Saturday, 29 December 2012

Olympic Success

Steve Redgrave in the Telegraph:-
The 29 gold medals – not to mention the dozens of silvers and bronzes – won by Team GB not only defined the most spectacular year of sport I can remember, but completely overhauled how we are perceived as a nation.
Sure, like everyone thought that East Germany was so great.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Gun Laws

This might be a long and rambling post which is itself driven by the events of Newtown Conneticut. Before I write anything else I will acknowledge the following:-

  • The shooting was a terrible tragedy by a crazy man
  • The shooting probably wouldn't have happened if there had been gun control (like the UK)
This should put me in with the gun control lobby, but the following quote by Thomas Jefferson puts me on the other side

"The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government"

One of the differences between the United States and the United Kingdom is that the US has a designed government system. Men like Jefferson sat and worked out what you had to do with government to make it work and implemented it.

So, they have a constitution, which is full of hard-to-change stuff. Some politician can't go trampling all over freedom of speech because of something like tabloid phone hacking. The process to change the constitution is long and requires a considerable majority in support and the time creates cooler minds. They have a court that defends this constitution made up of senior judges. They have a process for how those judges are elected (by politicians).

This was all designed to stop tyranny, but what Jefferson recognized is that no system is perfect and that the final defence of freedom is force. That if somehow the system has a fault, and a tyrant gets elected, the people need guns to deal with him, because that's what he will send at them.

This is described by many as "crazy".

The UK's approach to dealing with a tyrannical government is to have the army reporting to the monarch. Which then isn't a system relying on self-interest but the goodwill of one individual to help others, which is irrational, but understandable considering the bizarre cult-like adoration that people have in a rather average group of aristocrats.

Now, you might say "but there is no tyrant in the Whitehouse, so let's not worry" which ignores the risks of the future. Making policy based on freak events is nearly always a bad idea, and in the case of school shootings this is also the case. If a tyrant took over the Whitehouse, the number of deaths would be far, far more than the total of all school shootings (Pol Pot: 2m, Mao: 40m, Hitler: 66m, Stalin: 20m).

Is it a price worth paying? I'd rather it wasn't but I think it is. Most importantly, I'd like people to understand that there's a serious side to the pro-gun debate. That it isn't just about hunting or gun fetishism, but about protecting the rights of the people, including those of us that don't want to own a gun.

Monday, 3 December 2012

The South East Myth

I've often heard this sort of thing, in the past, even from someone in Wales, but it's good to see it in print so I can finally dissect it...
Sick and tired of subsidising folk from the rest of the country?
You belong to a select club – the club of the hard-working, clever and creative people living in London and the South East who single-handedly are giving the rest of the nation a standard of living they can’t, or won’t, create for themselves.
The problem here is that it depends what is meant by the word "subsidising". Unemployment benefit? Income support? Absolutely. People in the South East are subsidising the rest of the country.

But, let's consider the word more broadly, in terms of the transfer of wealth around the country. Not just unemployment benefit and income support, but every single time that someone pays tax to the exchequer, where it goes.

So, let's start with the easy stuff like arts, where the 12.5% of people in London receive 32% of the UK's arts subsidies. Then there's lottery money that was spent on building the Dome, the renovation of the Royal Opera House.

We could move onto the £3bn in subsidy that London Transport receives each year. There's also other transport subsidies in recent years like Crossrail, St Pancras and HS1.

Then the £11bn on the Olympics, the major museums, the embassies (and all the security jobs for them).

Then there's the subsidy for higher cost government jobs that comes from the rest of the country, via London weighting which means that Londoners get cash from the rest of the country.

Then there's the bill for housing benefit for London. Now, you might say that Kelvin McKenzie doesn't get housing benefit, but the thing is that many of the people who serve him in shops, restaurants or whatever else do. Therefore, it's still a subsidy.

Then we can consider just how much of government is in London, from parliament, to Whitehall to numerous quasi-governmental bodies and quangoes like the FA and the BBFC.

And all of this subsidy creates jobs, and distorts the economy towards the South East. A parliamentary lobbyist is going to be based near parliament. They're going to take a minister out to a fancy restaurant near Westminster, not Pitlochry. A government launch is going to use London-based caterers, not Liverpool-based caterers. National newspapers are based in London because they need to be near to parliament. If parliament moved, so would the national newspapers.

On top of that, a lot of this feeds into the South East. The people working in London often live less than an hour away. Companies serving governments or people with government contracts are often no more than an hour away (you can move programming to India, but you can't move things like user liaison).

I've worked with people all over the country: Glasgow, Manchester, Cardiff, Wiltshire, Bristol, Reading, London, Southampton and Exeter, and honestly, the people in the South East aren't any smarter. The best software teams I've worked in have been in rural Oxfordshire which is barely on the edge of the South East (and I think it's because they get a lot of fresh meat graduates).
It has become fashionable for all parts of the UK to seek home rule. I support Scotland’s desire to go it alone, not least because I would be delighted to get them off the payroll.
Why should the good people of Guildford have to fund the unhealthy habits of Glasgow? So the Southern Party might even include in its manifesto home rule for London and the South East.
I once tried to explain this to someone calling for Welsh rule, that all this UK government departments that had been placed in Wales no longer would be as they currently are. Wales would still need a DVLA, but it wouldn't be serving Wales and the rest of the UK. The number of jobs would shrink.

If the South East split off, the BBC wouldn't get £4bn of money, most of which flows through London. It would get around £1bn. The other £3bn would be spent on a UK BBC outside.

And that's why people in London with expensive housing should pay more tax. Because those values aren't created by them being clever, they're created by government spending money there.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Oh Really, Phil?

On publication of the "no significant warming for no 16 years" from HADCRUT 4:-
Some climate scientists, such as Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, last week dismissed the significance of the plateau, saying that 15 or 16 years is too short a period from which to draw conclusions
From a ClimateGate memo (07/05/2009) from Phil Jones:-
Bottom line - the no upward trend has to continue for a total of 15 years before
we get worried.

Well, That's a Turn-up for the Books...

Not going to do much for that whole "credible witness" thing.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Honest Question About Jimmy Saville

With regards to all these police investigations, what is the point? The bloke's dead. We're not going to get a conviction or lock him up. Send the women who were felt up to a counsellor and be done with it.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Olympic Support

From the BBC

Roy Hodgson believes the Olympics has been a "wake-up call" regarding the behaviour of both footballers and fans.
Hodgson says players and spectators should emulate the spirit of London 2012 - a view which has also been echoed by FA chairman David Bernstein.
"[The Olympics] is a wake-up call for us all that we don't need that hatred and abuse which footballers have to suffer," said England manager Hodgson.
"Certainly we didn't see too much of that in the Olympic Games."
But there also wasn't the passion of even a club game (I was at a match). And that's what makes football the biggest sport. Fans turn out regularly to see their team.

