miss_s_b: (Default)
So there are a bunch of Labour PPCs and assorted others today doing a coordinated clamour for renationalisation of the railways. This is a superficially attractive idea, and one that up until recently I might have agreed with myself, so I want to go into why I now believe it would be bloody stupid.

The way that privatisation was done was a cock up. You'll get no argument from me on that. The current franchise system for Train Operating Companies (hereinafter TOCs) is the worst of both worlds. Also, I have no issues with the fact that after the collapse of Railtrack, the infrastructure was basically brought back under state control in the guise of Network Rail. Land and track beds are a natural monopoly, and thus state control makes sense**. The actual rolling stock, though? Why does that have to be a monopoly? It doesn't.

The reason people still feel like it does is because of the afore-mentioned stupid franchise system, which means we basically have several regional monopolies rather than one national one***. We have competition on the railways in the same way we have competition for huge government contracts in other areas, and it's always the same usual suspects who bid for contracts because they are the only ones who can, and we end up with a cartel who fleece both the consumer at the ticket barrier and the taxpayer on the subsidies****.

In the few cases where some little company has managed to get an Open Access Rail contract, you can see how TOCs' contracts might work under a properly Liberal system. The example local to me is Grand Central, who run a service from various West Yorkshire stations to King's Cross. Their trains are beautiful, their service makes sense, and their prices are great. Contrast this with the Byzantine and delapidated system run by Northern Rail (my local franchise holder), or BR when the railways were still under state control, and you start to see what I'm driving at.

Train services aren't shit because they were privatised, they were shit under BR too. Train services are shit because they weren't privatised enough. You can't have proper competition under a franchise system. If there was proper competition there would be room for lots more companies like Grand Central to bid for (say) one or two slots on the timetable, start small, and build up really great services, instead of the monolithic state-in-all-but-name services we have now. There would be room for community-run and co-op run services to start up and (hopefully) flourish. Under the current system there's no way that can happen.

What is it that convinced me that all this is true? The NHS. NHS England operates under a much more liberal market structure than NHS Scotland, NHS Northern Ireland, or NHS Wales. This is consistently painted as a Bad Thing by many groups on the left. And yet, I am a Liberal, and I don't care what system of ownership something has on idealogical grounds, I care what works to deliver the best outcomes for people. On pretty much every measure - from life expectancy to waiting times - NHS England outperforms the other three. Proper liberalisation of the market WORKS, and that is why I am for it in the case of the railways.

In political terms, of course, the problem with this is that renationalisation makes some superficial sense. The current system is shit, does cost us more in subsidies and buggering about than the nationalised system did, and is in urgent need of reform. I actually think that in terms of winning votes, the Labour party might be onto something, because one of the types of person this will appeal to is the type of politically illiterate pub bore who has an opinion on everything, doesn't care that many of his opinions are mutually contradictory, and doesn't think about the consequences of what would happen if his ideas all came to pass. This type of person will look at the current system, see it's shit, shrug and say "well, renationalise the railways. That'll solve it." and move on to talking about how lazy immigrants who came over here to claim benefits have stolen his job by working more hours than him.

This is the type of voter that Labour are currently haemmoraging in droves to UKIP*****, so appealing to them is a good survival tactic for them. The type of person who cheers when Labour think of yet another thing they are going to fund with the bankers' bonus tax which they currently plan to spend many times over.

Of course I have no doubt that were renationalisation to make it into the Labour manifesto it wouldn't actually happen were they to get in******, but that won't really matter in electoral terms. There are a lot more reactionary pub bores than there are people who actually pay attention to what works. The problem for Lib Dems is: how do we package sensible policies in a way that makes sense to the reactionary pub bore? This, I think, is a problem which I would make a LOT of money if I could solve...



