25/01/2014

Stop and Search

Listening to episode 93 of the House of Comments podcast Emma tells us in that 50% of people stopped and searched by police are black (or was it West Indian,? I can't be bothered to listen again) which is more than the population distribution, as if that is something we should be worried about. It struck me as a either typical left wing thoughtless use of statistics or deliberately misleading. Having listened to her and read her blog for a while now I'll go with thoughtless use of statistics.

The first thing we should be asking ourselves is where is Stop and Search carried out? We'd like to think it is carried out in areas of high crime where it is likely to act as a detterrent.

Then we'd like to know whether or not is was working by, say, seeing crime come down. If it is then great, do we need more of it to deter more crime or can we get the same deterrence with less of it?

If it isn't deterring crime then why not? Do we need more of it? Do we need to change the way its done?

Only now should we be looking at the colour of those being stopped and searched compared to the local population. Unfortunately I haven't been able to track anything down which looks at top and Search by detailed location and I suspect that would be informative.

I say that because I remember reading some analysis in The Economist some time ago where they broke down the Stop and Search statistics for Leeds. What they found, IIRC, is that Stop and Search was carried out in mainly high crime areas, as expected, and the main area was Chapeltown. At the time that area had a fearsome reputation for high crime and it was also had a large British Caribbean community. Again relying on memory the outcome was that although the proportion of Stop and Search was in line with the population statistics for that area.

Now lets turn this round and look from the other end of the telescope. The statistics tell us that we are stopping too many blacks, so what do we do? If we reduce Stop and Search and crime goes up that's not much comfort to the local community who are most at risk and I'd bet there would be lots of complaints from blacks and whites. If we reduce the numbers of blacks being stopped and searched and crime goes up it doesn't look good for local race relations. Suppose we stop more whites and crime rates stay the same? Now we are wasting time and resources and still demonstrating that there is a problem with black crime in that area, again a problem.


I'd really like to find some analysis by local areas to understand what is really going on rather than rely on emotive use of statistics out of context.




03/01/2014

1984 Cabinet Papers

I see the BBC has another of their excellent UK Confidential programmes that looks at 1984 If the past programmes are anything to go by these are fascinating insight into what was really happening at the time with commentary from people who were involved.

If you missed I expect it to be included at their podcast home for these programmes.

I can't recommend too highly listening to these programmes if you are interested in understanding the past and how it affects us now. I was fascinated by 1978 as I listened to it during the media storm around Ed Milliband's promise to put a price freeze on energy costs. During that programme they discussed incomes and prices policies and how it just about brought Government to a standstill as the Cabinet Office got bogged down in deciding the wages and prices for quite small firms. Something for the left to reflect on as they call for more control of the economy.


01/01/2014

Respect (for low paid workers)

Chris Dillow from the left and Greg Mankiw from the right have both picked op on this post which looks at the lack of respect in US society for what can best be described as low paid and by extensions low status people.

There's nothing much to disagree with in any of the posts and they are worth a read. I read them in the order given above, maybe I should of read the original first but it doesn't matter.

There is one issue that none of them pick up on, respect has to be earned to be maintained. By that I mean that we should always show people respect, no matter what they do and what they are paid, until they demonstrate that they aren't worthy of our respect.  I'd go further and say for those in low paid jobs that don't have much status we should go the extra mile to accommodate any offence they may cause, those jobs can be really frustrating.

But how should we show that respect? In the original posts and comments they discuss referring to people as "sir" or "ma'am", but those are accepted American terms which might work well over there. Here I think, and like to use, please and thank you and if you can with a bit of eye contact and smile does the job. It really costs nothing and tends to encourage better service anyway. Obviously the smile and eye contact don't work for call centres, probably one of the worst jobs around for lack of respect.

Then there are those in positions that they think means we should respect them, even when they act like complete arses. I'm thinking of some of the managers I've had or even the last three prime ministers. The office they hold might require some respect, but that doesn't mean that the incumbent should be respected.

Mandela and South Africa

There is no doubt that a lot of the coverage of Mandela's death was over the top, especially from the BBC, but I suppose that was always to be expected. It would be interesting to know how many people they had in South Africa in the end, more than would be needed I guess.

I did find some of the coverage from the right a bit churlish. Yes he was convicted but what were the ANC to do? In my simple world if you can change the political landscape through the ballot box you are a terrorist, if you can't you're a freedom fighter. OK, so there's some grey areas and I'm not saying that bombing civilians is justifiable, but that's for a separate debate.