I'm not condoning abuse. I'm saying that the many fans are passionate about the game, and for some, this spills over. They take things too far. But it's indicative of how much support there is in football, how crazy some people get for it. If you didn't have the crazies, it would be a sign that people were lukewarm about football.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Fool's Gold

Anyone out there like to see my data that our Olympics golds are basically, crap?

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Anyone out there think this is worth it?

From the BBC:-
"When Great Britain went to Beijing, the team benefited from £235m investment in training programmes in the years running up to the Olympics - that's a fourfold increase on what was spent [in the run up to Athens]," says Prof David Forrest, a sports economist at the University of Salford.
"We spent an extra £165m and got 17 more medals, so that's about £10m a medal."

That's medals. Not necessarily even gold ones. Anyone out there think it's worth £10m for a canoeing bronze? And if so, name the winner of it.
About £7m also comes from money raised by Team 2012, mainly through corporate sponsors.
Which shows just how much all those medals and hopefuls are actually worth. Barclays pays £120m to sponsor the premiership.

In Beijing, the most successful sports were those that received the most funding. Between them, athletics, cycling, rowing, sailing and swimming accounted for half of all Olympic team funding. They also accounted for 36 of the 47 medals won.

Which is because lottery funding is based on predicted finishes. Not how globally significant the medals are. If you can win at one-footed monopoly, you'll get more funding than a 100m runner that won't.
In fact, there are some sports that are in effect closed to all but the most wealthy nations.
"We have identified four sports where there is virtually no chance that anyone from a poor country can win a medal - equestrian, sailing, cycling and swimming," says Prof Forrest.
He points to a study suggesting there is one swimming pool for every six million people in Ethiopia.
Wrestling, judo, weightlifting and gymnastics, he says, tend to be the best sports for developing nations.
For the majority of other disciplines, money is key.
At last, someone from academia backs what I've been saying all along: the medals we've won are in the easier medals, because they're the ones that a large part of the world doesn't take part in, can't afford to take part in and have no financial reward (which was the justification for lottery money).

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Olympic Private School Bollocks

From the Telegraph
Part of the joy of the Olympics is discovering sports that had been off the cultural radar – especially when Britain turns out to be good at them.
So it was rather unfortunate timing that, on the very day the nation learned to cherish double trap shooting, judo and canoe slalom, the head of the British Olympic Association should claim that these sports – or rather, Olympic sport in general – could learn from the bloated, commercialised world of football.
Lord Moynihan’s point, which has been made by politicians including the Prime Minister and the Education Secretary, is that elite sport – like so many top professions – is dominated by the products of the private education system. “One of the worst statistics in British sport,” he reminded us, is that half of our medals in Beijing came from the sector: for every state-schooled Bradley Wiggins, there is a Heather Stanning (Gordonstoun) or Peter Wilson (Millfield).
Let's tackle the first thing here. The Olympics are mostly NOT elite sports. They are mostly minor, amateur sports. If they were elite sports, there would be a huge and constant audience for them, resulting in professional leagues and prizes. Outside the Olympics, major rowing and swimming events are not heavily supported by the public. They can't charge what Man Utd charge or fill such a large stadium even once a year, let alone every week. They mostly rely on lottery subsidy.
The interest of many people in the Olympics is simply nationalism. If there was Olympic one-footed monopoly, they'd support it. If that floats your boat, fine, but don't pretend that a sport that you've never heard of means anything in terms of sport.
It is true that the estimable Mr Gove does have the air of a man who prefers the library to the sports field, but this is a long-standing problem for which no party or politician can take sole blame.
There isn't a problem. When you look at highly competitive events, the ones that people get paid to participate in (and will therefore draw the best people), you see a different set of facts. Bradley Wiggins? State educated. Lizzie Armistead? State educated. Jessica Ennis? State educated. Mo Farah? State educated.
The only reason we have a disproportionate number of independent school kids winning medals is because they're doing events that poor kids and poor foreigners can't afford to do. If you don't have the money or access to a rowing club and frankly prefer the benefits of Old Trafford, you're not going to do the rowing. And that applies to everyone around the world. Name a world famous foreign rower. Now do the same with football. Exactly.
To turn this round, schools need not just resources – such as pools or playing fields – but a whole-hearted embrace of sport and its benefits. The motto of these Games is “Inspire a Generation”. We must ensure that it ends up as a mission statement, rather than a slogan.
And little of that will make much difference to Olympic numbers because most kids simply don't have access to the kit to win the easier medals. They play cricket, rugby and football because you can do it in the park with a bat and a ball and for most of them, that's who their heroes are.

The idea that the Olympics will inspire kids through showjumping and canoeing more than Rooney or Beckham have is just a joke, and if you're aiming at improving participation, a very expensive one.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Greater Switzerland

According to David Cameron
Again, it comes back to this, who are going to be the winning nations for the 21st century. If your vision of Britain was that we should just withdraw and become a sort of greater Switzerland, I think that would be a complete denial of our national interests.
Well, considering that Switzerland are 14 places above us in the GDP per capita table, I do.

Olympic Strikes

From the Daily Mail
Members of the Public and Commercial Services Union could go on strike within a week over jobs, pay and other issues, it was announced last night.
Meanwhile, the train company, owned by transport giant Stagecoach, said the public will be 'shocked and angry' that strikes are being planned at a time of 'great national pride' for the country.
Rule of thumb with strikes - you hit people at their weakest. That's why the bus drivers had a strike during the Olympics rather than afterwards. If you do it after, no-one cares. If you do it during the games, you force people to the table.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt claimed unions would be 'completely out of tune' with the public mood if they held a strike during the Games.
Meanwhile, answering questions after delivering a speech in central London, Labour leader Ed Miliband said: 'People should not be striking during the Olympics. People should not be disrupting the Olympic Games.'
Thing is, I really think that the politicians are out of tune here. A lot of people really, really couldn't care that much about the Olympics. Sure, they'll watch some of it, but they'd watch it if it had been in Paris. The politicians are desperate to create a national unifying event, a "blitz spirit" where people come together (and of course, they lead things) when people come together when they want to. We only came together during the war (and the US came together over 9/11) because we have a desire to.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Olympic Fascism Strikes Again

From the Oxford Mail
CHILDREN taking part in the Olympic opening ceremony have been told they shouldn’t wear branded trainers unless they are made by Adidas.
Organisers told the eight Oxfordshire primary school pupils they should wear the German sports label – which sponsors the Games – or unbranded shoes to the Friday, July 27 show.
Can anyone who's still supporting this overpriced EPO festival please, finally, stop talking about the Olympics as being about "community", because there's nothing "community" about telling volunteering kids that they can't wear non-sponsor clothing.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Olympic Cockup: Paris Helps Out

Oh, very funny monsieur
Stand back G4S: the French are offering to send over their gendarmerie to sort out the Olympics security problem. Bernard EmiƩ, their ambassador in London, has said that, despite Paris losing out to London as host city, his men would be happy to serve.
I'm still convinced that Chirac played a blinder over the Olympics. Get Blair at his most vain, trying to outdo the French, promising everything to get the Olympics, then on the eve of the vote make some uncharacteristically rude comments about various cuisines, piss off the representatives from a few countries and Britain gets the games. Chirac was a more savvy politician than to not know that he would piss off some people by doing so.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Olympic Terms of Use

Apparantly, you're not not allowed to link to the Olympics website in a "misleading, derogatory or otherwise objectionable manner".