*with a little help from [personal profile] matgb and Alisdair, with whom I regularly have discussions about political stuff, both online and off.
**similarly with roads, etc.
***The reason we have it is because John Major had romantic notions about the golden age of rail and wanted to bring back GWR etc. and went about it in a cack-handed way. I have a soft spot for Major, and think he is harshly judged as a PM, but he really did make an arse of privatising the railways.
****just like in the arena of justice and security it's always G4S and Serco who end up with government contracts because of the ridiculous preffered bidder system and the size of the contracts being drawn up, but that's a blog post for another day.
*****whose entire policy platform is designed in this reactionary way - "X is a problem. How do we solve X? Y might work." with no consideration of the fact that Y doesn't work with any of the other policies they propose, and indeed, actively works against some of them... -_-"
******Don't even get me started on the rank hypocrisy of a party which introduced tuition fees against a manifesto promise that they wouldn't, and then raised them against a manifesto promise that they wouldn't attacking US on the fact that we kept tuition fees lower than they would have been under either Labour OR Tories governing alone... -_-"
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
All you people posting stuff to the UKIP freepost address to cost them money? You do realise you're actually costing the Royal Mail money, right? There's this little thing called "abuse of freepost". If you're not aware of it you can be damn sure the Kippers are. If you post them anything larger than large letter size the Royal Mail won't even try to deliver it because large letter is the maximum size for standard freepost*. So bricks might be a problem. And if you post them stuff they don't want they can refuse to pay for it under abuse of freepost.

Now, if you've posted something saying it's from YOU it's entirely possible the Royal Mail could take YOU to small claims to recover the cost, but it's probably not worth their while in legal fees to do so. So it's almost certainly not going to cost you, personally, anything. But the Royal Mail are going to suffer financial losses from this. Me personally, I don't think that makes the political point you were wishing to make.

Just so you know.

ETA: there are people on twitter contending that - like when these campaigns have happened previously - UKIP might just give in and close down their freepost address and that will be a victory. So, if UKIP close down their freepost address, what happens? The Royal Mail get to store warehouses full of undeliverable mail (which costs them money), and people have to pay to contact UKIP (which costs THEM money) and UKIP no longer have a freepost bill to pay (so they are paying LESS money) and will no longer have to sort through mail they didn't want to recieve anyway (so their admin costs will be lower). Pls to be explaining to me how this is a victory against UKIP?

Here's an idea: if you want to defeat UKIP, vote for someone else, and encourage other people to do likewise. If enough people don't vote for them they lose deposits, in the Euros if not the council elections, and that's WAY better than possibly potentially costing them 42p and a bit of annoyance, right?



* OfC you can have enhanced freepost which takes larger items, but no poilitcal party is going to pay for that just to get surveys back
miss_s_b: (Default)
Our Environment Secretary thinks that if you "have to" destroy ancient woodland to build something, you can offset that by planting lots of trees elsewhere. This is so utterly wrong-headed I barely know where to begin. I mean the clue about the importance of biodiversity is in the name - bioDIVERSITY. IT'S NOT JUST TREES, OWEN. The fragile ecosystem of ancient woodland might have trees for its foundation, but it's insects, birds, fungi, ferns (oh God, you wouldn't believe how important ferns are), flowering and non-flowering plants... Some trees won't even grow unless a woodland has been established for a century. Some small mammals can only live in woodland where there is an established balance of the plant and insect food they need. All of these things depend on each other, and this cannot be replaced by a monocultural plantation of trees, however native those trees are.

This blinding stupidity on the part of our environment secretary is illustrative of a wider problem within the thinking of people who are not Liberal by inclination. Not just biodiversity, but diversity in all areas is seen as a box-ticking exercise. So to replace woodland you only need plant trees. Bollocks to the other forms of life, we've got trees, that's a woodland, right? To have diversity in the government you need more women. It doesn't matter if those women are from the same tiny, public-school-educated, Oxbridge upper class set as the men, cos they're WOMEN, right? Diversity means having x number of people from y groups which are considered underrepresented. So you need some women, a black person, a gay, maybe if you're REALLY right-on a trans+ person... but if you don't think like a Liberal the actual PEOPLE don't really matter as long as they fill a quota.

This is BULLSHIT, people. Utter, stinking, steaming bullshit.

Every single person is an individual. Sure, they might be a part of some group or other, but that does not mean they are representative of that group. And more often each person is a member of more than one group. If I am going to be a token on a diversity agenda, do I tick the box for woman, or LGBT, or Northern, or low income, or poly? Or, more likely, in the case of a box ticker, do I tick every single one of those boxes so they think they've filled their diversity quota and every single other person in the room can be a rich cis het white man?

