Today is the day self-employed people pay their tax. Some people get a warm glow, happy and confident that this payment discharges their duty towards 'society', and think the state is sort of like a big, comfortable charitable insurance company, run on a 'not-for-profit basis.
I do not take this view.
Friday, 29 January 2010
Today is the day self-employed people pay their tax. Some people get a warm glow, happy and confident that this payment discharges their duty towards 'society', and think the state is sort of like a big, comfortable charitable insurance company, run on a 'not-for-profit basis.
Thursday, 28 January 2010
Labour MP Paul Flynn thinks that shaking hands is 'unhygenic', and he's afraid that the nasty boys might hurt him, because he thinks that a firm, manly grip is 'assault'. (via)
How is this theory going down in the Working men's clubs down in Newport, Paul? How about on the terraces here?
Fucking hell. He's an expences fiddler too! Matthew Williams* (Paul's Conservative opponent) must be shitting himself with glee! Mark another constituency as a dead cert Tory gain then... 10/11 are the odds over at Paddy Power. I think that's got to be worth an investment!
I don't much care about income inequality. It's no skin of my rosy nose if someone can choose to spend £200,000 on a car which does exactly the same (for all practical purposes) as mine which cost me less than £3,000. Because we've eliminated absolute poverty, no-one starves and everyone has shoes; relative poverty is measured in the affordability of positional goods, like an expensive motor. What poverty there is in the UK is caused by the welfare trap leading to a poverty of aspiration. There are people who exist perfectly respectably on low incomes, who can clothe, feed and educate their children on £8-12,000 a year, the sort of money you can get from the benefits system. I know, because I've lived on that sort of money recently. Real poverty is because of catastrophic life choices and a catastrophically useless state education system (which party again thinks comprehensives are the way forward?).
However, for some reason, the Labour party thinks that mathematically measured inequality is important, and that a poor person's life is made worse by the existence of Bentleys and has made the elimination or reduction of income inequality the Party's raison d'etre during its 13 years in power. Thus they would seek to raise the living standards of the poorest by seeing to it that fewer people could afford Bentleys using higher taxation on the rich (mainly through tax-creep, though the 50% band was always in the activists' 'minds'), and giving it to the poor (tax credits, benefits etc...). If someone can explain to me how this works, without invoking envy then feel free, because all you do with this prescription is subsidise worklessness - the true cause of the poverty of aspiration which blights Britain's council estates.
So given they have made income inequality the measure by which they want to be judged, How have they done?
Yup. Even on their own terms, the Labour government is an abject failure. Why is anyone still thinking of voting for them?
That the Left seem to be surprised that people are generally in favour of SOMEONE ELSE paying taxes, and persist in presenting this fact as evidence that we should in fact raise taxes despite research showing this to be counter-productive, is one of the great mysteries of politics.
Wednesday, 27 January 2010
Adam Lent is chief ballerina to the Parachute Regiment*.
Over at Liberal Conspiracy, he has penned an egregious piece about why the UK economy is still a mess. It fisks its self, but at the risk of redundancy, I'm going to fisk it too. He gives four reasons why the UK economy is in the worst shape of any equivalent country's:
1) the UK economy and the public finances were over-dependent on financial services for too long even though everyone not in thrall to the efficient markets hypothesis or their bonus knew this was a notoriously volatile and unreliable sector;
Not as volatile and unreliable as manufacturing. Finance is cyclical - just about the only sector which isn't is tobacco & booze. I suspect he's not suggesting that we beef these up is he? The uncomfortable fact is that the bail out can be seen in terms of the massive amount of tax the financial services sector paid over the decades running up to the crisis, it doesn't seem such a bad deal, especially as the tax-payer will get most of their money back. The financial sector is not the only sector to blame. Surely a reckless and spendthrift Government debasing the currency, taxing and borrowing, wasting the proceeds on an army of Diversity coordinators is partially to blame for our current malaise?
2) interest rates were held too high for too long in 2008 by the Bank of England even though the TUC, business groups and David Blanchflower were warning that the threat of recession was higher than the threat of inflation;
The canonisation of David Blanchflower, the Uber dove continues from the left. It can also be argued that interest rates were far too low through most of the boom as a result of CPI being the chosen measure (to try to align the UK economy with that of Europe) rather than RPI or RPIX. Blanchflower always voted for lower interest rates, and would therefore have exacerbated the boom. Even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day, but I think it's a bit rich to credit him with remarkable foresight.
3) the Government did not seize the chance for a bigger stimulus before the Tories and the right wing press made public borrowing the big political issue;
It's all the eeeeeevil Tories and that vicious, unfair 'right wing' press that means the Lefties cannot spend spend spend money they don't have. The British stimulus was vast by international comparisons. We've the biggest fiscal deficit of any major economy. Does he really think the Government should be pumping more money into worthless non-jobs? I say 'non-jobs' because it's civil servants and local authority box-tickers who's numbers are increasing, not the Doctors, teachers, nurses, police and soldiers who are needed. Bigger stimulus? What an idiot.
4) the Government have not been proactive enough in preventing people losing work through interventions such as short time working subsidies which appear to have been highly effective in countries such as Germany and Netherlands in very significantly holding down unemployment. The CBI bear a big responsibility for refusing to call for this when the BCC, EEF and TUC demanded it throughout 2009.Anyone who thinks protecting jobs is a way to reduce or mitigate unemployment is an idiot. Jobs are lost all the time, even in a boom and at a remarkably constant rate. The unemployment rate is in reality more a measure of the speed at which the unemployed are redeployed into new positions. Protecting jobs merely makes people more risky to employ, thus reducing and delaying the hiring of workers in businesses which are looking for staff, slowing the creation of jobs and raising unemployment. Job subsidies are unaffordable in the long run, especially with the deficit running as it is - they may have been an option in the fiscally prudent Germany, but not in a country which has been run by Gordon Brown for a decade. What has kept redundancies down in the UK is flexibility - many firms have put people on short hours or reduced wages, something most trades unionists will reject out of hand, yet this has proved successful in keeping businesses afloat and in saving jobs. By the standards of most recessions, this has been remarkably painless in the number of unemployed despite the severity of the downturn The complete absence of the TUC from the private sector is a large part of this. (Though at least some of the low claimant count is because Government is pretty good at shovelling the long-term unemployed onto benefits other than Jobseekers' allowance).
