Thursday, 8 September 2011

Tony Gratrex of Reading PSC

UPDATE: You can read this post and other similar ones on my new blog "Exposing Anti-Semitism".

Most of this has been reported at Harry's Place before. Tony Gratrex is involved with Reading PSC. He's listed as the contact for them in this pdf. Here he's mentioned as representing them at a branch meeting.

In the original report, Harry's Place revealed who Gratrex thought controlled the media and international banking:
You state that the jews do not control the media but that it is under self censorship.
This is patently wrong and only a cursory glance using the internet will show that a majority of the media is jewish owned or controlled.
During the interview you use the expression "who pays the piper calls the tune" and that is precisely the problem when one considers who controls the international banking system.
Here's another comment, not in the original report, that Gratrex left on an overtly anti-Semitic blog:
Not all adherents to the Torah are enemies of humanity.
You are forgetting the Neturei Karta Jews
Aside from the obvious anti-Semitism of calling all but a tiny handful of Jews "enemies of humanity", one wonders what attracted Mr Gratrex to this particular blog...

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Bristol PSC and Cliff Hanley

UPDATE: You can read this post and other similar ones on my new blog "Exposing Anti-Semitism".

Cliff Hanley is the Chair or Secretary of Bristol Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Their website is registered in his name and he is also the owner of their Yahoo group, under the username "fagbolt".

He is something of a fan of Holocaust denier Anthony Lawson. He has published two of his videos on his blogs. In his introduction to Lawson's video on wikileaks (which essentially argues that wikileaks was an invention of the CIA/Mossad and by the way 9/11 was an inside job of course) he says:
Anthony Lawson has produced another fine thought-provoking news-bomb
Hanley doesn't just repost extremism from others he also declares it himself. He told a local newspaper that:
Israel is not a true country. It is simply a flawed policy.
And what about Hamas?
Hamas does not want to destroy all Jews. 'All Jews' would include the Israelis who regularly join in the anti-wall, anti-occupation demos with their Palestinian friends, for instance.
But Mr Hanley is not alone among members of Bristol PSC for holding extreme views or indeed liking Anthony Lawson. His video in which he says that Holocaust denial is really "research" into "questionable aspects of the alleged events" is linked to in one message.

Another message is entitled "How the Jewish Lobby Works" and links to a YouTube video of the same name. There are also messages citing material from American Free Press and

In this message Mr Hanley links to the (now removed) Facebook group "Third Palestinian Intifada" claiming that:
it's of more than passing interest
The group was removed (at least in part) because it advocated violence and stated:
Judgment Day will be brought upon us only once the Muslims have killed all of the Jews
Another message links to a video entitled "Israeli Terrorism and the Talmud" which opens with a fabricated quote from "Libbre David 37".  No such Jewish book exists but the "quotation" is regularly used by anti-Semites the world over.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Ken Livingstone - New Leadership?

An email sent out on behalf of Ken for London includes this great line:
London needs a change; it needs new leadership that puts London first. Ken Livingstone ...
Ken? New? He was leader of the Greater London Council 30 years ago!

The email footer says:
Created with NationBuilder, the essential toolkit for a new generation of leaders and creators.
Hard to see how Ken fits the description to be honest.

Holocaust Denial at Norwich PSC

UPDATE: You can read this post and other similar ones on my new blog "Exposing Anti-Semitism".

Last week, Harry's Place revealed that the former Chair of the West Midlands Palestine Solidarity Campaign runs a website that publishes Holocaust denial. It turned out that he had been expelled as Chair because of it. Now it's the turn of Norwich Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

An article reprinted on the site is taken from the "Israel's stooges" section of the website. It was published in 2009 and refers to the appointment of Ivan Lewis as Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The article states:
Mr Lewis is also a trustee of the Holocaust Educational Trust, a body founded in 1988 by British pro-Israel lobbyists Greville Janner and Merlyn Rees with the aim of maintaining a culture of gentile guilt and Jewish victimhood in British schools.
More worrying, though, is a video posted on the site entitled "Israeli Apartheid and the Nakba". It was created by Holocaust denier Anthony Lawson. Lawson said in an interview that:
it seems that there is no solid evidence that Germany put in train a plan to systematically murder Jews using gas chambers. I have no doubt that some Germans were as cruel as some of those bombing-raid planners, and that a lot of unnecessary deaths resulted from that cruel streak, which seems to show itself in so many humans, but I do not think that the facts support the planned systematic- extermination scenario that the ever-growing number of Holocaust museums claim was perpetrated by the Germans.
In the video, Lawson states:
All over the world Zionists build museums and memorials to their Holocaust and strive to put people in gaol for what is more properly described as historical research but which they call Holocaust denial or revisionism; an attempt to prohibit enquiry into even the more questionable aspects of the alleged events which took place in forced labour camps during the Nazi era.
While he is narrating these lines, the video shows photos of well-known Holocaust deniers Ernst Zundel, Germar Rudolf, Robert Faurisson, David Irving, Sylvia Stolz and Gerald Toben.

