Friday, 30 September 2005

What the **** is that



Sometimes Science fiction just doesn't compete with reality....



Pointless, Dangerous, Magnificent

By God... at least we're good at something.



Pensions and the TUC


People are living longer. That's good. Pensionable ages are not going up. That's Unaffordable.

The TUC will call their members out on strike if public sector pensionable ages are raised to anything approaching what is normal in the Private sector. To describe a reasonable reform, given that people are living longer, as a "Quack Remedy" whilst calling for "justice" and railing against a "work till you drop" culture is just irresponsible, infantile posturing. I saw several references to "fat cats" in Mr. Prentis's speech.... well, that's beyond stupid. It's crass, politics-of-envy crap.

It sums up the socialist "I'm alright, Jack, someone else will pay" mentality. Unions are a 19th century solution which doesn't apply to 21st century problems. They are absolutely wrong on nearly every issue they mention, and should be ignored.



Thursday, 29 September 2005

More Labour Nastiness

They Really don't like dissent do they? All the old dude (a veteran of real oppression, aged over 82) did was shout "liar" at Jack Straw during his speech, and he ended up detained under the Terrorism act.

Security has become a catch all to oppress. Even Labour MPs are not immune from the "Orwellian Project". What I find more unpleasant is the mealy-mouthed apology issued by the Labour party. What is utterly inexcusable is that the police were drawn in (again, and again and again*) and allowed themselves to be persuaded to abuse thier powers in support of New Labour's agenda.

Let's Ignore the Police for the time being... I'll deal with the filth in another post.

This over reaction is not entirely Labour's fault, though their attempts to manipulate the media have accelerated a trend, which led to yesterday's outrage.

Politics has become too stage-managed. MPs are seen as "sure-footed" or "a safe pair of hands" if they can spout the party line, and a series of soundbites without deviation, whatever the questioning.

There is no room for the free-thinking or eloquent speaker. He is "Gaffe prone" who's "outbursts" expose "splits" or "the muddled thinking" of his party. Politicians have nowhere to Fly a Kite to see if it will win the public over. As a result, policy development is almost exclusively concentrated in the wonks of the Think-Tanks. Party members have no say. This is why party membership is falling.

Because the (especially broadcast) media are more interested in the soap opera of politics, and cannot be bothered to report or comment on the policy or philosophy underlying the soundbites, parliamentarians will resort to what works. That is the "yah-boo" politics that the public so detests. The media will seize on an internal debate as sign of a "split", so that debate must not be seen in public. Meanwhile, with nothing worthwhile to talk about safely, politicians must rove round the Westminster village, eyeing up the opposition for scraps they can tear off and throw to the media wolves.

As a result, conferences can't be seen to have any debate or dissent. After all that's the party's shop window. That's why the Labour Machine over reacted yesterday.

It is the media who infantilise our body politic, with their personality driven agenda. Who's with or against whom. What someone is saying about someone else. The policy and philosophy that drives people to become MPs and represents what they would dearly love to talk about, is lost. Parties become hollowed-out affairs. Government, and by extension, you and me, is the loser.


The fourth estate, Journalists, enjoy "The exercise of Power without responsibility, the privilege of the Harlot throughout history" Stanley Baldwin.

*with thanks to Samizdata



Wednesday, 28 September 2005

No Charles, No.


The implications of "The right of people to be protected from indiscriminate terrorism is at least as important as the right of the Terrorist to be protected from torture" are shocking. So you can condone torture under certain circumstances can you, Charles? There is no trade-off.

We can protect people from bombs without compromising our stand against torture.

Terrorism, though nasty poses no existential threat to Britain. If we allow or condone torture, all our rights, wealth and freedoms are worthless. If we didn't stoop to those levels 60 years ago when there was an existential threat to "Our Island way of life" there's no need now.

In fact by strong persuasion, using moral argument, support for local human rights activists, economic sanction and occasionally, where nessesary, armed force, to eliminate torture and opression around the world, we* can go a long way to ending the scourge of terrorism.

Charles Clarke, along with Gordon Brown, Stephen Byars (I know he's not in the government, but he's faced no sanction for lying to parliament), Hazel Blears (can you really take her seriously?) and the whole illiberal, meddling, corrupt, smug, sanctimonious rabble represent very good reasons to vote Conservative.

*We, in this case usually means the anglosphere. Much of the rest of the world has shown itself to be far too willing to cuddle up to opressive regimes. We aren't perfect, neither are the Americans, but at least we dont have Baby doc Duvalier living the high life in our capital.



Tuesday, 27 September 2005

Jason Robinson's retirement


I think he had more to give his country, but that's a descision for him. Sale are certainly happy about his retirement from International Rugby. That's another international master who is going to make Northampton's season difficult (currently at the bottom of the table. Damn)

As long as I've watched Billy Whiz play for England, I can't remember him making a mistake. He's been beaten on the outside by faster men (but not often) and he's been beaten in the air by taller men (but not often). Otherwise he's made tackles, caught high balls under enormous pressure and usually escaped to get the ball away when he was isolated with the entire opposition bearing down on him. Above all though there's no-one who could make the extra few yards to open a defence more consistently or finish more clinically.