The Good Old Simple Shopper

From the Independent

The firm has been accused of letting the country down just two weeks before the Games, with soldiers forced to cancel family holidays to ensure venues are protected. But a senior Government source told The Independent that the contract with G4S did not include a penalty clause.
The revelation appears to contradict a statement by the Home Secretary Theresa May in the House of Commons. She told MPs that while the contract was between G4S and the Games organisers Locog, she understood that there were "penalties within that contract".
A source said that in fact it was a pro-rata agreement where G4S were paid for each extra security guard they supplied – and not penalised if they did not make the overall target. "The person who negotiated the contract should be shot," the source said.
This has always been my problem with outsourcing, and Milton Friedman (pbuh) warned about this years ago. The government does not get good value. No-one running a business would contract a company to provide security without there being a penalty clause of some sort (the penalty might just be "you're fired" on a rolling contract). But the state didn't even think about it. G4S could just hire as many people as it thought was profitable and forget the rest, and because the Olympic contract requires the government to underwrite everything, the government would pick up the slack.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The BBPA Surrenders to the Smoking Ban

Unbelievable. When the organisation representing pubs isn't campaigning against the smoking ban, then frankly, they're about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. Sitting down at the table with the DoH is like trying to negotiate with The Borg.

Olympic Security Costs

From the BBC
G4S is being paid £300m supply 10,000 guards for the Games, but the BBC understands it has not been able to guarantee it can deliver that number.
So, let me get this right. That's £30K per member of security staff for 3 weeks? Even if we assume that they need 4 shifts, that's the equivalent of a pro-rata £200K/ANNUM for each security guard. And they're saying that they're struggling to supply them?

Ah, but back to January
They will be paid wages that start at £8.50 an hour – higher than the London Living Wage – and will receive a security license which permits them to work in the industry for three years.
So, let's assume 10,000 guards, a few hours overlap each day (so say 30 hours/day equivalent), that's around £60m in wage costs. OK, you're going to have equipment costs, supervisory costs and so forth, but even if we doubled that, G4S is still being left with a pretty serious profit margin on this job.

Simple shopper strikes again...

Monday, 9 July 2012

Don't Mention the Smoking Ban

Countryfile from 8th July managed to talk about pub closures where in one village, 3 pubs had closed over the past few years. This piece sums up what was shown on screen:-

BBC Countryfile
This week we are investigating the plight of Britain’s village watering holes, as around four are closing every week. How can this be when everyone seems to treasure them so deeply and tourists say they are the third most important reason for visiting this country?
Yeah, I wonder.
Today we’ve been in the Derbyshire village of Parwich, filming in the Sycamore. One secret of survival here is opening another business in the pub. In fact when you walk in the door it looks more like a family home. But on the right is a door marked ‘shop’ – it used to be the dining room. It may be small but it’s an Aladdin’s cave of household goods - puncture repair kits and packing tape, cauliflowers and lighter fuel.

Janet, the publican/shopkeeper/mother of a toddler, says she simply stocks what people want. What she’d like is for locals just to spend a bit more with her and swerve the supermarket delivery van. It’s a devotional existence, more like a calling than a job. Janet puts in around 80 hours a week and, when she plots income against her time, she receives barely half the minimum wage.
Which frankly means that Janet is a bit of an idiot and not running much of a business and that if Janet quits or retires and they don't get an idiot, that pub will also close.
Most pubs are owned by either breweries or big pub companies. Many of these are in serious financial trouble, some owing billions to the bank. But their spokesman insisted they weren’t leeching money from the local boozer to pay off their debts, blaming instead the government for high duty and VAT on alcohol.
Did all the bright people leave the pubco industry as well? VAT is uniform on alcohol, whether bought in a pub or a supermarket, yet supermarkets are not being hit like pubs are.

The only thing that strongly correlates with sudden pub closures is the smoking ban. To not even mention it seems like a deliberate omission.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Women's Tennis

But the chairman of the Women's Tennis Association Stacey Allaster said she could not believe anyone "in this day and age" would think both sexes should not get equal pay.
She said: "Tennis, including the grand slams, is aligned with our modern, progressive society when it comes to the principle of equality.
"I can't believe in this day and age that anyone can still think otherwise. This type of thinking is exactly why the WTA was founded and we will always fight for.
The WTA is an organisation that provides women's leagues, which is basically, to allow women to compete and win because the odds of ever beating the top men are about nil. It is, by design, discriminatory, designed to allow weaker players (by virtue of sex) to win. Yet, it believes that it should earn as much as men, despite the fact that it can't compete with the men.

I have another beef with women's tennis which is that it's now just a bad version of men's tennis. All the grace and beauty of the women's game has gone, replaced by power players and grunting. 

Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Guardian: Game Over

From the Guardian
But the next campaign for better public health is in a different league. Alcohol and obesity – what we eat and how much we drink – these are the stuff of our very souls. From warning of the public implications of personal actions to changing the actions themselves, The campaigners have to cross a boundary more contentious than any they have overcome before. They have to tackle problems linked with poverty without swelling the populist clamour against the poor. They have to frame a debate about the health implications of overeating and problem drinking that doesn't dwell only on a cost-benefit analysis on behalf of the NHS. 
That's an editorial from a paper that was once the true liberal paper, a paper that helped, 150-odd years ago to campaign against the corn laws. It is now, simply an authoritarian newspaper. Not only interested in taking more of people's wealth, but also nannying their personal choices.

The sooner it runs out of money, the better.

Cameron blows his chances

To be successful under FPTP, party leaders have to adopt many faces to appeal to a broad set of voters. To  gain the votes at the edges of the political spectrum, parties have to suggest that while some minor party might be better for them, only they have a realistic chance of getting anything done that's in your direction, that voting for the minor party would be a wasted vote as it would let the opposition in.

It's also why parties don't kick out "rebel" MPs, and in fact, you find they're some of the longest standing MPs. They are, in reality, paper tigers. They are tiny in number and pose no threat to the leadership. But they serve a useful purpose to the leadership of keeping the base vote, while most policies are enacted towards either the centre, or to political interests. They leave those in the "base" with a vague idea that they'll do something for them.

Cameron's decision to announce that he won't have an EU referendum is just foolishness. His MPs could have replied that "well, we haven't ruled out a referendum, it's under review" to potential escapees to UKIP. They can't now. And as the rest of their policies are a fag paper width away from Labour, there's going to be a lot less nose-holding that there would have been.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Jimmy Carr and LVT

Let's assume that Jimmy Carr gets a visit from Her Majesty's inspectors. They take him to court, win, Carr pays a load of tax.

