Monday, 30 May 2011

After the Arab spring

Not for the first time, Norman Tebbit has nicely expressed my own view:
I am profoundly sceptical that whatever replaces Gaddafi or Mubarak or even the Emir of Bahrein will bring great benefit to the Libyan, Egyptian or Bahreini people. More likely it will bring to their countries what the downfall of the Shah has brought to the Iranians.
I hope I'm wrong.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Tebbit for PM

Norman Tebbit writes:
The latest figures on immigration are a body blow to the Coalition. Many electors voted Conservative in the belief that David Cameron had the will and strength to cut immigration. It seems that he lacks one or the other, or both.
There is no sign of a repeal or even substantial amendments to NuLab’s grotesque Human Rights and Equality legislation. Ken Clarke’s out of touch and laid back attitude to crime has enraged a far wider constituency than those offended by his careless remarks about rape.
Belatedly, a cap on non-EU migrants was imposed last month, but the Coalition is still trying to bring Turkey into the EEC which would unleash a new uncontrolled wave of immigration. Ministers look on, but do nothing, as the Judiciary blocks the deportation of foreign criminals and blithely puts the interests of foreign law-breakers ahead of those of the law-abiding British. Nor has anything been done to stop the admission of asylum seekers on the grounds that they would be happier here than in their own countries.
Rarely have I seen so much sense from a high-profile politician in a single article.

He concludes:
Lord Ashcroft’s recently published opinion polling shows that after the economy, it is immigration, crime and Europe which are causing supporters (and potential supporters) of the Government most concern. It is a pity that the purveyors of the Big Society do not seem to share the concerns of the big numbers of members of our society.
Brilliantly put.

For understandable reasons, Tebbit has said he has no intention of once more running for high office, but imagine how he could transform the country. It will be very interesting to see how things play out at the next general election. I think I'll be joining the ranks of those who want to see the Conservative Party destroyed, even if it means a short spell of ruinous Labour rule. They just aren't sufficiently different.

I despair. My tweets have been increasingly bitter. I have a massive backlog of stories worth blogging, but I don't know where to begin. My latest comment on Lord Tebbit's blog sums it up:

Hanlon's Razor is generally a good rule, but I really struggle to believe that government policies on the EU and immigration are cock-ups rather than conspiracy.

Do they really believe that Turkey's accession, and the ensuing migration, will make Europe a better place? Are they careless of the demographic challenges our democracies already face? What do they want Britain to look like in 50 years' time?

I'd love to believe that our leaders' actions follow some cunning plan that serves Britain's long term interests, despite not seeming to. But it is just too far-fetched.

Nor can I honestly believe that they are ignorant of the consequences of their actions.

So what is their endgame? Is the destruction of Britain really essential to the interests of our political class? Could they not enrich themselves in a less damaging manner? What do they know that we don't?

Tinfoil hats are not my style, but I'm genuinely baffled, as well as enraged. And I'm baffled that more people aren't enraged!
It is tempting to withdraw. To ignore politics, and focus all my energy on personal survival. To accumulate enough money, and enough citizenships, to give my family a chance of a decent life as Britain falls apart. But what a shame to let such a beautiful country, with so many redeeming features, go to hell.

I must try harder, one way or the other.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Empire Day

Yesterday, as Daniel Hannan blogged, was Empire Day, known in Canada as Victoria Day (colloquially, May Two-Four).

For a long time, and especially since reading Niall Ferguson's book on the subject, I have shared Hannan's attitude to Empire:
I’m not sentimental about the British Empire: we’d have been better off running trading posts and informal protectorates than assuming responsibility for vast tracts of land. None the less, we can take some pride in our fathers’ deeds. Britain introduced whole civilizations to the rule of law, to property rights, to open markets, to impartial administration. Yes, we took resources from our dependencies, but we also built infrastructure: schools and clinics, roads and law-courts. And, while we fought some brutal counter-insurgency campaigns, we brought many colonies to independence without a shot being fired in anger.
He goes on to relate a distressing anecdote:
I was almost speechless with sadness when, during a question and answer session with sixth formers in my constituency a couple of weeks ago, I asked what the class associated with the British Empire. Their top answer was “slavery”. Yet the British Empire’s chief association with the slave trade – an institution which had existed in every age and every society – was to wage an unremitting and ultimately successful war against it. The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.
By chance, and in another context, I today received an email with a quote from Herbert Spencer:
Were any one to call me dishonest or untruthful he would touch me to the quick. Were he to say that I am unpatriotic, he would leave me unmoved. "What, then, have you no love of country?" That is a question not to be answered in a breath.