The real tribute is the noise Twickenham made every time he caught the ball.



Monday, 26 September 2005

It must be difficult being a Labour activist

You have been in power since 1997, and have achieved (aside form a bit of constitutional vandalism) very little. The greatest electoral mandate ever has been squandered. A lot more tax spent on utterly useless pen-pushers. Billions spent on management consultants, and an ever more thirsty-for-cash, but otherwise unreconstructed NHS. There has been little reform of education (except a lowering of standards). Tuition fees, a sticking plaster to cover the disastrous target of 50% participation in higher education without offering commensurate funding, has become this governments second-most unpopular policy.

There has been no major change from the Thatcherite economic consensus. What redistribution there has been, is deeply flawed. It has failed to reduce poverty or inequality. Indeed the richest decile have done very well out of this administration, whose toadying to new money is quite craven. Gordon Brown's most successful decision was operational independence for the Bank of England, a Liberal Democrat Policy, hardly one aimed to please the unreconstructed class warriors of the party's heartlands. The only policy that has made them happy is a spiteful bit of legislation banning fox-hunting. Otherwise New Labour is a wannabe Tory party, spending a bit more on the NHS and hiring more disability rights commissioners and meddling counterproductively with the tax system. This is hardly radically socialist.

So your PM, Tony Blair is popular (or at least good at winning elections) because he has successfully stolen the Tories' clothes, but they don't fit, so nothing really works as intended. He wins despite the Labour party, not because of it.

The Tories have lost their self confidence, as a result of agreeing with much of Blair's rhetoric, whilst tearing their hair out at the delivery, they find it very difficult to tell a coherent story. Because the wheels have not yet come off the economy, and the Tories do not yet look like a Government in waiting, the Electorate will stick to what they know. The Tories' malaise has been a great part of this government's electoral success.

As soon as the Labour party lurches leftwards under Gordon Brown, the country will kick them out of office. "Best when we're Labour". Really? Last time we had a "real" Labour Government, the UK had to go Cap in hand to the IMF, bodies went unburied and the litter piled up. Dole queues snaked round the block, and it took the Tories a decade to sort out the mess.

Labour activists, how does it feel to know all your cherished prejudices are electoral and economic suicide?



Friday, 23 September 2005

Hurricanes

With landfall expected by hurricane Rita within 24 hours, nearly a million Americans are evacuating their homes and heading inland. On this side of the pond, we can merely watch and hope that the damage is not as bad as Katrina.

Oil traders are rattling the WTI Oil contract up and down according to hour by hour movements of the storm, whilst nodding sagely about Cat 5 and 20 ft Storm surges. In reality they are merely spouting what they see on Bloomberg TV, and can glean from a cursory web search.

There has been a common theme on much current affairs programming in the UK that the hurricane is in some way linked to global warming. (Subtext: George Bush is to blame for throwing out the worthless Koyoto Treaty).I'm no expert either, but I can’t see any pattern on the chart showing a noticeable increase in Hurricane activity since records began in 1850.

In the Atlantic hurricane area, 1933 was the busiest year with 21 hurricanes, 1995 had 19. 1950 was the most active year as measured by Accumulated Cyclone Energy*.

So why is the Eco-weenie lobby so keen to jump on any bandwagon if it appears to support their cause yet scientists and reserchers get egged and ostracized if they dare to suggest that the world is not about to explode? Obvilusly the absence of bad news is, by definition, not newsworthy and difficult to pubicize. There were no Hurricanes in the Atlanic in 1982. Oil Barons did not jump up and down on the news saying that this proved their point that CO2 does not cause global warming. Those of us with a more phlegmatic approach to the world's climate and man's effect on it do not have the opportunity to say "look... the Gobi Desert's southern flank is getting wetter, or Grapes will now grow in Southern England (as they did in the 14th century)". No-one will listen, because it is not as exciting as a really juicy natural disaster.

The eco-weenies do seem to have a distincly luddite mentality when solutions to global warming are mooted. The hair shirt, and a reversal of progress to some immagined pastoral idyll seems to be the favoured approach. People who dare to suggest that the evidence for global warming is at best, mixed are beyond the pale. There is no open and honest debate allowed.

That the world seems to be getting warmer is beyond doubt. That this is a totally bad thing is less certain. There are many areas of the world whos climate, crop yeilds and economy will probably improve as a result of climate change. That global warming is entirely man's fault is also unknown, though many would have you believe it's entirely our fault. There have been many cycles of climate, well recorded over aeons. the Jurassic period was very warm. I'm reasonably sure Exxon was not to blame. Could we just be in an intergalcial period? Weren't the Vikings able to grow wheat on Greenland in the 8th century before it got too cold? What about the "mini Ice age" of the late 1700's in which the Thames regularly froze over?

There are too many people who just accept the consensus, without thinking about it. This is especially true if the consensus appears to confirm a set of wooly prejudices against wealth creation, business and "the Rich World". It's too easy to have someone to blame (unless it's Gordon Brown, but hey everyones allowed one inconsistency!). The world is rarely as simple as single-issue campaigners would have you believe.