What happens next? Well, he might keep paying large amounts of tax, or he might consider Monaco or Switzerland as an option and fly into the country to do performances. Now, this might sound odd, but most of the work of a comic isn't in the performances - it's in the writing and rehearsing, and yes, you can do that anywhere.

And this is where LVT, it seems to me works. It doesn't tax based on being "rich", it taxes based on whether you need to be in a location. Businesses that can be based anywhere in the world that can go for the lowest tax regime will be attracted (like search engines) because they will pay little tax, while the businesses that really have to be in a location (like London Hotels) will pay a hefty tax. Will a London Hotel quit the country? No. The location isn't portable.

Jimmy Carr: Smart Dude

The comedian defended his financial affairs on Tuesday, night telling an audience: "I pay what I have to and not a penny more."
Which is exactly what you should do.

If you've got a desperate need to make your money do some good then give it to the Lifeboats, the Bill Gates Foundation or a donkey sanctuary (if you must).

When the government has money to spend on the Olympics, it clearly doesn't need any more.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

It's goodnight from him...

And it's goodnight from me...

I notice that Mark Wadsworth has recently given notice to UKIP over their homeownerist tendencies. A rather excellent reason, I think.

I'm a former member, although, not on philosophical grounds so much as on forgetting to renew grounds. That was, until today, when I saw their attitude towards gay marriage.

Now, I'm not particularly strongly-minded towards gay marriage. I'm not gay, and can't see why a civil partnership doesn't do the job. On the other hand, I don't see a problem with renaming a civil partnership as marriage for gays. Really, it's just a name.

Two things that UKIP should consider: firstly, making claims about how gay marriage will be forced upon churches by the ECHR, despite the fact that gay marriage has existed in the Netherlands for 15 years and churches have a choice show that the ECHR threat is bollocks. And as it's bollocks, then a libertarian defence of being against gay marriage is also bollocks.

But even if it wasn't bollocks, I'd have a problem with it for the following reason: if the problem is the ECHR (or any court) poking their nose into private matters, then you deal with that court poking their nose into private matters, not with what the private matter is. For a party that declares itself as against Brussels, it is actually trying to avoid confrontation with Brussels, taking a path of least resistance and giving into fascism.

I found the burqa ban hard to deal with, but add this in and it's clear that UKIP are going for the Tory Taliban vote, a bunch of people that I want nothing to do with, the homeownerist, rent-seeking, fascist part of that party.

Olympic Economic Benefit Tosh

From Yahoo
Mired in recession, Britain sees the Games as a showcase for its business potential. However, credit ratings agency Moody's said last month that hosting the world's biggest sporting event would give the economy and British companies only a short-term boost.
Robertson said Britain's success in winning the right to host future sports events was a tangible economic benefit.
"If you look at the number of major sports events that are now coming to this country in the period after 2012, British sport has never had a period like this," he said.
"There is at least one major competition and a series of other world championships to come here every year, running through pretty much until 2020."
Glasgow will stage the Commonwealth Games in 2014, England hosts the rugby union World Cup in 2015 and the world athletics championships will be held at the Olympic Stadium in east London in 2017.
This is about as spectacularly stupid as the Mayor of South Park in the Episode "die, hippy, die".

Cartman:Mayor! Mayor, I confirmed the data! The hippies are going to have a massive jam band concert!
Mayor McDaniels:I know. I signed the permit.
Cartman:[steps back, stunned] You... You what?
Mayor McDaniels:I signed a permit allowing them to have their concert here. Their little "festival" should pump some money into our economy.
Cartman:They're hippies! They don't HAVE any money!

Substitute "sporting events that suck on the public teat" for hippies, and you're about there.

OK, only 2 of them. But I hardly think that you can credit a UK country getting the 2015 World Cup on the Olympics when it flips between Europe and elsewhere, and 8 years ago it was France. Where else were they going to host it?

Both the Commonwealth Games and World Athletics cost money. You might be able to come up with some intangible bullshit about tourism or prestige, but they absolutely do not produce a tangible economic benefits.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Olympic fans fury at Correctly Priced Tickets

From The Sun

OLYMPICS fans last night blasted London 2012 chiefs after tickets went on sale — for £1,800 each.
Sarah Willingham, of, said: “The Olympics is an event for the people of Great Britain — it should not be an event for the rich.”

Thing is, if you crunch the numbers on the cost of the Olympics, £1800 is actually probably about the break-even cost.

The games are costing something around £10-12bn to host. We get a few billion back for TV rights afterwards, and the land will have some value (something around another billion). The venues have some value, but it's mostly a rounding error here.

So, we're looking at a net cost of between £7bn and £9bn. 4m tickets have been sold. Divide one by the other and were the Olympics to pay for itself it would cost around £1700-1900 per ticket. I'd much rather that people who actually cared about dressage or synchronised swimming stuck their hands in their pockets to pay to see them than forced those people that would rather watch Pixar movies or Stevenage Town to do so.

At that price, it certainly should be an event for the rich. You can buy decent seats at Silverstone and get a helicopter ride in for less.

Nice Olympics You Got There, Shame if Anything Were Happen To It

From the BBC

Bus workers in London have voted to take strike action in a row over their workload during the Olympics.
Nearly 40% of Unite members working for 21 bus companies voted 94% in favour of strike action. No dates have been set.
The union, which is asking for a £500 bonus, says bus workers are the only London transport workers not to receive an Olympics bonus payment.
Transport for London (TfL) said bus workers were employed by private firms who set their pay.
The thing with blackmail is that you have to judge it right. Ask more than it's really worth to someone, more than the alternative costs, and you'll lose badly.

Thatcher knew this with the miners. They'd right royally taken the piss in the 1970s, bringing down a government. It was worth Mrs Thatcher stockpiling coal, paying for lots of police overtime and seeing the union lose.

£500 isn't worth the hassle. You'll spend more advertising for drivers, training them in how to do the routes and so forth, and you might not even get the drivers with a month to go. On top of that, it's summer and people are far more likely to follow through with a strike threat in summer, when they can spend their time in the garden or with the kids, than in winter.

Now, who's going to pay that cost? The companies that employ them won't. They know that the likes of Boris have their reputation staked on the Olympics, and would much rather hand over a few million quid than see London's transport system descend into chaos when the eyes of the world are on it and be able to sue the suppliers for a tiny amount for breach of contract. They know that the government will blink first.

So, add a few more million into the cost side of the cost-benefit equation of The Olympics. It's going to be real fun dredging through the numbers afterwards.

Monday, 4 June 2012

Stupid Arguments for the Monarchy

From Paxman, a BBC tosser
Now we begin to get to the nub of the matter. The presence of a little old lady on the throne anchors the present very visibly in the past. In an age of astonishing technological change and dissolving national borders, she offers up to us a sense of who we are.
The problem is that I don't want to be anchored to the past. That's no way to compete in the world. We'll end up being a country full of people living on house prices, antique shops and monarchist tat rather while the rest of the world goes forward.