The webmaster of the Norwich PSC site is Khaled Sa'aran. He also works for Norfolk County Council (Children's Services. As the webmatser, he must surely take responsibility for what is published on the site.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

A Year Out of Date?

From Cormac Hollingworth at Left Foot Forward:
Today Ed Milliband called for an emergency meeting of the G20 in September, to restart the global recovery from a co-ordinated collapse in demand around the world. His call is backed up by an important year-long project undertaken by the IMF to outline an upside and downside for the world economy over the five years.
The IMF project is the Mutual Assessment Process (MAP). As far as I can tell the support is that the IMF found a scenario where alternative policies would be beneficial. The bit quoted by Cormac is this [pdf]:
[Its] well-designed, collaborative policy actions across the G-20 would produce better outcomes for all, including significant strides in global demand rebalancing.
So the MAP calls for "collaborative policy actions" by G-20 members. That's what Ed is calling for so the IMF support him.

Only problem I can see is that the bit Cormac quotes is from the first stage of the MAP process. The same report he cites then goes on to say:
The key take-away from the first stage of the MAP was that well-designed policy actions by the G-20 could increase growth, create more jobs, and reduce poverty across the world. As a result, G-20 Leaders reaffirmed their commitment to the MAP and agreed to identify policies that could bring everyone closer to the upside.
This set the stage for next phase of the MAP. At the Seoul Summit in November 2011 [should be 2010]...
It looks like the IMF report that backs up the need for collaborative action resulted in that collaborative action almost a year ago. I'm confused as how to that can now support Ed's call for different collaborative action.

Fly-Tipping Cost?

Two articles reporting on a report from the Countryside Alliance about fly-tipping.

Fly-tipping in England and Wales cost councils £40m in 2010 but only £692,000 was raised in fines, figures suggest.
Daily Mail:
Rubbish is illegally dumped at least once a minute, according to a report released yesterday. It found 656,000 incidents of fly-tipping were recorded last year, costing taxpayers almost £25million in clear-up fees.
Can't find the original report on the Countryside Alliance website as of yet but something strange here.

UPDATE: The Countryside Alliance have tweeted that their report is out giving links to the BBC, Daily Mail and Express but not to the actual report. The tweet says the cost is £40m but the Daily Mail is still reporting £25m.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Knowing What You're Talking About

Eoin Clarke makes a post about the shortfall in the number of new houses being built. In the middle of the post he says that:
More than 40,000 people sleep on our streets every night.
Tim Worstall picks him up on it pointing out that actually only 1,768 people sleep rough in England. What's going on?

The answer is that Clarke is relying on the following line from the ONS report on Housing and Planning:
During 2009-10, local authorities made 89,120 decisions on eligible applications for housing assistance under homelessness legislation. Nearly half of these - 40,020 - were accepted as owed a main homelessness duty, 70 per cent lower than the peak in 2003-04.
However, he wasn't careful enough with what he's talking about. Elsewhere, the ONS has a page with "Notes and definitions for homelessness data" which states:

The term "Homelessness" is often considered to apply only to people "sleeping rough". However, most of our statistics on homelessness relate to the statutorily homeless i.e. those households which meet specific criteria of priority need set out in legislation, and to whom a homelessness duty has been accepted by a local authority.
Such households are rarely homeless in the literal sense of being without a roof over their heads, but are more likely to be threatened with the loss of, or are unable to continue with, their current accommodation.
So there are about 40,000 people considered homeless under the ONS definition but only 1,768 people sleeping on the streets.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Graduate Earnings

Jonathan Hunt writes at LibDem Voice:
According to new figures published this week by the Office for National Statistics, graduates earn 85 per cent more than people with only GCSE qualifications over their working lives. Extrapolated over a 40-year career lifetime, graduates are likely to earn almost £1 million more than those on current average pay of some £25,000 pa.
When looked at from that end of the telescope, it does not seem too onerous for graduates to have to repay some £30,000 or so when as a result of that investment they earn many multiples of that sum. They will still be some £970,000 better off (before tax) than non-graduates by the time they retire.
He's been widely criticised there. He's made lots of mistakes in his methodology. Firstly, he picks GCSE as the comparator rather than the next-most qualified. Secondly, he ignores taxes. Thirdly, he ignores the extra years worked by those who stopped their education earlier.

