Tuesday, 31 January 2006

Freedom of Information

I believe in free speech. Apart from matters of life and death (war and counter terrorism, for example) where secrecy is justified on the grounds that agents lives are at risk, I believe censorship is counterproductive.

Therefore I opppose attempts by my Government to create offences which ammount to thought crime - the new "religious hatred" bill. In fact I believe that even Britain's current race-hate laws go too far.

That is not to say I support the odious simians of Nick Griffin's BNP. I do not, but putting him on trial for saying what many believe makes a martyr of him. I think it would be better to have him spouting his rhetoric out in public, where his ideas can be ridiculed. Incitement to racial hatred is bad, but I don't believe it follows that it should be a crime.

Many BNP supporters are just ignorant fools, equally opressed as the people they affect to despise. Mr Griffin is given a powerful rhetorical tool when he says "they could lock me up for saying this". I say let him. Society has demonstrated the futility of race hate, ideas which are not suceptible to law, but are succeptable to reason.

Incitement to murder or violence is, and should be a crime. Mr. Griffin is careful to not say "go out and beat up asians" and anyone who does following one of his meetings will be punished. To do violence against someone on the grounds of race is punishable by greater sentences than for other motivations.

So so long as someone doesn't incite violence, he shold be able to state his case, even if he is stirring up hatred. Opinions don't kill people, people do and people can be persuaded not to. In a secretive organisation in fear of the law, the other side has even less chance of persuading the BNP thug of the error of his ways.

Many people feel that Islam is not protected, but from what can a set of beliefs be protected? Denmark is enduring a Hissy-fit from the muslim world over a newspaper which published pictures of the Prophet. The Danish political leadership have refused to appologise sufficiently, on the Grounds that a Dane can say more or less what he likes in print. Saudi Arabia has withdrawn its ambassador. If critical comment, and ridicule are outlawed in the UK, then such opinion is likely to be driven underground and into the arms on Mr. Griffin, and people are more likely to act on their prejudice.

On the other side of the coin, the muslim world must engage with its headbangers. Theo Van Gough may be guilty of making a very boring film, but he didn't deserve to die for it. Salman Rushdie didn't deserve to endure years in hiding (though the publicity didn't do his sales any harm). There are countless examples where fear of insulting Muslim opinion has caused people to moderate their expressions of distaste aginst the faith.

This makes for a deeply problematic situation where a majority of people in the west have negative (and probably largely unjustified and unrepresentative) views of Islam, but to express them risks Fatwa. Most muslims are reasonable, and can accept differences of opinion, but too many hot-heads seek to bully the west with its own tolerance, demanding too much protection for their faith against reasonable discourse. Here the threat of violence and the rhetoric of victimhood are also used. This stifling of debate prevents the real picture from outing and encourages anti muslim feeling.

Linked, but off on a tangent is the British 30-year rule for release of official documents. The public's opinion of politicians is that of self serving liars. Politicians are afforded to much leeway to get away with lies, untruth and manipulation because when it gets out, they'll be dead. If discourse was opened up, politicians would be forced to be more honest, and as a direct result the public's opinion of them would go up. This would also result in better government.

Put simply, I can see no place where reasonable, open discourse with all available information in public is better than any stifling of debate. Governments shouldn't seek to protect people from words, only violence. That's why freedom of speech is enshrined in the American Constitution and in Centuries of Common Law practice. Only the wrong have something to fear from open debate. In this, dictators (commie and facist) make common cause with religious loons, the liberal left, conservative right and authoritarian politicians the world over, in seeking to have some opinions ruled Illegal. Opinions should be voiced, tested, demostrated foolish, declared dangerous, or sometimes even agreed with, but never ever outlawed.

That's why I blog.



Thursday, 26 January 2006

The Chinese "Threat"


At some point over the last couple of years, the Chinese economy overtook that of Britain. Naturally this is an inexact science, but a population 21 times ours now shares roughly the same amount of wealth.

Some commentators have interpreted this as a "threat". China's growth rate is around 9% or so per annum compared to a sclerotic 2-3% in the UK.

I'm not sure of the reason behind the fixation with GDP. What's important is GDP per capita. I.e. How much each individual has to play with. On this measure Britain is still wealthy, but it's 5th place in the GDP table masks a much worse performance in GDP per head, where we are 20th, behind Australia, and shockingly, Belgium. Each British subject (I am not a citizen of anywhere, especially not Europe) has just 75% of what an American has to play with.

