Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Manufacturing and China.

John Redwood, normally so interesting, is reduced to bleating "why don't we make things anymore?".

Of course making a "thing" you can drop on your foot is no different economically to providing a service except that the latter cannot be outsourced to secretive slave-labour camps like China which because of "communism" gets a bye from the leftist-inclined world media despite its savage political repression. Unlike the slave-labour camp Myanmar which has the misfortune to be a military Junta with a personable opposition leader, there is no significant world profile for opposition leaders in China. A billion people live in bondage in part because people want cheap "things" and in part because almost all journalists think communism is somehow better than fascism or military rule, when all involve the same repression. In fact, my guess is communism's worse. I doubt Aung San Suu Kyi would have survived had she had the misfortune to be Chinese. Can anyone think of anyone outside the identikit Grey men of the Politbureau who will be next leader. Clue: it's not Liu Xiaobo. Though the communist economic choke-hold has been released a bit and the Chinese economy grows at a decent clip. China's success in using her almost limitless labour supply to supply christmas lights to the west at £6 a time, is not a mark of success. It is the wages of half a century of failure of idiotic economic ideas and political savagery.

So poor countries like China with a highly centralised state CAN persue export-led growth by applying western developed technology and nailing them together using extremely cheap labour and currency manipulation. However, John Redwood would, presumably like her Majesty's subjects in the UK to remain free? To remain rich? And he's against currency manipulation. So how, exactly does he propose that we compete against the chinese? And who is going to buy our manufactured goods if we did persue this strategy? It's not the average Chinese worker - he couldn't becaue the Renminbi is kept artificially low and black market currency trading is punishable, as so much in China, by death.

If China's exports aren't a demonstration of the superiortity of Manufacturing, then what is? Manufacturing does not lead to stability - manufacturing goods is one of the most cyclical sectors. Nor does it generate many high-paid jobs, especially if you want high productivity too. Nor are manufactured goods any more "real" than services. How is cooking a steak in a resteraunt less "real" than making rubber dog shit? The real root of the wish for things to be made in the UK is ignorance of what a service economy actually is, xenophobia and nostalgia for an industrial working class, which has gone.

The idea that exporting manufactured goods is the most important economic measure is no less idiotic than the idea that Agricultural land is still the root of all wealth. Agriculture was indeed the root of wealth, until 1750 or so, then manufacturing took over until about 1965. Services - the businesses of ideas and information is the root of wealth now. It's about who controls the information and has the ideas. And that is still the lucky people breathing free air - Britain, her old Commonwealth, Western Europe and North America who are designing things to be put together by slaves in China who get the most economic benefit from the process.

So John Redwood is wrong. The only way British people could supply those Chrismas lights for £6 would be if we were extremely poor - too poor, in fact to buy them. Like the Chinese who make them.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Direct Democracy

The responses to the proposal that the most popular petitions receive a debate in parliament, and the top petition gets drafted as a bill, have ranged from derisory to enthusiastic. Of course, as ever, this blog is way ahead of the Government, and I think my proposals are constitutionally more subtle than the flawed and toothless proposals from the coalition. Who's for a petition to make me dictator? Why not? It worked for Caesar.

In general, I am in favour of direct democracy. Arguments based on the stupidity of the people and the commensurate benefits of representative democracy will fall on deaf ears here: the people will make fewer stupid decisions than their elected representatives, even if they are deaf to the appeals of libertarianism.

Whilst the proposal being debated in parliament will mean that the majority, Jeremy Clarkson for Prime Minister for example, will be voted down. However the same issues will reach the top, time after time. Europe, a perennial bug-bear of the no. 10 petition site will get its debate, and will be rejected. As will bringing back the death penalty. The smoking ban may far better, and the Hunting ban will be the subject of endless pro and anti petitions.

The threshold will be sufficiently low that pretty much any well financed pressure group will get its debate in parliament. And, since the direct democracy Rubicon has been crossed (can you imagine removing such a right?) the ratchet will only go one way. So whilst this proposal will change the square-root of bugger all, there may be more to come.

Expect lots more debates on Hunting with hounds, Europe; expect illiberal legislation like the smoking ban to face harder passages through parliament in future as organised opposition mobilises support (how many people care enough to actively SUPPORT a ban -most just acquiesce). Sneer if you like to, but this is a step in the right direction.

Britblog Roundup # 290

Is up at redemption Blues. Don't forget to send anything from the British Blogosphere to britblog [at] gmail [dot] com. I've picked up a great many brilliant blogs from the roundup, it's worth getting involved with. The hosts are of all different political and philosophical persuasions and it's always interesting to see what they think of your selections.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Activist state, concentrated harm.

Following on from yesterday's post, in which I talked about the dispersed benefits of Libertarian policies, cutting special interests' programs to the greater good of the economy and, indeed, liberty of the population. The costs of that policy are obvious: the people delivering and consuming the service provided, and these will scream loud and clear about the "Cut" to their "vital" service.

But there are concentrated harms in the statist policy closet too. Dick Puddlecote highlights a problem of an over mighty state: in the example a Teenage boy has it explained to him, calmly and professionally by a social-worker and the police that he can no longer stay with his father. The same boy would be subject to the law and found responsible were he to break it, but isn't thought responsible enough to decide where to live. The police are clear: they will use violence if necessary to enforce the decree on the piece of paper. And they do. A lot of it. It gets quite disturbing from about 8 minutes in.

Now I am sure the police believe in this instance that they are doing a good job, and the social worker believes he's helping people. But when the state is prepared to use this level of force to over-ride the free decisions of autonomous people who, it should be noted don't appear to have broken the law, that is a "concentrated harm" of an over mighty activist state that seeks to interfere with your decisions and the way you live. That it does so "for your own good" is neither here nor there: the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and for this family at the moment in question, it is hell - the father does well to stay as calm as he does.

How many Victoria Climbies or Peter Connellys are there? Or more importantly how many such cases do the intrusive Police/social-worker/local-authority care system prevent? Not all, obviously, because such an outcome is impossible. How many children are snatched from adequate and loving homes into an environment that is NOT conducive to a happy upbringing as a result of that system? How many parents are forced into the Kafkaesque nightmare of the family courts where the burden of proof is reversed and justice is anything but public? And more importantly is the cost - forcibly broken loving homes worth the attempt to save a few extra lives? You cannot stop all bad people doing terrible things - should we risk using the awesome power of the state to destroy the lives of innocent people in order to reduce the risk of a tiny number of terrible things?

When the left calls for more "investment" in social workers, the cost is not only borne by the taxpayer, the costs are borne by the families ripped apart as that social worker's mistakes & misjudgements. This is not a criticism of social workers, but an observation that they are merely human, like the rest of us. If you put an army into a city, civilians get killed. The more soldiers, the more accidents. Why does the left not accept the parallel? That More social workers mean more interventions and therefore more mistakes, which higher staffing and lower case-loads do not and cannot eliminate.

