Thursday, 27 January 2011


'Multiculturalism' is a much abused word. Broadly, when used as a pejorative by those of the Daily Mail tendency, usually in phrases such as "the failed experiment in multiculturalism" which means "I don't like wogs". When used enthusiastically by the loony left in phrases such as "Celebrating multiculturalism", it means "White people are evil". The dictionary definition is "the policy of maintaining a diversity of ethnic cultures within a community". In practice, it's often for or against "the muslims".

Maybe it could be a libertarian idea? I like the fact that Britain is home to people whose family origins are all over our formerly vast empire. People liked the mother country sufficiently to settle here, and despite New Labour's best efforts, this country remains a better place to live than Somalia, Afghanistan or France. This is good. Now as a libertarian, I couldn't give a tinker's cuss about what people say, do, or think, so long as they leave me and my friends alone, and refrain from sponging off my taxes, so I enthusiastically endorse the dictionary definition of multiculturalism. The point of libertarianism is that individuals should be free to live as they choose, with the above caveats. And as most people display "in-group preference", there is a tendency for ethnic and cultural groups to concentrate into discreete areas of towns. Jews in Golders Green, Bangladeshis in Whitechapel and dick-heads in Hoxton, using London as an example. So long as this is not enforced either legally or informally in any serious way, this is just natural. A side effect of such assortive residency leads naturally to the easier maintenance of cultural norms such as ringlets, beards or stupid, identical haircuts with a spiky hairspray mohecan and a job in
"media"a mobile phone shop - and bingo!: Different areas have recognisably different people in them. We're "Multicultural".

The "hoxton fin"

Consider this, when you start using the word "multicultural": Are you actually disapproving of the actions and culture of people you don't know, facing different challenges and problems to you, about whom you know little? Are you hoping that "multiculturalism" might act as a wedge, to change the country you live in to one you might approve of (but probably won't)? Or does "multiculturalism" mean "live, and let live"? If so, Amen! Right on, brother, we're onto something.

Jairmany Calling

The Wireless arm of our State Propaganda service Al_Beeb is to undergo swinging cuts. Apparently the BBC World Service is closing off the Serbian, Montenegrin, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, Albanian, Vietnamese and Ukrainian. Also to go is the Caribbean arm, which should kill of the sales of luminous shirts with Pineapples on them in Portland Place. T’Brothers of Labour are upset with Dennis McShane whining “ He's doing in part what no dictator has ever achieved - silencing the voice of the BBC, the voice of Britain, the voice of democracy, the voice of balanced journalism at a time when it is more than ever needed”. Now correct me if I’m wrong Mr McShane, but aren’t you lot always whining about Cultural Imperialism, had an immigration and devolution policy that was deliberately designed to kill off the idea of Britain, and didn’t you bin some other world service broadcasts? The Kalahari San Bushmen click language, Ancient Sanskrit, I have no idea what you binned because I don’t really care but I know you did bin something. And that makes you, on this issue, a great big fucking hypocrite.

It has also been opined by those in the media who like the idea of a nice easy sinecure for their autumn years that this is in the words of the Independent “A hard Knock to soft power”. And that a “relatively small nation such as Britain may struggle to be heard in the age of globalisation”. Well North Korea manages to be heard. And there’s only 20 Million of those poor buggers still alive after their regular famine culls. Why? Because they make sure their foreign policy demands that they are heard – even if what they are speaking is complete bollocks. Why don’t our diplomats make sure we’re heard? If they spent less time working the shaft and cupping the balls of the EU and actually spoke up in favour of Britain, we wouldn’t need the BBC. Why should the British taxpayer hire people with names like the contents of a Scrabble bag that speak the lingo, stick em on the Bolshevik Broadcasting Corporation and make sure their nation can listen to the British view on their electrification project? Our diplomats should be doing this.

And the other point about being heard is that everybody speaks English, last time I checked most of the world services that are closing have internet connections, and who the hell listens to the wireless any more anyway? You put it on in your car, but judging by the numbers of sub-woofers in your average Caribbean Toyota Pick up truck, and the number of songs about “Boom Boom Battyman” coming out of their vehicles, they haven’t been listening to the BBC’s Op-Ed on Gay and Lesbian rights. And when I was in Vietnam, everybody drives a moped and is too busy trying to balance their grandmother on the handlebars to listen to radio even if they actually fitted them in the first place.

Soft Power. Pah. Well, that did fuck all for us in winning that Soccer World Cup Bid. Did the Indians go any less Commie or buy any more of our goods in the 70’s and 80’s because they play Cricket? Did we all go out and buy Fosters because we were influenced by the Aussie lifestyle as shown on Neighbours, or because it was 40p cheaper per can than proper beer? Do the Yanks sell Coca Cola because they put the adverts on Voice of America, or because it tastes nice on a hot day. And do the Americans continue to dominate the world Auto industry by putting Steve Mcqueen in a Ford Mustang? Err No they don’t. Basically because they build shit cars that drink Petrol, Fall Apart and Corner like an Elephant on Greased Roller-skates. The Japs on the other hand contribute only Hello Kitty to the world and they sell ¾ of the world their Cars. The other ¼ is sold by Ze Germanz whose only post war contribution to world culture is 99 Luftballons.

You have economic power which can force countries to do your bidding, but even that has limits. Nobody listens to the Swedish Justice minister just so they can understand the instructions to their £10.89 ClåäK Clöirk Cliick Fååk Tromsö Bookshelf. You can have agreements. But even then, unless you’re a member of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, you’re going to do what’s in your own interests. There’s only one type of power that people really listen to. It’s called a Gunboat and even then you only listen to it when it’s parked in your main harbour sinking your shipping.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Travelgall’s Manifesto

One of my dear readers called Anonymous has decided I’m a snob and a rotter. That I’m “not a good person”. I have to admit the Epater le bourgeoisie part of me wants to prove them right. But I can’t be bothered running round trying to find little fluffy kittens to drop kick, lollypops to steal or fat people to laugh at – obviously you don’t have to run around to find the fat people. However unlike my blog companion Jackart I have a vague CofE belief in a bloke on a cloud who lobs lightening bolts so I tend to stay on the straight and narrow.

As for the mean spirited bit. That’s the whole point of blogging. “Can’t we all just get along” is fine for a women’s institute coffee morning, but it makes fairly dull reading. Anybody who has ever read an in flight magazine or the Guardian will attest to this. As a writer I follow the P J O’Rourke dictum of writing as if I’d had a few drinks, the bloke at the end of the bar - varnish off - school of writing. I alliterate on many occasions to prove a point, so I’m not that full on in my real life, but I have to try and entertain. Because earnestness is just another word for dull.

Blogging also fills a void left over by the mainstream media. Quite frankly there are a lot of stupid people with bad and dangerous ideas in the world. These people need to be mocked – mercilessly, and Al-Beeb isn’t going to do it. If enough people mocked Communism, Fascism, Mercantilism, and the ELV’s then they might not have seen the light of day.

But as to the Snob factor – Guilty as charged. I refuse to drink “Sparkling Wine” on Religious grounds. I Believe that people who watch reality TV shows and soap operas shouldn’t be allowed to vote (You get a choice, strictly dancing on ice x factor or The Government), that Polo is a proper sport, that Association football isn’t. That Gold is a vile material only owned by gauche Arabs and Russians. That people who gold plate their bathroom should be executed. That people who shop at Gucci should incur a 101% wealth tax. That a pin stripe suit should be worn by anybody over 25, that Spandex shouldn’t be worn by anybody under 25. That anybody who appears in “I’m a celebrity should be refused re-entry to the nation, that anybody who isn’t an American citizen who has ridden in a “Limousine” should be expelled from our nation. That we should bring back landmines so we can place them round Bluewater, Premiership Football grounds and Southend-On-Sea. That Shakespeare is proper entertainment, that Mama Mia isn’t. That the inventors of the Appletini, Lidl, Argos, any Sofa that isn’t a wing back Chesterfield and Heat Magazine should have their bones exhumed and be flushed down the nearest lavatory.

Real Wages, After Tax.

Politicians need to be measured on their performance. Typically Labour ones like to be measured by how much they spend (they use the word "investment") on public services, because they think the NHS is a proxy for morality. (The established church concurs). Both Tory and Labour ones like to be measured by GDP growth. Tories like tax rates. Liberal Democrats are motivated mainly by facial hair and sandals.

All like to be measured by unemployment, which is reasonable. But the cause/effect loop is much, much slower than media and politicians seem to believe. A government's action has it's effect 12-18 months into the future - unemployment is steady and high, and it's still labour's fault and will be for a while, in so far as the effects of Government action can be separated from the vastly larger effects of the business cycle. Most of the fall in unemployment expected in 2011 will not be down to George Osborne's budget, but to the brute effects of the business cycle.

