Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dangerous dogs

Yet again we have a child being killed by a dog, this time a Rotweiler. This dog isn't covered by the dangerous dogs act so I don't know what punishment is available but the owner of a banned dog that killed a child received 8 weeks in jail.

As I have said elsewhere I don't agree with jailing people without good caus0e, norally protecting the public, and at the same time I see no point in further legislation banning dogs, it won't work as we can't ban all dogs and nor should we want to.

Perhaps the time has come for the CPS to consider manslaughter charges for the dog's owners and maybe even parents who put their children in harms way? It might, just might, make people take responsibility themselves.

Honours List

I don't generally have a problem with the Honours system, its good to acknowledge people who contributed something extra to society like, say, Professor Alexander Fred MARKHAM Lately Chief Executive, Cancer Research UK. For services to Medicine (which I picked at random. I can also accept that actors and sportsmen appear on the list, although I don't really see the need unless they do something special like Sir Ian Botham.

What is unacceptable is civil servants who get them for turning up to work but even worse are the ones who turn up for work and then prove to be totally incompetent, as Dizzy points out, in his own inimitable style:

Not only that, the Director of the Child Benefit and Tax Credit Office at HMRC has received an honour. I know, I know, you're screaming with laughter at the sheer bloody insanity that a man in charge of an office that has been a complete failure in tax credits, whilst also losing the bank details of 25 million people is given a prize for doing a good job. Like I said, beyond satire.

It must be really galling for someone who has worked hard and even gone the "extra mile" making personal sacrifices to be acknowledged alongside people like this. I am not sure I wouldn't take it as a personal insult.

Perhaps its time for life to start imitating art? There was an excellent Yes, Prime Minister, in which Jim's political secretary proposes civil servants get either an honour or their indexed linked pension. Of course this doesn't go down well but is makes a very valid point.

Friday, December 28, 2007

More empty words from Brown

According the the beeb with this breaking news:

Gordon Brown has vowed to "step up" efforts to defeat terrorism in Pakistan in the wake of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto's assassination.

And we can easily do that because we haven't really poured just about every effort etc already in to fighting terrorism
"It is clear that we must take immediate action and we will give whatever help we can," he said.

OK, so we are going to do something immediately, but only if asked

Talk about empty, meaningless words.

Plant's beard award

Who cares about this, except that it gives us a chance to indulge in some vintage Led Zep:

Thank you for all the great music



I was at this concert, which I hadn't go so pissed so I could remember it in more detail now!

Citizen's jury states the bleedin' obvious

Its taken a citizens jury to tell the NHS that hospital hygiene is a top priority. According to this report:

According to the health authority, one participant stated: "Cleanliness isn't just about infection.

"It also gives an impression to patients that they can be confident about the standard of care they are going to receive."

But I really love the response:
After the discussions, local groups of health and social care staff were set up to review services after the talks.

Fucking priceless - we have gab fest to tell the NHS something they should know and then a mini gab fest to carry out a review of what they have been told.

And some people wonder why the NHS costs so much and delivers so little.

Lost for Words

Listening to Pink Floyd as I work I was struck by how apt the final verse is given what has been happening in Pakistan and indeed wherever Islamofacists are engaged in their warped jihad:

So I open my door to my enemies
And I ask could we wipe the slate clean
But they tell me to please go fuck myself
You know you just can't win


Who knows what Pink Ployd lyrics are reall about and these are beleived to be a reference to the rift between Gilmour and Waters.

Anyway, enjoy this

Cost overruns, delays and terminations in poublic sector ICT

The European Services Strategy Unit (ESSU)has published a report detailing cost overruns, delays and terminations in 105 outsourced public sector ICT projects. This should come as no surprise to to anyone but the most myopic Government minister. Here are a few excerpts from the report:

Key findings
The Research report identifies 105 outsourced public sector ICT contracts in central
government, NHS, local authorities, public bodies and agencies with significant cost overruns, delays and terminations.
• Total value of contracts is £29.5 billion.
• Cost overruns totaled £9.0 billion.
• 57% of contracts experienced cost overruns.
• The average percentage cost overrun is 30.5%.
• 33% of contracts suffered major delays.
• 30% of contracts were terminated.
• 12.5% of Strategic Service Delivery Partnerships have failed.

Quite an indictment. But there is more:
Cost increases are usually those directly related to payments made to the private contractor
and rarely identify the wide range of additional costs borne by the client. These could include:
• Additional client staff engaged to manage a contract;
• Additional systems and staffing for monitoring of the contract;
• Engaging technical consultants to advise the authority of contract problems;
• Carrying out audit reviews of projects;
• Lost income from delays in service delivery and overpayment of benefits/credits.
Additional procurement costs in re-negotiating contracts or retendering if a contractor
withdraws or a contract is terminated;
• Additional work required as a result of technical problems.
• Transition costs when contracts are terminated
• Additional costs, for example, an additional £318m was added to the cost of the £150m Project Connect to fund the provision of Local Area Networks within each GP practice (Hansard, 26 January 2004, col 185W).
• The loss of planned efficiency savings often results in cuts being targeted elsewhere

I have emphasised a number of the points which from my reading are nothing to do with the contractor and everything to do with sloppy governance. If you are letting a high value contract then you should budget contract management right from the start. I saw this in the mobile world a few years ago when operators thought they could rely on suppliers to build a network without any supervision. Wishful thinking at very high levels of organisations.
But here we have the real culprit (my emphasis):
“The government too must accept criticism. It was na├»ve to believe or announce that the only costs of the project were those related to its procurement. Training and implementation has cost much more than the initial procurement costs in every IT system I have ever been associated with. The timescales imposed on this project, as ever, were initially for political expediency rather than having any relationship to common sense.”
Richard Holway, Computer Weekly, 24 October 2006.

The report s 30 pages long and provides details of each and every significant problem if you are interested.

But what is really scary about this report is that it doesn't give one example of good practice, either in-sourced or outsourced, but what's the betting it will be used as a big stick to criticise outsourcing and private companies.

Monday, December 24, 2007

MP's Pay (2)

Having dashed off my post this morning before taking The Great Wise-One out to finish the Christmas shopping, I'll now expand with some of my thoughts on MP's pay and allowances, which I have had for some time. These should address the issues raised by DK and Mark in their comments to my fist post.

MP's Salary

Firstly, I understand, and have sympathy with, the argument that if so many people want the job then why pay anything? My position is that short of true anarchy* we do need to attract talented and committed MP's who have to live and raise families. So lets come up with a formula that is transparent and takes away the unedifying spectacle of them voting their own salaries.

I favour paying MP's a salary commensurate with their jobs before they become an MP because that is what they have shown to be worth in an open market and what they have become accustomed to living on. I don't want the salary to be a bar to people's aspirations to becoming an MP, nor should the job be taken on purely for financial reward. I accept that those with extraordinarily high salaries may prove an embarrassment, so maybe a cap at, say, £200k per annum.

As for those on low salaries, that is what they are used to living on so I don't see why they need more. However, if this is seen as a barrier to entry then I will accept a minimum salary of, say, the national median salary, in the interests of creating a diverse parliament.

The exceptions I make are those who have been researchers (see below) and worked in think tanks and within political parties. They will start on the national median salary.

In all cases the salary will be based on the last 2 years earnings so it can't be skewed just before they leave their last position.

MP's Work Place Running Costs

Every constituency will have an MP's office on the high street of it largest town (by population). This office will be where MP's run their surgeries and carry out their constituency duties. It will be forbidden for party literature to be displayed in the constituency office, to remind MP's they represent all their constituents and not their party. It will also be forbidden for party political work or discussions to take place on the premises.

The running costs will be paid by the state and each MP will be entitled to one secretary and one, apolitical, researcher. Both of these will be state employees and not selected by the MP, indeed they will hold their positions whenever an MP changes. The secretary will be paid the equivalent of the local rates for secretaries to a General Manager and the researcher the same as, say, a senior librarian. Neither of these will be allowed to work on party political issues.

For larger constituencies the MP can either have satellite office or a mobile office, however with today's communications video links to outlying communities should be encouraged.

This office will be designated the MP's place of work for tax and travel purposes, all expenses will be calculated from this location. Any constituency travel will be expensed from the constituency office. (Note: this is the same as for employees in private industry)

If an MP chooses not to live in the constituency he they will not be entitled to any expenses to get to the office.

Any political office with political researchers that MPs require must be paid for by their party or through private donations, which have been openly declared.

Travel to Westminster

Like anyone else, MP will have to travel on business, in this case to Westminster. MP's in and around London, say within 2 hours rail travel from the station nearest to the constituency office, will be given an annual travel card. They will get a daily allowance of, say, £5 plus dinner allowance in the House of Commons's. (That's what they would be getting if working in the private sector)

MP's further away will be entitled to stay overnight in London. A central booking agency will book them in to a 4 star hotel and they will be entitled to B&B. They can also claim any meals eaten in the House of Commons, on production of receipt. Alcohol cannot be claimed, other than 1 glass of wine with dinner.