But why bother? Why take the risk of a worthy bore or some vainglorious politician getting the job? The Queen is there by a process which, while we certainly wouldn’t invent it, we can at least understand.

Which no fucking argument whatsoever. It's possible to understand absolute monarchs executing their subjects, too. Should we not have got rid of that?
So, if you want a thundering speech about national destiny, full of rolling phrases and blustering promises, send for one of our politicians. Want a bypass or hospital opened? Invite Her Majesty.
Can anyone even explain why we need a national figurehead living in a palace with land worth a billion pounds at many millions of pounds per year for this job? What is even the purpose of having a monarch there to open a bypass? Send out a press release, maybe get the local mayor to appear, film it, job done. France gets the President to open TGV lines. Does anyone there give a toss that an elected person does it rather than one appointed by a sky fairy? Of course not.
But then who’d want the job? Every little girl dreams of becoming a princess. They usually manage to grow out of it. (Apart from some students at St Andrews, obviously…)
Yes. Who'd want a job where you get to live in fantastic luxury, while seeing the world and your job doesn't depend on performance?
The task is not the making of unlikely promises but a sort of gracious, biddable impotence. Who knows what goes through the Queen’s mind as she sits on the throne in the House of Lords, reciting another list of proposed laws from the latest bunch to occupy the government benches? What is unarguable about the ceremony is that she has invested the humdrum with moment.
And again, if the Queen didn't open parliament, if instead, a couple of blokes from the House of Commons just unlocked the doors at 8am, walked in and there waiting in every MP's inbox was the year's business, would government not function? Government is there to deal with the business of running the country. If it can do it without ceremony, it should.
So here’s the paradox. We require those who want to tell us what to do to put themselves to the inconvenience of being elected: to achieve anything they need first to cultivate popularity. For royalty, popularity is neither here nor there. Yet, even in well into her eighties the Queen continues the dutiful visits, openings, and commemorations. When a politician pays a visit, who can help wondering, “What’s he after?” We know there is nothing in any of these activities for the Queen. 
This is naive drivel. We know that the Queen gets to review legislation with ministers that might personally affect her wealth and we have no idea about the outcomes of such reviews. If the Queen is not on the take, then she would refuse any involvement in such matters.
This Jubilee year also marks the 60th birthday of anyone born in 1952. Elizabeth was on the throne when baby-boomers learned to walk, and she is on the throne as they prepare to collect their pensions. The luckiest generation in history once affected disaffection. The Queen is a beneficiary of the fact that many have at last begun to appreciate their good fortune. We have all grown up in her company, as she has developed from nervous young queen to gracious granny.
And their good fortune of the boomers has nothing to do with her, but to robbing the younger generation of opportunity.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Most people are anti-monarchy

From the Daily Mail

Among all the gifts that will be presented to the Queen for her Diamond Jubilee, perhaps this will be most treasured.
The monarch’s popularity is at its highest for at least 15 years, a poll has found, with affection for the Windsors rising following the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding last year, and ahead of the Jubilee.
Sixty-nine per cent believe the country would be worse off without the Royal Family. Only 22 per cent think the opposite, that Britain would be better off without them.
OK, sixty-nine percent of people believe the country would be worse off without the Royal Family. Hereditary principle, continuity, God's chosen ruler.
Despite solid support for the monarch across all ages and classes, the latest poll revealed that the public are anxious about what will happen when the Queen’s reign ends.
Of those surveyed, 39 per cent said they want Prince Charles to be king.
So, 39%, or less than half of all people in this country support a hereditary monarchy. If people took one step beyond "let's have Will instead of Chuck", they might realise that we could pick anyone we liked as Head of State in a democratic election.

The monarchy is a childish belief, driven by empty, suspicious drivel like tradition or fear of the alternative. That nearly half of its supporters have thought so little about it as to completely contradict themselves suggests that their support for the institution is easily manipulated and could easily go the other way and see the end of the institution.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

The next 70 days of Olympic Torch Relay stories

(insert minor celebrity name) carried the torch today in (insert town name). Lots of residents of (insert town name) turned out to see it.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Nadine Dorries on David Cameron

23rd April 2012
'Unfortunately, I think that not only are Cameron and Osborne two posh boys who don't know the price of milk, but they are two arrogant posh boys who show no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to want to understand the lives of others - and that is their real crime.'

From her blog (12th June 2009)
David's humanity is stark in comparison to Gordon's robotic-ness. David is also humble to a point that surprises you, and it keeps surprising you, because you don't expect it; and then you realise that the man with the arrogance is Brown, and it has always been the case.
Arrogance is what we have become used to from the role of senior politician. If anyone is expecting that in the future from David, they may be disappointed.
How much he cares about individuals and situations also surprised me, and the fact that it's for real surprised me even more.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Daily Mail Questions I Should Answer

Are the 'swivel-eyed cranks and fruitcakes' about to take revenge?

Oh, I do hope so.

Not for the "swivel-eyed cranks and fruitcakes" line. It's always good to see petty insults as it shows an opponent has run out of coherent arguments.

I want to see the Conservatives lose office by UKIP splitting their vote because of the lies and disinformation they spread about AV. To see them defeated by a system of their own choosing (when AV would have given them an election win) will be absolutely fucking glorious.

And there's not really much Cameron can do until close to election time. He needs to keep the Lib Dems on side and making pro-referendum noises just isn't going to work.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Cameron: such a twat

From the Telegraph
When beer is cheaper than water, it’s just too easy for people to get drunk on cheap alcohol at home before they even set foot in a pub.
There you have it folks, the neo-prohibitionist groups that are funded by government get their dishonest message repeated by government. The neo-prohibitionists have used exactly this line, despite the fact that it is completely factually incorrect.

We can now categorically state how fake charities work:-

1. Someone creates a pressure group. Calls it a charity.
2. Political party in power thinks it's an excellent idea and funds them to keep doing it.
3. Charity gets to repeatedly spread the message, throwing money at PR while enjoying the "good guy" status of being called a charity (while not being so).
4. Charity can make a load of foul-ups while remaining distant from damaging the government. If they really foul up, the government can just drop funding.
5. Once government feels they can sell the public the policy, once the fake charity lies have been repeated enough or have been tweaked enough, they do so.

That's why I'm so against fake charities. If there are things the state needs to do, they should properly be called government departments, subject to Freedom of Information act requests and people should be clearly aware that the government wants these things done.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

National Death Service

To every lazy, incompetent nurse, doctor and manager in the NHS: we've got your number and the public will soon see how your scare tactics were just to protect you, not them.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Heritage Crimes

From the Daily Mail:-
England's most precious historic buildings are being hit by more than 200 crimes a day, it was revealed.
A study by English Heritage found churches and other religious buildings were the most affected, with more than a third left damaged.
Metal theft in the face of rising global prices is the single biggest problem facing old buildings, particularly places of worship, with one in seven churches damaged by having materials such as lead stolen from them last year.
In one case reported in the survey, a church in Hampshire saw its organ ruined by water leaks after thieves repeatedly stole metal from the roof.
The trouble is that "heritage" itself is most of the cause of this. The most vandalised building I know is listed, and that's because it's empty, and it's empty because the owner can't make a business from the building, and he can't make a business from the building because he can't get planning permission to change it.