If this is the analysis of the "Head of Economic and Social Affairs" at the Trades Union Congress, I think we can see why trades unionism is now relegated to the state sector, where economic imperatives can be ignored and the brothers are therefore free to indulge in such political masturbation. They can try and dress it up as economic analysis, but it won't look any better than the average Transvestite.
*I can't imagine an actual, real, honest economist (as opposed to one schooled in Marxist wishful-thinking) surviving at the TUC any more than Darcey Bussell enjoying a beer and a fight with the Paras at the Pegasus bar.
Tuesday, 26 January 2010
Obamacare is on the rocks, mainly because most Americans are happy with their insurance and Medicare and don't want to pay higher federal taxes to subsidise other's healthcare. As a result the Democrats lost the safe senate seat of Massachusetts, to a man promising to stop the Big Government healthcare reform.
Americans, at least those for whom it works, like their broken system enough to want to block reform. The cognitive bias of aversion to change is clearly at work.
No British leftist can see the parallels...
This is good news, but whenever Mr James Gordon Brown of No. 10 Downing Street, London, SW1 refers to it, replace the words "because of" with the word "despite".
As in "despite the actions taken by this Government, the UK has now emerged from recession". It is unlikely that he will add that the UK is the last major economy to do so, and we endured the deepest and most prolonged recession of any major economy.
Labour: Making YOU poorer. Probably out of spite that you're middle class. Yes you. Put that glass of red wine down. Now.
Monday, 25 January 2010
The economist (behind paywall) gives a damning indictment of the Labour Government in one paragraph:
Britain's initially frugal Labour government went on a splurge: the state's share of GDP has risen from 37% in 2000 to 48% in 2008 to 52% now. In swathes of northern Britain the state now accounts for a bigger share of the economy than it did in communist countries in the old eastern bloc.Can any Labour supporter defend that record? Is that increase in spending sensible, prudent? One can only speculate about the motives of Gordon Brown for causing this, for he was at the treasury or No. 10 for the entire period and this disaster is undoubtedly his doing. My guess is that it is a nakedly political act in creating an embedded client state of Labour voters in non-jobs in the public sector, for the increase in Nurses, teachers social-workers, soldiers and policemen does not account for any more than a fraction of this obscene rise in spending. These non-jobs are not employed to help the population, they are employed to snoop, to monitor and interfere; to intervene in the populace's lives. They do not make life better. Indeed these jobs are either simply a mere financial burden at best, or they are part of the major irritation of being British - having to deal with petty jobsworths. At worst, they actively destroy jobs and opportunity.
The other huge increase in spending is on those unfortunates discarded to rot on benefits. These benefits are designed to keep the long-term unemployed off the streets and, more importantly to the tractor-stat obsessed Gordon Brown, off the unemployment register. Thus the unemployed count, if you include the discouraged workers who say they want a job, but currently exist on the benefits system, but are not currently claiming unemployment benefit, is nearer 5 million than 2.5 million. The aim of this wasteful spending and cruel dishonesty was a labour party in perpetual government on the backs of a payroll vote, because in the Labour hive-mind, the national interest is the Labour interest, and the Tories are not only misguided but actively wicked.
Witness the Labour back-benches' serial failure to challenge this disastrous man at any point, because to do so was not in the party interest to give the impression of disloyalty. Contrast with the Tory Maastricht rebels nearly destroying their party for what they thought to be the national interest. Tories put their country over their party, as do, I suspect, the Liberals (though their country is, of course the United States of Europe, not the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).
What Gordon Brown has wrought is pure, distilled treason. Never again. There are many people who think David Cameron, the only other potential Prime Minister in the upcoming General election to be a nincompoop, a lightweight, a slippery snake-oil salesman, who will merely continue the Labour legacy. For those of you thinking of voting Libertarian, UKIP, ENP, or any other protest, I point you to that single paragraph from this weeks Economist, and urge you to consider the simple fact that David Cameron is not Gordon Brown. By far the most insidious and lasting impact of the Labour years is the corrosive distrust in parliament and politics. By saying "they are all as bad as each other" you are doing the Labour party's work. They are not "all as bad as each other" because they are not all led by Gordon Brown.
The blogging has been light because I've been busy. I've been busy because the President of the United States' party lost a safe senate seat, which effectively puts the kybosh on any hope of healthcare reform, or at least the big-government model Obama wanted. The election of Scott Brown (rep, Massachusetts) means the democrat's plans are vulnerable to a filibuster. The press was all over this, and Obama needed something to change the Narrative. Luckily, Goldman Sachs popped up as a handy bogeyman, by... y'know... having the termerity to make a profit, and this gave the president the opportunity to engage in some populist Banker Bashing.
"It's a fight I want to have"Yeah. Right. Of course the banks already faced with the prospect of super taxes, and further curbs on what they can and cannot pay their staff, now face the prospect of being forced to shed profitable divisions and activities, with investment banking in particular likely to face higher cost of capital as a result of the changes, and retail banking losing much of its ability to trade and hedge its interest rate risk. This is why the share-price of banks fell on Thursday and Friday. Of course this has no chance of making it into law, as the announcement's purpose was nakedly political. Which is why the banks' shares are rising today.
Whether or not the legislation being proposed by Obama is right is not the point. I have long said that "too big to fail is too big". George Osbourne agrees as do the governments of Europe (albeit without actually understanding why), so it's nice to see that they're thinking along the right lines at last. But they cannot see that over-regulation causes the size of the banks, because only large institutions can afford the cost of deadweight cost of compliance.
But here's the rub: No one country or trading block can enact such radical legislation without all the others doing so too - the banks and their top employees are far more mobile than they were in 1933. They face a prisoners' dilemma - that the country which fails to enact legislation will attract banks and bankers and enjoy the tax revenue that brings. Goldman Sachs for example is likely to pay the UK government several BILLION this year. Any potential risk from being on the wrong side of the bankers' put option is likely to be far enough into the future to be ignored. Thus finance ministers will find ways to ensure that the legislation, while the right thing in principle, is just a little too tricky to pass in practice. And the world will go on as before, with banks getting ever bigger and more powerful, and paying lots of lovely tax to keep finance ministers sweet. The regulation will get tighter, which will increase the power of the biggest banks, who in effect will consolidate their capture of government, while governments will use the "extra regulation" to sell that corporate capture to their electorates as some form of safety.