* "ACE" - Accumlated Cyclone Energy An index that combines the numbers of systems, how long they existed and how intense they became. It is calculated by squaring the maximum sustained surface wind in the system every six hours and summing it up for the season. It is expressed in 10 4 kt2.



Thursday, 22 September 2005

Gordon Brown, Financial Genius


In May '99 our esteemed chancellor sold half of Britain's gold reserves for less than $280 an ounce, to reduce our reserves to just 7% held in that metal. It is trading today at $473 an ounce.

With the proceeds, he used 40% to buy Euros then trading at around 0.69, more or less exactly where they are now. He used 40% to buy U.S. Dollars at around 1.62, 10% or so above where they are now. He used the remainder, 20%, to buy Yen at around 195, More or less exactly where they are now.

The Euro especially performed very poorly against sterling in the 3 years following this decision (do you remember exporters complaining about the Pound's strength?), so the performance of this sale of gold should be seen as a disaster. If I did something so fundamentally wrong for my clients, I would be bent over by the Financial Services Authority and buggered 'till my arse looked like a wind-sock and I thought I'd been fucked by a train (metaphorically speaking, of course). And quite right too.

Let's look at Gordon's Record.

Operational independence for the Bank of England. His one and only master-stroke. By removing decision-making from the treasury, he has prevented himself from making a hash of things as far as interest rates go. Thank God!

Capital Advance Tax: One of Gordon Brown's first acts was to remove a tax credit for dividends paid into pension funds. At the time, Britain had the most solvent pensions system in the developed world. This has cost British Pension funds (and, by extension, you and me) £50bn. He didn't think that the stock market could perform so badly under his watch.

The Public finances are at the worst they've been for a long time at this stage of a financial cycle, due to a huge increase in the public sector salariat and the Government's desire to spigott ever increasing floods of cash at totally unreformed public services. No amount of tinkering with start dates will change the fact that Gordon has broken his golden rule and taxes will have to rise soon. Heaven forbid that a Labour Government will ever cut spending.

There has been a massive increase in the regulatory and administrative burden imposed on, especially small, firms. With firms now expected to both collect tax, and administer much of the tax credit system, small firms have had to employ on average one extra administrator per 50 or so employees. This is a huge overhead on firms which often work on thin margins. No wonder private sector employment (the productive bit, that pays for gender outreach co-ordinators and diversity taskforces) has stalled under this government.

The unemployment rate has stayed low, despite not because of this government. Private sector employment has not grown since about 2000 (when labour abandoned Tory spending plans). Instead the slack has been taken up by the public sector, most of them administrators, not the sainted Policemen, Nurses and Teachers that the Government gloats endlessly about recruiting. The civil service has become a means to get useless people into non-jobs at our expense. The disability benefits system has remained another handy fiction to get people off the Jobseekers register. There is more to economic performance than the headline jobless rate. Look at the percentage of the population who are "economically inactive".

As a result of this stagnation of the private sector, tax revenue has not grown as fast as Gordon Brown expected. Though his economic growth forecastss have surprised many economists, this is due mostly to massive public sector spending increases. Furthermore, announcements that the economy had met Treasury forecasts (to much crowing from the prudent one) in 2003 and 2004, were superseded by revisions which indicated that they, in fact, did not meet treasury forecasts. (ThePresbyteriann twat was a little quieter about that).

The much vaunted tax credits have proved to be hugely expensive to administer. Overpayments to low income households, followed by demands for repayments have caused huge hardship and stress to those people who are trying hardest to break the cycle of welfare dependency. Why take the tax off them in the first place? Many of Gordon's other taxes cost nearly as much to administer as they raise in revenue. See here for the solution...

A broken promise to not raise income tax. Well it was "national insurance", but the effect is exactly the same as a penny on income tax. A baseball bat feels the same as a cricket bat, when smashed into ones lower jaw, which is what I want to do to Gordon Brown. especially when he does that inhale thing when he speaks. You know the one, when he's spoken for too long for a breath, and he pulls his lower jaw back and breathes in with his mouth open and his bottom lip pulled up over his teeth....

Gordon Brown is going to break his "golden rule" because he spends to much, and weighs down the bit of the economy that pays for his spending with tax, costs and red-tape. When we look back we will see a squandered opportunity. He inherited the best-performing economy in Europe. He will leave it in no better shape than unreformed Germany. And he's lauded by a supine press as a successful chancellor.

The labour party have screwed things up more subtly, but more insidiously than last time. History will judge them very harshly indeed.



Wednesday, 21 September 2005

The Liberal Democrats... Ahhh... aren't they cute!

Reasons to vote Liberal Democrat

  1. They have a genuine comittment to civil libeties
  2. They want to scrap the DTI
  3. Sir Menzies Cambell
  4. I'm told they came up with the Idea to give operational Independance to the Bank of England.
  5. They aren't Labour, you can feel smug about voting for higher taxes, without actually having to pay them.
  6. er....
  7. That's it.

