I hate Mises to pieces

I’ve long been slightly intrigued by the Austrian School – a group of economists (based, rather curiously, in Alabama), named after ultraconservative economist Ludwig Von Mises.

Their philosophy is that not only are taxes and government regulations bad, but equality itself is – and there are effectively no circumstances under which governments can be good. For example, they believe government military spending is bad because it crowds out spending on private armies.

Recently, either they or a vicious enemy of theirs (I’m hoping the latter) has produced an Are You An Austrian test. This has a typical ‘political test’ structure, in that nearly all questions have two sensible possible answers and two absolutely deranged possible answers. However, unlike a typical political test, the ‘correct’ answers fall into the deranged category (the other deranged option is Marxism, although being ignorant the Austrians refer to it as “socialism”).

Let’s get Mr Jinx to eat the lot of them…

Posted in Uncategorized

Hmmpf

So, my girlfriend and I both booked today off work, going for the whole ‘quality time’ thing. Then, last night, I got struck down by a horrible flu thing, which has made my (and, indirectly, her) day reasonably miserable.

I’ll be particularly displeased if I’m well enough to go into work tomorrow.

Posted in Uncategorized

Now your animal’s gone

Sad music news: the second best band of the 1990s have split up. Also slightly odd news, in that the post-Bernard Butler Suede was entirely Brett’s band anyway… maybe he’s decided he needs to spend more time with his crack pipe.

One thing Suede had in common with Oasis (who, regrettably, haven’t split up) was that for both bands, their B-sides compilations were by far their best albums. And Sci-Fi Lullabies kicks The Masterplan‘s arse into touch.

If you only buy one album recommended by a blog today, then it should be the former (although if you rely on political-ish blogs for your music purchases, you should probably get out and/or read the music press more).

Posted in Uncategorized

Official party ranking

My throwaway “official party ranking” below got a lot more interest than the post it was in. Since I’m a big fan of giving the public what it wants (as long as it features me pontificating about politics), here’s an extended version.

My critera for a “sensible political party” are:

1) social libertarianism: don’t let’s lock people up for having odd sex, saying nasty things, or enjoying unusual chemicals.

2) economic liberalism: free trade tends to be better than rival economic models at making people overall richer. While I’d argue that you can take economic liberalism too far (starvation for the unemployed doesn’t appeal), none of the UK parties are arguing for this at the moment so the point is moot.

3) lack of bizarre additional policies tangential to 1 and 2: this handicaps the Greens (e.g. opposition to economic growth), Loonies (e.g. criminalising metric and closing the Channel Tunnel), UKIP (err, see Loonies), and the BNP (if you need to ask, I’m worried).

Looking at the individual parties:

Lib Dems

1) Broadly strong; let down by anti-”hate speech” policies.

2) Medium and improving (some members score very low here, but Vincent Cable is as economically literate as anyone in Westminster, and he’s the guy in the seat).

3) Sharing platforms with hardcore Islamists a bit worrying

Labour

1) Weak. Improved gay rights, but in favour of compulsory ID cards, Internet monitoring, interning foreigners without trial, and banning “hate speech”.

2) Medium-to-strong. Brown’s done a good job so far, although extra spending on NHS, punishment, etc is daft.

3) The fact that most of the people in the party hate the leadership and everything it stands for is a bit worrying.

Greens

1) Broadly strong; let down by anti-”hate speech” policies.

2) Very bad indeed.

3) The party’s philosophical goals are different from the mainstream ones – most people favour “raising standards of living” (through various different means), but this isn’t the primary goal for Greens.

Monster Raving Loony Party

1) Broadly strong; let down by pro-”mandatory-eating-of-asparagus” policies.

2) Unworkable, although better than the Greens.

3) Mixture of the foolish and the sensible (the latter include compelling MPs to provide evidence that they’ve been working in order to be paid, making union political contributions opt-in rather than opt-out, privatising industries by dividing shares among the members of the public who already own them…)

Conservatives

1) Split. “Grass roots” in favour of hanging, flogging, against sex, fun, people who aren’t like them, but many supporters and MPs reasonably libertarian. I’m not willing to take the risk of the Cuthbertson crowd taking power…

2) Poor. In favour of raising pensions, health spending, education spending, punishment spending; no plans for funding said increases without raising taxation.

3) Xenophobia and knee-jerk anti-Europeanism (mostly among the “grass roots” above.

UKIP

1) Many social policies surprisingly libertarian – recognition that prison is inappropriate for minor offences, support of freedom of speech, pro-immigration of skilled workers.

2) Economic policies almost as incoherent as Tories, with populist gestures (cut fuel tax, raise pensions, raise NHS spending) that cost double the money theoretically saved by EU withdrawal.

3) Single-issue party with many supporters opposed to other points in platform (especially civil libertarian points) – to be trused with power?; position on single issue not obviously correct.

BNP

1) Aside from the obvious, big fans of general illiberalism – birching vandals, throwing drug users out of their homes, etc.

2) Overregulation (eg policy on ‘preserving small businesses’ by banning big ones from competing; policy on awarding licenses for taxis etc to ‘bear the closest possible relationship to the average make-up of the local population’. And there’s more…).

3) Based on an entirely ridiculous single issue policy: after all, it’s hard to deny that mass immigration has enormously enriched and helped Britain over the last 1500 years.

Further thoughts welcome (as an aside, while I was researching this post I was surprised to see how sensible some of the UKIP’s non-Europe policies are – not exactly leftist, but certainly more liberal/libertarian than the Tories. I might even consider swapping the Tories and UKIP in the rankings…)

Posted in Uncategorized

No lawyer no cry

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Canadians are amusing.