The early abolition of serfdom in England, the early growth of relatively-free institutions, and the greater recognition of popular claims after the decay of feudalism had divorced the masses from the soil, were traits of English life which may be looked back upon with pride. When it was decided that any slave who set foot in England became free; when the importation of slaves into the Colonies was stopped; when twenty millions were paid for the emancipation of slaves in the West Indies; and when, however unadvisedly, a fleet was maintained to stop the slave trade; our countrymen did things worthy to be admired. And when England gave a home to political refugees and took up the causes of small states struggling for freedom, it again exhibited noble traits which excite affection. But there are traits, unhappily of late more frequently displayed, which do the reverse.
He proceeds to denounce British foreign aggression.

How ironic that the New Labour government that so eagerly pursued wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was also responsible for poisoning the Empire in the minds of schoolchildren.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Government removal request

No, unfortunately this isn't a new feature of YouTube that allows you to remove your government ...

According to YouTube, the UK government doesn't want people to see this video.

I received the link by email, and I can't say for sure what was there. Was it a matter of national security? How much do you trust your government?

Google helpfully keep track of these take-down requests:

They provide a table showing both data requests and removal requests for various countries, while their FAQ includes links to Chilling Effects and the OpenNet Initiative.

Now seems like a good time for a wget backup of my blog (should set up a cron job, really...)

Friday, 20 May 2011

MEPs want Security Council seat for EU

Following on from my "US and EU" post , here's the latest from Daniel Hannan:
No sooner does the EU upgrade its status at the United Nations than MEPs demand a place on the Security Council. One by one, the EU has acquired the attributes and trappings of statehood. Now, it is awarding itself the legal status, too.
After an unreasonable amount of digging on the hateful Europarl website, I was able to find this text among the 'Texts Adopted' on Wednesday, 11 May 2011 (Strasbourg):
34. Welcomes the adoption of the UN General Assembly Resolution concerning the EU's participation in the work of the UN on 3 May 2011, which takes into account the institutional changes introduced by the Lisbon Treaty and enables EU representatives to present and promote the EU's positions in the UN in a timely and efficient manner; considers it essential to engage with the EU's strategic partners in order to find solutions to major regional and global problems; recommends, furthermore, that strategic partnerships be given a multilateral dimension by including global issues on the agendas for the EU's bilateral and multilateral summits; invites France and the United Kingdom, as permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC), and in accordance with Article 34(2) TEU, to request that the VP/HR be invited to present the Union's position whenever the EU has defined a position on a subject on the UNSC's agenda; takes the view that the European Union should be represented as such in multilateral financial organisations, in particular the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, without prejudice to Member State representation;
I'm not sure whether this is what Daniel was referring to, or if there was more, but the Eurocrats' desires are clear.

Just as it doesn't make sense to have a common currency without "economic governance", it doesn't make sense to have a Foreign Minister without a military. In both cases, the EU is conscious of the discrepancy, but hopes to achieve the latter by first introducing the former.


Incidentally, I hadn't realised that Catherine Ashton ("the VP/HR") was a Vice-President of the European Commission as well the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Apparently there are several of the former, and the HR is chosen from among them as "First-Vice-President".


The best argument yet for the monarchy: the Queen would never say 'wow'.

I don't know what the Irish thought of Mary McAleese's verbal incontinence — perhaps they thought it was heartfelt and charming — but I'd be ashamed to have such an undignified Head of State.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Basic services

South Africans are voting in local elections after one of the most bitterly fought campaigns in years.

The delivery of basic services like water, housing and jobs have been among the issues dominating campaigning.

The world according to the BBC: it is the government's duty to provide not just water and housing, but also jobs. Basic services, these.

Okay, so it might be an ambiguous sentence. Perhaps they meant "Housing, jobs, and the delivery of basic services like water have been among the issues dominating campaigning". But the point stands: people shouldn't really look to the government to provide any of these things, least of all jobs.

US and EU

BBC News reports

The US and EU have warned of more pressure on Syria over its violent response to anti-government protests.

"We will be taking additional steps in the days ahead," US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said after talks with EU top diplomat Catherine Ashton.

The US and EU have already imposed sanctions on some members of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's government.