Reasons not to vote Liberal Democrat

  1. Charles Kennedy might be PM.
  2. 50% top rate of income tax. Pointless, counter productive, Politics-of-envy crap.
  3. They are far too wedded to the public-sector producer interest, especially in education.
  4. Proportional representation
  5. Local Income tax.... Urm How much would that cost an average household again, Mr. Kennendy?
  6. Lib-Dem delegates wear socks with their sandals.



Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Luke 20:25


...And he said unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which be Caesar's, and unto God the things which be God's

In the trinity that is the UK constitution, one branch is the Church of England. What the bloody hell are they doing suggesting that religious leaders apologise to Muslims for intervening in Iraq? Do they have any conception of how counter-productive that would be? By apologising to Muslim leaders, they are, in effect, suggesting that Iraq is a war against Muslims, which it fundamentally is not. Congratulations, bishops, you have just made a bad situation worse. When this is filtered through Al Jazeera to the Arab street, then the 100-page nuanced verbiage will be stripped away to the admission of guilt (undeserved) and increase the sense of outrage at a (perceived) "Crusade*".

The recipient of this outrage is poor bloody Tommy Atkins.

*while we're on the subject, just what was a Muslim Army doing outside Tours in southern France in 732? When did the crusades start? 1095. I think the guilt for aggression in the early mediaeval period is not entirely one sided.....



Monday, 19 September 2005

PR Disaster



It seems the Germans are not yet ready for a change.

The Chancellor, Gerhard Schroder managed to scare the electorate by proclaiming Angela Merkel's CDU party would spell the end for Germany's cosy social model. As a result, the CDU collapsed in the polls in the last weeks of campaigning.

The fact is he's right. Germany's social model is at risk from the (fairly modest) reforms proposed by the CDU. Nevermind the fact that the difficulty of firing employees makes it extremely risky for a firm to hire, so unemployment is around 10%. Those who have jobs remain the majority of voters, and they're loathe to give up the protection that a freer "Anglo-Saxon" model would sweep away. Most of the electorate seem to want reform, but are unsure and afraid as to the shape this will take. Thus the "Grand Coalition" is favoured by much of the electorate as exemplifying the German consensual political style.

It was the ability of Mr. Schroeder to portray Professor Paul Kirchoff as a robber-baron who would tax the poor more than the rich (thus totally mis-representing the benefits of a flat tax) which changed the tone of the election, from a shoe-in for Angela Merkel, to a hung parliament.

Whilst the British Electoral system is inherently unfair to my favoured party, It has been unfair in the past to the other lot. It is perpetually unfair to the wooly in-betweens, which is a good thing. At present, Joschka Fischer's greens can effectively choose the next chancellor, giving a casting vote to just 8.1% of the electorate. It is this position that the Liberal Democrats want to maneuver themselves to in the UK. The UK should resist Proportional Representation (PR) in all its forms, for all types of election, and instead attempt to address the inconsistencies in the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) system.

The strong government, plus the relationship to local MPs, who can and do raise parochial issues in Westminster, are the benefit of the FPTP system, and this shouldn't be cast aside lightly. The system does tend to create results that are rarely disputed, and more often than not reflect the will of the people of the UK in all its contrary inconsistency.

The fact is coalitions in the UK are WITHIN parties, not between them. Thus the electorate knows what shape the government might be with each vote (even the wasted ones for the Lib-Dems). I feel a pang of pity for the German voter, who casts a ballot for a party, and then has to watch the post-election horse-trading. He might vote green and watch them get into bed with the CDU... an unlikely result, but unwelcome to the average green voter. Would those who voted for Ms. Merkel's reforms be happy with a sorry, stagnant "Grand Coalition"

If you want an even more eloquent argument for FPTP, look at Italy's parliament since the War. PR leads to chaos and stagnation or cosy compromise (or worse, both!). It prevents parliamentarians exercising Leadership when necessary and puts too much emphasis on back-room deals between politicos. This leads to the situation where a political elite can hold and excersise opinions vastly at variance from their electorate, often for decades, and face no electoral punishment. This has been the case in much of Western Europe for two decades on some issues. In the end, this is less democratic than brutal, winner takes all politics of Westminster.

*Cartoon by Roger Schmidt



Friday, 16 September 2005

Rugby...


The Weekend's coming and we're due to be playing agianst Old Actonians this weekned (If I can get any petrol to get there that is). Last weeks match ended with a comprehensive victory over Hackney, though I spent much of the match sidelined with a dodgy knee. That's me getting the wedgie in the picture...

Never mind... hopefully we'll continue our unbeaten run this weekend with a victory in the first full league match of the season.

And the Northampton Saints are doing well... At least the Saints look like not having to struggle to stay up this season! And England hold the ashes. It has been a good week!



Thursday, 15 September 2005

Stop the war?

Every day more bombs go off in Iraq.

The Iraqis who are being killed are not caught in a crossfire, but are being actively targettted. Yesterday, a man drove up to a queue of labourours who were looking for casual work. The driver announced he had some jobs going in order draw people near and blew up himself and dozens of those around him.

