Wednesday, 28 November 2012

How BBC bias works

Let's take the BBC's coverage of the minimum pricing legislation debate. The headline went something like this:

"Doctors [respected] have welcomed the governments proposal to introduce minimum pricing, but industry bodies [Boo! Profiteers] have reacted angrily [ie not rationally] to the proposals saying they will hit ordinary drinkers."
No one has seriously questioned the Sheffield university "report" which is basically assumptions, untested against evidence in a spreadsheet, reported with grotesque overconfidence and represents nothing more than policy-based evidence-making.

Anyone claiming to be a scientist, presenting this "data" on lives which will be saved by the policy, without pointing out the heroic assumptions (for example that heavy, problem alcoholics are MORE price sensitive, not less than the general population, something which flies in the face of evidence from other addictive drugs), is basically lying to you.

No-one questions the self-appointed experts who are basically a temperance movement dressed up in academic drag, on their evidence, which is taken at face value. The poor sap hauled up on the today program faced scrutiny of his opinions which was sorely lacking for the temperance witch on the other side of the desk. Once again, the BBC has come down in favour of MORE regulation by the state, more intrusion into the lives of ordinary people, not less. Once more supposedly skeptical journalists have have failed to question experts' assumptions with any rigour.

What are they for again?

Minimum Unit Pricing for Alcohol

Cameron seems to think a minimum unit price for alcohol is a good idea. It isn't of course, it's the worst type of New Labour nanny-state idiocy. You know that, I know that. What's important is who the enemies of liberty are, and how they use their positions in a conspiracy against the public.

The medical political complex has become dominated by a kind of purse-lipped puritan, who sees the maintenance of life as its sole aim. To these people, the poor especially must be bullied, for that is what it amounts to, into "healthy lifestyles". To this end, government must see to it that the poor especially must be prevented from doing harm to themselves. Especially by smoking, drinking and taking drugs.

The war on smoking is going well. The habit has been de-normalised in much of middle-class society, remaining widespread only in the working class. The ban on smoking in pubs has caused tens of thousands of pubs to shut down. Not, of course the nice gastro-pub in which the members of the medical/political complex might take their 21 units a week (a number for which, of course there is NO evidence), but the kind of local boozer in which a builder might enjoy a pint after work. Builders, who are more likely to smoke than public health professionals, have responded to the incentive provided by the smoking ban by going to the supermarket for lager, and watching the television at home, where they are (still, just) allowed to smoke, instead of socialising with their friends and work colleagues.

The public health professional is not now satisfied with the steady decline in smoking. They are now going after booze, in a big way. And they are fundamentally dishonest. The UK has relatively low consumption of alcohol. Consumption of alcohol is falling. Young people are drinking less than ever. Of course some people go out and get squiffy on a Friday night, but THEY ALWAYS HAVE and much of the vomit and blood on the street is down to insane licencing laws that see local pubs shut (no "entertainment" you see) and vertical drinking barns with bull-necked bouncers who delight in giving random kickings, stay open late. People are herded into noisy "venues" only to have all of them shut simultaneously, leading to fights in kebab queues and taxi ranks. Stressed, drunk people whose jackets are probably still in the cloakroom of the club they've been kicked out of, and by whose bouncers they've had kickings, are herded around by increasingly officious and aggressive people wearing high-viz, until the police arrive and add one more person to the crime & disorder statistics.

A free market in the night-time economy wouldn't look like that.

Sheffield university's Professor Petra Meier's MODEL-BASED APPRAISAL OF ALCOHOL MINIMUM PRICING is being widely touted as evidence that minimum pricing works. It's nothing of the sort, of course. It's a model. If you assume a policy works, and put those numbers into a spreadsheet, you can estimate by how much consumption will fall at different unit prices. All you need is a title - in this case two PhDs and a Professor - to be believed when you say "but the model shows that consumption by problem drinkers falls the most". But it is by no means evidence that the policy will work. It's a tarted-up guess. It's policy-based evidence making, and hoping no-one challenges you on the data.

In a word they're lying to you. But by repetition the lies become the accepted truth.