(emphasis mine)

Feel like you're living in a superstate yet?

Without being specific, Baroness Ashton said: "There will be a number of moves in the coming hours and days that you will see."

"If the [Syrian] government really does - as it keeps telling us it does - want to see some kind of change, it's got to be now," she added.

Mrs Clinton and Baroness Ashton declined to reveal what measures might be taken against Damascus.

Despite the sanctions on senior figures close to President Assad, both Washington and Brussels have so far stopped short of targeting him specifically.

Whatever kind of foreign policy you favour, there's something very disturbing about it being determined in Brussels by the likes of Baroness Ashton.


To confirm my fears about where all this is heading, I decided to google for "EU military".

Sure enough, Wikipedia has an article dedicated to the subject:
Several prominent leaders, including French President Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini and former Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, have voiced support for a common defence for the Union.[3][4][5] This possibility was formally laid down in Article 42 of the Treaty on European Union upon the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on 1 December 2009.[6]
"The common security and defence policy shall include the progressive framing of a common defence policy. This will lead to a common defence, when the European Council, acting unanimously, so decides." (TEU, Article 42) [10]
They've even got their own coat of arms ...

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Whyte: The High Cost of a Cheap Pound

Another superb article from Jamie Whyte:
Every day, you can read some economic commentator or politician celebrating the fact that Britain has maintained its own currency rather than joining the beleaguered euro. This, they claim, has allowed sterling to lose value, making British goods cheaper for foreigners and thereby stimulating growth in exports. The argument goes that if only Greece and Portugal had their own national currencies and were not burdened with the euro, they could follow the same path to economic recovery.

Like so much of the standard economic opinion of commentators and politicians, this is a silly idea. When sterling devalues, British exporters benefit. They either receive more pounds in return for sales denominated in foreign currencies, or the foreign-currency price of their goods falls and they sell more. But this gain to those who sell to foreigners is offset by the loss to those who buy from foreigners, who must now pay higher prices. Currency devaluations effectively provide a subsidy for exporters funded by a tax on importers.
He goes on to address the claim that "exports create jobs in Britain whereas imports create jobs overseas":
When sterling devalues, increased foreign demand for British goods creates work at exporting firms. Of course, British consumers have less to spend after paying more for their imports, which reduces employment in Britain. But this offsetting effect may itself be partially offset by some consumers switching to British-made substitutes, from the now more expensive imports. All in all, a currency devaluation could boost employment (at least, until inflation drives up production costs and thus export prices).

But aiming to create work in this way is perverse. Labor is a cost, not a benefit. If a currency devaluation makes no difference to aggregate wealth—because it is simply a transfer from importers to exporters—while increasing the amount Britons work, then it has made Britons worse off. Neither an individual nor a population benefits by working more to consume the same amount of goods and services.
Like any other import tax or export subsidy, currency devaluations interfere with the price signals that direct resources to their most productive uses. Exporting businesses get a boost in profit that attracts capital and labor to them. But nothing has really changed; those exporting businesses are not making any better use of resources than they were before the devaluation. The devaluation has, rather, misdirected resources. If it increases employment, it has achieved this only by making labor less productive.

Those Luddites who once argued that we should protect jobs by resisting advances in labor-saving technology are rightly regarded as fools by today's peddlers of standard economic wisdom. No British commentator or politician has suggested a tax on computers to increase employment for filing clerks or a ban on washing machines to create jobs for housemaids. Yet their beloved currency devaluations are economically no different; they are just another way of encouraging unproductive jobs.
The whole article is well worth reading. If you're not a Wall Street Journal subscriber, you can get the full text by Googling for the title: "The High Cost of a Cheap Pound".

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Obesity, smoking, class and everything else

I've just read a few good articles from Velvet Glove, Iron Fist.

This one, in particular, struck a chord:

If you had told the average person in 1980 that meals should be taxed to deter purchase or that food advertising should be restricted to prevent obesity, he would have laughed in your face. That would be true even if the average person was a member of the British Medical Association.

How did things change? They changed, in no small part, because the campaign against tobacco crowbarred open a door that allowed the regulation of any human behaviour that might have the slightest impact on their or anybody else's health. Once opened, it is a door that is very difficult to close. I don't expect it to close in my lifetime.

And I'm only 34.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Timo Soini: Why I Don't Support Europe's Bailouts

Via The Cobden Centre, I discovered this incredible article in the Wall Street Journal by Timo Soini, leader of the True Finns party.