Back to the boy (he's 16*, young man, surely?) being snatched from a home just before Christmas. I have No idea of the back-story. I don't know why the social-worker needed three police officers to invade this man's home. I've no doubt there's a mother, fighting for custody amid allegations and recrimnations. It's none of my business. What's more important. I don't know why the police officer thought it unreasonable that he should be filmed. But nothing suggests that anyone's being arrested for breaking the law, so why enforce the piece of paper with such alacrity? So there is a concentrated harm of the policy of allowing the state to interfere deeply in people's lives right there.

Liberty is, in part the right to not have 4 agents of the state enter your home and remove your children in the week before Christmas when it is perfectly clear that the child in question is there of his own free will. This happens to hundreds of people daily and I've no doubt it does some good for some of the people involved, by allowing families to sort out issues or children be saved from abuse. But no-one it seems counts the cost. The enormous costs of an over-mighty state are not all economic.

*Update: It appears the boy is 12. Still responsible should he get caught breaking the law, but not responsible enough to decide where and with whom he lives. Perhaps you could argue it makes the court order more legitmate But it does make the violence deployed rather more shocking.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Dispersed Benefits, Concentrated Costs.

In November, I went to see P. J. O'Rourke give a talk. In which he described the government as a "very powerful tool", the temptation of which is to use it inappropriately. This was brought to my mind by the conversation I had with a young labour activist on twitter today (slow work day...), who was convinced that "fighting for workers' rights" is exactly what a governing party should be doing. And then I thought about the depressing graph about "Liberty" verses "Equality" and "Diversity"

Of course, since 1800, the rise of democracy has seen the fear of Tyranny recede, and the fact that the benefits of liberty are dispersed, the benefits of socialism are obvious and its costs are dispersed has seen people, voters, broadly ask this enormously powerful tool which democracy nominally puts at their disposal, to fix ever more problems for them. This, of course, costs - taxes, regulation and such like. But everyone's paying and some people are getting something "for free" back. Is liberty going to die under the weight of an ever-more activist state? The price of freedom is vigilance, and I fear that a state which even thinks about ending Trial by Jury, Habeas Corpus and freedom of speech, whilst prosecuting people for inane jokes on Twitter and spending 50% of the national pie (which for 40% of the population who say they'll be voting Labour STILL isn't enough) is so far removed from any concept of liberty as to be lost.

Or has the activist state finally been shown the limits of the approach by the massive deficits and debts built up by democratic Governments? Are the cuts going to usher in an optimistic, entrepreneurial country which suddenly rediscovers its self-reliance and throws off the burden of state spending along with the benefits which go with it?

Back to my Labour activist on Twitter, who was convinced that minimum wages and "living wage" legislation as well as ever more onerous workers' rights is absolutely a good thing. Trying to explain to an 18year-old that a minimum wage prices the low-skilled out of the jobs market, and that protecting a job, by making it expensive to fire a worker means that fewer workers are hired in the first place. No amount of education could replace the experience of an actual JOB leading to a vicious circle where the poor cannot get the starter job and end up in despair and on benefits. Policies designed to protect jobs are GREAT for those with those jobs. They're safe. But for those looking for work, it makes it harder to find work.

Of course, the people with low-paid jobs and those just above them LOVE the Minimum Wage too. They will go out and tell everyone that the minimum wage changed their life. They now have more money at the end of the week. The non-working poor doesn't put their joblessness down to the minimum wage, job protection legislation or their own lack of skills, instead probably blames immigrants or fact that there are no jobs round here. So the dis benefits of a minimum wage policy or job protection policy can be ignored. Most people have jobs and will vote to keep them. The jobless don't as a rule vote. Nor do they understand why they're jobless, and expect the state to do something about their plight.

And every policy cut, every social service no longer provided has two constituencies loudly shouting "I No LONGER HAVE A JOB" and "I NO LONGER GET MY SERVICE" whereas the benefit is spread amongst 40m taxpayers, some time in the future. Explaining the method by which those same services are delivered, usually more efficiently and cheaper if chaotically (look up the actual rather than idiomatic meaning of 'chaos' before commenting) by someone other than government, is excruciatingly difficult.

Politicians who would in fact do best cutting taxes, reducing red tape and getting out of the way instead get involved with trade policies, monetary policies and labour market interventions to solve the problem, because it is easier to be seen to be doing something than explaining why Government is the wrong tool for the job. All these social policies and redistribution costs in money, people's time and lost opportunity and eventually the costs mount up to overwhelm the country's economy. Fortunately, we are not there yet. The country can go on getting ever more statist for some time yet and this will meet the support of people like UK Uncut. Eventually, however the burden of regulation and tax becomes too great. The coalition has an opportunity to to remove the burden on the hard-pressed tax-payer, and change the narrative. But the success of the policy MUST be seen within this parliament or eventually the problem of people demanding people use the powerful tool for their benefit at the highly dispersed cost to others rears its head.

Just because statists and socialists pretend their market interventions are without cost, Libertarians shouldn't pretend their policies aren't without losers. We do have the truth on our side. Every libertarian policy comes up against the concentrated harm, dispersed benefits problem. Socialism or State-activism can point to the people who lose out, and the Libertarian cannot point to anyone who gains much, but overall, everyone is much richer. Making these argument to the electorate is very similar to making the point on Twitter - if you can't say it in 140 characters, you might as well not be saying it. Your argument is doomed if you can't tweet it!

So a Christmas problem for my readers: Come up with a 140-character slogan to overcome the dispersed benefit concentrated cost problem for deployment against lefties on Twitter and eventually the electorate. We can't get them reading books about liberty, so we need to be as good at sloganeering as the statist left.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

The winter solstice

The winter solstice is the shortest day, or more accurately the moment at which the sun at its lowest zenith in the year. Northern societies have calculated day lengh accurately for millenia - stonehenge and Newgrange were built for this purpose.

For weeks now, I've been going to work in the morning and coming home again in the dark, though not for much longer. By mid january we will be enjoying significantly more daylight so today is the ending of the dying of the light, and the rebirth of the sun, which is why ancient cultures celebrate it. Yule, Saturnalia and others. All religions, ancient and modern have a festival around this time, and often the theme is rebirth. The idea we're celebrating the birth of a 2,000 year-old levantine carpenter is risible. The ancient church simply co-opted existing festivals.

I'll be raising a glass to the coming spring this evening, because although I give the impression of being a right-wing capitalist beast, there is a mile-wide streak of hippy in there.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The Opponets of Legalisation SpEAk their BrAnEs

Heffer, this morning.

