Not Saussure

November 30, 2006

Can this be what he means?

Filed under: War on Terror, Wingnuts — notsaussure @ 9:02 pm

Writing in today’s Telegraph, Michael Burleigh opines that

We also need to terminate the existence of “Londonistan”. A dedicated border police might practise the sort of steely-eyed scrutiny that awaits anyone going to or leaving America.

This would be the same steely-eyed scrutiny that has resulted in a situation whereby, according to a recent American survey (also reported in the Telegraph, as it happens)

By greater than a 2:1 margin, the US is the number one choice from a list of 10 broadly defined destinations when it comes to being the MOST unfriendly to international travelers.

Apparently 39% of respondents regarded the US as

the worst [area] when it comes being traveler-friendly in terms of obtaining necessary documents or visas, and having immigration officials who are respectful toward foreign visitors

The Middle East was thus regarded by 16% and Africa by 12%. Europe was at 6%. (more…)


A voluntary code

Filed under: Blogroll, civil liberties, press — notsaussure @ 12:05 am

General lack of enthusiasm for the Press Complaints Commission director Tim Toulmin’s suggestion that

Blogs and other internet sites should be covered by a voluntary code of practice similar to that for newspapers in the UK

Longrider is excellent on the subject, as is Chicken Yoghurt, who is particularly scathing about the ironies inherent in Former Downing Street spin doctor Alastair Campbell’s view that

blogs were “perceived as a positive development” but “some of the most offensive stuff” comes from them.

As the Adam Smith Institute Blog points out of this proposed voluntary code, ‘there already is one. It’s in the civilities of polite society.’ The Devil’s Kitchen kindly volunteers to sign a code, in his normally civil and polite manner; Mr Eugenides’ comment is eagerly awaited and I’m sure he, too, will maintain the civilities.

After the detailed analysis these guys have put in, all I can usefully add is that, while I hope to maintain the civilities of polite society around here, too, I’m happy to display one of Disillusioned and Bored’s excellent logos (the more restrained of the two).

UPDATE: a truly excellent article by Cleanthes of The Select Society on the topic, comparing blogs with other media.

November 29, 2006

Some excellent questions

Filed under: Blogroll, press — notsaussure @ 10:56 pm

Her colleague Zoe Williams defends Polly Toynbee against the slings and arrows of outrageous columnists and bloggers to which she’s recently been subject.

Unfortunately, Ms Williams isn’t sufficiently aware of the dangers of asking rhetorical questions, such as

Peter Hitchens posits: “Toynbee wants to use the plight of the poor as a perpetual pretext to confiscate the hard-earned money of the middle class and give it to the state.” Come on – who hates “ordinary people”? Why would anyone unconnected with government want to steal money just to give it to the state?


It’s absolute con-artistry – if rightwing commentators can persuade us all that you have to be poor to care about the poor then immediately the left is excised from the mainstream, because how can they be on the left when they’re being paid mainstream-commentator wages? And if they’re not being paid mainstream-commentator wages then they’re obviously cranks. I suppose she could give all her wages away, but that too would discredit her, since what can we possibly learn from the kind of idiot who gives all her wages away?

Mr Eugenides and Tim Worstall are able to assist her with the answers.

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Government modernisers, or why ‘We’ve ordered a new IT system to solve the problem’ isn’t what you want to hear; Part 1

Filed under: Community, Politics — notsaussure @ 10:09 pm

In the comments to a piece wrote recently about Blair, Managerialism and Michael Oakeshott, I rather rashly said I’d try to develop the connections between Blair’s style of managerialist government and e-government. This looks as if it’s going to turn into a magnum opus, so this is part the first; an account of how business process are automated in commercial environments — how to do it and how not to do it. This is something of which I have some professional knowledge, particularly as it relates to legal and financial services. Later in the week, I’ll attempt to explore the ways government has seized on these developments as a magic solution to the problems of government, suggest why — incompetence in IT procurement apart — government tends to get hold of the wrong of the stick when it looks at computerisation as a solution to its problems, and suggest reasons why Mr Blair and his colleagues are particularly prone to fall into obvious traps whenever they go near IT projects. (more…)

November 28, 2006

Mean or median? ‘Average’ household income

Filed under: Blogroll, Economics — notsaussure @ 10:20 pm

As a result of David Cameron’s new interest in relative poverty, as defined as living below 60% of the median income, maybe we need to remind ourselves about the difference between mean and median averages. One person who certainly seems to need reminding is Lord Young of Graffham, one of Mrs Thatcher’s former ministers, who, as Chris Dillow notes in Stumbling and Mumbling, wrote a letter ‘of quite staggering imbecility’ to The Times:

The Conservatives now wish to eradicate “relative” poverty, defined as those living on less than 40 per cent of average incomes. Simple arithmetic shows that, as you increase the incomes for the relatively poor, the average income would rise, promptly putting some back into the relatively poor category.