Whatever the morality of the Bankers' put, the banks bailed out profligate Governments for over a decade, especially in the UK even now, financial services account for 10% of tax receipts, down from nearly a quarter in 2007, so the left's whinge about the bail-out is hypocrisy on a gargantuan scale. How can they bleat about the bail out of the finance industry, when they spend decades arguing for bail-outs for coal, iron & steel, ship-building, motor manufacture and continue to support agricultural subsidies? In any case, The tax-payer is likely to get their money back eventually (unlike previous government interventions in industry) as the nationalised banks are re-floated. The real problem is that the big banks, the big Government are two cheeks of the same over-regulated, bureaucratic corporate state's arse.
Thursday, 21 January 2010
I would like to congratulate the Gentleman, for I assume the individual to be of the XY genotype, from Fellbach, Germany who found this blog using the Google search term "Porn Amputation Big Bob" for the impressively niche nature of his tastes.
Well done. I trust that he eventually found what he was looking for.
From the Financial Times:
The budget deficit was lower than expected in December, but still helped the stock of national debt to soar above half of the UK’s annual national income in December for the first time since 1977.Who was in power the last time the National Debt was this big? Oh yes. Them again. Now if you talk to a socialist, they will claim that the deficit is
- Not their fault (started in America...)
- Not important (No imminent downgrade of the UK's credit rating)
- Necessary to stimulate the economy (they've never heard of Ricardian equivalence)
Which is why Every Labour government ends in Financial crisis. The only reason it took them 3 terms to do it this time is that the Tories had made the country safe for Labour by bequeathing them the best public finances of any Major economy following 18 years of sound fiscal management. After a decade of unreconstructed Brownism, we are now comfortably the worst, and whilst absolute levels of debt are not as bad as some, we're the last out of recession and we've the biggest deficit, by far.
C'mon Britain. Never again, eh?
Wednesday, 20 January 2010
Isn't this a bit like Islington voting Tory?
I do not know what a Republican candidate (albeit a liberal and moderate example of the GOP) winning in Massachusetts means, apart from the end of the Democrat super-majority. This is not really a vote against the principle of Obama's healthcare bill, though it will be spun as such, because Brown is in on record as being in favour of the similar system which already exists in Massachusetts. It is more likely to be a vote against the Federal nature of it. Americans like their solutions to be local, and accept that Liberal Bostonians might like a different level of intervention from Government than survivalists in Montana. Thus the seppos generally distrust the federal Government and look instead to the individual states to provide. The Federal government is, like the EU or even Westmonster, too big, too remote to be controlled by, or even be responsive to the people. So when Obama comes along and says "everyone must have the same healthcare plan", the people say "no, thanks!".
The people (H/T) of Massachusetts also rejected a one-party fiefdom, objecting to the lazy assumption that the Democrats could put a party hack up, and expect to win.
...Specifically that Mrs Coakley is going to vote purely Democratic, and be another clone in Washington. She’s going to vote exactly how they tell her to vote...Senator elect Brown also demonstrated it is possible to be respectful*, even in the fevered atmosphere of a divisive election. Sensible people, the Yanks. Looks like they elected the right man.
Does this mean that Obama will be a one-term president? That depends on whether the GOP can get its act together, and drop its fixation with divisive nutcases like Bush and Palin. If they can find another independent-minded candidate like McCain, they have a chance - ideally they will need a moderate, probably from the East-Coast. If they go for a core-vote strategy with someone like Huckabee, they will lose.
*I am aware of the crippling hypocrisy inherent in this observation.
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Monday, 18 January 2010
I am currently watching the third series of 24, so if anyone spoils the surprises in this, or subsequent series in the comment thread below, I will hunt you down and do unspeakably violent things to your nostrils with a number 3 treble fish hook and a knitting needle. Think Jack, without scruples, motivated only by revenge.
There is no doubt, it is gripping, well-paced television, and I am enjoying it. Actually, I'm hooked currently running at 3 episodes a night. In a month or two, I will have caught up with Season 7. I'll wait for the DVD box set for season 8.
The basic premise, for those like me who hadn't seen the show until now (I think there are some others who haven't seen it, though they mostly live here) is the show happens "in real time", taking 24 hours per series, usually involving Jack Bauer's family in mortal danger, and an absurdly complex terrorist plot. Jack is a reasonably believable Counter Terrorist agent, he's more realistic for example than James bond and less of a cunt than Jason Bourne. And he's always the only guy who can save the world, because everything so far has been linked to
that day over Macho Grande operation nightfall in Bosnia, where Jack seemed to have killed the family of, arrested, abandoned or otherwise made mortal enemies of the most brilliant and ruthless terrorists the world has ever seen, who have the expertise, resources and motivation to kill millions of people, whilst not being able to shoot Jack Bauer in the head at the first available opportunity.
Which is why Jack resorts to torture, murder and extra-judicial execution, side-stepping 'protocol' (also known as 'the rule of law'), whilst acting on the orders of his increasingly feudal President whose bondsman Jack is.
The program-makers make each "bomb" ticking throughout the series sufficiently serious to pass the "reasonable man" test. Many reasonable men would condone torture if in doing so, one could prevent, for example the nuclear bomb in season II. In season one, however we're expected to condone murder and torture to prevent the assassination of a mere presidential candidate - a politician who despite his vile, conniving wife seems to be the wet dream of the script-writers of the West Wing. A paragon of virtue, who appears to be John the Baptist to Barack Obama's Messiah. And herein lies my problem with the show.
I cannot suspend my disbelief, and I am disgusted by the moral message, and where that moral message is leading the nation which more than any other has stood for freedom under the rule of Law. The first series aired in 2001, the fear of a presidential assassination was uppermost in American's minds - the JFK assassination was the moral back-drop to the maker's thinking. The first series' premier was two months after 9/11, however. The subsequent series have been aimed at the threat of Terrorist spectaculars - season two's baddies were middle eastern, three is British. The ticking bomb is designed to appeal to Americans' deepest fears, in order to make the gross violence and moral dubiousness seem reasonable.
