Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Say No To An EU Referendum

In referendums the status quo option tends to do better that the initial polls suggest- this was seen in the referendum on electoral reform last year.

Currently a majority (or maybe a mere plurality at worse) of people favour leaving the European Union, but in a referendum the Europhile campaign will be free to scaremonger about the prospect of being "isolated in Europe" and taking a leap into the unknown. The worst the Eurosceptic camp can do is point at the present which cannot be made to seem unrealistically terrifying as an imagined future with less constraints of reality. Politically Ted Heath was quite clever to make the UK join the EEC and then let his successor have a referendum on whether to remain in- so the Europhile case became the status quo.

In a campaign the Europhiles will certainly close the gap on the Eurosceptics and may even overtake them to win the campaign. If that happens there will no constraint on UK governments who wish to surrender more power to Brussels as the issue would be "settled" for a generation.

Unless the support for withdrawing remains comfortably above 50% for a few years it would an enormous gamble to hold a referendum on the matter now.

Told You So

I said at the time that it was unlikely that the nurse who killed herself after receiving a prank call from idiotic Australian DJs did so because of the call.

It has since emerged that she had attempted suicide twice previously- long before the Duchess of Cambridge's hospitalisation.

The Australian radio presenters are still responsible for something unpleasant- posing as a concerned relative in order to find out about someone's medical condition- but they do not have blood on their hands.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Right To Other People's Money

Why the outrage over plans to restrict what benefit claimants can spend those benefits on?

If it is authoritarian to ring fence what people can spend welfare payments on then surely existing benefits such as housing benefits should also spark outrage- forcing the claimants to use the money for accomodation rather than fags even if they prefer the latter. Instead, most people accept that it is a good thing that money given over to provide housing is spent on housing.

The same is true of money provided for food and clothing.

Taxes are collected by force with the moral justification that they are redistributed for essential services, such as providing food and clothing to those in need, it is hardly excessive to ensure that this money is not spent down the bookies and off license.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


It looks like the evidence for Andrew Mitchell's supposed tirade against the police was made up. A major injustice has been done to him but there is another aspect to consider.

If the police are willing to frame a cabinet minister and make up witnesses, even when it is a 100% certainty that there will be CCTV footage that contradicts them then what do you think they do with people without the resources to fight back, who com into contact with the police in areas not covered with cameras?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

What Causes Massacres?

You can divide the causes into two categories- what motivates the inadequate to commit the crime and what factors enable him to actually do it.

The availability of guns does provide a partial answer to the second part of the question. The day before the killings in Connecticut a Chinese primary school had been attacked in a similar way but in this case the weapon was a knife rather than a gun. A lot of children were injured, some severely, but no one was killed.

That said the more important aspect is surely what makes someone want to commit a massacre- it isn't simply the case that someone out there will always want to do something like this. After all gun ownership has been widespread for generations in the USA and some other countries yet these kind of spectacular rampages are a relatively recent phenomenon. There seems to be a desire for notoriety and a perverse kind of fame as well as a kind of narcissism in which only their anger and hurt feelings matter.

Update: Just realised that I wrote a similar but better written post a couple of years ago.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Dead Terrorist Still Dead.

I see that an investigation into the murder of Pat Finucane has found that he was murdered on the encouragement of someone within the security forces.

If so that is terribly wrong but it does not change the facts that Pat Finucane was not a "human rights lawyer", he was a member of the IRA and was therefore a supporter of murdering people. If he was killed by the flames he fanned that is not a tragedy.

Most of his family seem to have been in the IRA as well, so it is hard to take the portrayal of them as brave fighters for justice very seriously.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

What You See Is Not All There Is

Daniel Kahneman- the psychologist who won an Nobel Prize for Economics- has uses a concept of "What You See Is All There Is"- which states that humans tend to form impressions based purely on the information available to us, even when that information is very minimal. We do not stop to consider what important information may be missing.

I think the reaction to the nurse who killed herself after receiving a prank phone call from an Australian radio station is an example of this. All the public "know" about her are that she received the call and she killed herself therefore the assumption is that the phone call led to her death.

This may be right but given that it seems such an odd reaction to the prank call and that people have all sorts of relationships and ambitions that are far more likely to affect their well being that a two minute radio call, it seems unwise to assume that her apparent suicide was related to the prank without knowing more about her life.