This is by the by. China's growth is inevitable and to be welcomed. Some of the worlds poorest and most oppressed people are finally getting to enjoy the benefits of the modern world. The way China is going about this growth though is unsustainable. It is based on selling things cheaply to the United States and Europe and there's a limit to how much growth this can generate. With cheap labour, what the Chinese risk doing is Exporting deflation to the world. At persent this deflationary impulse is to some extent masking the inflationary fiscal policy of extravagent governemnts, who can borrow excessive sums without risking inflation because goods from China drag RPI down. When this imbalance corrects itself, western consumers will stop buying Chinese stuff, then the Chinese economic miracle could fall over like a house of cards.

I do not think therefore the Chinese will be the next great global power. 1.3 billion people gives them a certain clout, but the real up and coming heavyweight is not the Dragon, but the Tiger. India is growing at the relatively steady 5-8% per year, but the mechanism is not the same as Chinese Growth. Indians are developing domestic demand, not merely selling us cheap stuff (though they can, and do, do this very well). They are developing software, they are running banks, multinationals, airlines, shops, many Indian-owned or in partnerships with Americans and Europeans. Unlike the Chinese, who are relying on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), the Indians are keeping not just the wages, but the profits of their economic growth. Look at the performance of the Chinese and Indian stock markets for evidence of this.

The Indian with talent is not fleeing to the USA or Britain any more, as many chinese are still doing. They are going to Bombay (people who live there are not yet calling it Mumbai). That's real, sustainable development. The next superpower is not going to be a terrifying autocratic Hobbsian Leviathan, but an English-Speaking, Cricket-playing democracy from whom we have nothing to fear except healthy competition. We'd better up our game!

We need to stop strangling our economies with excessive tax and regulation. We need to dismantle the welfare states that are so damaging to the lives and ambitions of the people who have come to rely on them. We need to improve our education systems which need to generate excellence, not equality, it's not good, Mr Prescott if everything's equally rubbish. The Indians really will then take our jobs.

In short, the socialists will destroy us, given half a chance. "Reality", as Baroness Thatcher once said, "is Conservative".



Wednesday, 25 January 2006

The World's Dullest Degree


Reading is now offering a Masters in Regulation and Compliance for the Banking and Insurance industry. And it's symptomatic of a major problem in the Western Economy. It's also the only problem where the Americans are worse than the Europenans. I've taken examples from my industry, but evey sphere of economic life is being strangled by diktat and rules.

Too much industry is controlled by vast Bureaucratic companies and not enough by nimble entrepreneurs. Large companies and especially multinationals exist symbiotically with governments who seek to regulate these organisations. Large companies have the resources to fund people whose job it is to comply with these regulations. Small organisations don't. So small organisations get crushed. The purpose of the legislation is always to protect the consumer, but they result in a flight from risk and a herd mentality which is incredibly damamging especially to the private investor who is requesting advice.

It is this mentality which forced investment managers to buy Vodafone in 1999 for the simple reason that it was 16% of the market, despite the fact that most people could see it was over valued. (To do otherwise would be to take a big "bet" against the benchmark and risk outlier performance). Vodafone subsequently fell to around 30% of its peak value over the next 3 years or so. Clients lost a lot of money, but had no redress because the investment managers were all doing the same and following a "top-down" investment strategy.

So fewer opportunities exist for "seat of the pants" people prepared to ignore the benchmark, and back their own judgemment, and lots for the kind of gnome who thinks a degree (or certificate in Reg and Comp) befits someone for life at the economic sharp end. With everone hiding behind corporate process management, and the designers of that process management hiding behind the regulation, no-one takes personal responsibility for the decisions they make for their clients. And the client has to sign a million pieces of paper before anything can be done. Peoples' arses are covered but the output is shit.

There is more to life than the pointless learing and regurgitating of Knowledge. A first class degree doesn't indicate a first class mind. Experience and passion are more important than an Old University 2:1.

Large organisations like qualified people. Small orgainisations like people.

So when David Cameron says "we need to stand up to big business" he's right, but not in the way pinko fuck-wits think he is. We need to remove the obsecene competitive advantage overly restrictive regulation gives big companies. This will not only ensure that customers are served by people, and not machines, it will also create a happier, more empowered workforce. As I've mentioned before, pay is as nothing next to the thought you're doing a worthwhile job in generating employee satisfaction. People in big companies are crushed by the system in which they find themselves.

Overregulation is counterproducive to both Employee and Customer satisfaction, and creates a miserable society. It may protect customers from rare examples of incompetence, but at the risk of eating his soul.



Tuesday, 24 January 2006

This man is Deputy Prime Minister


John Prescott: "If you set up a school and it becomes a good school, then the danger is that everyone wants to go there"

In the word "danger" there is encapsulated every reason why I hate, loathe and despise socialism. It's envy dressed as egalitarianism. It's class hatred dressed as concern for the poor. It's a patronising belief that poor people can't help themselves. It's an unwillingness to accept that even if not eveyone can get an improvement straight away, that's no reason not to try to improve the lot of as many as you can. it's the crass belief that dragging the best down somhow improves the lot of the worst.