Withdrawing allied forces now would not see peace restored in Iraq. Instead the Insurgents, who have demonstrated themselves to be ruthless, would stop at nothing to gain control of the country and continue the opression of the Iraqi people

It is up to the US and Britain to see that the Iraqi insurgency fails, to see that a democratic government that represents the will of the people has the power to control the country and establish the rule of law. We must not leave until that happens.

As for the nihilists of the west who whinge about "ending the war", withdrawing western troops will remove the savegary from the evening news, but thousands more Iraqis would die as an unrestrained civil war explodes. There is a word for people who would condemn the Iraqis to this fate rather than finishing the job, and that is "coward".

The parliament square eyesore, Brian Haw, who has maintained a 4-year protest, typifies the painful lack of substance to thier argument. "every day people are dying" he says before going on to list Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine. What exactly does he want the British government to do about it?

In Afghanistan, international forces are welcomed by much of the population, who have no love for thier former Taliban rulers. Violence there is as much about straight-forward lawlessness due to disputed control of the opium trade than concerted efforts to get the foreign troops out. That the Kabu Goverment's remit extend only to the suburbs and some of the larger towns is why international forces are needed.

Palestine is surely beyond the reach of Westminster. He may dislike Israeli policy, but haven't they just withdrawn form Gaza, only to see synagogues get burned? What about palestinians who sit in the Knesset? there is no room in mr. Haw's mind for the nuanced reality, just a simplictic, idiotc anger.

Iraq would be bloodier and worse off if British troops left, as would the UK, having given the signal that we cave into terrorism. Mr. Blair may be many things I dislike, but he gets my support for standing up to the incoherent peace-mongers in his party.

So Mr. Haw... What would you actually do if you were in Government? Condemn Iraq and Afghanistan to Lawless anarchy, just as there's a chance for the people of those long-benighted lands to live in peace once again? Condemn Iraq to a civil war? Sanctions against israel, until they can't defend themselves against neighbouring states who still wish to "push Israel into the sea"?

Mr. Haw, you and your kind have no solutions and I suspect you are merely perpetuating the myth of western guilt as displaced self loathing. Actual solutions to world problems are often grubby compromises, but you'd rather Saddam was still in power, wouldn't you?

Mr. Haw, I'm bored of seeing you deface a magnificent square. I'm bored of your incoherent ranting and I wish you and thousands like you would just shut-up and fuck-off.



Wednesday, 14 September 2005

State "Investment"

Britain still has the highest GDP per capita of the large European Economies, but would be the US's fifth poorest state. If this was measured by average disposable income after taxes, the UK would be the poorest state in the US. Supposedly poverty-striken New Orleans would have been the richest city in the UK.

Average Earnings in the UK are at about the level found in the poorer suburbs of Detroit.

We are slipping against the US. Our Taxes are too high, and as a result (yes pinkos, a direct result) our growth is low.

Unless we are weaned off the idea that the state "invests" i.e. gets a return on spending, we will continue to believe that taxation to pay for endless increases in Health 'n education is a good idea. In fact by cutting the tax burden on the economy, and simplifying the tax system, we can stimulate growth, pay for all that good stuff, and live in a more affluent society too.

The state does not invest. Ever. The state SPENDS. It spends your money and it does so inefficiently. It should only provide what is uneconomic for the private sector to provide (the jury's out whether this even includes health). That is not to say the state shoudn't finance healthcare provision and schools, it is just that monolithic state monopolies aren't nessesarily the best means of delivery.

By spending less, taxing less and buying what it needs to deliver from the private sector where possible, the government will, in the long-run, have more to spend on greater choice, and so will you.



Tuesday, 13 September 2005

IMCC vs Castle Ashby



What a glorious spot for the International Mongrels CC inaugral match, which ended in a convincing 6-wicket victory, with overs to spare against an experienced Castle Ashby side! There was some very tight bowling from the IMCC with special mention going to Ryan and Imran, who sucessfully found the ridge just short of a length when bowling from the Avenue end. My bowling was unspectacular, though I did have a couple put down in the slips! Top marks to our Captain, Luke for some stylish square cutting prior to a dubious LBW decision, and Hamish who nearly carried his bat, scoring a solid 45 before flicking one up to the wicket keeper.

Castle Ashby 107 all out of 39.4 overs

IMCC 110 for 4 off about 18 overs.



The Ashes


In Affectionate Remembrance
of
AUSTRALIAN C R I C K E T,
which died at the Oval
on
12th SEPTEMBER, 2005,
Deeply lamented by a large circle of sorrowing friends and acquaintances
R.I.P.
N.B. - The body will be cremated and the ashes kept in ENGLAND.



Friday, 9 September 2005

Speed Cameras


The UK Motorist is under constant attack from the state. He is over-taxed for petrol and road use and is subject to draconian parking enforcement. Motorists feel they have become a cash-cow for this metropolitan and car-hating Government. This is especially true of the hated Gatso Camera.

I live in Hertfordshire, home to a staggering number of the bloody things, a county which also has a very poor record on road deaths. Looking at the statistics there are just 34 camera sites in Hertfordshire which have shown an improvement in number of road deaths since 2002. There are 743 which have not been effective.

The counties which have the most also seem to have been the ones with the worst records in curbing road deaths.