MP's without travel cards travelling to London can claim mileage between their office and the nearest mainline station and then the rail fare to London. If the rail journey is longer than 4 hours MP's will be permitted to travel Business Class and claim for light refreshment, on production of a valid receipt.

There will be no housing or other allowances to allow MP's to live in London as I expect them to live in their constituencies and school their children there.

Offices in Westminster

Whilst in Westminster MP's will share a pooled resource of secretarial services. With modern communications they can be easily in contact with their constituency offices and if letters need signing and posting this can be done through the pool of secretaries.

Political researches, advisers and party apparatchiks will only be allowed to use Westminster facilities if they pay a rent for the office space based on open market rates.

Ministers and PM

They will receive pay rises to cover the extra responsibility. Lets say today's salary structure isn't too far out for ministers because its based on Civil Servant's pay scales, although I do think these are somewhat generous.

We also need to reduce the number of ministers, but that's another issue to be dealt with separately.

As always the devil will be in the detail, but with these principles, and private industry practices as a guideline, the details that should take too long to address.

*a theory that regards the absence of all direct or coercive government as a political ideal and that proposes the cooperative and voluntary association of individuals and groups as the principal mode of organized society.

MP's Pay

MP's pay is once again raising its ugly head. Tim Worstall, the Devil and others set out good cases why MP's shouldn't be paid or at east should have their pay limited. Whilst sympathetic with these claims, especially the libertarian one set out by the Devil, I think we do need some formula to reward MP's so we at least attract a diversity of talent.

My plan would be to pay them a salary commensurate with their earning prior to entering Parliament. So a university lecturer would be paid whatever university lecturers are paid, complete with pension package and other perks. The only exception I would make is for MP's researchers and those from think tanks or other parliamentary related jobs. Because there is an in built incentive to skew the wages of these roles priory to them entering parliament I would set their salaries to the median (not average) salary of MP's.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

More lost data

Son now its the NHS fessing up to losing data. And the response:

The Department of Health says patients have been told and there is no evidence data has fallen into the wrong hands.

They just don't get it, do they?

If I lose my credit cards I declare it straight away so they can be cancelled. It doesn't matter if I don't think they've fallen in to the wrong hands, I have to assume they might do. Imagine what would happen if, after 12 months, they get used by criminals. What will the Credit Companies say - tough shit mate, you didn't tell us so we couldn't cancel them.

The fact that it has needed a security review to find out that the data is missing is even more worryin, it shows that there is a sloppy culture developing where nobody understands the importance of what they are dealing with or is willing to take responsibility.

I have asked this before and I ask again: How much data is being sent around the world and why?

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The unacceptable face of mono-culturalism

The beeb is reporting British Hindus divided by caste and if it has got to the beeb then it must be serious.

A leading British Asian organisation is warning that men, women and children are being abused, attacked and spat at, because they are low caste Hindus regarded as impure and untouchable.

They are the victims of the 2,000-year-old Indian caste system which activists say is flourishing on the streets of Britain, even though it is banned in India.


I am quite happy for people to live in their own communities in a way which suites them as long as it is within the confines of British law, which this certainly isn't. Imagine the furore if this had been indigenous whites attacking Indians, of any Caste; we would have had the organs of the state down on them in pretty quick time, and quite right too.

So, where are the Trevor Phillip's, Ken Livingston's, et al? No mention of them or their their comments in this article or on the Equality and Human Rights Commission web site.

I wait with baited breath for them to condem this practice.

Moving House Conundrum

As I blogged recently we are looking to move house and we are now being set quite a conundrum.

We found a house earlier this month that really meets our needs and we feel that we could stay until death us do part, or at least until we need to go in to care. We made a few offers and gradually moved up to something an offer the estate agents recommend the sellers accept.

It was then we found out that the sellers aren't in a hurry to move because the house they want isn't on the market and won't be coming on for a few months because it is in probate. If the sellers don't get this house then then they won't move and will take their house off the market. Fair enough, it is a free market and whilst we are still looking round, we are under no pressure to move and can wait.

Now comes the conundrum - as every one who takes even the merest passing interest in the economy will know house prices are now under pressure with lost of talk of house prices falling. Now, we are moving up to a house which is valued at 30% more than ours. So, if there is a house price correction the the difference in prices moves in our favour, great. But what if someone else offers before we are ready to offer? We aren't in a chain as we don't need to sell first so its no problem to us when we offer but how long should we wait? If we wait too long the house the sellers are looking to buy may sold to someone else?

However, if we do offer early we may be buying an asset that is losing value, but over the long term house values rise over the longer term, but what is the longer term? But as we may be happy to live there in to our old age it shouldn't matter really as it is probably only our son who loses out in his inheritance, or is it? Whilst we have saved in pension funds if we live a long time we may need the capital for health care or even to move in to sheltered accommodation?

How I hate growing old and having to face what were once hypothetical questions in the cold light of reality.

Looks like I need to dig out a few books on game theory.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Somebody needs to tell Antarctica its supposed to be getting warmer

According to this article Antarctica is refusing to play the AGW game and steadfastly refuses to get warmer, despite more CO2

What it means
The data in the figure above clearly indicate a post-1958 warming of Antarctica and much of the surrounding Southern Ocean. From approximately 1970 to the end of the record, however, temperatures of the region simply fluctuated around an anomaly mean of about 0.12°C, neither warming nor cooling over the final 32 years of the record.

This latter observation is truly amazing in light of the fact that the region of study includes the Antarctic Peninsula, which experienced phenomenal warming during this period. Nevertheless, the mean surface air temperature of the entire region changed not at all, over a period of time that saw the air's CO2 concentration rise by approximately 47 ppm (about 15% of its 1970 value, as per the Mauna Loa CO2 record).

Clearly, the entire continent of Antarctica, together with much of the Southern Ocean that surrounds it, has been completely oblivious to the supposedly "unprecedented" radiative impetus for warming produced by anthropogenic emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases over the last three decades of the 20th century ... and even a bit beyond.


What a bummer, eh? And just after esteemed UN Secretary General spewed is own CO2 over the place and gave us this crap:

The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed faster than anywhere else on Earth in the last 50 years, making the continent a fitting destination for Ban, who has made climate change a priority since he took office earlier this year.

"I need a political answer. This is an emergency and for emergency situations we need emergency action," he [Ban Ki-moon] said during a visit to three scientific bases on the barren continent, where temperatures are their highest in about 1,800 years.


Still, it got him and the rest of his cronies more news headlines which leads to more of our taxes.

H/T Climate Science who sardonically bets it won't reach the MSM.

If there is one good thing that came out of Bali its the agreement not to do anything for 2 years. Hopefully in that time some sense will start to prevail and then we can have a grown up debate on climate change.

Global Warming Idiocy

Via Climate Skeptic and Tom Nelson, through my Outlook RSS feeds, I have been alerted to this article which highlights some of the more idiotic pronouncements from the GW fascists, here is the top 10:

1. Get rid of humans.

Greenpeace co-founder Paul Watson insists we "reduce human populations to fewer than one billion".

2. Put a carbon tax on babies.

Prof Barry Walters, of the University of Western Australia, says families with more than, say, two children should be charged a carbon tax on their little gas emitters.

3. Cull babies.

Toni Vernelli, of green group PETA, says she killed her unborn child because of its potential emissions: "It would have been immoral to give birth to a child that I felt strongly would only be a burden to the world."

4. Sterilise us all.

Dr John Reid, a former Swinburne University academic, gave a lecture on ABC radio recommending we "put something in the water, a virus that would be specific to the human reproductive system, and would make a substantial proportion of the population infertile".

5. Ban second children.

Says Melbourne University population guru Prof Short: "We need to develop a one-child family policy because we are the global warmers."

6. Feed babies rats' milk.

PETA campaigner Heather Mills, ex-wife of Paul McCartney, says cows' burps are heating up the world and we should use milk from other animals: "Why don't we try drinking rats' milk and dogs' milk?"

7. Eat kangaroo, not beef.

Greenpeace says kangaroos don't belch like cows, so are greener and should be eaten first.

8. Shut industries.

Greens leader Bob Brown says we must scrap all coal-fired power stations and our $23 billion export trade in coal.

9. Wash less.

Says actor Cate Blanchett: "I have little races with myself, thinking: 'Oh no, I'm not washing my hair, I only need a two-minute shower'."

10. Sweat more.

The green-crusading editor of the (airconditioned) Age says we should turn off airconditioners in summer: "Our consumer society has long abandoned the fan or the cold bath as the way to keep summer at bay."


#3 is still a classic and she deserves a Darwin Award. Perhaps she could really help the planet by sterilising the rest of the lunatics who come up with these ideas.