It's just wrong on so many levels that I don't know where to start. John Prescott voices (in a strangled aproximation of English which makes George W Bush look like Henry Higgins) the prejudices of the Labour Party's soul. He should be Ignored.



Monday, 23 January 2006

The Environment.

The Greenhouse effect is a FACT. Without it, we'd be a lump Ice covered rock, with no life.

  • CO2 is a greenhouse gas, though not the most potent by a long shot, but there's no doubt its concentration in the atmosphere is growing.
  • The level of CO2 in the atmosphere is one link in a chain of cause and effect that causes climatic change.
  • The world is, or appears to be getting warmer.
So far, so uncontentious. My problem is with the idea that man is causing a massive change in the climate, and that this change is unprecidented.
  • The Vikings grew wheat in Greenland where now nothing will grow in the permafrost. Eleanor of Aquitaine effecively banned English wine to protect her estates in Bordeaux. At present, vineyards are only viable south of the Thames. The Northern Atlantic at least therefore has got cooler over the last 1,000 years. SUV's were not to blame for the cooling, nor the subsequent warming from the 1700's (which, funnily enough is when accurate measurements started to be taken).
  • Limestone is one place where geological sequestration of carbon takes place. Chalk particularly is associated with green algae whose skeletons sink on death. I do not know the extent to which the oceans can absorb carbon in this way today. There's no doubt it's an ongoing process.
  • Ice ages are cyclical and enjoy a feed-back loop. As ice expands, more light is reflected, and the cooler the earth gets, expanding the ice further. Glacial retreat enjoys the same loop in reverse. A few warm winters would be enough to change the paradigm.
  • weather is not getting noticably more extreme, we're just better at reporting it.
  • Even if sea-ice melts, like the much reported Ross Ice shelf, it won't have that great an effect on the Sea Level (Ice floats and displaces almost as much sea as it would add in melt water). There's no evidence of the great ice sheets of the antarctic continent melting any time soon, which is what would be nessesary for Sea Levels to change dramatically.
So every time an environmentalist (whose job depends on the mortal panic of impending disaster) makes a doom laden prediction about our environment, i'm inclined to roll my eyes. I'm not convinced mankind is entirely to blame, and i'm not convinced that its as bad as its made out to be.
  • The human population is not the only one to be growing rapidly. The Ruminant population, with attendant production of methane (as a by product of cellulose digestion) is growing rapidly. This is due to increasingly affluent society's desire for meat, and the best cuts, which means more cows are needed for a pound of meat, because eveyone wants steak and no-one wants brisket. Methane concentrations in the atmosphere have doubled in the last 100 years, and CO2 has gone up a mere 30% in the same time. Perhaps this is as easy a target as the motorist?
  • There is a correlation between solar activity and global climatic change.
  • Volcanoes also affect climate.
  • Global warming will actually increase the land available for sucessful agrculture. Climatic zones will merely shift north (and in the southern hemisphere, south). Grapes will again grow in England (unless the Gulf-Stream shifts)
So where does this leave us? I am aware the world is getting warmer, though no-one's yet persuaded me that anything unusual is happening given we are 10,000 years out of an Ice Age, in a period when the continents are uniquely well-aligned to produce Ice. We are considerably cooler as a planet than when the dinosaurs roamed the land.

The entire environmental movement is fixated on the notion that man's to blame for everything and we'd better drive toyota Priuses now or we're all going to die! The solutions that they talk about are tailored to fit the prejudices of the Left. (anti business, anti western anti capitalist), and perhaps not based on the soundest of science.

What is happening is an orthodoxy is developing. The people who sit on committees which allocate research funding have all come to the same view, into which they have invested the energy of their entire careers. Research which looks into other causes of global warming just doesn't get done, or if it does it is tainted in the Academics eyes by business money. It is difficult to challenge the consensus. Look at what happened when Bjorn Lomborg released the Skeptical Environmentalist.

Whilst efficient use of energy is desirable on so many levels, there are many, many more important environmental issues. Deforestation, over fishing, desertification caused by over grazing, chemical pollution of rivers and the sea. The biggest mass extinction in since the late cetaceous catastrophe. Solutions to these more often than not require economic growth. Global warming really is a total nonsense next to these ecological disasters which are ongoing. For the money Koyoto targets cost the world, we could give everyone (every-starving-one) clean water, and a job which doesn't involve cutting down trees.

The fuss is about the wrong things. Earn some money and go out and enjoy the sunshine while it lasts. You'll be doing the environment more good than throwing rocks at the G8.



