Monday, 29 June 2009
In other news, David Cameron has said that our Goverment Ministers are "dishonest". Dave - you missed out "utter hypocrites".
The ever-useful IPKat blog pubnlished an article on the new complaints system for patent attorneys. It elicited the following comment:
The Norwegian Patent Sketch
Customer: Hello Miss.
Assistant: What do you mean Miss?
Customer: I’m sorry I have a cold, I wish to register a complaint.
Assistant: I’m sorry, but it’s a public holiday in Wales.
Customer: Never mind that my lad, I wish to complain about this ‘ere patent, what I purchased from you not ‘alf an hour ago in this very boutique.
Assistant: Ah yes the Norwegian patent, what seems to be trouble sir?
Customer: I’ll tell you what the trouble is my good man, it appears that you neglected to pay the filing, search, examination, and renewal fees.
Assistant: Lovely claim drafting though.
Customer: Claim drafting don’t enter into it, the application is lapsed!
Assistant: No it isn’t, it’s just in suspension.
Customer: [sarcastically] Listen, my lad, I know a lapsed patent when I see one and I’m looking at one right now.
Assistant: But there are residual rights.
Customer: Residual rights are a function of the validity, which was never examined ipso facto, there ain’t any.
Assistant: You could write a cease and desist letter. These can be based on the residual rights.
Customer: Well, then if there are residual rights, I’ll try and invoke them shall I. [Holding patent up in front of his face] ‘Ello Mr Patent, ‘ow are we today, would you like me pay your renewal fees for you so we can go to court for a preliminary injunction?
Assistant: There you see, the residual rights can be invoked.
Customer: That, my good man is precisely my point, you cannot invoke residual rights on a lapsed patent!
Assistant: Ah yes, but if I hadn’t let it lapse, the resulting patent would have been litigated for nullification, incurring additional expenses for you, the client.
Customer: Nullification, nullification! This ‘ere patent could not be nullified if you threw 10,000 novelty disclosures at it. It is dead, deceased, gone to meet its drafter, cast off its mortal coil, it has ceased to be, if it wasn’t here, it would be pushing up the daisies and tripping the light fantastic at the legal library. It is lapsed, deemed to be withdrawn, refused, revoked, it has lost all rights in rem, ab initio, a posteriori, a priori, a forteriori and retroactively even!
[Smashing the rolled up papers on the table with great force]
That my good man, is an ex patent!
Assistant: But it was published.
Customer: Published you say? [Pause] I took the liberty of examining the file estoppel for this patent after I got it ‘ome and discovered that the only means by which it ‘ad been published, was by virtue of the fact that a photocopy had been nailed to a tree outside Concept House!
Assistant: Well I suppose I’d better replace it then [looks behind counter]. Well it looks as though we’re right out of patents.
Customer: I see, I get the picture.
Assistant: I’ve got an industrial design.
Customer: Does it protect a technical invention?
Assistant: Er, no.
Customer: WELL IT’S HARDLY A BLEEDING REPLACEMENT THEN IS IT!!!??@@##.
Assistant: [Sheepishly] No, I suppose not.
Assistant: D’you….., d’you want to come back to my place?
Customer: [Checks the shop] Yeah, all right, sure".
Sunday, 28 June 2009
But let us remember this quote:
"Though, it is true, there is always talk of cutting public expenditure, it has remained almost entirely talk. Cutting public expenditure has come to mean juggling with figures ... But whereas cuts in public expenditure rarely eventuate, squeezes on the private sector are "for real". The interest rate is increased, bank lending is contracted, taxes are raised, other old-fashioned deflationary measures are used. The private sector is punished for the state sector's profligacy."So said Keith Joseph, in his Stockton lecture in 1976. The means are different - we have deflation and low interest rates (for now), but the effect is the same. That last sentence rings as true now as it did 33 years ago.
*I use the word in its financial sense, not its affectionate sense.
