Friday, 31 March 2006
There is no need at all why this subject needs to be complicated. All a pension is, is a pot of money which is used to support you in your retirement
At the moment there are Company pensions both defined benefit and defined contribution, Personal pensions, Sipps, Sass's, SSP, Pension tax credit, Etc... Etc... and the regualtions are absurdly complicated. There are regulations about how much you can put in, take out and when. The assets you can put into them, and this advice changes every year. There is even a regulation about what you must buy with your money. At present (changing on Wednesday next week) you must purchase an annuity at the age of 75. This is changing to an income drawdown option - this is the actual wording from the FSA's website:
There are government set limits on how much income you can withdraw in each year and rules on how often your pension provider should calculate these limits.
Currently your pension provider calculates the limits within which you can take an income every three years but from 6 April this will be every five years.
- The maximum level of income you can withdraw is broadly the same as a level single-life lifetime annuity. From 6 April 2006 the maximum level of income you'll be able to withdraw will be 120% of a level single-life lifetime annuity.
- Currently the minimum level of income you can withdraw is 35% of the maximum, but from 6 April 2006 there will be no minimum income limit.
Why the complication? Well it's because a pension is so tax efficient, people if given freedom to stuff their pension fund would use it to avoid tax. So let them. They're only delaying consumption. Income off a pension is taxed, so who cares when.
There needs to be one type of pension: a personal one. A pot of money you pay into and, if you're lucky your employer does too. The government could put a bit in too if it likes. (like the state second pension). You should be free to invest this over your working life in whatever assets you choose (within reason - some regulation is clearly nessesary here). When you reach an age at which you reckon you've sqirreled enough away, you can either buy an annuity or attempt to live off the proceeds of your investment. When you snuff it, what's left is given to your kids. Simple.
The state should provide a basic subsistence pension as well, just in case. There would be no "under-funded pensions", no liabilities for providers and employers and no companies going bust because of the pension fund. It will provide plenty of capital to drive the wheels of british industry. This would be simple, transparent, flexible and give people ownership of their futures. The last benefit is why it will never happen.
Tuesday, 28 March 2006
When I first started as a portfolio manager, one year ago, I immagined someone had given me £100,000 to invest on day one. This is my "Model Portfilio" One Year later, the portfolio is worth nearly £145,000. I'm chuffed to bits with that!
I'm using ADVFN to track this, and including all normal dealing charges and spreads as published. In reality, the porformance might be even better.
Top picks include Vedanta resources, ITM Power, Ashtead Group, Man Group and Aero Inventory. The Dip in the middle is the Langbar International Fiasco, so there are one or two disasters in there. I've been honest about my mistakes.
My Stock selection mechanism is simplicity itself. Find companies with Low PEs, High Yeilds and high forecast growth rates. Check they're not overgeared and have positive cashflow (Fundamental analysis is looking at companies and their accounts). Then I look at the charts (this is known as technical analysis). I like to see inflection points on fibonacci levels, solid up trends and the "well formed bottom". I like to see "Golden Crosses" in the moving averages.
Rarely does a stock have all of these (some are mutually exclusive) so it's an art not a science. But Hey! It's fun. To the Right is the chart of one of my favourite companies: ITM Power. No profits, but big prospects. And to the left, one of my less than sucessful picks - no-one's perfect. Companies with great fundamentals can dissapoint, and there's no warning, unless you look at the chart.
This came as something of a damascene conversion for me as I used to be a fundamental analyst, before I was a broker, and i used to dismiss technical analysis as voodoo. But when the evidence points out that you were wrong, one should change ones mind.
That's why I find Socialists so odious. They're wrong. Everything, every society they touch goes to rat shit. Yet they refuse the evidence and instead maintain faith in their drab creed. They're inflexible. That's why they'll fail eventually, but not before dragging a lot of people with them. (And you though you were going to escape politics in this post)
Ranted by Jackart at 3/28/2006 04:09:00 pm
It transpires that the Texan Police are going to arrest people for being drunk in bars. The Scots are leading the rest of the UK in banning smoking in bars. And a blonde is hauled over the coals for putting on her make-up at the wheel, and another for eating an apple. A young man is arrested for flicking a finger at the police.
I know... Why not place an Officer on the straight at Silverstone with a Speed-gun and .... OHMYGOD those tyres are BALD!