As for the charge of Communist, yes he probably was but to be fair to him he was quite liberal as President. It also needs to be remembered that South Africa was seen as a major pawn in the Cold War and Russia helped fund the ANC and that the CIA in all probability funded and helped the Apartheid Government. At the time if you were against Apartheid you joined the ANC which was a broad church that did include the Communist Party, but that didn't make you a communist.

In all the praise for Mandela I felt that two people who played a key part in bring about a peaceful end to Apartheid and transition to a functioning democracy didn't get enough praise: FW de Klerk and Bishop/Reverend Desmond Tutu. FW De Klerk managed to convince the whites that it was safe to allow black majority rule, no mean feat when you look at what happened in Zimbabwe. There are problems and no doubt there will be more calls for land reform and white farmers evicted, but so far its been fairly peaceful, even in rural areas. Claims of genocide against white farmers are dismissed in this More or Less programme (scroll down to the programme of sat, 14 Dec 2013)

I have always found Bishop Tutu an irritating man but acknowledge he played a major role in the peaceful transformation. His preaching of forgiveness and tolerance and leadership of the Truth and Reconciliation process deserves much more international recognition.

The role of sanctions hasn't been mentioned much, which surprised me. In his autobiography FW de Klerk says that it was the biggest single factor that brought Apartheid to an end. He describes a meeting with business leaders when they tell him that the country just can't continue and it is at that point that his mind is finally made up. (OK I haven't read it recently so I may be playing that meeting up a bit).

The sanctions were a source of political debate in this country with one of the reasons for opposing them being that they harmed blacks more than whites. I remember discussing this with the former MK members and non members I worked for when in South Africa and they were all adamant that point was wrong and that as they were at war it was expected that all would have to suffer. Interestingly the left used that argument to oppose sanctions against Iran and Iraq, but were the biggest supporters of sanctions in South Africa. (Gross generalisation noted)

Surprisingly not all blacks were pleased with black majority rule. I was working in South Africa just before the second election in 1999. We had a few days off and stayed in a hotel just outside Kruger Park. I asked the very black bar maid if she was looking forward to the next elections and was greeted with a very firm but very glum "no". It turns out there had been an increase in violence and she was willing to trade freedom for security.

There is still much to do in South Africa because despite what you see on TV it is a desperately poor country. A major problem is the infrastructure, roads, electricity, hospitals etc was built for 10% of the population that was white and when I was there it just couldn't cope with supporting the whole country. I don't see much has got better.

I see from reports that the ANC is fracturing and this is a good thing, its done its job and it should not have a divine right to power. Like all left wing organisations it is incompetent in economic terms and hasn't brought the growth and wealth that South Africa needs and has the capability of generating. The New Year sees a General Election in South Africa and whilst the ANC is unlikely to lose its majority it is to be hoped that it is severely dented and that there is a rise in other parties.

One final story. The organisation I was working for was bidding for a mobile cellular licence. It was a led by an intersecting character called Bushey Kalobonye who appeared to be quite well connected inside the ANC. Anyway one afternoon he grabbed me and said he wanted to meet one the the "backers" who I was told was very influential. We went across to a small bar in the sports club opposite the office a proceeded to get very drunk whilst I was questioned by the backer. I don't remember a great deal more but who ever he was he looked very much like this guy.

Bushey told me once that he had been in North Korea for a couple of years as head of some sort of world communist youth movement as the only safe place for him because he was wanted, but he never said what for. I see that there is a youth movement in the ANC named that appears to be named after him.

31/12/2013

Looking back, but not in anger

It was the LPUK debacle that took the wind out of my sails when it came to blogging, it was a miserable time and I'm not going to rake over those coals.

Since then I have continued to read blogs from left, right and centre, see side panels for the current ones, as well as follow a number of other sources of understanding political and economic theory. One of my favourites has been the Planet Money podcast from NPR. I've also continued to follow the Cato daily podcasts and the, fast declining, House of Comments podcast.

One thing I've tried to do is reconcile my desire to help those worse off with my dislike of Labour. I've really tried to listen to Labour people and read articles from the left with an open mind, but all that seems to have happened is that I even more convinced that Labour is not the solution to the need for a strong welfare system, and yes I do think we need to provide a strong welfare support system. I will also say the same about health care being free at the point of delivery. I worry about the system falling down because of Labour's insistence in being conservative and resistant to change. I intend to blog on these subjects so I'll so no more.

My dislike of Labour is strange. My father, who was a great influence politically, was brought up in the slums of Bradford. He  and his brother both pased what was the equivalent of the 11+ and were awarded scholarships to Bradford Grammar School. They weren't allowed to take them up because they had to go out and support the family as soon as they could leave school. Their father, who I never met, was a drunk but now we would probably recognise it as WW1 PTSD. He developed a dislike of the Unions when working in the mills before he was old enough to join the Fleet Air Arm and then after the war and he thought they were a joke and had no idea improve the lot of the working man. He was also dismayed at the way they treated women after the war, sending them back to the home and not recognising their ability to work.

