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.