Most of these measures of politicians' performance are deeply flawed because they measure things that don't, in themselves matter, or are only marginally affected by politicians. GDP is only part of what makes people feel richer. In addition to employment, what actually matters to people is disposable income after tax and housing costs (so long as the housing costs aren't reduced by house prices going down). On this measure, Labour is one of the worst governments in history. Real wages (adjusted for inflation) are lower than they were in 2005, and the tax-burden is higher. Housing costs may have dropped for the 20% of households on floating rate mortgages, but remain stubbornly high for everyone else. Only in the great depression did real income stagnate for so long. When you take the effects of Labour's lunatic rise in the tax burden, people's disposable incomes have fallen steadily since 2005 and were stagnant even before the crash. That is the Labour legacy.

How does this compare with our competitors?

Well if you look at 2000-2008, the UK under Labour was towards the bottom of the OECD's table. Of the major economies only Germany (whom Labour now exhort us to emulate - despite their lamentable record on youth unemployment and economic growth) and Italy fared worse. Britain's Post-tax disposable household income rose only 14% in those 8 years, and 2008-2010 were much, much worse. Labour's economic record, as felt by the population as opposed to that reported by the press, was dire. I can't find the data, but if the Bank of England Governor reckons the situation's got worse since 2008, then who am I to argue. Gordon Brown's lunatic tax-binge, no private sector growth, all helped cause it. A devaluation of the pound may help keep exports flowing out, but the people pay for it in much higher fuel and food costs - over and above the rise in their dollar price on world markets. Once again, the people pay for the politician's focus on GDP. If Mervyn King is right, the result of 13 years of Labour is almost NO improvement in real wages after tax. None, in 13 years.

This is why the people are sullen and angry - they were told that a boom was happening prior to 2008, but because the flawed measure GDP was being used, they couldn't work out why the boom wasn't happening to THEM as they had to struggle harder and harder to make ends meet. The blame has been successfully laid at the door of the banks because of the credit crunch, but a lot of the leg work in screwing the economy was done by Labour prior to the crash in stagnating private sector employment and increasing the tax-burden. There was no Net Growth in private sector employment under labour's watch, and despite the "booming" economy youth unemployment rose. I blame the minimum wage for pricing the young out of the labour market for starter jobs, which have been taken by immigrants instead. But that opinion marks me out as a savage right-wing nut-job who would bring back slavery, because the left tell me all the time that the minimum wage has had NO effect on unemployment.

On top of a rising tax-burden and the pricing of young unskilled people out of jobs, the burdens of council snoopers, intrusive government and ever poorer services meant the people who paid for the whole shooting-match couldn't see the benefits of their sacrifice either. Labour forgot that tax is money taken from the people who earned it, in final analysis, by the threat of violence. Pay or the police will eventually kick down your door and take you to gaol. Politicians have to deliver something to the people who pay it, instead of feather-bedding a client state of ever more generously funded welfare claimants and public sector prod-noses. These prod-noses take resources FROM the public services - money which could be spent mending roads or supplying a heart-transplant is instead deployed on a Labour-voting fuck wit with a clip-board saying "no" to people. Would you rather have your pot-holed road re-surfaced occasionally, or a Diversity outreach co-ordinator for one year? Me too.

Now, with the deficit running at 10% of GDP as a result of over-generous benefits and a vast client state, the Government is borrowing £1 in every £4 it spends. Spending cuts (making services EVEN WORSE, as bureaucrats don't cut their own preferring to slash the "front-line") and tax-rises are set to remove even more of people's money. Furthermore rampant inflation, not captured by Gordon Brown's fudged CPI measure, serves to further reduce people's standards of living. The sins of a decade of Labour's criminal mismanagement of the economy are going to be felt in materially lower standards of living for the next couple of years. All of the rises in living standards under the early years of Labour (themselves nothing to crow about) are going to be proved to be illusory in the next few years.

Labour's solution in office: Pay people in the public sector to do unnecessary jobs. Their "growth policy" opposition: Continue to pay people to do unnecessary jobs. Whilst it MAY support GDP numbers in the short term, because of the debt burden it creates merely delayed the day of reckoning with reality. However much Labour bleat, the cuts are Labour cuts, they are the result of a decade of criminally wasteful overspend across the whole public sector. We might as well have been paying men to dig holes and fill them in again. In fact, that might have been better, because those men would not be getting in the way of the productive elements of society by standing there with a clip-board saying "you don't want to do it like that.... "

In truth, Labour admit that the deficit needs to be cut. In private, they will agree that 2011 was the year that LABOUR CUTS would have started. The Tories may be going a little further and a little faster, but CUTS! are the only show in town. However Labour choose to present it, they know it's their fault. And deep down, so to the British people.

What is necessary to prevent this insanity recurring is a measure of Government performance which takes into account the tax-burden as well as growth. That takes into account the benefits of state spending but reflects the actual prosperity of the broad mass of the British population: Disposable income after tax which should be compared to disposable income after tax and healthcare costs in other countries. If people get richer, the Government should be praised, if they get poorer, the Government should be punished. Steadily rising income makes people happy. Having to struggle makes them sad. This simple economic measure, if more widely reported than the illusory GDP would render moot Cameron's Gross National Happiness. It would reveal the lie at the heart of the Brownite plan of the Noughties to shovel ever more state spending at unreformed public services, and instead reward Governments for tax-cuts.

My guess is that cutting taxes (starting with corporation tax) and slashing spending whilst simplifying the welfare state and marketising both health and education in the pursuit of economies in the public services, is exactly the medicine the economy needs to improve household disposable income after tax. I don't say this because I am a Tory. I support the Tories because I think they have the right plan.

Monday, 24 January 2011


There are many types of bravery in the world. Charging Taliban Machine Gun posts when your mates have all been shot, surrendering your seat on a lifeboat to a woman and child despite the fact that she’s clearly sailing stowage and is thus socially inferior, Pistols at Dawn because some rotter slapped the arse of your affianced back in 1780 or the courage to tell the Gestapo to blow it out of his arse when he asks where all those Jewish people are hiding. To this courage, we can add HM Plod to the list - the courage of an undercover officer being ordered to get laid.

Now when M says “Bond, I want you to get information on this boat that seems to be eating our submarines by nailing the ass off a Russian chick”. Bond has the onerous task of shagging Barbara Bach. Ditto Eva Green, Daniela Bianchi, Luciana Paluzzi, Talisa Soto et all, non of them look like a Bulldog licking piss of a Thistle. But when the Chief Super says go out and shag a lumpen environmentalist thing, you really do have to be thinking of England, or more importantly Miss England 2010 in order to achieve something.

Can you imagine the fucking whining you’d have to put up with? Pratt and Whitney’s on take off in Toncontin Tegucigalpa will make less noise. “Oh the world is so unfair”, “I want a good hard thrust like those glories of socialist planning rockets gave”, “I’ll only sleep with you tonight if you write a 3 page document acknowledging that men are responsible for the extinction of those lovely Vegetarian Stegosaurus. Or the task of going down on somebody who doesn’t use deodorant due to its effect on the Ozone and believes their vaginal topiary must resemble the rain forests that they love so much.

The Wimmin in question are planning a protest outside Scotland Yard to protest “state endorsed sexual manipulation” - I believe “It takes two to Tango” should pretty much cover the Police response. Can you imagine the response if they’d sent female plod to shag all the environmentalist blokes – they’d be saying that it’s good to see their tax dollars being spent on such a worthy cause.

Now I don’t want you to think I’m bagging environmentalists. Well I am, but only because the cops had to penetrate (Fnar Fnar) their organisation. I imagine it would be equally unpleasant having to put up with Right Wing Survivalists, Animal Rights, Class War, Militant Cyclists or the Swindon Bird Spotters Club. The problem is that activists simply cannot shut the fuck up about their pet issue – E.V.E.R. They go on and on about it from the day they caught their “Religion” to the day that the icy grasp of death finishes their 48 year long monologue. And that just isn’t sexy unless you entirely match their political mindset – and I would assume that most undercover cops don’t get the horn over releasing furry rats into the countryside from the local mink farm.

Given a choice of a Mormon or an Amnesty International worker to sit next to on a 20 hour flight excluding stopovers I would be plumping for the “So how the hell did he manage to loose solid gold discs delivered straight to him from God” any day of the week. At least Born Again religious people are willing to talk about sports, if only to discuss how God is a huge Detroit Pistons fan. The Eco-Weenies would be banging on about how the hard-court isn’t made from sustainable sources and the basket balls don’t bio degrade.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Tarok Kolace, Ben Tre, all over again?