As Chris points out, one of his imbecilities is that

relative poverty is defined an income below some fraction of median income. And the median doesn’t change just because the incomes of the very poor rise (more…)

Parties’ money worries

Filed under: Politics — notsaussure @ 5:50 pm

Great amusement at the coincidence of the Electoral Commission’s report on loans to political parties, which reveals that the Conservatives are by far the largest debtors, owing £35.3 million, as compared with Labour’s £23.4 million and the Lib Dems’ £1.1 million (possibly because people know a bad credit risk when they see one?) with Just Call Me Dave’s latest publicity wheeze.

Honestly, you’d have thought someone at Central Office would have seen this one coming; it can hardly help when they should be turning their fire on the report’s specific criticism of Labour’s dilatory reporting of donations:

it is unacceptable that the Labour party has failed to report a significant amount of donations to the national party on time.

Even though there are doubtless good reasons — the report

acknowledge[s] that local branches of parties, staffed largely by volunteers, may struggle to keep up with the administration of their finances

you’d have thought that, in the light of their present little difficulties with … errm… apparently lax financial reporting procedures — Labour would have tried to be more careful.


Lib Dem chief executive Lord Rennard said the size of the amounts owed by Labour and the Conservatives could have an impact on the health of democracy. He suggested that if people loaned money, rather than donated it, they could have more influence on policy as they could threaten to call in their loan if they did not agree with a particular policy.

As opposed, I suppose, to refusing to donate to a party if they didn’t agree with a particular policy. Actually, I don’t quite understand his objection to loans; if it’s a proper commercial loan, then I’d have thought any sensible party or lender (oh, of course, we’re talking about the Lib Dems here; that explains it) would ensure that there’s a proper repayment schedule to avoid that sort of thing.

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Why can’t people just — well, behave?

Filed under: Blair, hubris, Politics, scams — notsaussure @ 5:04 pm

Steven Poole on Blair’s plan for ‘a new social contract’

This almost comically bad idea shows that, in the decadent coda of his career, Blair has snapped utterly free of the notion that government exists at the sufferance of the people. Not a man ever to have taken seriously the idea that he is a public servant, he has now morphed decisively into a kind of giant inflatable Mary Poppins, minus the joie de vivre, floating untethered in the sky above us all. Tetchily nannyish, he says to himself: all the problems of British society could be solved if the people would just – well, behave.

More at: Comment is free: A raw deal

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ARCH RIGHTS: First they came for the children

Filed under: Blogroll, civil liberties — notsaussure @ 4:50 pm

Further proof for my suggestion either that bloggers have some magical power inadvertantly to cause government to go out and do something stupid just by speculating about it or HMG trawls the internet looking for dodgy ideas to go its dodgy policy dossiers.

Action on Rights for Children seem to have the same influence, too;

Sheesh, we were only joking! We didn’t realise they were already planning the very thing we were holding up as a ridiculous example.

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November 27, 2006

Cracking the crime before it’s even committed.

Filed under: civil liberties, junk science, Law, UK — notsaussure @ 7:23 pm

Blimey! First we have Jamie Oliver sorting out school meals. Then Blair sends in SuperNanny to sort out unruly children, and now, presumably on the assumption that this may not work in all cases, they’re thinking of sending in Fitz, from Cracker, to solve crimes before they get committed.

Criminal profilers are drawing up a list of the 100 most dangerous murderers and rapists of the future even before they commit such crimes, The Times has learnt.

The highly controversial database will be used by police and other agencies to target suspects before they can carry out a serious offence. Pilot projects to identify the highest-risk future offenders have been operating in five London boroughs for the past two months.

The Soham murderer Ian Huntley and the serial rapist Richard Baker have been used as examples of the type of man police will identify. (more…)

This policeman offends my common sense — make a law to stop him!

Filed under: civil liberties, Law, Panic — notsaussure @ 2:24 pm

The reason, or so I gather, that Russian wizards and witches tend to withdraw from human affairs and live in the forests, far away from everyone, is that their words and wishes have power. Consequently, the idea goes, if you live in Moscow or St Petersburg, you’re bound to at some point to find yourself angry with someone who jostles you in the street or treads on your feet on the metro, ill-wish him, and then you’ve got the consequences on your conscience. That, and the fact your hut on hens’ legs needs plenty of space for its exercise, of course.

Anyway, I’m beginning to wonder if writing a blog isn’t a bit like that. John Reid opined a little while ago that something or other ‘involves nothing less than together renewing the social contract.’ The Reactionary Snob responded that the social contract

is a hypothetical construct to justify the state’s existence. We don’t actually sign a contract… although, I wouldn’t put it past you lot to try.

and, as if by magic, a few weeks later it transpires that

A new contract between the state and the citizen setting out what individuals must do in return for quality services from hospitals, schools and the police is one of the key proposals emerging from a Downing Street initiated policy review,

a proposal memorably taken apart by Nosemonkey in a post that prompted someone to ask, of Blair,

Can’t someone just buy him a copy of SimCity and let him get on with it?


Now I write something entitled It’s grotesque — ban it, and, as if by magic, up pops the Met’s assistant commissioner, Tariq Ghaffur, asking for (more…)

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