Distractions

I spent a couple of hours the other night setting up my outlook to take the RSS feeds from my favourite blogs. Its fantastic, I now have all the posts within one hour of them going on the web. What a fantastic feature.

The only problem is I'm getting sod all work done because I just have to see what the latest post from x says and I just have to get a pretty tricky network/financial model update which requires a bit of concentration!

Next thing to crack is why it isn't syncing with my phone through Microsoft Exchange and then I'll be distracted wherever I go - which will drive The Great Wise-one insane.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Nowrich Union Cover Up

Despite the fine, this is fucking scandalous:

The watchdog also uncovered that on discovering the frauds in 2006, Norwich Union Life informed and then protected present and former directors of its business and its owner Aviva but did not "inform and protect the policyholders who were not connected with the business".

The FSA really has to find a way of punishing the Directors who allowed this to happen because it just sets a bad example to those perfidious wankers in Westminster who've never done a day's real work and will think this is a norm and use it justify their own actions.

HMRC to be fined £50Bn over lost CD's?

Norwich Union was fined £1.2m for putting 632 of its customers at risk of fraud according to Timesonline. I reckon that works out, pro rata at about £50Bn for the 2 lost CD's. I know it would be pointless fining them because its only tax payers money going round.

But wouldn't it concentrate a few minds if all, or at least some, was deducted from HMRC's Senior Managers' bonuses or index linked pensions? Better still if some of it was paid by their political masters as well, now that would set an interesting precedent and make them apply some oversight.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Golden Compass, an allegory

The Great Wise-one dragged me out to see The Golden Compass this evening and I was very taken with the story line. Basically, a parallel word is controlled by the Magistirium who are taking great steps to subject the will of the people, including kidnapping children to learn how to kill their free spirit. This is all in the interests of the people themselves, you understand.

All the way I couldn't help thinking that was an allegory for these:



or is it these



Probably both

Milliband: I've changed my mind

In this post I said that Miliband could speak for me because, although I don't like him or what he stands for, there is a legitimate process that put him in the position of Foreign Secretary.

Having now read about the way he is treating Iraqi translators at Dan Hardie's, via Mr E, and various other places, I withdraw what I said and replace it with this:

You don't even have the moral authority to breath let alone speak for us. You should travel to Iraq, on your knees, and personally apologise to the family of each and every translator who has been murdered. I would say you should also present the surviving translators with gold plated UK passports, but that will be too long and they need to be sent in advance.

Once you have done that you should crawl in to a hole, never to be seen again.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Do think tanks think?

I was taken by this piece in Wednesday's Telegraph which claims the Fabian Society is advocating:

Putting VAT on private school fees could finance an opportunity fund to tackle educational disadvantage,"
I haven't been able to find any detail on the web or at the Fabian Society* so can't vouch for its veracity, but lets assume that as the Telegraph is a reasonably accurate source we can take the statement at face value.

Anyway, when I read the piece something just didn't stack up so I thought I would do a bit of research to see what it really means.

Firstly, how much would be raised? The Independent Schools Council reckons there are 509,093 children in ISC schools so based on the Fabian's estimated £2,500 in VAT per pupil this would raise £1.27bn.

Now, my first though on this one is that the VAT would probably push the price beyond a number of parents so lets apply the well know 80/20 rule and assume that they only raise 80%, that would be just over £1bn.

However looking at the ICS figures for the number of children we find that there are 67,335 boarders @ an average of £6,712 for boarding per term and £3,715 for tuition per term, this leaves 441,758 pupils @ £2702 per term in tuition fees. Using my trusty excel spreadsheet I calculate that would raise £995m and applying the 80/20 rule would be £796m. You would think the big brains in a think tank could have done that calculation as well, wouldn't you? Still for the sake of analysis lets stick to their predictions for now.

Next, looking at the Department for Education and Skills, Departmental Report 2007 (H/T Mark Wadsworth for providing this link in his Statistics (UK) and Stuff section)we can get some stats for England.

The education for school children (excl. higher education and adults) budget for this year 2006/2007 is £40.75Bn (p98 (pp102/176))spread over 7.44m pupils (p57 (pp 61/176)) which works out at, using my trusty spreadsheet, £5,477 per pupil. Now that is the budget for England but the ICS numbers for UK so lets assume that 80% of the money raised in VAT is spent on schools in England (I reckon that's a bit generous, but its a number). This means there will be an extra £814.5m or £109 per pupil.

But if we assume that those parents who are forced to take their children out of schools put them in to state schools then the numbers are slightly lower than that, but I think you get the picture.

Now, what troubled this humble blogger was:

If we can't educate our children on £5,400 per pupil how the fuck do they expect to make a difference by spending an extra £109 (£80 by my reckoning) per pupil?

These think tanks really lose credibility when they come out with crap like this, because it isn't about raising the money, its about shafting parents who have the temerity to make sacrifices and instead of pissing their money away on holiday in Torremolinos, or wherever chav's go on holiday, want to spend it on educating their children, because the state can't.

After thought: I am sure I read somewhere that a % of all VAT has to go to the EU, but I haven't been able to track it down so if anyone can help on this score then I will amend these numbers.

Update 15 12 07

* As a result of this post I have been contacted by the Fabian Society to say that I could have received a copy of the speech if I had contacted them. They also dispute the figures that I use. The full text of their objection can be found in the comments section. I still maintain that beggaring parents who send their kids to private schools is now way to improve social mobility, other than down.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Another CO2 Debunking

Yet another report debunks CO2 as the cause of global warming:

Three Stages of Knowledge and the IPCC

Our scientific understanding of global warming has gone through three stages:

1985–2003
Old ice core data led us to strongly suspect that CO2 causes global warming.

2003–2007
New ice core data eliminated previous reason for suspecting CO2. No evidence to suspect or exonerate CO2.

From Aug 2007
Know for sure that greenhouse is not causing global warming. CO2 no longer a suspect.

The IPCC 2007 report (the latest and greatest from the IPCC) is based on all scientific literature up to mid 2006. The Bali Conference is the bureaucratic response to that report. Too bad that the data has changed since then

Given that those attending the boondoggle in Bali knew this before they went can we charge them for fraud and get our money back?

Somehow I don't think anything will change because of the gravy train. As the author points out:

Gratuitous advice for those whose jobs depend on the idea that carbon emissions cause global warming: Find another job to pay your mortgage and feed your kids!)

Foreign affairs spokesman

So now that the EU has a constitution yet another incomprehensible treaty and its own foreign affairs spokesman, confusion is likely to reign. So just to be clear:

You:


can speak for me because of our democratic process, but be warned I don't like you or what you stand for.

But you:




Don't ever, ever, ever think you can speak for me. Nothing personal, well not much, but as far has I am concerned you have no democratic mandate and represent all that is bad in politics.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Musings on police pay

I have a great deal of sympathy with the police, having been shafted by politicians in simialr circumstances when serving in the Army, but I don't intend ranting on that point. What does interest me about this one is:

The fact that Scotland's police have been given the full rise has caused a bit of a stir and quite rightly. On purchasing power they are already better off than most of their counterparts in England. Indeed, why do the police need a national pay scheme? They are a regional force who only serve in that area and don't need to be compensated as if they serve in central London.

The same goes for teachers, doctors and nurses. When my wife was teaching we couldn't have bought a house on her pay here in Bucks, but we could have at one of our holiday location at the time, Cromer.

As part of their protests the police are threatening to work to rule, which is expected to cause disruption. Those of us of a certain age remember how working to rule caused as much, if not more, disruption than strikes in the 70's and 80's. The unions loved them because their members still got paid so they could last longer than all out strikes.

As one wag said at the time: if working to rule cause so much disruption, lets sack the twat who drew up the rules.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Rip off Britain

The Sunday Telegraph is beside itself with indignation today because there is a discrepancy of pricing between regions.

You would have thought that the Telegraph, of all papers, would have understood the nature of free markets?

Army pay cock up, deja vu

The Times reports today that Army pay has been cocked up following the introduction of a new computer system.

I was a victim of a similar intoduction of a new computer system in the 80's. We don't learn anything from history do we?

Right man, right job

There is an excellent letter in today's Sunday Telegraph, which I can't find on line:

Now send a boy for the toy

The success of the two peers is securing the release of Gillian Gibbon from her prison cell in Sudan shows the value of using the right people with the right level of skill to get a job done. Gordon Brown should now send David Miliband to rescue the poor teddy bear


'nuff said

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Maggie

If you want to get a good left Vs right debate going all you have to do is invoke Maggie and you're off and running.

Neil Harding has ascribed all our current ills to her in this post and has started off a bit of a ding dong in the comments section. It appears that the only thing he hasn't put down to Maggie are the bubonic plague and fire of London. No doubt he'll get round to fixing that soon.

