Electability? There’s only one choice left

Well. That’s that. Thanks to the #LabourPurge there is now only one electable Labour leader. Jeremy Corbyn. Anyone else who wins will have won dirty, and needing egregious and public cheating on your behalf makes you unelectable at the next level up. But even before that Corbyn was the most electable simply because the other candidates were too lightweight to come up with an answer fo him,

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So what the hell just happened with the election?

The  2015 election is done. We have a new Tory government – and one that gained about 25 seats. And much is being made of the Tories gaining 25 seats and the Labour losing 25.  That happened, and it’s important. But from the perspective of the election (as opposed to the future) it’s a side effect. There are four stories to the election which are probably in reverse order of importance:

  • How a party without a vision other than “We’re not as bad as the other guys” makes no inroads (The net change between Labour and the Tories was a two seat swing to Labour (eight Labour went Tory and ten Tory went Labour)).
  • That the rise of UKIP soaked up a lot of disaffected voters who’d otherwise have voted “Kick the bums out” in favour of Labour (particularly in the North of England)
  • The rise of the SNP (taking 40 seats off Labour and 10 off the Lib Dems)
  • The disintegration of the Lib Dems who lost almost all their seats to whichever the competing party was as the party faithful had a real chance to make its opinions on the leadership known. The apparent Tory gain was caused by the disintegration of their coalition partners.

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Advanced Tactical Voting

There are a lot of people at this (and every other) election talking of voting tactically. Whether you should is an interesting ethical question – and one outside the scope of this blog post. The only thing I’ll say on the ethics is that many people voted Lib Dem at the last election to keep the Tories out. This is a guide coming from a keen amateur game designer for the would be tactical voters to making the best use of your vote under the First Past the Post system. A system designed for game playing rather than getting representative results. Continue reading

A guide to tactical voting for pragmatists

“I want to vote Green, but it might let the Tories/Lib Dems in.” – a common refrain for anyone who spends long round the Green Party. I used to hear simmilar round the Liberal Democrats, and I’m sure some UKIP supporters hear the same thing.This is very seldom the case as our First Past the Post system has many issues.

In March 2015, the Electoral Reform Society declared the results of 364 of the 650 (56%) seats being contested. Their equivalent prediction in 2010 was 99.5% accurate (they  can’t predict personal scandals in the run up to the election). It’s unusually low this year due to the unprecidented rise of the SNP.

So where does tactical voting make sense? And in specific where will voting Green give the Tories a chance of getting in? To find out, we’re going to look at the Labour Party’s own numbers, as leaked to Buzzfeed last month. Continue reading

Forward Thinking: Pragmatic Utopian Ideals

I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.

– Martin Luther King

This  is the first Forward Thinking project I consider genuinely easy.  What would I do for a safety net if I ruled the world?  Simple.  Single Payer Healthcare Free at Point of Delivery plus Guaranteed Income.  And then look for anyone who slipped between the cracks or didn’t get the help they needed and fix that.

Sounds utopian?  Possibly it is.  The NHS is quite simply much more cost efficient than almost any other healthcare model out there with the possible exception of Japan.  Its main problems stem from having two thirds the per capita funding of France or Germany and less per capita government funding than the US healthcare model; I’ve been into this in more detail on my blog previously.  And trials of Citizen’s Income/Negative Income Tax such as Mincome (Canada) and BigNam (Namibia) have generally been spectacularly successful in terms of outcome to the recipients.

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Forging Motivation: Game Design Is Mind Control

(Game Design is Mind Control was the title of a talk given by Luke Crane; one of the best things on the internet about game design this side of Mark Rosewater’s blog on Magic the Gathering).

Where I left things last time was with D&D and White Wolf largely dominating the market.  There were good games being produced – but the market was being dominated by the two major game systems.  And people were noticing that the so-called Storyteller system didn’t really bring anything to help you tell stories or make them more intense, or even help you really get into character – which wasn’t a good thing for something that was supposedly a roleplaying game.  Something needed fixing.  And (arguably) something was.

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But we’re gonna smash that bastard, make him want to change his name…

Like a number of my blog essays, this is a response to a Forward Thinking prompt – this one on the subject of cruelty.  I also might entirely be heading off in the wrong direction here.  (The blog title comes from the opening to the musical Chess).

