Polly Today

Even when she\’s right she can\’t get it right:

Howard\’s final act was to put US-style two-strikes-and-you\’re-out sentencing on to the statute book for Labour to implement. (In the US a man went to jail for stealing a slice of pizza.)

Yes, the US style two strikes and you\’re out system is indeed insane.Yes indeed, one of the first people sentenced under it in California did go to prison for stealing a slice of pizza. But that\’s not the reason that it\’s insane. He went to prison for life, with no possibility of parole. No, we don\’t have a system like that, we simply don\’t, and your wittering about how awful Howard was will not make it so.

Consider the disastrous message here. This proclaims the government doesn\’t expect any of its social programmes to have any good impact on crime. On the contrary, things will get worse. The 10,500 extra young men imprisoned in 2014 will be Labour\’s children, arrived in school in 1997. Young offenders will have been born under Labour and yet more not fewer of them will "need" to be locked away than under the Tories.

So much for Labour\’s improving schools, extended school activities, expanded youth services, the Yips (youth inclusion programme) designed to catch children at risk before they offend, or a score of other acronyms from Labour\’s neighbourhood programmes. All wasted, all dust?

Well, could be, yes. Its certainly possible that these things do not in fact reduce crime.

Listen to ministers complain that crime has fallen by 40%, including violent crime, yet voters refuse to believe it. But who is to blame for that? Of course people think crime must be rising when prisons are bursting as never before.

There\’s a possible alternative explanation of course. One that most economists would sign on to. As more people are being jailed for longer, the price of committing a crime has gone up so that there are fewer people willing to pay that price.

Frankly, if ministers bothered to study their own departments\’ recent work it would be a good start. Visiting one minister the other day, just as he launched a vital new policy, neither he nor his special advisers had ever heard of a very expensive and highly successful pilot scheme his predecessor had just completed as he left. When government\’s own memory is goldfish short, what hope for deeper history?

Quite. When politicians\’ horizons are only to the next election, (if that long) then how are we to expect any rational long term choices to be made by them? And thus collapses the Statist project.

But Labour has taken us backwards, feeding punitive sentiment instead of persuading by proving what works. Douglas Hurd cut the prison population in the higher-crime Thatcher era: Labour has hugely inflated it.

She see the correlation but insists that it cannot be causality. High crime, low prison numbers, high prison numbers, lower crime. Seriously now, how dim do you have to be to refuse to even consider the thought that perhaps banging people up in prison reduces crime?

David Cronin

Jesu C.

He\’s actually arguing that import tariffs make Ghana richer. No, they don\’t. Tariffs on poultry will make poultry farmers richer an every consumer of poultry poorer. As, even in Ghana, there are more consumers than producers of poultry, the net effect is impoverishment, not wealth creation.

Sheesh.

Idiots

So Congress has passed a climate change bill:

In addition to imposing a 35mpg standard on cars, the bill would require power companies to generate 15% of their energy from renewable sources such as wind or solar power by 2020.

It would encourage the use of energy efficient light bulbs – in effect phasing out incandescent bulbs – pay for training for \’green collar\’ jobs, and offer small monthly stipends to people who ride their bicycles to work. It also calls for tax incentives to encourage the use of ethanol as a motor fuel.

More ethanol? Just when everyone is coming round to recognising that it\’s both howlingly expensive and actually emits more CO2 than it saves? Raising the CAFE standards? Are these fools unaware that it\’s CAFE that created the SUV in the first place? Paying people to ride bikes? The mind boggles.

If you think that political action is going to solve climate change you\’ve really not been paying attention now, have you?

 

 

Excellent News!

Police in Scotland are to get a better pay deal than their colleagues south of the border for the first time, it emerged yesterday as a furious row broke out over the pay award for forces in England.

Superb!

Let\’s hope this is the beginning of the end for national pay deals of all types. It\’s insane that we have the same pay rate for a copper in rural Scotland as we do for one in Birmingham, given that the costs of living in each place are so wildly different. Same with nurses, doctors and all the rest of them. Abolish the whole system of setting wages nationally say I.