Friday, 20 January 2006

We Few. We happy few...
























There are occasions where discrimination and violence on grounds of ethnicity are acceptable. I am of course talking about London's social rugby clubs. There are the well-known London Welsh, Scottish and Irish. The latter is known as Thames-Valley South-African as they neither play in London nor do they have many Irishmen. There are also London Nigerian, New-Zealand, Australian and probably a great number of others. Our opponents tomorrow are London French.

Tonight, I'm going to watch Henry V (the one with Kenneth Brannagh) and ponder the Genius of planning and diplomacy which sees the Train from Paris arrive in London's Waterloo Station. I'm hoping that the result of the game will be more along the lines of Trafalgar (22-0 to us) or Agincourt (5000-113 to us) than urm... um... uh... I can't think of one.

Of course, when the final whistle goes, we're all European friends and I'll raise a toast to L'Entente Cordialle in a glass of Bordeaux's finest. Until then Anglo-French relations will be more of the 1815 than 2005.



Monday, 16 January 2006

Paedophillia

If there is a more fraught issue in Britain then I've yet to discover it.

It tuns out that the teacher in the center a storm about "pervert sirs" sexually assaulted a 15 year-old girl in 1980, while he was a teacher.

Terrible? Shouldn't be allowed to teach. Why is he out on the streets to attack again?

It turns out that he then went on to have a 19-year marriage,with the girl in question, who he first met when he was 36, and fathered 3 children with her. The marriage broke up during his conviction for small-scale fraud. That sounds a whole lot different to the picture of the man that was painted in the press over recent days.

Meanwhile the unfortunate who started this last round nonce-baiting lynch-mob frenzy was once merely cautioned (not convicted, cautioned) for viewing child porn. He has no criminal record, and probably didn't want his name dragged through the courts and so did what was nessesary to make the offence go away as quickly as possible, whether or not he did what he was accused, he's still innocent of any crime because he hasn't been convicted. According to police logic, he's less dangerous than the naughty person who eats whilst making a right turn. He has been pictured in papers, his name everywhere, with the obvious risks to his personal safety that this entails.

The tabloids get on their high horse, while having topless pictues of girls in their paper who in many cases are little more than a couple of years older than the schoolgirls the sun is baying to protect. Despite this double standard, the sun is once again almost inciting vigilanteism.

The Government has already given in to this tabloid feeding frenzy by removing the ultimate power for saying who teaches from the minister for education to a panel of experts. This will probably be the same panel of experts who advised the Secretary of State for Education (or her unfortunate underlings) to allow these individuals to teach in the first place.

Now, it is clearly wrong to allow someone who has a sexual interest in children to teach, but peoples livlihoods and indeed lives cannot be destroyed without some sort of proof, tested in court. The baying mob needs to have a sense of perspective and to understand that there's a world between an inappropriate reletionship and abuse. There's great distances between an individual who through morbid curiosity or excitement of the forbidden logs on to an illegal website and someone who would act on this impulse in the real world. That is probably the rationale for allowing these individuals to teach.

So without condoning sexual abuse or child porn, I say that I find the tabloid frenzy terrifying and dangerous. Worse still, that the Tories are demeaning themselves by calling for the blameless Ruth Kelly's head (though I accept bagging a minister's scalp is always tempting), and unbelievably awful that the government is giving in to the mob.

To paraphrase the good Samuel Johnson "concern for the children is the last refuge of the scoundrel".

And probably innocent paediatricans will get it in the neck again....



Friday, 13 January 2006

Tramp, Tramp, Tramp goes the British Jackboot.

Tony Blair's latest wheeze is to give the police more summary powers. That is to give the police even more powers than they already have to hand out punishments, with no trial and little right of appeal.

His Tonyness says that this is because "all that trial nonsense" means minor assault and vandalism are not punished because it is not worth the police's time to do the paperwork for piffling offenses. Furthermore, freeholders are going to be evicted from their property, the police is going to be able to confiscate your chattals and currency on evidence below that which would suffice in a court of law and to top it all off, they can now arrest you on a whim.

Whilst this plays well in the "Daily Mail" who would like nothing more than for the police to harrass chavs for wearing hoodies and listening to (shock) "so-called rap music", this does nothing to advance liberty, respect or public order. It is more a reflection on the police's currently warped priorities.

A young man was fined and banned recently for sticking his fingers up at a speed camera. He was not speeding, and did not lose control, but was punished for dangerous driving, because he had both hands off the wheel. Last year a woman was punished for "due care and attention" for eating an apple at the wheel. What is most worrying is that she was prosecuted with more alacrity than most thieves.