That alone illustrates the moral failure of our drugs policy, and perhaps helps one understand why the Ainsworths of this world feel that we might as well give up and legalise these killer substances. Theirs is a counsel of despair, however. The liberal society has failed. If we want to deal seriously with the drugs menace, we must start by admitting that, and reversing its odious doctrines.
Anyone whose argument concludes that "the liberal society has failed" has defeated his own argument, because the liberal society has created more happiness than any of the brutalised and repressed societies which preceded it. It may not be perfect, but more repression, locking more people up because they don't behave as Simon Heffer thinks they ought, is not the answer. Who are we helping by such a policy? He trots out the same, tired, lazy arguments, which at the risk of boring my colleague Travelgall (who basically thinks the public's view issue will NEVER change - itself a council of despair) I shall deal with the Heffer's "arguments" in order. None are convincing.
...if you seek to undermine what Mr Ainsworth correctly calls the "gangsters" by reducing their ability to make money from drugs, they will simply find another commodity to exploit
There has never been a business as profitable as illegal drugs. Whatever dealers do instead will be less profitable, harder and therefore less attractive. Some will "go straight". To say in one breath "drugs are an evil scourge on society" and in the next suggesting that whatever dealers will do instead would be worse is solipsistic.It pretends labour cannot be re-deployed (I was unaware that Mr Heffer took his Labour market economics from the Socialist Worker). In any case the argument amounts to "we can't legalise drugs, because drug-dealers would lose their jobs". I am sure this is not what Heffer had in mind.
Nature abhors a vacuum, and criminals used to idling for a living on a huge income are not suddenly going to get jobs stacking shelves in Tesco.
Most drug dealers are on, in effect, the minimum wage. True, there's a chance of success by climbing the value-chain to the top, but the economics of Drugs are not easy riches. This shows how much research Heffer has done for this opinion piece. He then goes on to say that the taxes levied would be so high that the illegal traffickers would simply undercut the legal supply, and that
Given the damage done by drugs in terms of health and consequent criminality – such as addicts mugging and burgling to afford their fix, which would not change.
He offers no evidence to back this up. Some, perhaps most of the serious health problems of drug use are caused by illegality. No-one is going to pretend that pot is good for you, but there are regular users who remain productive members of society. Cocaine use is widespread in the professions. Many people remain occasional users. Heroin users, if they use clean needles and have a supply of quality drugs can remain productive members of society. They tend to remain less visible than the smack whores who remain the public image of heroin use, but I know of at least a couple of people who maintained a recreational Heroin habit for years without becoming smack-addled derelicts, including one who was a semi-pro rugby player. The point is that it is mucky, adulterated smack is the cause of much ill health, a situation that would be amenable to legalisation. Nothing I can see suggests that illegal drugs, especially Cannabis and Cocaine are far removed from the harm potential of Alcohol. Either ban Alcohol (what's that, you say it's been tried?), or legalise drugs.

Next he trots out the tired old "slippery slope argument.
... the other effects of legalisation would be to encourage people who don't use drugs to have a dabble; and to encourage those who use so-called "soft" drugs (though the psychotic effects of cannabis seem to me to render it anything but "soft") to try something a bit more serious.
"Seem to me", well, he's obviously done his research. That's me convinced! The psychotic effects of Cannabis are not proven, and seem to be at most increasing the likelihood of schizophrenia in very heavy users who may have been already prone to the condition. Again no-one would say any drug is good for you, but compare the psycotic effect of alcohol: how many pot-fuelled fights are there in the UK every Friday night? How many booze-addled tramps are ruined by Booze? Pot is not good for you, but it isn't worse than Alcohol. And who's to say dabbling with drugs is entirely bad? Find me a graduate who hasn't tried a spliff? Although some of those undergraduate pot-smokers become Journalists, most make something worthwhile of their lives.

Never in all the years I've been writing on this issue has anyone addressed the fact that there are FAR more problem drug users than when the substances were legal, available over the counter at your local chemist. Supporters of continued prohibition must ask themselves why. An illegal drug habit is expensive and the easiest way to maintain it is by dealing yourself. This encourages users to recruit other users in a highly effective pyramid marketing scheme. Whilst it is true that in the short term, there will be a great many people who will be tempted by a line of Coke or a Spliff, I suspect that anyone who would be tempted to mainline heroin is already doing so. A young impressionable pot or Ecstasy user is less likely, were they legal, to be exposed to a dealer whose supply of Green or pills had gone a bit dry, suggesting that he try some brown instead. Legal drugs would come with health warnings, and education material sponsored by nannying Government departments, rather than tips on how to get high from an experienced user. The slippery slope argument is as much an argument against prohibition as it is against legalisation.

The most widespread drug, Alcohol is at least as harmful as most illegal drugs. It is certainly responsible for the majority of the visible drug failures: the derelicts littering park benches and shop doorways. If we tolerate a drug with this potential for harm, it makes no sense to make illegal and spend billions interdicting supply, and criminalising users of drugs like pot which are FAR less harmful than booze.

Opponents of legalisation have to address the question of the availability of drugs. With all the money spent on preventing it getting to the UK, a crop which requires chemical processing and is grown on the mountains of South America, despite the USA spending 10 Billion a year on crop-sprayers and troops, despite all the sniffer dogs at airports, despite draconian punishment for traffickers, Cocaine can be had for £30-£40 a gram in every town from Inverness to Penzance. Cannabis can be had for £15 for an eighth (why cocaine is metric, and pot is imperial is an issue which has long vexed me). How could legalisation possibly make such drugs more available? They're available everywhere, now! Anyone who is minded to try anything can already do so, after hours and to the underage, illegal drugs are easier to get than booze.

To suggest that the answer is savage repression against something that millions, yes millions of people do every weekend in the UK, and to even think this policy would make for a happy country, is absurd. Legal drugs would be cleaner, cheaper and there would be less stigma attached. Friends and family would be able to monitor people's drug use as they already do with alcohol, as such use would be less hidden. Problem users may be tempted to seek help earlier than at present. It would remove a vast source of profit from organised crime, and put a stop to the recruitment of users by low-level dealers seeking to fund their own habit.

Nowhere, in all the world's decriminalisation experiments has the supply chain been removed from criminal hands, yet not one has seen a significant increase in harm (use is different from harm). Reports of more widespread use may just be lower stigma increasing reporting of use. So decriminalisation hasn't led to social unrest in Portugal. Pot is effectively legal in Spain, Holland and Germany without the reefer madness promised by the prohibitionists. I cannot see how removing the Gangster's profits and redeploying the resources on actual crimes which hurt people can be anything other than a cheap win. Bleating about "families destroyed by drugs" seems to forget that these families are destroyed when drugs are already illegal. Perhaps they would not be so destroyed under a more humane system?

"Because they are illegal" is not an answer to "why are drugs bad?" The trade exists and cannot be controlled or prevented in a free society. Nowhere has succeeded in suppressing the trade, no matter how draconian a the country gets. A law which millions disobey every weekend brings the law into disrepute, and gifts millions to criminals who fight over the profits. Every drug death is an indictment of the current system and policy. "More of the same" is not, and cannot be an answer.

Heffer with his tired, ignorant, knee-jerk moralising has ignored every argument, and simply asserted what he believes to be true without deigning to do any research, or even thought. Remind me again, why does anyone pay any attention to journalists? How is repeating your readers prejudices for pay any more "moral" than selling them a relatively harmless herb to help them relax?