Spuermarket Price Fixing

This is interesting:

Supermarket giant J Sainsbury has agreed to pay £26m to the Office of Fair Trading to settle a long-running investigation into the price fixing of milk, cheese and butter.

The OFT concluded in September that supermarkets including Sainsbury, Tesco and Asda has colluded to fix the prices of milk and cheese, costing shoppers an estimated £270m.

Naughty, naughty. However, the supermarkets themselves appear a little perplexed:

The OFT investigation has stunned supermarket executives, at the time of the alleged price fixing in 2002 supermarket depots were being blockaded by dairy farmers and they were under immense pressure from the government and the National Farmers\’ Union to raise milk prices to help alleviate stress within the farming and agriculture industry.

It is believed that in late 2002, following public declarations of support for the farming industry from leading retailers including Tesco, the milk processors began sharing details of other supermarkets\’ pricing policies with rival retailers.

In public and privately supermarket executives have expressed exasperation at the OFT probe, claiming they are being punished for trying to do the right thing for farmers.

So is that actually the truth here? The supermakets and the milk processors colluded to raise prices to the farmers, as everyone insisted that they should, and now they\’ve been fined for it? Anyone seen the report or know more?

The Mirror of the Sacred Scriptures and Paintings World Foundation

So this group are claiming that Leonardo da Vinci put into his paintings, in the same way that he used mirror writing, images that only clarified themselves when seen in a mirror.

But now a group known as The Mirror of the Sacred Scriptures and Paintings World Foundation believes that he applied the same technique to some of his best-known creations, including the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper, to conceal mysterious faces and religious symbols.

When applied to the sketch The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne and Saint John the Baptist, which hangs in London’s National Gallery, the authors say the mirror image reveals the ancient Old Testament god Jahveh, who "protects the soul of the body’s vices" and wears the Vatican’s crown.

All most interesting of course and if you want to know more, try out their website. And, well, they\’re pushing a book about it all: isn\’t that amazing?

Me, I\’ll take it all with a pinch of salt, I will:

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They\’ve found Darth Vader in a Leonardo sketch? Give me a break, please.

 

The BBC and Blogs

I\’ve just had an email from a BBC producer telling me that this programme (worth listening to it is as well) was based on something they spotted on this blog. I\’d linked to something over at EU Referendum on the subject of the EU funding various NGOs to lobby, err, the EU.

The Beeb picked up the story, ran off and interviewed various people and thus made the programme.

Nice to know that we are making something of an impact, eh, however small it might be?

You\’re Not Going To Like This But….

…I think we might actually have evidence that someone, somewhere, in the Labour Party actually has a brain. I know, hard to believe, but here\’s the story.

As Guido points out, the Abrahams donations were not permissible. They\’ve also not been declared for 30 days. Thus, under the rules brought in by the current bunch of dickheads Our Lords and Masters this money is not to be paid back to the donor. Rather, it is to be forfeit to the Treasury.

If Labour has already (as they have said they have) paid the money back to Abrahams then they\’ll have to either get him to send it to the Treasury of they\’ll need to find another £660,000 or so to hand over themselves.

And as they\’ve almost certainly already spent it (and they\’re £20 million in debt) you can see that this might be sort of a brown kecks type of time for them.

Then we have this piece by David Hencke this morning (flagged up by Iain). So what are we to make of that story? (I should point out that the only time I\’ve met David I came away with the impression that he\’s a thoroughly good bloke so I\’m not suggesting that he\’s in on the machinations I\’m about to suggest).

Note the following bits:

The arrangement, which was set up four years ago, was regarded as a "loophole" that allowed Abrahams to lawfully pay the money and remain unidentified.

It is understood that Labour officials were well aware that the arrangement exploited what they believed was a loophole in Labour\’s recently passed legislation, the 2000 Political Parties Act, so as not to reveal Abrahams\’ identity.

