Archive for the ‘wankers’ Category

We’ve blogged before about the NHS’s computer project. So I’m not at all happy about this remarkably silly post at Timmeh’s. He takes issue with a post of Richard Murphy’s about bank nationalisation:

Yup, the people who brought you the NHS Spine are to be put in charge of developing all banking software in Britain.

Well, this is a strawman to begin with. Is Murphy the Chancellor now? But let that pass. Really? A group of mostly American healthcare computing specialists? Several of which no longer exist? Or does he mean the big IT consulting firms involved – like IBM, BT Global Services, and Accenture? Because I’m pretty sure they do a hell of a lot of financial work as it stands; in fact, everyone was worrying last week about IBM’s third quarter results precisely because banks are big customers. (They turned out to be OK, in that mysterious IBM way.*)

But perhaps he thinks the NHS NPfIT was developed by teh government bureaucrats? Or at least, he’s willing to pretend it was to suit ideology? The whole problem with NPfIT, as we’ve said before, is that the system was developed completely in isolation from NHS bureaucrats or indeed anyone else who would have to use it. The NHS trust IT departments were kept well out of it. The upshot was that the developers knew literally nothing of the NHS’s requirements, its business processes, or the data the system was meant to handle.

No wonder it was a disaster. In fact, when a group of US hospital bureaucrats had a go at designing a medical IT system, they came up with a beauty – there’s even a satisfied customer in the comments. Why? Because they knew what it was meant to do and how. Compare this comment:

I met a guy who works for this company. I cannot repeat what he said, since he has a family to feed. But suffice to say he was deeply worried about the implications for safety of life. That was a few months ago.

The whole thing is rotten to the core, and desperately needs to be scrapped. Now.

The good news is that the thing still doesn’t work well enough to turn it on even as a pilot project, so we’re safe for a while yet. But what did happen the last time the Government took on a really challenging in-house IT project? You ask Daniel Davies.

(* probably something to do with asking the fucking users – that or the staple Nazi market, or wearing a lot of pale blue shirts.)

This arse-awful gaggle of crap by Simon “Craven” Heffer has already been effectively fisked by Dave Osler among others, but I reckon there’s still some unexploited stupidity in there to be had. It’s actually even worse than this one.

Basically, this article is an example of what Islamists would call takfiri thinking; takfiris are an especially crazy and extreme version of Wahhabist jihadi, who believe that the millions of other Muslims around them aren’t really Muslims, and therefore are even worse than the crusader scum, the Jewish parasites, Shia apostates, etc etc. From this they conclude that they’ve all got to go. Now, if you need someone to drive a car packed with explosives into a police station, they’re your boys; but unfortunately for you, they also have a tendency to turn on all your friends as well. This is roughly what happened in north-central Iraq over the last few years – the NOIA groups, like the 1920 Revolution Brigade, started out by being delighted at the steady supply of Saudi idiots with bags of money and a hankering to blow up, but found the buggers started to take over, chopping off heads and trying to decree weird laws.

So they very sensibly sold them to the Americans. Now, the word “takfiri” means something like “excommunicationist” or maybe “denouncer”; one who wants to purify the community by drumming out everyone who doesn’t agree with him as traitors. So what can we make of something like this?

For the Government to take stakes in our leading banks in order to re-capitalise them is not quite the sovietisation of Britain, but it is a pretty good start. Given the instinctively socialistic leanings of our Prime Minister, it may well have been a move he undertook calmly and, quite possibly, with a little excitement.

The sovietisation of Britain? Christ. It wasn’t so long ago that this would have been equivalent to an accusation of treason, and I suspect in Heffer’s mind it still is. Did you see what I just did, by the way? I used an argument based entirely on my own claims about someone else’s private thoughts. Quite possibly with a little excitement. Does it get any better?

By the 1970s the inevitable endgame of socialism was being played out: unions battling with government over rates of pay, prices and incomes policies, food subsidies, the three-day week, the winter of discontent. The state had to create jobs because there was precious little incentive for the private sector to do so. Investment was scarce. The state was everywhere.

The maxim of the American writer and philosopher Ayn Rand came close to fulfilment before the denouement of Old Labour on May 3 1979: that the difference between a welfare state and a totalitarian state is a matter of time.

Oh. You just accused half the political spectrum of being as bad as Nazis or Stalinists. So no, it doesn’t get any better. The whole point of Heffer’s Tory Takfir is clearly visible here – it’s to shift as much of the domain of legitimate debate over the line into the illegitimate, to excommunicate as many people to his left as possible, to demonise and menace and denounce. And, as always, we’re asked to look for the secret enemy among us – Heffer takes care to include all previous Conservative governments in the general smear.