Those of us pleading for Governments to respect civil liberties have to contend with propaganda like 24, for propaganda it is.
The ticking bomb is the moral dilemma which is always proposed by those who would take our freedoms in return for guaranteeing our safety. It is this which has caused the USA to sully itself with torture chambers in Guantanamo, the holding of people for a decade without even the pretence of a trial. It is, on a more mundane level the rational to allow the police in the UK to stop and search people at random.
The point is that none of these things actually work. Guantanamo bay is a rallying call for terrorist recruiting serjeants* in the middle east, random searches have been unsuccessful and torture does not yield more information, and actually misleads as the subject tells what he thinks you want to hear. Whilst Jack Bauer is a hero, certain of his judgement, and is proved right over and over, most policemen are too stupid and lazy even for the Army, and the intelligence agencies are not shadowy organisations, plugged into every network and able to deploy huge gangs of ultra-hard mercenaries at a moment's notice. They're civil servants who spend more time bitching about their pay-grade than monitoring the bad guys. They would torture the wrong guy, then leave the debrief on a fucking train. Then flash the report to the press on their way to COBRA before getting drunk and telling the lovely Olga, who they just met in the bar, all about it in the hope of getting laid.
Worse than the myth of the ultra competent law enforcement and intelligence agencies is the corrosive effect on a society which tolerates abuses in order to achieve ends. Torture is an abomination. A moral absolute. We, if we are to have any ANY right to condemn totalitarian regimes we are up against, then we must have no part of it. The threat of terrorism, which kills fewer people in the West than the private motor car cannot justify the restrictions of the freedoms which have made us rich and strong. If we are to win, then we must turn the citizens of the countries we may have to fight against their governments. By far the best way to do this is to be better people ourselves, and tell them the truth. Unfortunately the CIA, in particular is addicted to lies.
Intelligence operates in a moral grey area. Which is why I can tolerate covert surveillance, if it's kept in the intelligence community for the purposes of countering terrorism and not divulged to the police, employers and local councils. Labour politicians were monitored during the cold war, but not prevented from achieving high office, even though many were effectively dancing to Moscow's tune, which shows the intelligence agencies acted responsibly. Covert surveillance, under RIPA, often described as terrorist legislation, is however being used by councils to check bin crimes, or benefit fraud. The much derided slippery slope appeared to be real for the trivial matter of privacy. How long before street drug pushers are tortured to force them to reveal their supplier? If there are not enough terrorist threats to justify the oppressive legislation, how long before the operatives who operate in that intelligence grey area are redeployed into the utterly futile war on drugs, or in recovering tax arrears?
For both the UK and the USA have crossed the Rubicon in denying basic civil rights under the rule of common law, such as trial by Jury to people charged with certain crimes. In many cases the burden of proof is being reversed.
A society prepared to trade Liberty for Security deserves neither.
24 is great telly though. Can a vile message be justified by great art? Like D.W Griffiths, Riefenstahl and Eisenstein, the devil always had the best tunes. But watch 24 again with your political antenna turned up to 11. And think about what you're being asked to accept.
*if you want to pick me up on the spelling here, please keep your opinion to yourself.
Friday, 15 January 2010
Thursday, 14 January 2010
Thomas Friedman says in the New York times*
First, a simple rule of investing that has always served me well: Never short a country with $2 trillion in foreign currency reservesbefore going onto list the potential of China's enormous population to benefit from the crash industrialisation and infrastructure building that has been going on for the past couple of decades. Bill Gates' quote
In China, when you’re one-in-a-million, there are 1,300 other people just like you.gets another airing. Of course china is a country with VAST potential. But the assumption that China is the next Hegemonic superpower seems lazy to me. Remember they have a population an order of magnitude larger than our own, but have only just passed the UK in total size of the economy (with a little help from our ex-chancellor nobbling ours). They may be catching up fast, but there is still a LONG way to go. Both economically and militarily, China is still dwarfed by the USA.
If you look at history, one of the first things that unites almost all hegemonic powers is a young, growing population. Unlike Britain in the 19th century and America in the 20th, China's population will be falling and ageing by the time the country is ready to start asserting itself.
Then there is the politics. China is a grubby totalitarian shit-hole which executes more people in a month than the rest of the world does in a year. The kind of place where the ruling party can attempt something obscene as a one-child policy, and worse: succeed. It's a one-party state, which censors the Internet denies free speech to its citizens. This enables it to conduct genocidal campaigns against ethnic minorities and not get caught. The fact that it is nominally a communist country too ensures an easy ride in the western press, because unlike that Nasty Mr. Pinochet, the communists say they're on the side of the Worker (whilst shooting him in the back of the head for owning a pig).
Dictatorships of any colour rarely create mass affluence (Pinochet being a notable exception): As the Chinese middle class grows, they will increasingly demand political representation to reflect their economic power. At present, the Communist party is delivering growth, and buying off the demands for greater political participation, but at the cost of all the principles of communism (except the mass-murder, naturally). Once the growth goes, so does the will of the people to sweep the political totalitarianism under the carpet.
Of course the advantage of being a communist totalitarian state is that you can hide civil unrest from the eyes of jittery investors. The 2009 riots in Xinjiang were reported because these stemmed from inter-ethnic tension - a bee in the bonnet of the western media, especially as the disaffected troublemakers were Muslims. But riots over jobs in the vast factory towns of the South East of the country in the same year were not reported on the television news and received little coverage elsewhere. Few westerners go to places like Dongguan. The Chinese communist party has now hitched its wagon to economic development, and has to deliver. Like our own socialist government, I am sure they are not above massaging a statistic or two to keep the western FDI flowing.
How, or indeed if, the Chinese communist party handles the transition from totalitarian toilet to pluralist democracy will determine how, when and to what extent China reaches its potential. By contrast the other vast, rapidly industrialising state, India for all it's chaos, strife, poverty and corruption, is already a democracy, and doesn't need a revolution. Which is why my money is on India for the long-term. I'm not sure I would short China, but I will bet on bet on the Real Tiger rather than the Mythical Dragon.