But it's not about whether an intervention into minimum pricing would work. To make the argument about that risks the medical/political complex actually finding it does work, within their parameters, and being encouraged to ban bacon. Is a drop in alcohol consumption a good thing? Why? We probably want to cut the blood and vomit on the street on a Friday night, but that isn't about booze, it's culture, law and licensing. Why fight on ground of the puritan's choosing?

The question should whether it's the state's role to intervene in pricing. Because once that rubicon's been crossed, you can bet we're back to fighting the cold war again as price-planners flood through the economy, and every decision gets scrutinised by your GP. We will see restrictions on fatty foods. And before long, no-doubt the nation will be forced (for the good of the NHS) to do their press-ups and sit-ups every morning, in the road, where you can be inspected. Minimum pricing therefore is about whether the state has a right to tell you and me what we do with our bodies.

I like a glass of wine now and again. Once in a while, and less often than I used to, I like to get squiffy with my friends. This is absolutely none of the government's business. And it's the poor who suffer most. Pubs in poor areas were  already marginal businesses, and they've gone. So the low-waged have seen their social forum shut, increasing atomisation and alienation. And all because the temperance lobby don't like the sight of men with cigarettes and a pint. The poor have been driven to a WORSE health outcome by the smoking ban. And because their lives are a bit less social, the harmful drinkers may well drink more. Of course, if this is the case, there's no evidence, because there's no-one looking. The temperance lobby got their policy, and they've moved on.

This isn't about health. It's about a certain type of curtain-twitching middle-class puritan, drawn to careers in public health who see the poor not as people, but a problem to be tidied up. This is true of slum clearances which destroyed communities in the name of public health, and it's true of the modern-day temperance crusade.

My prediction: This policy will be declared illegal under European law as the Scottish experiment is shot down. Cameron will use that as a pretext to drop a policy in which he's invested, but on which the rest of the Cabinet is less less keen. He will use it, like the votes for prisoners, as something on which he will "stand up to Europe". We will still hear the confident assertions medical/political complex go unchallenged on the Today program.

Further reading on the subject: Heresy Corner's post is very good and Christopher Snowdon's blog is excellent on the litany of lies by public health professionals and the temperance industry. You should read it.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

On UKIP & A Plan For Cameron.

UKIP is a Mainstream political party, whom David Cameron once described as

"Fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists".
And he's right. While the UKIP supporting Twittersphere are impeccably libertarian to Anarcho-capitalist, much of the rest of the party, those who infest the comments section of the Telegraph, are mostly dissafected Tories of the sort who think that any leader that isn't Saint Margaret of Thatcher is Europhile Blue Labour, and who will blame Europe for more-or-less anything. Having campaigned and canvassed in many, many elections, I can assure you that much of UKIPs support comes from people with a whiff of the golf-club about them.

But of course there are people with dubious views in all parties, and Labour should not be smug. The only people from whom I've heard really rancid racism in the pub are people who then proudly proclaim themselves "old Labour". There are of course racists in the Conservative party. The Lib dems are probably pretty free of racists, but they've got shit-eaters and violent paedophiles instead.

So. Cameron's light hearted dismissal of the opponents to the Conservatives right, is a problem because it is preventing Cameron really getting any political capital from the Rotheham Fosterins scandal. For those who don't know, it's story of a UKIP-supporting couple, who had foster children removed from them by an archly-right-on, common purpose-infested social services department of Rotherham council.

Rotherham, of course is about to have a by-election as the sitting MP turned out to be a thief. And UKIP following the scandal, are more likely to win the seat than the Tories as Rotherham's the sort of place where a donkey in red-rosette would win. What better way to lance a number of boils simultaneously? If Cameron offered a Referendum in the next parliament on continued membership of the EU, he could create a formal pact between UKIP and the Tories, perhaps even inviting them into the coalition, should they Manage to steal Rotherham from Labour.

Nigel Farage could not refuse a genuine offer of a referendum, backed by the Tory party. This would secure Cameron's hand against his own rebels, and would be popular in the right-wing press. If, as expected a red-rosette drone were to win the seat, the fact that the Tories formally backed the UKIP candidate would be long-forgotten, and hostilities could be resumed. However if the UKIP candidated was propelled to the seat by scandal, and the backing of Conservatives, then Ed Milliband's EU fox would be well and truly shot.