I’m not going to bother with the substance, such as it is; it’s merely a selection of more or less dishonest strawmen and scare-stories. Britain between 1945 and 1979 was a poverty-stricken desert where the dead went unburied, evil socialists caused national bankruptcy in 1976 (but the finances being so dire as to give the IMF a veto on UK foreign policy in 1956 was apparently peachy), the 70s energy crisis was all Harold Wilson’s fault but the 80s oil bust was entirely Thatcher’s own work, and this comment has already summed it up very well:

Well, at least one thing is back to normal. Mr. Heffer has reverted to his usual excellent form after his brief lapse into constructive thought yesterday.

Not a word about the merits or demerits of the bailout versus *not* bailing out the banks. Goodness no, that would require judgement. Let alone any recommendations along the lines of “Liberty” and “Anti-Statism”. That would require intelligence, insight, and courage.

No, I know a better strategy (Mr. Heffer knows it too by the way). Simply fill a few pages with gripes and moans while pointing out the (glaringly obvious) disadvantages of bailing out the banks, and no-one will ever be able to fault you. You were merely commenting on government action and voicing sensible caution.

If, on the other hand you wrote something substantive you could be faulted the day after tomorrow. Can’t have that, right? Better safe than sorry.

But what, you ask, did I expect? The man’s an idiotic blowhard, an egregious right-wing hack, a factual counterindicator of Kevin Hassett proportions. Here’s the point, though – the politics of denunciation and excommunication is everywhere (even here) at the moment, and Heffer is in it up to his neck, and ignoring it just lets them grab hilltops.

As someone once said: ladies and gentlemen, we got him.

It appears that – of all people – Boris Johnson gets the honour of dragging “Sir” Ian out of his spider hole. Of course, this raises all kinds of legal issues as to who, exactly, gets to hire’n’fire the commissioner of the Met. Is it the MPA? The Home Office? The Mayor? The Mayor’s delegate, as deputy mayor for policing and fantasy airport design? It’s a little more simple now Boris has decided to be his own MPA chair, but not much.

Yeah, well, wonk away. In the meantime, my plans include rejoicing, and possibly burning a huge effigy on Hampstead Heath. I’m having a good week; so far, the count of “things Alex has protested against that were actually reversed” has gone from zero, to one (Austrian tuition fees, which can only be estimated a smidgen picayune), and now to a massive two.

The Grauniad has details, including bits I’d forgotten – like bugging Lord Goldsmith! I mean, I can think of few people I’d rather bug, and anything that bugs him must be good, but it’s rather illegal, a bad precedent, and undignified. Bugging the IPCC! Now that was just fucking outrageous. Pretending to have taken part in the Balcombe Street shootout! Yes! Seriously! Giving his best mate’s IT shop three million quid! Lying about how much it cost to ineffectually harass Brian Haw!

Now there’s a thought to chew on – Brian Haw can bed down tonight secure in the knowledge that he’s outlasted his second police chief, through nothing more than his own glorious pigheaded obstinacy and their pompous, gut-chafing stupidity. It makes you proud to be British.

On this fine evening in the liberated capital, who on earth could remain bitter? Martin Kettle, that’s who! And guess what? He’s still whining about the Rio police force! Now let’s ask a question – had the cops shot the train driver, or their comrade “Ivor”, as very nearly happened, would anyone have mentioned the performance of this outfit? Obviously not. Kettle has been arguing that it’s OK to off people who come from countries with really bad police forces, on the basis of some twisted sort of reciprocity. It’s perverse, it’s stupid, it’s basically the same ugly racist gunk as the “De Menezes Was An Illegal” guy was pushing, dressed up for Guardian consumption. (Oh, so what did happen to that blog? It hasn’t been updated for two years, presumably after it became clear he wasn’t.)

More seriously, Kettle also manages to say that greater democratic oversight of the police is simultaneously good and bad, and he doesn’t appear to know that we have elected police authorities, as we used to have watch committees, precisely in order that the police answer to someone who was actually elected. But who cares? Despite the fullest confidence of the prime minister, the home secretary, Kirsten Hearn, John Roberts, Jenny Jones, and Martin Kettle, ladies and gentlemen, we got him.

What have we here? Via Spencer Ackerman: David Wurmser, trying to sketch the wiring in his head on a really big piece of paper.