Whatever the logistical and military reasons for destroying something, the costs of doing so run wider than the immediate operation. In this case a commander decided upon using 25 tons of explosives to flatten an Afghan village as it was so thourougly laced with IEDs that to clear it would have taken longer and cost lives. This is, on its own terms a reasonable tactic, given the local circumstances. It also demonstrates why we cannot "win" in any meaningful way.

The Taliban chased locals out of Tarok Kolache, in Kandahar province to the west of Helmand (which is synonymous with 'Afghanistan' to the UK media). The village was destroyed without civilian casualties, but it resulted in significant damage to the orchards - harder to replace than the mud huts. The US commander, rather than risk his troops fighting house to house, flattened the village with 25 tons of bombs and artillery and the local civilian population appear to be unhappy (y' think?) about having their homes flattened. Whilst rebuilding has been discussed at Shuras, meetings with local people, this is not the way to win hearts and minds and secure the loyalty of the people to the Afghan government, nor has any reconstruction yet started, so many of the displaced will disperse to other villages with tales about what happened.

Just as Vietnam was lost, not because of any military victory by the NVA, but by the steady erosion of the peasant's loyalty, we are at risk, by "destroying villages in order to save it", of making the same mistakes all over again. I am NOT suggesting that such actions are thoughtless, nor am I suggesting that the US forces in Afghanistan are suffering the same fate as their fathers in Vietnam. Just that there are parallells. There comes a time when the presence in this type of opertaion of Western forces becomes the reason the war is continuing. Too many flattened villages and you have a sullen and hostile population who are ready to support the Taleban.

"Victroy" in Afghanistan will be when western forces leave in 4 years, leaving a stable Government more or less in control of most of the country and a big US base in perpetuity. That's the best we can hope for. Democracy? And uncorrupt Government - under Karzai? You're joking right? The problem is that our political masters schooled in stories of VICTORIES! like WW2, the Falklands, Gulf war 1, and so on expect, egged on by a more or less ignorant electorate, the same thing from Afghanistan, and as a result forces will stay in theatre expending blood and treasure long after a rational cost benefit analysis would suggest it's time to go, in chasing a chimeric victory which remains forever on the horizon. I'm starting to think the Afghan campaign is almost getting to that stage.

Oh Happy day

Alan Johnson has quit his post as Shadow Chancellor for “Personal Reasons”. He won’t have been fired for being crap so I wonder what these “personal reasons” are. This usually means that the person in question is about to get a full Weekend Pullout by the Screws of the world with pictures of him in the act with Prostitute / Choirboy /Donkey/ His Dyson vacuum cleaner (delete as applicable). In Johnsons case I’m not so sure. Although I vehemently hate his politics he actually seems like a decent bloke.

Which leads me onto his replacement. A HA HA, HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA, A-Ha HA HAA HA HA HA HA He He HA HA HA HA HA. Ed “So What” Balls. Yvette’s Dildo. Another union sock puppet with all the charismatic appeal of the inside of an empty crisp packet. Brilliant movecomrades. That’ll have the middle classes flooding back. I suspect Cameron laughed so hard he followed through this morning.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Grant Students free cash

The guardian describes scrapping the Educational Maintenance Allowance as “controversial”. Can anybody explain what is controversial about scrapping a tax payer funded bribe to keep people in education paid for by the taxpayer. Because it seems to me that stopping somebody peeling fivers from my wallet is fairly damn uncontroversial. Want a bit of spare cash to buy Cider to drink in a park with your mates? Get a fucking paper round. Having trouble making the bus fare to get to school? Get a fucking paper round that offers you a free bike. Even Labour, who still support this crap, admit that it’s pissed away on Nike trainers, Booze and Fags.

And this from the Guardian comment section…

hi i am currently going to college trying to get a career ema is helping me stand on my feet helps me get to college helps me get the things i need for college. there is already so many young people junking there careers away do u what that to happen to all young people like that because know will come into college for free before you get rid of ema think of young people and what we would for money x
Well that seems like money well spent to me. How can we ignore such an eloquent and well punctuated plea? These morons really do think money grows on trees.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

What the left thinks is important

From a tweet by somebody called "Highlander"during PMQs.

WANTED: Leader of UK political party - Only white, male, middle-aged, Oxbridge educated, millionaires need apply!
All you are is your tribe. Where you went to school or University, the colour of your skin, how much money you have. Your opinions or actions are irrelevant. I detest identity politics, because when it comes from the mouth of a self-described "Mostly depressed anarchist communist..." it means that were he ever to get the power he or those like him desire, it means millions who come from tribes of which he disapproves, getting shot in a ditch in a futile search for nirvana.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

“Baby Doc” returns to Haiti

What can we learn from the return to Haiti of “Baby Doc” Duvallier. Well, for one, certain countries are so screwed up nothing can be done to save them. Save your money for a nation that is actually trying to save themselves e.g. Botswana from the ravages of Aids. Secondly we can learn that man who killed thousands through starvation and torture, stoning people to death or burning them alive, will be welcome back as people can be a bit stupid. The only thing good to be said about him was that he was as thick as a whale omelette and wasn’t as bad as his father. Now he returns to cheering at the airport, as the old farts who didn’t personally have their balls wired up to a car battery forget the bad things carried out by him and his infamous Tonton Macoutes. They are intelligent enough only to remember he managed to asphalt a couple of roads.

We can also be reminded that old school dictators in the Western Hemisphere all have nicknames such as “El Bolle” and consider “Ocean Dumping” a genuine way of solving political issues. Oh and never, ever let French speakers run your country. Get colonised by the British. Compare and contrast Haiti, Rwanda, Chad, The Peoples Democratic Republic of Congo et all with the Bahamas, Australia, India, Hong Kong. Granted a couple of British colonies slipped through the cracks – Zimbabwe and Guyana are both dumps. But you’re far more likely to have working Khazis, the odd Hospital and railway line; and a Constabulary not prefixed with the word Secret and affixed with the words “Aaarrrggghhhh, what do you want to know”.

But the main thing to learn from all of this is the following. When you overthrow a dictator, don’t let them flee to the Vatican Embassy. Don’t let Ban Ki Moon or his UN successor take him out of the country in his private plane. Don’t let them retire to Paraguay with the promise of a quite life. Politicians stick together, and will protect their own. The egotistical cunt who tap danced on your testicles will return 15-20 years from now bowing to the “will of the people” after a tearful plea on Oprah. Politicians can’t be humbled, and they can’t be changed, and they shouldn’t be forgiven; especially the dictatorial ones in third world shitholes. Look at that disgrace Prescott, now he’s out of power will he shut the fuck up?

The answer is simple. If you ever overthrow anybody with quotation marks in their name, don’t wait, don’t delay. Shoot them, shoot them in the face!

Like the end of the Cold War?

Old Holborn's post on the Tunisian revolution is eloquent.

The uprising in Tunisia was caused by a simple act of desperation. An unemployed man, unable to earn money and not fed by the Welfare state decided he would sell vegetables to his fellow citizens. To the State, this was intolerable. No permit, no official permission to earn a living and stay alive. So the sheepdogs, the police, confiscated every single thing he owned.

Mohamed Bouazizi, realising he was never to be free in his own land, simply set fire to himself.
There have been self-imolations all over the Arab world - Egypt, Algeria and Mauritania following the event which set off the Tunisian revolution.

I do not know enough about these countries to add enlightening commentary and to my shame (and that of the Western media) I was unaware of developing events until some western Holiday-makers were caught up in the fighting, which shows a warped set of priorities. The desperation these people felt to take such an extreme course of action must have been extraordinary. People yearn to be free, and that is as true of the muslim world as it is of the West. Cultural relativists are little better than the dictators for whom they are apologists.

The sad fact is revolutions are easiest in the softer dictatorships which retain sufficient humanity to not wish to turn the guns on their people. The likes of Iran are all too willing to use grotesque force to keep their people in line. But just as the prison states of Eastern Europe fell, one by one, the Middle-Eastern tyrants responsible for so much pain and mayhem within their borders and around the world know that, unless they are very lucky, this is the fate that is awaiting them.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Chasing Rainbows

I've finally got round to finishing Tim Worstall's book Chasing Rainbows, which can be yours for the trivial sum of £6.49, and it really is very good. Tim, an economic scribbler and Scandium wholesaler by trade applies the prinicples of economics to environmental questions with his usual wit. The tone reads like an extended blog post, and whilst some of the popular culture references grate occasionally, (what percentage of the potential readership are familiar enough with 'South Park' to get the "M'Kay" reference?) the argument that pigou taxes are better than cap 'n trade mainly because the latter is at risk of political and bureaucratic meddling is particularly well explained and compelling.