I keep saying this, but I'm going to say it again: diversity is not an end in itself, it's a means to an end. Biodiversity in woodland is important because if you don't have it you have a monoculture, and monocultures are at massive risk from disease. Ash die back and Dutch Elm disease are but two examples. If your woodland is composed entirely of one type of tree and that tree gets a disease, the entire woodland dies and you get environmental collapse. If you want an example what a huge problem monocultures are, take a look at what will happen to the banana supply if the Cavendish banana fungus that has been spreading really takes hold... Similarly, if you don't have diversity in government, you get monocultural thinking. You get a breed of politicians who all look and think and speak the same, and that's very prone to the intellectual equivalent of a devastating disease.

We have had a political monoculture in this country for far too long and intellectual Dutch Elm disease has taken hold. Owen Paterson's bone-headed remarks about biodiversity merely illustrate this problem. We need to break the system open and acheive true diversity and then all the good that comes from that will follow. Hopefully that will include not having an environment sectratary as clueless as Owen Paterson ever again.
miss_s_b: (Default)
As blogged about by Zoe and Caron the latest wheeze to come out of the Cornerstone wing of the Tory party is for the rozzers to be able to put all sorts of restrictions on a person if they are found giving a child anything that relates to sexual activity or contains a reference to such activity. I thought I might come up with a list of examples of perfectly innocent things which a child of my daughter's age (10) might reasonably be given which relates to or contains reference to sexual activity.
  1. Pretty much any chart single - even stuff by wholesome boy bands.

  2. Books about impending puberty - such as the one Holly has which tells her which bits of her she might reasonably expect to grow and change over the next couple of years, and why this happens.

  3. A DVD of the children's movie "Hotel Transylvania", which I took Holly to see at the cinema. It has several references to sexual activity, and one character who finds it amusing to systematically sexually assault other characters.

  4. Anything explaining what child abuse is, or what to do if it happens to you.

  5. DVDs of any of the last several series of Doctor Who. Many many references to sexual activity, including the conception of one recurring character.
I could go on but I'm sure you get the picture. And all this is without even going into the fact that Holly is a big fan of Old Harry's Game (lots of references to sexual activity, albeit mostly in the "eewww humans do icky things" vein) and ancient horror movies from Hammer and Amicus (yeah, that's inherited).

The thing is, I'm probably not going to be subject to a sexual control order. I'm a reasonably respectable white person with a job (for a given definition of respectable, anyway), so I'm not on the list of usual suspects that the rozzers like to target with these sorts of things. But if you're lower down the pecking order than me, and the sort of person the police like to stop for, for example, bag checks anyway...

I do NOT like the police being given powers which are so open to abuse. Sure, most of the force are great guys and gals who are just doing their jobs. But enough of them are powermad little Constable Savages who like to exercise the power they have unfairly that this new power would cause untold misery to those who are already under the bootheel of oppression.

Down with this sort of thing.
miss_s_b: (Mood:J'accuse)
I'm composing this on my phone so it's going to be quick and dirty, but I have the following things to say:

1, asking someone to consider what impact their words will have is not censoring them or banning anything
2; being told you have hurt someone is not fun; but it's better than hurting people
3, people with privilege are used to not considering other people's feelings and get upset when they are asked to consider other people. On one level this is understandable because considering other people is work. But it's nowhere near as much work as living with total lack of consideration all the time.
4, if you use a word that upsets people without knowing it will upset people that is qualitatively different from knowing it will upset people and using it anyway.
5, you are perfectly free to say whatever you like BUT THAT IS NOT THE END OF IT. Once you have said what you like other people are free to react how they like and judge you how they like in consequence of what you have said.
6; there is NO point 6
7, All words cause reactions. If you don't like the reaction your words cause it might behove you to consider your words more carefully in future, especially if you're getting paid for writing them; rather than railing at people you have upset for reacting in am entirely predictable way.