Meanwhile, someone spitting at a 80-year old woman in the street is considered too much work to prosecute, as is theft, burgalry, robbery, most common assault and threatening behaviour. (not my opinion, the Prime Minister's)

If the police ceased harassing the motorist, and those naughty, naughty religious leaders who dare to be consistent with the tennets of their faith by saying "homosexuality is wrong"*; if the government got rid of bureacracy, targets and that gnome, Charles Clark, then the police would be able to deal with vandals and petty thieves without the need to be given given powers more in keeping with the Gestapo than public servants in the Mother of Democracies.

His Tonyness is a Barrister. He should know that the rule of Law works both ways in that it needs to be respected by the Governemnt as well ar the people. If governemnt is going to undermine due process, then why should we respect the institutions of state coercive power, politicians, or anyone else?

I'm sure the Rozzas would much rather be out feeling the collars of crooks than filling in forms in triplicate, and fining motorists for eating, and I'm even more sure that this is what the British public want them to do. Perhaps thay should be left to get on with their job, without targets and interference from whitehall.

Yet again I will call for a police force accountable to directly elected local politicians to make this happen.

*not an opinion with which I concur.



Thursday, 12 January 2006

A Guilty Secret

I Watch Celebrity Big Brother.

This Year's housemates are a fascinating bunch. Though I'm even more morally troubled than usual this time around, as they are even more psychologically disturbed than even previous BB contestants. I'll deal with the ones who aren't destroying themselves first:

  • Dennis Rodman - Utterly sex-obsessed, but otherwise much more normal than I expected. He's a massive star. What the hell is he doing with these C-listers?
  • Georgeous George Galloway - The Demagogue has actually been a bit of a dissapointment. He's coming across as reasonable, intelligent and even wise (though shining in this company of human detritus is not hard). He may or may not have damaged his political career by entering big brother, but it is hard to see how this is worse than saluting Saddam Hussein.
  • Rula Lenska - Too well balanced to offer much in this emotional Gladiator contest. A bit mumsy to the girls. Is she or isn't she going to get off with the recently single mr. Galloway?
  • Preston Samuel - Again, someone who comes across as an ordinary, intelligent bloke. No chips on shoulders and an honest broker in a house full of mega-egos.
  • Traci Bingham - God damn she looks good for 37. And what a delightful human being too. Very much like Preston in fact.
  • Maggot - Face like a spat-out toffee but otherwise normal. I suspect he'll reveal hidden depths as the weeks go on. Seems to be an entertaining bloke. I am unwilling, however to entertain the notion as suggested on a recent TV phone-in that there's "electric sexual tension" between him and Michael Barrymore. Eurggh.
  • Faria - I think she's tempted to bonk Dennis. After all, celebrity kiss n' tell is what she's famous for.
We now descend into the psychological disaster area.
  • Chantelle - the non-celeb housemate is far too young and impressionable to be safe in this company. Dennis will abuse her before the show is out and I don't think her friendship with Jodie is healthy for her career. She is borderline normal, but at risk, as she comes across as a sweet little girl.
  • Pete Burns - is involved in a hugely Bitchy war with Jodie, which he'll win, but he's coming across as a bit of a bully. A bit sanctimonious "Are you gay?" "I'm in what society would currently describe as a homosexual relationship", and his Impersenation of Jodie is funny, but he's being very vindictive. I suspect he's glad that negative opinion is focussed on someone else so he can bask in the attention that being a bitch can generate.
  • Michael Barrymore - Ever since a young man's body was found floating in his pool following a sex and drugs party, he's been hounded by the media. He remains a very funny and talented man, but as a stereotype of the depressed comic he shouldn't have been allowed into the house. Daily tears and a very public breakdown can't be healthy. I hope it will be a cathartic experience, but suspect it could destroy him.
  • Jodie Marsh - This is the compelling viewing. In the same way a car wreck is compelling. She came into the house to show the "real Jodie", not the rubbish spouted by the media, only to demonstrate the fact that the media picture was, if anything kind to this foul-mouthed, arrogant, self-centred, sexually incontinent, prejudiced, ignorant, opinionated tart. She's demonstrated herself to have no redeeming features (well, possibly 2 redeeming features) Clearly this is edited to show her worst side, but I think the booing she'll get when she leaves will really disturb her.
Morally then, watching people tear each other and themselves apart is about the same level as the show in the Flavian Ampitheatre about 100 AD. We like to think we've advance but we haven't. But just as there were willing volounteers for the Gladiator schools, there's people who will risk their sanity and dignity for a shot at fame.

What can we do but watch? (and secretly despise ourselves for it)



Tuesday, 10 January 2006

Why the religious will inherit the earth

Richard Dawkins makes some very interesting points in his critique of religion on channel 4 last night. I agree with him whole-heartedly that Gods and Devils are constructs of the human mind, and are responsible for more human misery than almost anything else. They are the root of much that is wrong with the world, especially if you include the atheist faith of Marxism/Leninism.