Before correcting these mistakes it's also worthwhile pointing out that his chosen annual salary of £25,000 makes no sense. His source gives average hourly earnings for those who only have GCSEs as £8.68. In order for them to earn £25,000 a year they'd have to work for more than 9 hours a day, 6 days a week, 52 weeks a year. Not likely.

Anyway, the table below gives the values found from his methodology applied correctly with the points mentioned above (I assume 7.5 hours work a day for 230 days a year, or 1,725 hours a year):

Median hourly pay Annual Earnings (post tax) Career Length Total Income Difference
Degree £16.10 £21,248 40 £849,920 £0
Higher education £12.60 £17,142 42 £719,964 £129,956
A Levels £10.00 £14,092 43 £605,956 £243,964
GCSE grades A*-C £8.68 £12,544 45 £564,480 £285,440

This report (pdf, page 3) claims that graduates earns £149,761 more over a lifetime. Other values I've seen range from £100,000 to £160,000. So Jonathan Hunt had the right idea but was sloppy in his application.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Clearly Paid Too Much

Andrew Tindall at Liberal Conspiracy sent a FoI request to the Cabinet Office to find out how much the e-petitions website costs. Turns out it cost £80,700 to develop and £32,000 a year to maintain. Andrew concludes:
So there we have it, they clearly paid too much for what was such an unstable service, but it’s still one of the cheaper government initiatives we’ve seen in recent years.
But wait, how much did the old e-petitions website cost? According to this Commons report (pdf):
The Deputy Leader stated that the set-up costs of the Downing Street site were £17,500 and that the annual running costs are £109,100.

So after two years, this one would cost £91,000 less than the one produced by Labour and would continue to cost £77,100 less each year.

Mayor's House Record Missing?

Does anyone know why Boris Johnson's purchase of a new house doesn't appear to be in the Land Registry's database anymore?

The Daily Mail reports:
Land Registry documents show Mr Johnson and Ms Wheeler bought the house jointly on June 12, 2009, and that they have a mortgage for the property in both of their names.
Yet searching the Land Registry website shows that no record exists for that date on the road Boris is reported to live on. Does anyone know what's going on? Have I missed something?

Council Staff Wasting Time?

The Essex Chronicle reports:
ESSEX civil servants spent the equivalent of 2,200 working days last year on social network sites at work, a Chronicle investigation can reveal.
Our investigation shows that Essex County Council (ECC) staff spent 16,500 hours on Twitter and Facebook in the last 12 months – equivalent to one employee spending over six years on the two websites.
Since August 2010 staff wasted 342 working days house-hunting on property website
Shocking, right? Wrong. How many staff does Essex County Council have? 7,539 according to a different report on the same figures. Let's do the maths:

for 16,500 hours to equal 2,200 working days we must have 7.5 hours per day. Now, total hours spent on social networking sites per employee comes to 2.2 hours. Over 12 months.

And house-hunting? Just over 20 minutes. Over 12 months.

I'm no expert but I reckon that that's pretty good actually.

Pictures of MPs Houses

After people made a fuss about YourKen publishing an unidentified photo of Boris Johnson's house we now have Louise Mensch complaining about the Daily Telegraph publishing a photo of MP Simon Kirby's house and telling everyone that it's his house. She tweeted:
I hope Daily Telegraph will take down its online picture of Simon Kirby MP's family home and will not reprint it in its print edition tmrw
The only reason for not showing photos of MPs houses would be to keep their addresses secret. The problem is that even without the photo there is enough information in the article to find out Mr Kirby's precise address in a matter of minutes.

How? The article tells us how much his house is worth and approximately where it is and when he bought it. Use that information to find his house from the Land Registry. Simples. The only way to realistically keep MPs' addresses secret would be either to not include their info on public records or else ban people from publishing that information.

Do we really want to keep the activities of our elected officials a secret like that?

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Higher Borrowing Under Osborne?

