Monday, June 28, 2010

Britblog Roundups: the 'football team's coming home' edition

Hello! And welcome to this sunny BB round up which is taking place on a Monday as no sun worshipper worth their salt would have been in on a day like yesterday.

So from a bronzed Trixy towers, here is a selection of the posts from the blogosphere in the week where England finally ended their world cup challenge and thus people finally took down those tacky flags with 'The Sun' or 'England' emblazoned across them. Yippee!

I'm going to start this week with an excellent post from Mark Reckons who notice an air of hypocrisy around the writing of Simon Heffer:

Quite aside from the fact that his logic is severely flawed (we have had crack-down after crack-down on drugs for the last 40 years and use has risen hugely), where is the liberal Simon Heffer who wants the government to back off from people's freedoms to drink beer and smoke tobacco? Both of these drugs harm and kill far more people each year than all illegal drugs combined. Why is there such a clear difference in his mind between the two groups of drugs, those that are legal and those that the government (sometimes seemingly arbitrarily) deem illegal?

Moving from one sin to another in the eyes of the pure, our man in Hanoihas noticed that the British Embassy has an interesting freebie. Each to their own, I guess...

Moving onto the subject of football, Matthew writes about why he thinks England could never have won the world cup this time around. I've always wondered why people get so attached to clubs given that they bear little resemblance to clubs which were started up for players of that area. Players move around all the time, as do managers. Someone who is the favourite one minute then becomes in some way a traitor or hated for doing what he probably did before he joined the club one supports. It's a marketplace and to me it's like supporting a favourite shop. I love shopping in Gina but if they secure a new marketing manager and the shares go up I'm just as happy as before because, well, it's a business.
Let us though not try and place the blame for this defeat solely on to others, when the real reason lies, at heart, with the English ourselves.

We have sold our best clubs to foreign owners. Foreign managers oversee them and foreign players dominate the 'English' Premiership line-ups. If you want a vision of England's future, take a look at Scotland today.

I'd like the oiks who threw eggs at my windows to understand that but I doubt very much they can actually read.

Brian Barder writes about Indeterminate Sentences for Public Protection which, despite the fact that he employs the phrase 'Polly Toynbee is right' reads very sensibly. I don't tend to get too involved with the whole crime thing, in the sense of committing it or what one should do with prisoners because, let's face it, one can't be interested and informed in everything. And I'm interesting and informed in a whole raft of topics so I'm sure you'll forgive me. And anyway, the tan makes up for it.
These people are in preventive detention, being punished for future offences they haven’t committed, often with no hope of release, fearing that they are in prison for life, having already been punished for often quite minor offences. The onus is on them to prove a negative about the future, which is conceptually impossible as well as reversing the normal onus of proof. The proportion of IPPers so far released is minuscule.

Staying on the same blog, but moving over to the subject of Afghanistan. The headlines were full of Cameron's statement that he wants British troops to withdraw from the country by 2015. But why is that? Like Obama's statement, war is not something you can put a definite time on (and if you do you'll probably be wrong) unless you don't actually have to be there. Is this the case in Afghanistan? Technically speaking it was not an illegal war because it's not actually an international conflict but lives have been lost, bodies have been shattered and hearts have been broken.
Our political leaders are, I think, inhibited by two fears, neither of which can possibly justify a single additional death or maiming of another British soldier.

The first is the fear that our withdrawal will be interpreted as a failure, and a defeat for British arms. But it need not be so. Britain has been second only to the Americans in the size and effectiveness of our contribution to the war over nine years, and in the cost of it in blood and treasure. It can reasonably credibly be claimed that our war effort has real and tangible achievements to its credit: al-Qaeda’s presence and power virtually eliminated, Taliban control of towns and villages removed and girls’ schools reopened, social development schemes instigated and funded under British military protection, Afghans given political options denied to them in the years before 9/11 and the arrival of NATO forces.

Neil Craig is getting a bit misty eyed at the prospect of the Norwegians building a tunnel for ships. I agree that one in Scotland would be fantastic but it would be late and about 10 times over budget, I guess.

Finally, because Chameleon said she enjoyed it (although I think that was only to remind me to write the round up this week!) here is my post on the budget and how I think the Tories still have a shit EU policy.

I've just been informed that I am not allowed to support Germany in the world cup, despite the egg throwing incident but have to support The Netherlands. This is because my Dutch housemate hates Germans because they 'start wars and stole my grandfather's bicycle'. Well, it won me over.

Until next week, get nominating your favourite posts at britblog [at] gmail [dot] com

Pip pip!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Finally a budget for single people

For years, especially under the socialist government of Labour we've had to listen to all the benefits which would be going to 'hard working families', how 'schools n' hospitals would have as much money as they wished and how 'the poor' must get everything they want without having to actually get a job.