What he doesn't do however is take his ideas from his excellent, if repetitive books and apply them to the question he is dealing with.

If you look at the archaeological record, you'll notice that the human condition worsens significantly on the development of agriculture. You only need to look at modern subsistence farmers to coroberate this. Farmers were smaller, weaker, sicker and died younger than their hunter-gatherer forebears.

So why did farming spread?

Well, farmers are organised and able to support large populations on a given piece of land. They are able, indeed compelled to field armies to defend their land and are therefore able to push hunters and pastoralists onto the most marginal land, where they sadly now remain.This is despite the hunter-gatherer being an altogether more impressive physical specimin, used to killing who, one-on-one, would have no trouble dispatching a rickets-ridden farmer. The poorly organised hunting bands however didn't stand a chance.

Even nomadic herders eventually succumed: The riches available to the controllers of an agrarian society seduced those pastoralists who occasionally over-ran them, from the Chariot peoples of Mesopotamia to the Mongol Hordes into giving up nomadism by forming a warrior aristocracy over their conquered subjects. This didn't help the individual farmer though. Serfdom, slavery, conquest and subjugation are hardy perrenials in the Farmers' lot.

So societies develop according to Darwinian strengths, not nessesarily in keeping with the goal of improving human happiness.

Religious societies have several advantages over the secular, in the battle of ideas, as well as the battle of cold steel. A Society with a strong conviction of right and wrong; life and death, is more likely to go out and spread those ideas and have the will to see any fight to its bitter conclusion. The old addage that "there are no atheists in foxholes"(though I know of at least one) demonstrates the military advantages of religious faith.

look at societies who have gone and created empires: Victorian Britain (and 21st Century Uncle Sam): Muscular Christianity; The Aztecs: The blood thirsty cult of Huizilopochtlid who demanded war to feed his need for Human sacrifice: The Abbasid and Umayyid Caliphates had all the force of a new religion driving them as far as central France, 200 years before the first Crusade; The Crusades: Religious armies maintained an expeditionary kingdom for 500 years in Jerusalem.

Naturally the British, and the inheritors of Pax Brittanica, the Americans, are the most restrained of this lot. Our religiosity has been thus far tempered by scientific rationalism, curiosity, tolerance and humanity. Neverthe less it is Religious belief which has helped create the sense of purpose and unity nessesary to go out and do great violence to people who disagree.
Furthermore, it is axiomatic that religious societies have more children than post modern, secular ones.

So by Dawkins own rationale, the religous "meme" confers real, quantifiable darwinian benefits to societies that adhere to them, despite the misery and violence that this undoubtedly causes, not to mention the opportunity cost of intelligent people wasting their time on theology when they could have been inventing a cure for cancer. So whilst Dawkins is right that Faith is silly*, unthinking obedience to the paranoid droolings of ancient schitzophrenics, he must also see the potential advantages and almost inevitable sucess these ideas confer. That is why he fears religion so greatly.

So what can the free thinkers of Europe, North America (outside the bible-belt) and the pacific rim do in the face of the unthinking hate of the faithful? The rational atheist must take a leaf out of Professor Dawkin's book and go out and by persuasion, destroy faith. However the very questionioning nature of societies and belief-systems founded on free thought means we lack the conviction to argue sucessfully against blind faith. As Dawkins put it last night: "the walls are too strong". Our refusal to accept that anyone (especially ourselves) have the answers leads us to a kind of benign agnosticism which will mean that we cannot see evil, or its causes without blaming ourselves to some extent.**

That is why we'll lose. The secular need conviction. We NEED to hate religon as much as the faithful hate Atheism. We need to disrespect the faith and persuade the faithful to open their minds. We need to know we are right and if you believe in God, you are wrong.

Failure to follow this path is WW III and a return to the stone age as fast-breeding bible-belt tub-thumpers take on the bearded loons of the Middle East in an apocalypic battle that, once Iran has Nukes, will finish us all. Overstating my case? This is uncontroversial on the nuttier wings of the American evangelical movement and you don't seriously believe that Iran's desire to get nukes is purely defensive do you?

So your faith might be Benign, "faith optional" Church of England or Reform Judaiism, but it's a slippery slope to the suicide bomber's vest or the Crusader's sword. After all, once you accept the idea that "this is the word of God/Allah/Jehova" (delete as applicable) you'll start to belive things as ridiculous as the Rapture, 72 virgins and Biblical Israel is your God-given home.

Reject the whole damn lot and in the words of William S. Preson Esq. and Ted Thodore Logan "Just be excellent to each other." Surely you don't need God to tell you that?