This post brought to you by today's twitter storm. Further reading:

http://www.sarahlizzy.com/blog/?p=150
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
Lets play a game of spot the difference, gentle reader:

This photo is a picture taken by of Nick Clegg posing with an Incredible Hulk onesie given to him by Liberal Youth:

cleggonesie

This photo is a picture used by the Torygraph to illustrate a non-story about one of the people who spoke to Nick Clegg on his radio phone in being a Lib Dem activist:

Cleggcropped

Now, I am sure that the Torygraph just cropped the picture to make the composition better and to make it fit better into the column, and the fact that this has resulted in the black guy and the guy with long hair being cropped off is just a side effect and not a intended consequence, but it does fit into an unfortunate narrative of people who are not white/male being cropped out of photos or replaced in them - and not just by newspapers.

Examples:
http://gawker.com/5027666/sun-throws-prince-williams-black-friend-under-the-boat
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/may/10/jewish-paper-apologises-hillary-clinton
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/8221896.stm
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/01/ikea-saudi-arabia-catalogue_n_1928635.html
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/ford-workers-angry-as-blacks-are-whited-out-1320079.html

What makes the unfortunate cropping worse is that the black guy in the photo of Nick Clegg with his onesie is the guy who asked him to pose with the onesie in the first place, m'friend'n'colleague Lance. They wouldn't even HAVE the picture of Clegg with his blasted onesie if it hadn't been for one of the people they cropped out. What a bunch of plonkers.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
I intended this slot to be for Youtubes of Monty Python and daft jokes, but nothing today is going to beat the silliness of the former minister for health, who wants to ban Frosties.

Yes, childhood obesity is an issue.
Yes, Frosties are high in simple carbohydrates.
Yes, it'd be nice if people chose to eat things the establishment approves of (from the point of view of the establishment, anyway).

Why the instant Labour response to anything like this is bansturbation is beyond me, though. Surely it's treating a symptom rather than a cause? People choosing unhealthy foods is not a cause of poor diet, it's an expression of it. If you wanted to treat the cause rather than the symptom, though, you'd need to look at why people choose frosties over (say) muesli:

- because they taste nice
- because they're much cheaper
- because they're used to them.

Banning frosties won't solve any of those things (black market frosties would still be cheap; that's how markets work). If you want people to choose "healthy" foods, you need to:

1, educate them on what healthy foods are (people are mostly fairly well informed on this) - the traffic light food labelling scheme is part of this too.
2, make healthy foods cheaper and/or more convenient than unhealthy ones. You can do this by either taxing unhealthy foods, or subsidising healthy ones (commence argument about which is preferable now). The problem is that the reason unhealthy foods are cheap is because good quality ingredients aren't, and that's not a simple thing to solve.
3, make sure that all public utilities which sell food (schools, hospitals, canteens, etc) offer a variety of healthy foods so people can get used to things other than frosties.

And that's without even going into how unworkable such a ban would be. If you ban a specific product, the manufacturers will bring out the same product under a new name. If you ban a certain percentage of sucrose, the manufacturers will find other, potentially much less healthy options (fructose, for example). And even then, how do you stop people adding extra sugar in their homes?

Like most Labour proposals, this is ill-thought out and if it is ever to work will require massive bureaucracy for a tiny gain.

Still, now they've demonised nicotine, alcohol, fat, salt and sugar, it'll be interesting to see what's next. Puritanism is never satisfied...
miss_s_b: (Mood: Belligerent Wheel of Fortune)
Every frigging year, without fail, some bunch of idiots start up a campaign for us to move permanently to central european time because they want to "increase the hours of daylight". I've got news for you, bozos. The hours of daylight are constant whatever you set your clock at. If you want longer lighter evenings, why don't you get up earlier?

Seriously. I don't get why we have to bugger about wih our clocks twice a year either. Greenwich Mean Time is the standard by which everyone in the world sets their clocks. Why can't we just stick to it, and if YOU want an extra hour of daylight, start work at eight instead of nine. Why do the rest of us have to have our sleep patterns disturbed for the convenience of a bunch of over priveledged office workers?

And don't give me that shit about farmers and cows. Cows can't tell the time.