There are, as Paul Goodman explains, clearly risks to such a policy. A small party has to be less selective of its candidates, and a formal pact would mean the Tories would also own UKIP's nutty fringe. And there are of course risks to UKIP. A Tory party fully committed to an in-out referendum, and in a pact with UKIP would probably be UKIP's death. Farage may be pretty open in his willingness to come into the Tory fold, but much of UKIP hates the Tories with the scorn of a betrayed wife.

Which is why I don't think it will happen. Labour will win the Rotherham by election, UKIP will come second. And Social Services managers will continue to go to Common Purpose brainwashing sessions.

On Rotherham Council's Decision to Remove Children from UKIP Foster Parents

A couple, who by all reports were exemplary foster parents, had three children removed from their care because the council discovered after an anonymous tip-off that they were members of UKIP.

There is so much 'sinister' in that sentence, I don't know where to start. What's worse, rather than sacking the social worker in question, launching an immediate enquiry and issuing an immediate, grovelling apology, the Council's head of child services, Joyce Thacker suggested UKIP's desire to limit immigration and end multiculturalism meant that a placement of ethnic minority children with UKIP members was against their "long-term cultural needs". She went on to say

"These children are not UK children and we were not aware of the foster parents having strong political views. There are some strong views in the UKIP party and we have to think of the future of the children."
When in a hole, you should stop digging, but instead she went on to suggest that the Family would be able to foster white children in future. Urgh.

The Labour party nationally has distanced itself from the Labour-controlled Rotherham council. My prediction: Joyce Thacker will need to call a head-hunter on Monday morning.

The fact is, this demonstrates as if more proof were needed, of the left-wing 'long march through the institutions' is nearly complete. A Marxist cultural hegemony exists in some councils, and in much of state education, in which exists a contempt for the family, a loathing of anything like of traditional values, and a deep intolerance of political dissent . Anything outside the left-wing world view is deemed inappropriate. The Tories are suspect and UKIP beyond the pale. And the children are being indoctrinated.

The Joyce Thackers of the world hate you, and everything you stand for. They want to destroy the institution of the Family because they want to make everyone dependent on the state. Mass immigration is desirable BECAUSE it destabilises communities and offends the traditionalist white working class. Widespread welfare dependency is desirable, because dependence gives the state power over people. This is why the benefits system is so complicated and therefore so toxic to the maintenance of stable families. Never ascribe to malice that which can be put down to incompetence, but the 'problems' Iain Duncan-Smith's benefits reforms aim to resolve - the disincentives to parental co-habitation, for example do seem to be in line with Gramscian doctrine. For in their view, there can be no loyalties but to the state. The cold war isn't over, not while the Joyce Thackers of this world are in charge of children's lives.

Occasionally the mask slips, when they do something so grotesque, so offending to natural justice that people take a look at what is being done in their name. They won't like what they see. The people are not Marxist, you see, but no-doubt Joyce Thacker puts this down to false consciousness.

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Starbucks, Tax and Idiocy.

On my local high-street, which leads up to a market square there is an independent coffee shop, Cafe Rouge, Thorntons, Greggs, Costa Coffee, and on the Market square there is an independent next door to Starbucks and another selling coffee from a trailer in the middle of the Square. All of these are within 300m of each other. All of them sell coffee, as do the 5 pubs and two other restaurants which you would pass were you to walk from one end of the high-street to the other. That's before you consider the 4 sandwich shops which also sell coffee to take away. At nearly half the premises in the high-street, you can buy a coffee.

Is anyone surprised that Starbucks is not making money in the UK?

The UK's corporation tax rate is 28%. Starbucks paid a rate of 31% globally. Surely they should be declaring profit here if they can?

Once again, the UK uncut crowd are simply wrong; but that didn't stop MPs jumping on the bandwagon. What must be especially galling for a company making little profit in a brutally competitive market-place is being hauled in to face questioning by a new-Labour parasite like Margaret Hodge. Hodge, herself a multi-millionaire whose family business, Stemcor also pays its tax globally, at a global rate of 41%, (which suggests they need a better accountant) but pays very little of that in the UK. Hodge may not be an expenses cheat, but that's probably because she was born into the fabulously wealthy Oppenheimer family and doesn't need to be.