Meanwhile Prodicus has a post here on why the left hate her: its because of her popularity.

It is true that the left hate her but I don't think its just because of popularity (mind you Blair was popular and they hated him as well). The root cause of that popularity was because she gave people what they wanted. Now to the left this is the worst crime any politician can commit because, as we all know, the people can't be trusted to know what is good for them; the only people who know what is good for the people is the left.

What made Maggie's crime even worse is that she was, by and large, right. Her restructuring has been left a lone and led, directly to the one of the longest periods of growth for some time. Yes I know it was painful for some and whilst that is to be regretted it be set beside the fact they we would have all been been a dammed sight worse if she hadn't set about the changes.

Of course the left dress it all up as helping the poor, sick and dispossessed, which are worthy causes, but what they really want is to control every aspect of our lives. They can't bear the thought that people can be successful without the state's help so they tax us in to submission and supplication. Meanwhile those taxes are squandered and instead of helping those they claim to be helping go to fund a bureaucratic and controlling state machine. And their response when it fails, as it inevitable does - its all Maggie's fault and we need to raise taxes even higher and implement even more controls on people.

EU and Mugabe (2)

I didn't post on this subject last night, as threatened, because I was getting pissed and experience has shown that I am really hopeless at putting anything cogent together when pissed, which is really embarrassing the next morning. (Some would argue I'm just as bad when sober).

I spent 6 months in Zimbabwe, arriving 3 days after independence - Mugabe's election. I was part of a British Army Training Team working to integrate the 3 sets of armed forces. My role was to teach electronics to a mixed class of apprentice communications technicians at the School of Signals in Bulawayo. The reason we were needed was the that Army was still predominantly white at senior levels and it was felt that "neutral" forces would help team building.

In my class I had a mix of whites who had fought, whites who hadn't, blacks who had fought for the whites, blacks who hadn't fought for any side and of course blacks who had been guerrilla/freedom fighters/terrorists, and even a white South African girl who had come north because she wanted to get away from racist regimes.

The general mood was one of reconciliation and there was a general desire to put the past behind and work for a new beginning. One friendship that formed sums up this mood. One of my academically weaker students had been in the Rhodesian Light Infantry, a feared special forces unit and one of my brightest was a black who had been trained in Russia and had a degree in maths and electronics (he was better qualified then me). It transpired that these 2 had been in a fierce firefight against each other in one of the regional battles but despite this they formed a strong friendship with the black helping the white.

This was also the general mood in the civilian population. Despite what happened blacks and whites mixed well and generally wanted to make a go of things. Yes, there were problems with some of the older whites and some younger hot heads, but by and large they kept themselves to themselves. Having said that I was involved in a scary incident when a white guy who had latched on to us one weekend suddenly pulled a gun out in a hotel bar and started threatening the blacks, but he was the exception.

It didn't take long for Mugabe to destroy this mood and drive a wedge between blacks and whites, forcing out a lot of the whites. Why did this matter? Most of the experience in governing and maintaining the country rested with the whites. They were not only the farmers but the engineers, doctors and administrators. Those that I met wanted to stay and help with the transition but eventually, fearing for their lives, they left before anyone could be trained to take their place. This, and the kleptocracy that evolved, is why the economy is such a basket case and Mugabe cannot be forgiven.

This is why I get so wound up when I see the EU giving Mugabe and his regime legitimacy by meeting them on the international stage. He should be ostracised and if his fellow African leaders don't like it, tough. We don't have to give them aid and if they are so stupid they want to cut off their faces that's their problem.

But what about the poor, we have to help them don't we? Yes, and the best we can do is to shorten the life of Mugabe's evil regime and implement democracy, then we can really help through a Marshall plan.

Friday, December 07, 2007

EU and Mugabe

I'm building up to a real rant on this one, but sdaly have meeting for most of the day so it will have to wait. Suffice to say its a fucking scandal that the EU is allowing him anywhere near us let alone talking to the fascist bastard.

And I won't be lectured by the EU about talking to fascists:

EU President Jose Manuel Barroso has criticised Mr Brown's decision, saying that leaders sometimes have to meet people they disapprove of.


No we don't, we tried that in '39 and it didn't work.

Its an insurance scam FFS

Everywhere you turn its stories about John Darwin and his wife. Its an insurance scam, the sort that goes on day in, day out without anyone noticing or caring so can we please get a sense of proportion when it comes to the news and papers?

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Terror-limit bingo

14, 28, 90, 56, 57, 42

Anyone got a line yet?

Does this Govt have a clue what it wants or is it going to keep throwing random numbers around until they bore everybody stupid and get the change through.

EU funding lobby groups

I first became aware of the story of the EU funding lobby groups so that they could then lobby it to implement the policies the EU wanted from Tim Worstall. It is quite nerdy so I assumed would pass the world by as these EU stories often do. However as Tim points out in this post the beeb are picking up the story.

Mr Eugenides has a great reference to the practice here, with his usual incise commentry, which has been picked up by the Economist's Brussels blog.

In short, the EU wants us all to be able to use any EU country's High Commissions and Embassies when travelling outside the EU. Member countries have objected for a number of technical reasons. Not to be deterred, the EU funded some of its pet lobby groups to lobby it saying what a great idea. Based on this the EU is now looking to implement the plan.

As the Economist blog concludes:

In other words, we are in the grand tradition of the EU funding bodies that then lobby the EU to overrule the objections of mere member states and impose grand schemes on them (which must be paid for by those nations). Makes you proud.


If you haven't read the beeb story yet you probably won't be surprised to learn that the EU doesn't know its arse from its elbow:

Siim Kallas, a vice president of the Commission in charge of the EU's anti-fraud operations, told Radio 4's The Investigation he had been assured this funding was not taking place.

He said: "The European Commission is not financing anybody to lobby ourselves - nobody is supported just for being there."

But the EC Environment Directorate has said it does give money to environmental groups to lobby.


As I will never tire of pointing out: the EU's defining principle of Ever Closer Union means that EU Bureaucrats feel they can ride roughshod over the rest of us, and the democratic process, with impunity.

As DK would say at this point: can we leave now?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Westminster farm (1)

Having made a quip on the beeb's R5L message board about donorgate being like animal farm:


All animals shall obey the law - except animals in power


I thought it might be fun to think of some more examples from anaimal farm

All citizens are equal - except politicians are more equal than others


To jog memories the seven commandments are:

Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy.
Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend.
No animal shall wear clothes.
No animal shall sleep in a bed.
No animal shall drink alcohol.
No animal shall kill any other animal.
All animals are equal.

Did any Labour politicians read their election funding law?

Just a thought but it does seem that some of our senior Labour politicians are pig ignorant of the laws they passed. As the beeb points out in this piece:

Labour officials have been holding talks with the commission over how the money should be re-paid.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has promised to return the donations.

but:
But Electoral Commission sources now say the money is likely to be forfeited by Mr Abrahams and paid into government reserves.

Under electoral law donations have to be given back to the donor within 30 days - after which the money is paid into the Treasury's Consolidated Fund


So not only were they stupid enough to break the laws they enacted they didn't have the commons sense to read the law when they were found out!

That in itself is pretty fucking stupid, but when you consider this:

Commission sources said the Conservative Party had been forced to forfeit £25,000 it had wrongly accepted in July this year from Gareth Lake.


That's right, their worst enemies were found guilty of the same crime and they didn't have the gumption to think the same rules would apply to them.

Is there one person in the Labour Party with an ounce of common sense?

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Panaroma "misleading" on WiFi

I suppose I should own up to being in the radio telecoms business so do have a vested interest in this story, not least because I am working on a major WiFi and WiMAX project. Anyway, confession over.

As reported on The Reg today

The BBC has admitted that the infamous Panorama programme in which Beeb investigators boosted public hysteria regarding health dangers around Wi-Fi in schools was "misleading".


Adding insult to injury, the WiFi-is-probably-OK-actually savant, Professor Michael Repacholi, "was presented in a context which suggested to viewers that his scientific independence was in question, whereas the other scientists were presented uncritically. This reinforced the misleading impression, and was unfair."


Does this remind you of any other topical subject? Global Warming, perhaps?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Donorgate: It will end in tears

Well, I've had great fun this past week or so laughing at Labour's contortions to justify their corrupt practices. Some blogs have been fantastic and I'm sure there is more to come.

However, I predict it will end in tears for those of us who want to see an end to these inept and corrupt bastards and there will be one phrase that will do it: Not in the public interest.

Labour home - cloud cuckoo land

Over at Labourhome they really don't get what's been going on and have a piece called: If we had state funding for political parties, we wouldn't be in this mess.

No you numpties, if you didn't have corrupt, selfish, leaders you wouldn't be in this mess. Its not compulsory to spend vast fortunes on adverts, leaflets, television ads and all the rest of the paraphernalia. Yes it would be nice, just like I would find it very nice to have a yacht, but I can't afford it.