I've been even more dismayed with the Conservatives over the past few years. I've always been uncomfortable with them socially but they really do seem to be doing all they can to live down to their epithet as the nasty party. Their support for crony capitalism through big business is also a major worry. Having said that a recent experience and current treatment by the local hospital leads me to think that perhaps their reforms are a good thing. Perhaps I'll expand on that later.

As I've commented elsewhere that I must be one of the few people whose opinion of the LibDems has improved over the past few years. Perhaps not to the point of joining them or even voting for them, but I have been generally impressed with  the way they have tackled coalition Government and made hard choices. I suppose its partly wishful thinking as I look for a party that is socially and economically liberal.

There's a few recent stories I would have blogged about and I might still because they are of interest, specifically Wonga and Nelson Mandela. Maybe that will give me something to do tomorrow as the weather is looking bad.

On the personal front I've put a lot of effort into learning bridge and like to think I've become quite competent. I don't get to play at the club much due to work so I'm confined to online bridge and computer games. It should be said though that computer programmes have become quite sophisticated so they are a good challenge.

Earlier in the year I pushed the boat out, literally, and treated myself to a 10m yacht, Venezia. I got fed up with going on school boats and chartering and its a good time to buy. I like to think I got a good deal, but will only know when I come to sell. So far I can confirm that BOAT stands for Break Out Another Thousand. I shall be regaling readers with my salty sea tales as the year goes on and the sailing season starts.

On the work front I went to Buenos Aires in 2012 for 6 weeks to help a mobile operator understand how to manage their network and understand the customer experience. That was interesting as anyone who knows me will remember that I served in the Falklands war. Obviously I didn't discuss that but I did go down to their war memorial and pay my respects.

As soon as I got back an old colleague asked me to help out with a bid for some government work on what they call the Mobile Infrastructure Project. They won that work and what should have been 3 months work has been going for 20 months. Its a pain because it has meant working in London and for a while I was up there 5 days a week. Its now 2 days in London and anywhere between 0.5 and 3 days at home. It pays for the running of a boat.

Well that's a quick trot through where I am now, so on with a restarted blogging career.










30/12/2013

Dusting off the old blog

I've been finding myself commenting on a number of blogs and muttering to myself that "I should write something about that" over the past few months. So maybe the time has come to dust off the old blog and start committing my views to the Internet in the vain hope that someone apart from bots finds them interesting. I've updated the side bars and already a photograph below as a start. So lets see what happens.

Subliminal Images

Last June I started a project for DCMS that required working in the HMRC build at 100 Parliament Street two days a week. I get the train up and walk across Westminster Bridge. In November I decided to pass away one of the evening up there taking some night photographs. I was particularly pleased with this one:
Today I was clearing out a load of old photo mags from my loft when I came across this one:
I suppose it is a favourite amongst photagraphers and I do see lots of other people taking similar photographs.

28/04/2012

Why LPUK will never flourish with Andrew Withers at the helm

After the debacle of LPUK last year I lost a lot of my enthusiasm but continued to read my favourite blogs but I have stayed out of the ongoing LPUK debate. Its in the past, I thought, move on do stuff you enjoy, life's far too short. So its mostly been playing golf and bridge but now I find myself working in London during the week and have to find other things to do. My interest in Libertarianism was stirred again recently with a post by Tom Paine on his Last Ditch blog pointing to a page in which Gavin Webb is trying to start a new libertarian movement. That link no longer works because of the actions of the LPUK leadership. Anyway one link led to another and I ended up reading this post on on Libertarian Home:
Despite the troubles, LPUK will always have my support. I have only recently joined the Libertarian Party, so I am not entirely involved in the history which has led to some accusations being made against its leader, Andrew Withers. I only know one side of the story, and that is the side which has made such accusations which I do not wish to dwell on, yet I think it is important for me to pledge my commitment to the Libertarian Party, not because I have some personal loyalty to its leader or his confidantes,......
It quite a good piece and I genuinely wish the author well. His heart is in the right place and I won't gainsay anyone who wants to further the cause, but it got me thinking about his chances of succeeding and sadly I rate them as nil.

On the assumption that Andrew Withers is innocent of all charges and above reproach it still isn't enough to allow LPUK to rise phoenix like because by now there is no confidence in him where it matters most: London.