If you're looking for a complete junking of the hypothesis of climate change, you're in the wrong place. On the other hand, Some of the assumptions of environmental activists: growth always involves the use of more resources, international trade is wasteful for example, are shown up to be not only wrong, but utterly counterproductive. Wealth leaves spare resources to enable people to take the more expensive "green" option. Only growth leaves the spare resources for healthcare and female emancipation that will reduce population growth. If you're a climate activist however, perhaps you'll be most surprised by what the scientific and economic consensus - the Stern Review and the IPCC conclusions are taken as gospel - actually say. We're already doing enough...

This is an excellent, easy-to-read book which applies uncontroversial economics with uncontroversial climate science and winds up being surprisingly optimistic about the future. Of course, this being Britain, this will please nobody, but he's probably closer to the truth than either of the more polarised camps.

Well worth a read.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Hiring and Firing people

Lefties believe, passionately, that the state should regulate employment: who works for whom, and under what conditions they work, what contracts they can write, and whether or not and under what circumstances they can be fired. The state is crucial for protection of workers, for in their moral universe, the "worker" reigns supreme. His labour is honest, the bosses, or Capitalist always holds the power, with employees on sufferance. Bosses stand ready to, and indeed really want to fire workers at will, driving working conditions down in a race to the bottom. The workhouse beckons, unless the state stands ready to step in and prevent abusive bosses oppressing the masses, like the robber barons of yore. Tories, in this world view as the party of the bosses, are going to take an axe to important employment legislation which is all that stands between social democratic heaven and Victorian working conditions. They argue the Tories will always legislate to the benefit of bosses aiding them in their ever more extreme search for profits, which come, in the left-wing zero-sum-game, from exploited workers. Furthermore, there is no trade off: job protection - making it harder and more costly to fire an employee - has no effect at all on whether or not jobs are created. It's a cost-free benefit to the worker. An exemplar of this view is Claude, who can be found over at Hagley road to Ladywood. Let's have a look at the arguments in detail.

David Cameron's recent plans to make it easier to sack staff in the first two years of their employment have sparked an intense debate over the nature of Britain's labour market. After the "fluffy years", it was only a matter of time before the crook-eyed default Tory approach to the world of paid employment would resurface.
There is a trust issue. The belief, clearly laid out that such reductions to job protection or workers' rights are only to the benefit of "the bosses". Of course Conservatives along with liberals believe that the main cost of these workers' rights is borne by the low skilled and long-term unemployed who find it vastly harder to get work as a result. That the left make it a moral issue suggests they haven't looked at the evidence too closely. They might not like what they see. The motivation of reducing job protection is not some form of class-based loyalty toward the bosses, but in the fact that Governments are judged on two metrics above all others: House prices and Unemployment. Governments are incentivised to keep house prices up and unemployment down. So any argument that the Conservatives are motivated by "profit" is going to get short shrift.
The problem for Cameron and the bosses' organisations, however, is that - unlike the Thatcher years - there's very little left in terms of workers' protection for the government to wade in with the axe. Extreme job insecurity in the UK is already a growing reality.

According to the OECD, Britain is in the top three along with the US and Canada (and well under the OECD average) in the strictness of employment protection index (1985-2008), which measures "the procedures and costs involved in dismissing individuals or groups of workers and the procedures involved in hiring workers on fixed-term or temporary work agency contracts".
Statutory employment rights, whatever the OECD's metrics, are a poor indicator of employment conditions. I enjoy no employment rights as I am self-employed, but I rather like what I do. At the other extreme, the workers of the soviet Union were guaranteed a job, and were very unlikely to be fired, yet didn't think the trade-off in terms of freedom worth while. Of course, Temporary staff give companies the freedom to cover workers' rights like maternity leave without the costs of doing so causing them to go bust. It also gives individuals the flexibility to 'try before they buy' an industry - my work experience after leaving the army was mostly temp work from post-rooms to secretarial positions in any city institution I could find. I built up knowledge from people I met, whilst taking exams. Such positions can also be viewed as an extended job interview - temp-to-perm roles are increasingly common and gave me my first break in 'the city'. The assumption that temporary staff are always abused is ludicrous.
Given the companies' free access to casual staff on "zero hours contract", or the free use of "temps" (which, by law, can be hired repeatedly on fixed-term contracts for up to four years before any tie comes into place), the lax regulation on probationary period for regular staff, as well as some of the lowest levels of statutory redundancy pay in the Western world, the notion that Britain's employment regulations may be at the core of the current dole rates is simply comedy material.
Were anyone suggesting that employment protection was behind the current unemployment figures, Claude would be right to laugh. But no-one's making any such assertion. The truth is that any changes to employment legislation are only going to have effects at the margin. Any jobs created that would not have been so had the employment legislation remained at the status quo ante would be swamped by the much larger effect of economic growth on rates of job creation. The Government's belief is that signals like cutting corporation tax, cutting job protection and easing the burden of regulation will all add up to a significant effect on the unemployment numbers over time as employers are encouraged to take a risk and hire a few people they might not have risked under more onerous legislation. It is not about doing down the workers...
If we carry on this way, soon the only crusade left for the British Chamber of Commerce and the Tories to embark upon under the guise of "cutting red tape" will be against the right for workers to empty their bladder or take a crap at work.
Let's ignore the hyperbole. The idea that it is the state which prevents people from abusing workers more than the fact that in a wealthy economy, any worker is without options, is absurd. Employers seek to avoid the staff turnover that such conditions create: training people to do jobs in Britain's increasingly sophisticated economy is a major cost of employment.

The state is not the ONLY guarantor of job security. Indeed I suggest it's not even the major one. Claude's argument that job insecurity is the result of legislative changes misses the point.
However, what the last few days also highlighted is the almost total abdication on the part of the left and Labour in the fight against the galloping job insecurity and its noxious effects.

This line from the normally commendable Stumbling and Mumbling blog bothered me to the extreme. While sceptical of David Cameron's proposals, author Chris Dillow also wrote:

"There’s good evidence that [employment protection] reduces workers’ effort and increases absenteeism. This suggests that - at the margin - Cameron’s proposals might increase labour productivity".

Now, the reason why the above quote bothered me so much is that it shows how toxic and widespread certain myths are that even well-informed and well-read people can buy into them without questioning. In brief, the Daily Mailesque-fable that a permanent job or certain guarantees at work will automatically turn you into a slacker.
Just because the Daily Mail thinks something, that doesn't mean it is automatically wrong. Of course the evidence is clear that where job protection is strongest, in the public sector where there is no profit motive for bosses to keep costs down, and where bureaucratic headcount farming rules, shows much higher levels of absenteeism, sickness and lower productivity. Though Claude will no doubt blame this on increasing outsourcing and casualisation, it's not the temps who are involved in stories of people off "sick" for years on full pay, which are legion. No-one's counting the cost, so why risk the aggro of firing someone who will never work? Despite the vastly better job security, longer holidays and shorter hours, stress is the most common cause of sickness in the public sector. Where does that leave the rest of the argument?
They ain't gonna sack me, so why bother, basically. And how can you dispute that if even the usually meticulous and pro-left Chris Dillow can cite "good evidence" on the matter? Except that said "good evidence" points to three pieces of research from Portugal and Italy which are solely and exclusively focused on specific (and already obsolete) legislation passed in those two countries in the 1980s and 1990s. Those laws were extremely protective - overly protective in fact - in a way not remotely comparable to anything Britain ever experienced, not even at its unionised peak. It's like saying "there's good evidence that January is not a cold month and in fact look at this link to prove it". Except that it points to average January temperatures from the Canary Islands and Dubai.

The fact is, instead, that there's literally a mammoth body of research out there warning of the toxic long-term effects of job insecurity (click here for a summary).
How dare Chris Dillow challenge a leftist Shibboleth! Splitter! I'm not going to argue the toss about whether job insecurity is a bad thing. Of course it is! I just don't think it is going to be amenable to the kind of legislation Claude thinks is necessary. If you're vital for the smooth and efficient running of your organisation, bring in business, or have vital skills developed over many years, are just good at your job, or simply try hard then you have job security. If you don't have skills like these, then no amount of legislation is going to help you keep your job. Secondly, job insecurity may be bad for your health and happiness, but unemployment's much worse.