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
Andrew Sullivan has mentioned meth a couple of times recently suggesting that it is something more than other recreational drugs. The solutions he implicitly endorses is moral opprobium towards the dealers, and ever harsher penalties*. Meth is Death, he says.
Meth certainly fucks your life up more completely than even Crack cocaine, but you've got to ask yourself why people risk such dangerous drugs.
...meth is the poor white rural drugand illegal drugs like cocaine and heroin are going to be more scarce in such an environment, because the economic pull takes them to the big cities, where the anonymity allows an illegal supply chain to operate without attracting law-enforcement attention. People take meth because they can't get heroin, and meth can be made at home. People like to get high, to take away the pain of being a man. People take heroin because they can't get medical-grade diamorphine. People take crack because the economics of coke meant the incentive was to make a little go a long way.
Every crack-head and meth-whore is a victim, not of drugs, but of the war on drugs.
Accept the war on drugs is lost. Accept that the measures nessesary to interdict supply in any meaningful way are intolerable to a free society. Accept that attemting to disrupt the supply chain supply has perversely increased demand, by creating a highly efficient, resilient and dispersed pyramid marketing scheme. Accept that some people will damage themselves with legal drugs, just as some do with alcohol. Legalise regulate and tax the supply chain and remove the profits of the most profitable business the world has ever seen, from criminal gangs.
With freely available coke and heroin, meth will fast lose it's appeal.
*I've only just added Sullivan's daily dish to my reader, so if I'm mischaricterising his position towards drugs, that is why.
Ale-fucking-luja. Someone else thinks the West Wing is a crock of shit, and I'm rather bored of hearing "you're into politics, you'll love it" when I've always thought the show was like watching a Democrat masturbate. Finally Juliette, it appears is the only person to agree.
I asked her out a while ago. She told me to bugger off, but I'm still in love.
Tuesday, 12 January 2010
I wrote a post recently: The weather is not climate. This has kicked off debate about whether it is the Gulf stream or the Jet stream which has caused the cold snap. I thought I would give my thoughts on the comments made.
Now, I am not a climate scientist, but I am broadly prepared to accept what appears to be a general consensus that man made CO2 is causing at least some of the changes to the weather that we've seen over the past few decades, but I am unconvinced that this is "catastrophic" and I am utterly unconvinced that the political and economic "solutions" which the most enthusiastic advocates of Massive Catastrophic Anthropogenic Climate Change (MCACC) think are nessesary to mitigate.
"It's called an underlying warming trend". Whether Mark Wadsworth was being ironic is besides the point. Many climate skeptics suggest that if the Met office cannot get the short term forecast right (warm winter, Barbeque summer etc...) then how can we trust them on the longer term trend? I'm a stockbroker. It's reasonbably easy to forecast very short term movements in share prices, especially in response to stimuli, otherwise "trading" would not be profitable. It is harder to predict mid-term movements which is why people's year end forecasts for FTSE levels are little better than guesswork. However if I was to say that the FTSE 100 will be significantly higher, even affter ajusting for survivor bias and inflation, in 50 or 100 years time, I would be pretty confident in my analysis. That is why "investment" is profitable. Trends are easier to spot in long-run data.
So One Nil to the Climate change advocates.
The delectible Tory Tottie say that "The 'climate's been changing since time began and will continue to do so..." and as yet no one has given me a convincing answer to the Medaeval Warm Period and the Mini Ice Age, and in the long-run the Jurassic, from a warmist perspective. The Jury is still out as to whether this climate change event is faster than previous changes over geological time. If someone can explain the viking habitation of GREENland, then I might be convinced by the threat from a bit of warming now. They haven't and I'm not.
She goes on "I wish all these 'enviro-commies' would shut the f*** up and turn their attention to more pressing matters..." This is the Bjorn Lomborg position. For a fraction of the price of Kyoto, every child in the world could be given clean water. Koyoto, even if enacted in full would delay Global warming by... 6 years.
Two one to the Skeptics.
In a long comment "anon" says that this cooling is predicted by disrupting the Gulf Stream. That is not what is happening - a later commenter suggests it is the Jet stream which has moved this year. The point I am making is that Warmists are happy to point to Mild winters, and suggest that snow will be a thing of the past in the UK , but fall back on this pseudo-science whenever it gets a bit chilly. I was not casting aspersions on the science. I am not qualified to do this, but pointing out that you cannot predict the end of British snow one year, and then turn round and say "this was all predicted when we are in the grip of an arctic winter the next.
Three one to the Skeptics
He Goes on "...we need to take account of global temperatures. What we experience in Britain is only a small part of the global temperature...." This is a Northern Hemisphere cold-snap. The USA is cold too this year, or so the delightful Momentary Academic who's visiting this sceptre'd Isle, tells me. Germany's cold too.
"...What if the greenhouse gas theory is correct, but we are cooling down because solar activity is abnormally low. So we go on pouring lots more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere because we don't understand what will hapen if solar activity reverts to more normal levels at some point in the future" I agree with this point: There is clearly more than one driver of climate change.
My point is that the arguments advanced by the Warmists are transparently self-serving. As a result the public are thinking that 'something doesn't add up'. This makes people skeptical. They are being sold a solution which will drive up the cost of flying to the sun, drive up the cost of food and drive up the cost of travel. This will, if the likes of Monbiot get their way, drive down the standard of living for the average man for the first time since the industrial revolution.
The warmists will reply that the it is the poor who will pay. But this is utterly false too: the system of free-market capitalism is dragging people out of poverty where ever it is tried. The reason is that the system works to make production ever cheaper. By cheaper we mean more effieient. This brings fridges, antibiotics, fresh food, cars, televisions, mobile phones and computers cheaper and cheaper, so that in 100 years something like the car only avialable to a mega-rich aristocracy is now avaialble, even a nessesity to all. The motor of this vast improvement in the human condition should not be stopped without very good reason.
The people who are most strident in advocating for the freedom-denying, hair-shirt measures to combat climate change are the same people who equivocated on the evil of communism during the cold war, and advocated lumpen socialism through the 20th century. In Warmism, they've found another argument to advance the solution they would have advocated anyway: rapacious taxation on business and a reduction in economic freedom for the common man, in the name of the greater good.