The spider chart was meant “to create a strategic picture, and that strategic picture is the foundation of policy change,” Wurmser said. “It helped you visualize, because if you saw, say, twenty relationships between X and Y, and twenty between Y and Z, then there’s at least a suspicion that Z and X are interacting through Y.” A map like that could bring insight, but there were perils in surmising too much.

Suppose X and Y were Dick Cheney and Colin Powell. Twice they served in senior posts under presidents named Bush. In the early 1990s, they worked at the same address and were spotted together on international flights. They communicated frequently, encrypting their secrets….

That’ll have been back when they still trusted him with the felt tip pens, I suppose. It reminds me a lot of this post from last August, regarding surrealism, rolling news, and TV anchor Glenn Beck’s “methodology”, which seems to have been identical to Wurmser’s.

The problem with this sort of semi-random links-and-ties analysis is twofold – not only is your brain predisposed by millions of years of evolution to impose patterns on raw data, which means you’re bound to find pattern if you look for it, but the spurious ones we inevitably perceive come from somewhere. Specifically, they come from our preconceptions, prejudices, and perhaps most of all, from the ones we don’t want to admit to. Just as you’d only dump the whole logs from a computer program to trace a bug, you don’t free-associate in order to make plans.

So as well as generating lots of time-sucking, budgetivorous false positives, this kind of thinking actually tends to make us behave even more stupidly, because it strengthens all the least rational forces within us.

I really mean this, by the way, and I’d love to hear from anyone who has comments about its potential implementation.

The meeting.

Two, three, four men who were not the ones you saw at podiums, behind Fox News desks. The man who’s pure evil. Hard men. Men who say ‘flip the switch’ or ‘push the button’ or ‘pull that lever.’ When they were younger, they might have done it themselves.

They are the hidden men, not even the grey eminences. The fixers. “That one, now!”

Now the convention is booing Obama. Perfunctory, and unenthusiastically. Oh, line about immigrants being Americans too. Pro forma applause.

The crowd boos, the crowd cheers the war. Rudy Giuliani moves them to froth – Lindsay Graham moves them to scorn.

It’s an… evil triumphalism. It’s the party of Jupiter Maximus, with Mammon on the one side and thuggish Ares on the other. A party where the leaders are feted till they puke, where the powerful pushing down the weak, those declared ‘entarte’ or unclean – is not only allowed, not only encouraged, but considered a sacrament.

My God, you’ve done a journalism! The depressing thing is the comments thread; all kinds of people moaning that she was too cruel to the bastards. Shocked, shocked, I tell you, and nothing at all to do with this. No.

Recently, our dear duckspeaker Philip Hammond MP had his local talking points cache refreshed. He’s now constantly saying that the Government is causing “uncertainty” in the housing market because they haven’t decided whether or not to cut stamp duty, and that this is a problem. Both statements are of course completely vacuous at best, and actively misleading at worst. For a start, the housing market is tanking. We’re in the worst property crash since 1983, says the Halifax; that’s another way of saying that the Halifax started computing an index of real estate prices in 1983. It’s not impossible that it’s the worst since the Great Depression. The price of property is dropping with the almost supernatural swiftness of an economic imbalance that finally clears; at the moment, anyone who wants to buy a house would be literally insane to do so, as it is as certain as anything in economics ever is that it will be much cheaper in a year’s time.

Of course, this only matters if you can raise the money. At the moment, the banks have practically stopped lending, so whatever happens to stamp duty is risibly irrelevant. Further, all these statements go double the smaller the deal; nobody who owns a house is ever likely to struggle to raise mortgage money if they want to buy another, but without new entrants, who can they sell to? What mortgage lending is going on is actually very good business for the banks, because it’s practically all to people with lots of existing equity, and at higher interest rates too.

Supposedly, according to Hammond and the real-estate lobby, reducing stamp duty would help people raise a deposit in order to pass the new and more astringent lending criteria. But this is obviously drivel. The large majority of new entrants are either zero-rated or in the first, 1% band, so their stamp duty bill will be at the very most a couple of grand. If they have to raise a 20% deposit, well. It’s not going to work. If you’ve got £18,000 to plunk down as a deposit, and the stamp duty at 1% is a dealbreaker, shouldn’t you either be waiting a few months, looking for somewhere cheaper, or getting a better mortgage broker?