In the words of a Labour insider, the two officials were then "given the job of shepherding the cash", aware that the arrangement was technically legal, even though it went against the spirit of the legislation which is to ensure transparency for all donations to political parties.

He does go on to say that the Electoral Commission may well attempt to seize the cash: but what if the above is actually all true? "Lawfully", "loophole", "technically legal". In this case there is no right for the EC to do such a thing. They may have written the law badly, they may have crept around it, but if what they did is strictly legal then there\’s no way anyone can touch the money.

So is that going to be the defense? And if so, do we now have to infer that at least one person within the Labour Party actually has some brains? "We obeyed the law" is a pretty good legal defense, isn\’t it?

Ooooh, Naughty!

Within the law but not within the spirit of it perhaps?

Labour officials helped lawyers acting for David Abrahams to draw up complex covenants that allowed the millionaire businessman to pay up to £650,000 indirectly to the party, the Guardian has learned.

The arrangement, which was set up four years ago, was regarded as a "loophole" that allowed Abrahams to lawfully pay the money and remain unidentified.

Under the arrangement, Abrahams is said to have covenanted the money to his close associates and fellow company directors Janet Kidd, Ray Ruddick and McCarthy, the solicitor.

They then used the cash to donate to the Labour party in their own names. It is understood that Labour officials were well aware that the arrangement exploited what they believed was a loophole in Labour\’s recently passed legislation, the 2000 Political Parties Act, so as not to reveal Abrahams\’ identity.

In the words of a Labour insider, the two officials were then "given the job of shepherding the cash", aware that the arrangement was technically legal, even though it went against the spirit of the legislation which is to ensure transparency for all donations to political parties.

And the argument is that these people need to have more of our money, extorted from us through the tax system, so that they won\’t do such things ever again?

Faith Schools

Yes, I know the arguments about indoctrination on the taxpayers\’ shilling but:

The academic superiority of faith schools was underlined today as they dominated top positions in new league tables for 11-year-olds.

Two thirds of the 250 primaries in England achieving "perfect" test results were Church of England, Roman Catholic or Jewish schools.

Despite making up just a third of schools nationally, faith schools increased their hold on the top places from 44 per cent two years ago to 66 per cent in 2007. Last night, they hailed the results as a testament to good teaching and discipline.

Is it possible that at least some of the hatred from people like Polly T is that they actually do teach pupils better ? Thus showing up the rest of the comprehensive system?

Unplug the Proles

Not for aesthetic reasons I think:

The President of Turkmenistan has ordered “ugly” satellite dishes to be removed from people\’s homes in the capital, in a flamboyant gesture reminiscent of his eccentric predecessor.

Can\’t have the proles seeing what the outside world is like now, can we?

Err?

Logic failure alert:

Previously Monbiot has rightly challenged the "predict and provide" approach in other policy areas, notably transport. John Prescott saw the danger inherent in applying this approach to housing – the creation of unnecessary greenfield sprawl – and so instead put in place a plan-led, needs-based approach focusing on the reuse of previously developed land.

Predict and provide doesn\’t work so we should predict and provide?

Calling Mr. Freedland!

Sorry Jonathan, but you\’re talking bollocks:

One could go further, arguing that it is not just excessive consumerism but capitalism\’s very nature that makes it incompatible with the survival of our planet. For capitalism requires constant economic growth, yet the Earth\’s resources are finite. Capitalist logic says we must buy, sell and consume more and more each year. Nature\’s logic says we can\’t.

There\’s nothing inherent in capitalism which requires constant growth. Nothing at all. If you start from here then you\’re going to get the rest of your argument tragically wrong.

Prem Sikka

A quite gorgeous little article. For a given value of gorgeousness, of course. Prem Sikka says that we have to change the electoral system, we have to have proportional representation so as to….well, what do you think? What\’s the goal here?

Well, actually, it\’s so that we can go back to the glory days of the 1970s.

That\’s a truly exciting idea, don\’t you think? Quite possibly the most gorgeous argument yet in favour of PR.

Well done Prem.