28 August 2009

Football Learns from Politics

As a Manchester City supporter and somebody who has always been disdainful of Michel Platini's apparent one man crusade against English football, it won't be too much of a surprise to learn that I'm not exactly keen on Platini's latest proposal to restrict club spending. Out of the confused incoherent mess of suggestions and issues (essentially, we need to cut the amount of debt in the game, but it's not the clubs with the debt that are the major concern, it's the ones with no debt), one statement from Platini stood out like a steaming pile of manure:

"It's mainly the owners that asked us to do something - Roman Abramovich, (AC Milan's) Silvio Berlusconi, (Inter Milan's) Massimo Moratti. They do not want to fork out from their pockets any more."

So, a group of men who used their wealth to fund successful football clubs want to close ranks and pull up the ladder now they see somebody threatening to out-do them at their own game - that's nothing but a cartel attempting to block competition. The fact that Platini is more than happy to act as a vehicle for this arrangement, well, I can think of no other way of describing it than Mandelson-esque.

It's one of the worst features of politics transferred to football - a special interest group colluding with a power broker in order to skew the rules in their favour. I don't know whether the comparative shameless openness about the situation in football makes it better or worse.

As a supporter, I'm fairly confident that anything Platini comes up with will be effectively useless. Any focus on club debt is going to impact on clubs such as Real Madrid most heavily and I'm fairly confident that he doesn't want that, given his apparent preference for defending the status quo and reserving his ire for the English game. That then leaves absolute spending limits (again, unlikely for the same reason) and limits on spending as a proportion of revenue, which could be circumvented very easily by owners putting money in through stadium naming rights purchases or executive box auctions.

I look forward to this plan falling flat on its face.

12 August 2009

The Pirates are Coming!

As reported in the Telegraph, the UK now has a Pirate Party officially registered with the electoral commission. It's a interesting addition to the political landscape, especially given the success of the Swedish Pirate Party in the European elections.

The party's website makes it clear that the UK party exists in its own right and will be making its own policy which may differ from the Swedish party, so I'll definitely be keeping an eye on the site to see how the UK party's views on freedom in the digital age compare to the Swedish approach.

Bruce Schneier's Blog

If you don't read Bruce Schneier's blog, I strongly recommend taking a look. His expertise is in cryptography and technological security, but the real beauty of his blog is the way he relates the principles of security to other fields.

I was particularly intrigued by his recent post on self-enforcing protocols, which are systems which can function without a third party acting as an referee to prevent cheating or resolve disputes. He highlighted self-valued property taxes as one example of a self-enforcing protocol.

This is something I've touched on
previously. The way the system works is for each homeowner to value their own home, on the understanding that, if somebody else offer to meet the valuation, they will be obliged to sell. The tax is then levied as a percentage of their valuation. It works as a self-enforcing protocol because, if the householder deliberately undervalues his house in order to reduce his tax bill, he risks having to sell the house for less than he really thinks it's worth. Whatever you think of the tax itself, it should be clear that the methodology would avoid the risks of corruption, valuation error and dispute which are a feature of other methods of property tax valuation.

What I hadn't realised before reading the article is that the Greek government has used that type of system for taxing antiquities, so there is some recent experience of it being used in practice.

Schneier is also the originator of the
Individual I campaign, which calls for greater respect for individual rights, something I find very refreshing coming from a security professional at a time when governments increasingly try to use security as an excuse to restrict individual rights.

06 August 2009

Vote Counter Improvements

On the off chance that at some point in the future, somebody feels the urge to use the closed list vote counter I produced during the European election, I've tidied up the layout and introduced some pie charty goodness.

The script that I've used to produce the pie charts can result in the charts getting cluttered if there are several parties with a small share of the votes, but I find that it gives a nice comparison between the share of the votes and the share of the seats.