In reality, One way to mitigate job insecurity is a dynamic job market in which a newly redundant worker can quickly find another job. And conservatives believe that reducing the risk of employing someone increases the likelihood, at the margin, of jobs being created. A dynamic job market also increases workers' real bargaining power as it removes some of the fear of the Bosses' ultimate sanction. Conservatives choose the lesser of two evils believing that state efforts to relieve job security are wrong-headed and indeed counter-productive, whilst leftists deny there's a trade off at all: they simply don't believe that reducing job protection results in any net increase in employment. What does the evidence say?
Over the years detailed studies took place around the world, from the US and Canada to Australia, Sweden, Korea, Germany and more. The findings leave room to no doubt: there is a clear correlation between excessive levels of job insecurity and a variety of negative outcomes.
Not in dispute: How much of self-reported job insecurity is due to weak statutory job protection though? If, however there is a positive effect on employment of weakening job protection, then that increase in job insecurity both mitigates the damage by giving the insecure worker options AND reduces the greater harm, of unemployment.
The initial advantages of "increased flexibility and lower costs" for the employers are undisputed. But little is ever said about the long-term effects that "casualisation may have on important aspects of national economic performance such as skill formation" and, most importantly, the ticking time-bomb that is widespread casualisation as weighed against "long-term financial planning".
Having criticised Chris Dillow's links on the grounds that they're obsolete and foreign, he points to a paper dealing with the Australian labour market, much more involved with primary industry, and far more different to that of the UK than Italy's. The conclusions are tenuous at best. It is trivially true that a casualised workforce will be lower skilled, but misses the bigger point that in skilled industries casualisation is unlikely to benefit the employer. It is the absence of unskilled work of any kind that is responsible, in part, for long-term unemployment. The unskilled are priced out of the UK employment market.

The leftist angst against casualisation misses many other point and belies the importance of temporary work as bridging employment between permanent jobs. Indeed the level of one form of contract over another has little correlation with the degree of labour market turnover. Cultural or institutional factors are more important. My father, a Midlands metal-basher, did not employ unskilled people off the dole. He would only employ the unskilled as apprentices if they could demonstrate the ability to turn up, on time and work hard. This skill is the first to be lost by the long-term unemployed and completely lacking in the multi-generational welfare classes - such people are a huge risk to employ. I will be accused of "demonsising the unemployed". However a stint at McDonald's is sufficient to demonstrate the most basic criterion for successful employment: willingness to work. From Claude's chosen link "direct transition from unemployment to a 'permanent' job is less likely than an indirect one which goes from unemployment via a casual job to a permanent one". Casualisation can be seen as a potential "lubrication" into full-time permanent employment, and is vital to the effective functioning of the Labour market for both employer and employee.
But the strongest and most consistent evidence is the one seen across firms, industries, and countries linking job insecurity with "negative employee attitudes, behavio[u]rs, and health" and with the fact - as noted by several researchers - that "job insecurity is more stressful than job loss itself".
That may or may not be the case. But it is not clear that "job insecurity" is much amenable to statutory protection. The best defence against insecurity - being valuable to your organisation - is in the individual's hands. Furthermore, being fired rarely comes out of the blue - there will be a period of disciplinary meetings, performance appraisals and a dawning realisation that you're going to be fired. Under these circumstances of course, the eventual redundancy comes as a relief! I know: I've been fired from a couple of jobs I've been unqualified or unsuited for, and the laborious (state-mandated) process of getting rid of someone by creating a paper-trail of HR department meetings, and warnings is a large part of that stress. Simply working without state-mandated rights to sue your employer, or without statutory redundancy pay does not feature in day-to-day stress for someone working competently for a profitable enterprise.
Amongst the negative effects, a "powerful negative influence on motivation", "reduced effort" and "poor safety compliance by employees". Low levels of job satisfaction are also associated with negative employee attitudes, lower customer performance and effectiveness with customers as well as with -in turn- a detrimental effect on group morale. And that's without taking into account what "the longer term negative effects on workers' depression levels", or "the systemic [relation] between job insecurity and marital and family dysfunction" or, even, the proven effects that "parents' job insecurity has on children's school performance as measured by grades". The fact that "job insecurity reduces job satisfaction is attributable to the uncertainty of not knowing how to predict or control job threats".
And more evidence is provided that job insecurity is a bad thing. No-one disagrees. But those statistics pointing to job insecurity suggest that bad management, not lax legislation is to blame. Whilst stronger protection might help at the margin, what is the cost in extra unemployment? Does Claude really believe that job protection has NO effect on the marginal propensity of a business to hire? In any case, the negative effects of job insecurity are not the issue. The effects of legislation on job security might be, but more importantly, Claude has to demonstrate the primary case that statutory job protection increases net employment, and that is far from proven.

The government is suggesting reducing workers' rights, especially by extending probationary periods, makes it more likely that employers will take the risk of employing someone. Likewise reducing the likelihood of being sued by a disgruntled former worker will reduce the risk of hiring people, and therefore have a small effect on the likelihood of a job being created, as does reducing statutory sick and redundancy pay. No-one is suggesting that these effects are massive. Such policies are not going to end unemployment overnight, but every little change has a small effect at the margin, which may take a long time to filter through companies' institutional inertia and will be very difficult to tease out of the data in the imperfect laboratory that is an international developed economy.
And that's because, while insecurity in the short-term may spur a worker to perform better if the goal is a latter stage of more protection and various perks, an ongoing perception of "precariousness" will start having an adverse effect, as the worker will feel increasingly uncertain that their persistence can be sufficient enough for them to retain their job.
This demonstrates how little Claude knows about business. Using fear of unemployment is poor management. The largest employer in the country is the Small & Medium Enterprise sector: family businesses, like the one I grew up with. The risk of hiring an incompetent or idle worker is vast, as margins are thin and competition is hot. One person not putting their shoulder to the wheel at crucial times in a factory employing a couple of dozen people could cost the company a customer or its reputation. Under these circumstances, it makes sense to pay good people well and choose them carefully.
For a worker with little to lose, the lack of ties will offer no incentives to stop them from slacking off or "looking elsewhere" altogether.
Claude makes my point for me. If you need your staff, you need to motivate them - just as getting drunk on company time and crashing the company van will get you fired pretty damn quick, stakhanovite effort will get you a couple of hundred quid extra in your pocket at the end of the month, with tickets to a football match and hand-written note from the boss that a couple of days extra paid holiday should be taken to take the significant other somewhere nice, by way of a "thank you". Otherwise they will go and find an employer who will appreciate their efforts. Good management is about a happy workforce.

I understand the point Claude's making. But he can't have it both ways: either cutting these rights is a big issue which will benefit company profits (which does lead to increased hiring and help reduce unemployment) or it is a drop in the ocean and have little effect, in which case, why is he so upset? My view is that state statutory redundancy and sick-pay and tribunal rights for workers have little effect on job security, and less on the workers' feeling of job security. Their effect on employers behaviour in terms of jobs created will likewise be small. On balance, I think the trade-off is worth it. If you want to be secure at work, work hard and make yourself invaluable to your employer.

Unemployment is not constant: it is a statistical result of two fast flowing streams: people entering the job-market from education for example, or redundancy; and those getting jobs. Even during a recession 10% of people leave the unemployment pool every month, and it is this stream: getting jobs, which is the more variable. Jobs are lost at a more constant rate over the cycle than are created. Thus it makes sense if, and if you're a sensible government you do, want to reduce unemployment, it makes sense to concentrate on job creation rather than job destruction which is much less amenable to government action.

The effect, as I mentioned above of job protection on unemployment is extremely difficult to tease out of much larger cyclical effects of the business cycle. But the effect is clearer in the more volatile seasonable data. Job protection significantly reduces job flows. It can also be teased out of intra-regional data: flexibility reduces (some) unemployment. The coalition's policy is a step towards creating a more dynamic job market that has a better chance of creating full employment than ever stronger job protection for the decreasing band of workers lucky(?) enough to secure a job for life, ever will.

Your job is in your hands. If you're relying on the law to prevent yourself getting fired, you're either on the way there, or you work in the public sector.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

A Lesson in unintended consequences.

Despite teething problems, London's "Boris Bikes" have been a roaring success, with demand outstripping supply, even as the scheme expands. Inevitably some people have been hurt, and the usual nanny-staters have called for helmets to be compulsory. Indeed, whenever a cyclist is killed, whether or not they were wearing a helmet is always given prominence far beyond their effect. There is so much wrong with this, I don't know where to begin, but the whole issue of cycling helmets is one where the unintended consequences of legislation are bigger than the intended effect. There are no plans, yet, to make cycle helmet use compulsory but as cycling remains the last bastion of unregulated travel, it's in the post. Imagine - the police not being able to stop someone at will - It can't continue like this....