Cormac Hollingsworth at Left Foot Forward claims that:
... the City now expects the coalition to borrow £10 billion more than the OBR prediction, blasting through Alistair Darling’s budget for 2011/12 by at least £5bn.
This claim seems odd indeed. Firstly, no source is given for the City's expectations. Secondly, this City prediction is being compared to the OBR prediction for the Darling Plan. Thirdly, the numbers don't appear to add up. Quoting from the article:

To repeat the numbers, the OBR prediction for Darling’s budget plans was for Total Managed Expenditure in 2011/12 to be £708.9bn and receipts of £581.5bn, generating a borrowing figure of £127.8bn.
The latest OBR prediction for the March Budget was TME £710.4bn and receipts of £588.6bn, a borrowing figure of £121.8bn that was already a rise from the June emergency budget of £116bn due to a downgrading of growth.
But if the OBR prediction is for £121.8bn of borrowing and the City expects £10bn more, that comes to £131.8bn. That's exactly £4bn more than under the Darling Plan, not "at least £5bn". What have I missed?

Of course, the OBR has not been continually updating its forecasts for the Darling Plan like it has for the actual plan being implemented. Their prediction for the Darling Plan assumed 2.6% growth in 2011. How much would that have to fall before borrowing under the Darling Plan became more? And would anyone argue that under Darling we'd have 2.6% growth given what's happening globally?

More on Taser Deaths

On Friday I wrote about how no one had died in the UK (between 2004 and 2010 at least) from being hit by a police taser. Today I see this headline from The Guardian:
Man dies after Taser arrest near Bolton
Of course, read the report and you'll see:
A man who stabbed himself in the abdomen has died after being Tasered by police.
Greater Manchester police said the officers had been threatened. They entered the house and deployed a Taser. "After it was deployed, it became apparent he had a serious self-inflicted stab wound to his abdomen," police said in a statement.
So most likely cause of death, at this point, would not be the taser then. Of course, the headlines are accurate he did die after being hit by a taser. But then if you wait long enough everyone who has ever been hit by a taser will die. Why not a headline "100% of people hit by tasers will die"? As accurate and misleading as this one.

On Boris Johnson's House

Further to my post yesterday regarding YourKen "revealing" Boris Johnson's house. The fuss is that the Ken campaign identified Boris's house and this is a bad thing. Now, clearly they didn't identify it because only those who knew whose house it was would have known whose house it was. In reality Guido Fawkes identified it as Boris's house.

More importantly - was it a secret? True, the exact address was not previously widely known. However, it's a simple Google search to find what street he lives on. The road name has been published by newspapers before. I won't reveal the information just in case.

However, his old address is easily found. How do I know? Well this website identifies his street name. And this website offers a photo of him outside his house with the door number clearly visible. You can confirm with Google Street View.

So just how secret is the address of the London Mayor supposed to be?

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Mayor's House?

UPDATE: Turns out he moved in July 09 between the Daily Mail pic and the new one. So no mistake from Guido, other than identifying the house as being Boris's of course.

Guido Fawkes claims that a photo on the YourKen website shows Boris Johnson's house. The picture has been removed from the YourKen website with the following comment from Michael Joslin:
We have removed a photo that appeared on this page earlier today – A spokesperson for Ken Livingstone said, ‘ contains a range of photos of our volunteers campaigning across London, in this case Labour canvassers campaigning in the recent Islington byelection. No pictures identify the names of residents in particular addresses, including this one. As Harry Cole and the Guido Fawkes blog have chosen to reveal the name of a resident in this house we have decided to replace this photo.
But Ray Rodden points out that the Daily Mail has also published a picture of Johnson's house, even going so far as to identify it as his.

Now, here's the weird thing. The two houses look similar but are not the same. Crucial differences include the stairs up to the front door and railings outside the house. From memory the door number on the picture from YourKen is different to that in the Daily Mail pic. Both houses are reported as being in Islington and the YourKen guys have seemingly acknowledged that it was Johnson's house.

So what's going on?

Am I wrong and the two houses are the same? Has Boris moved from one house in Islington to another in the last two years? Did the Daily Mail get it wrong and take a pic of Johnson standing outside someone else's house? Or did Guido make a mistake, jump to a conclusion and scare YourKen into removing the picture?

Monday, 22 August 2011

Very Delayed Summer

Graduate Fog asks where all the unpaid interns are after the HESA published a report saying that only 5,235 university graduates are in unpaid work. The problem is that the IPPR published a report that 280,800 companies were looking to take on interns and 18% of those would not be paying them.