That's why I call them enviro-commies. The political left has been wrong everything, ever. The people advocating for MCACC are a large part of the reason I, and the majority of the British people, are sceptical about climate change, and especially the endless, strident hectoring in the media. The BBC/Guardian axis is turning people away from the much more equivocating and reasonable stance that can be reasonably described as "the scientific consensus".
Friday, 8 January 2010
Those of us who maintain a healthy skepticism are enjoying the irony of Britian's coldest winter since the 1960s coming hard on the heels of the Copenhagen climate talks. Perhaps Gaia is saying 'I'm OK, don't panic' while the global 'hair shirts (for everyone else) climate hysterics' fly around thinking of ways to persuade the people to abandon global capitalism.
Fortunately, the people realise they're being sold communism painted green, and the more they're told that climate change is 'catastrophic', the less they believe.
No doubt you've seen the global warming hysterics respond to an argument based on the recent northern-hemisphere cold snap say 'the weather is not the same as the climate'. Of couse that doesn't stop every flood and storm being blamed on 'climate change'. Sauce for the goose and all that.
This is the second 'warm' winter on the trot in which councils are going to run out of grit. Perhaps the Met office should change its definition of what constitutes a warm winter to one less conspicuoulsly self serving for the enviro-commies.
Thursday, 7 January 2010
There are some rather splendid quotes on the Spectator Coffee House regarding the Brown Putsch. But a delightful chap called “The bellman” came up with the best one.
Slightly O/T, but I notice the way that the die-hard Broonite lick-spittles invoke the authority of the Labour Party's constitution to pronounce on how or why no leadership challenge is possible. The party can run itself as it sees fit, of course, but the constitution has the same legal standing as the charters of the Dennis the Menace fan club and the Lego Master Builders' club.
Yet compare the awe and reverence in which this document is held with the same party's utter contempt for our national constitutional heritage. This shower of horseshit will drive a cart and horse through established principles of English common law that have helped maintain order for centuries; but try suggesting a change to the rules of how you suggest changing the types of biscuit served at party conference coffee breaks, and the pettyfogging shysters come over like Edwardian hostesses who've just found a turd among the petit fours.
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
9 Ft – Government admits that maybe they should have bought more Rock Salt
8 Ft – Government proposes the sacrificing of Virgins at each Little Chef services to appease the wrathful snow God.
7 Ft – Scandinavians no longer laugh when British people complain about the snow. Sainsbury's runs out of canned goods, Britain runs out of Gas as Putin turns the taps off, Snow and Rock runs out of Salopettes in its Gateshead store, Scotland runs out of Heroin.
6 Ft – Unprecedented number of gags about the Snow being “as thick as my cock”.
5 Ft – Transport in Yorkshire starts to experience difficulties/ Land Rovers start to bog down – in essence one and the same thing.
4 Ft – Rugby games cancelled.
3 Ft – Girls from Newcastle consider a thicker pair of tights to go with their Minge Fringe skirt.
2 Ft – Gordon Brown decides to hold a Global Warming Summit
12 Inches – Aircraft flights cancelled out of Heathrow
8 Inches – First Day of Wimbledon
7 Inches – Essex, East Sussex, Hertfordshire and Kent Police suggest to drivers that they call the A-Team as they can no Longer cope.
6 Inches - Shops take “New Summer Season now in stock” signs out of the window.
5 Inches - Trains stop running south of Nottingham
4 Inches - Starbucks doubles its daily cash take.
3 3/4 Inches – Boris gives up.
2 5/8 Inches Snow and Rock Kensington runs out of Salopettes.
2 Inches – South East considers gritting road, only to realise they have no gritters because they sold them to pay for their Government mandated Diversity Outreach Coordinators.
1 ¼ Inches – Anatomically correct snowmen start appearing at bus shelters built by bored kids whose schools have closed.
1 Inch – Boris tells the Busses to stop being stupid and invokes the Blitz spirit
¾ Inch - Buses in London stop running
½ Inch - Trains stop running in the Home Counties
¼ Inch – London Underground grinds to a halt due to “Severe weather warning” (Is it snowing in the tunnels you workshy RMT nob?).
3/16 Inch Premiership Football games cancelled
1/8 Inch – Emergency Coiffeur on standby at Premiership Football games due to threat to players hair styles.
0.001 Micrometer – Schools closed throughout the country.
Robert Downey Jr Turns out his pockets the morning after a good night – Teachers close school providing the next day is the start of End of Term/next day to Teacher “Training day” coincidently the day before the end of term.
Looks still born.
Which means the Labour party appear to be acting like ferrets in a sack, making the Major cabinet of '96-97 look like the Russian synchronised swimming team. Disunity as we all know, is as attractive to the electorate as tertiary syphilis.
Let's do a thought experiment. What would you do if you where a terrorist, and you wanted to Bring the UK to its knees: Where would you detonate your device? I cannot see that planes are the best bet. The security in place since Lockerbie means that it is already virtually impossible to get a functioning bomb onto a plane. The fundie undie bomber and the shoe bomber were not successful. The plane itself was the bomb on 9/11, they used small pen-knives to gain control of the aircraft and overpower the crew. It has been a long time since terrorists blew up a plane flown from a western airport.
Bringing down a plane is a mass-casualty event, but essentially impossible to pull off.
If you wanted to bring the UK to it's knees, the 7/7 bombers had the right idea. The London Underground is vulnerable, lacks security and packs people in close proximity in tunnels. It is vital to the economic life of one of the Western World's major cities. A co-ordinated attack, like 7/7 disrupted transport for weeks. They failed to create mass casualties because they did not have access to high explosive, unlike The Madrid train bomber successfully who created a mass-casualty event.
And it's as easy as making the bomb. Rail networks are insecure, there are no body scanners. People regularly travel with heavy luggage and leave them in the luggage racks. There is no need to die to kill dozens, you can simply get off the train at a station, with the bomb set to go off a couple of minutes later.