What's really pissing me off is the reporting of tax as a proportion of revenues in order to give a low number. If your margins are low, as in food and beverage retail, you can have huge turnover, off which you're skimming a little profit, after wages, payroll taxes, overheads, materials, property and so on. Taxes as a percentage of revenues is an utterly meaningless number, yet this is becoming the dominant ratio in the idiot left and the mainstream media.

So here's a little guide. Revenues is the money you take from customers. Corporation Tax is NOT calculated on this number, Value Added Tax is, and no-one's suggesting VAT is being avoided. Then there's costs of sales, which represents all the things you do to make those sales such as employ people, buy materials and stock, rent or buy premises. You also include your central functions, such as HQ staff and buildings. Revenues less cost of sales is known as 'operating profit', or sometimes 'profit before tax' or 'pre-tax profit'. You then apply the tax-rate to that number.

Please don't report tax as a percentage of revenues and call it tax-dodging because that marks you out as an utter moron with shit for brains.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Some thoughts on Mountain Bikes

I am currently riding My brother's Hard-tail, carbon fibre mountain bike to work, because driving to work was doing my head in. This is about as good as a trail-riding bike gets, and his pride and joy. However, it's my belief that mountain bikes are the work of the devil, and put the cause of utility cycling back a two decades.

First, big, knobbly tyres are bloody hard work on roads. On a road-bike, my commute took 18 minutes. On a mountain bike, this morning it took 27 minutes. That's 50% more over 4 miles. Even allowing for the fact I've not ridden for a few weeks, that's a simply enormous difference. True, I could put slick MTB tyres on, but that's like putting lipstick on a pig.

Second, the saddle it came with, a spongy number, was agony in seconds. I have put my Brooks on it, and it's much better now. If you don't like cycling because it's uncomfortable, failure to buy a leather saddle is the cause.

Third, it's muddy on the roads. With a road-bike, this isn't much of a problem. You can either put full mud-guards on, like Crud Road-Racer IIs or a seat-post mounted filth prophylactic, and the vast majority of the mud remains on the bike. This morning, EVERYTHING was covered in splatter. Arms, legs, chest, face. A mountain bike spreads the muck so liberally, you cannot consider wearing street clothes if you want to ride it to work.

Fourth, it's no use for carrying stuff at all. There is no rack, 

I am sure, though I've yet to try it, it's great on the trails getting muddy and rattling downhill. I doubt it's more effective (in terms of speed over ground) than a cyclocross bike. Where it will excel is the "technical" trails which litter woodland the country over. Over anything like a normal A-B route, even a muddy footpath, a mountain bike will not be the quickest or most efficient machine. The mountain-bike is a toy, not a means of transport. It's something you put on a car to take somewhere. It's a hobby. And since about 1985, it's been the dominant form of the bike. Halfords and Argos are still selling cheap versions to people who don't know better. Because these are so popular, to the uninitiated, the MTB, not a drop-handlebar road-bike, is what a bike should look like.

And because their first bike is a full-"suspension" number which is slow, heavy, tiresome and covers you in shit, rather than a cheaper, lighter, skinny-wheeled 10-speed, people reject the concept of cycling from A-B. The few who enjoy it, end up spending thousands on their hobby and enjoy it very much, at the weekend. You can see them in BMW X-5s with two mountain bikes on the roof, failing to understand why the be-lycra'd roadie is still slogging around in the traffic, rather than having FUN in the trails.

And that's the Tragedy. Even people who've learned to love the bike still reject it as a means of transport, They're putting it in a car to go and use it on a man-made obstacle course rather than getting their enjoyment in every day on the way to work. Riding a bike to work or the shops simply doesn't occur to the moutain-biker, as their bike is not, to them a tool on which to get about. (Many of them also own road or utility bikes, this is not a post about N+1) This entrenches the abhorrent car-culture which makes British towns so unpleasant to be in. A carbon-fibre, suspension mountain bike: never in the field of human endeavor has so much technical accomplishment achieved so little.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Barclays' Investment "Management"

Barclays have just produced their post RDR fee card for "managing" (if that's what banks do) peoples' investments.