I started out thinking of the topic of cruelty by doing the obvious – a websearch to see what people had said.  Although the Psychology Today column was interesting nothing I turned up whether vanilla or kinky had much to say on why people are cruel.  And searching for cruelty’s very close cousin, teasing, produced even less useful results (and a lot more kink).  But I don’t think you can get to grips with cruelty without understanding teasing.  I think I have an answer – but this is only what I can come up with.

Cruelty and teasing are both about security. Continue reading

Storyteller tell me a Story: Major RPG Business models of the 90s and 00s

Where we left my history of the trends in RPGs last time we were in the 1980s and looking at toolbox games such as GURPS that were (in theory) able to handle anything.  In theory.  In practice the running joke is that it doesn’t matter which setting you’re playing GURPS in, it feels like GURPS.

The 1990s were a completely different decade as far as roleplaying games go, and dominated almost entirely by two companies.  TSR, makers of D&D, and the new kids on the block, White Wolf Publishing, makers of Vampire the Masquerade and other related games.  By the end of the 1990s, TSR lay dead from a self-inflicted wound, and White Wolf were taken over a handful of years later despite at one point (with very favourable circumstances) outselling TSR.  In both cases these grievous wounds were, in my opinion, a consequence of their publishing model – and Wizards of the Coast, who bought the bankrupt TSR (and I’ll deal with D&D 3e in this post), would echo  White Wolf’s self-inflicted wound with D&D 4e.

There were good games, improvements on what came before or innovations being published in the 1990s; Over the Edge, Everway, Feng Shui (what better name for an action movie RPG than the art of furniture arrangement?), and FUDGE (we’ll come back to a game based on it next time) to name the first few that spring to mind.  There were also dozens of Fantasy Heartbreakers; D&D derivatives that made one or two major innovations but were basically houseruled D&D.

But really the story of 90s and early 00s roleplaying is dominated by D&D (both TSR and Wizards of the Coast), White Wolf, and their business models and how they all ultimately lead to major self-inflicted wounds on the parent company.

  • TSR and AD&D 2e

  • White Wolf, Vampire: the Masquerade, and the rest of the World of Darkness

  • Wizards of the Coast and D&D 3e

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Another Brick In The Wall

To talk about the purpose of public education is to imply that public education has only one purpose – and that is to oversimplify matters drastically.  Major purposes of public education include in no particular order:

  • Teaching basic skills
  • Allowing people to reach their potential
  • Social Mobility and Cohesion
  • Relieving pressure on parents
  • Base Economics
  • Prevention of Child Abuse

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The NHS: Torpedoes Locked and Loaded

The NHS is, as I went into in a previous post a highly efficient service.  It is much loved (see for instance (#welovethenhs on twitter or the Olympic Opening Ceremony).  That isn’t to say it’s a perfect service, and there were definitely some challenges facing the NHS even before the government introduced the Health and Social Care Act 2012 (opposed by the BMA almost from the outset, with the Royal College of Nursing, the Royal College of Midwives, and the Royal College of General Practitioners all becoming opposed after things clarified).

There are major challenges ahead for the NHS, and for every other healthcare system in the world.  And even without “help” they would be pretty big ones.  Some of the main ones are below:

1: An ageing population.  You spend more on healthcare for the elderly than the young.  Period.  And this is only going to get worse.

2: Medical development.  Much is now curable.  But cures are expensive, especially modern high tech ones.  A robot to assist surgery can run to a million pounds – and there was no equivalent when the NHS was set up.

3: Pharmaceutical companies.  Partly costs are increasing as a subset of medical research and development, partly as Ben Goldacre extensively documents pharmaceutical research is incredibly corrupt.  And of the two screens parallel imports are still there but NICE has been stripped of its powers.

4: PFI.  Hideously expensive and a bad idea almost from the start.  Private Finance Initiatives is the main cause behind first the creation of South London Healthcare (to merge three near-bankrupt trusts into one), then its recent bankruptcy.  Note that as of writing it is likely that the recommendations will involve closing Lewisham A&E (Lewisham being the nearest hospital) which is going to spread the financial mess all round the reason.