*i'm sorry Cradams, but yes. Silly.
** Read the Guardian for the "mea maxima cultpa" school of problem-analysis



Friday, 6 January 2006

The High Water Mark

The reaction of the League against cruel sports to this has been one of staggering hypocrisy. Apparently the "Freepost" address they have set up has cost them £10,000.

Brilliant!

If I am going to be prosecuted for my opinion, then you'd better get Jeremy Clarkeson, who sent a paving slab, according to his column in the Sun on Saturday 17th December, and the Evening Standard as well, for they both published the freepost address, with the suggestion that it be abused, and abused magnificently. Both of whom, I fear have much greater readership than "A Very British Dude".

The LACS have attepted to intimidate anyone who has the termerity to disagree with them. What's more they have the gall and sheer chutzpah to condemn direct action, which is what this is. So attacking hunt supporters, tresspass and assault are alright? But a very mild taste of their own medicine has the animal rights lobby squealing to the police, who I very much hope have better things to do than act as the heavy mob for some unwashed greenhairs.

In fact since the ban on hunting came into force, the number of unwashed slobs waving placards at hunt meets has been remarkably small. The very fact of being within the law and the process of gathering evidence seems to have confused them*. Their feeble attempts to have this unworkable legislation enforced have ended in abject failure, hence the use of private prosecutions. No doubt they'll resort to doctoring the evidence, as they always used to do when making allegations of assualt against Hunt supporters.

Given that the LACS contains a number of extremeists from the SHAC, ALF and other organisations, who step well over the line of direct action and into terroism, I fear little of the animal rights lobby's attemtpts to intimidate me with legal action. Needless to say their attempts to get people fired for forwardng e-mails has been a total flop. Meanwhile The result is that Hunting goes on with a few minor changes, such as the use of Eagle owls, or the use of a rifle if a Fox needs to be killed (if that is what the farmer asks us to do) or the use of runners laying trails if not. It has also become a lot more popular, with the number of supporters on foot and on Horseback being noticably greater than last year.

No doubt they will now daub paint, send excrement and spend time on other really productive activities. But I will never back down. Given that vandalism, criminal damage and sending hate mail and worse (the animal rights lobby's modus operandi) actually are offences under British Law, I hope the police might prosecute them for their cowardly assault on freedom of opinion.

I suggest the Hunt ban was a high water mark for the animal rights crowd, and that public opinion has turned against them, now light is being shone on their methods, opinions and activities.

*if they could be any more ill-informed and confused. Recently a friend had a sab shout "its cruel to dock a horses tail". That may be the case, but the tail in question was merely wearing a travelling bandage to prevent poo messing up the grooming. That's the level of knowledge we're dealing with here.



Feeling Old


I went swimming last night and the pool had a big inflatable assault course floating in 2 of the lanes. You start at one end and you negotiate the obstacles, while pool attendants throw buckets of water at you.

It looked really good fun, but the life guards wouldn't let big kids play. There really is no justice in this world.



Wednesday, 4 January 2006

Prove Christ's Existence?

An Italian who formerly trained for the priesthood is suing the church for "Abusing popular credulity". As a misuse of the courts, this takes the buiscuit. Never the less, the fact that an Italian Court has ordered a Catholic priest, the otherwise blameless Father Righi, to prove that Christ exists is extremely funny. I shall be following this with interest.



Tuesday, 3 January 2006

The world's most boring blog

If there's an ultimate nightmare that I wouldn't want to get stuck with at a dinner party, this lentil muncher probably is it! (mind you, she would probably feel the same way about me)



Why Capitalism will win (eventually) and why some people hate it

To explain Capitalism, you need to expalin its extremes, what they do and why they exist. Capitalism's far fringes are occupied by the Futures markets: A zero some game, where a win is someone else's loss. How can it be healthy for an economy to have so vast a market so red in tooth and claw?

It is nessesary to think back to their evolution. Immagine you are a grain farmer in Michigan. You make all your money in one month of the year, but a good harvest will see your grain price tumble (supply and demand), a poor harvest sees prices rocket. At the beginning of the season you do not know whether you are going to have a bad or a good harvest, or whether the market is going to be under or oversupplied come September. Obviously the best case scenario is you have a good harvest, with lots of grain to sell and everyone else has a poor one, but the opposite is equally likely.

So you go to a bread maker and sell some of your grain before you grow it. You then have a contract to deliver a certain quantity of grain on a certain date at a given price. The bread maker has this too. The farmer is short (selling) grain and the baker is Long (buying). Immagine the summer is warm, but there's no drought. September is forecast to be hot and sunny and there's going to be a bumper crop. The grain price tumbles, but your contract with the baker still stands. The contract itself is now worth money because it allows someone to sell grain at a price higher than that available in the market.

