” in 1979, they were able to elect Margaret Thatcher, he said.
“We also remember 1997 and I think we know in 1997 the country needed change. Again it was a decisive result,” he added. His criticism came as a surprise because Mr Cameron is close to Sir John Major and occasionally uses him to support specific policy ideas.
The funny thing is that if we'd had AV in 1992, the Conservatives might have lost the election to a Lib/Lab/SNP coalition. The result of the Conservatives getting another parliament was that people were really fed up with them by the time 1997 rolled around, and that as a result of 1992, voted far more tactically to make sure that they got the Conservatives out.

So, the Conservatives might have had 5 years of the likes of Kinnock, Hattersley and Ashdown running the country, and within 5 years, back in power for another decade or so. 
Incidentally, I think that the Major government was one of the best this country has had. It might have had a load of backbench sleaze, but actually delivered some good, steady economic growth.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

So, why did Cameron do a deal, then?

From the Torygraph:-

Adopting the Alternative Vote system would do "permanent damage to British democracy," says David Cameron.
Perhaps David Cameron would like to explain why he was happy to do a deal with the LDs that included a vote on it, then?

Just... WOW

The report was published on Parliament’s website after a Freedom Of Information request by anti-nuclear ­campaigners.
Much of the most revealing information, entire pages in some cases, was blacked out to prevent the ­secrets from getting into the wrong hands.
But in what was described as “a schoolboy ­error” the technique used by MoD staff to censor the ­document was easy to reverse. The bunglers turned the text background black – making the words unreadable – but crucially left them in place. That meant anyone wanting to read the censored sections just had to copy the text.

Not often I link to the Daily Star here, but they found the boob (pun intended) and deserve the credit.

Seriously, a document about the safety of nuclear submarines was redacted by someone who had so little knowledge of obfuscating documents that they didn't know about the "copy and paste trick"?

Beggars belief. Really, it does.

B3TA AV Challenge

There's a few crackers in their challenge here, But I've included a couple here.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Cost of AV Elections

From The Telegraph:-
The Conservatives have claimed that the cost of a British general election to taxpayers will triple to almost £300 million under AV.
That's odd, because according to Hansard, Mark Harper, Parliamentary Secretary (Political and Constitutional Reform), Cabinet Office on 4th April 2011 said:-

Based on the information set out in the Parliamentary Elections (Returning Officers' Charges) Order 2010, the estimated cost of the conduct of the UK parliamentary election in Great Britain which was held under the first past the post system on 6 May 2010 is £82.1 million. This figure takes into account the reduced costs of holding the UK parliamentary election on the same day as local government elections. The estimated cost of the 2010 UK parliamentary election in Northern Ireland was £2.5 million. The overall figures will be finalised once all claims from acting returning officers in Great Britain and the chief electoral officer for Northern Ireland (who are statutorily responsible for running the poll) have been received and finalised. The estimated cost of holding a stand-alone UK parliamentary election across the whole of the UK under the first past the post system is £92.1 million.
The features of a general election using the alternative vote system would broadly be the same as under the existing system: for example, in terms of the provision of ballot papers and polling stations. However, it is not possible to quantify with certainty what the extra cost of counting votes under the alternative vote system would be: this will be dependent to a significant extent on the preferences expressed by voters.
If you're going to lie about the costs of AV, it's probably best to check that one of your own Ministers hasn't already said something that blows your claim out of the water.

Friday, 15 April 2011

In light of the YouGov Poll

What I would say to anyone who is blogging about AV, don't waste too much energy on the BNP attacks, or what the No campaign is saying.

Focus on getting the message out about how people won't have to tactically vote, how the seat will be a candidate that most people are at least reasonably happy with. That's how to win this.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Royal Observer comes out against AV Reform

A major royal observer, is urging people to vote against AV reform.

"If AV goes through, it's entirely possible that Prince William could have a terrible bollock-tearing accident with a combine harvester, ending the lineage, and causing the country to be descended into the sort of Communist Hellhole depicted in 1984".

Mr Tory Boy of the NO2EndingOurGripOnPower campaign says that he has strong evidence for this, despite everyone else considering it to be nonsense.

"Furthermore, the arrival of AV will lead to a direct attack on our planet by Ming the Merciless, the US defence computers becoming sentient and Gozer the Gozerian trying to take over the earth."