Actually this is all deeply sinister. And the reaction of "campaign groups" and the tabliod press just goes to show how crushingly nasty, priggish, sanctimonious and purient most people are. Unless checked, stupid, lower middle-class Daily-Mail readers support draconian punishment and the gross curtailment of freedom, because they disaprove of (amongst other things) smoking and drunkenness - "I know, let's throw them in gaol. That'll learn 'em". How about locking people with beards up for 90 days with out charge? "That'll make us safer". Submit everyone to lie detector tests and compulsory castration if you want to work within 100 yards of anyone under 18 because you might have once used (shock) the Internet. "I saw him kissing his daughter, officer... Paedophile... Burn Him!". What about the state's constant monitoring of your race and ethnicity in everything you do? "Officer, he's not subcribed to the Commission for Racial Equality survey on how "being white makes you a racist". He's a Racist, Officer... string him up."
The Lower Middle-Classes voted Nazi in Germany in the 30's and they are supporting massive, horrible illiberality in the UK (and Texas) now. That's why I don't want the Revising chamber elected, because the semi-educated vote for the Daily Mail tendency of political hyperactivity, and regard "freedom" with suspicion. That is until they realise it's gone.
Welcome to the police state. When they come for The Very British Dude, will you stand and be counted?
Norman Kember was part of a "Christian Peacemaker Team" who was rescued by armed force from the hands of kidnappers. Nevertheless he thanked his rescuers but added "I do not think a lasting peace is acheved by armed force".
Well I'm sorry to break it to you Norman, and this goes for DFID and every NGO lefty whinger on the planet, but it is.
Nature is red in tooth and claw. The only reason that vegitarian beasts on the plain are alive is because they can run faster than their buddies who got eaten. Predators kill or starve. Unfortunately the same is true of Human Society. Saddam Hussein was a Predator, who made the mistake of attacking prey with strong friends. Or perhaps he was a monkey poking a lion with a stick. Either way, he got smashed.
It has been said many times that to secure peace, you must prepare for war. Switzerland has avoided war using the Hedgehog approach (being mountainous helps), so has Norway - every man is a soldier in these countries. Sweden has a very strong Arms industry. These paragons of lefty pacifism are very spiky indeed. If you are not neutral, you cannot sit in a mountain fastness selling guns to everyone. You must be prepared to go out and be proactive in asserting your interests overseas, and not let your enemies get too strong. The only reason the Communists didn't destroy us (and vice versa) in the cold war is because you don't attack what you can't be sure of beating.
There's no doubt that our interests in Iraq are at one with the Interests of the Iraqi people (peace stability and some functioning Democracy), and our interests therefore are against the insurgents and the terrorists. At the moment, we aren't being very sucessful, but we'll get there in the end. Norman, you and your chums are not helping, neither are the Guardian collumnists and every other anti-war idiot demanding "troops out now".
You and your chums are brave, but misguided. If you leave everyone alone and eat your lentils then the world does not leave you alone, it takes advantage of you. Eventually your isolationism will be seen as weakness and everyone suffers. No, Norman, Nice guys come second. It's not important whether the benighted of the world like us. It's unlikely: the politics of envy see to it that the rich and powerful are blamed for the plight of the weak and opressed. It is important however whether their leaders respect and fear us. It is that respect and fear that will keep us safe.
Your mission to "put yourselves in the way" presupposes that the Terrorists care whether you live or die. They don't. You're a useful tool for them. Unfortunately, your countrys' forces whom you think are misguided, do care whether you live or die, so they came to rescue you. But not before a great deal of intelligence time and resources were wasted on your silly charade and one of your colleagues got himself murdered. Men who should be confronting terrorists elsewhere in Iraq were forced to put their lives on the line for you.
Maybe they will teach you a lesson: Guns and bombs and tough, nasty men keep us free and safe, Norman, not giving the terrorists a slice of your wife's smashing nut roast and a nice big Huggy-hug.
Monday, 27 March 2006
Fist of all, we should ask ourselves "is the Lords Broken at the moment?". I think the answer is as it's always been: "You wouldn't design it like this, but it appears to work, God knows how". There are issues where the public's perception of politics is at variance to the reality and the fact that the lords are appointed is one of them. Why is it a problem? There are real problems in politics: the government’s velvet-facist agenda, the introduction of thought-crime onto the British Statute books, the Police's power of arrest (on a whim, for anything), the increasing intrusion of the state into our lives. All of these problems have been acquiesced to by a supine public who are certainly not agitating for state funding of Parties or more elections (quite the opposite - the public can't be bothered to turn out even for general Elections). They're not particularly bothered about how the lords are appointed, just that they do their job.