It was all to get us to be involved in the state. Child Tax Credits are clearly inefficient as a way of redistributing income and a higher personal allowance would do the job of ensuring the lowest incomes don't pay tax to keep them in an unemployment trap, but that wouldn't have worked for Gordon. He wanted you to be dependent on the state; to love it and him for its generosity.

So since I've been paying tax it's been a slavering socialist at the dispatch box telling me how much more of my money he's going to be taking from me to throw into his pit of money to waste on pointless projects.

But last week it was different: here was a budget which actually pleased me in many ways.

For now I don't have to pay so much for other people's children or the endless pursuing of the married couples' vote with one off lump payments for newborns and endless nonsense about monitoring schools. You may think I'm being unreasonable but for thirteen years the single and childless were shouting 'What about us?' at the TV and into newspapers. We don't get benefits, we just bloody pay for it all and sit there struggling to get a deposit for a house, ineligible for any tax credits or council housing because we've chosen not to spawn.

The rise in VAT is annoying because of course it increases money we give to the EU which is already far too much. It's politically preferred, of course, as whilst it will affect inflation until the 13 month rolling average sorts that one out it isn't a headline grabbing increase in income tax and doesn't show on the monthly salary statement which is the general view of how we all work out how better or worse off we are.

I only hope that in November the coalition will have the guts to realise that what they've started is a good thing. We shouldn't be worrying about winter fuel payments because if we didn't rape the pensions system and get taxed to kingdom come then people would have enough for their retirement. Stop state dependency and grow a pair. This country started the industrial revolution and it was the Victorian work ethic which allowed us to be great whilst at the same time improving conditions for the poorest in society. That concept has been hidden but I do hope that it hasn't been lost.

And whilst we're on the subject of growing a pair, the increase in the number of MEPs gives the chance that the Tories and Cameron said he wanted to get rid of this Lisbon Treaty. They came first in the country in 2009 with eurosceptic rhetoric and claims that they wanted to repatriate powers to Westminster.

But at the first chance he has he's already been wooed by Barroso over eggs and bacon and a quick kiss and cuddle at the first summit he attended as Prime Minister.

We cut the defence budget but ring fence international 'aid' which harms the chances of free trade and global development whilst Cameron bleats on inaccurately about how he'll push ahead with bilateral trade agreements for the UK. Not since we joined the EEC, Cameron old chap. We have a single trade policy now: we don't even get a seat at the WTO...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Euro is a victim of its own success

Yes, yes: that is what the President of Europe said. Nothing to do with the fact that this currency is based upon a political pipe dream which ignores economics and the democractic wish of the people who foot the bill. Nothing to do with the fact that the criteria for joining the currency were wishywashy themselves and even then were ignored by many of the Club Med countries in the EU. It's such a success, that's why Germans are bailing out other countries. And don't you forget it!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Lack of judgement or wounded pride?

President Obama hasn't been having a good couple of weeks. First of all he's had to launch a full scale attack on BP and ignore any US involvement to ensure that he keeps up his protectionist stance. Now Gen McChrystal is coming under fire from the politician and his advisors, mainly for comments made by his aide.

At the White House meeting on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Gen McChrystal is expected to face:

Joe Biden. Gen McChrystal had mocked the vice-president when asked a question about him. "Are you asking about Vice-President Biden? Who's that?"
Karl Eikenberry. Gen McChrystal said he felt "betrayed" by the US ambassador to Kabul during the long 2009 White House debate on troop requests for Afghanistan
James Jones. One of Gen McChrystal's aides says the national security adviser is a "clown stuck in 1985"
Richard Holbrooke. Gen McChrystal says of an e-mail from the US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan: "Oh, not another e-mail from Holbrooke... I don't even want to open it"

Stanley McChrystal has been praised as the best commander in Afghanistan in the nine year war and has reduced civilian casualties by 44% which will have a positive impact on the 'hearts and minds' battle in the country, vital for intelligence on local Taliban activities.

But instead of concentrating on that, Obama has some wounded pride to see to. If members of his administration haven't been supporting the troops properly than I think it's important that people know about it. If his attitude has been less than helpful yet he and his administration are using trips to see the troops to raise their profile then I think it's a valid thing for people to know about. After all; who pays the bill?

Former CGS Gen Sir Richard Dannett was outspoken about the last Labour government and many people think this is why he never became Chief of the Defence Staff at a time when the Army was, has and will continue to take the brunt of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.

By its very nature and the emotions the Armed Forces bring about, troops will always be a political tool. It's just that only rarely do those stories make the front pages and when they do, it's the military which get blamed by the politicians for being irresponsible.

Friday, June 18, 2010

So stats aren't his strong point

If I showed someone a graph which had a direct correlation between two sets of figures one can say that one has an effect on the other. Economists calculate this using the formula r squared, or the correlation coefficient.

r squared is between 0 and 1: at 0 there is no correlation. 1 is where the two are entirely dependent on each other. I used to have a great time during my degree collecting all kinds of data and calculating if they had anything to do with each other. And it also enabled me to occasionally throw into conversation the word heteroskedasticity.