**With arithmetic abilities like that, he could go far. If only he would....!
Friday, 26 June 2009
I’m looking for someone. It might be you. It might be someone you know. This is someone who’s sick of politicians and sick of mainstream politics. That’s most of us these days, and who could blame us?I'd vote for you, Charlotte, if you sent me that letter. If I thought you stood a chance of getting in, that is.... ;-)
The person I’m looking for gets angry that the Government takes £10 billion pounds - more than twice as much as the once mighty HBOS ever earnt before tax - from cigarette duties alone. They get furious that £30 worth of petrol includes £20 of tax… and for what? This person feels ill when they discover the Government is now spending more than the entire British population takes home in wages, and they ask: For what? Where is the money going?
This person looks around and sees a country brought to its knees, surviving only on loans from the rest of the world. This person knows that Halifax’s biggest employer is the council, and it makes this person angry to think that a town that was at the very heart of the industrial revolution could be sunk so low as to survive only on scraps from the Government table. This person thinks we should be better than this.
But that’s not all. The person I’m looking for looks around and sees a country where trainspotters - of all people - are arrested under anti-terrorism laws and where it has become illegal to take photographs of the police. They see a Government determined to censor the internet, to monitor their emails and internet use. They see more and more rules and laws telling people how they should live and behave: Don’t eat. Don’t smoke. Don’t drink. Don’t drive. Don’t say this. Don’t say that. Don’t vote for them. This person thinks Governments are supposed to be servants of the people, not the other way around.
If you see this person, will you pass on a message? I’d be very grateful. The message is this: “You are missed. Please come back.”
Thursday, 25 June 2009
Albert is so wrong that it hurts; he has made the classic mistake of the left, one based on both a misunderstanding of the purpose of a corporate entity and a failure to distinguish between the company and the people within it. I have therefore decided to devote an entire post to his comment and my response to it.
Let us start with a seemingly irrelevant example, that of a kitchen knife. To make a good kitchen knife, we want something that is very good at cutting through food, including both meat and vegetables. This will obviously create something that could also be used for harm, if the user so decides; that which makes the knife efficient at cutting lamb chops also makes it efficient at cutting throats. But the solution is not to make the knife less good at cutting throats, because that also impinges on its ability to cut lamb chops and is detrimental to all of us - because we cannot cook our dinner. The correct solution is to require appropriate moral choices of those who wield the knife, i.e. to use it for good not for bad. We do not design the knife with a view to making it unable to cut throats, nor do we criticise the designer for making a knife that is good at cutting lamb chops.
The same applies to a corporation or business (I shall use the two interchangeably). The purpose of a business is to make money, and it should be good at doing that; it should be designed to do that. If it is used in an inappropriate manner, then that reflects on the morality of those who choose to use it in that way. The correct response is to censure them, not hobble the nature of businesses in general so that can never happen again.
Albert quotes no less than a previous Pope to say that I am wrong. Sadly, he mis-applies the quote. His Holiness refers to a “community of persons” within the business who must endeavour to satisfy their needs taking into account moral questions. Thus, the quote in fact affirms my view that the moral choices apply to the people, but does not imply that we should blunt the knife in order to remove the need for those people to think about the choices facing them. Anyway, I can see Albert’s quote and raise him with one by Milton Friedman:
The business of business is businessand, of course, the famous comment by the only decent economic mind ever to come from Kirkaldy, the moral philosopher Adam Smith:
It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves, not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities but of their advantages.This, then, is the fundamental reason why Albert’s approach is wrong; he seeks to impose moral duties on an amoral thing, viz the corporation. Moral codes apply to people, and are the subject of valid differences of opinion between different people. Albert might think it immoral to deny maternity leave to some employees, for example; I might think it positively immoral to ask for maternity leave so soon after arriving in a new job that the pregnancy must have existed before the employment commenced. In that regard we disagree, although I suspect that Albert’s world view does not allow for disagreement with the authorities on moral matters.