So we should ask ourselves what the lords need to achieve: Scrutiny, oversight and independent assessment of new laws. The chamber appears to do this rather well, as their consistent rejection of New Labour's Orwellian project demonstrates.
Next we should ask ourselves why it can provide such good oversight and scrutiny: Well the lords are eminent people. They are of independent mind, no matter how they got their seat. And as they do not have to face elections, they are beholden to no party. They may however voluntarily take a party whip, but there's no sanction for leaving a party once ennobled. Because they have no democratic accountability, they are subordinate to the Lower house (hmmm, is that an oxymoron?), and the parliament acts (which this Government abuses with abandon) which serve to give this subordination the force of law. This is right.
If there were to be two elected chambers, each with its own democratic legitimacy, there is the risk of "cohabitation" to use the French phrase, with the attendant risks of gridlock in the legislature: their Lordships would not submit meekly to the Parliament act if they were elected. On the other hand, if the lords (or senators as they will inevitably be called in a fatuous un-British way) were an elected oversight committee, why would be public bother to turn out for elections of people who appear to have little obvious influence over the executive? They aren't particularly interested in turning out for the elections we've already got. Such elections would become meaningless mid-term opinion polls, make the business of Government more difficult, and strain the constitution - probably to breaking point.
So I conclude that Peers should sit for life and not be elected. So this begs the Question: Who then chooses the Lords?
That Blair chap's idea that some independent committee should do the choosing is flawed. Who chooses and oversees the committee. A partisan commons? - we're back to square one.
How about a large group of eminent, intelligent, independent and politically astute people: Their Noble Lordships themselves. This would be independent of Prime-Ministerial Lobbying, and on a "Dead Man's Shoes" basis, would be transparent, as independent of Psephology as the current system and democratic - because it would remain genuinely and obviously subordinate to the elected chamber. It will increase the independence of the Lords, remove the ability of the PM to stuff the chamber with party hacks and I guarantee the quality of people wearing Ermine will improve, and so would oversight.
Make the Lords self-selecting.
Thursday, 23 March 2006
Nevertheless, this is just the latest in a long list of issues where the Muslim world is demonstrating how alien their thought is to ours in the individualist west. The response to the Danish cartoons would be ludicrous if it was not scary. Their fatalism "insh’Allah" can be a source of strength in times of oppression, but it is also a recipe for accepting an unsatisfactory status quo. Sharia law, in all its medieval barbarity must be tempered with a concept of the freedom of the individual. After all, universal human rights are just that, universal. They apply to Muslims too. That includes freedom to worship.
Several of the comments on the BBC's comments page have been from people suggesting that the Afghans having elected a government should be free to impose whatever law they want on their people. It is this argument which is at the heart of all of the Anti-war movement's arguments: "Let countries get on with it. Oppression is a matter for the denizens of any given country to endure or overthrow; we have no right to impose Democracy". This argument is most often presented by those on the left of political debate.
This demonstrates a deep flaw in the left's thought. The fundamental unit of freedom is the individual, not the state (or racial/sexual identity group). Because the left believes that the state should plan society, and those who seek to make their own way are in some way "taking away" from those who do not, the left are naturally suspicious of those with independence of thought. Individualists are accused of putting an individual – themselves – above “society”. The left sees this as a sin, because quality is an aim in itself, even if it means dragging down the successful and hampering individual ambition (and therefore crushing freedom – a contradiction the left is loathe to admit).
That is why the right, with its mistrust of state intervention and the elevation of the individual over the collective support Mr. Rahman because he has courageously (foolhardily?) decided to buck his society's norms. He’s also a convert to Christianity, something that will appeal to American Republicans' God fetish.
It also demonstrates the true sourse of Democracy, and it isn't elections. It is not enough in creating democracy to fetishize the voting act. Just because something is accountable to democratically elected authorities - be it the afghan court or a British local education authority, does not mean that the institution will come to the right decision. Elections do not guarantee legitimacy. You only need to look at the European Union for evidence of this.
But once you have an acceptable government, to allow freedom, you must accept a free market in ideas. You must accept that people think differently. This doesn’t apply to societies, Genders, Races or Sexual oreintations, but to individuals. The left’s “cultural imperialist” argument against “imposing” individual freedom and the rule of law on societies which do not currently enjoy them (or at least trying to), is actually just craven surrender to totalitarianism masquerading as cultural sensitivity.