Friday, 17 December 2010

Can Somebody Please...

... Explain to me why we're supposed to give a shit?

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Why couldn't Bob Ainsworth have stuck his head above the Parapet Two Years Ago?

Bob Ainsworth(less), a minister of spectacular uselessness even by New Labour standards has come out and said it. The war on drugs is a counter-productive, expensive, damaging failure.

Why the hell did he not do anything about these views when he was in Government? Of course the rhetorical question can be answered: Because of grotesque producer capture by law-enforcement and media; political inertia and cowardice on all sides of the house. Suggest such a "crazy" thing and you will get comments like "I have seen what drugs do to communities..." without considering the counter argument of legalization, regulation and some control would do much more to help the addict, at much less harm to the non-problem user and cost to the tax-payer than the enormously expensive and totally futile attempts to limit supply.

The fact is slowly, one by one politicians are realising that a cheap win is to decriminalise drugs and medicalize addiction, whilst leaving the non-problem user alone. This removes a cause of enormous harm to populations, especially in Britain, poor and ethnic minority populations who don't use particularly more than their white compatriots but are FAR more likely to have their doors kicked in and their collars felt by plod. The tide is turning. Pot was nearly legalised in California. There are experiments in Holland, Portugal, Spain and others, which have not led to the collapse of society. Nor have they even led to increases in drug use. The fact is the failure of prohibition is so complete that illegal drugs are more available and cheaper than they've ever been. Because of the hysteria about booze, in many cases they're easier to get hold of for a teenager than alcohol. Cocaine, once the preserve of rock-stars and the rich is now available for £30 a gram. It's cheaper and easier to get high than it is to get drunk, especially after pub closing hours.

The Zero-Tolerance approach could only work when you had worldwide acceptance of that policy. That has broken, and steadily the failed dogma of prohibition will be rolled back. Even in the USA. Once it is seen that legalised pot hasn't caused a major social problem as promised in "reefer madness".

The current coalition are, or were, sympathetic to legalisation, and I have spoken to senior people in Law enforcement, politics who will, in private say that the war on Drugs is lost, is unwinnable and it is the war on drugs, rather than the drugs themselves which destroy communities. The only people who say otherwise are the kind of people in the military and police who proudly say "Having never taken drugs, I can say they have nothing to offer". People who think through the issue, beyond the dogmatic line can see that decriminalization or legalisation would significantly reduce harm, in many cases without increasing use. It remains career-harming for a copper, especially in the lower ranks to say so publicly. Unfortunately, it is still electorally risky to say so publicly, and whilst significant numbers of Tories and Labour MPs are in favour of freedom on the issue in private, there is an authoritarian wing of both parties, which sees something of which it disapproves and thinks "Ban This" and it is this tendency which gets the popular press on their side, because they make a lot of money from pictures of Kate moss snorting a line.

However, David Nutt, for his faults is in favour of a more realistic line, as were the other scientists on the Advisory council on drugs. Law Enforcement against Prohibition are increasingly influential in the USA, and Chief constables, Lawyers and Civil Servants working in the Field in the UK have added their voices. Just about the only people who will consistently oppose legalisation who know the situation in any detail are drug dealers themselves - these guys have the most to lose. Sooner or later, drugs policy will come in from the cold, and the reality of what it is doing to countries like Mexico will mean that something will give. Already, the number of police, politicians and scientists who are prepared to put their heads above the parapet is increasing. Cracks are beginning to show in the dam holding reality back, and one of the good things about democracy is that it usually gets social questions right. Eventually.

At the moment, the prevalent view is that drugs are a moral issue - they represent weakness of character. This is the line deployed against masturbation, extra-marital sex and homosexuality by the authoritarians in the past. It was a fallacious argument then, it's fallacious now. Moral has nothing to do with whether something should be illegal. The fact is that most of us have had a spliff - find me a graduate who hasn't - and few of us go on to mainlining smack. Some stoner undergraduates have even gone onto serious careers in the police, the Military the professions. Some however become politicians. Drugs policy IS a moral issue. The current prohibition is grotesquely counterproductive, destructive of societies and communities and astonishingly illiberal. Anyone who supports it is either malign, ignorant, stupid or all three.

My guess is that the Daily Mail is wrong and we will be able to have a spliff after dinner fairly soon.

Monday, 13 December 2010

A 1p tax on Text messages.

This was an idea dreamt up by Bob Crowe, and this post started life as a comment on Hagley Road to Ladywood, where the usually sensible Claude indicated he thought it might be a good idea. But it isn't, it's such a profoundly stupid idea, that I descended into a sweary rant about the stupidity which lies at the heart of socialism, which got censored mainly because I called Claude a fucking silly idiot who's embarrassed himself with a stupid post. For which I apologise. I wonder it the bastard offspring of that stillborn comment which I left there, will survive. If not, the gist of it is recorded here...

1) Text is, for most people not on the cheapest pay as you go tariffs, offered free. Therefore raising tax on this will be regressive, because the cheapest pay as you go tariffs are the preserve of the benefit-classes who will be forced to pay more. It will also affect the parents of teenage girls disproportionately.

2) Therefore this isn't "free money" for the government because either it will

a) change behaviour as people text less or
b) spend less elsewhere which will have the knock on effect on

i) VAT and corporate profits and therefore
ii) income taxes on workers, who then spend less elsewhere.

True the effects listed under b) will not be measurable at the level of the individual company but will be noticeable across the entire economy, as a myriad of other taxes will go down a tiny bit as the effect of the text tax bites. It will not therefore overall raise anything like the billions that Bob Crowe thinks it will. Economics is not a simple matter of multiplying two numbers together, even though this may seem like white man's magic to an illiterate fuckwit like the insanely militant leader of the RMT.

So the tax cut will affect the poorest worst (the kind of people who have cheap pay-as-you-go mobiles) and won't overall raise anything like the amount you think it will, because of the knock on effects. Which is true of ANY tax which interferes in the cost of a service. In this case it raises the cost of a cheap, popular service way above the cost of delivering it and any externalities.

The point is that this idea demonstrates the profound and lumpen idiocy at the heart of socialism which sees success and thinks TAX THAT!

It doesn't work, and the belief that there's pots of free money to be looted by government demonstrates the stupidity in socialist willfully or even religiously refuse to accept concepts like tax incidence, the Laffer curve or incentives in the welfare state, to justify the policy he'd already decided upon which is to tax "Business" or "the Rich" of which they disapprove and spend the money on people or services of which they approve, like diversity outreach coordinators. The fact of business fleeing, or not investing. This is either welcomed or condoned by the socialist. The result is, at best the fiscal nightmare left by the Labour party and at worst soviet death camps as recalcitrant capitalists are re-educated into the socialist's vicious creed.

The other point is the Government is already spending half of GDP and taxing 40%. THERE IS NO MORE MONEY FOR GOVERNMENT. NONE. NADA. ZILCH. ZIP. GONE. SPENT. Governments do better when they Leave people alone to spend the fruits of their labours as THEY wish. Stop taxing them.