Churches get vandalised because to change to a material that isn't going to get pinched (like slate) requires planning permission.

We have more than enough "heritage" that is owned by the nation from Anne Hathaway's house to Stonehenge to the Tower of London. Having some buildings modernised would not destroy our way of life - it would improve it. We should simply end the whole Listed Buildings thing.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Let's Get More Futile Gestures

From the Sun

GEORGE Osborne has vowed to put futile gestures for working people at the heart of his Budget — and to hope that something magical occurs.

The Chancellor will make some gestures about getting rid of red tape, most of which is now imposed by the EU and which he actually can't do anything about.

Mr Osborne will make some gestures about "tearing up rules and regulations driving new businesses abroad", despite the fact that most of these also come from the EU.

But as well as making gestures about creating jobs, he also wants to make gestures about helping families on low pay.
  • Some gesture schemes that will funnel people through work agencies at a large cost into the same jobs they would have got if they'd simply looked in the small ads of the Thursday newspaper.
  • Some gesture rewards to hard working families, resulting in a pittance in their pockets.
  • A gesture about cutting the borrowing and paying off the debt, while not actually cutting it at all, but simply increasing spending less quickly.
  • A gesture to well-meaning simpletons about helping the armed forces that will be transparently nothing more than a token amount of help.
Mr Osborne said "We've got to create some good headlines for the people who think we're serious about this stuff, while doing nothing to rock the boat".

The Chancellor believes that producing these gestures can make a crucial difference. Sitting in his office in the Treasury, he went on: "What you are going to see next week is a Budget that ticks all the right boxes that I keep the Daily Telegraph and the Sun on side while making little difference to the incentives to work".

"it's very important that we keep those people on side"

"I have to at this point make some sort of gesture to show I'm in touch with the common man by talking about a fictional person that Steve Hilton imagined, to cover over the fact that I was born into wealth and have never worked more than a summer in the private sector in my life".

"My gesture is something about helping the working person more than the person living next door on benefits, despite the fact that we simply won't have the balls to deliver it".

Mr Osborne will also make some gestures about planning reform, despite the fact that his party doesn't want to do too much about that as it will piss off the homeownerists.

He also made some vague noises about cutting fuel duty which is designed to make car owners think he's on their side while having absolutely no intention of changing it.

Movie Production Subsidies

I'm generally not in favour of subsidies for trivial things. If you want to go and watch the opera (and I do*), you can pay for the theatre, set designers, sopranos, tenors and orchestras from your own money.

That said, on the subject of movie production subsidies, I think there's often a good case for them which is kinda explained by The Thought Gang over at Worstall's place:-
If we didn’t have special treatment for films, would they have been filmed here at all and, so, rather than support for the movie industry being an example of the state getting involved in things that the state should not get involved in.. is it an example of the state lessening a tax burden and, consequently, encouraging tax-positive activity which, otherwise, would have happened elsewhere.

Exactly. Want to make a film of Wuthering Heights, showing people out on windy moors? You can film it in England, Scotland, Ireland and probably a few places around the world. Kill Bill was largely filmed in China, Rumble in the Bronx in Vancouver and most bizarrely, Full Metal Jacket was filmed at Beckton Gas Works.

So, let's say you pay a million out in subsidy to a JK Rowling film to be filmed here rather than somewhere else. What's the benefits? Well, they're more likely to hire local crew, local actors, all of whom then have to stay near the shoot, get fed. Then there's the tourist angle. Lacock's always had a lot of vistors but the Harry Potter angle has brought even more people in. Tourism in New Zealand overtook agriculture after Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings trilogy.

But, I'm not sure that subsidies are actually the solution to the problem of production companies choosing between different places. To somewhat echo The Thought Gang's point, they simply fix a problem elsewhere in the tax system that raises our costs. It's far better to get to the root of the problem. Lower the tax burden on work (perhaps by switching to LVT but also reforming the state) and you don't need a subsidy as the cost of hiring people will be less.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

CAMRA get it wrong... again

From the FT
Jon Mail, Camra’s head of public affairs, said pubs had been hit by “a triple whammy” of an increase in beer duty, competition from supermarkets and large pub companies selling beer to their tenants at above-market prices.
“We had been hoping for an improvement but the figures highlight how pubs have really struggled in the last six months,” he said. “High street pubs are still benefiting from people drinking after work but in terms of the suburbs people are going to the supermarket as a cheaper alternative.”
1. Beer duty rose by 4p last year. That's uniform - it affects both supermarkets and pubs.
2. Alcohol has been cheaper at supermarkets for decades, considerably so.
3. Pubcos have always sold beer to their tenants at above market prices.

The thing with town centre pubs is about 2 things. Partly it's a drink after work, which really can't be replaced with "let's all go back to mine". But it's also about people going out on the pull. You simply can't replace going to a pub with anything else if you want to meet a stranger whose pants you want to get into. Rural pubs have suffered because they don't offer this. Jethro and Seth can quite easily decide to go to each others houses instead of going to the pub.

What CAMRA fails to understand is that people never went to the pub to drink. They go for the service on offer, which is mostly social, and the smoking ban wrecked that. If I go to the pub with 2 of my mates, We're rarely all sat at the table - one of them is out having a smoke. It's just easier (and cheaper) to go to their house.

Almost every pub closure I've seen is down to the smoking ban. If people aren't going on the pull to your pub, you don't have a pub garden and you aren't offering food then you're probably dead, or dying.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Payday Loans

I was thinking about what we had before Payday Loans, and what we had was local shops cashing cheques for a fee.

My local shop used to cash a £50 cheque for a £1 fee.

So, let's consider the math of that:-

Borrowing for 2-3 days (clearing period), or let's say 1/122 of a year. 1/50th is a 2% interest rate, so, the annual interest rate is:-


= 1120%

Now, that's cheaper than payday loans (although if you change it to 2 days, you get a higher figure). But it doesn't make 4000% interest rates look quite so bad, does it?