So the left – in its support for tyrannical regimes (or at least being against their overthrow) and their pathological desire for conformity in education provision are linked in demonstrating their contempt for the individual and a desire for the state or group identity to crush the individual human spirit. This is linked to the Left’s unwillingness to condemn the grosser excesses of Sharia law and amply demonstrated by the British Governments desire to control every aspect of our lives and their creation of a police state.
Rise up the individual. Beware the state (welfare or otherwise). Stand on your own two feet and support our boys overseas. They are trying to bring freedoms you enjoy to others less fortunate. After all, if you converted to Islam, you would not be on trial like Abdul Rahman. Watch your Government like a hawk and jealously guard your liberties from it. Once they’re gone, people end up dying to get them back.
Ranted by Jackart at 3/23/2006 10:31:00 am
Wednesday, 22 March 2006
Deep Joy and (I'm ashamed to admit) a touch of schadenfreude. Its refreshing to see another country endure the craven collapse of their batting line-up - it's not just an English disease. We've found a spinner or two, though Udal's been around for some time, Monty Panesar could develop into a good test player. What has also been an absolute pleasure is the way in which the mighty Freddy Flintoff has assumed the role of captain. He has been an inspiration to the team and the country despite injury to team mates and the possible distraction of the recent birth of his child. He also seems to have that quality that Napoleon demanded of his generals: Luck.
An Honorable 1-all draw with India then - it's not easy to win on the subcontinent. Can this England team be the best? Only time will tell...
Ranted by Jackart at 3/22/2006 08:39:00 am
Monday, 20 March 2006
Six men have endured horrific symptoms since taking an untested drug. In one way therefore this trial worked. A potentially powerful drug has been shown to have flaws which make it very dangerous. Often such incidents and accidents advance science more than a "success". This doesn't help the unfortunate six who are still in intensive care, but it looks as though they'll all live.
What bothers me is the media's obsession with blame. They're desperate to find some regulation or code that's been violated, so that someone in a suit can be hauled in front of the couts to answer for these mens' misfortune. There's been insinuation that because the pharmaceutical company is backed by venture capital, there's clearly a sinister pecuniary motive. It is also, predictably being used by the anti vivisection crowd as evidence that "animal testing doesn't work". It does most of the time, which is why this is such a news event.
This attitude does great disservice to the people who strive to develop drugs for the diseases that affect us. The low hanging fruit has already been picked and diseases caused by parasites and other pathogens are a rarity, at least in the west. What we're dealing with now are diseases where the body attacks itself. Heart disease, cancer and the like. Drugs to deal with these involve back engineering a system, our bodies and its immune system, that we don't yet fully understand. Accidents will happen.
I hope the six men recover and are compensated for their distress. I hope no knee-jerk legislation is enacted as a result of this, and I hope that, for science's sake, there's no prosecution. These trials needed to be done, and will continue to need to be done. The system works. Let's not break it.
Ranted by Jackart at 3/20/2006 10:03:00 am
Thursday, 16 March 2006
Companies on The FTSE 100 are funny beasts. It has become almost axiomatic that if financial results are as expected (and in the FTSE 100, they are almost always as expected) then the share-price falls. Traders call this “profit-taking”
What happens is that people read the forecasts, and buy the stock in the anticipation of profit growth at the results. The share price runs up in the week before the announcement. When the results are as expected, these people sell and the share-price falls. It’s simple really, but everyone’s surprised by a company who releases “record results” and drops on that day.
People don’t sell before the results because they’re hoping for a surprise (takeover announcement, sale of division, very positive outlook statement) which could send the share price up 10% in a day. They are much more likely to lose 3 % (plus spread and commission).
There is an old stock market adage: “Buy the rumour and sell the fact”. It also demonstrates that stock markets price opportunity, rather than risk. If you want to make profits by trading over earnings releases, then you must go lower down the food-chain where you may actually get surprises. Otherwise sell the day before the results, and don’t kick yourself if you miss the big rise, you’ll have saved yourself a lot of falls.
Ranted by Jackart at 3/16/2006 10:34:00 am
Wednesday, 15 March 2006
Today, we find out whether David Cameron was right to back the Labour party or not over its “controversial” education plans. Why the hell does everyone keep calling them controversial? It’s only controversial amongst the left-wing extremists of the Labour back benches who are wildly out of touch with public opinion on this issue.
