Saturday, 28 February 2009

Don't trust Sports Sponsors.

Commentators in the financial press often remark that lavish company headquarters are a sign of a badly run company. Recent events suggest that another warning sign is lavish sponsorship of sporting events. Northern Rock, the Royal Bank of Scotland, and Sir Allen Stanford all spent a great deal of what now appears to be other people's money on sporting events.

People often blame financial catastrophes on greed. I don't rule that out, but I think megalomania is often more important. Men, and the culprits always seem to be men, want to their company to be BIG and want themselves to be noticed. Sponsoring a well reported sporting event or a successful team is a way of boasting about their size.

Investors should treat it as a warning.

Friday, 27 February 2009

Bonuses and Pensions

Current and recent outrage about bonuses and pensions has directed at company directors and members of Parliament. Both are groups of people who pay each other over generously with other people's money, and directors often seek to escape into prosperous obscurity if things go wrong.

 I suggest that payments to directors should be determined annually by a ballot of shareholders. One way would be for directors to be paid annually in arrears and for each shareholder to indicate what payment should be made to each director for the previous year's work, The actual sum paid would be the median of all the individual sums proposed, taking into account the sizes of shareholdings so the choice of someone holding 15000 shares would counts as 15000 choices.

 MP's pensions could be determined when they leave the Commons by a ballot of their former constituents. Each elector could write down the annual pension he considers the former MP deserves, and the  actual pension would be the median of all those figures. 

An afterthought: people should never have trusted anyone called 'Sir Fred'. Whatever his friends call him, he should have been knighted 'Sir Frederick'.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Collective Sentimentality

Yesterday the House of Commons adjourned for half an hour, and Prime Minister's Questions was cancelled, because of the death of a young son of the leader of the opposition.

I thought that a gross over-reaction.

The death was a personal tragedy for Mr. Cameron and his family, and I understand his absence from the Commons, and was glad that the Prime Minister and other MP's expressed their sympathy, but that was sufficient. It was a private matter, not a matter of state. Prime Minister's Question Time gives the commons an opportunity to call the Prime Minister to account. We can't afford to miss such opportunities.

As I watched the televised proceedings of the House of Commons, the appearance of Vince Cable as spokesman for the Liberal Democrats reminded me of another absentee from the House - Nick Clegg. His excuse was that a few days ago his wife had a baby. I think that would justify a short absence of a couple of days to attend the birth and keep his wife company during the immediate aftermath, but there should be no need for more.

Women  bear children; it may eventually be possible to arrange for men to do so, but until it is, fathers should not pretend that it is they who have given birth.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Turnover Tax

Companies are usually taxed on their profits. Consequently unprofitable companies make little contribution to public services, though they may make heavy use of them.

I should like to replace profits tax by a tax on turnover, levied at such a rate that the yield would be the same as that for profits tax.

That would leave successful companies with more money for investment and for distribution as dividends, while it would hasten the demise of unprofitable companies.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Extravagent Precedents.

Listening to the television news, I've just heard someone (a trade union official, I suspect) saying that if the government can afford to bail out the banks, it can afford to sort out the post office. The logic is questionable.

Extravagant expenditure does not justify further expenditure; quite the opposite it often makes it necessary to economise. It would be more sensible to argue that because the government has spent so much on the banks, it can't afford to sort out the Post Office as well.

Modest expenditure may create a precedent; over lavish expenditure does the opposite it, making further expenditure harder.

Monday, 16 February 2009

'Gender Equality'

I've just seen a news item about Tessa Jowell's concern to establish 'gender equality' in the Olympic Games.

It would be very easy to do that. Instead of having separate events for men and for women, let all the events be mixed, with men and women competing against one another.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

ees and ers

Buses usually have notices stating how many passengers can be carried. My imagination is often stimulated by one particular category, the 'standees'

I visualise noble souls lying down in the aisles so that others, the standers, may stand on them.

I've never been able to think of a convincing reason for the standers wanting to do that, or for the standees allowing them to, but I keep puzzling away, hoping for an answer.

Even more puzzling are references to 'attendees' at a meeting. As an attendee must be something that is attended, it must be the meeting itself, but why refer to it with such coy circumlocution?

I suppose that as songs are sung, and cigars are smoked, they could be referred to respectively as 'singees' and 'smokees', but I hope they never will be.

Finally, is 'drinkies' a corruption of 'drinkees' ?

Friday, 13 February 2009

True Love

An article in Scientific American suggests that being in love with someone may be rather like being addicted to them.

True, the key research was carried out on the prarie vole, but the some of the behaviour of people in love makes more sense if we regarded them as addicted to each other.

Much romantic poetry may need to be re-written.

Perhaps 'My love is like a red, red rose' could become 'My love is like a big, big spliff'

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

A Haunted Hospital

This story reminded me of  my own experiences investigating the supposedly 'paranormal' 

I expect there's much less going on than we are led to believe. When I've been involved in investigating of such phenomena,  there has usually been just one person thinking they saw or heard something odd, after which the story spread by word of mouth, being magnified in the process.

What I encountered were worried people, who needed someone to listen to them. Once they felt they were taken seriously, with people noting down what they said, inspecting the premises, doing overnight observations and taking temperatures and photographs, but finding nopthing untoward, the apparent phenomena just stopped.

I have misgivings about the very office of diocesan exorcist. The very existence of such a functionary suggests an endorsement of the misinterpretation placed on casual observations by confused people.