Further, there’s the marginal issue. The Tories seem to be collectively blind to the existence of marginal effects, as if their love of classical economics had carried them back past Hayek and von Mises and Bohm Bawerk all the way to the 19th century. For example, they want to “encourage marriage” by offering a tax break to the married; but the only extra marriages this will result in are the ones where the spouses wouldn’t stay together but for the tax break. And those aren’t likely to be gems, are they? Similarly, the only additional house sales a cut in stamp duty will cause are ones where that sum of money is enough to make the difference; not very many, as we’ve just seen. But we’re having an epic financial crisis precisely because the banks lent so much money to people who couldn’t pay it back. Do we really want more crappy loans?

So; it’s completely ridiculous to suggest that cutting stamp duty will do any good, it’s frankly irresponsible, and it’s even sillier to imagine that buyers are holding off wondering if they’ll have to pay 1 per cent more or less, when they can be certain they will pay 10 per cent less in a few months’ time and perhaps 30 per cent less in a year or two. So why is Hammond so obsessed? (And he is. Check out the 14,400 Google results, including a veritable barrage of official Tory press statements.)

The first point is pure clientelism. What stupid Tory giveaways have in common is that although their marginal effects usually defeat the stated point of the exercise, they usually succeed in showering one or other campaign demographic with cash. A tax break for married couples won’t actually do any good, but it will provide a payoff for several key voter groups who don’t even have to do anything; the money just comes. Similarly, the people who are dealing in houses at the moment by definition have lots of equity and cash; who else can get a mortgage? They would get the tax break as much as anyone else. Kerching! Another group who would benefit either way would be the real estate lobby itself; and the sheer number of property millionaires who have quartered themselves on London since Boris Johnson’s election should explain this reasonably well.

The second is Philip Hammond’s own personal financial interest. Here’s something he added to the register of interests in June, his shareholding in Castlemead Ltd, a company whose main interest is….property development, of houses through its stake in Castlemead Homes Ltd and of NHS primary care centres through Castlemead Developments Ltd. (I reckon the Tory position on PCTs wants watching, no?)

This must be no small holding, either; he managed to forget to declare a £3m dividend from the firm. That’s enough to make him the the second richest man in the Shadow Cabinet with net wealth (I refuse to describe it as “worth”) of £9m. No wonder he spends so much time howling for the propertied interest. He is talking his own book. But surely even he can’t be worrying about the stamp duty on his £1.5m pad in Belgravia? Even at the 4% higher rate?

Finally, we have the best possible argument against the dire Counter-Terrorism Bill. Unfortunately, it’s one that by definition we couldn’t have had before last week’s pornographic nightmare of a vote. It’s a sort of recursive critique. Think about it – by far the worst feature of the damn thing is the awful “concession” that Parliament gets to vote up or down on the detention of individuals. It was bad enough when this was meant to be a sop, only becoming active after the poor devil had already been in the clink for weeks, but the text the Commons passed foresees that the vote would have to be taken in a timely fashion. It would actually have practical consequences.

This is a constitutional obscenity – the legislature pretending to be the executive (deciding how much of a terrorist threat exists) and the judiciary (deciding on a case of habeus corpus). It’s also almost self-refuting; the whole Government line on this has been that we need to pass some draconian and hopelessly ill-thought out legislation motivated by panic now, so we don’t do it after a major terrorist incident. Originally, they argued that the bill was as it was because, in the event of its use, it might not be practical to convene Parliament quickly. Which makes a degree of sense, after all, if somebody just blew it up. But now, the bill intended to deal with the case that Parliament could not act requires Parliament to act.

Then there’s the question of evidence – the whole point is that the police would supposedly not have enough time to gather the prima facie evidence required to charge the suspect, but the Bill requires the government to put evidence it won’t actually have, all other things being equal, before the House. Which could also have bad consequences for the chances of any trial that resulted. And what if the evidence was the special secret sauce of SIAC?

And the horror of putting someone’s essential liberty in the hands of politicians concerned with re-election, on what would probably turn out to be a party-line vote, shouldn’t need explaining. But all this is a bit theoretical.

Since last week, however, we can say – how could anyone trust the people responsible for passing the Counter-Terrorism Bill to decide on whether some poor fool is locked up or not? Robert Spink MP? The Reverend William McCrea? Nigel Dodds, who appeared on the radio before the vote to state that he considered it a matter of principle, but he hadn’t made his mind up yet? Shaun Woodward, who continues to deny he offered the Paisleyites a deal, although Mark Durkan says Woodward offered his SDLP colleagues one? Whoever it was who offered Diane Abbott the Governor-Generalship of Bermuda, and Keith “Are you still here?” Vaz a knighthood? Geoff Hoon? I tell you, it’s the perfect argument.