The Tories will support a measure which is, in fact a direct U-turn on a flagship Labour policy of the ’97 election campaign (an end to Grant Maintained status for schools). It should be a humiliating climbdown for the Labour party, and a total vindication of the education policy of the Major years. The Labour party should take this as further demonstration (if any were needed) of the fact that all of the Labour Party’s cherished prejudices are BAD POLICY and just plain WRONG. They won’t of course, as the labour party’s been absolutely wrong on every issue for as long as I’ve been interested in politics. Evidence is no bar to their faith in drab municipal socialism.
It is only when the Labour party governs using conservative ideas that they actually improve outcomes. When they go their own way, they are nannying, illiberal, expensive and disastrous.
David Cameron should offer no further olive branches to this government. We should seek after this, to see the back of Tony Blair and start the fight for real against the Evil Gordon Brown. I hope this drives a wedge between the Government and its backbenchers, splitting the Labour party for a decade. Let them elect Gordon Brown as leader, lurch to the left and become unelectable loons again.
Tuesday, 14 March 2006
Scandal is racking the body politic. Theresa Jowell/David Mills failing to declare income (or was it a gift?). Sir Ian Blair recording conversations with important members of the Government: these are merely the current ones to poison the public’s opinion of our political class. (Sir Ian is politician and a slimy, new Labour one at that, not a policeman)
When you try and mention this on the doorstep, the usual retort is that “the other lot were just as bad” but this is not the case. The Tory scandals were generally back-benchers like Neil Hamilton, or if they were members of the government it was a genital scandal (the repellent David Mellor), not pure avarice or dishonesty like Jowell or Vaz or Mandelson. (which is why I will not mention the unfortunate, illiberal, but otherwise honest David Blunkett). These are just the tip of the Iceberg.
The dishonesty of this government is total. They refuse to obey parliamentary protocol; the most glaring and first indication was the convention that the opposition provide the speaker, especially when the last one was a Labour MP. But no: the new Labour intake thought they had a mandate to ride roughshod over centuries of carefully developed protocol. The Government’s abuse of the Parliament act undermines the checks and balances in the system. Their refusal to obey protocol and convention necessitates the legalism of oversight quangos, whose membership will eventually be as hotly contested and powerful as the US Supreme Court, but more open to political abuse and manipulation. Simply obeying unwritten precedent is much more satisfactory.
They’re taking liberties with our freedoms to generate negative headlines for the opposition. They suggested 90-day detention without trial (a number picked out of thin air by the police) knowing that this was utterly indefensible, knowing the Tories would therefore oppose it, so they could present the opposition as “weak on terror”. Luckily the Labour party has some honest back-benchers.
They are Politicising the civil service to an unprecedented degree, and the number of political appointees ordering experienced mandarins around is increasing. Alistair Campbell is merely the most egregious example. The expansion of the civil service is a political act, to generate a client class of public sector appointees who’ll vote labour. It has little to do with what’s good for the country. Most of these merely check and audit what others do, increasing the already centralised nature of the state. This undermines local accountability.
Local government reform is aimed at Tory councils and is as blatant an outbreak of gerrymandering as US redistricting. Local government finance has put conservative councils in the unwelcome position of having to either raise tax or cut services. Naturally Labour councils have seen a greater rise in their block grant. A national tax rise is being delivered disproportionately by Conservative councils, against their wishes. There is a word for this: Corruption.
This government is subtly evil. It is eating out the heart of our democracy for its own ends, and destroying our liberty. It must be stopped. For Britain’s sake, at the next election, vote Conservative.
Monday, 13 March 2006
Some days a French rugby side takes the field and a mixture of gallic lunacy and sheer flair blows the opposition away, in a display of sheer brilliance and brutal forward play. This happened to the mighty all-Blacks in 1999.
It is not what happened on Sunday.
I have not seen a more directionless, inept and hopless England performance. The men in white were gutless, and leaderless and coughed the ball with pathetic regularity. France, merely by dint of having the competence to grip the ball sufficiently firmly to prevent it falling onto the floor, won comprehensively and deservedly. Andy Robinson cannot keep his job after sunday's debacle.
Ranted by Jackart at 3/13/2006 11:08:00 am
Wednesday, 8 March 2006
The US Treasury will cease releasing M3 money supply data to the market on the 23rd March.
Iran is delivering on its threat to reconfigure the world's oil market by setting up an exchange for the trading of oil to be denominated in Euros. Norway is also making similar noises.
At present, countries must hold dollars if they are to trade in international commodities (or wear currency risks if they don't). This has the effect of creating a demand for the Greenback, supporting the value of the Dollar versus other currencies.