But the point is deeper than a mere lack of clarity as to where moral boundaries lie; it is that businesses are (in a stable economy) subject to a different and entirely self-policing, self-correcting form of control over their actions. Put simply, there are two reasons why I am not rude to my PA. The first is that I (personally) consider that it would be wrong to do so. This is a moral choice of my own; others may disagree. The second reason, the more important reason of the two, is that if I do not treat her politely then she will probably leave. That would harm my business. Indeed, if I were to carry on doing that, I would have no staff & hence no business. Note that this reason applies to all businesses, regardless of the moral preferences of its directors.
(Before you query whether this actually works, I can confirm that it indeed does; I have seen a firm slowly die as a result of the rudeness of its owner, as staff and suppliers slowly walked away)
This works because those involved in the game are all free agents. My PA chooses freely to work for me. I choose to employ her. Both of us can change her mind; she can do so freely although there are monumental hurdles in place for me to clear should I do so. The reason why this form of restraint is better is rooted in this freedom, because it works at an individual level and therefore sets the moral boundary at precisely the level that is acceptable to the individual.
So, if a hypothetical boss found that he personally worked far better if he was in a permanent state of irritation, in which he was likely to be rude and difficult to those around him, then he (we could call him “Sirallen”, for example) would effectively limit his choice of staff to those willing to put up with it. The effect of a more limited supply is that the price will rise; thus those staff willing to put up with Sirallen would be paid accordingly. Those that did not like being treated in that way could choose to work for someone else. For Sirallen, the additional cost might be justified by his increased effectiveness; he would be free to decide whether it was or not. Of course, when the time comes and Sirallen reaches the pearly gates, he will still have to answer for the choices that he made, to whatever deity he finds waiting there for him.
But if you impose an externally decided morality on a business, as Albert wishes to, you either (i) blunt its efficiency as a business by asking it to do things other than those which are demanded by natural competition or (ii) achieve nothing but the imposition of compliance costs by asking it to do something it was going to do anyway. At the same time, you deny thick-skinned people the chance to choose to be paid more than would otherwise be the case.
This is, at heart, the difference between the right and the left. The right seeks to provide a stable and competitive economy in which people can protect themselves from unpleasant working conditions by simply leaving and finding a new job elsewhere. The left seeks to impose ever heavier and more detailed layers of regulation to make sure that people never need to do so, and thereby degrade that economy - eroding the freedom to leave, and creating conditions where still further regulations become necessary.
Albert, running a business is not like choosing a pleasant sunny meadow to stroll through. It is like running through the meadow knowing that anytime you stop running, the bull will catch up with you. You can look at a sleek, fit runner making his way across the field and be impressed by the profitable distance he is maintaining in front of the bull. But that is no reason to say “Those nice running shoes he has; we could put them to good use. Make him wear some old hobnailed boots instead – he’ll be fine”.
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
I especially like this quote:
If the people being sacked were really the most suitable for the jobs being created, then they would have walked into the new jobs without any fuss whatsoever.I can't help but agree wholeheartedly. Employment legislation is intended to protect good workers from bad employers. It might do that. I wouldn't know. What I do know is that it gives bad employees one hell of a good stick with which to beat good employers into submission.
After all, if you regard an employer as such an awful one, why do you want your job back? Either you are playing the system, or Gordon really has screwed our economy so badly that there isn't an alternative for you.
Monday, 22 June 2009
Clearly, either fame has hit home and prominent BBC comedians* are trawling my blog for ideas, or my ideas are as lame and obvious as anyone else's....
*and also Andy Hamilton
Friday, 19 June 2009
There is, of course, the longstanding assumption that politicians will lie. The Spectator has run so many articles about Gordon's lies that they have actually started to focus on the different and distinctive manner of Gordon's lying, rather than the mere fact of it. "Brownies" is their preferred term, which I think lets him off the hook a little. But the one point of honour that was always relied on by politicians was that they did not, would not, could not lie to the House. When a Minister spoke at the dispatch box, they told the truth. If something inaccurate happened to slip out inadvertently, they would return to the House as a matter of urgency to set the record straight.