These problems were already there without the help of the current government (other than the stripping NICE of its powers).  And would be more than enough of a challenge for almost any service, all causing costs to escalate rapidly.  Other than PFI, all these are problems facing almost every comparable service in the world.  It’s a challenge, undoubtedly.  It’s a ship trying to pass between the Scylla of not providing adequate care and the Chrybdis of getting monstrously bloated spending – the last thing it needs is to have someone start launching torpedoes at it.

A common answer to challenges is that “We must do something.  This is something.  Therefore we should do this.”  But what “this” does in the case of the Health and Social Care Bill is drops at least half a dozen torpedoes into the water.  I’d spotted several even before hearing John Lister on the subject last week, but really hadn’t worked out the Any Qualified Provider issues.

This isn’t meant to criticise GPs in general or the ones who will end up implementing this set of changes.  But they are trained as doctors, not administrators.  Different skillset.  They are merely the people who will end up carrying the can.  But without further ado, the issues from the Health and Social Care bill include:

1: De-skilling.  The Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) work.  Not always perfectly, but they more or less know what they are doing.  The GP Consortia need to build the whole structure up almost from scratch – and reinvent the PCTs while losing expertise.

2: Isolating risks.  At present the NHS is responsible for the UK.  Care Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are only responsible for their own area of patients, and there is nothing saying they have to work together.  It’s like dividing the number of people in an insurance scheme by 300 or so.  Much higher risk.

3: Isolating negotiations.  At present when an NHS provider negotiates with its local PCTs, that negotiation is binding on all PCTs.  Keeps things much fairer, restricts the postcode lottery, and lowers administrative overheads because everyone should receive the same care for any given condition.  This not necessarily being binding is a vast administrative overhead and Postcode lottery.  (The CCGs can decide to team up but they no longer have to).

4: Destroying oversight. Unlike the PCTs the Strategic Health Authorities (SHAs) are being destroyed and not replaced.  And their job is oversight – few can watch themselves truly effectively, and PCTs are huge organisations.  The SHAs are imperfect and don’t catch everything but their role is needed.

5: Forcing everyone to become Foundation Trusts by April 2014.  Foundation Trusts have a purpose.  Freeing high performing and specialist centres from standard oversight (instead they are overseen by Monitor).  And even Monitor think there are too many foundation trusts.  Foundation Trusts tend to get better performance  than standard hospitals but if they hadn’t been performing well they wouldn’t have become Foundation Trusts.  Monitor itself says that it shouldn’t have allowed a number of the Foundation Trusts we already have to become Foundation Trusts.

6: Raising the cap on private work at Foundation Trusts to 49%.  Remember that’s meant to be all hospitals.   Private work has higher administrative overheads than state work and is inherently far more bureaucratic; you need to deal with multiple possible payers. Also it messes up streamlined pathways – but hospitals will not only want to do it but almost be forced to because of the higher profit margins. That’s 49% private care possible at all hospitals.  Almost the definition of a two tier health system.  (Of course this will mean that private work takes place in a hospital that can cope if it goes wrong – at present if something goes wrong in private care the NHS sorts it out).

7: Any Qualified Provider.  At least this is slightly improved from the initial draft of “Any Willing Provider” so setting qualifications is possible.  But this doesn’t come with a strict definition of qualified providers, so e.g. Virgin can bid to run A&E (as they do in Croydon). If trains don’t go all the way, that’s one thing. But if A&E doesn’t, that gets bloody. Any bunch of clowns can bid for services (and as is normal with the private sector in Britain, hand all their failures off to the NHS). This not means that we might again put healthcare provision in the hands of people who will trouser the money and run (Croydoc) or again put on only one Out of Hours GP for the whole of Cornwall (Serco), you can plan better if you know what’s coming. So hospital overheads are going to increase due to the risk of not getting activity.  And without definitions as to what counts as qualified, there’s a vast junket train possible for companies to have themselves classed as “qualified”.

There are almost certainly more torpedoes in the water. Those are just the ones I’m aware of that are the responsibility of this one bill.  And these changes aren’t easily reversible.