Here's the key point though. From the HESA report:
The publication provides detailed results of the Destinations of Leavers from HE survey, which asks graduates what they are doing six months after graduation
From the IPPR one:
This is the equivalent of 280,800 organisations across the UK, potentially offering a quarter of a million internship places over the summer.
Normal university degrees finish in May-July so six months later is November-January. Definitely not summer time. Problem solved.

Police Cars or Guns - Which is Deadlier?

At LabourList, David Talbot writes sensibly that police forces will always claim to need more money and always claim that a reduction in their budget will mean more crime. However, in his article he claims:
The police continually say that any reduction in funding will damage public safety and reduce frontline effectiveness. It does not mention that speeding police cars now kill twice as many members of the public as die from gun offences.
In fact this claim is untrue. Home Office figures on deaths caused by road traffic incidents involving police cars in England and Wales can be found here. Figures for fatalities from firearms can be found here (page 59 of the report). Below is a graph of the two showing that, in fact, more people are killed by guns than by RTIs, not half as many as was claimed.

Friday, 19 August 2011

How Dangerous Are Tasers?

Cat Smith at Labour List writes that tasers are dangerous, possibly illegal, and should not be used. This comes after a man died after being hit by a taser 3 or 4 times. However, she admits that the last time the IPCC felt the need to investigate the death of someone after they were hit by a taser was in 2006 and in that case it was ruled that the taser was not the cause of death.

According to the Home Office tasers have been used 8,599 times between 2004 and 2010. And yet no one died because of tasers in all that time. And if a taser doesn't kill you it does no lasting damage. Compare that to a baton which can cause death (has caused death) and also causes lasting damage every singe time it is used.

To add some context, according to this site 143 people died while being chased by police and 215 people died in custody between 2004 and 2010.

UPDATE: This report from the IPCC (pdf, section 7 on page 3) confirms that since 2004 only one case involving death was investigated with respect to the user of a taser and it was concluded that the death was not attributable to the taser use.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Migration Watch Figures Out by 50%

Migration Watch claim that over the 25 years from 2008 to 2033, social housing for immigrants will cost £25bn. One key part of their calculation is that the government will pay £60,000 for each unit of social housing. However, in the Spending Review of Oct 2010 the government announced that it planned to pay for 150,000 new social houses over the period of the review. In this letter from the Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, he says that spending on new social housing will be £4.5bn over the period of the review. That works out at just £30,000 per unit or half what Migration Watch were assuming, therefore reducing their final value by half to £500m a year.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Could Green-Belt Land Help the Economy?

Anecdotally, I get the impression that there are lots of people who would like to buy a house if only they could afford it. So, how about allowing new houses to be built on green-belt land? Here are some calculations:

There are 22.3 million dwellings in England. There are also 1.64 million hectares of England defined as green-belt land. According to this document from the government (pdf), houses should be built at a density of between 30 and 50 houses per hectare. Let's take 40. In order to increase England's stock of houses by 10% (2.2 million) we would need 55,000 hectares. That's about 3.4% of current green-belt land and about 0.4% of the entire land surface of England.

Without thinking about this too deeply it seems to me that doing this would have the following benefits:
1) Increase growth
2) Reduce inflation
3) Reduce unemployment
4) Costs nothing (possibly raises revenue)

The costs are that house prices fall. Well, that could be a good thing in the long run couldn't it? Of course people who already own a house or have a mortgage lose out but it's for the greater long-term good of everyone in the country. Or have I missed something?

NB: I've used figures for England only because they were the easiest to find.

Thanks to Tim Worstall for getting me thinking about this point.

On Crime, Rioting and Sentencing

A lot of fuss going on about unfair sentences for those involved in the rioting. But consider this: why do people commit a crime? Assuming it's not a crime of passion it's because the following calculation returns true:

chance(caught)*cost(caught) < benefit(crime)

That is, the perceived chance of getting caught combined with the perceived cost of getting caught is outweighed by the benefits of committing the crime. In short, they think this crime would probably pay. It's worth the risk.

During the rioting people perceived that the chance of getting caught was very low and therefore they decided to take the risk. There will come times again when the perceived risk of getting caught is low. In order to stop people committing crimes in those circumstances, the other half of the calculation must be balanced. The cost of getting caught must be higher. There therefore appears to be a perfectly sound reason for giving unusually harsh sentences after the rioting.