CF has pointed to several comments that Brown has personally consulted McBride since the latter was sacked. The Spectator is reporting them, too. It seems that some of the discussions were by text messsage - in which case there will be physical evidence, surely? Yet Brown stated to the House this week at PMQs:
Mr. Lee Scott (Ilford, North) (Con): Will the Prime Minister tell the House whether the Government have received any informal briefings from Damian McBride?There is no wriggle room here, surely? He cannot claim that he was not aware that he personally sent and received text messages to/from McBride, if he was the one that did so. If the story is true, then Brown's mobile phone records will corroborate this, and he will have been caught comitting the ultimate sin before the House.
The Prime Minister: I have not.
The triviality of the lie (for it is indeed trivial) is irrelevant. The point behind the rule is that MPs must be able to rely on a statement made to the House, and Ministers must therefore never be willing to lie or mislead it.
If he has lied, he should be impeached. This is not just tittle-tattle; this is not about the rights and wrongs of using McBride. It is a serious matter, and his phone records should be checked to see if it is true.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
It's not that he wants to conceal anything, he claims, he just wants people to have the confidence to speak freely and openly to the inquiry. Such freedom comes from from the privacy inherent in separating the things that you say from the life that you lead.
Mr Brown said privacy would ensure that evidence given by politicians, military officers and officials would be as "full and candid as possible".
It is, therefore, disappointing, that Nightjack has been outed. His blog was excellent; I greatly appreciated it myself, and the Orwell prize was richly deserved. He demonstrated the grain of truth in what Brown says about the Iraq enquiry; protected as he (thought he) was by anonymity, he could tell us all what life was actually like as a British police officer. He did more - far more - to challenge my cynicism about the police than any official PR campaigns. His insights allowed us to see things from the officer's point of view, and actually engendered some sympathy for their situation.
Now, he is to be investigated by his employers and has already been issued with a written warning. This is mad. His truths did not harm the reputation of the police; quite the opposite.
I see that both Blue Eyes and Letters from a Tory agree with me. Both write eloquently on why the decision was wrong, and both regret the loss of anonymity.
Brown is wrong to hold the entirety of the Iraq enquiry in secret, because it is discussing matters of public policy and the actions of public figures. That part, at least, should be in public. Likewise, though the decision of Mr Justice Eady was (so far as I can see) correct in law, it is bad policy and the law on this subject should be revised.
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
If you told an audience that your name was Gordon Brown, four-fifths of them would demand your birth certificate.Read Bill Quango's comment, also. Gifted, both of them.
a fast internet connection is now seen by most of the public as an essential service, as indispensable as electricity, gas and water.Now, I'd be the first to agree that broadband is important. The current xkcd comic did ring some bells:
But "as indispensable as [...] water"? Seriously? Does Gordon expect us to believe that?
Time for another letter, I think. Here's text of the one I've written to Gordon:
Dear Mr Brown,I'll let you know if I receive a reply.
I read with interest your article in today’s issue of The Times, in which you state:
"a fast internet connection is now seen by most of the public as an essential service, as indispensable as electricity, gas and water"
Your comment is somewhat hedged (“is now seen by most of the public”), but you are essentially asking us to accept the contention that a broadband connection is a basic human need. I find this somewhat difficult to accept. I would therefore like to invite you to prove your point experimentally. I propose that, at a mutually convenient date, the two of us take part in a comparative test. I will go without broadband (in all forms) for one week. Over the same period, you will go without water.
Please let me know when you would like the challenge to take place.
Monday, 15 June 2009
Now, the egg-throwing was wrong; I'm not going to defend that, other than in jest (alert followers will have noticed my comment on Letters from a Tory that Nick Griffin's upset mainly flowed from UAF's failure to separate the whites before throwing them). I'm more interested in the principle of the UAF seeking to stop the BNP speaking, rather than the means.
