Archive | January, 2009

Genius

25 Jan

Stephen Fry sums up exactly why getting Britain out of its apathetic political morass will be more difficult than people think ::

(scroll forward to 4-mins for the line about “Only in America”)

Recommended reading: Coroners and Justice Bill – destroying data protection

23 Jan

Lee has penned a piece of essential reading over at LC regarding the newly announced Coroners and Justice Bill, which promises to have devastating consequences for our civil liberties and make a joke of the Data Protection Act.

It’s time for a change, people. These guys just can’t be trusted any longer. Power corrupts.

The problem when ideology is ill-informed

23 Jan

From Dizzy “Thinks” ::

From former Spanish PM José María Aznar López on whether the current economic crisis signifies a failure of the free market.

It is certainly not a failure of the free market, but a failure of the current mechanism of state regulation and intervention in a sector which is already highly regulated, the banking system. It is the same with politics – democracy is not discredited merely because a bad government has been elected.

Spot on.

Spot on? You sure?

A lack of regulations in the CDS market, meant that when one institution collapsed (Lehman Brothers – or taking it further back and looking at another unstable financial instrument, Bear Sterns), the others lost confidence in each other as they had no idea as to each other’s level of exposure to the crisis.

The day-to-day borrowings between financial institutions seized up, and businesses in the real economy couldn’t secure short-term lending to continue operating (I used to arrange this borrowing myself when I worked in finance). This sparked the inevitable market correction that many of us had been predicting for years.

It was absolutely a lack of regulation of the these complicated financial markets that meant there was no transparency, and credit traders couldn’t calculate risk with any level of confidence. Fear spread quickly, and governments – rightly or wrongly – decided they had no option but to step in and try to grease the system, to prevent many companies having to cease trading because capital they relied on had dried up.

(History: The Republican legislature and Clinton White House took a pass on regulating this emerging economy, who along with our own European governments, share responsibility for the initial collapse.)

I don’t like regulations per se, but they’re often a necessary evil to ensure the stability of a system we all rely on. Good governments write good laws and set sensible, lean and robust rules.

Maybe some of the existing regulations in the banking system are crap, but you’d be a fool to suggest that it was regulation that caused the initial collapse, when it’s the exact opposite that’s true (in the specific cases of CDSs, CDOs, and short-selling).

It’s no use taking an ideological laissez-faire attitude, if you don’t understand the fundamentals of the system, and how a lack of transparency (see rules) can lead to massive ‘systematic risk’.

Political compass

22 Jan

Jennie’s posted about the US version of the political compass. I just took the test. Results below. As for the modest “cultural liberal” score, I think my lack of enthusiasm for welfare cost me (it’s worth pointing out that this is the US version of the test.)

My Political Views
I am a centrist social libertarian
Left: 0.19, Libertarian: 6.66

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: -6.33

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Culture War Stance
Score: -6.29

Political Spectrum Quiz

On car seats

22 Jan

Jesus, getting the kids in and out of the car is a drag.

Child car seats, and now those bastard compulsory booster seats, must be specially designed to make journeys as stressful as possible.

I think companies are mandated to make them dysfunctional. There I am in the back of the car, doubled over like a porn star being drilled by a moustachioed washing-machine repairman, trying to get two pieces of metal into an impossibly small slot while my kids wriggle and squirm like captured fish.

Maybe child car seats are a subtle weapon in the war against climate change. The government, it seems, are committed to making every car journey as painful as possible.

It was raining this morning, and both of my children have the sniffles. It made sense to keep them dry and warm in the car, but I spent all morning dreading the rigmarole of getting the little scamps into their seats.

The wife is over in Paris for a week with her sister, so the opportunity of getting out of the school-run this week is non-existant. Tomorrow I’ll put an extra layer on the kids and brave the winter air sans automobile. I guess you win, Al Gore. You smug big-faced bastard.

BJ the Mayor Bear wrote about car-seats a few years ago, so I’ll leave you with opening paragraphs of his rant ::

Of all the sensations of joy and release that Nature in her kindness has bestowed on the human race, there is little or nothing to beat the moment when you get rid of the baby’s car seat.

