Category Archives: Bit of politics

Anything the global financial system can do, local government can do worse

Individuals who lost more than £50,000 in the Landsbanki collapse certainly let greed get in the way of good sense, and certainly don’t deserve the generous bail-out terms that the government has given them. However, that pales into insignificance compared to the 20+ local councils who’ve lost tens of millions between them in Landsbanki deposits. And who won’t get a penny back, as compensation schemes for bankrupt banks only protect retail investors.

These organisations actually have people employed with financial qualifications in working out what to do with their money. And it’s not like they haven’t been burned before by the collapse of a dodgy bank that just happened to be the highest interest payer (if it is in fact possible to work in local government finance without being told about the BCCI collapse and its knock-on effect for councils, then there’s a systemic problem in that everyone in the entire industry is completely inept).

It’s unfortunate that local taxpayers can’t recover the missing assets from the idiots in question, and the councillors who’ve singularly failed to oversee them (and who, I’m willing to stake near-Landsbanki-style amounts of money, will be more or less equally drawn from the ranks of the major parties).

Update: The Daily Mash calls it right: “oh fuck, we meant ‘Luxembourg'”…

Tube strike conspiracy theory

[phone rings]
BJ: Wot ho, Bozza here.
BC: Hello. I’m Bob Crow, and I’m evil. I’m going to lead the Tube maintenance workers out on strike (a 5% pay rise just isn’t enough, you see) and paralyse the city.
BC: [evil laugh]
BJ: Oh. That’s dashed inconvenient. Is there, erm, anything we can do to appease you?
BC: Hmmm.
BC: [evil laugh]
BC: Well, there is one thing…
BJ: Jolly good, I always say that reasonable chaps can work things out reasonably.
BC: The guy you hired to run TfL – you know, the one with the record in taking over badly run, overmanned companies, cutting costs, improving services, breaking union strangleholds, that kind of thing?
BJ: Oh yes, Timmy. A bit of an oik – his daddy was a squaddie, what, but the only chap on my team who isn’t a completely useless buffoon.
BC: Hmmm.
BC: He goes.
BC: [evil laugh]
BJ: And that way your chaps will take the 5%?
BC: Oh yes…
BJ: Spiffing fun. Timmy goes, strike’s off, let’s all have tea and cakes.
BC: …until next time.
BC: [evil laugh]

On knowing a man by his friends

Mr Eugenides is an extremely offensive and ranty, but also highly entertaining and generally honest, blogger. I disagree with him on most things, and sometimes feel that his commentary on female Labour MPs’ stupidity goes beyond the stick they deserve for their actions into misogynistic territory, but overall he’s a principled and reasonable right-libertarian.

Unfortunately, he’s decided to go on holiday and put his mates Carpsio and Moai in charge. I say unfortunately because, in three posts they’ve made, they’ve managed to fall for three of the most obvious and ridiculous libertoonian [*] myths:

1) “the government is evil to small businesses by making them pay for maternity leave. The government should reimburse companies for maternity pay. But they won’t, the bastards”.

Fact: they do. Moai’s suggestion would be worse than the status quo, as it’d only help tax-paying profitable businesses and not start-ups.

2) “the BBC and the Guardian are evil lying scum for suggesting that Ofcom condemned the Global Warming Swindle documentary”.

Fact: Ofcom found that the programme was unfair, partial, and misrepresented significant views on the subject. It rejected the complaint that the programme had ‘materially misled’ the audience. So that’s OK then.

3) “Everyone who dies of malaria dies because of Rachel Carson, because she got DDT banned”

Fact: DDT has never been banned for use against malaria. Rachel Carson only sought to get DDT banned for use as an agricultural pesticide, partly because that use made it less effective as an antimalarial drug. Everyone serious in the malaria field accepts that this is the case, even the ones who aren’t hippies.

On the plus side, the superb Reactionary Snob has also been drafted in. Hopefully he’ll address the balance a little…

Update: commendably, Carpsio was extremely quick to correct post #3. No sign as yet on the maternity pay one…

[*] libertoonian = someone who became a libertarian because they’re grumpy about how the Metro says their tax money is wasted and hate politicians, rather than because they believe that political theory and history shows a minarchist state is the best way to maximise the general happiness of the people.

On why society is basically doomed

Sunny has a good piece on Commentisfree on the knife panic – worth a read. Apparently the original version linked to this post here, but the Guardian subs took it out – bad Guardian subs.

Unfortunately, the comments indicate why we’re never going to get anywhere with the criminal justice system, other than locking up more people for being black and scary with no discernible benefit to anyone – the complete and utter cognitive dissonance of the public on the issue.

This is a shining example:

On the issue of violent crime per se, the statement that Sunny made that ‘overall violent crime has decreased by 41% since a peak in 1995′ is not believable.