The farmer can sell his contract to a third party and invest the money in a new grain silo ahead of the harvest. Without the contract, whose value he has already realised he is forced to take the lower immediate market (spot) price in the harvest season, but he still has the new silo. In the meantime the men in braces are buying and selling that contract according to the movements in the price of grain. They are making and losing fortunes, but in reality they are there to provide someone to take the contracts of the supplier and the end user. In market terminology: to provide liquidity.

Both the baker and the farmer can use the futures markets to gain certainty for planning of their businesses.

The same is true of Capital for industrial investment. People with money can invest in companies by buying shares or bonds. The money is used to buy assets which will generate revenue. The money will naturally flow to the most profitable sectors. This is acheived by thousands of decisions taken independantly. Whils this mechanism is not perfect, its better than anything state planning can achieve. The leftie fundamentally mistrusts the market, because he believes that profit is the difference between what you should pay and what you do pay. He can't see the profit as the motivator keeping the entire system efficient. This efficiency is what drives the private sector to generate return on capital. It is why the public sector, without the discipline of the capital markets is inefficient by comparison. The lefties desire to control economic outcomes means the market's irrational exuberence causes them fear. Fear of what they don't want to understand and can't control, so they seek to tax the money out of the market.

Efficient use of capital, allows free markets to grow faster over the long term. By 1980 or so, America and its allies could outspend the soviets on weapons, whilst not having to make the "Guns or butter" trade-off. Growing, efficient economies generated a bigger economy, so that after forty years or so of the cold war 7% or so of the american pie was bigger than around 50% of the Soviet block's pie. War would crush the soviet economy whilst barely denting the US budget.

Now there's no enemy, and people in europe are clamouring for an abandoning of fiscal discipline and spending restraint for more spending on Health and other social services. This fills a short term need or desire, but it serves to limit the growth of the economy in the long run. High tax economies grow slower than low tax ones. This is axiomatic. So what the people are asking for is for long term growth to be sacrificed for more spending on health from taxation. This is effectively asking for your children to pay your taxes for you. Socialists like high taxation, and especially progressive taxation because it punishes the rich. this is the motivation for much of what the socialists do, whether or not their intellectual heads know that this is extremely bad for the economy and, by extension, the poor, their emotional heads can't resist a bit of class war. just look at John "two jags" Prescott's outbursts this week.

The Labour parties jibe at the Tories is that we want to cut services. Typically it is put rhetorically thus: "How can you cut taxes without cutting services. Your sums don't add up". In fact it's Gordon Brown who has got his sums wrong. Mervyn King, the govenor of the Bank of England has blamed Gordon's tax rises for the recent slowdown in growth. So it is Gordon who is taking money out of the efficient private sector and putting it into the inefficient public sector, and as a result slowing the growth in the economy.

What would make sense is for the governement to live within its means. If spending grew slower than the economy, there would be more money for health, education, law & order and defence, and money for tax cuts. 10 years down the line, if Britain is to take this approach we will continue to be fastest growing major economy in Europe. If Brown gets his way, there'll be decades of Slow growth, stagnation, possibly deflation and misery. Decades of being the "sick man of Europe" again.

Share the proceds of growth between services on the one hand and tax cut on the other is David Cameron's battle cry. It isn't as radical as I'd like, but it's a step in the right direction. It's also palatable to the economic illiterates who make up the electorate. Cutting taxes therfore doesn't mean cuts in services and the public needs to be educated of this fact.

Capitalism is also blamed for environmental destruction. Whilst the problems with energy use, such as CO2 emissions are worse in industrialised economies, on every other measure the richer the economy, the better the environment. Most environmentalists are also more or less socialist and therefore fear and mistrust the markets. This explains their rock thowing antics at G8 and the like. Capitalism, however has proved a system capable of generating solutions if they are given economic rationale. Perhaps it is up to governemnt to encourage technological solutions to CO2 emissions, but there's no doubt that a lot of work is heading in the right direction.

Capitalism wins because it takes the emotions of greed (if you want to use a perjorative) or man's natural desire to improve his lot (if you don't) and channels it into socially beneficial ends. It accepts that economic freedom leaves people happier than stagnation on welfare, or hopeless drugery in state-owned businesses. Captialism is comfortable with unequal outcomes, less so with unequal opportunities, which is why education policy is so important.

We tubthumpers for the capitalist cause accept the system is not perfect, but it is, as Churchill almost said, better than all the alternatives. What we need to do is to educate people as to how the system works and therefore how to get the best from it. We must never allow socialist rhetoric to get the upper hand, as is the constant danger in Europe. Cut tax and set the economy free to attempt to solve all of the world's problems.



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