The argument of those in favour of free speech and/or the BNP is that, like it or not, the BNP exists, it represents the views of many people, and it has been duly elected in a proper ballot. Therefore, goes the argument, we should listen to what they have to say, before dismissing it as the mindless racist claptrap that it is. I have a lot of sympathy with that view.
The UAF's view is that the BNP's policies and aims are so clearly wrong that it is not worth going through the charade of listening to them. We should shut them up immediately; there are poor benighted souls who are not as enlightened as us and cannot see through the BNP for what they really are. Rather than educate those poor dears, we should protect them from anything that they might mistakenly be persuaded by. You'll appreciate that I have rather less sympathy for this approach.
Nevertheless, I do not think that we can dismiss the UAF's approach out of hand. After all, it has a good precedent. I distinctly recall that brief golden age for actors with an exaggerated Irish accent, when the (Conservative) government banned the broadcast of pronouncements by members of Sinn Fein/IRA in the early 1990s. Instead, their words could be reported, but had to be voiced by an actor. The BBC, bless it, chose always to use actors with an almost comically thick Londonderry accent.
The justification was, of course, that the IRA chose to pursue its political objectives by illegal means, and Sinn Fein was its mouthpiece. Therefore, to limit their effectiveness, they should be barred from the platforms available to other parties. UAF's logic is identical; the BNP seek to promote a set of policies which discriminate on racial lines. This would be illegal under current law, and rightly so. Hence, UAF's logic in seeking to silence the BNP cannot be faulted.
Now, the ban on Sinn Fein/IRA speeches did not work, and nor will supressing the BNP work. Hence UAF's approach is wrong, and this defence is only partial. But their approach is a logical one based on precedent, and we should temper our criticism of them accordingly.
I'll end with an anecdote about the Socialist Workers' Party from my time at University, as most seem to think that UAF is a front for the SWP. The leader of the SWP during my time there was not a bright chap - he went on to join the "Nine Club", if I recall correctly. Anyway, he decided to organise a demonstration, and to get it in the news he bought a Union flag and some matches so that he could create a newsworthy spectacle. He succeeded, but not in the manner planned. The student rags the following week were filled with pictures of him, red-faced, desperately trying to set light to a non-flammable flag. Faced with the choice of which flag to buy, he had failed to check this rather significant point....
It was about then that I (foolishly) stopped worrying about the British left. If they couldn't even organise a flag-burning in a street, went my reasoning, there was no way they would get themselves elected, and no way they would be able to competently run the country. I console myself with the knowledge that I was half right.
Tuesday, 9 June 2009
Monday, 8 June 2009
I'm sure you can see where this is leading... Yes, I'm talking about Gordon, of course. We have made our view perfectly clear; of those polled, not a single council is now Labour-run. One entire county is wholly free of Labour councillors (Surrey). In one ward, they fell behind the Official Monster Raving Loony Party, making them (in that ward) a fringe party.
The Euro elections were, difficult though that may sound, even worse for Labour. Beatin into third place nationally, there were regions in which fourth place (or worse) was set aside for them. On a national average vote of 15.3%, Labour are a minority party and any claim that they have a mandate to govern is, in the literal sense of the word, incredible.
The people have made their view clear; we do not want a Labour government. There is no alternative interpretation. He has missed the ball, and the bails are flying. The fact that the umpire does not have to be called in to decide for another year does not mean Gordon should wait for that time, only that he is able to do so.
Go now, Gordon, and retain what little grace and dignity you have left.
Sunday, 7 June 2009
The problem with the latter, of course, is that despite being within the Cabinet, these Ministers apparently only noticed Gordon's faults after the electorate pointed them out in a seemingly endless flow of consistent opinion polls, following by the local election results on Friday. When Labour has already fallen behind the Monster Raving Loony Party, some would say that it is a little late to start wondering if all is well. (HT: Obo) So I think we can discount them.