Still not convinced? Socialism was tried in perfect experiments over the 20th Century and was demonstrated to be such a profoundly rubbish system that it took the most productive people in the world, Germans, and made them poor. Likewise that mercantile and inventive culture, China was destroyed by your vicious creed. Compare the PRC, a vast populous and potentially rich country to Hong Kong or Taiwan, both of which were not much richer than the mainland after WWII. In both cases which way were the refugees flowing? More examples: Spain and Cuba both had similar GDP per capita at the time of the socialist takeover of the former. Socialism not only makes people poor, it also makes people miserable. People vote with their feet in a way they didn't flee the likes of Franco and Pinochet. THEY kept their murderousness to a small class of political oppoinents. Socialists turned their violence on the population with the result that the AVERAGE result of socialism in the 20th century was a 10% depopulation of the unfortunate country in question.

Socialism is merely communism without (as they might put it) the latter's beautiful clarity of purpose. It's just a matter of degree.

A 1p text-tax matters little to me, or anyone who isn't a teenage girl. It's not a big deal, but ultimately, Socialism doesn't work because of a myriad of stupid ideas like this. Taken together, they add up to massive and catastrophic human misery.

Britblog Roundup #289

Welcome one and all to the 289th Britblog roundup in which are contained, or 'kettled' (depending upon your political persuasion) the best blogposts of the week.

We'll kick off with the student demonstrations, which... um kicked off this week. HarpyMarx gives her perspective of the protests, and her spelling & grammar deteriorate as her anger rises.

Eventually Carl and me [sic] got out the kettle by Whitehall. As I write protesters are still being kettled, attacks on the Supreme Court and the Treasury. But what do the cops expect when you kettle, contain, correll [sic] people? Treat people like they are nothing, kettling provokes anger and distress. It’s an attack on democracy, freedom of movement and civil liberties.
So where were the riots about Labour's savage attacks on civil Liberties? No enemies on the left eh?
Vive le [sic] resistance!
Of course all the trouble was from a "tiny minority". It wasn't just highly priveleged Cambridge students who happen to be the adopted sons of Pink Floyd guitarist, Charlie Gilmour causing trouble. It was also, as Richard Osley pointed out highly priveleged pupils at the kind of London state school which require a million pounds to buy a house in the catchment area, who were also were demanding that the people who clean those schools pay taxes to ensure their higher education remains "free". Them, a few actual students, the Socialist "Worker" and anarchist group, Class War who are the kind of protest tarts who'll protest the "Cutting" of someone's hair.

There is plenty of talk about "access to higher education". Better Nation gives a round-up of "attacks" on the same. Obviously, it's the Tories who started it. On the other hand, people's opinions change once they're earning. Charles Crawford sums up the "tax payer" position.
Bottom line. I have to pay for three Crawfs to get through school and university. I don't want to pay as well for Charlie Gilmour and the massed student left-fascists swarming round the streets of London yesterday.
Of course a question the left has to ask itself (when they're not masturbating about the thought of "revolution" against "Tory Scum" or engaging in a circle-jerk of indignation about police "brutality") is to what extent will the coalition's policy be to blame for a drop in student numbers from poor backgrounds, vs the grotesque misrepresentation of that policy by the left? On BBC Question Time, the left-wingers refrain was "the details aren't important" because, presumably they reveal a policy which would see the low paid pay less than now, and the wealthy graduates pay more. Meanwhile, nothing is paid up-front. I fail to see how this is wildly different from a time-limited graduate tax. No-one is offering mass, "free" higher education, so why is the Left (and the Labour party) pretending that the Labour party is?

Of course the real loser in this are the Liberal Democrats for whom the reality of coalition Government (something they've long desired) means they cannot make absolute pledges on anything (and nor can anyone else). Peter Cranie brings some sobering by-election results for the yellow team. Maybe that's why Lib Dem voice reckons returning officers aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Still on education, Natalie Bennett reviews Wendy Wallace’s Oranges and Lemons: Life in an Inner City Primary School, and draws some conclusions about why British students do so poorly in international league tables.

The rum business of Julian Assange's rape case generated a lot of comment. Is it rape, or a strange, Swedish law. Is it trumped up for the convenience of the US in the wake of Wikileaks or is it coincidence? The left, on the basis that anyone who pisses the USA off that much is a fellow-traveler, decided that Assange was a Hero. The left, who also believe that all men are rapists, and no accusation is ever malicious, were therefore tying itself in knots, as they played many hands of victim poker. Cath Elliot and Sunny Hundal's spat is detailed here, and here. Chris Dillow sums up the cognitive biases of those involved. This blog's take on the issue, by Mara MacSeoinin, is here. Of course all left-wing support for Assange will evaporate once they work out that he's a libertarian.

Brian Barder welcomes Keneth Clarke's policy on sentencing. As do I and campaigner and inmate Ben points out that the characterisation of the Tories as "hang 'em & flog 'em" types is unfair. A softer line on prison, especially for low-level offences is generally well received by the thoughtful from across the political spectrum. It's the knee-jerk unthinkers who read the Daily Mail tend towards authoritarianism.

Charles Crawford wonders why the FCO can't be excellent, and wonders whether an "excellent" organisation would need a "reputation manager".

Andreas at London cyclist asks the ever-fraught question where cyclists wait at traffic lights. The correct answer is "Are you quite mad? I don't wait unless I have to". Of course there's a vocal, self-righteous minority of cyclists who obey the law and like to tell everyone about it. Towards the end of the thread, the vast majority of people who go through when it is safe to do so in order to avoid getting crushed, start commenting.

Environmental issues got a lot of airing, with many on the right reviewing Britblog founder Tim Worstall's book. Here's one from Samizdata. Jonny Porritt calls for no nuclear subsidy, Tim calls him on double standards. Climate resistance goes into a great deal of detail about Prof. Brian Cox on the BBC. Barkingside 21 calls on people to reuse and reduce, being more important than recycling.

The 'F-word deals with the fraught process of comment moderation. This is not something I have to deal with on this blog - free speech and all that. But some people think that words can hurt, and feel the need to censor others' opinions, and it can become a lengthy and time-consuming process. Which is another reason I don't bother. A third reason to not bother is that as I understand it, if you moderate you ARE responsible for comments which are potentially libellous. If you don't, you're not. If someone complains, I have the opportunity to take the comment or the post down. If I don't like a comment I ignore it. If I think it's spam, I delete it. I think the hyper-sensitive feminists at the f-word would do well to publish and ignore anything they find hurtful. Anonymongs & trolls trouble all blogs. Let them be, they haven't the wit to generate their own readership. Though the staggering hypocrisy of that last comment will not be lost on those who write the left-wing blogs where I make a nuisance of myself...