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Curious Report About Council Prayer Meetings

From the Littlehampton Gazette:-
Christians and community figures have vowed that a High Court decision to outlaw the centuries-old tradition of formal prayers being said at the start of local council meetings is not be the end of the matter.
Mr Justice Ouseley, sitting in London, ruled local councils lacked power under section 111 of the Local Government Act 1972 to hold prayers "as part of a formal local authority meeting".
However it was lawful for prayers to be said "in a local authority chamber before a formal meeting", provided councillors were not "formally summoned to attend".
John Breeds, mayor of Rye in East Sussex, said he expects councillors at Rye Town Council will now just say prayers ahead of their meetings.
He said: "We will try to find a way around it. It doesn't actually have to be part of the meeting. Presumably if we can't say prayers at the beginning of the meeting proper, then we will just have to say them beforehand.
So, your "way around it" is to follow the law? Oh.. kay...
The mayor of Folkestone in Kent, Sue Wallace, said she was "astounded" by the decision.
She said: "I think it should be down to the individual to decide. Soon we won't be able to decide anything.
"I'm sure there are lots of other councils all over the country that will feel the same way as I do."
Uh yes, that was the point. That the individual could decide because until this ruling, the individual couldn't decide. If they were a councillor, they either had to attend prayers or to be marked as late.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

It's a Queer Moment For All Of Us

From Tim Worstall's Blog

And as to neoliberalism laid bare. Yes, the industrial revolution is the only way we humans have found of improving the living standards of the average guy in the street. I, as a liberal (even if neo) would like the living standards of the average guy to increase. Thus I support the industrial revolution. Yes, in all its mess and clamour: for it is making things better.
I’m out and I’m proud. As a neoliberal I buy things made by poor people in poor countries. For that’s how poor people and poor countries get rich. Which is, I hope at least, what we all agree we’d like to see happen? So, do tell, what are you doing to make the poor richer?
This reminds me of the moment when the gay community reappropriated the word queer, turning it from an insult into a term of identification. Before I did so, I decided to check Wikipedia's definition of Neoliberalism. Here's Williamson's 10 points of the Washington Consensus (agreed by the likes of the IMF and the World Bank):-

  • Fiscal policy Governments should not run large deficits that have to be paid back by future citizens, and such deficits can only have a short term effect on the level of employment in the economy. Constant deficits will lead to higher inflation and lower productivity, and should be avoided. Deficits should only be used for occasional stabilization purposes.
  • Redirection of public spending from subsidies (especially what neoliberals call "indiscriminate subsidies") and other spending neoliberals deem wasteful toward broad-based provision of key pro-growth, pro-poor services like primary education, primary health care and infrastructure investment
  • Tax reform– broadening the tax base and adopting moderate marginal tax rates to encourage innovation and efficiency;
  • Interest rates that are market determined and positive (but moderate) in real terms;
  • Floating exchange rates;
  • Trade liberalization – liberalization of imports, with particular emphasis on elimination of quantitative restrictions (licensing, etc.); any trade protection to be provided by low and relatively uniform tariffs; thus encouraging competition and long term growth
  • Liberalization of the "capital account" of the balance of payments, that is, allowing people the opportunity to invest funds overseas and allowing foreign funds to be invested in the home country
  • Privatization of state enterprises; Promoting market provision of goods and services which the government cannot provide as effectively or efficiently, such as telecommunications, where having many service providers promotes choice and competition.
  • Deregulation – abolition of regulations that impede market entry or restrict competition, except for those justified on safety, environmental and consumer protection grounds, and prudent oversight of financial institutions;
  • Legal security for property rights; and,
  • Financialisation of capital.
That's all just fine and dandy as far as I'm concerned. I'd go further and say that if you don't agree with that list then you'd better explain yourself.

So, yes, I'm joining Timmy here and publicly declaring myself as a neoliberal. Do likewise, friends, do likewise.

Monday, 30 January 2012

The Reason for Pay Rises?

I'm loathed to simply accept that things have changed for no reason, or because people are somehow different to how they once were.

So, why has the ratio of the highest and lowest paid in a company, or even highest and average pay in a company risen over the past 30 years. The wrong answer is that management were more noble then. They weren't.

But I suspect the answer lies in something that Chris Dillow has said about complexity:-
And a similar thing might be true for management jobs. The assertion that bosses must be paid a fortune because their jobs are so difficult begs the question in the true sense of the phrase; it assumes that the jobs have to be so complex when this premise should be questioned.
The thing is that the increase in the complexity in management isn't because management want it to be more complex, but because it's more efficient. It's cheaper to have a small number of people doing things very cleverly, even if it makes it more complex, than having huge numbers of people doing things in a less complex manner.

As a for-instance, using IT creates a concentration of risk on a small number of people. Those small number of people can stop your whole business from functioning in a way that a manual business with lots of staff acting intelligently can't. Yet, even with the risk, it's the approach most businesses take, because that small team's work scales like crazy.

I recently did some work for a large UK retailer, and the shop staff, including the managers have very little to do with how the shops are run. They're there to be a human face, and that's it. They don't decide stock, where it goes, how much to charge, what sales to run... nothing. A few decades, I worked retail and store managers did do that. What do you think happens to real wages when people are less skilled that work for you?

Everything is now about marketing departments, HR departments, all those centralised teams, and that includes the management teams. The decisions taken by the board have far more serious effects on businesses than they did 30 years ago. Sainsbury's got their ass handed to them by Tesco because they picked a bad software solution. Would bad software have done that 30 years ago? No. So, having people who can pick the right software matters in a way that it didn't then.

Now, this doesn't mean that those people are necessarily the right people, but the company is putting a very high value on how much the company is about the decisions of those people in a way that they weren't in the past.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

What the Royal Yacht is Really About

From the Independent

"But I would like to be one of the first to offer tangible support to the concept, by offering up to £5m towards the construction costs of building a new, effective and flexible royal yacht."

The proposed vessel – 650ft long and as tall as St Paul's Cathedral – would provide education and vocational training for young people, facilities for scientific research, and a venue for trade missions and commercial exhibitions as well as staterooms for the use of the Royal Family on trips around the United Kingdom and overseas.

There are two things worth pointing out in this:
  1. "£5m towards the construction costs". This yacht might be privately financed, but no-one is saying anything at this point about who's going to pay to run it. 
  2. and a venue for trade missions and commercial exhibitions
As a reasonably sane man, who has met sane businessmen, none of them is so soft-hearted as to just throw a large amount of money at something as obviously childish as the monarchy. So the reasons are less obvious - the project is an investment in a facility by these people. Spend a few million up front, then the taxpayer funds Brenda travelling around the world, then you get to use it to entertain your foreign clients when they're in port. Large upfront costs, but will soon pay for itself.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Olympic Travel

From MSN (19th January 2012):-
"If everybody seeks to travel the way they always travel every day, the system won't cope. You can't suddenly bring in hundreds of thousands of new people to travel in by train and expect the system to cope so the answer is they have to look at working differently," Norman Baker said.
So, that's how they're going to solve the problems during the Olympics - the people working in London are going to have to travel in less. Like solving the food problem by starving people.
Speaking to MSN, Baker also criticised the demands of the Olympic authorities for dedicated traffic lanes to ensure VIPs don't suffer from the same congestion as ordinary Londoners.
"I think the VIP requirement has been rather overdone - but that's not a government requirement it's a requirement from the IOC," he added.
Which the government could have opposed, or told the IOC that they wouldn't accept that condition and Paris could have the games. And whilst it was Labour that agreed to this, the Lib Dems were right behind the Olympic bid.
To ease the congestion over the three weeks beginning July 27, the government is encouraging commuters to work from home or offices outside London or be flexible about their hours if they do need to travel to the capital.
Yes, I'm sure all those cafe staff, road sweepers and policemen can telecommute. The chorus of Les Mis can just turn up when it suits them.
"The answer is they have to work remotely, they have to work from rural hubs, they have to work from home. They have to come in at different times, they have to use different lines," Mr Baker said. "This is an opportunity to prove to people that working differently can be OK."
However the minister said he was confident that the economy would not suffer as a result.
So, at what point did Norman Baker fully research every business in London to calculate the impact of staff working from home or doing flexitime, or having to travel longer hours?