Admittedly, if you were defending someone who shot the sheriff, didn’t shoot the deputy, and swore it was in self-defence, it’d be hard to resist thinking of Mr Marley – but then again, lawyers are paid lots of money to appear sensible in such situations.

I wonder, would the defence lawyer have sung “White Riot” if he’d been defending these illustrious gentlemen?

Interactive moment: post your top (in)appropriate thing to sing at a trial for a particular offence / person in the comments box. The best one gets a copy of Babylon Zoo’s second album (subject to more than a couple of people entering…)

Update November 6 12:38pm – fine, don’t post any answers then. I’m keeping the Babylon Zoo…

Posted in Uncategorized

I hate me so much right now

Picture the scene: me, a week or so ago, vaguely aware that I had to write a report on the market for personal care products among black people in the UK, but knowing the draft deadline wasn’t until today.

It’s a Sunday, I’m on a train, I’m reading the Observer, and I notice an article that says black women’s incomes are level with white women. This is obviously interesting and relevant – so I make a mental note to bring the article into work, then promptly forget about it.

Now the scene shifts to me, in the office, today. Did I bring the article in? Of course not. No problem – the Observer’s got a good website. However, the relevant article is completely unfindable.

Which somewhat undermines my plans for that section of the report. Bugger. If anyone spots it, please can they let me know. And in future, I’m going to keep clippings… sod the web.

Posted in Uncategorized

Questions for conservatives

One of last week’s biggest events was the rise of Transylvania’s finest to the top of Britain’s fifth-most-sensible political party (the official ranking goes Lib Dem – Labour – Green – Monster Raving Loony – Tory – UKIP – BNP, in case you were wondering).

This has sparked a great debate on dealing-with-crime strategies. Should we lock everyone up and throw away the keys (until the only remaining crime is key-littering) – or should we send rapists on free Club 18-30 holidays (where nobody will notice them, or object even if they do)?

Since everyone’s been having this argument since forever, or possibly longer, little new was said this week. People on the right pointed to the way crime fell under Mr Howard’s stewardship. People on the left talked about the reduction in economic inequality that took place at the same time.

People on the right pointed to America, where they lock everyone up who’s black and lots of people who aren’t, and which had lower overall crime than the UK last year. People on the left pointed to mainland Europe, where they don’t lock many people up at all and have long had much lower crime than the UK.

Overall, it looks like there are two hard-to-contest points. One is that to some extent, prison works. It’s very, very, very expensive and it turns the people who go to it into much worse criminals than they were beforehand – but it keeps them out of circulation meantime and deters some people from doing crimes.

The other is that (unless you’re a sick bastard who enjoys seeing people suffer for the hell of it) any solution that works as well as (or better than) prison but has a lower financial and/or human cost is clearly far better.

This raises the question of why people in Europe are so much better than us at not doing crime and at not locking everyone up in jail. The completely obvious answer is “greater equality of income” – but right-wingers tend to deny that one exists at all. However, I can also think of a few potential alternatives:

1) British people are genetically programmed to be bad
This would explain high crime rates in the UK and in America, where most people are of part-British descent. If this were the case, the best solution would be to encourage immigration – particularly from low-crime India and China – and discourage British people from breeding.

2) The European justice system is far better than the UK system
If this were the case, the reason for the difference would be clear. The remedy would also be clear: ignore the Eurosceptics and sign up for everything the EU has to teach us.

3) European leaders set a better example
In mainland Europe, with the exception of mafia don Silvio Berlusconi, political leaders tend to be averse to fighting – both Prescott-style, and in terms of going to war. Maybe if our Blessed Leader were less gung-ho about using violence to solve his problems, British youth would follow suit.

I’m not convinced any of these are right – but I’d appreciate any more possible reasons (just thought of another – the Evil Corrupt Europeans are cooking the statistics: actually, Europe is a hotbed of crime, sin, murder and vice….). While it’s amusing as a pro-European to see an issue where mainland Europe pisses all over Anglo-America, it would be nice to have less crime and less prison. And if the only explanation is income equality, then maybe we should have some more of it?

Posted in Uncategorized

And lo, the switch was made

Finally, I’m ready to roll out the coded-by-me version of Shot By Both Sides to the world. I know the visual design isn’t perfect… I got so frustrated by eNetation eating my comments that I decided to move over anyway. And it’s only the stylesheet and the header that need radical change to create beauty and prettyness.

So, welcome. Hopefully this will be more reliable and generally groovier than before – I’m also looking forward to being able to view my referring URLs. I think this makes me officially a “sad case”.

Posted in Uncategorized

Content management

For no reason other than sheer bloodymindedness (well, sheer bloodymindedness and the desire to remember at least some web development skills), I’ve written my own content management software for Shot by both sides, rather than using an off-the-shelf system like Moveable Type. Imaginatively, this software is called SBBS.

The first release of SBBS appeared at the very end of October 2003; incremental updates since then have improved its functionality to be on a par with the leading software packages as of May 2004 (purely in terms of my needs; it can’t do multiple authors and various other complicated things I don’t need).

If you’d like to run your weblog using SBBS software, despite the fact that it has no significant advantages over MT, feel free to drop me a line. If you’d like help developing your own content management system, then for the love of God get in touch with Chris Lightfoot or someone else who knows what they’re doing. Failing that, feel free to drop me a line. Finally, if you spot any bugs or flaws or other things in SBBS that impair your reading experience, feel free to drop me a line.

Finally, the nasty bit: unlike the verbal content of Shot by both sides, which can be copied for non-commercial use under the Creative Commons License, the SBBS software is entirely not in the public domain. Any attempts to use it without my permission will result in great vengeance, furious anger, and other negative adjective/noun combinations.

Posted in Uncategorized