Like it or not if a political party isn't active in London it hasn't got a snowball in hell's chance of making any impact in England and that is the problem LPUK faces: the most active members of the South East region have no confidence in Andrew Withers and aren't members. And when I say active I don't just mean vocal, I mean people who got of their arses and did something to raise awareness, to organise and to campaign.

Without the South East membership there will be no real funds and no activity that will drum up more membership. I haven't got the details but off the top of my head, when I was Membership Secretary the SE accounted for something like 70% of the UK membership and it may have been higher and Scotland accounted for about another 20%. Don't get me wrong there was some good people in the regions who worked valiantly, but London was and always will be, the engine room.

Reading Libertarian Home its obvious there is a still a large body of people there who want to be active and I suspect would rejoin the party under new leadership (I hope to find out next week when I go to the Rose and Crown for their open mic session).

Anyway, I wish Steven well and I hope that he will go back to Libertarian Home regularly and report on how the movement is doing and how he is making a difference. That is of course if the LPUK rules allow him to.

05/12/2011

The end of my involvement with LPUK

I've just sent this as an open letter which needs no explanation.

Andrew,

Please accept this open letter as my resignation from LPUK.

They say that the only things that you regret in life are the things you didn’t do, in my case this isn’t correct as I regret 2 of my actions:

The first was believing your bullshit and volunteering my time and money to an LPUK with you at the centre.

The second was believing that the party belonged to its members and, more importantly, that you believed it as well. I certainly misread those signs.

In an heroic case of the triumph of hope over experience I thought that a few quiet months might mean that you quietly went, but obviously you aren’t going. I should have let you close the party earlier this year, at least that way a true libertarian could have picked up the reigns after a year or so, but unfortunately my actions of trying to keep the party alive when you resigned, but refused to hand over the leadership to people who care, have allowed the name of libertarianism in this country to be sullied and I want no further part.

Your self-delusion and aggrandisement is an insult to libertarianism, but then as I look back I realise that this was never about libertarianism but about your own narrow view of the world, as your Stalinist approach to the party has shown. I am now convinced that you aren’t going to let the members have their say in a leadership contest until you have ensured that your grip is such that those who truly had the party’s best interests at heart have all left and you are surrounded by a few people who, for their own reasons, want to protect you as leader.

 I won’t say I wish you well for the future, I don’t .

 Simon Fawthrop

 PS Don’t bother making any replies confidential, your trade mark stance when someone disagrees with, I will publish them.



08/06/2011

The new localism bill

I was at the Parish Council meeting last night and the new District Councillor gave a brief summary of the new localism bill which is going to hand down more powers, and money, to Parish Councils. As one of the more cynical PCs said - I'll beleive that when I see it, and so will I.

Anyway she reckons it will be a lot more than just planning that will be deregulated and we'll get to know more at the next meeting. This got me pondering the whole role of Government again the one where the idea is that we hire the state to do the things we can't do ourselves. So lets just say they devolve planning power to PCs, apart from being a NIMBYs charter what would it mean?

Well we wouldn't need a planning officer full time but we would need access to one to ensure that any submitted plans do follow basic planning laws, I presume we won't get carte blanche, so how could we organise that? Well we could get together with a few other Parish Councils and hire one or two. We could even delegate this task to a central body that coordinated a few other tasks, say bin collection, libraries and other services we want to pay for. That would make sense as we could get economies of scale.

So how would that be different to now, you may ask? Well the money would be flowing up through the system and we would be paying for the service by writing cheques and if that service wasn't good enough we could withhold payment until it is and ff we don't like it we could buy from somewhere else, maybe a private company and inject some healthy competition in to the market.

Now there's a good reason I use this as an example. About 3 months ago plans were received for some work on a house in the middle of a road triabgle. Its a really wierd situation but somebody chooses to live there. They wanted to remove a fence and build a wall amongst other seemingly cosmetic changes. The plans had come from the planning officer with no objections so we have to assume that the plans met building and all other statutory regulations, don't we? Anyway, these were passed and the work began a couple of weeks ago.

What nobody had spotted until we all realised that the junction had become seriously dangerous was that the new wall was a meter outside the old fence and now completely obscured the view to the left unless you got the front of your vehicle in to the middle of the road. However, the view is fairly blind to the right as well as it is up a short hill and when getting out of the junction you need to be a bit sharpish.

The PC is going to take this up with the highways department and see what can be done. My view, and bearing in mind I am not a Parish Councillor, is that a very stiff letter should be sent to the planning office asking them what the bloody hell they think they were playing at? They are the professionals and should be picking up this sort of thing and advising the PC of the likely impact or at least referring to the highways department at let them decide.

Under the new localism bill I would certainly be withholding payment for that piece of work.