1) The EU standard for bicycle helmets is ludicrously lax, and helmets are made to comply with it. More expensive helmets are typically better vented, not safer. It should protect against a low speed fall onto a flat surface, the sort of fall that adults on bicycles on the road almost NEVER have. (Children ARE protected by a helmet as they are likely to have these falls, but I have NEVER seen a child with a correctly fitted helmet). There are just 5 helmets on sale in the UK which meet the older and more stringent B90/5 standard, but even this is not sufficient to survive a typical vehicle collision. According to one study, just 16% of cyclist's head injuries would have been mitigated by helmet use, mainly amongst children, in another helmets appear to have NO impact on injury rates at all for cyclists over 15 on roads. Off-road mountain biking is the one place helmets appear to have a significant positive effect on head injury.

2) In a collision with a motor vehicle, the forces involved often exceed the testing standards for motorcycle or GP helmets. You often might as well not be wearing one.

3) Wearing a helmet causes drivers to drive closer and faster to the cyclist, because the cyclist appears protected. A cyclist wearing a helmet is therefore more likely to be hit, and more likely to die. Cyclists wearing helmets are also more likely to take risks and ride faster because they feel safer even though helmet wearers are more safety conscious to begin with.

4) In Australia & New Zealand, when cycle helmets were made compulsory, the incidence of head injuries fell, but this was proportional to a fall in the number of cyclists, not the severity of injuries or the rate of injury.

5) The most important thing to make cyclists safer is critical mass. Cyclists are so common in Amsterdam or Portland for example that motorists get used to working with them, and makes accidents less likely. Reducing the number of cyclists is likely to make cycling relatively more dangerous.

So. It transpires that the main effect of making cycle helmets compulsory is to reduce the number of cyclists and, make those cyclists more likely to be killed on any given journey, which is not, I suspect what the framers of the law had in mind. Just because it appears axiomatic that helmets make a cyclist safer, the evidence suggests this is not the case. This is a simple example, where the evidence teased out argues strongly against a law.

The effect of raising marginal tax rates is often to reduce the tax collected, especially in the longer term, yet lefties ALWAYS want higher marginal tax rates. The effect of increasing job protection is to increase unemployment, yet lefties still want ever more job protection. The effect of generous benefits is to entrench poverty, yet the lefties are out on the street whining about cuts. In almost every sphere where the government gets involved, the unintended and usually unwanted effects of atate action are larger than the desired effect. The message to Government is simple. STEP AWAY FROM THE LEGISLATION. WE WILL SOLVE PROBLEMS, NOT THE STATE, IF YOU LEAVE US ALONE.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

When "punishing the banks" becomes Self-Defeating.

Ed Milliband's line of questioning at PMQs today was telling. Sod the amount a tax-payer, in this case "the banks" pays. What's more important is the detail of HOW that money is raised. Punishing "The Bankers" is more important than raising money for a near-bankrupt treasury (thanks, Labour) or ensuring that the credit needed for the functioning of the economy is made available by the banks (thanks, Basel III) or that the treasury gets as much as possible back on its investment in 2008.

Bonuses are a way by which Banks, and other businesses match their wage-bill to the success of the business in any given year. Large bonuses have often been in the form of shares - tying key revenue generators into the long-term success of the businesses. Whilst there is a case for politicians to have a majority or major shareholder interest in the remuneration policies of RBS and Lloyds banking group respectively, Barclays, HSBC, Standard Chartered and others which avoided a government bail-out should be able to pay what they like to whomever they like. It is a matter for them and their shareholders.

The (temporary - just wait for the Labour screams when the marginal rate falls) 50% tax band sees to it that HALF of the biggest bonuses go to the treasury, but Labour are suggesting that temporary measures like banking levies and micro-management of private business should be continued, as if the Laffer curve did not exist and the banks had nowhere else to go. That may be true of the bust domestic banks, but the big, profitable international banks currently based in the UK would go elsewhere, unless idiot politicians calm down the rhetoric.

Now I am sure that the performance of Bob Diamond yesterday has seen to it that the coalition huff and puff for public consumption, but basically do nothing, allowing the banks to do what they do best - make money.

It isn't the city-boys who went bust, a point eloquently made by TravelGall to the squaddies. It was the bri-nylon end of banking: salesmen who flogged loans to people who couldn't afford them to buy houses for much more than they were worth in return for sales commission, who caused the crisis. This process was encouraged by a government which wanted to "improve access to home ownership", and regulated the housing markets as if they were a one-way bet. The failure was not of "de-regulated" banking, that end of the market survived the crash nicely and would have done so more profitably had they been allowed, but of the tightly regulated retail and mortgage end.

If left to it (and that includes paying bonuses to people who are making the banks money) the banks will pay more tax to the exchequer, pay back Government loans and shareholdings quicker, beef up their balance sheets to Basel III standards over the next few years AND lend more to people and businesses as the recovery cranks up, and the "cost" of this is that a few key people facilitating this get rich. Aside from a deeply ugly outbreak of the politics of envy, I fail to see what the big problem is...

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Solidarity Brother

The Brazilians have denied Port and Fuelling to a Royal Navy ship based in the Falkland Islands. Practically the first act of the new Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. It appears the new Presidente Ms Dilda is using this as a way of sucking up to Argentina when they have a trade conference next month, and Her own party whose lefties always like a bit of Gringo bashing. Although the South American Solidarity wears thin when its their own land they are talking about. If Brazil feels so generous about land perhaps they should give Argentina Sao Paolo – it is closer to Argentina than the Falklands after all.

A Foreign Office spokesman said “Brazil did not grant diplomatic clearance this time. We respect Brazil's right to make such a decision. We have a close relationship with Brazil. The UK-Brazil defence cooperation treaty signed last September is a good example of our current strong links”. What distresses me is that they probably believe this shit in FO La La Land.

If it is in Brazil’s interest they will back Argentina, if its not they won’t. I can’t blame the Brazilians for this. They’re not one of our allies so should do what’s in their own interests. But perhaps the FO should start to consider doing likewise, especially when somebody suggests that Brazil should get a Security Council seat.

On a side note. Ms Dilma was a Marxist Guerilla who was tortured by the Military Rulers of the period. Whatever the torture was, I suspect it didn’t involve withholding her food.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Fly the friendly skies

You probably didn’t notice that another Iranian aircraft smashed into the ground Sunday night. And if you did the thing you are feeling is not Déjà vu, you really have heard this before – a hell of a lot to be frank. That’s a grand total of 17 crashes and 951 fatalities in the last decade (the UK has had 4 crashes and 14 Deaths over the same period, you can imagine how many more flights the UK has not being international pariahs). Now I know the Iranian government doesn’t give two shits about the vast majority Iranian people, but even they must be starting to get bored about appearing at crash sites. It must be costing them a fortune in onions to fake the tears, there’s the damage to their loafers with all that Avgas all over the place, and you can’t burn American flags within 500 metres of the wreckage.

Blaming Mossad for training Pigeons to fly into the intakes of your jets might work a couple of times – I suppose it’s a bit less ridiculous than blaming Mossad for shark attacks. But its starting to wear a bit thin as an excuse and your people will start to wonder why you can’t keep the bloody things in the air.

Naturally Travelgall has a solution. Stop spending all your time developing nuclear weapons, start spending it on developing ground proximity radar. Stop spending your money on rockets and other things designed to crash into Israeli dirt, and instead start spending it on things designed to stay aloft, built after D B Cooper’s parachute failed to open. The Americans will now gladly sell you them now you have all that spare cash lying around.

Making the British shopping experience more pleasant

I went to Brighton at the weekend and had a lovely time. I didn’t leave the lanes for most of the time I was there. I can heartily recommend it for buying Antiques, Swords and Jewellery – the necklace wasn’t for me you understand.

My overall shopping experience was marred by the walk from the Car Park to The Lanes. Two whole streets full of the most unbelievable tat you could scarcely imagine. Now I know there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy. But why the fuck do you need a skull shaped candle with Celtic gibberish written all over it. Who still wears Tie Dye? And what in the name of God’s Arse are Vegan Shoes? They’re made out of Plastic pal, Dinosaurs gave up their lives for your deeply unfashionable footwear, which makes you a hypocrite when you say you won’t wear dead animal. Why is it a fur coat that would have died of natural causes in the 1920’s bad, yet Diplodocus who died 192000000 years ago good?

My suggestion, if you can smell Joss sticks whilst walking in the open air down the street in question - without entering a single shop - the place needs Napalming.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Why NetrootsUK is Doomed to Fail

Netroots UK is the project by centre-left bloggers to "build the progressive grassroots online" in order to...

...make better links between campaigners from the worlds of politics, environment, development, civil liberties, unions, community groups... share ideas for using social media to campaign against fiscal sanity the cuts. It all sounds terribly worthy, and I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than attend an event sponsored by the TUC where the key-note speakers include the likes of Sunny Hundal of liberal conspiracy, Sunder Katwala of the Fabians and Brendan Barber Current occupant of the Aleksei Grigorievich Stakhanov memorial chairmanship of the All-Union Central Council of Trades Unions.