Sunny, never understimate ‘common sense’. People have a fairly good idea of what is going on around them ….

Nonsesne. Common sense is the most overrated tool in the box and the cause of most stupid actions; and people have absolutely fuck all idea of what is going on around them. If you trust some random members of the public over the wider body of academic research on any issue, then you’re almost certainly wrong and definitely an idiot.

Unfortunately, most people on most issues trust random members of the public over the wider body of academic research, because most people aren’t very bright. Never mind that the conclusions it leads them to are entirely wrong; at least it saves them having to think…

Well worth the license fee

Mark Easton at the BBC has a superb piece that’s saved me the effort of doing my normal thing (dammit!) – he’s looked at the actual statistics and discovered that knife crime is up slightly in some ropey bits of London, and not at all elsewhere.

A very sensible point that Mr Easton makes, as also made coherently and provocatively by Dave Osler at Liberal Conspiracy, is that the massive and deranged overhyping of the non-event that is knife crime is only going to encourage kids to carry knives, because they’ll be a) worried that they’ll get knived and b) keen to stick it to the patronising idiots who think that knife-carrying is The Worst Thing Ever.

Unsurprisingly, David Cameron’s take on the whole issue is to demand that anyone found carrying a knife should be jailed with no exceptions. I’m sure that the picnic-goers and sausage-cutters of the world will be reassured by that one…

(and yes, Mr Cameron suggests the police should ‘use discretion’ in deciding who to prosecute. This is not the way the law works, and not the way the law should work – if something is a crime, then everyone who does it should be prosecuted; if it is not, then no-one who does it should be prosecuted. The police’s job is to enforce the law, not to decide when to enforce it and when to ignore it.)

Meanwhile, in a sane parallel universe somewhere, the only worry people have about crime is why we waste so much time and so many lives on sending people to jail, when [pointed hyperbole] crime is completely trivial and not-worth-bothering-with [/pointed hyperbole]. Unfortunately, on this earth people don’t understand statistics but do understand emotivised tabloid nonsense… roll on the teleporter.

Update: Ajay’s comment at S&M makes sense; and these statistics are telling.

On that ‘who subsidises whom’ thing

There’s a great deal of controversy and bitterness over whether the parasitical Scots steal money from the hard-working English to spend on whisky and deep-fried Mars bars, or whether in fact the evil colonial masters are stealing the Scots’ money to fritter away on Pimms and linen suits.

The problem is, despite the statistical data on where tax revenues are generated and where they end up, there’s no answer to the question of who’s right.

If you believe North Sea oil belongs to the Scots [*], then it’s clear that the Scots are subsidising the English, as annual North Sea oil tax revenues of £9bn for 2006/07 are way in excess of the Barnett payments of £7.5bn. If you believe North Sea oil is a shared resource between all citizens of the UK,
then it’s equally clear the English are subsidising the Scots.

Since the answer to that question is dependent on one’s beliefs about political philosophy, equity and the nature of nation states, and also on unresolved questions about the UK’s constitutional status, it’s hardly bloody surprising that the controversy exists…

[*] i.e. if you believe that oil reserves should be allocated between England and Scotland based on the Law of the Sea, which under most estimates would give the vast majority of oil to Scotland.

Good news, everybody

You’ll be delighted to hear that The Sharpener is back online and that I have a new post there on why it’s right to treat politics as a trivial and irrelevant sideshow.

Also, now that the Sharpener is back up, I’m going to try and get back into the habit of putting my political stuff up there, and random finance / transport / IT geekery / lifestyle stuff on here. Whether that will improve either place is a question for thee and not for me…

If we ban harmless things, then harmful things will magically disappear

It ought to be pretty obvious that banning drinking in a place is completely different from banning drunken louts from a place.

If you ban drinking in a place, it prevents people who aren’t louts but fancy a beer from having one, while doing absolutely nothing to prevent louts who are drunk from causing a nuisance (even if the drinking legislation were actually enforced against groups of rowdy chavs, which it won’t be).

If you actually want to stop drunken loutery, then you need to ensure that drunken louts are arrested, under the existing laws that provide a perfectly good arsenal of charges and punishments against rowdies, harrassers, disorderly conductors and affrayists. You don’t impose a new measure to punish the law-abiding.

Hence, the only two reasons to support Mr Johnson’s impending ban on drinking on the Tube are:

1) a belief that alcohol is inherently wrong and its consumption should be impeded wherever possible; or
2) idiocy

Neither of these are attractive traits, so it’s worrying that the plan is seen as a vote-winner…

Side note: the ban appears to advertised as “making everyone’s journey more pleasant”. Since it will very clearly make journeys less pleasant for those who enjoy drinking while on a journey, this is clearly false advertising, and I’d urge everyone who sees such a poster to report it to the ASA.