So why do the terrorists continue to try to bring down planes? Because unlike buses and trains, which essentially repair the damage, and get up and running as soon as possible, any attack EVEN IF IT FAILS creates a hysterical overreaction - extra security is laid on, ever more intrusive checks are undertaken, and ever greater restrictions on what you can and cannot take with you, are put in place. After the fundie undie bomber failed in his ludicrous attempt, there were delays, queues and aggravation ALL OVER THE WORLD.
Weeks after an incompetent would-be terrorist succeeded only in singing his own pubic hair, we are still talking about airport security, people are asking for heads to roll in the intelligence/security agencies who are supposed to prevent this sort of thing. Every detail of the investigation is poured over by rolling 24 hour news. Every presidential utterance is subjected to detailed analysis. But the truth is, the jihadists failed, again. No-one died, nor were they ever likely to. True, intelligence and security agencies should have seen that a Nigerian with a one-way ticket, without hold luggage, whilst being on everyone's security watch-list after being shopped by his own father, was a potential jihadist. But he failed. And we are still talking about it.
There are business interests at play. Airport security is not about preventing you getting on a plane with weapons. It is about making you FEEL secure. The public have been asked to believe that there is an inconvenience/security trade-off. There isn't. Have you noticed how sparse and uncomfortable the seating is at an airport? It is to drive you into the shops. The Airport authorities have allied themselves with a hyperactive security industry and Governments intent on taking your freedoms, to create a situation where you can be delayed, near shops, not seating at three separate points. Before check in, after check in but before departure lounge and the departure lounge itself. Why aren't the body-scanners and hand-luggage x-rays deployed immediately before you board the plane? Because that would allow people to arrive 30 minutes before the flight, leaving no time for shopping. Worse, we're expected to thank the bullies in high-viz vests who are herding us with ever greater officiousness because the crap we're being asked to put up with is "for our security".
The response to every failed attack on an airliner (but not a bus, motorway intersection or train) is a ratchet up on the security theatre (for theatre it is), which then dominates the news for weeks. This then allows the Government (both sides of the pond) to persuade you that this terrorist threat is Global, unprecedented (it isn't) and needs more terror laws to make you safe. The reason the jihadists try to hit airliners is because even failed attacks on airliners work to create fear. When was the last time you heard about a failed bus-bomb? The reason there are continual failed attacks on planes is because, uniquely, air transport is the only one of which we demand absolute safety. Motor accidents kill thousands every year, train crashes kill dozens every year. Plane crashes are vanishingly rare and successful terrorist outrages are rarer still, yet uniquely we respond to every minor incident in an airport as if it were the real thing. I remain unsure as to why this is.
The terrorists are weak. The only weapon they have is to persuade us to take action against ourselves. Thanks to rolling 24-hour media, it is ever easier to do. All it takes is a spoiled brat with barely flammable underwear.
Tuesday, 5 January 2010
Good Morning and Welcome to the (delayed) New year's Britblog roundup. As the first roundup of 2010, I think it appropriate to remind ourselves of why we blog, and why we read other's blogs: It is to be educated on subjects of which we may know little, to read opinions of others which are not filtered by the media machine - either to engage with those with whom we disagree or to bolster opinions we already hold. Doing the roundup is a brilliant way of exposing one to blogs that would otherwise not come your way.
Blogging is not new - it is pamphleteering and essaying with modern technology. Early Modern Whale, for example examines a 16th Century pamphlet about a landslip in Kent, and talks about the writer using this phenomenon to explain his religious beliefs. If you get caught up in twitter storms, and the kind of angry exchanges which have been going on between Devil's Kitchen and Sunny Hundal, with Chris Dillow observing from the sidelines, remember there's a contemplative side to blogging too. Philobiblon reviews books. I rarely want to read the books she does discuss, but she's always enlightening. This week, it's Adrian Goldsworthy's "fall of the West", but in the review, there emerges a discussion about how, since Gibbon the fall of Rome has become a tabula rasa onto which we project our views of the faults of our own society. Even normally angry bloggers can put the green ink aside: Prodicus for example talks about David Hockney, the man.
Above all blogging is about truth, or an individual's interpretation of it. This is the year that the Blogosphere stood up and was counted - by standing up to Carter Ruck and exposing the myth-making of the Alternative medicine crowd as they abuse the British libel system to name two obvious examples. Jack of Kent has been in the thick of it, which is why we should listen to him when he asks 'what makes a good blogger?' With the Main Stream media have started to take blogs seriously, politicians will follow. The Cnservative party is looking to harness the wisdom of crowds, so there is no better time to have the audience we bloggers do.
Unfortunately John Redwood aside, blogs by MP's rarely shed any light as hind-brain emoting, party-line hackery and partisan point-scoring dominate any pretence at analysis. Lynne Featherstone for example thinks moving to Switzerland is a "high price to pay to save a bit of tax" without adding any value beyond her opinion. It is not, of course a 50% marginal rate as she describes, but with NI included a 75% marginal rate), and opines that £150,000 is "enough". Someone should point out to MPs that opinions are like Arseholes. Everyone's got one. Who is she to describe anyone's pay as...
...obscenely more than you need to lead a decent or even an uber-luxurious life-style and a bit of extra tax is not only fair but also will make that Director feel better about his humongous earnings - having paid his dues.Yes. You are. Who the fuck are you, Lynne to judge what is "fair" and what is confiscatory? What is "Obscene"? £1m? £200K? When you read the thin gruel which passes for comment by MPs in their blogs, you realise why these are the people who drafted child pornography laws which prevent full body scanners being used in Airports. Naturally Liberal England thinks the Tories are "confused" on the subject because the Tories cannot be anything else, ever. Whilst we're still on politics, Tory Troll wades is with 'dispatches from planet Andrew Gilligan.
Or am I wrong?
Politics is a lot of shouting. The most enlightening blogs, which should be read by all us, are those by people who do a job, and blog about it. These often give a perspective of life at the sharp end. This is as true of The City Unslicker talking about his portfolio, as it is of Nee Naw describing how the ambulance service deals with some heat-breaking situations, or Random acts of Reality raging at the public and the management and explaining why it takes 4 hours for an ambulance to get to you.