The reason is simple. Where there are speed cameras, drivers spend more time looking at their speedometer than the road and traffic. There is a big difference between being a few mph over an arbitary limit and speed totally inappropriate for the conditions. Furthermore one can drive like an arsehole, whilst keeping under the speed limit. Machines cannot replace humans who can exercise judgement. If you want to cut deaths, more traffic officers with freedom to use discretion would be more effective.

The Boy-Racer usually takes care not to speed where he knows there to be cameras. In addition, because he is driving fast, he is alert and can spot any of which he is unaware in time to slow down. Speed cameras are usually sited on a downhill slope, just where a motorist might inadvertently drift over the limit (4 mph is enough). Thus an otherwise careful driver gets a fine and 3 points. This also costs him in extra insurance.


The speed camera is arbitrary, ineffective and unfair. Is it not time to call a moratorium on their use?



Thursday, 8 September 2005

Democracy in Venezuela

At the moment, Hugo Chavez's grandstanding (he called Mr. Bush a "pendejo"*) is being seen around the world as "standing up" to the American president. Whilst he is representing the settled view of his people, I concur.

There are however causes for concern. The newly created Citizen militias are supposed to be aimed at defending Venezuela from an American attack which is unlikely to materialise. In fact they are more likely to be aimed at the opponents of Mr. Chavez.

Much of his programme of Junior Common room leftism is a cause for concern. Mr. Chavez needs to work hard to screw the economy up as badly as Salvador Allende did in Chile, but he's heading in the right direction. The land reform programme in particular has a distinctly anti-business feel about it. When he fails to produce the economic results the people of Venezuela demand, will he remain committed to democracy?

With most of the media neutral or opposed to Mr. Chavez, there have been reports of intimidation of journalists. Will he resort to more desperate measures if the public (who currently support Mr. Chavez by 70% or so) turn against him? Can he maintain control of the militias under these circumstances?

Mr Chavez has promised big, and needs to deliver.

* Lit a Pubic Hair, but colloquially translated as "wanker" (Brit.) or "Asshole" (U.S.) either way it is hardly diplomatic language.



Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Flat-Tax, an Idea Whose Time Has Come

The UK has long had a byzantine tax system, which has been made more inpenetrable and opaque by Mr. Brown. The cost of the system in civil servants' wages, evasion and error is astronomical. It is hugely regressive and unfair.

Income tax starts on incomes of Just £4,745.

Add to this charges based on assets such as Council tax, and VAT at 17.5% (more on sin-goods: Petrol, Alcohol, and Tobacco) and you have a regressive situation where a family, not in reciept of benefits, struggling to survive in one of the highest-cost economies on earth on £20-30,000 will be paying 30-40% of their income in one form of tax or another.

The rich are able to afford Lawyers and Accountants to mitigate the 40% marginal tax on income over £31,400.

If all income below £15,000 was untaxed, and a flat rate of around 20-30% was levied on the remainder, most of the working poor would not pay any income tax. Huge savings could be made in the administration of the tax and benefit system.

National insurance should be just that. A hypothecated tax levied on income to pay for Health and Pensions. There is no reason why that cannot be raised in the same manner.

The actual amount of money raised would not need to alter, but where it comes from would be clear, fair and it would be less open to manipulation for social engineering and pork-barrel politics. The country could then have a debate on the appropriate level of taxation without each tinkering change made by the chancellor costing as much in administration as it raises in revenue.

An aside. Gordon Brown has taken the UK from a relatively low tax (sub 40% after the '97 election) to close to Germany's 47%. (I am referring here to the total tax take of the government, not personal taxation rates). This will hugely damage the UK's competitiveness. As ever the Labour Party takes a decade to screw this country up, and they will blame everyone but themselves. The sooner a realisitc taxation system is in place the better.



BBC Business News

Greg Wood, business correspondent for the today program (The UK's National radio breakfast news show) is shockingly incompetent.

This morning he described BAE systems as "British Aerospace", a name it abandoned years ago and suggested the company made the wings for the Airbus Double-Decker, when the situation is that it owns 20% of Airbus which makes the wings in the UK.

This is not the first gaffe. He usually covers up his crass errors with aggressive questioning of chief executives along lines that are usually nearly irrelevant to the investing public.

The BBC should fire this pillock, or demote him to the photocopying duty he probably had "in the city", 20 years ago before he became a financial broadcaster.



Victory Parade Booked for Tuesday....

http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/cricket/england/4218194.stm

This is clearly tempting fate... I think a little bet aginst England is in order!



The Case Against God


The Case Against God

Why does any rational human believe in a divine being? I see no evidence for the existance of god, and most religious types say something along the lines of "God is unknowable", so they don't even know what they're talking to when they're on their knees. Theology is full of double-think and contradictions. Millenia of consistency doesn't make something true, otherwise the world would be flat.

Despite what the Kansas board of education thinks, Evolution is more than just a theory and creationism is no more than Poppycock. It is the exact mechanism of selection (sexual, Gradual, intermittent etc...) which is debated by real scientists, not the basic mechanism of gene progression.