Dreamwidth Livejournal Blogger Facebook Tweet this Delicious Flattr this LibDig Bit/ly StumbleUpon
miss_s_b: (Fangirling: Internet forever!!)
The most mutually satisfactory conclusion to an argument is for both parties to reach agreement by methods of persuasion and by each side learning new things. Another, less satisfactory, way of concluding in argument is to agree to disagree. In neither of these cases, though, can either person really say they have won. I mean, an old hippy like me might try to suggest that in the first scenario, everyone wins, but surely the true joy of winning is in grinding your opponent's shattered ego into the dirt, and then pointing and laughing at their paltry remains?

How, then, does one Win an Argument?

There are many tactics which one can employ to win an argument, but I find that one of the most consistently successful is to get your opponent into such a frothing rage that they can't think straight. The methods that you can employ to do this are legion, and the legendary Conversational Terrorism is a fine place to start your research into methodology, but I would like to highlight some of my favourites.
  1. If you want to set your opponent's teeth on edge right from the get-go, start with an appeal to authority. Assert that you are older, wiser, more educated, more experienced, and gosh darn-it, all round better than your opponent. It doesn't matter if the assertion is true or false; in fact, it's almost better if it's false because that's bound to annoy them even more.

  2. Continue by building a series of straw men. Take your opponent's words and twist them, distort them, and wilfully misinterpret them. If your opponent tries to object to this, simply appeal to authority again, and again, and again, till they give up. This is especially useful if you can pretend to agree with the distorted position.

  3. Supplement your appeals to authority with ad hominem attacks. While you are painting yourself as the fount of all knowledge make sure to denigrate, insult and patronise your opponent at every opportunity you get. This will really wind them up.

  4. If you need further ammunition, throw in a few ad populums. Everybody knows that this is a winning tactic.

  5. Assert your opinion as if it is fact, without a shred of evidence to back it up. Bonus points if you can do this while simultaneously complaining that your opponent has done it

  6. Red herrings and tangents can also be employed if you feel matters are slipping away from you. Ramble on for several minutes about something totally irrelevant to the point at hand, and if anyone tries to stop you, insist that you'll be getting to the point soon, or that they are wrong in thinking that you are straying from the point.
By this point your opponent should be so thoroughly pissed off with you that they will explode into fury (whether verbal or physical) and you win by default. You can then sit back, secure in the knowledge that you roused someone to anger with the Power of Your Brain and you must therefore be a far better person than they are. Tell all your friends. If you have any.

Who will find these tactics useful?

Some people - mansplainers, for example - find these techniques come naturally. Often people with political or legal training will use these methods to dismiss an opponent they feel is unworthy, even though they know such underhanded tactics to be without real discursive merit. The people who really need to gen up on these techniques are the sort of people who don't feel at home in smug condescension. This is not because they need to know how to use them, but how to spot when they are being used by someone else against them.

At this point, the non-smug-bastard should hold up a series of flash cards with the name of the logical fallacies being used by their opponent on them each time one is employed. This should somewhat turn the tables of enragement...


NOTE FOR THE HARD OF THINKING: I am fully aware that several of the nasty techniques I list above have been used in this post. This is intended to be for humorous effect. Irony does not mean "largely composed of iron". Also, I am aware that I have used these methods in other posts and on other occasions. I am not claiming to be perfect. Not at the moment, anyway.

And yes, since you ask, this is a follow-up to the previous post. You will be returned to normal service shortly. As, indeed, I do all things. Because I am short.




This blog is proudly sponsored by Caron's Musings

Dreamwidth Livejournal Blogger Facebook Tweet this Delicious Flattr this LibDig Bit/ly StumbleUpon
miss_s_b: (Mood: Belligerent Wheel of Fortune)
The fact that one of the Milliblands has got headlines for jumping on the Save Our Pubs bandwagon that Greg Mullholland and other Lib Dems have been successfully piloting for years, or the fact that Mike Smithson, famed sage of politicalbetting.com thinks that my livelihood and the lifeblood of many communities (not just rural ones) is trivial and laughable.

OK, so Millibland's "bold" plans are nothing more than to appoint a minister for pubs, and not to do anything about the beer tie, or the stupid over-regularion of the market, or the ridiculously complicated duty regime (here's an idea: differential taxation on cask and bottle/can), or any of the other issues that plague my industry. But that does not mean that the issue is not a serious one, affecting not just the lives of barmaids, but the fabric of our communities.