There's more, one poster even thinks it would be possible to set up a system that would exclude the BNP if the got in to power. Now, I despise the BNP as much as the next man, but as long as they are a legal party shenanigans like this just show the real reason they want state funding - to pull up the ladder and leave us stuck with the same old parties.

Then another poster proposes we all get £3 to spend and can indicate who we want it to go to at a general election. Hang on a minute, what about independents? Oh, I get it, they might take votes from you so you don't want them getting any near state funding.

If these lot are typical of the membership of the Labour party there's no wonder there is such a bunch of corrupt bastards at the top.

I look forward to the first Chav standing up in court and saying - I wouldn't have nicked that Rolls, m'lud, if the state had given me enough to buy one.

Only tools you'll ever need

Heard on Rick's Place on Planet rock yesterday. You only ever need 2 tools:

WD40: for things that don't move, but should
Gaffer tape: For things that move, but shouldn't

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Gillian Gibbons

Whilst I feel sorry for her I cannot bring myself to the levels of outrageous indignation I see in others, some of which I suspect is a bit of a put on.

She chose to go to this country which isn't exactly known as a peaceful and tolerant place. It was known to be run by a bunch of psychopaths who are pandering to another bunch of psychopaths who have hijacked a religion and extracted the worst parts of it to justify their intolerance and perverted need to subjugate women.

Given all that, she appears to have got off lightly and it would probably be in the best interests of those still working in this country if she was allowed to quietly serve her sentence and get the hell out of there.

What I want to know is why those who she was working with didn't give her a full briefing on the does and dont's of living in an intolerant society? Surely not offending local sensibilities of muslim nutcases must be pretty high on the list of breifing notes for a woman?

Whilst I think she was at best misguided to go to this place to help the less fortunate I do admire people who have such good intentions. However if they want to satisfy this desire there are plenty of places that need these skills and they will be appreciated.

Wrong solution to party funding, PM

The beeb tell us that Gordon wants to change the rules on party funding. We don't need any more rules on party funding, we want politicians and their acolytes who's sense of integrity doesn't even require rules.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Why is Blair saying this now?

Tony's sudden pang's of guilt over the way he attacked the Tories over sleaze as reported in today's Telegraph have had me puzzling this question most of the day. No matter how I look at it there can only be one answer and that is the cynical one that first sprang to mind. Its this bit that does it for me:

"It was too easy to do, in a way," he said in the interview to be shown on Sunday. "It's like falling over in the penalty box when you know the referee's going to give a penalty.

"It's quite hard to resist doing it when each side's desperate to score a goal. But no, I don't feel good about all that because I think in the end it conditioned a view of us too when we came in that was not sensible."


So the message is this: We made a mistake, but that was then and we all know it was a mistake. But look at those nasty Tories it's obvious they are still the divers, trying to fool the ref (you and me folks), aren't they the pits.


I wouldn't be surprised to find Mandalson's fingerprints on this one.

No taxes for political party funding

There are many reasons why political parties shouldn't be funded by the state and most of them revolve around incompetence and that they can't be trusted with our money. However the main reason is that it creates a barrier to entry and entrenches the current parties in the system.

As disillusionment with the current parties grows they claim they need even more money to tell us how god they, which pisses us off even more. But with state funding how can anyone start a new, fresh, party and hope to compete with the incumbents? Its already bad enough that sitting MP's get a specific communication budget.

If they can't convince us that they are good enough we need some creative destruction to allow new parties to flourish.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Labour party funding

To me this isn't about the money, its about a deep seated malaise in our political structure. Lets look at how we got to this.

In opposition, Labour cried blue murder about rich individuals donating to the Tory party and they had a point as it was large sums of money. This screaming was all part of the cut and thrust of politics and played a small part in Labour's '97 victory.

Labour comes to power and true to its word changes the rules on party funding, in a blaze of righteousness as they point their fingers at the soon to be impoverished Tories. Fair enough, its politics.

Labour then appoints an obviously clever man to be Party Chairman. One of the main roles of the Party Chairman, from what I can gather, is fund raising. If this is the case you would expect the Party Chairman to know the rules and at least ask someone for guidance if he wasn't sure. So to read this on the beebs news page:

After that emerged, following a Mail on Sunday report, Mr Watt resigned, telling Labour's National Executive Committee he knew about the arrangement, but had believed he had complied with reporting obligations.

Shows either:

mind boggling ignorance by a man in a senior position, which also calls in to question the competence of those who appointed him, or

an equally mind boggling arrogance to believe that they could get away with it. If this is the case it also shows they having nothing but contempt for the laws of this country, democracy or the people they are meant to be serving.

The fascists win it

As reported on PM last night: Demonstrators chanted "death to Tryl" (the president of the Oxford Union Debating Society), as they protested against a debate on free speech. And they say Americans don't do irony!

The beeb web site reports Martin Mcluskey, from the Oxford University Students' Union, "It is as if we are saying that we agree with what they are saying and that we think it is valid."

Well, as you wouldn't listen to what he had to say on free speech how the fuck do you know whether what he wanted too say was valid or not?

It really worrying that idiots like this are being groomed as our future leaders.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Fiona Phillips

I had never heard of this woman until she refused a position in the Government Of All Talents.

However, having read The Devil's Kitchen fisk of her 10 point manifesto I have only only 2 comments:

1. If she is an example of "talent" worthy of being brought in to Government we are in for a pretty rough time over the next 3 years as Government continuous its descent from incompetent to gross incompetence at an ever increasing pace

2. With ill thought out crap like that I never want to hear from her again. We get better from Beeb phone-in's for the hard of thinking.

PS Go and have a vote on Mark's poll about what GOAT really stands for.

Just how much data is HMRC (and other depts) sending in the post?

An Englishman is reporting that there may be ten discs missing.

Assuming that they have a better than 0% success rate is sending data to other institutions, just how much data is the HMRC sending out in the post and, more importantly, why?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

UN Climate Change Hypocrisy

Does all the talk about golbal warming and carbon foot prints put yu flying to your ideal holiday destination? Do you think about changing you behavious to "save the planet" because all those serious people tell you to?

Hat tip to Climate Skeptic for pointing out this story in The Razor et al

You may be aware that a lot of the claims about climate change and its consequences are driven by the UN and it is sponsoring a 2 week conference on the subject of Climate Change from Dec 3rd to 14th the Bali Convention Centre Check it out; it’s a fairly impressive place. By now you might be thinking this is a long way to go and after a little more thought you might also start idly wondering about the carbon footprint of this gig. After all that’s what is quoted to make us feel that we have to change our ways, especially if those ways include flying off on our holidays.

The Razor gives an interesting perspective on the Climate Change conference and its carbon footprint - to save you some time I will paraphrase the findings.

The UN is based in New York and the conference is being held in Bali, which means that the delegates are going to have to fly there. How many delegates will that be you might wonder? Well, obviously an important conference such as this requires a lot of very earnest people to discuss ways of save us and I’m sure all 10,000 will have a very important role. (No, that’s not a typo it really is Ten Thousand). Now you can see why the need such a big resort as Bali as it has a huge convention centre.

The Razor makes a few guestimations of where these people will be travelling from as, obviously, they aren’t all flying from New York and comes up with this assumption which I use later in the post:

• 4,000 participants from New York - that’s where UN headquarters is.
• 1,000 from Los Angeles - for press, Hollywood UN groupies, and UN personnel stationed at west coast consulates.
• 3,000 from Rome - for European NGO, UN and official contingents
• 1,000 from Hong Kong - that will cover participants and press from Japan, China and SE Asia
• 1,000 from Delhi - which will cover South Asia, the Middle East and Africa

Applying these assumptions he the uses this wonderful site to calculate the carbon footprint of the delegates’ flights. If you want to check out his numbers don’t forget all these important delegates get to fly business class so they can arrive fresh and ready to sort out this important subject. But to save you time I will give you another, simpler, overview:

I am going to make some broad assumptions to illustrate a point - the distance between NY and Bali is about 16,500 km, and assuming the delegates fly by jumbo jet with 100% occupancy, a return flight for one person results in:

• c.1,400kg of fuel being burned, which causes
• c.4,400 kg of CO2 to be produced, with a warming affect of
• c.13,200 kg of CO2 Equivalent

Or put even simpler, the return flight of one delegate from New York to is the equivalent of burning 36 x 60W bulbs continuously for 1 year. For all the delegates and using the assumptions above the carbon foot print comes out at an equivalent of c.378,000 x 60W light bulbs burning continuously for 1 year.

Now, let’s say an English family of 4 go on holiday to Cyprus, about mid way between European and International holiday destinations, on our same inefficient Jumbo. They will have the equivalent carbon footprint of 70 x 60W light bulbs glowing for a year. This means our family of four could have about 5,400 family holidays on Cyprus for the same carbon footprint as the UN climate change delegates.