Sportsmen Come out Against AV

From the Daily Hate
Major sporting figures, including James Cracknell and David Gower, are urging people to vote ‘no’ in the May 5 electoral reform referendum.
They insist that the principle of the winner being the person or team that comes first must apply to Britain’s voting system as much as it does in sport.
Right. So, do we decide who wins a cricket game or a rowing race by asking the crowd which team they want to win? No, we don't, do we? We have a contest, based on rules, and the winner wins, regardless of how popular they are. So, trying to apply sports analogies to electoral systems is just monumental fuckwittery.

Really, is this the best that the No2AV camp have got? I suspect it is.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

The Sun Says... on AV

Today's Sun poll shows that although there is already a majority against it, opposition is greater once the details are spelled out.
So let The Sun explain again why AV is such a risk.
It would mean dumping our traditional first-past-the-post system for a mind-boggling set-up where losers could become winners.
Mind-boggling = a system that Australians manage just fine, and is a variation of STV which lots of countries manage just fine
It could open the door to extremists. It would end strong party government and usher in permanent coalitions. 
It would spell the end of strong policies and condemn us to half-baked compromises. 
No, it won't open the door to extremists. It might open the door to the sort of parties that aren't liked at dinner parties, but hardly extremists. The only way extremists can win is if the majority of people want extremists, unlike FPTP where extremists could win with around 1/3rd of the vote (if the mainstream parties split).
As for "strong government", well good. Strong government does some downright fucking stupid things because they can, because they have enough careerist footsoldiers that even if they get some rebels, will still win. And to paraphrase Mark Wadsworth, compromise would actually be good as rather than wrenching from one government to the next, we'd see government shift slightly at elections. Most of Europe runs just fine on coalitions (except Belgium which has its own unique problems about being two peoples).
It would squeeze out conviction politicians in favour of duds whose only talent was for clinging to office.
Oh, get real. There's maybe half a dozen MPs I'd count as conviction politicians: Kate Hoey, Frank Field, John Denham and IDS (more suggestions welcome). The rest are careerist little bastards doing anything to climb the greasy pole of power.
In fact, AV is more likely to give you conviction politicians, because people don't have to climb the party ladder for years, don't have to keep their nose clean with the grandees. They can just appeal to the people on a policy forum and if enough people like them, can get elected. That's how the One Nation Party shook things up in Australia, standing on the sort of ticket that Sun readers would quite like (anti-immigration, anti-multiculturalism).

Trade Union in Voting Against Things that Would Hurt Trade Union Shocker

From The Graun
The Royal College of Nursing has overwhelmingly backed a motion of no confidence in Andrew Lansley's handling of the NHS reforms.
Delegates at the RCN conference in Liverpool voted 99% in favour of the motion as the beleaguered health secretary struggles to persuade the public of the merits of his health reforms.
The simple fact is that trade unions only really survive when you have monopoly, or close to monopoly provision. Once you have open competition, unions will always get wiped out because non-unionised businesses are more competitive. Lansley's reforms mean a quite rapid decline of the union.

The 1% of delegates are basically turkeys voting for Christmas.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

What Now, Cam?

From the BBC:-
The European Court of Human Rights has rejected a government attempt to overturn a ruling that prisoners should get the vote.
It has given Britain six months to draw up proposals for changing the law.
It now has to decide how to reconcile the opinion of MPs, who voted in February by a large majority against giving prisoners the vote, with the demands of the court.
I don't particularly mind if prisoners get the vote, But I am going to enjoy seeing europhile MPs like Cameron trying to explain how to fit the square peg of "we won't yield any more power to Brussels" into the round hole of "oh yes you will, matey".

Monday, 11 April 2011

Cameron on AV

From the BBC

He said: "It's a system - AV - so undemocratic that you can vote for a mainstream party just once, whereas someone can vote for a fringe party like the BNP and it's counted three times...
"It's so unfair that the candidates who come second or third can end up winning."
Results of the first round of voting in the last Conservative Leadership Election:-
First Ballot: 18 October 2005
David Davis6231.3
David Cameron5628.3
Liam Fox4221.2
Kenneth Clarke3819.2
Kenneth Clarke eliminated

So, the result of that election was that David Davis was elected leader, right? Oh, no.

You see, for some reason, people could vote more than once for a Conservative leader (with candidates being removed in each round) and candidates who come 2nd or third can end up winning.
Yet Cameron hasn't stood down for being elected in such an undemocratic manner. This makes him a hypocrite.
As for the "people who vote for the BNP get multiple votes", this is just lies, designed to scare you. You get 1 vote. The choice you get is like someone in a pub asking you if you fancy some nuts and saying "I'll have dry roast, or salted if they don't have them". When you get salted, how many packets of nuts do you have? You don't have two, do you?