Can I urge everyone to send in just one or two of the best posts they come across to britblog [at] gmail [dot] com. The same people every week are sending in nominations, which means the same blogs get nominated. This is not to denigrate those regular contributors at all, the Britblog wouldn't work without Natalie Bennett and the Chameleon & co. who submit something every week, and I certainly cannot hold myself up as a paragon with my erratic nomination. Set an alert on your calendar to send an e-mail every Friday with the best posts you've seen in the week. Use the star button on your rss reader to go back over the best of the week's posts. I just feel this process could be brilliant if there were more and varied contributors - the more the merrier. Note to self: Must. Do. Better.

Next week we're at the Chameleon's place.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Crime, Punishment & Rehabilitation.

...Or why the Blogosphere is better than newspapers - some of them are written by people with first-hand experience who know what they are doing.

There are too many people in prison who shouldn't be there. At the same time, serious offences go underpunished. Rather than pay attention to Newspapers who suggest that ANY attempt to cut the numbers in prison will result in a Rapist under every bush, and that the only answer is ever longer, ever less flexible prison sentences for "drug offences", "sexual offences" or "knife-crime" or whatever is the moral panic du jour, let's admit that we know nothing of the criminal justice system and see what those who have first-hand experience reckon. The magistrate is scathing about New Labour's attempts to shoehorn social pathology into the criminal justice system and dealing with the "populist crap" of the ASBO really ends up being just a means to put persistent offenders into prison for low-level crimes. Most of these people aren't bad, but are instead profoundly inadequate. They need help, not punishment. Treatment and care, rather than prison.

I don't know what the answer is to a dim and confused alcoholic who staggers around, swears at strangers, and calls the fire brigade for no reason. But I do know that the answer isn't an ASBO, because ASBOs only deter those with the mental capacity to be deterred. At this point, I would implore any MOJ staffer who has access to Ken Clarke's inbox and who happens to read this stuff - and I know there are a few of you - to tell him that what's going to happen here is typical of the reason why prisons are cluttered up with inadequates.

He will be given an ASBO prohibiting various pain-in-the-arse activities. He will breach it within a few weeks. He will probably get a suspended 28 days or so. He will breach it again. He will go inside for, in reality, a few weeks. He will come out better fed and less smelly than he went in. Then he will breach again. JPs will get fed up with him and send him to the wigs for sentence. A Recorder with a busy list will glance at the guidelines and give him nine months. Guess what happens when he comes out? Go on; you know don't you? Breach, prison, and so on to the crack of doom. And the underlying offences, of drunkenness, Section 5 POA and the rest are all low-level fine-only jobs.

Clear him and his like out of the prisons, Mr. Clarke, and you will be well on the way to your 3000 reduction in the prisoner headcount. But you will have to find something else to do with them.
The Magistrate doesn't know what to do with them, but knows they're cluttering up a criminal justice system which is not designed to cope with such profound problems. It's expensive on the tax-payer and cruel on the unfortunates caught up in a society in which they can't cope. Jim Brown, the man behind the On Probation blog, and he reckons it ain't prison, it's not criminal justice. It's (for want of a better description) the workhouse which could deal with profoundly disturbed people with chaotic lives.
Over the years many such men have come my way professionally and undoubtedly they continue to pose society a problem. When I started out there were people called 'tramps', but the state at that time had a nationwide network of Reception and Resettlement Centres or 'spikes' that were open 24/7 and accepted men in any condition....

...The last such facility closed only around 1989, all victims of the growth in political correctness that labelled such places as demeaning and dehumanising, but in the process handily avoided the knotty question of how such people were to be dealt with in the brave new politically-correct world. The sad fact is that there was never adequate replacement provision in either quantity or scope. Some might be tempted to ask if they worked? My answer would be that even if they didn't, wasn't it a rather more humane way to try and deal with such people than the situation we have today? We simply don't have the right facilities anymore and no agency claims any responsibility.
I don't know whatthe answer is either but I feel more enlightened as to the problem by following these two blogs. If you actually care about society, rather than reading newspapers which simply pander to your prejudices, add them to your daily reading. I suspect this is an area where charity would be the best solution. Maybe there's something in this "Big society" after all. But who gives to a charity dealing with tramps? After all, who needs that when we have a welfare state...

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Bush-Era Tax Cuts Stay. Wrong Call.

When the Guardian reports on President Obama's cave-in over the Bush-era tax cuts by saying...

Paul Krugman, the Nobel economics prize winner, called on Obama to stand firm against the Republicans' "tax-cut blackmail" which will cost the US treasury $4 trillion in revenue over the next decade and prompt a "major fiscal crisis".
they're quoting an "economist" whose long-since abandoned serious research and become instead a parody of himself. The fact is, Krugman has worked out that there are an awful lot of people for whom no taxes are high enough (especially when applied to someone else, usually "the rich") and neither can spending ever be high enough, and having a Nobel Laureate pander to their prejudices pays rather well. As he recently argued that the deficit was not big enough, to suggest that NOT RAISING TAXES which is what not allowing the Bush cuts to expire amounts to, is fiscally catastrophic when you've been arguing for a far higher level of Government spending funded by borrowing, Krugman is dishonest at best. The reality is more complex.

The jury is still out on whether "Fiscal stimulus", using government spending to kick-start the economy by boosting demand, is possible at all outside the "automatic stabilisers" of welfare provision. But because most people are utterly ignorant of economics, they think state borrowing is a magic money-tree, which means you don't have to tax in order to spend, this allows politicians who should know better to call state spending over and above that received in tax "investment" in the boom and "stimulus" in the bust. These are big, important-sounding words that make it seem that insane profligacy is backed by some proper economic thought.

Such "stimulus" can take two forms tax-cuts and state spending on services. Whilst keynes argued for the state to use slack demand in the economy to build roads and public works (a position close to coalition policy...) in practice, the neo Keynsians argue that it's the borrowing that puts money into the economy, by increasing demand. This frees them to spend on their priorities unconstrained by tax reciepts which are rarely roads and public works which actually benefit joe ordinary, and instead consist of make-work schemes for a client state. Because this spending is of marginal utility, people are not better off in the long-run.

The arguments in favour of tax-cuts as stimulus are slightly stronger: by leaving the money in peoples pockets, some is spent on things people find worthwhile (ie NOT TSA Crotch-Fondlers and Diversity Outreach Coordinators), generating VAT and sales taxes and cycling through businesses leading to an increase in corporation tax. Some of it is invested (actually invested in the hope of an above inflation return as opposed to "invested" in public services) in businesses leading to extra employment, raising income tax receipts, stamp duty and CGT receipts, should the investmet go well. Some will be invested in Government bonds, which has the effect of lowering the interest rate paid by the Government. Of course, whether this increase in other taxes as a result of the tax-cut is greater than the "cost to the exchequer" is moot. I suspect, in the long run generally a well-designed tax-cut (ie not the ones Obama has just extended) may pay for itself in extra growth generated as explained above, in the short, run they just increase the deficit, with exactly the same effects as extra spending.