If countries swich to the Euro to buy their oil, this demand may reduce over time, weakening the dollar, forcing the Fed to put up interest rates, slowing the growth of the American economy, and making oil (and everything else) more expensive to the American consumer. To counteract this, and support the economy, the Fed will have to pump money into the system. M0, M1 and M2 are largely irrelevant. M3 isn't.
If the Fed is to pump money, it would like to do it unnoticed, so it's stopping release of the data now, so as to not attract suspicion when it does. Conspiracy? Well America has benefitted hugely from it's status as the World's reserve currency. Interest rates are lower than they would be and America hasn't endured a recession since the 30's. That may change, when the Fed can no longer bank on everyone else lending to the US cheaply. Nevertheless you cant fight the market. Interest rates will therefore have to rise, so if you haven't done so already, go short the T-Note and prepare for a weaker American economy.
Some lefties suggest that America's beligerence towards Iran is thus something to do with oil. It isn't. America's beligerence towards Iran is simply because an Iranian nuke is an a-priori BAD THING. If you don't agree with the proposition that the world will be better without a Nuclear armed Iran, you're stupid.
Ranted by Jackart at 3/08/2006 03:09:00 pm
Tuesday, 7 March 2006
There are ideological wings to the Conservative party. There is the patrician "High Tory" tradition, who believe an elite have responsibility to look after the poor and weak in society. There is the Thatcherite wing, who believe that the small state and private enterprise hold the key to a successful Britain. There are Libertarians and Authoritarians, making common cause against the socialist. British Conservatism is therefore a broad church.
Let us not forget what the Party's there to do. Politics without power is nothing but hot air (which is why the Liberal Democrat leadership election was so roundly ignored). There will be decisions taken which infuriate some people. No doubt there are crusty, tweed-wearing old farts in the Carlton club who bemoan the party's infatuation with homosexuality and non-tie wearing; subjects they probably think are linked. There are a great number who think DC's lack of robustness on Tax-cuts is lily-livered cowardice and a craven surrender to the New-Labour project.
I am a goose-stepping flat-taxer who believes that government is fundamentally unreformable and should be stopped, where practical, from doing anything. So what do I have in common with "sharing the proceeds of growth between tax-cuts on one hand and better services on the other"?
I accept that I will never be in the centre-ground of politics. But I can act as a pull in the right direction. Only the Conservatives have small Government, individual responsibility and low tax as the core of their belief system. Only the conservatives believe that helping people to help themselves through a vibrant, private-sector economy and strong job creation through growth and low-taxes and lighter touch regulation help those who create jobs and therefore help those without jobs. Only the Conservatives are sufficiently suspicious of the European project to fight our corner, without actual withdrawal. The Conservatives are more likely to believe that welfare can only ever be a temporary solution to people's problems. So only the conservatives will ever get my vote. The other parties are too busy fishing in the politics of envy, and self-loathing federasty.
David Cameron's leadership is about "Change". But he is not throwing the baby out with the bath-water. His formulation on tax elegantly sums up the laffer curve to a suspicious electorate, who mistakenly believe that the Tories are about cuts in services. We are not; we just believe that the state is not necessarily the best provider of services. His focus on those sections of the community least likely historically to vote conservative is sensible psephology. It also demonstrates to the swing voter that we are concerned with the excluded, which we have always been.
The Party's "change" is not its core policies but peripheral ones. A xenophobic immigration policy did more harm amongst swing voters than it gained by "dog-whistling" to an imagined core. It was also wrong. Putting tax cuts before services may only be a rhetorical difference with the current policy, but it's been electoral suicide. A lot of other policies "thrown out" are ones we never had. The party's never been homophobic, stacked as it has traditionally been with "stately homos". We haven't been a party "for the rich" since Victorian times. Who effected the greatest transfer of wealth in post-war history to the poor? The Conservatives by selling people their council homes. So David Cameron's spat with "right wingers" in his party is to some extent a media myth, useful as a genuine attempt to show the Conservatives real face, after a decade of total misrepresentation. We Conservatives now have a leader we can unite behind. He's sensibly keeping the core of Tory policy, into which a lot of though has been poured. He must now present that policy and get the electorate to trust us again.
Now I’m sure many of us on the right of the party would like to have a radical firebrand, ready to slash taxation, introduce a flat tax and head-butt the dirigiste Eurocrats whenever they did something silly. That person would not get elected. So we've got a guy for the times, who's good at the furrowed brow of concern. British politics has always had coalitions within parties, not between them.
We must be united. Imagine 5 years of that bastard, Brown in No 10.