Daniel Hannan also highlighted it:
Hannan’s First Law, long-standing readers will recall, holds that no party is Eurosceptic while in office. No one has yet broken it: not Ian Paisley nor Václav Klaus nor even Margaret Thatcher. Will Timo Soini, the brave, devout, amiable, Millwall-obsessed leader of the True Finns, be the exception?
If the WSJ article is anything to go by, things look promising:

At the risk of being accused of populism, we'll begin with the obvious: It is not the little guy who benefits. He is being milked and lied to in order to keep the insolvent system running. He is paid less and taxed more to provide the money needed to keep this Ponzi scheme going. Meanwhile, a symbiosis has developed between politicians and banks: Our political leaders borrow ever more money to pay off the banks, which return the favor by lending ever more money back to our governments.

In a true market economy, bad choices get penalized. Instead of accepting losses on unsound investments—which would have led to the probable collapse of some banks—it was decided to transfer the losses to taxpayers via loans, guarantees and opaque constructs such as the European Financial Stability Fund.

The money did not go to help indebted economies. It flowed through the European Central Bank and recipient states to the coffers of big banks and investment funds.

Further contrary to the official wisdom, the recipient states did not want such "help," not this way. The natural option for them was to admit insolvency and let failed private lenders, wherever they were based, eat their losses.

The whole article is well worth reading.

We must wait and judge him by his actions, but it's hard to imagine the leader of a powerful UK party even talking this way. From what I've seen so far, the world needs more politicians like Timo Soini.


As it happens, Soini was featured on tonight's Newsnight. I only caught the end of the interview (followed by some truly ridiculous punditry). I'll try to find time to watch it properly once it's available on iPlayer.

Multilingual diet badgering

Seen at a health clinic in Oxford:

No integration required here.

DK's shades of grey

An excellent piece from DK:
The main problem is that there is a certain amount of polarisation in the positions—how else can one possibly describe the "climate deniers" label (without using a goodly number of swearwords)?

So, let me try to explain some very fundamental points about this particular debate...
  • Climate change

    No one really believes that the climate is entirely static; it quite obviously isn't, or we wouldn't have seasons or ice ages. Or, for that matter, the Mediaeval Warm Period and Little Ice Age.

    The climate changes, that is a fact: the question is, what makes it change?

  • Anthropogenic

    Are these changes—indeed, can these changes—be triggered by human activity? If so, to what extent and, if these changes are significant, are they good or bad?

  • Catastrophic

    If these changes are both significant and bad—for given definitions of "bad"—then how catastrophic are they? Do they threaten the existence of our species (or others)? or are they just mildly inconvenient?

    And how catastrophic are these changes, in terms of allocating our scarce resources? Is it better to mitigate or to adapt?
He concludes:
We do think that the increase in CO2 emissions by humans over the last century has the potential to increase global temperatures through, for instance, well-understood theories such as the Greenhouse Effect. But we don't know to what extent CO2 actually affects the climate through that mechanism.

Nor do we know what feedbacks are inherent in the system: or whether they are positive or negative.

In short, we don't know much—except that we are spending billions of pounds a year on trying to fund a mitigation solution to something that we don't even know is a problem.
That's pretty much my view.

In a recent article for The Register, Tim Worstall began with the assumption that climate change is real, anthropogenic, and catastrophic:

To start with I'm entirely happy to accept the output from the IPCC: the globe is warming, it's all us doing it. Perhaps I shouldn't be happy to do so but that's a very different argument. Similarly I'm happy to accept that the possible outcomes are sufficiently terrible that we really ought to do something about it.

Again, perhaps I shouldn't be but just, if you don't accept either of those two, bear with me anyway. For what really confuses me about what's going on is that even if we do accept those two points, what we're actually trying to do about it all doesn't seem to solve the problems identified.

He concludes:
I really cannot understand why we're doing what we are doing on a public policy level. I just don't get why we're pumping tens, possibly hundreds, of billions into technologies like windmills, which we know won't work, to solar which doesn't need subsidies any more, but not willing to put money into other interesting things which might work, like thorium just as one example. Unless, of course, I'm right in that what we should do about this problem has been hijacked by those who don't in fact want to solve this single, particular, problem of requiring low carbon energy generation but who want to use this agreed upon problem as a means of imposing their vision of the desirable lifestyle upon the rest of us.