Of course this is all new to the Lefties. For the last 13 years as the social media cranked up, a broadly sympathetic Labour party was in power. Online activism consisted of emotional blackmail of Labour members and persuasion of more or less influential MPs to sign early day motions. Once the Party lost power, their activism returned to type - violent protest, with the people smashing things and chucking bricks broadly condoned by the more moderate elements because it's a symptom of "the anger we all feel".

This "anger" is not directed at the policies for most of the "activists" at the rallies and demonstrations. It is tribal. The Labour party is not in power, so they're now free to indulge their adolescent angst. It doesn't work. The students had broad support, until they started disrespecting the cenotaph and pissing on the Statue of Sir Winston Churchill. Now the Government has a sympathetic ear from the tax-payer as they explain how their policy isn't the herodic horror it's been painted by the NUS.

So in order to "fight the cuts" the TUC is organising a day of speeches, and (FFS, they are parodies of themselves) 'workshops' in order to thrash out the unified message they'll try to sell the rest of us. No enemies to the left, don't split on the Labour brothers, don't wash the movement's dirty linen in public. Self-proclaimed "voice of a Generation" and New Statesman hack, Laurie Penny put it nicely
We're listening politely whilst appointed arbiters of the centre-left mow the grassroots into a neat, acceptable bourgeois lawn .
Compare with the Right, Tory and Libertarian blogosphere which united to oppose the savagely illiberal and fiscally incompetent Labour government. I write about what interests me, for no-ones's benefit but myself. If anyone's persuaded or wants to argue, great! If someone thinks it's useful, even better. Otherwise, I don't care. Because there was no attempt at all from CCHQ to manage or control the message, or in anyway organise the message (I know - the Pre-Election bloggers' forums organised for sympathetic bloggers by Eric Pickles which I attended were more by way of "thank-you" piss-ups), it was more credible. Guido, Conhome and Iain Dale built their readership BECAUSE they aren't mere salesmen for the party. The bloggers who railed against the Labour government are now taking David Cameron to task, perhaps without the rage, but remaining independent of the Party and true to whatever grinds their axe. Even Conservative Home is often highly critical of the Leadership, whereas Guido often mocks the lefties for their complete refusal to cover stories damaging to the Left.

The result of this partisan hackery is that,under the pretext of getting rid of the Trolls (in practice this means 'people who disagree') and using the "network" the left-wing twitterati and blogosphere will build up at Netroots UK, they will end up speaking only to themselves. Enjoy your earnest, but deeply boring discussions about how to build a "progressive consensus" in the hermetically sealed echo-chamber of tedious student-union Marxists who never grew up. You can guarantee you'll persuade no-one who doesn't already agree that Red Ed's problem is that he's just not Left-wing enough.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Lies, Damn Lies & Statistics. And Asian Rapists.

Whilst I don't always agree with Chris Dillow of 'Stumbling & Mumbling' he is excellent at challenging the cognitive biases which infest everyone's political discourse, including mine. Just as Dubner & Levitt attempt to eke out the counter intuitive truth by the careful use of the data, it is important to challenge your own thinking, even if you don't agree with where the logic takes you. You may think something is true, and a data point in the media confirms it. Money quote:

when we are discussing low-probability events - crime, risk, whatever - we are prone to all sorts of cognitive biases. The way to correct such biases is to use statistics. In not doing this, Mr Straw is inviting his audience to draw some inferences which might not be warranted.
Quite. If you got your information from the news, only pretty blond young women ever go missing & get murdered. So, you think Britons of Pakistani descent are rapists? That Islamic traditions lead them to be particularly prone to be abusive abusive of white girls? In Egypt maybe, but the statistics certainly don't back that up in the UK. If a Tory had alleged what Jack Straw (albeit heavily caveatted) alleged this week, the left would have have been jumping up and down with hyperventilating accusations of racism. Jack Straw gets a by, perhaps because he's not a racist, though that would not be a valid defence for a right-winger. But he does put people in groups first, and thinks of people as individuals second, if at all. You aren't an individual, you're a member of your collective. From there it's a short intellectual step to shooting people in ditches for the good of the party. That's why I loathe the collectivist left, but that's a subject for another post. Much of the "libertarian" blogosphere is going to be collectivist this weekend.

I don't like Islam, any more than I like any other religion, and I especially abhor the 'Islamic' attitude to women. I don't like the idea of large, closed unintegrated communities in the UK. But the truth is Pakistanis are LESS criminal on average than 'whites'. Practicing Muslims are amongst the LEAST criminal demographics, and the same is true of the devout of all faiths, and I know I'm going to see a lot of anti-Islamic stuff connected to the Derby case on blogs I normally agree with. Recent immigrants live in poor towns. When Pakistanis see "white British culture" they don't see an am-dram production of 'Pirates of Penzance' at the local theatre or a cricket match on a village green, they see blood and vomit on the street every Friday night, the result of another aspect of British culture, whilst they've been at the Mosque. Under those circumstances, would YOU want to integrate?

So. There are bad apples in EVERY community. The two men convicted are vile racist rapists, who have received long gaol terms. The Pakistani "community" wasn't on trial for these rapes, and nor should it be. Those two men were.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Friday Links

Because I haven't time to post, I thought I'd share with you my nominations for this week's Britblog Roundup.

  • One from Instpector Gadget about how senior officers are selected, and why they therefore ruin everything. This contains a similar argument to...
  • ...The Devil's Kitchen's view as to why David Cameron has changed his mind on drugs.
  • Crooked Timber on Wikileaks
  • A couple from Heresy Corner on 'Extreme Porn' and the idea that Conservatives are "unevolved"
  • Tim Worstall on why Bureaucracies always expand.
  • The Adam Smith Institute on what "Big Society" actually means (rather than how David Cameron is implementing it) and how it's only possible with a tax-cut.
  • Paul Sagar at Liberal Conspiracy on why he's letting his (labour) party membership lapse
  • Charles Crawford suggesting that the Left's protests are rather futile. People protesting that other people should pay more tax to give them benefits they think they're owed is rather ugly.
  • Chris Dillow on character vs. institutions in politics.
Make a note of what you think are best posts of the week and send your selection to Britblog [at] gmail [dot] com, which this week is at the Blogoir (if he's got his PC up and running again)

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The end of Australian Sporting dominance

There’s the usual flood of paranoia in the Colonies about the piss poor showing in the Cricket. One commentator is bemoaning the fact that Australian Rules Football is stealing the best and brightest athletes from games played in more than one country. For those not in the know AFL is an exercise in Brownian Motion with a job lot of shorts left over from a Gay Pride March. Now I have no doubt that the odd decent athlete who can play Cricket or Rugby chooses to devote his life to grind a dreary Melbourne suburb to dust. But in reality I suspect this will have little to do with the AFL and competition with other sports and more to do with other factors. In England Soccer does not compete with Rugby Union, because the people who play Soccer would not be willing to get their Tony and Guy Coiffeur messed up by sticking it between the legs of a sweaty 20 stone Prop.

The simple matter is that Australia spent East German levels of cash on sport in the 80’s and 90’s due to a 1970’s cultural cringe. Now I’m not critiquing the Breadstealers for this, we piss loads of money away on another form of entertainment - dress up and pretend. The Theatre, Opera, Ballet and other dull ass things not half as exciting as watching Dolph Lundgren blowing a Somali Pirate in half in the Expendables. What makes this different to the Aussies is only that the Royal Opera House get snooty if you take hats that hold beer cans to the Playoff of Figaro Vs Count Almaviva, a must win game for both sides. At least sport keeps you fit and free of bullshit about what Cravat you wore to Dear Larry Olivier’s funeral. Combined this with the fact that their Climate is OK in parts (Every time I’ve been to Sydney it has pissed it down, but I understand the Northern Teritories are free from rain) has meant that the Australians have been able to defy sporting gravity for 20 odd years.

Sport is Cyclical. You can mess with the odds by poaching players from other nations and//or concentrating on one sport as the All Blacks and Brazil Soccer team proves. You can spend a load of money on Academies to coach players. But at the end of the day once every 20-30 years, purely by pot luck, you will gather a collection of players that are generally better than anybody else. And when you do its best not to gloat because sooner or later they will retire to write dull biographies and bone B-rate actresses, and you’ll be left not singing anymore. If the Aussies learn one thing from the Ashes, they should learn to sing like the Barmy Army. Because when your team sucks, laughing it off by singing bawdy verses with your mates whilst being dressed up like Julie Andrews makes you a better and more balanced nation.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Targets & What they do to Priorities.