Ranted by Jackart at 3/07/2006 09:55:00 am
Monday, 6 March 2006
Policy makers often bemoan the British public's propensity to go out and get blotto. We're the biggest drinkers in Europe (except those suicidal ice-fiends, the Finns) and only the Russians match us in the world table for sheer drunken chaos.
So why do we do it?
Well, for want of a better explanation. Because it's fun. I went to a house party at the weekend the likes of which I haven't seen since University. The theme was sports (so all the girls turned up in little hockey skirts - a piece of genius). I merely failed to get changed after my game of Rugby that afternoon. The mud and blood was genuine. There were 2 bins full of cocktails and a fridge full of vodka jelly. It was drinking on an Industrial scale. A 4 man beer funnel (called tyson) was set up in the garden, and people were queueing up to have pint after pint of beer forced into their systems whithout having to make the effort to actually swallow. Towards the end of the evening, we were "tysoning" cocktails. The dancefloor (living room) became a rugby pitch for a while, but otherwise we were all just partying very hard.
To protect the innocent, I will spare you the finer details, many of which are hazy at best. but there was debauchery on an almost illegal scale. But as we tucked into our breakfast (a local curry house opened early for us on Sunday. I sidestepped the phall, but had a nice chilli lamb Balti instead and as a result my sexuality was called into question) we agreed that it was bloody good fun and a great night was had by all. Even the thumping heads, nacent liver failure and minor heart palpitations merely added to the fun.
I'm Sorry Jose, 'Wart, Monkey and Reno that I did not do more to help you clean up.
So... no matter how much politicians try to stop them, people will continue to go out and get pissed. Indeed the scandinavian experience has demonstrated several effects of tight regulation of Booze: The beaches on many countries in Europe with more liberal drink laws are littered with prone Swedes. Scandinavia has massive booze smuggling. People don't actually drink less, it just costs them more, and they do it at home rather than in the bar, with the knock-on effects on the night-time economy, as well as introducing children to drink at an earlier age. The effect on life is to make it a bit greyer and duller, even for those who want to drink responsibly.
I would argue that government trying to stop people doing what they want is counter productive and harms people's enjoyment of life. Yes, getting totaly arseholed is not good for you, but most people grow out of it. It's none of the governement's business. What about the health costs of drinking? Well the duties and taxes on booze, NI and Corporation tax on bars' profits, and income tax on bar staff's wages should probably cover that. What about the disorder and violence? That's a matter for the individual. If they cannot handle their drink and get punchy, the police should bang them up. Don't inflict the problems of the few onto the many. In any case I believe the old licensing system was a cause of disorder.
This is the central theme I hope my regular readers are picking up in my posts: Government shouldn't try to regulate behaviour. That's not what the tax system is for. Sure, there are laws against assault. Enforce them and don't inflict measures designed to catch a "root cause" onto all of us. Boozing is not illegal, not should it be. Punching someone in the face is. Laws therefore already exist to deal with drunken violence. There's no need to make laws against the underlying cause, to do so risks alienating the law abiding whilst not preventing the truely anti-social doing whatever they were going to do anyway.
If you do drink, don't drive a car, operate machinery or hit anyone otherwise the police will be involved. If you don't want to drink, don't drink. Certainly don't petition government to "do something" about the "problem" of binge drinking. A locally accountable police force will be intune with problem pubs. Local control of licensing will prevent the development of huge, chav-infested drinking sheds which are a magnet for trouble. Flexible licensing will prevent fights over taxis and rushes for Kebabs at 11pm and 2am.
This government has done us all a favour in removing the arcane 11pm closing time. It should resist the temptaion to head back down the route of the nanny state. In short don't regulate, leave people alone to find their own way. Punish the transgressor but, leave the rest of us alone.
Ranted by Jackart at 3/06/2006 02:05:00 pm
Friday, 3 March 2006
I live on the outskirts of a small market town. I work in a village 4 miles away. There is a bus service, which uses a large single decker coach, a Plaxton Primo, which is far, far to big for the single track roads down which it goes, and is piloted at an entirely inappropriate speeds by the charming, Ayreton Senna wannabe Ghanaian driver (It is known locally as the Ghanaian flyer). I have never seen more than one passenger, apart from the single occasion I used the service, when there were 2.
Why is such a big vehicle used? Why not a mini-bus, which costs half as much, causes half the polution and doesn't block the roads for other users, and would probably offer a more reliable and quicker service?