Which is all rather depressing really: rather the end of the Enlightenment, the Scientific Revolution.

Another, even more depressing, way of putting it is that the greatest barrier to our being able to solve climate change is in fact the Green movement.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Decisive victory for Meh2AV

BBC News reports
Officials say 19.1m people voted in the second UK-wide referendum in history - a higher than expected turnout of 41%.

The final result put the Yes vote at 32.1% and the No vote at 67.9%.
According to my calculations, that's Yes2AV 13.16%, No2AV 27.84%, and Meh2AV 59%.

That's right: the majority of British people didn't care.

Ed West: Nigel Farage could have saved the Yes campaign

Via Daniel Hannan, I discovered this article by Ed West:
For the past few weeks the Yes campaign have run a campaign aimed almost entirely at the soft Left, metro Labour supporters and the chippy SDP wing of the Liberal Democrats. Their campaign leaflets have asked us to vote yes because Tony Robinson, Eddie Izzard, Colin Firth, Stephen Fry and Benjamin Zephaniah will. I’ve got great respect for all these people in their chosen field, but why should I particularly care about their political views, especially as I happen to know they’re all almost identical? The No campaign has played rough, using soldiers and babies, and making some bizarre claims. But the Yes campaign have only themselves to blame for trying to appeal to such a narrow segment of society.

Lots of small-c conservatives support, or are sympathetic to, a change in the system, but the leaflets were almost perfectly designed to repulse them. This is a crazy strategy; the metro left are far from being a majority of the population, and the older, more tribal Labour voters are already in the bag for the No campaign.
I have to agree. Though I've been bombarded with Yes2AV messages, both in the post, and through Power 2010, I wasn't aware that UKIP were supporting the Yes side until I looked up their position on their website.

The last leaflet I received mentioned UKIP, but almost as an afterthought:
Ed Miliband, Alan Johnson and many Labour leaders, the Lib Dems, the Greens and UKIP all say YES!
Not great company.

West concludes
It’s the perennial mental disorder of the metro-Left – a failure to understand that decent, intelligent people might have different opinions to them.

Country says No2AV, Oxford says yes

The Guardian has a map of the results from the AV referendum. There isn't much purple. At first, I struggled to see any at all. But it turns out 21,693 people in Oxford voted Yes (54.11% of the vote).


The list is so short, I may as well be exhaustive. Cambridge also voted Yes, with 54.32% in favour of AV. In Scotland, Glasgow Kelvin and Edinburgh Central voted Yes (58.78% and 51.36% respectively). The only other places with a Yes majority were the London boroughs of Hackney (60.68%), Islington (56.92%), Haringey (56.62%), Lambeth (54.69%), Southwark (52.73%) and Camden (51.4%).

Thursday, 5 May 2011

AV would be less accountable

Westminster's most promising MP had this to say about AV:

AV would make hung Parliaments more likely. As we have seen, a coalition agreement must then be formed through rapid haggling after the public have voted. That reduces democratic legitimacy in comparison to a clear mandate for a particular manifesto.

Under AV, candidates would have to court the second preference of those likely to vote for the most unpopular candidates first. This seems to me a perverse situation which is likely to produce odd, manufactured pledges from otherwise mainstream candidates.

Only three countries in the world use this system for their parliamentary elections: Fiji, Australia, and Papua New Guinea. An opinion poll taken after the Australian election, an election which brought their country to a political standstill for weeks not days, showed that 57% would change their system to a UK-style First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system, while only 37% would retain AV.

Today you can change politics for good

I wonder, does anyone really believe that?

A Lib Dem making sense?

Perhaps I'm just sleep deprived, but the analysis of AV over at Gowers's Weblog seems broadly to make sense.

The author is a Lib Dem supporter, and he does spout his share of nonsense. For example:
Once again, I mean clever from the political point of view: it sounds persuasive despite being wrong. In fact, it is better still, since it suggests a general technique that all politicians can use. If your party stands for X and Y is an adverse consequence of X, defend X on the grounds that not-Y is a consequence of X. For example, if, as all economists will tell you, spending cuts lead to increased unemployment, go out and say that you are making spending cuts in order to create jobs in the future.
All economists? And what of the unseen private sector jobs, which never existed because the wealth that could have funded them was confiscated to pay for public sector jobs? Some public sector workers, of course, destroy further jobs by producing burdensome regulation. Others support a welfare system that traps people in idleness and poverty. It's entirely plausible that public spending cuts now, especially if targeted, will lead to a healthier economy and more jobs in the future. But in any case, should employment really be the primary goal of economic policy? In the long run, technological progress is surely more important.