As this lady says ( ): “I'll believe it's a crisis when the people who say it's a crisis start acting like it's a crisis.” Although she is a lot politer and restrained than me.

You might also want to check out what this lady has to say on the subject as well.

And don’t forget we haven’t considered the carbon footprint from all the air conditioning, flying in the extra food and cars being used to transport the delegate round the sites.

Moving house - HIPs

What a waste of effort this thing turned out to be. I had a copy of the HIPs report but didn't really have time, or the inclination, to read it as we walked round the bungalow. We weren't even allowed to take it away as it belongs to the owners and is held by the Estate Agent. If I want to read it in detail I have to pay for a copy or sit in their office.

I thought they would be an expensive waste of time when they were proposed. Now I'm convinced.

And I have the pleasure of paying for a HIPs on my house when the time comes, I can't wait!

Moving house - Estate agents' conflict of interest

Chatting to the estate agent when we were looking at the bungalow we are interested in, it turns out that there is another woman (Woman A) interested. Anyway, it turns out that Woman A is so keen she has made a decision to put her house on the market as she hopes to buy this bungalow. The bit that interested me is that she is putting it on the market with the same Estate Agents.

This got me thinking about conflicts of interest and who the estate agent is really working for if Woman A makes an offer to buy the bungalow: the buyer or the seller of the bungalow?

Furthermore, when I do come to sell I won't use the same agent. And what happens if I make an offer: will the estate agent think he might lose the opportunity to sell Woman A's house fearing she might take it off the market? If he does will he put my offer forward with any vigour?

I can see I am going to be in for a fraught time on this one and will have to keep my eye on this Estate Agent. Fortunately it turns out we know the owner of the bungalow through a mutual friend so will get wind of any shenanigans.

Hoving house - The start

We have been looking around to see if there is anything on the market that meets our requirements. We don't want to move as we know it is a stressful experience and not cheap. However we are getting older and my wife needs a studio on ground level.

Anyway, yesterday we saw a house and are seriously contemplating making an offer so this is the start of what I expect to be a series of blogs (rants) on the trials and tribulations of buying, selling and moving.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Arguments for small Government

The Remittance Man has an interesting piece, AND TALKING OF INCOMPETENCE, in which he argues that Government is so big there just isn't enough talent to fill all the key roles such as Chancellor, Home Secretary and heads of Civil Service etc. Therefore we should reduce the size of Government. This is a well made case in a good cause, but it doesn't go far enough as it only considers one half of the equation.

I cannot argue with the need for talented people in those key jobs and that the numbers should be reduced to an absolute minimum but my argument is that this is because while they are consuming wealth they are not creating it. Surely we want our most talented people in industry creating wealth for the country?

This wealth creation argument is also the drive behind Lawson's dictum that taxes should be simple and universal. We don't want our best talent trying to minimise a Company's ever more difficult tax liability; we want them generating higher profits for their companies. On a personal level I resent having to pay an accountant to fill in my annual tax return even tough he generally save me money. He should be doing something more productive.

Consider the case of tax credits, probably the most fiendishly difficult tax relief system ever devised. In order to make it work we have some of our best computer programmers writing programmes and scripts so that people in call centres can deal with the ever growing problems. Surely raising the tax threshold would be the simplest way to give poor people a tax break? And then these creative programmers could be developing products that can be used to create wealth?

Friday, November 23, 2007

At last some General competence

Following the concerted attack on the Government in general and the PM in particular by 5 former chiefs of the defence staff, the Government complains it was a planned attack. Fucking hell, these were some of the best military strategists of the past 20 years or so, what the fuck did they expect when they continually ignored warnings that the Armed Forces were close to breaking point?

Instead of whingeing, perhaps the incompetent bunch of wankers that claim to be Governing us should be asking the form CDS's to teach them how to implement policy in an effective and competent way, then we might not get as many fuck ups like the HMRC debacle.

Its the xenophobes wot done it

Two years ago England sacked its most successful manager for the simple reason that he was a foreigner. I say England because there was a general campaign in the media and amongst fans to get rid of Sven. All sorts of crap was written and the final straw was getting knocked out in the quarter finals, by Potugal, of the 2006 World Cup.

We were told that only an Englishman could manage the England team and extracxt the true talents and the search was on. Whether you agree with the selection or Maclaren or not we managed to exclude Johnny Foreigner. We even got a bogof with the appointment of that great cockney lad Terry Venables. Oh how we were going to show Johnny Foreigner how the beautiful game should be played. With all those megastars we have in England shirts how could we fail to conquer all before us, we would even show the world how to shop properly by sending all those wags out as well.

So here we are 2 years later, the England manager sacked, his assistant sacked and England looking for a new manager. So who will it be to lead us to our deserved land of milk, honey and World Cups? Another Englishman? Despite all the same guys being around from 2 years ago the cry is now for another foreigner - Martin O'Neil (Irish) Jose (The Chosen One) Mourinho (Portuguese (the irony seems to escape those making thise claim)) and a host of others.

Anyone taking bets on what the cry will be when we don't win the World Cup in 2010?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I've had it with the Badger

Until today I had a modicum of sympathy for the Badger, he seemed a reasonably decent sort of guy, for a politician, and he was taking over a shit job with the last incumbernt his new boss. However listening to him on Today was the end of that sympathy.

When challenged on the cock-up that was the integration of the HMRC he said words to the affect that as the opposition parties supported the policy they are in no position to criticise. WTF

Which fucking planet is this guy on? Its obviously not the same planet as the rest of us if doesn't understand the difference between policy and implementation. It may have been a good policy, but it was obviously fucked up in implementation. The only thing the Opposition may have been guilty of is not screaming loud enough that this bunch of wankers can't organise a piss-up in a brewery so how the fuck did they expect to merge 2 huge government departments?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Why the data was being sent to the NAO

I would like to thank my MP, David Liddington, for the very quick response this afternoon when I emailed him asking why the data was being sent to the NAO. He sent back the following from Hansard, within the hour:

I attach the Hansard report of today's question to the Prime Minister from Edward Leigh MP, Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, to which the NAO reports.

Mr. Edward Leigh (Gainsborough) (Con): Is the Prime Minister aware that when the Department for Work and Pensions ran child benefit, it did a full audit on 20,000 names? When it was passed to the Inland Revenue, that was cut to 2,000 names, which is why the National Audit Office had to check its figures. Is he further aware that those protocols were agreed at a high level in March between the NAO and the Inland Revenue, and when the NAO asked for narrow details-not people's personal bank accounts-the Revenue said that to disaggregate that information would be too burdensome for the organisation? Those decisions were, therefore, taken at a high level. Is that not the image of a department that has had too much work loaded on it at the same time as it is cutting staff?

As you can see, the NAO has a duty to audit the payment of Child benefit, as any other benefit, but asked HMRC for a narrower range of information than they insisted on providing. During the exchanges following the Chancellor's statement yesterday, Mr Leigh said that the NAO had asked for a list of national insurance numbers so that they could create a sample on which to carry out the audit. The NAO's general practice is to examine a sample of benefit payment records for audit purposes. The NAO specifically asked for personal details, other than NI numbers, to be excluded.


I also heard on the radio that the underlying reason was that HMRC would have had to make a payment to their IT contractor.

Jesus, Mary and fucking Joseph, for the sake of a few fucking quid they send 25m personal records in the post. Presumably the NAO would have had to pay for the data to be extracted as well, so no saving to us, just some wankers' budget. For fucks sake, haven't they got a brain cell between them! And these were meant to be senior managers, it makes you wonder about the mental capabilities of the junior civil service.

If somebody cannot be tried for a wilful breach of the Data Protection Act then the wankers who drew up the act should be shot as well.

And to make it worse England have just conceded 2 goals while I type this!

Why were those discs sent?

The fact that this data was being sent anywhere is a matter of concern but I learn from The Daily Brute that they were being sent to the National Audit Office. Why?

The NAO's own web site states its job is "Helping the nation spend wisely" and goes on:

The National Audit Office scrutinises public spending on behalf of Parliament. We are totally independent of Government. The NAO is headed by the Comptroller and Auditor General, Sir John Bourn.

We audit the accounts of all central government departments and agencies, as well as a wide range of other public bodies, and report to Parliament on the economy, efficiency and effectiveness with which they have used public money. Our work saves the taxpayer millions of pounds every year.


Why on earth do they need the details of 25 m people? If it is for fraud then that is a bloody big sample to be trawling through. If it was to test the Revenue's processes then they have proved a point, but did it need 25m entries to be sent as some sort of test.

I am genuinely perplexed and would welcome any thoughts on this issue.