Some bloggers defy categorisation, writing about the local, the whimsical and the historical. Unmitigated England waxes lyrical about Malvern, following a find at the Market Harborough book fair. Here's a Marxist, waxing lyrical about recently Out 'Alfie' Thomas ( Cardiff, Wales and the Lions) and the sport of Rugby Union. I may despise the man's politics but I can't fault Ben Lewis's choice of sport.
Onto our Green Friends: Ruscombe Green brings news that Stroud is to go Plastic Bag-free detailing the damage they can do to wildlife - especially, I understand, sea Turtles to whom they look like jellyfish, their staple food.Capital Nature tells us about his tits. (Aegithalos caudatus - Stop giggling at the back) and finally The Daily Maybe asks what an ethical foreign policy would look like. I always thought Greens favoured growing a very tall hedge around Britain, and replacing an independent nuclear deterrent with the collected flatulence of lentil-eaters but this is a very interesting post. Why though does he put trades union rights over women's rights. Is it evidence that most Greens are simply too yellow to admit they're red? Perhaps they could read this post from the Heresiarch, which explains why many reasonable and intelligent people are just a little skeptical about the claims made by the green lobby.
It's that time of year, so here are a few Retrospectives: Apartment One-Oh_One whinging about Top-Gear, which is a pretty good indicator of the kind of po-faced self-righteousness which it is best to ignore - describing the Trio of May, Hammond and Clarkson as "schoolboys" is hardly new; indeed it is why the public love them. Sneering at Top-Gear usually indicates someone with no sense of humour, originality or wit. There's plenty of right-on crap on TV, darling. Top Gear and South Park are the only libertarian shows out there, and the people love them. Top Gear is more entertaining than organic yurt-weaving for vegetarian lesbians on channel 4, whatever you think. Whilst we're on TV, Queaquam Blog muses on Dr. Who. Suitably despairing gives us some Green Numbers, which he invites us to be depressed about. And only one prediction: over to you, Paul Lindford.
Next week we hope to get the normal, weekly service going again as everyone has finished digesting the turkey. We are at the Chameleon's place, Redemption Blues, so if you see anything juicy or exciting in on any British blog this week, send them by e-mail to Britblog [at] gmail [dot] com.
Monday, 4 January 2010
Because this is "Brackenworld", I think it is time to highlight one of my illustrious distant relations (as in 'distant' to the extent of probably not actually being related, but 'related' in the sense of 'sharing a surname'): Brendan Bracken, on whom my father is producing a documentary.
There will be a premier some time in the spring 2010, in the west end, to which I hope to be able to invite leading bloggers, in return for helping to generate a bit of buzz to get what is shaping up to be an interesting documentary onto the telly - preferably one of the better channels. (Yes. That is begging for links... You know what to do: link to this post and link in your sidebar to the you-tube video...)
Brendan Bracken was Winston Churchill's spin-doctor, wartime minister of propaganda, briefly First lord of the Admiralty in 1945 and wealthy Newspaper publisher. Which is pretty good going for a compulsively untruthful, lanky, Ginger wierdo with Irish Republican roots and smelly trousers. It might be due to the suspicion that he was Churchill's illegitimate son, or the more likly but less interesting observation that Bracken may have been instrumental in Getting Winston into number 10.
Anyway... stay tuned for updates!
Saturday, 2 January 2010
Four degrees centigrade doesn't sound like a lot. Don't worry. I haven't joined the ranks of the Global Warming hysteria brigade (note to passing communists, neither am I a denier). I'm talking about swimming pools. Now where I live there are several pools nearby. All are kept over 30c, which is above the recommended level for a mixed leisure and swimming pool. Way above. Think about it like this: the human body runs at 37c. Thus raising the temperature of a pool from 27c to 30c drops the difference between the body and the water by 30% - reducing a swimmer's ability to lose heat to the water.
Here's how it is. The sea off the south coast is 9-12c depending on the time of year - and it is perfectly possible to swim unprotected in the sea in the summer for a while. A copetition pool will be at 25c, but will feel parky - a shiver when you get in, but there is no "health and safety issue", as is so often claimed. 27c will feel pleasingly cool, 28 will feel warm when you get in, but cool when you move. 29 will feel warm when you move. 30c is frankly intolerable for any more than a few minutes of swimming, triggering asthma attacks and giving any swimmer a headache as you overheat. Any higher and if you're swimming laps, you're in danger of heat exhaustion, which can be fatal. For reference, a hot tub will be between 33 and 40c and a hot bath at home might be 41c. Which is why I feel like punching the stupid, fat, ignorant bints who say "ooh.... this is nice and warm" when they get in.
The reason is that some point after 1997, the country ceased to be set up for reasonable people, but instead started pandering to every demand of the lowest common denominator to encourage "access to the disadvantaged" or some such bollocks. So swimming pools, even supposedly serious swimming pools will pander to the demands of the weak, stupid, fat and old - people who don't swim, and don't know that they're supposed to feel a slight chill on their skin when they get in; effectively excluding the fit and healthy who want to train. I pay my taxes which subsidise the local pools, and I wouldn't mind if there was one for me, wanting to swim, and one for Maude and Dierdre, who want to paddle in children's wee. But all the pools around here are at the temperature of kiddies' piss and I feel excluded. Why not try and educate Maude and Dierdre rather than telling me that "we've had complaints" when the pool is at the right temperature.
It also explains why the UK is shit at swimming. There are 4 Olympic standard pools in the UK: Crystal Palace, Edinburgh, Sheffield, Coventry, and a few others which are close. Australia by way of contrast has... 47.
I watched Oliver Stone's biopic about George W Bush last night. I thought that Bruno Granz's depiction of Hitler in 'Downfall' was considerably more sympathetic than Josh Brolin's of the younger Bush in 'W'. Every shot was a calculated insult from Stone: it is difficult to imagine any other president being depicted on the toilet wiping his arse.
Even the close-ups of belt-buckles are designed to attract ridicule as the sophisticated viewer is invited to pour scorn
blue red-state America. With the pathetic "all about oil" scene with Dick Cheney promising an "American Empire" and the pop-psychology bollocks about Junior's daddy issues, this film pandered to the therapy addicted American left who simply love a conspiracy theory. Oliver Stone has form on the conspiracy front, as well as being a disgusting dictator apologist.
With this in mind, enjoy the movie.