But I digress.

On the topic of AV, the author does seem to have exposed some No2AV propaganda that "sounds persuasive despite being wrong". In particular,

3. Under AV, some people get more votes than others.

The beauty of this objection (from the point of view of its political effectiveness, by which I mean its ability to persuade people who don’t feel like thinking critically) is that it cleverly confuses a true statement with a false statement. It would be ludicrously unfair if some people were given more ballot papers to fill in than others. But that, it hardly needs pointing out, is not what happens. What does happen is that some people’s second (or lower) preferences are taken into account and other people’s are not.

This is presented as an unfair advantage to those whose lower preferences are taken into account.
Consider first what it means if you get five bites of the cherry. It means that your first-choice party is eliminated, and your second-choice party, and your third-choice party, and your fourth-choice party. Compare that with the poor old voter who gets just one bite of the cherry. Their party is either the party that wins or the party that comes second.

A quick slogan:


The idea that it is unfair for some people to have their vote counted more often than others is — in so far as it means anything at all — just plain wrong. The NO2AV campaigners are saying that supporters of unpopular parties get more votes. What they actually get is more opportunities to change their vote. Since each change is from a higher preference to a lower preference, changing one’s vote is not something one wants to do.
He goes on to make a salient comparison with Multiple Round voting systems. If there's a flaw in his logic here, I can't see it.

His reasoning on AV isn't completely sound (he downplays the risk of hung parliaments and coalitions, for example), and he's certainly not unbiased (who is?), but the entire article is worth reading.

Zam Zam

BBC News reports
Holy drinking water contaminated with arsenic is being sold illegally to Muslims by UK shops, the BBC has found.
Who would do this? The BNP?

No, it seems this is a case of Muslims poisoning Muslims:
Zam Zam water is taken from a well in Mecca and is considered sacred to Muslims, but samples from the source suggested it held dangerous chemicals.
A BBC investigation discovered Zam Zam water was being sold by Muslim bookshops in Wandsworth, south-west London, and Upton Park, east London, as well as in Luton, Bedfordshire.
So was it a case of unscrupulous Muslims deceiving their pious brethren?
The BBC asked a pilgrim to take samples from taps which were linked to the Zam Zam well and to buy bottles on sale in Mecca, to compare the water on sale illegally with the genuine source.

These showed high levels of nitrate and potentially harmful bacteria, and traces of arsenic at three times the permitted maximum level, just like the illegal water which was purchased in the UK.
So Allah has allowed his holy well to supply toxic water?

He must be displeased with somebody.

It isn't British

I think this must be the most absurd argument of the entire campaign:

Like most British libertarians and conservatives, and unlike many Progressives, I actually like Britain. We British have given a great deal to the world, and we have much to be proud of. But it's nonsense to suggest that we can't occasionally benefit from foreign inventions. Indeed, we have a long history of taking the best from around the world, and making it our own.

Now, I'm not sure who first dreamt up AV, and whether it is superior to FPTP is a matter for debate, but I can't think of a worse reason to reject it than "It isn't British".

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

The most right-wing, ideological government?

Seen on LabourList:
The Liberal Democrats could have left the Conservatives to govern alone, but instead they are supporting the most right-wing, ideological government in the post-war era, making cuts that even Thatcher would have flinched from.
It would be interesting to consider the arguments for and against this assertion.

Of course, I don't see anything wrong with being ideological. What are the alternatives? Government by focus group? Pandering to special interests? Backroom deals for political expediency? Consideration of personal advantage? Legislation on a whim? On balance, I quite like the idea of our parliamentary representatives operating according to a coherent set of principles, clearly articulated and consistently applied. I don't see much evidence of that happening, though, in the Conservative Party or any other.

As for right-wing, I've remarked many times that the conventional left-right political spectrum is pretty worthless. Nowhere is this more obvious than at the 'far-right', which is supposedly a bit further to the right than Thatcher, and yet occupied by the the BNP, whose 2010 manifesto supports
the National Health Service, "free university education to deserving students", reversal of rail privatization, nationalization of telecommunications infrastructure, and "an active protectionist policy" for British industry.
Do Labour and Lib Dem supporters even know what they mean when they say 'right-wing', or do they just see it as a generic term of derision?