"Miracles" can be misinterpretations of unlikely (but not impossible) events by the credulous, the result of 2000 years of story-telling, conjuring tricks by charlatans and cult-leaders. I find any of these explanations more compelling than the intervention of a supernatual being in mans affairs.

What about the Strong belief felt by millions of Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews and others? Well Millions of people also worshipped golden statues of bulls, living people, trees, mountains and ancestors. They can't all be right. Surely if God was all knowing and all powerful, and only those who follow the "true path" get into heaven, He at least would give everyone the chance to worship the "right" god, otherwise what is life but a postcode lottery into the afterlife? Dante's Righteous Pagans occupying a bit of hell that's actually quite nice doesn't quite square this circle for me.

How come God's various fan-clubs have been responsible for some of the worst outrages in history? The only atheist creed responsible for mass murder is communism, but they elevated Marx to the staus of a holy text. Likewise, Hitler tried to revive Teutonic Paganism. Faith requires people to put an abstract ideal, be it Godliness, Communist Nirvana, or the Fatherland, above the individual. As such, Faith is the denial of reason, and is the direct route to atrocity in the name of whatever creed you have been duped into following. No one has ever comitted mass murder in Humanisms name.

"God" has become a shortcut to expalining the world in terms available to simpletons unwilling to confront life's complexity, so meaningles platitudes "God is love" and "God moves in mysterious ways" only serve to insulate people from the reality that we're all worm food and you'd better make the most of life while you can!



Tuesday, 6 September 2005

Party Gaming

Party Gaming, the online poker business has warned on slowing sales, despite having been on the market for less than 4 months, and collapsed 33%.

The institutions kept this one very close to their chests without letting Joe Public in on the flotation. When they have finished wiping the egg off their faces, their customers (anyone who invests in unit trusts, has a pension etc...) might consider what they get for the huge fees the institutions charge. It certainly isn't skillful stock-picking.

You can diversify your financial risk without paying 1.5% every year. e-mail if you want to know more...




Why Cricket is the best sport in the world


1. Anyone of any size or shape can play it, from lanky bean-poles like Gus Fraser to, David Boon, a true stranger to salad.

2. It tests all the attributes a sport should:

Courage (90 mph plus deiveries, delivered at your chest and head)

Stamina (you're out there all day)

Strength, skill and timing

Team work

3. The Captain and Bowler have to think the batsman out. There is endless subltlety there and it is not always the best bowler who gets the wicket. How many batsmen have fallen because of a rash swipe to a fielder on the mid-wicket boundary?

4. The mystery of swing.

5. Sledging.

McGrath: "how come you're so fat?"

Eddo Brandes: "Because every time I fuck your wife, she gives me a buiscuit"

6. Food and drink are an integral part of the Game!

7. Test match special on Radio 4 Longwave. http://www.bbc.co.uk/tms/

8. The art of spin.

9. Saturday fancy-dress in Test match crowds

10. "The English, being an essentialy atheist nation, conceived of Cricket to give them some notion of Eternity" George Bernard Shaw.




The Leadership of the Conservative Party

The British Conservative party is choosing a new leader. Hopefully this will be the next Prime Minister. The BBC seems to be agitating for Ken Clarke, an overweight jovial cove with a penchant for jazz and suede shoes. He is more popular in the country at large than any other candidate, so the choice would appear obvious. All my labour-supporting friends want KC.

He would be a disaster.

The reason he is more popular than any other candidate is that as a former chancellor of the Exchequer, he is the only Tory MP apart from Michael Howard they can name and put a face to. Ken Clarke has been rejected by the activists and the Parliamentary party for over a decade at every leadership election. He has views on Britain's relationship with the European Union that are out of touch, not only with the activists, but the country too. He's at risk of smears from his relationship to the tobacco Industry. He's also too old!

David Davis, Dr Liam Fox and David Cameron are all unknows, untainted by association with the Tories' (in the public mind) discredited past. David Davis is my man for the Job. Tough, Articulate and driven, he can win the next election.

The Tories' Prospects.

I am sick of people saying the Tories are out of touch. We polled only a 3% less than Labour at the last election (35.3% compared to 32.3%). Labour is the least popular government in British Electoral History. With the right leader we can get this bunch of crypto-socialist nincompoops out. We just need to look like a Government in waiting.

With the electoral map adjusting too slowly to take account of demographic changes, we will not be as badly let down by the electoral maths next time, but will still have to do much better than Labour to secure a majority. However there are an awful lot of Labour and Lib-Dem MPs sitting on awfully slim majorities. The closer you look at it, the closer to power the Conservatives are.



Iraq

The thing that seems to occupy bloggers' column inches at the moment is the war in Iraq. It seems the international blogging community is united on this issue. COUNT ME OUT OF THE CONSENSUS. I hate seeing the body-bags and the carnage, but Mr. Hussein killed huge numbers of his people. The mass graves are still being found.

Without the war, there would be no Iraqi parliament, no constitution, no debate about a federation and the appropriate role for Islam. I expect the Iraqis to create (eventually) a more or less functioning, more or less federal, more or less Islamic Iraq which is basically stable, prosperous and, above all, free.