For clients using its advisory investment service, the bank will now charge an annual fee of 0.75% for advice and custody on the first £1 million in assets, which then drops to 0.6% for the next £2 million, 0.5% on the next £4 million and 0.25% over £7 million.
A local stockbroker's (me, for example) dealing commissions will be smaller for deals over around £10,000 too. Online execution-only brokers smaller still. A local stockbroker can offer One phone number, one point of contact, no bri-nylon school-leavers selling from a script which pops up on the screen when you call. Reviews can be conducted in a pub over a pie and a pint, club in London, or by e-mail and post.

When a stockbroker's clients call, you are talking to the decision-maker, not a salesman, unlike a bank, whose "investment managers" use a top-down investment process. This grand-sounding magic is the method  by which a committee sets the weightings in asset-classes, then another committee chooses which assets in each class should go into portfolios, then your investment manager is presented with a list and told to go and sell the trade-du-jour to his clients. It looks like science, but I won't work for any institution which insists on it. Analysts are remunerated for justifying trades, and "managers" are remunerated on successfully selling trades to clients.

How do I know this? I once watched a perfectly healthy stockbroker destroy itself by imposing an investment process.

Unlike a bank, I have worked out the easiest way to generate outperformance is to deal less often. If the market falls.Unlike a bank, I don't have a big legal department making take-the-piss charging for half-arsed portfolio advice (stick it in multi-manager fee-larded shit and forget about it till commission-time) compliant with the regulations. Because as we all know, regulations benefit the big business at the expense of the small.

And the effect of the regulations on customers? Well, you can see fees going up. Regulation isn't free.

I own shares in Barclays, but I wouldn't trust them with anything more complicated a current account and personal loan.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Nadine in the Jungle.

Nadine Dorries, Tory scourge of the Posh-Boys has become the second MP to take up the challenge of reality TV by going into the Jungle with 'I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here'. Her constituents are said to be not happy. Twitter is disparaging. The Conservative party has suspended her whip, and her constituency association have taken a dim view. But is she playing a long game?

I have no interest in morality of MPs taking time off from the house. Their job is not, as many imagine, attending debates and voting. Nor is it the "social work" dealing with constituents' drains and so forth. Their job is to influence policy and scrutinise legislation. Taking up issues on behalf of groups, and arguing their case in parliament. This may be geographic: the Irony of cash-for-questions and the more recent lobbying scandals is that the person who's JOB it is to lobby for your interests is your local MP, and he'll do it for free. Other MPs have taken up causes and will ask questions on your behalf, if they agree with you.

Dorries represents the Christian, socially conservative right wing. She is the MP for the Daily-mail. A slightly more photogenic Anne Widdicombe, whose barbs perhaps lack the wit of Doris Karloff's "something of the night" but lack none of the political toxicity. "Posh boys" has stuck. And her excuse that her crusade for the rights of the unborn child might get more of an airing in reality TV land rather than parliament is not entirely far-fetched. It's clear the issue is unlikely to be debated soon, and if it is, she's unlikely to get her way.

However many constituents the BBC can dredge up to say "it's disgusting she's not doing her job", Dorries has calculated, perhaps correctly, that most of them will have forgotten why they've heard of her by the time of the next election. And watching her be rather normal, perhaps many will decide they like her. Just as Boris Johnson is liked in part because he made people laugh on 'Have I Got News For You', perhaps Nadine, a former nurse, and therefore unlikely to be squeamish, will shine in comparison to the drippy non-entities in the Jungle.

At the end of her stint, she will have name-recognition that all but the holders of the big 4 offices of state would kill for. And given that her Mid Bedfordshire seat is supposed to disappear in a boundary review (if that goes through, which is unlikely), a career as a reality TV star and minor 'sleb might be a useful fallback for after parliament. She is being introduced as a Conservative MP. She may even detoxify the Tory brand. I suspect further punishment from Number 10 and the whips' office will depend on how she does. This is a bid to make a Back-Bench MP, extremely unlikely to get a ministerial Jaguar, much more powerful.

But she will be more effective in representing her constituents, and like minded anti-abortion campaigners, if she's successful. All she needs to do is avoid anything as grotesque as Gorgeous George's cat impression. Which will be hard. 

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