Statistics: Health service waiting lists

I have just been catching up on Radio 4's excellent programme More or Less: Behind the statistics and this week one of their listeners raised this curious point:

If a hospital procedure is carried out on everyone in exactly 10 weeks, what is the average waiting time? I was particularly taken with this piece because I have been very wary of "averages" for a long time and never accept them in a business context unless I have seen the raw data. The reason for this is the average, and even above average, person is clueless as to what an "average" really tells us, especially with small data sets. (Pun intended)

Anyway, the answer to this question took me by surprise: 5 weeks.

It seems that we are really being told average waiting times of those in the queue and they get this by asking each person in the queue how long they have been there. So if the sample is large enough it is reasonable to assume that some will have been there for 1 day, others for 2 days etc all the way to 69 days. The average of these wait times is indeed 35 days.

To be fair the programme does go on to say that the Government is moving towards total treatment times, but not before misleading us as to waiting waiting times.

A medal to the person who lost "those discs"

This whole episode nails the lie that the data underpinning ID cards will be safe and that we have nothing to worry about.

Yes I know 25m people are going to be inconvenienced and some may even lose money, which I am sure the banks and Govt will repay. I'll even bet that some of that will be a scam by some people "defrauding" themselves in the hope of making more money. But thats a small price to pay for the greater good.

We are told that it was a lack of procedures that caused the problem, so what, it happened. No doubt the ID card proponents will tell us that the procedures will be tighter and that they have learnt from this episode. This just shows how ignorant they are about procedures, which are written by humans to be carried out be humans. Furthermore, they are designed to capture the 99% of events that people envisage, they do not, and cannot, cover every eventually or for people's in built laziness and stupidity.

So give that person a medal and perhaps NO2ID could make this some sort of annual award along the lines of the Darwin Awards?

Its a bit rich

Ian Smith's policies were a nasty piece of work, no matter how principled he was. His belief's that blacks should never be allowed to run the country were self serving and ultimately destructive.

Having said that its a bit rich for the current regime to be criticisizing him. The beeb reported Mr Mugabe's deputy information minister, Bright Matonga, as saying that Ian Smith brought untold suffering to millions of Zimbabweans. They don't say whether this was reported with a straight face or not, but in the Humpty Dumpty world of African politics I presume it was.

It would be an interesting experiment to find out if Zimbabweans would be willing to give up their new found freedoms and democracy in return for the food and security provided by Smith's regime.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Revenue and customs head resigns

Whilst its good to see someone taking ultimate responsibility and resigning, beeb article, I can't help a feeling of schadenfreude.

The way they treated a good friend and fellow company director was absolutely appalling. Having cocked up analysing our VAT returns they turned up at his house unannounced with an order to take his goods. Fortunately he wasn't in. It took our accountant 5 minutes to point their mistake out to them and not once did they think to apologise.

So, if this woman is anything to go by the fucking lot of them should resign.

If this had been the Tories (2)

The whole Northern Rock debacle gets curiouser and curiouser.

The Remittance Man makes this excellent observation:

What I am sure about is if this were a Tory government and it was The Rich Bastard Bank that was failing, the Grown Ups an other usual suspects would be driving themselves into a frenzy of righteous indignation, calling for police investigations, judicial inquiries and everything else. Yet beyond the odd report, usually tucked away on the business pages, they are surprisingly silent


And now Guido points out that not only was the CEO (why isn't he the "disgraced CEO"?)was sold his own shares before the problems started:

His confidence in his bank's business model long term is demonstrated by his selling of £1.5 m of shares in two days. (25 Jan 2006 sold 52,253 at 957p for £500,061.21 and the next day he sold another 111,426 at 957p for £1,066,346.82).

His faith in the business was shown by his purchase last April of just 262 shares worth a little under £3,000. Not a lot of faith in the business from the boss was there?


And then Guido also points out:

Northern Rock gave half-a-million to Labour's favourite think-tank, the IPPR. It also employed Gordon's personal pollster, Deborah Mattinson, as an adviser. Of all the pollsters to seek advice from, why her? Why give money to that think-tank? Nowadays it is very rare for publicly quoted companies to make politically partisan donations


Now I don't think that the Northern Rock crash is anywhere near the scale of the Enron crash, but that doesn't mean that any sniff of corruption doesn't needed to be investigated, very thoroughly, as Remittance Man points out.

Going back to my post yesterday on the value of NR and its share dealings: Why hasn't its stock exchange listing been suspended? The company looks like its insolvent and is being kept afloat by the Government, doesn't that sort of skew any share pricing?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Northern Rock offers to olow

It appears that the offers for Northern Rock are too low according to this beeb article

Northern Rock has said the proposals received so far from potential investors were "materially below" the stricken bank's current share price.


Well what do they expect, for fucks sake. The share price is artificially high because everyone expects the Govt to bail them out, so why sell now? Especially if you bought at the peak of £12, you may as well hang and see what happens. A quick look at share trading this morning shows volumes of 40,00 shares have traded, that's out of approximately 500,000,000 (I had to do some quick assumptions to get to this figure) or less that 0.08% of the shares so it is hardly a true indicator of what the company is worth.

This all goes down to the old adage of something is only worth what somebody is prepared to pay for it, which is how we got in to this mess in the first place with the overvalued load books.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Miliband has ME solution

Yes folks, our esteemed Foreign Secretary has it all figured out judging by his latest pronouncement

Foreign Secretary David Miliband has said the Middle East peace process must get "back on track", after meeting his Israeli counterpart Tzipi Livni.


Doesn't this numpty or his advisers realise that if you have a track then it must lead to a destination? Perhaps he would like to share this destination with us, after all some great statesmen in the past 6o years or so have failed to sort it out. It doesn't seem to concern him that its still a hot bed after 1000's of years of strife and failed peace making.

This reminds me of those idiots who used to tell us in the '80's that the Euro train was leaving and we were missing it - they didn't once tell us where it was going, just that we had to be on it.

Oh how these vacuous idiots piss me off with their belief that all they need to do is use a meaningless slogan and all will be well and we will folllow like gillible idiots.

Still, if you send a boy to do a man's job ...

UK Planning to invade Zimababwe?

According to this article

Well lets hope so but somehow I doubt it.

Mind you it does show that Blair was even more gung-ho with our forces than previously reported.


PS I have to own up to being a bit biased on this subject. I spent 6 months in Zimbabwe straight after independence teaching in their School of Signals in Bulawayo. I had a mixed class of "freedom fighters" and former Rhodesian armed forces. furthermore it was a mixed class of blacks and whites who'd fought on both sides all of whom were keen on reconciliation and peace. However at the time it was obvious that ebagum was going to be a brutal dictator, only the left couldn't see it.

Government's duty on Northern Rock

I have read and heard some real bollocks this weekend. Two particular pieces spring to mind:

This morning in an interview on the radio I heard a Labour MP (unfortunately I didn't catch his name as I was driving) say that the Government's priority was to protect jobs. No, no, no and no again. Haven't you fucking idiots learnt anything from the history books, you fucking dimwits? Its only as recent as the 1960's and 70's that Governments poured good money after bad in the pursuit of "protecting jobs" and look where that got us!

I know its harsh and nobody likes seeing people lose their jobs but this institution is well and truly fucked and the Government has one priority and one priority only: to get our tax payers money back as quickly as possible, preferably with the interest paid, but I'll settle for capital only at this stage.

Which brings me to my next point, what the fuck is the Government doing worrying about shareholders, as reported in this article:

"If he (the Chancellor) is prepared to leave the financial prop in place for three years - subject to not falling foul of EU state-aid rules - existing shareholders might recoup some of the losses they've incurred," said Robert Peston, the BBC's business editor.


No, no and thrice no. The shareholders were laughing all the way to the bank when the share price was £12 and good luck to them. But if they were so fucking greedy that they allowed the management to continue with its obviously flawed plan thinking they would make even more money then that's there fault and not mine.

I find myself hoping the EU steps in and forces the Goverment's hand under Competition rules - how desperate is that FFS!

Credit crunch, what credit crunch?

I wasted a good part of the morning in my local John Lewis (High Wycombe_ and it was absolutely packed. When we left the queue to get in to the car park was back to the M40. Most of the people I saw were looking at and buying things like large, HD ready, TV's, music centres and computers.

Maybe its a "final fling" before things get tight, maybe the great unwashed don't believe that that there s a looming crises or maybe there are still lots of people with cash to burn but whatever the reason it doesn't loo like a looming credit crunch or recession.

On the off chance that you are interested, I was after a new DAB clock radio for my Birthday, but didn't buy one because the numpties, sorry, Partners, couldn't plug them in so I could see what the display was like.

Defence Ministry Ostriches

Once again our Defence Ministry shows it is fucking clueless when it comes to the moral of our armed forces. General Dannatt has written a report which The Telegraph claims to have seen and what they are reporting is frightening:

The head of the Army has warned that years of Government under-funding and overstretch have left troops feeling "devalued, angry and suffering from Iraq fatigue", The Sunday Telegraph can reveal.