The end state for the coalition partners is surely a point at which the Iraqi security forces are capable of maintaining stability and security themselves. By most estimates this is years away, but we must see the conflict through to a sucessful outcome, not for us but for the people of the whole of the Middle East.

There are four reasons for the war:

  1. The Right reason: To get rid of a truly odious regime and to demonstrate that the west no longer operates a "he's a son of a bitch, but he's our son-of-a-bitch" approach to foreign policy.
  2. The Wrong reason: To Secure oil supplies in the event of implosion by the Saudi regime
  3. The Given Reason: To prevent Mr. Hussein developing and using further weapons of mass destruction
  4. The Real Reason: By creating a democracy in the Middle East, and sending a message to the regions' more unpleasant rulers (Assad et al) to stop oppressing their people, the deep alienation felt by the "Arab Street" can be healed. Perhaps people won't stop hating America, but they might be less inclined to blow themselves up if better prospects are available than Martyrdom, and if Arabs can engage America on a level playing-field as a result of living in a free society.

Even if you didn't support the war, surely it is the right thing to do NOW to see the thing through to its completion. I suspect too many people WANT to see the coalition fail, so they can enjoy the bragging rights of "I told you so". Well, you are wishing endemic civil war on the people of Iraq and you should be ashamed of yourselves.



New Orleans

I'm slightly unsure why G.W. Bush is getting it in the neck for the response to the terrible disaster in New Orleans, as the city (according to a number of American friends) has long been a poster-boy for bad government. The blame for the chaos and carnage surely lies with whoever is responsible for the Levees, for an inadequate immediate response from State officials when the city was supposed to be evacuated.

Above all blame lies with looters who shot at convoys of aid, people who shot into crowds and exacerbated the breakdown of civilisation. It is reasonable that this was unexpected. No amount of depravaiton excuses such rampages.

G.W. Was a victim of a hatchet-job by the left-wing press when they should have been pulling together at a time of national disaster. I have come to expect no better from the NY Times.

Hopefully other low lying cities (London included) will take a long look at their flood defences against a storm surge to prevent such a disaster happening again.



The Ashes, and other sports news...

England might regain the ashes this week. For those north of Hadrian's wall, south of Land's End and West of Angelsey (there are several Welshmen in the England team) and East of Dover, This means the English (and any Welshmen into cricket) will be insuffrably smug if we manage a draw or better in the final test at the Oval. West London barmen (who are almost all from the antipodes) will no longer be able to rub our noses in their sporting superiority. It means as much as Nov 2003 and a certain drop-kick by Mr. Jonny Wilkinson.

I'm not talking to anyone from Leicester (though I'm making an exception for my Girlfriend) as Northampton Saints recieved a bit of a thumping at the hands of the Tigers on Saturday. I really thought this season would be different.....

There are 2 other important matches this weekend.On Saturday the Enfield Ignatians Rugby Club 3rd team will feel the might of an as yet unbeaten Hampstead Heathens in a truly epic encounter between teams who clashed several times last season. Look out for Hamstead's star Lock and all round power-house (and model of on-the field discipline). I have promised my team-mates to not get sent off this year.Results can be found here http://hampsteadrugbyclub.co.uk/

On Sunday an international side is taking on Castle Ashby's pub side in Northamptonshire. The International Mongrel's Fast Bowler and all round Batting bunny (me) is their answer to Glenn McGrath. For those that don't know a "Bunny" is a batsman with a career average of less than 5. Bunny: i.e. Goes straight back to the hutch....



Hypocrisy in Uzbekistan

Most of the world has rejected hard power in most of its manifestations. And a good thing, you might say. Internationalism, however can be a smokescreen for apalling selfishness. The countries who opposed the intervention in Iraq most vociferously were the ones who were most implicated in supporting the regime of Mr. Hussein. France Russia and Germany were all beneficiaries of the Oil for food programme. They dressed their self-interested opposition to regime change in the language of international consensus. The were hoping an dictatorial regime would survive to prevent their own corruption becoming evident. Now most of the world believes that the coalition went to war for selfish reasons and France and Germany represent the path of righteousness. This is unfortunate.

If If America is to be acquitted of hypocrisy in Iraq, she must pull the plug on the regime of Islam Karimov in Uzbekistan. I need not go into the details of the regime, which is known to have boiled political opponents alive, but it is a "key ally in the war on terror". George, there's realpolitik and there's hypocrisy. This is the latter.

Karimov has not gone as far as Turkmenistan's Turkmenbashi, who has changed the names of the months after members of his family, the sign of a proper dictator, but he's still a nasty piece of work.





Monday, 5 September 2005





Hello

So I'd better introduce myself. I'm Malcolm, I'm a stockbroker of libetertarian conservative political viewpoint. I think a blog would be a good space for me to pontificate on the markets, cricket, rugby, politics and anything else that interests me. Hopefully it will allow me to get things off my chest, without having to bore my colleague or my housemate about it!

I will try to avoid spouting cliches in responce to international disasters and try to say something different. It goes without saying that our thoughts go out to the victims of war, famine and disaster. Saying so doesn't help them get food water or medical attention.



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