Which leaves the first group. Here, I think that the ideal contender for the next Labour leader will have shown qualities such as:
- putting personal friendships aside in the name of loyalty
- showing an excellent track record in presentation (Labour are about presentation, not policy)
- not having been associated with Gordon's economic policies
- maintaining an ongoing and visible media presence during recent weeks
- being perceived to have had a positive effect on the party's message despite Gordon's failings
and, most importantly, so that there will be seen to be a fresh start after the nightmare of the last two years:
- always having actually been quite critical of Gordon, actually
The Conservatives gave us the first woman PM - will Labour try to give us the first gay PM?
Saturday, 6 June 2009
Oh yes, maybe it was all those photos you posed for.
Look, I don't have a problem with women in positions of responsibility and power. Nor do I have a problem with women making themselves attractive. Nor, indeed, do I have an issue with attractive women in positions of power and responsibility. But I do have a problem with a woman who consciously and deliberately makes herself attractive to men, then gets angry when men find her attractive.
To do so shows a remarkable, and somewhat alarming, flexibility of opinion. Someone who could do that might, for example, express their complete loyalty to a Prime Minister one evening, then resign angrily the very next day. And if we had Ministers like that, well, gosh, our government might end up in a state of undisciplined chaos.
Friday, 5 June 2009
Anyway, I'm off the check my rabbits. Just in case.
No doubt, in time, the Conservatives will fix it. By then, of course, the electorate will hate them for having done so and will run back to Labour so that they can screw it up all over again. The reason is, of course, simple; the electorate will suffer the pain under a Conservative government and will associate it with Tory policies, as they always have done.
So, let's do it differently this time. Osborne should identify all the additional Brown borrowing, and the additional Brown spending - i.e. that above and beyond what he has (I hope) identified as a reasonable, necessary and desirable level of government spending - and place it within a separate fund with a completely separate set of accounts. Then, introduce a new tax, hypothecated for that fund and that fund alone, and place the management of that fund with a trusted non-political body (or the nearest thing available after 12 years of Gordon) such as the Bank of England or the NAO. Give them a statutory duty to manage the fund and its associated tax so as to reduce the debt to zero within a specified time and meet the spending obligations until they can be reformed out, after which the tax is to expire and can no longer be raised.
Call the tax something lengthy and anodyne without an easy acronym - the "National Debt And Economic Recovery Tax", for example. Allow it to be nicknamed the "Labour Tax".
In this way, the blame for the pain will be associated with Labour for many years to come. It will take a correspondingly longer time for the electorate to forget (once again), and we might actually be able to let capitalism run for long enough for people to see that it works - for everybody.
Tuesday, 2 June 2009
Yes, those who chose not to buy one of their cars because they didn't like the product are now, through their taxes, being forced on pain of imprisonment to pay for the continued manufacture of the product. And they don't even get one of the cars they are paying for.
Yes, I know that there are arguments in support of bailing out a company; temporary external shocks that destabilise a viable business, and so on, but the fact remains that the money comes from people who declined to buy the product.
(Image courtesy of @Measured, with thanks)
Monday, 1 June 2009
There seems to be a lot of excitement over the numbers at the moment. This is, of course, not surprising; it is unusual (to say the least) for a poll to suggest that in a snap election, not only would the ruling party lose, it would also (based on vote share) not even be the official Opposition.
Gratifying as the current results are, there is but one nagging doubt at the back of my mind; it says "Do not forget 1992".
Looking at this seriously, this simply shows that Brown cannot see any solution other than "Set up a Quango, give it a budget". All of his solutions, regardless of the nature of the problem, involve creating a national body, or an inquiry, or an investigation, or the like, and spending our money to pay someone else to do his job for him. And this, he calls "leadership"; it really is beyond parody. He's the PM; he should be deciding what reforms are necessary.
The thing is, though, we already have a National Council for Democracy. It is called "Parliament". Why not just renew that?