In any case, those like Norman Tebbit who self-identify as traditional, right-wing conservatives, don't think very much of the modern Conservative Party under Cameron, and despite the odd bit of promising talk, I haven't seen many decisive actions from this government that are worth celebrating. The centrist, high-taxing, deficit-spending, inflationist, politically-correct, liberal interventionist, CO2-obsessed, nannying, bureaucratic, Europhile mush of Party X seems alive and well to me.

I'd be delighted to be proved wrong.

And "cuts that even Thatcher would have flinched from"? So far, overall, there haven't been any cuts. Much depends on the extent to which we are robbed by inflation, but these projections show real-terms spending settling by 2015 at a level higher than 2009.

Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two

Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of the first video from the EconStories duo, John Papola and Russ Roberts, entitled "Fear the Boom and Bust".

For those who haven't already seen (via The Cobden Centre or elsewhere), Roberts & Papola have produced a second video, "Fight of the Century: Keynes vs. Hayek Round Two", which is just as brilliant as the first.

Share and Enjoy!

The New Deal in Old Rome

Westminster's most promising MP has highlighted what sounds like a very promising book: The New Deal in Old Rome, by H.J. Haskell (first published in 1939).

From the conclusion:
The fundamental modern social problem is the problem that Rome failed to solve. It is the problem of building a unified yet free society, with decent minimum standards of living. A society so intelligently and justly organized that there is no menacing submerged class. A society that provides reasonable incentives for the free rise of a general staff of competent managers whose ranks are always open to fresh recruits. A society that develops a social pressure under which leaders accept an enlightened and far-sighted view of their responsibilities. This is the society which the long experience of Rome sets as a goal before the modern world.
72 years later, we still haven't cracked it.

The book is available for free as a PDF.

Mozilla Thunderbird

Regular readers may recall my post about Apple Mail exploding.

It's happened a couple of times since, and each time is as infuriating as the last.

What pushed me over the edge, though, was Mail's stubborn refusal to subscribe to the shared folders at my work. Depending on the value chosen for the IMAP Path Prefix, I either got all of the shared folders, or none. I had little choice but to opt for the former, but as the company archives have grown, this has meant storing about 60GB worth of messages under ~/Library/Mail. With various other demands on my meagre old 128GB disk, I decided I'd had enough (my upcoming MacBook Pro will only have a 256GB SSD; I couldn't justify the cost of the 512GB one).

So, years after I gleefully abandoned it, I've reluctantly returned to Mozilla Thunderbird, now at version 3.1. It's improved a lot since version 1, but it's still pretty hateful. I'm compiling a proper list of Pros & Cons, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to cope with the sheer ugliness of it. Take this dialog, for example:


I can only hope that the version of Mail included with Lion will be a suitable replacement.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

How many murders before life means life?

BBC News reports:
A killer who beat an 89-year-old woman to death, 25 years after being jailed for life for another murder, has been told he will never leave prison.

Odd job man George Norman Johnson, 47, killed Florence May Habesch as she made him a cup of tea in Rhyl, Denbighshire.
The court heard Johnson and another man launched a "sustained and savage attack" with knives and a pair of scissors in 1986, killing a man in his own home for £3.

In October 1986 he admitted murder, and was jailed for life with a direction that he should serve at least 17 years.

He was released on 20 March, 2006, on the condition he took regular drugs and alcohol tests.

He was recalled in January 2007 after a positive test, but was released in December 2007.

By October 2010, he had admitted that he was taking drugs, and later admitted he was taking heroin daily and owed money to local drug dealers.
The BBC article doesn't say what crimes Johnson was convicted of before his first murder in 1986, but it's clear that he should never have been released. I find it absurd that he was "jailed for life with a direction that he should serve at least 17 years". Life should mean life. If it had, the life of Mrs Habesch would have been saved.

I'm sure some readers of this story will take it as evidence for the evils of drugs, but in my experience drugs don't turn good men bad. At worst, they remove the already-low inhibitions of already-disturbed individuals. In any case, the answer is to hold people fully to account for their actions. If you choose to get high, you must accept responsibility for the things you do in that state.

Instead, our perverted 'justice' system will continue to let a dangerous minority roam free to rob, rape, and kill, while needlessly criminalising the actions of countless decent people who use prohibited substances for self-medication or harmless recreation.