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Conservative Keynsiasm (no, really)

From the FT:
The minister responsible for the Olympics rounded on those attacking the government for spending money to promote the UK, saying the event was “a massive Keynesian boost to the economy”.
So, the Conservatives aren't even just a bit soft Conservative, but full on Keynsians now? Of course, it would help if Jeremy Hunt actually understood Kenysian economics, you know, that whole thing about having a surplus to use in the bad times. We don't have a surplus, so Keynsianism doesn't work.
Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, told the Financial Times: “This is the government saying, ‘We are going to ignore the siren voices telling us to back off.’ We are never going to have this again. We want to make sure we do everything we possibly can to help Britain.”
So stop spending money on the Olympics. Probably not worth cancelling now as most of it is paid for, but spend no more. Use it to fund science, research, education.
The opening ceremony was an opportunity to reach a TV audience he claimed could reach 4bn, and he said it was an occasion worth hundreds of millions in publicity.
I have no idea where he gets 4bn from, when the LOCOG site says that the Beijing opening ceremony had a live audience of 1bn people. And I doubt that Jeremy Hunt can back up his "hundreds of millions" in publicity. No-one spends money because of the Olympics, there is simply no data to support that.
The government is facing further questions about Olympics-related spending priorities, with Labour’s Tessa Jowell warning in an Observer interview that the Olympics would go down as “one of the great missed opportunities” to boost sports participation among young people unless funding for school sports was restored.
And Tessa Jowell is lying here, because she put her name to a government report, that the Olympics makes absolutely no difference to sports participation.

I'll reiterate my acid test: any politician that supports the hosting of the Olympics as a good use of public money is not worth your vote. The Olympics are a clear-cut waste of money. If they support them then they're a bloody idiot. That pretty much means that you don't want to trust them with anything. And that's all 3 parties.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Olympic Tourism

From Reuters:-

"I personally think that there will be less displacement than many people feel because London is such a huge cultural city, and there are going to be huge numbers of reasons for people to visit," he said citing exhibitions planned for its leading art galleries.

Hunt is lying over this. The evidence is very clear that there is a displacement effect in Olympic years.

Here's what the European Tour Operators Association report says:-

One feature of sports events, of any large event, is that it attracts people who would not
normally come to a city. During the Olympic period, the entire bed-stock of a destination is
devoted to the travelling officials, the press and spectators. These visitors are unlike ‘regular’ tourists, having different spending and behaviour patterns. They are not interested in “tourism” – they are interested in sport. So their behaviour is akin to business visitors attending a convention. They tend not to spend money on leisure and entertainment, and when not in stadia they watch events on TV rather then engaging in other activities. Theme park owners in Los Angeles saw a decline in revenue during 1984. In Barcelona the Costa Brava resorts had a drop in demand and at the Sydney games the normal attractions experienced a downturn in business.
(in fact, the whole report is worth a read as it utterly crushes the myths about long-term tourism, and seems to suggest that spending money on movie makers has a far better return).

The composer said that tourist bookings for next July and August were already at just 10 per cent their normal level and predicted that the theatre was in for “a bloodbath of a summer”.
He said he already knew of three major musicals that were not going to play during the Olympics and admitted that he would have to close some of his own shows or theatres too.
Everyone knows it's going to be a security and travel nightmare. Rich Japanese tourists will go to Paris or New York instead. And the effect will be felt further away. People won't come to the UK to see the rest of it, like Stratford-upon-Avon, Windsor and Bath. The prime destination for foreign tourists is London, with those other places gaining from tourists taking excursions. They won't come just to see Bath.

Olympic Tickets - Dodged a Bullet

Some time ago, in the first round of Olympics tickets, I bid for them. Now, I have some serious problems with the Olympics, but not with the sport itself.

So, I bid for 3 tickets, for me and the kids to see some qualifying rounds and the decathlon (my views of the decathlon belong in another post). It wasn't too pricey as there were special prices for kids. Unfortunately, I didn't get them.

But as it happens, I recently found out how long it was going to take me to get into the Olympic stadium by checking the Spectator Journey Planner on the 2012 London website. For an arrival at the stadium at say 9:00 for a 10:00 start, we'd have to leave our station in Wiltshire at 04:30, a total journey time of nearly 4 hours, or to be up at about 3 in the morning. Would I have liked to take my 2 kids to do that? Uh... no. Think we'll go and have a day doing something else.

The real problem here is that the time it's going to take to get into the stadium seems to be estimated at about an hour and a half, as it's normally a 40 minute journey from Paddington to Stratford and they're estimating 2 hours for Olympic trips. And if you want to know why, here's the London 2012 guide to travel:-
There will be airport style security at venues so please arrive in good time for your event.
Oh... joy. 

Monday, 2 January 2012

Another Olympics Justification Bites The Dust

From the Graun,
Hugh Robertson, has admitted that the aim of the London 2012 Games to inspire a million more people to get involved in sport has no chance of being realised.
The target was believed to be the brainchild of the Labour government rather than the Olympic organisers and was widely quoted during London's successful bidding process.
But less than seven months before the London Games are due to begin, only 110,000 extra people have taken up a new sport and Robertson, the minister for sport and the Olympics, said: "It is disappointing – a million sounds like a target that was plucked off the wall and it was."
Well, yes. The civil service even did a report into the Olympics and other mega sporting events back in 2002 (signed off by Blair and Jowell) which said this. It's good of Hugh to point this out, though.
"Do I think it's money well spent? Yes I do," Robertson told the Sunday Times. "The opening is a spectacular. Get it wrong and we will spend three or four days batting back why was the opening ceremony such a failure. It will kick the thing off in the worst possible way.
"Given the importance we are putting as a country and using 2012 to drive economic growth and tourism, it would be foolish not to spend what is necessary to lay on a good opening ceremony. Danny Boyle [artistic director for the opening ceremony] is a top professional and has produced an extraordinarily good ceremony."
Oh dear. The Olympics are not a magnet for tourists. The European Tour Operators Association have looked into the effect of the Olympics on tourism. There's a drop during the games (as non-Olympics people avoid the massive disruption) and no obvious growth was seen. Of course, the government will trot out some "this time it will be different" and in 2 years time I'll be reporting how it wasn't.

Something that does concern me about the Olympics is that there's actually a huge risk of a disaster, but no real gains from it. I have 2 memories of Atlanta: Michael Johnson's magnificent 200m world record and a bomb. And for most people, it's the bomb. Google Munich Olympics, and you won't find much mention of Mark Spitz and Olga Korbut.