The reason is disabled access, and the probable charge that such a downgrade would be a "cut" (heaven forbid that unused services are ever cut). I'll deal with these objections in order. With the money that is spent subsidising the disabled, why not give every wheelchair user one of these? A far better solution than defacing buildings with ramps and fining shop owners who have the misfortune to work in old buildings. It is possible to convert smaller vehicles to offer easy access for the disabled. Secondly, the sooner the public develop a grown-up responce to provision of services: i.e. the state provides what is nessesary and no more, the better. You cannot demand that services be laid on at great expence and then whinge when your council tax bill is greater than last year.
80% of councils' budget is wages, and wages grow faster than inflation. To expect at or lower than inflation increases in council tax without rationalisation of services like rural busses is ludicrous.
People have gome to expect too much laid on for them by government, (and central Government is asking a lot more of Local government, without offering the increases in grants) which is crowding out private sector enterprise. I bet one could run a flexible, efficient and regular service with a minibus and a couple of drivers to and from Town to town via the villages at a fraction of the cost of the public provision, but whilst there's a competing bus, it will not be profitable.
The public, encouraged by a leftist media are fetishising public ownership in transport, health and education where perhaps it is the public sector mentality, the high cost and restrictive employment practices and total inflexibility that are part of the problem. Public sector reform should be about realising the benefits of flexibility. Generating bottom-up solutions is more flexible and sustainable in the long run.
The problem is that the British public might have to do a bit of thinking for themselves. Fat chance!
Wednesday, 1 March 2006
Please be advised, this post contains some strong examples of "Management Twat-speak". Those of a sensitive disposition, or a love of the English Language should turn away now.
I have tried, thus far unsucessfully I fear, tried to explain my problem with the modern world. I feel that it has something to do with the imposition of rules.... everywhere. In your job, one doesn't serve clients or customers but an endless series of regulations. Every time I come up against an inflexible system with some gnome on the end of the phone saying "look, I don't make up the rules" a small part of me dies. Yes, we live in a free country (though this is becoming increasingly debatable) but government is an anathema to freedom, and governemnt is proliferating.
It is not just government. Evey large, efficient firm from high-street shops to estate agents to banks attempts to give every customer the same treatment everywhere. A laudable aim, you might think? But the effect is that the person on the customer-facing front line cannot be flexible. Not even a little bit, but as anyone who deals with clients knows, everyone's different. This doesn't just end up frustrating Customers. The horrid little Gnome who is forced by his employer to wear a nylon shirt and punch keyboards and say "the computer says no" ("Little Britain's" painfully accurate portrayal of British Customer service) is also frustrated that he or she cannot offer a better service. It is this "it doesn't matter if it's shit, so long as it's equally shit for everyone" attitude that is destroying state education, the NHS and almost everything else in the public sector.
I accept, more often than not customers go away from Lloyds TSB or Woolworths or WH Smith or Savills Estate agents or even their local council offices, satisfied. But on the occasions that something a little out of the Ordinary is called for... a bit of what management arseholes call "out of the box thinking", then the system can't cope because the Gnome is not empowered to "go the extra mile".
This is why life is shit. You aren't served by people, but by machines. And at work you serve an audit trail, not your customers. Most people ignore this empty hole in the centre of their lives and get mortal drunk on a friday to help forget it for a couple of days ("to take away" as Samuel Johnson put it "the pain of being a man"). But whichever side of the desk you are sitting, you know that a computer is deciding your fate, the interest rate you pay and probably compiling inforation on your reading habits too. Eventually human interaction will be unnessesary and we will derive all of our services online, with goods delivered to our doors.
This may leave more time for socialising with your freinds, but this is organised. So much human interaction is random: the Market traders' banter (Apples a Pound for a Pound now a cry sadly illegal), flirtation with a shop assistant, dealing with a professional who knows their job, has enthusism and can explain arcane mysteries over a cup of tea. Even the way a mechanic sucks his teeth and says "it'll cost 'ya..." has his own charm. But I can't choose my mechanic. The warranty will be invalidated if I don't go to an authorised dealer, who'll tinker with the car at twice the cost and probably half the competence of the guy with grease on his face and a fag in his mouth.
Choice is a mirage. What's the point of wealth if everything's more expensive? Why can't I get a loan? Who's running the show? So what if I'm self employed?
So I've failed agian to put my finger on why modern life sucks... It's got something to do with empowerment, something to do with getting government off our backs and something about the tyrany of the computer, and something to do with the corporate fear of the different. It's probably got a lot to do with my pathological problem with authority.
I don't know.