It beats getting off a long-haul flight. It beats taking off a pair of ill-fitting ski-boots after a hard day on the slopes. It verges, frankly, on the orgasmic. As you take the wretched thing to Oxfam, you thank your stars that never again will you have to grapple with that incomprehensible buckle.

Never again will you stand sweating over your baby as it screams and writhes and sticks yoghurt in your ear. Never again will you have that struggle of wills, as the child’s efforts to escape become ever more desperate and violent, and you grow later and later in setting off on your journey.

For children and parents alike that precious moment – when it is deemed that the offspring are capable of sitting on their own in the back with only a seat belt – is one of the pleasures of growing up. It is a rite of passage, a moment of pride and childish prestige.

It is, therefore, utterly incredible that the state should now be trying to prolong our national car seat agony. How old do you think they have to be before the nanny state will let your kids sit in the back without a car seat? Did I hear six? Did I hear seven? No, my friends, we are being asked to put our children in plastic booster seats until they reach the ripe old age of 12 or attain a height of 135cm, whichever is the sooner.

Recommended Reading: Ashamed to be English or ashamed of sex?

16 Jan

Pop over to Himmelgarten Café, where the fabulously named Costigan Quist looks at a religious conservative’s claims about promiscuous Britain.

Nice to see someone actually challenging these sorts of statements.

We do have problems in this country. We do need to do more to make sure that people take parenting more seriously. And we do face social problems because parents are overwhelmed by – or don’t take seriously – the realities of bringing up a child. But this has little to do with shagging.

It’s perfectly possible to get laid every night, with multiple partners, and then live a perfectly healthy life, with or without collecting an army of sprogs.

It’s called using protection (and I don’t mean praying every day and wearing a cross).

Also, I might add that humanists and agnostics are no more or less moral than religious people. We just don’t necessarily believe in an all-powerful space alien who hasn’t done a day’s work in over 2,000-years. Capiche?

Miliband: the re-invention

15 Jan

You have to give some credit to David Miliband for his sheer bloody cheek. He’s spent the last 5+ years toeing the party line over Iraq and the wider war on terror, only to abandon the policy the moment a more sane administration begins measuring the drapes in the Oval Office.

It’s a shame that Labour had to shed so many supporters, commentators and activists in the process.

I mean, was it all really worth it?

Was watching Mr. Blair accept his medal from W really worth all the blood and the tears? I think probably not.

Indeed this paragraph really got my goat ::

The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists, or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common. Terrorist groups need to be tackled at root, interdicting flows of weapons and finance, exposing the shallowness of their claims, channelling their followers into democratic politics.

I’m sorry, but isn’t this just what the intelligent people have been saying ever since 9/11? Isn’t this the same line the New Labour cabinet has been rejecting week-in week-out on Question Time?

Does this mean that they’re going to stop grandstanding on terrorism to push through illiberal policies and that they’re about to abort ridiculous projects such as ID cards? Or is Miliband just, as Alisdair Cameron has suggested, merely positioning himself cleverly with a leadership bid in mind?

Or maybe Brown is behind this: is the PM, ever the pathetic weakling, adjusting British foreign policy to continue its conjoined (yet always subservient) relationship with Washington? Something Tim Almond has wisely referred to as “a shocking bit of 51st statism”. No change there then.

Maybe, just maybe, New Labour could have shown a bit of courage and stood up to Bush back when Tony left the stage. As Iain Martin points out in the Telegraph, Miliband’s timing is evidence of colossal cowardliness.

I’ll leave you with Miliband’s most hypocritical paragraph, just to see if you manage to finish it without grinding your teeth into powdery white enamel dust ::

We must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it, for it is the cornerstone of the democratic society. We must uphold our commitments to human rights and civil liberties at home and abroad. That is surely the lesson of Guantánamo and it is why we welcome President-elect Obama’s commitment to close it.

Amen (at last).