Wednesday, 23 March 2016

A variety of links

1. Why would people vote for Donald Trump? Various thoughts on this subject have been maturing in my mind (I might even release some of them), but then I spotted this piece about Martha's Vineyard that provides a lot of the answers without mentioning Trump once. The bits about trades unions are more relevant but here's some colour: "Sitting on the deck at a popular presidential restaurant in Oak Bluff, I eavesdropped as two children, probably ages six and seven, argued about whether or not owning a yacht was a “ginormous waste of money.”"

2. A review of Batman v Superman. "Imagine Affleck, standing shirtless in a dungeon, repeatedly thumping a bus tyre with a sledgehammer. Got it? Good: that’s not just what the film feels like, it’s a real scene from it. And that’s all you need to know." And that's all you need to read too, but there's more in similar vein - look out for the kryptonite spear.

3. Very interesting article about punishment by David Cameron’s former Director of Policy, Paul Kirby. In a nutshell, the only punishment we have left is prison and it's not a terribly good one. So what should we do? (Spoiler alert: he does not recommend bringing back the birch or the stocks. Or does he?)

4. London should be bigger. Like, at least two times bigger! That is, assuming there is no Brexit and most of England becomes a kind of upstate New York.

5. Vegetarians should start saving wild animals. If you have ever seen one of those wildlife programmes in which a camera crew seems to be watching a baby elephant die of thirst and felt that they really ought to have helped it - and also felt that the argument "lots of baby elephants die of thirst that we don't see" doesn't deal with the worry - then you will, I think, not have much difficulty dealing with this argument. But you have to leave utilitarianism behind and think in terms of when people might owe duties not to mistreat animals. (I suppose there might come a point in human history at which all the animals in the world are effectively nothing more than our pets, or at least kept in open air zoos. I would find that terribly depressing. But if that happened then we would have to look after them in the same way we look after animals in zoos.)

6. In other sad news, ash trees are going to die out. Talking of dying, here is the Telegraph's obituary of John Jones, the Oxford Professor of Poetry noted for the brilliance of his lectures and his love of Plymouth Argyle (and of Angela Brazil).

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Some people are idiots

This is the one I am thinking of.

Let's be fair to the poor chap - you can see how it happens. It's just a case of one thing leading to another. First, while you're on call, you arrange for a prostitute to visit you in the hospital, swipe her through the security doors and into an on-call room. It's a little bit cheeky, but is it really that much worse than a cheeky extended fag break? And of course you send a text saying "This is naughty on my part so discretion would really be appreciated" as a sensible precaution. Who could have predicted the blackmail that came next? So you tell the police about the blackmailers and, as you wait in a stake-out to catch them, you have a nice little chat with the police, tell them your war stories, show them that funny picture on your phone of a patient with a foreign body in the rectum that you took without the patient's permission. We've all done it, surely. And now the trainee anaesthetist is before a tribunal. All because he had to work a night shift.

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

A variety of links

1. A mockumentary about Galaxy Quest, the classic TV program. Worth watching for Alan Rickman (of course).

2. Letters to The Telegraph.

3. The rudaalis of Rajasthan.

4. Life without maternity leave.

5. On a completely different note, here is another reminder of why it is worth looking out for Anthony Hilton in the Evening Standard: this explanation of how the Government is planning to force local government workers to gamble their life savings on political projects. It's wrong.

Thursday, 3 March 2016

Some points foreigners forget about Republicans and Democrats

Points from Tyler Cowen for us foreigners to bear in mind when thinking about US politics:

"At the state and local level, the governments controlled by Republicans tend to be better run, sometimes much better run, than those controlled by the Democrats (oops). And a big piece of how American people actually experience government comes at the state and local level.

This superior performance stems from at least two factors. First, Republican delusions often matter less at the state and local level, and furthermore what the core Republican status groups want from state and local government is actually pretty conducive to decent outcomes. The Democrats in contrast keep on doling out favors and goodies to their multitude of interest groups, and that often harms outcomes. ... Think on those facts — or on the state of Illinois — the next time you hear the Democrats described as the reality-oriented community. That self-description is “the opium of the Democrats."
It is easier for intelligent foreigners to buy more heavily into the Democratic stories. They feel more comfortable with the associated status relations, and furthermore foreigners are less likely to be connected to American state and local government, so they don’t have much sense of how the Republicans actually are more sensible in many circumstances.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

What to do about the US elections?

If you can't vote then perhaps you can bet.

SkyBet is offering 8/15 on Clinton and 9/4 on Trump to be the next President. If you are interested in emotional hedging against a Trump victory then you can put a lot of money on Trump to win.

If you are convinced that either Clinton or Trump must win then £2X on Clinton and £X-10.05X on Trump will make you a little bit of money. Do you have a better option? Interest rates don't look like they're going up anytime soon.

If you think the prospect of either a Trump victory or a Clinton victory is uninviting but not certain then betting on both of them still makes sense: you only lose only if some Rubio/Kasich/Sanders miracle happens, which will cheer you up a bit and maybe more than make up for losing your stake.

Now you can't blame me if you're not happy about something after the results come in.