I wonder, in the event of the bill being activated and some bewildered Dewsburyite’s fate riding on the vote, what
precisely the Government whip would be willing to pay for a vote for continued detention? An ambassadorship? Access to the Government Art Collection? Straight to the Lords? An audience with Jacqui Smith? No, that would surely be reserved for the waverers. If not the suspect themselves. (Note: I’m indebted to Viz‘s Eight Ace for the title.)

This is hilarious, and depressing: you may find tech-libertarians annoying, but just think yourself lucky we got Paul “Van der” Staines, and not this guy. Dmitri Golubov, for it is he, was nailed in 2005 for running a massive credit-card phishing operation (in that case he was probably behind some percentage of the spamwave I spent part of that year trying to keep out of AFOE’s comments); now he’s starting the Internet Party of Ukraine.

Well, if he’s a spammer he’s presumably competent. Here’s their platform:

Golubov and the Internet Party are running on a platform of rooting out public corruption and reducing bureaucracy. Other parts of its platform include the “computerization of the entire country,”

Dunno what that means, but it’s probably rather like Patricia Hewitt’s promise in December, 2003 to deliver “online services” to every household in Britain – this blog existed then, and anyone with a BT landline could at least get dialup. Else something more like the J.G. Ballard character whose “attempts to streamline all the furniture in the dayroom unsettled the other patients”. But I doubt a Cybersyn-like real-time planned economy is on the cards.

“free computer courses and foreign languages at the expense of the budget,”

And ponies.

“the creation of offshore zones in certain regions of Ukraine,” and the organization of Ukraine as a “tax free paradise with the aim to attract money from all over the world.”

Of course…does anyone know if that’ll get him an invite to CPAC?

Martin Kettle can fuck off with this:

The bright Tory shadow Cabinet Office minister Greg Clark asked recently why politicians are so ready to discuss antisocial behaviour but so poor at discussing its pro-social equivalent.

Bright? Christ, we’re in a bad way. The first thing that needs discussing here is that “pro-social behaviour” is a term doing a hell of a lot of work; as with anything that could be de-syllabicised as “good stuff”, it’s profoundly meaningless.

But it’s worse; who decides what is “pro-social”? What limits would be set on this power? “Pro-social behaviour” according to the State could be anything from insulation to denouncing your neighbours to the NKVD, and has been both these things and everything in between. Those states who have the institution of a Ministry for Promoting Virtue and Punishing Vice, like Saudi Arabia and the former Afghan government, presumably believe themselves to be promoting “pro-social behaviour”.

And why does Kettle pass by this without offering any explanation of why politicians apparently find it difficult to discuss “pro-social behaviour” as opposed to “anti-social behaviour”? My guess is blatant partisanship. Politicians like “anti-social behaviour” for a number of reasons; the first and probably least repellent is that like “pro-social behaviour”, it’s a concept with no meaning at all. It’s the modern version of Orwell’s crack about “fascism” now meaning “something not desirable”. Nobody is in favour of anti-social behaviour, by definition.

But then, nobody considers their own behaviour anti-social; this is my second and rather uglier reason. Anti-social behaviour is what THOSE PEOPLE do; youths! the white working class! braying posh kids in Cornwall! black people! asylum seekers! It’s a cheap way of being indifferently hostile to all possible target-groups and therefore pandering to every prejudice available in the population, a rhetorical multiple independent re-entry vehicle.

And finally, politicians love anti-social behaviour because its solution is negative; you punish and coerce people you expect to commit it. I, the Man in Whitehall, can order the powers of the state to go and harass the potentially anti-social; I can be reasonably certain that the police will manage to be unpleasant to sufficient numbers of people who at least some groups of voters will consider to be anti-social. This is at least one managerialist control that will indeed produce results.

Further, anyone who can use the phrase “the bag menace” without apparent irony wants…severely criticising.

Off to Washington
Iain Dale 11:24 AM

Just getting on the plane. No comments can be moderated until around 10pm. Have a nice day!

Directly beneath this missive is the following HONKING GREAT AD:

Mind you, the ability to be in favour of aeroplanes but not runways is pretty much constitutive of post-1979 British Conservatism. Or is he travelling in an air-refuelled V-22 Osprey, funded by the Young Britons’ Foundation in partnership with MessageSpace and nothing whatsoever to do with the Heritage Foundation?