Of course, this assumes that the primary purpose of punishment is to deter others. It also assumes that in times of need the requirement that the punishment be proportional to the crime can be relaxed.

"Britain leads the world in international aid"?

Amy Pollard from CAFOD argues that Britain shouldn't cut International Aid. The article extols the virtue of giving but seems to confuse voluntary giving with being forced to give. Anyway, she makes the following claim:
Say it proudly – Britain leads the world in international aid.
Then go here and see the facts. Britain is fifth, behind the USA, Japan, France and Germany in terms of Gross Assistance. It ranks only 7th when looking at aid as a percentage of GNI. Leading the world might be overstating things a little.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Domestic Flights Fuel Duty

On Left Foot Forward is a post recommending that domestic air travellers subsidise rail travellers. In the article, the author claims:
If the tax was introduced at the same rate as motoring fuel tax, it would raise around £460 million a year – enough to make up for revenue lost by cutting rather than increasing train fares.
I'd like to know how that figure was reached.

According to CAA statistics (Table 0 1 7 4) there were 7.7 billion seat-km of domestic flights in 2010. According to this site planes uses between 0.035 and 0.05 litres per seat-km, a range confirmed in this wikipedia article. That gives a range of between 270m and 385m litres of fuel used in 2010. The current fuel duty rate is 58.95p per litres.

Thus a duty on aviation fuel would generate between £160m and £227m. That's between 35% and 50% of the claimed amount.

Exercise and Immortality

I was reading an article by Fergus Walsh on the BBC about a study linking watching TV to life expectancy. Fairly sensible looking article, was only skimming it. Came across this excellent sentence though:
In the Lancet online, they suggest that 15 minutes of physical activity per day can reduce a person's risk of death by 14% and increase life expectancy by three years compared with inactive people.
Expect new adverts from gyms - join our gym and you could become immortal!

Of course, somewhere a time-frame is missing. Presumably the 14% reduction is within a given time frame. The abstract of the article doesn't mention a time-frame. Definitely something wrong here though.

How do you Enforce a Curfew?

So the Home Sec wants to give police stronger/new curfew powers to help in future riots. Just one question - how do you enforce a curfew?

Oh yes, by arresting people and removing them from the streets. If the police were in any position to arrest people and remove them from the streets during the first nights of rioting then they could have done just that. Fact is they weren't. So how would a new law help them if they can't enforce it?

Stealing Stolen Lines

Sunny gets excited because Cameron stole a line from an Obama speech.

Here's Cameron:
"There is no ‘them’ and ‘us’ – there is us."
Here's Obama:
"There’s no them and us – it’s just us."
But here's Clinton in 1992 (page 35):
"We're all in this together. We all have to change. There's no them and us in America. There's just us."
Clinton used that line in his stump speeches meaning he said it a lot. And Clinton's version has made it into at least one list of quotations.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Supercop and Gangs

From the BBC:
UK police chiefs have reacted sceptically to plans for US "supercop" Bill Bratton to advise the government.
Association of Chief Police Officers' head Sir Hugh Orde said: "I am not sure I want to learn about gangs from an area of America that has 400 of them."
Aside from the nonsense of looking at how many there are currently and not how many there were in the past and how effective Mr Bratton has been at reducing crime (quite effective by all accounts), the numbers are wrong.

Bill Bratton was police chief of both NYC and LA, I'm not sure which one of these Sir Hugh refers to with the 400 gangs. But either way Sir Hugh's numbers ignore an important consideration - population. NYC has an urban population of 18m and LA has 15m. London has only 8m. Yet London has 169 gangs. Taken as a proportion of population that gives 22.2 gangs per million for NYC, 26.6 for LA and 21.125 for London. Not a huge difference there Sir Hugh.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Met Office Temperature Data

The Met Office released historical data from their weather stations some time ago now but I've only just got around to looking at them. So far I've looked at the mean daily maximum temperatures for Oxford and Armagh in June and December. Oxford and Armagh are the two oldest stations in the set.

The results show no trend change over time. In other words, since the mid-1800s the mean daily maximum temperatures have fluctuated within the same bounds. There does not appear to be any gradual increase in the temperatures at all.

Does anyone know if this data set has been studied in the context of climate change? And if so, what are the conclusions that one can draw from the set?

How Fast Do Riot Trees Grow?

So we're now to have a discussion (a "national conversation" according to Ed Milliband) about the "root causes" of the rioting and looting. Many on the Left will blame the cuts. But since the cuts are about a year old how fast must these riot trees grow for the cuts to be their root cause?

