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.