Having spent 18 years in the army I am well aware that squaddies like to have a good moan, furthermore they have always been short of kit and a lot of the time supplied their own personal items, but this is getting ridiculous.

When we were sat in Germany preparing for WW3, this didn't matter as we were only expected to hold the Soviets for a few weeks at most. We also had time for training and by and large the right equipment. Now NuLab seems to think it has the solution to world peace and is sending our forces in to hot wars all round the place. Most of these places require specialist equipment so the can deploy properly and be effective. Furthermore it requires different training. if we are going to be effective takes time and money.

What is really scary is the attitude of the MoD, reported on the beeb web site:

The Ministry of Defence said he was referring to individuals who were not necessarily widely representative.


What the fuck are they on about? The Army's most senior officer writes a report like this and it is not representative? Listen, you fuckwits, get you heads out of your arses and start doing your jobs because the armed forces can't carry on like this, unless we aim to fill it up with immigrants or pull out soon.

Reading at the right age

This is one of the subjects at which everyone appears to be an expert* and listening to the debate over the Tories latest pronouncement that children should be able to the read by the age of six some of the armchair experts don't half talk drivel.

Well, I don't profess to being an expert but I am reasonably well informed. The Great Wiseone spent 25 years as a specialist reading teacher in this country and abroad in military schools. Furthermore we have good friends whose children went in to the German schooling system and, finally, we have brought up a son who eventually had a reading age higher than his chronological age, despite being a late starter and us telling his school not to worry.

So, after all the years of failed attempts to teach younger and younger children to read, how about a different approach and not bother until they are 7? This works very well in Germany and Hungary and I am sure other places. Up to that age concentrate on teaching them social and cognitive skills and take the pressure of the little darlings. How can we expect 3 and 4 year olds to sit still and learn at that age? They should be having fun anyway.

I suspect this would never happen as middle class parents seem to have this believe that teaching kids to read at some unnatural age when they aren't ready is somehow good for them.

*As an old friend was fond of saying: "x" is the unknown quantity and a "spurt" is a drip under pressure

Saturday, November 17, 2007

If this had been the Tories (1)

Imagine the apoplectic rage if a Tory of any description, let alone a PM, had come out with the "British workers for the British jobs " statement? The Labour Party and especially Broon would have been beside themselves with rage. The Nazi accusations would have been flying around like confetti at a chav wedding. Doesn't the hypocrisy make you despair about the lot of them?

Good luck, Scotland

Despite the churlishness of the Anybody but England brigades, I wish them luck in today's match against Italy. What they have achived so far deserves qualification for the Euro finals.

Updte: Oh well, it wasn't to be. I supose the churlish ones will now be supporting Croatia and hoping England doesn't get through.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Britsh Jobs for Britsh People

Ther is something sinister about this phrase, especially coming from the left and they way they have treated dicussions on immigration in the past. Not one screech from the left of the beeb about racisim, why? Is it because its NuLab making the coment and not the Tories?

I don't have a problem with immigration, indeed I work in an office which is fairly cosmopolitan and enjoy diversity. All I ask is that our leaders plan for the influx and tell us the truth, but thats another story. What I am pissed off about is the way the left reacted on immigration in the past.

Remeber the way that Hague and Howard were villified because they dared question immigration? The left were put up

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Nanny State dead, long live the stewards

Hat tip to An Englishman's Castle for alerting me to this one (note to self: must add to list of frequently read blogs) in The Times.

It appears the Nanny State is dead and we are going to be coerced by stewards:

The authors, a group of doctors, lawyers, philosophers and other experts, argue that the much-maligned “nanny state” should be replaced by a new, more sensitive idea of “stewardship”.

~~~~~

The central concept of stewardship differed from the nanny state by being “more sensitive to the balances between public good and individual freedom,” he said. The report concludes: “The stewardship model provides justification for the UK Government to introduce measures that are more coercive than those which currently feature in the National Alcohol Strategy.”


For fucks sake, leave me alone; I work hard and pay my taxes and if I want to get pissed in the evening in my own home that my business, you nosey twats.

Anyway, what's with trying to keep people alive longer so they can draw pensions and be a drain on other resources? As Sir Humphrey pointed out in Yes, Minister, we want people to die at the end of their productive lives.

Convicting rapists

Two points:

I was brought up on the belief that it was better that 10 guilty men go free rather than one innocent man is convicted. I have not seen one jot of evidence that we need to change this concept in our judicial system.

Hard cases make bad laws.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Restore the shirt breast pocket campaign

I am of the certain age referred to in this letter in The Thunderer and agree that we need a campaign to restore the shirt breast pocket. I have been replacing shirts recently and was disappointed at the lack of choice.

One angle that could be used in the campaign is the role of the shirt pocket in IT history. I understand that the 3.5" disc was designed to fit in to the shirt pocket.

First pub smoking charge

The beeb is reporting that a Blackpool landlord is about to be prosecuted for flouting the smoking ban. Furthermore he plans to carry on allowing smoking in his pubs. Good on him.

As a non-smoker I have been against this crazy law from the start. A pub is not a "public place", it is a business licensed to sell alcohol to the public for consumption on the premises. Indeed, there are many pubs I won't go in because of the smoke, but that's my choice and the landlord's loss.

I hope this guy keeps fighting and finds an enterprising lawyer who can find some angle in the Human Rights Act.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Nazi accusation: the last refuge of the unthinking

Dr Bari, head of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), isn't happy:

Britain must, he warns, beware of becoming like Nazi Germany.
he tells us in today's Telegraph

Why is it every time someone isn't happy with policy they accuse us of becoming Nazis? In this case he is talking utter bollocks and showing a complete disregard for history. Just a few comparisons: No lebensraum, no "Hitler youth", no laws saying Muslims have to clearly identify themselves in some way, no leaders blaming all our ills on Muslims to name but a few comparisons. But more importantly we have the institutions that protect us from these policies ever being implemented.

Perhaps we should look at the problem:

"There is a disproportionate amount of discussion surrounding us," he says. "The air is thick with suspicion and unease. It is not good for the Muslim community, it is not good for society."
I agree, its not good for a society, but perhaps we should ask why many intelligent people feel that way. Could it be statements like this:

There is, in his view, no such thing as Islamic terrorism.


Maybe in his blinkered view there isn't, but I can assure him that those who see the video's of suicide bombers praising Allah and claiming to be carrying out their actions in His name don't see it that way. Then there are the Islamic preachers who delight in referring to the non Muslim population as Kaffirs, a term just as offensive as the N word, they don't exactly inspire confidence in the Muslim community.

"I think it [Johnathon Evans' speech] is creating a scare in the community and wider society. It probably helps some people who try to recruit the young to terrorism. Muslim young people are as vulnerable as any others. Under this climate of fear they will begin to feel victimised."


Chicken and egg situation here. When Muslim immigrants started arriving in large numbers in the 60's and '70's they were generally allowed to get on with their lives. We even tolerated the religion to the extent that London started to to pick up the nickname "Londinistan" because we were so tolerant. And what happened? Events like 9/11 and other attacks carried out in the name of Islam. And you blame us for now getting a bit suspicious about all those people and there followers who preach hatred?

Sir Salman Rushdie should never have been knighted, he says. "He caused a huge amount of distress and discordance with his book, it should have been pulped."


You really don't get get liberal democracy, do you? We tolerate all sorts of crap in the desire to be left alone to get on with our lives because we know that sometimes our actions offend others. Salman Rushdie is an unpleasant ego maniac who wrote a you don't like and by all accounts even non-Muslims thought it was crap. But that's not the point, this is a society that has evolved to a point where we don't need or want laws that call for such drastic actions. You, by the way, are quite at liberty to go out and burn the books yourself, just like people did after the Beatles were misquoted about their comparisons to God.

Dr Bari insists he is simply trying to unite disparate communities. "On the one hand we are accused of not engaging, being insular, and on the other hand of being too political. We can't win."


You can be insular if you want and you can engage if you want, I don't care. But its up to you to engage with us, the liberal host society, on our terms, not yours, for example:

Abortion should also be made more difficult. "By the time a foetus is 12 weeks old our religion says that the child has got a spirit." Homosexuality is "unacceptable from the religious point of view".


Maybe they are, but both are legal in this country and your campaigning against them is offensive to others, but that doesn't seem to worry you, does it?

Here's something for you to ask yourself: Why aren't the Chinese community banging on about there kids being victimised, about their religion being misunderstood, about needing us to integrate them? If your get stuck you will find the answer in the nearest mirror.

PS

Fortunately there are 1000's of Muslims who don' ascribe to Dr Bari and his aims, who do integrate and make themselves part of society without needing any changes. They are a pleasure to work and live with and Dr Bari should also consider those when he considers the Chinese question, above.