Friday, 12 August 2011

Average UK Student Debt - Dodgy Numbers?

It's being widely reported this morning that average UK student debt could reach £53,000 for students starting when the new fees kick in. Example here from the BBC. The figures come from some organisation called Push. The relevant page is here.

The only problem is that I cannot work out how their numbers are derived. Each year they take a survey of student debt across the UK. That's fine. This year they found that the average debt for the UK was £5,681, an increase of 6.4% on last year. They're projecting that average debt will be £6,043 next year, an increase of about 6.4% again.

However, for those starting in 2012 the average debt in their first year is predicted to be £15,581 assuming tuition fees of £8,630. If we deduct the fees then projected debt is £6,951. If we deduct the fees from their projections of those starting this year (ie £6,043 - £3,290) we get £2,753. So that means that not only will fees rise by about 2.5 times but also all other expenses will increase by the same amount. That doesn't seem right to me.

I've emailed the organisation for an explanation and will see what comes.

UPDATE: Johnny Rich from Push emailed me the following:
We don't say the first yr debt in 2012 is £15,581. We haven't calculated that figure. The discrepancy that's troubling you may arise from the fact that the £53k number stretches over an average course of 3.43 years (the average in our survey) and we projected compound increases in living costs over the same period. 
On the first point I appear to have made a mistake. The £15,581 is not debt in the first year but average debt over the 3.43 year course. However, I'm still very confused. Partly this is because the £26,100 debt accrued by someone starting this year must be spread over 4.3 years to give an average of £6,403. But I'm also now confused as to how the figures are arrived at.

The logical way to do this, as far as I can see, is to work out the average debt per year and then sum them. Average the result if needed. Assuming a constant rate of increase of 6.4% per year (which is not a safe assumption in itself in any case) we would not get £53,000 for a 3.43 year course. Instead we'd get something like £44,000.

I'm very surprised that they haven't calculated the figure for the average debt in 2012/13. How did they generate their results?

It's all a little unclear and Push should really publish the details of their methodology. I notice also that I'm not the only person doubting the figures. Wes Streeting, former NUS President, also doubts them on his twitter feed.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Those Involved in Rioting not Rioters

I read a couple of days ago Tim Worstall suggesting that people don't get arrested for the crime of rioting because doing so requires the police to have to pay for the damage caused. And then today just as I got in my car and turned the radio on Frank Dobson asked the following question in the House
In response to the hon. Member for Enfield, Southgate (Mr Burrowes), the Home Secretary said that no one had been charged with riot because the particular circumstances of riot had not arisen, or the charge was inappropriate. Will she confirm that that fact will not be used by the Metropolitan police to weasel out of providing the compensation that should be provided under the Riot (Damages) Act?
The response was:
I think I can provide that guarantee to the right hon. Gentleman.
So it looks like Tim was half right, maybe. No one arrested for riot but the police will still have to pay out. Not entirely convinced that no one has been charged with riot. The original question from Mr Burrowes stated:
Does she share my concern that, although we talk about riots, the number of people charged with riot is very small?
and the Home Sec replied:
My hon. Friend refers to the fact that no one has been charged with the very specific offence of riot. The police and the Crown Prosecution Service are making the right charging decisions, and they are doing so in the context of ensuring that they recognise the impact that people being on the streets can have.
It isn't obvious from that that she is stating categorically that no one has been charged with riot, it looks more like she's simply parroting what she thought the questioner had said.

The Hansard source is here:

Did the Daily Mail Contribute to the Riots?

By now most people have probably heard this interview:

The basic explanation for the looting was that the people involved thought there was very little chance of being caught and even if they were caught they wouldn't get a serious punishment, maybe just an ASBO.

So part of the motivation for looting was the perception that the British justice system is not punishing people properly for crimes. This is precisely what the Daily Mail and others like them keep telling us. Has that message got through and had the unintended effect of convincing people that crime pays?

Or are they actually right? Given that the first people convicted (in Manchester at least) got seemingly light sentences (one got 10 weeks the other 16 weeks in youth custody) maybe the justice system really isn't providing a deterrent?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Rioting and Laws

Watch Gove and Harman arguing:

Harman implies that cuts to EMA and the increase in tuition fees led to the riots (yeah makes no sense to me either). Gove blames Labour. But the key point is that both of them agree that government laws have indirectly led to the riots. So we have a situation in which both major political parties in this country acknowledge that passing laws can lead to very bad unintended consequences.