Pointed out by Mr. Eugenides who's outsoursing some of his blogging to me. This is absolutely disgusting. So you're not allowed to tell people to stop doing something illegal so that the police can high-five each other for catching them instead?

I'd ask you to consider this quote: A CPS spokeswoman said: "Cost is not a consideration in our decision to prosecute". It is deemed entirely reasonable to waste a day of court time costing several tens of thousands of pounds to prosecute a man warning motorists of an upcoming speed trap.

As Mr E. Said. What a fucking country.

Update. He's written it up at the kitchen...

Jew Eggs

The brave and vigilant Saudi Security forces have arrested a Vulture that is part of the Zionist Conspiracy against Islam. According to Sky “The Saudi Arabian newspaper al-Weeam claims the bird was caught in a rural area with a "foul odor coming out of its mouth -- proof of a Zionist plot." They need to remain vigilant after a Mossad Shark was responsible for the attacks against swimmers in Egypt. Is there nothing the Israelis won’t use against the forces of Islam? Carry your anti-Gerbil nets at all times!

Get a life you sad little people seems to be the message coming out of Tel Aviv. I would like to add that if the Saudi’s actually bothered to read more than two books (one of them being that Tsarist forgery – The Protocols of the Elders of Zion) they might not be considered to a bunch of ignorant religious bigots and lunatics. I would also add that in the intelligence community there is only one creature that is capable of being trained as an enemy agent. And as we all know that one animal is a monkey. Hanging is too good for those simian French bastards.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

My Shit Life So Far.

The autobiography of Frankie Boyle.

In any case the whole of television and celebrity is simply a distracton aimed at keeping you sedated while your pockets are picked by vested interests which may or may not be lizards. You're going to end up with celebrity reality shows piped directly into your eyes in the same way that classical music is played to fatten cattle. What kind of person buys the autobiography of a panel show contestand? WAKE UP YOU CUNT.
It continues in this vein for some 300 pages.

100 Days of Miliband

Red Ed has decided that the Vat hike is bad for poor working families. He’s right in so much as all taxes are bad for working families. But then I very much believe he doesn’t think that all taxes are bad. Indeed I suspect he uses the thought of introducing more of them to raise the flagpole in the bedroom when he’s feeling a bit tired and emotional.

Whilst VAT is an unpleasant tax. The simple fact is that it isn’t charged on most Giffen goods. Food, Fuel, Kiddies Clothing which the poor consume more of in relation to their total income are VAT free or VAT Reduced in the case of power and utilities. So in reality, other than their Lambert and Butler ciggies, the vast majority of the poor’s purchasing power is unaffected. As for the rich – yeah, their M&S organic Kumquat and Aardvark Dropping salad is VAT free because - being a food - HMRC considers it the same thing as a pot noodle. Ditto that darling little Louis XVI Transitional style fauteuil that the “Rich” bought, as Antiques don’t get charged VAT. But everything else the “rich” spend their money on is going to see an increase in tax.

The hypocrisy of this is quite outstanding since the Labour Nomenklatura proposed increasing this tax twice and only failed to do so because Gordon Brown vetoed this proposal by Miliband. They also jumped on the bandwagon of the number of Flu shot vaccinations being down this year to complain about how the government had got rid of advertising it. Obviously Red Ed hasn’t spoken to Liam Byrne in his old department about there being “no money left”. It also didn’t occur to Mr Miliband that people aren’t fucking stupid, and can work out whether they need a needle jabbed into their arse or not without Sir Henry Cooper and the power of the state assisting them in the decision. Never ever forget that Labour are deeply unpleasant shits who will use an old lady dying of Flu to try to regain power.

The fact of the matter is VAT is also incredibly avoidable in many cases by ordering your goods abroad, or driving a large white van there. You simply make sure that the bloke sending you those DVD copies of “Oh Brothel, where art thou” and “Titty Titty Gang Bang” sends it in a Brown paper box with the “Cadeau” box on the customs form ticked (and lets be honest, this is probably a service he will offer anyway). You also make damn sure that the value of the good purchased is £17.99. Stiff shit if you insure it for that and then loose it in the post of course, but other than that you’re laughing. For that very reason I suspect this VAT increase is actually going to raise bugger all extra money, unless everybody goes out and buys something that cannot be carried by postie – like a bed.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Unemployment. Not caused by what you think it is.

In another post inspired by the chaps at Hagley Road to Ladywood, I take issue with Claude's characterisation of the Tories as heartlessly stoking unemployment for political gain. This annoys me for several reasons, not least the idea that Tories enjoy causing misery, but also because it demonstrates so many levels of misunderstanding about the economy in such a short post that I could barely contain myself.

What the keynsian head-banging left is trying to achieve is to "stimulate" the economy by deficit spending. This can take the form of tax cuts or spending. They both have the effect of increasing the deficit. The aim is to borrow demand from the future to boost the economy now. I don't believe it works: look at Japan 30 years of "stimulus" and all they have to show for it is 40% of Tax receipts going in debt service and debt at 200% of GDP. This punk keynsian approach hasn't worked anywhere. Ever.

So. The first premise against the cuts is wrong. It won't tip the economy into recession any more than spending will stimulate it.

The next premise is that the Tories are going to increase unemployment by firing hundreds of thousands of local government workers. Unemployment is the last economic indicator to turn. It usually turns about 18 months after the economy starts to recover from it's bottom, and polices to influence it are noticed, if at all after a similar delay. It is therefore to blame the Tories for the direction Unemployment is travelling about Summer-Autumn 2011. Unemployment is rising: That's still the Labour party's fault.

It may seem foolish to increase the rate of job losses. This looks stronger than the rather stupid idea that cuts will tip the country into recession, but it too is wrong, because as I've argued many times, cutting the deficit is vital to prevent a catastrophic collapse in the economy, and that can't be done without a smaller public sector payroll. And it's wrong mainly because this level of job-losses can be absorbed by a recpovering private sector even without boom-level growth. Don't believe me? The UK workforce of 30,000,000 from 1988-2008 lost around 2.2m jobs a year, so an extra 300,000 is neither here nor there. Except that it isn't 300,000 as there are nearly a million jobs CREATED in the public sector each year. This 300,000 is just those jobs lost which will not be refilled. In fact, the rate of job destruction is remarkably constant during the economic cycle. The most important thing influencing unemployment is the rate of job creation. In the context of an economy which creates around 150-200,000 jobs a month, even now during what is regarded as a pretty horrible economic time, the idea that the private sector will take up the slack, although derided by leftists, is easily believable, if you're prepared to look at the facts.

Some people on the left don't think anyone should be fired, ever. That's just naive. If you want to have a grown-up debate, it is important to accept that jobs have to go from time to time. If you accept that, you need to ensure that there are jobs to go to, and of course for all the reasons mentioned, it is important to look at what increases the rate of job creation.

The government, insofar as it is able must make it less risky for employers to hire. If you cannot fire a worker once hired, this increases the risk of hiring him in the first place. This means that if you make it easier to fire, there will be MORE jobs created, and unemployment will fall. This single piece of counter-intuitive logic effectively negates everything the left believes about employment.

So attempts to stimulate the economy by spending fail, because they destroy the economy. Attempts to mitigate by preventing people getting fired fail because they cause MORE companies in trouble to go bust, and they make it riskier to hire, reducing job creation and resulting in HIGHER unemployment.

In attempting to reduce a small evil - being fired in a dynamic economy, the left condemns millions to a life on benefits without the hope of work. Leftist policy is to the benefit of insiders - those with full-time public sector jobs (especially unionised insiders) but that is the detriment of everyone else, tax-payers, the crowded out private-sector. But most catastrophically the unemployed.

The Tories want the same as Labour. Low unemployment. The fact is the Tories have a MUCH better track record in delivering it. Every labour government since the war has left more people languishing on the dole than when they took office. They also usually left a weaker pound, currency and fiscal crises.

The state is the wrong tool for the job of reducing unemployment, and state spending or fiscal stimulus vies with job protection polices for the most catastrophically counterproductive policy to reduce unemployment. In fact the best thing the state can do to create jobs is build infrastructure (that basically means roads) and bugger off, leaving the people to use it as they see fit without interference by Government. People's natural desire to solve problems and get rich will see to it that anyone who wants a job can have one. Once you sort out the over-generous welfare state to see to it that everyone actually wants one, then you have full employment.

The less the state does, the better. Every solution the Labour party regards as axiomatic PREVENTS full employment. You might even think that they WANT an enormous client state of servile benefits recipients to reliably vote for the (Labour) hand that feeds. But even I'm not that cynical. Never attribute to malice what could be attributed to mere incompetence.

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