The absolute size of "the state" is not important here (even if I generally favour a smaller one), nor does the form the stimulus takes, extra spending or tax-cuts matter a great deal. What IS important, however is what Krugman himself once derided as "the old-time religion of sound-money". Something the Republican right has abandoned with unfunded tax-cuts, and the British Left has never thought about in the first place with its insanely profligate love of ever-higher state spending.

Politicians risk stagflationary catastrophe (if they're lucky...) by running these huge deficits, and it matters not whether it's spending or tax-cuts which did it. The effect of deficits is the same - inflation as money is printed, high interest rates as the bond markets lose confidence; high intereset rates potentially cause the economy to stagnate, leading to currency weakness, raising the price of imports and effectively making people poorer. Furthermore, people save to offset future tax-rises and use artificially low short-term interest rates to pay off debt, negating much of the effect of the "stimulus". So there's not much if any extra growth in the economy for a great deal more debt hanging around the tax-payer's neck. The way Governments spend money in practice means the tax-payer hasn't even got good infrastructure for all that debt, which MIGHT have led to higher growth because extra state spending is often, in effect, like paying men to dig holes and fill them in: work of no utility at best. Leftists like this because they like lots of lovely government spending, and because, in the UK at least the neo-keynsians and leftists are the same people, the "stimulus money" gets spent on diversity outreach coordinators and assorted prod-noses, who actually hold back economic growth in a sea of red tape. In the US the punk-keynsians are on the right so the stimulus money is spent on more prisons, TSA crotch gropers, expeditionary warfare and the "war on drugs", crippling the country in pointless security theater. Does any grown-up think this spending increases utility in the economy?

Whether it's tax-cuts or spending increases, deficit spending doesn't work to stimulate the economy beyond the Automatic stabilizers, especially in the long-run. The message to politicians is simple: Don't cut taxes if you're not going to cut spending. Don't raise spending if you're not going to raise taxes. In economics, there is no such thing as a free-lunch. Whether you favour a big state or a small spending MUST be paid for. Small deficits in a recession are fine - no-one's suggesting that the budget be in balance every year, but deficit must be matched by surplus in the good times. And that happened under those much derided and much under-rated politicians: John Major (and Gordon Brown, for a couple of years, until he abandoned TORY spending plans, which is why I don't give him credit) and Bill Clinton (how clever of him to hide unpopular fiscal sanity by shagging a fat lass)

So last night, Obama took the easy option and gave into the Republicans over Bush's tax-cuts, and already American debt is falling sharply on the news, heralding higher interest rates for all, which will negate much of the stimulus effect, as millions pay more on their mortgages. Obama wasted all his political capital on futile Health care reform, and had none left to fight the Republicans where it matters. He seems to neither know, nor care about the danger of a big deficit. Indeed, he's unwilling to cut spending, and appears to welcome a deficit as "stimulus" so he's as much of a stupid Punk Keynsian as Ed Balls. He wants to Spend, Spend, Spend on Government programs. But like all politicians, he won't ask the voter to pay for it - he may be able to blame the Republicans for half of the problem, but that's a political call; he's demonstrated his priorities. If you beleive in "stimulus" why not cut taxes as you raise spending? Politically, it makes sense: The voter's kids, the poor dupes who are going to pay for it all eventually, don't have a say. Of course America is a big, rich economy so the wheel will come off a long time after he (and Bush, who it must be remembered caused the problem in the first place) have left office.

Obama, the politician who entered office on a wave of Optimism not seen since JFK has failed to stand up to a recalcitrant congress and within two years become, fiscally at least, a nightmare love-child of Bush Junior and Gordon Brown. It is debasement of the currency caused ultimately by unfunded "bread and circuses" for the mob which eventually did for the Roman Empire. Unless we return to "the old-time religion of sound money", and stop taking listening to that dishonest purveyor of pretty lies, Paul Krugman, western civilisation is doomed.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Ashes

Is it cruel to read the Australian sporting press?

The final two days at Adelaide, we were assured, was when we would find out what this Australian team was made of. The results are not yet back from the lab, but it seems to be some sort of gooey, soft-centred material that melts rapidly when heat is applied, is easily removed from flat surfaces, does not bounce or spin and which stinks to high heaven.
They don't like losing, do they? Which is why beating them is so satisfying! Go on... who stayed up to watch the Australian collapse last night....

The Life and Trials Of Julian Assange

Guest post by Mara

Much of the media frenzy surrounding Assange is born of the fact that little is known about him. Thirty nine years old. Australian. No fixed address. Parents ran a touring company. Attended thirty seven schools. Has a child from a failed relationship. Malcolm Rifkind describes him as a ‘frighteningly amoral figure’, Edward Heathcoat-Armory as ‘paranoic and archaic’, one who lives a ‘bizarre peripatetic life’. Assange has been ritualistically demonized by the media as a shadowy, sinister and above all wicked figure who will stop at nothing in order to print a sensational story. In a savage evocation of the McCarthy era, politicians across the world have been baying for his arrest, his silence, and even his blood. It is ironic that some of these politicians, Attorney General Eric Holder who refused to prosecute the CIA for torture in particular, are now mounting a moral crusade using the ‘forces of darkness and light’ narrative to achieve their ends.

The latest move to silence Assange lies in the lap of a Swedish prosecutor who, despite a wealth of contradictory evidence, has issued a European Arrest Warrant in order to prosecute him for the alleged coercion and rape of two women. Prior to the issuing of said warrant, the case had been thrown out by a second Swedish prosecutor for lack of evidence. The first woman invited him to stay at her home, had intercourse with him, and threw a party for him the following evening. The second, evidently starstruck (describing him as ‘interesting, brave and admirable’), invited him to her home and paid for his rail fare in both directions. Later, the two women got together, the first “victim” having attempted to expunge an entry on her blog entitled ‘7 Steps to Get Legal Revenge’ and to erase a Tweet which read ‘Sitting outside ... nearly freezing, with the world’s coolest people. It’s pretty amazing!’ They appear to have blown the whistle based on the fact that Assange had Biblical knowledge of them both within a matter of days. Whether this is a case of ‘sexfalla’, which may be loosely translated as a ‘honeytrap’, or two women seething with indignation that Assange shared his sexual favours impartially, there is negligable evidence that any crime was committed. Indeed, Assange has been attempting to meet face-to-face with the Swedish prosecutor for over a year in order to set the record straight.

The typical media response, imbued as it is with a prurient need to know the explicit details of this and every other case involving sex and a kneejerkist Puritannical desire to punish those involved for their morality or lack thereof, has been to define Assange’s character in relation to the allegations. Sex, though a powerful motivation, is not sufficient to explain, or detract, from Assange’s desire to see justice done: to make public a file passed on to him by Bradley Manning, a man whose own character has been torn to shreds, in order that global governance may not get away with covering up its sins. The release of a number of diplomatic telegrams, which has prompted Sarah Palin to call for the death sentence to be imposed on Assange, is both important and necessary. The intelligence that the Obama administration views ours with suspicion, believing that our PM isn’t up to the job and our military is inadequate, has a profound effect on our supposedly ‘joint’ efforts to pacify Afghanistan. Why should we continue to expend resources and lives to assist those who have no faith in us?