Will they think harder and longer the next time they think up a law to pass? What do you think?

The BDS Campaign is Wrong Because of BDS

Let's assume for the moment that you think the Israeli occupation of the West Bank is really terrible and one of the most important things to get sorted. Suppose also that you think that the present Israeli government is not serious about ending it. And finally let's suppose that you think the PNA is willing and able to come to a negotiated peace. You might be tempted to join the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign against Israel. I think that even with these assumptions the BDS movement is wrong because of BDS - Bilateralism, Democracy and anti-Semitism. Let me expand:

1) Bilateralism - It seems obvious that any sustainable and acceptable solution to the occupation will need to be the result of negotiation between the two parties. But the BDS campaign only puts pressure on Israel. If it were ever successful then Israel would be in the position of being desperate to end the occupation. So what can it do? It could try unilateralism which is, presumably, not what supporters of the BDS movement want. But the only other choice would be to go to the negotiating table while desperate. And there'd be nothing to stop the PNA from asking for more and more and more. A boycott against one side encourages unilateralism.

2) Democracy - Israel is a free democracy. There are Israelis who support the occupation and some who campaign against it. The BDS movement is blind to these subtleties. The boycott campaign hurts those who have the same aims as the BDS campaigners as much as it hurts those who don't. If we want to be emotive about it we might as well call it "collective punishment".

3) anti-Semitism - I'm not suggesting that all BDS campaigners are motivated by anti-Semitism. I'm sure some are but not all. However, the BDS movement will inevitably result in anti-Semitism. This is for one simple reason: The BDS movement is not going to boycott Israeli Arabs. No one can seriously imagine that the PSC or any other pro-BDS group will add a company owned and operated by Israeli Arabs to the list of those worthy of boycotting. Thus the BDS movement will only be boycotting Jewish people. I think it's probably fair to call that anti-Semitic.

Thus I conclude that even if you think that the occupation needs to end and the Israeli government is unwilling to end it, the BDS movement is not the right way to go about doing so.

Prevention is Better than Cure

The riots will no doubt cost the country, and by that I mean taxpayers, a lot of money. And we've already had people pontificating on the wider underlying factors that caused the riots. Most of those people will be telling us that the only way to stop this happening again will be to stop the cuts, spend more on services for young people, reform the police and courts, etc etc.

Now, I don't know for sure that they're wrong. I think they probably are wrong but I don't know. No one really knows. But what I also don't know is whether the cost of their cure will be less than the cost of the riots. I highly doubt it will be. And if the prevention is more expensive than the cure why bother with it?

Friday, 5 August 2011

100%+ Tax Rates?

I came across this organisation called "false economy" that argues that the cuts are wrong. On one page they argue that dealing with the national deficit/debt cannot be compared to dealing with credit card debts. They explain that you can spend less on your credit card without affecting your income but not if you're a country. True. But this claim seems to totally not hold water:
If a country spends less, then it also has an effect on its tax income. This can even cancel out the cut.

Let's investigate why. A cut in orders means that the construction companies will make less profit and pay less corporation tax. They will buy fewer bricks. They and the brick factory will cut their staff.
In turn these newly unemployed will pay less income tax as they become unemployed. They will also spend less in supermarkets, thus hitting their profits and ability to pay tax. Other tax payers will face a bill for their unemployment benefits.
So if the government gives £100 million to a construction company that money flows around the economy and the government recoups some of it through taxes when it pops up in various places like profits and wages. But unless the combined tax rates come to at least 100% there is surely no way that cutting that £100 million ends up costing the government £100 million in lost tax revenue.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Sunny Hundal is an Idiot

The government launches an e-petition website with the promise that if any petition gets 100,000 signatures then the topic will be eligible for debate in Parliament. Lots of people put up petitions about reinstating the death penalty, to get that topic discussed. Someone else puts up a petition to retain the ban. Sunny encourages his readers to sign the second petition because he opposes the death penalty.

Hello, Sunny, are you an idiot? If 100,000 people sign the petition to retain the ban, the topic of the death penalty still becomes eligible for discussion in Parliament. You're just helping the people you oppose.

And if those who want to see the death penalty brought back don't sign both petitions then they're also stupid.


UPDATE: At the time of writing the main pro-capital punishment petition has 1,221 signatures. The one against has 2,902. Not only are those opposed helping, they're working harder to get it discussed than their opponents!