This EU summit has, alas, proven that our new Prime Minister isn't up there with even basic stats, let alone yummy econometrics.

Mr Cameron said a larger EU had diluted the tendency for further bureaucratic integration. He said: “Now Europe is so much wider and broader, with the countries of eastern and central Europe as members, that will help push us in a more intergovernmental direction, which I support.
“The wider and broader Europe takes some of the pressure off further integration. But you also have to be on your guard.”

This was the excuse used for Greek entry to the EU in the 1980s and actually was an A Level economics question (where you don't tend to use any stats apart from the terms of trade).

It's quite clearly a nonsense which doesn't require any complex analysis but a basic look at the different treaties over the past 50 years.

When the A8 countries joined in 2004 the EU didn't have as many powers as it does now. One of the criteria for them joining in their accession treaties were that they signed up to the EU Constitution, now in law as the Lisbon Treaty.]

Before Greece joined, Cyprus joined, before Finland and the UK there weren't the powers in the original documents as there are now. I know that the Tories use the reason for supporting expansion as saying that the pond will become wider and less deep but it's a nonsense. It's the reason they're using for their support of Turkey joining and countries like Serbia, but it's a fucking nonsense.

What I'm trying to establish in my own mind is that are the Tories, and Cameron in particular, being mendacious in their statements or are they being ignorant?

Answers on a shoebox, please.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Ups and Downs in the EU

Whilst Cameron and Hague are having a love in with Barroso and the EU, agreeing that people who lead an organisation who haven't had their accounts signed off for fifteen years should approve our budget, one man who has never traded his principles gave another warning on the Euro.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Bonus time for bootleggers?

(I'm posting this on behalf of the Lovely One.)

So it's only been a few weeks but I'm still yet to be bowled over by the repealing of detrimental legislation which was piled on this country by the combination of Brussels and the ghastly ex-Labour government.

ID cards were satisfying but quite frankly I'm hungry for more. We had thirteen years of incompetence and those people running the country into the ground and what I'm looking for is something more, well, groundbreaking. As far as I can tell it's still illegal to do things which are normal things to do like, for example, smoke inside, and at the same time we have the Lib Dems trying to force the utterly ruinous rocketing of CGT which people like Jackart don't seem to think so terrible for some reason. I've no idea why that is except, like a second marriage, it's a triumph of hope over experience.

A rise in CGT will stop people investing in, well, most things. Second homes which are pension provisions especially since Gordon Brown raped our pension pots. Shares which boost many areas of economic life through injections of liquidity. Even for demand side economists who worship the Income Equation, a generous boost of 'I' is just what the doctor ordered in these economically uncertain times.

But here's a basic thing that the coalition could do, which wouldn't really need much effort and would be a step in the right direction both for our civil liberties and small businesses.

SALES of blackmarket cigarettes could outstrip legal sales in Britain unless ­Labour’s draconian over-the-counter ban is reversed for shopkeepers.

In Canada a similar ban saw contraband sales in parts of the country overtake shop sales within 12 months of the new law coming in.

If the same thing happened in Britain, hundreds of newsagents would go to the wall and the Treasury would lose out on millions more in unpaid taxes.

One hardly expects a Labour government to do anything remotely sensible which is part of the reason why we're in the mess we are in. But I'm afraid that a Tory majority coalition should not have the excuse of incompetence to hide behind.

They are supposed to be the party which abhores excessive regulation and wants to promote freedoms and small businesses. I do hope that this marriage of convenience with the Lib Dems does not turn out to be more like an affaire de coeur with a mere mistress having undue influence.

It's about time that this country had a government with a vague grasp on the right thing to do. And this one seems pretty simple to me.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

It's nothing personal...

I've had a mentally challenging day and so have decided to indulge by reading all the shit in newspapers, mainly about Cheryl Tweedy, as we're to know her as. It's as sinful as licking the bowl of the chocolate cake with fresh strawberry frosting which I have made for a friend. But less fattening.

There are fabulous flashes of genius, though:
Cheryl is said to have broken the news to Ashley by telling him frankly: “It’s nothing personal but I never want to see or hear from you ever again. Please respect that.”

Nothing further to add, your honour.

The world according to the Estonians

Enjoy this rather splendid clip by the Estonians whilst I have a look at the results of the Georgian elections and see who will be pissed off most by the results and if Russia will start attacking them again in the knowledge that the EU are too shit scared of them to comply with international law and defend Georgia.

Britblog Roundup

Slightly late, for which I apologise but life is still rather kunterbunt at the moment, but here is the excellent Britblog Roundup as hosted by the talented Chameleon.

Next week we're going to see Jackart who I don't think has forgiven me for still lusting after David Miliband.

Ah, well.