The fact that Hilary Clinton deliberately gave orders to pervert the course of justice by covertly obtaining biometric and personal data of UN delegates, including the Secretary General, highlights the fact that the United States believes itself to be above petty legal concerns. Such a profound insult, perversely, may make those waiting to be groped by the TSA at US airports or exposed to radiation via body scanners feel a little more solidarity with the powers-that-be. In relation to Iraq, US troops were commanded not to release details or investigate tortures of Iraqis under an order called 'Frago 242’. And the latest ‘atrocity’ to be leaked, a list of defence facilities which has been characterised by the US State Department as ‘arrogant, misguided and ultimately not helpful in any way,’ a move that puts the ‘national security of the United States has been put at risk; the lives of people who work for the American people have been put at risk; the American people themselves’ at risk, despite the fact that said information has been available in the public domain for a considerable time. The claim that such an act is tantamount to ‘giving a targeting list to groups like al-Qaeda’ is risible. Though it is easy to represent those committing atrocious acts as the Other, an amorphous mass lacking both in intelligence and self-governance, it is more than likely that said group has both access to the Internet and a fair idea of what they want to target.

On balance, I would applaud Assange’s stance. He has, at personal risk, sought to expose the prim-lipped hypocrisy employed by Western governments towards each other, towards those nations they attempt to subdue and subvert in the name of ‘democracy’ and towards their citizens. This information is very much in the national interest. It is in the interest of each and every working man and woman because they are the ones who bear the financial and moral burden, and the after-effects, of governmental decisions taken on their behalf. Far from villifying Assange, we should applaud his endeavours; to hold those responsible for gross travesties of justice, rather than embarking on a witch hunt. We should overcome the Washington-driven jargon that seeks to make a laughing stock of Assange in order to sweep their dirty dealings under the carpet. Media analyst Glenn Greenwald noted that:

‘this kind of character smear (‘he's not in his right mind,’ pronounced a 25-year-old who sort of knows him) is reserved for people who don't matter in the world of establishment journalists - i.e., people without power or standing in Washington and, especially, those whom American Government authorities scorn. In official Washington, Assange is a contemptible loser - the Pentagon hates him and wants him destroyed, and therefore the ‘reporters’ who rely on, admire and identify with Pentagon officials immediately adopt that perspective - and that's why he was the target of this type of attack.’

And, in making such an attack so personal, all accountability passes to the person being demonised. Higher standards need to be employed by those journalists who, despite bleating about impartiality, hop on to whatever political bandwagon happens to be rolling out that week so they gain approval. Where the bravery, where the unflinching honesty, that once used to epitomise reporting, from Deep Throat to the Killing Fields? Ironically, what most party line journalists seem to have overlooked is that in villifying one of their own, they are encouraging the establisment of a system wherein their own right to free speech, should they ever use it, could be revoked. An unhappy notion for the ‘global’ world we live in. And harping on about ‘responsibility’ and the ‘balance of liberty and power’ simply won’t cut it, for if they are willing to shore up the system unquestioningly, they are willing to shore up its abuses of liberty and power too. As Assange stated, ‘when governments stop torturing and killing people, and when corporations stop abusing the legal system, then perhaps it will be time to ask if free-speech activists are accountable.’

Guest post by Mara

Monday, 6 December 2010

A Tap on the shoulder...

... Is now "assault", when it suits the bureaucrats. If you can avoid it, never, ever let yourself or anyone you care about, into their power. For they do not release it willingly.

Britblog Roundup #288

Is up over at Philobiblon.

Friday, 3 December 2010

An Insurance Job

Many people, when reading an account by a cyclist of how much of a twat drivers are, don't realise it really is a tiny minority, a tiny, tiny minority of drivers who seriously ve x the average cyclist, and get all defensive and start whining about red lights. And we cyclists should be more careful about tarring everyone in a car with the same brush. Obviously the vast, vast majority of cyclists and motorists pass each other on the roads each day without another thought from either party.

On my commute, for example the same vehicles pass me every morning, There are a handful drivers who cause me problems on a regular basis, and I know their number plates.

The clue is if you're getting shouted at, the chances are you're doing something that is out of the ordianry and dangerous. This morning, a motorist pulled out in front of me even though I had right of way. I had to swerve to avoid him, so I shouted "Oi, Watch where you're going". Reasonable responses would have ranged from "Terribly sorry, didn't see you" to "fuck off, cunt, Get a car" depending on how far down the evolutionary and social scale the driver was. What actually happened was that the driver spun the car round, taking another road to the one he intended to take, and deliberately rammed me. That's the kind of behaviour which makes cyclists hypersensitive.

So. Everyone who's defended "the motorist" on this blog. You can clearly read, and some of your thoughts make sense. It's not YOU I'm getting at, it's certainly not ALL drivers. It's the morons who are causing the crashes with your cars too. The thoughless, idiotic, incompetent and aggressive drivers. The road-rage rammer, The tailgaiters, the 100mph speeders in freezing fog, the women applying make-up whilst driving. It's just the consequences of this sort of behaviour when you're on a bike are so much more severe, Insurance claim vs probate valuation, which makes the cyclist hypersensitive. If you get shouted at by a cyclist, apologise, the chances are you don't know what you've done; a cyclist - by far the most vulnerable road user - felt scared by something you did. Have the humility to realise that everyone makes a mistake from time to time and you just did.

In this particular case, I got the number plate, and the police are looking for him. He's in VERY big trouble. He's going to lose his license and get fined heavily, whereas I'm asking whether I should get a Van Nicholas, Litespeed or a new Condor when I fuck his insurance company for everything I can. I am looking forward to seeing him in court, where I shall laugh at him as he stuggles to explain why he did what he did. Judging by the 14-year old red pugeout 106 he was driving, and his stupid spiky hair, I doubt he's going to be very eloquent in his defence.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

What Power do Diversity Outreach Co-ordinators Have?

The Heresiarch, who is usually subtle in his analysis, left a comment on my last post.

"The cuts are going to make diversity outreach co-ordinators miserable by making them unemployed."

Well, I'd like to think so. But I wouldn't bet on it.
Meanwhile, the left is arguing that there's no significant waste, and any cut to expenditure will result in Nurses being thrown onto the dole, Policemen being fired and the decimation of "front-line services". They don't believe the DORCs will be fired either.


Much as I distrust bureaucracy, there are some people working in the public services who care about those services which are delivered by local Government. Surely they can see that, when the choice between firing a DORC and, say, a bin-man or teacher, who is going to survive the cut? Left and right seem to agree that it's Miss Jones who will be saying goodbye to class 2b, and the DORC who will continue to collect her pay-cheque. Am I totally naive to believe that to not be the case?

What is it about DORCs which makes them so difficult to fire? Surely they can't ALL be in possession of pictures of their boss up to his nuts in an 8-year old?

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