To dismiss this as so much sausages is, I venture to suggest, slightly short-sighted of the seer.



This blog is proudly sponsored by Voter Speaks

Dreamwidth Livejournal Blogger Facebook Tweet this Delicious LibDig Bit/ly StumbleUpon
miss_s_b: (Politics: Post Feminism)
So, like all good geeks, I have the Bad Science book and read the sainted Dr Ben's blog regularly. I also have a slightly rusty A-level in Statistics, and a penchant for picking holes in things. So when I see bobbins like this trumpeted as proof that men are better than women, I start wondering if David Tennant's little misogynist organisation from the new St Trinian's film* is real. I'm not even linking to the Daily Fail's version, which proudly trumpets that because the study was done by a woman it must be totally gospel.

Here are the things that occurred to me when reading that news report:
  1. 65 volunteers; self-selecting sample; 5% difference (not statistically significant on such a small sample). This study is not scientifically rigorous enough to prove anything.

  2. who was paying for this study? The paymaster often has an influence on the conduct of the study - after all, (s)he who has the gold, makes the rules...

  3. It says there were 65 volunteers. It doesn't say what the gender split was. What if only 5 of them were women?

  4. How familiar were each of the volunteers with the car? An Audi A6 is a big expensive saloon. Were the male drivers more familiar with driving big saloons than the women? Were the male drivers less worried about damaging an expensive new car than the women? Could this be an explanation for their differing performance?

  5. There is research shown that both men and women will play up to stereotype when under scrutiny - was some sort of control put in place to account for this?
I'm sure that there are other holes pickable. I'm also sure it's possible to pick holes in my holes. Do feel free to do so, BTW. Learning is good :)


* the new St Trinian's film is well worth seeing, by the way. It's very silly, and doesn't have as much naked Colin Firth in as the first one, but it's a lot of fun, and made me giggle lots. And it passes the Bechdel test. And it has a very feministy-yet-fun message. I approved.



This blog is proudly sponsored by

To view this post with minimal formatting, click here. To view this post in your own Dreamwidth style, click here.
miss_s_b: (Mood: Facepalm)
... Click here (hat-tip Cath Elliot). Yes, that is a link to the original article in the Daily Fail. Sorry about that. But I link to the evil website of doom because, unusually for the Fail, the comments actually give me hope.



This blog is proudly sponsored by
miss_s_b: (Politics: Democracy)
The government's chief drugs advisor has been sacked for the heinous crime of wanting to base policy on scientific evidence, rather than rig the evidence so it supports policy. I may be being hopelessly naive, here, but I would have thought that if scientific evidence says that a particular policy will make a problem worse, it's a good idea to listen to that before enacting the policy if you wish to solve the problem?

Many people are as incredulous about this as me. There are lots of posts all over my f-list (I like Grouchy's post on this, but I think Count Packula's is the best I've seen so far), and the inevitable faceboook group (hat-tip Mark Reckons). Part of me is pleased that people are voicing their protests, but we all know this government's record on ignoring protest. What worries me is that when we vote this government out in a few months' time, we'll end up with a worse one...



This blog is proudly sponsored by

About This Blog

picture of Jennie Rigg

Hello! I'm Jennie (known to many as SB, due to my handle, or The Yorksher Gob because of my old blog's name). This blog is my public face; click here for a list of all the other places you can find me on t'interwebs.






Flattr this

Ebuzzing - Top Blogs Ebuzzing - Top Blogs - Politics





==================
Charities I support:

The Survivors' Trust - donate here
DogsTrust - donate here
CAB - donate here

==================


Creative Commons License
Miss SB by Jennie Rigg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.
Based on a work at miss-s-b.dreamwidth.org.

Please note that any and all opinions expressed in this blog are subject to random change at whim my own, and not necessarily representative of my party, or any of the constituent parts thereof (except myself, obviously).

Printed by Dreamwidth Studios, Maryland USA. Promoted by Jennie Rigg, of Brighouse, West Yorkshire.

Subscribe

RSS Atom

December 2014

M T W T F S S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 192021
22232425262728
293031    

Most Popular Tags

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags

Style Credit

Page generated Friday, December 19th, 2014 11:56 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios