Sunday, December 14, 2008

TGS Has Moved

I can now be found at my new home:

Saturday, December 13, 2008

heads they win, tails we lose

As always when it comes to politics and big business we, that tax payers, are the ones getting screwed:

Shamelessly stolen from The Angry Economist

Boy, did we get it wrong on SMS! What chance political central planners.

From this year's Economist technology and Innovation awards*

Computing and Telecommunications: Matti Makkonen for the development of Short Message Service (SMS), or text messaging. Mr Makkonen is a Finnish engineer who is credited with inventing SMS, which allows short messages to be sent between mobile phones. He proposed the idea in the 1980s while working at Finland’s telecoms authority. Billions of text messages are now sent every day.
I spent most of the 90's designing and building GSM networks. Whenever we put business plans together we just paid lip service to SMS; it was seen as something that could be used for SIM updates and nothing else. Nobody believed that any sane person would think about going through the rigmarole of tapping out a message to send to someone else.

Unless you've been on planet Zog for the past 15 years or so you'll be well aware of how wrong we were and the massive growth of SMS but maybe not aware of how much of a golden egg it became for the mobile industry:
The same Informa report shows that SMS remains a very popular technology, however. Worldwide SMS traffic was up year-on-year by around 50 per cent to more than 620 billion messages sent during the quarter. SMS revenues were up 23 per cent over the same period.
A report from UK-based research firm Portio Research suggests that SMS will remain the most widely used messaging format for some years to come, with revenues estimated at $50bn by 2010 driven by almost 2.38 trillion messages.
To select just 2 random articles.

When we talked to the Marketing teams to get dimensioning numbers they were either oblivious to SMS or just didn't see it as a major revenue generator, so we would just add in a single SMS centre for the network and move on, it wasn't worth spending time on the detail. This didn't matter as even if they had given forecasts of high usage we would have matched spend to revenues so there wouldn't have been much of an impact on capital expenditure (Capex) until it was needed and had revenues to pay for it.

When SMS did start to take off there was a bit of a scramble but as it is a Store and Foreward technique and instant delivery was never promised it didn't realy matter. A few engineers made extra money during that period and some smaller companies grew like topsy to meet demand, but no real harm done.

It is also worth noting that in 1994 the engineering team I worked in was given a briefing by the Orange marketing team. In this briefing they predicted that UK mobile penetration in the UK would top out at around 30% by the year 2000 and Orange would have a 20% share. As it happens penetration was approaching 100% by the year 2000.

So, why am I telling you all this? Well, apart from general interest there is a lesson in central planning to be learned. When I say "we" did all this planning, I mean some seriously intelligent people. I worked with a number of Management Consultancy companies at the time and they were the ones making the forecasts on mobile demand. Most of the people had MBA's from some of the top management schools, including INSEAD. Many of them also had years of telecoms experience as well. They were also working for some very hard nosed, perceptive and very rich clients.

These people were focused on one thing, making money. If they it wrong then companies would lose billions of £££'s, and they still managed to get something as fundamental as mobile forecasts wrong. Fortunately for the companies involved they undercooked how much money was to be made, but when they get it wrong its very expensive; ask Hutchison about its 3 operation here in the UK:
Canning Fok denies that the launch of a mobile broadband service is the last chance for Hutchison Whampoa's loss-making 3 mobile business. ... Today he is desperate to convince the outside world that the $25bn gamble 3 has placed on Europe's third-generation telephony market will - eventually - pay off.
They are still losing money, but not quite as fast.

If these seriously bright people with lots of experience can't always get it right, what hope is there for us of our current crop of politicians and civil servants, most of whom haven't done anything outside politics, planning and managing a whole economy or even, for that matter, regulating the seriously bright people effectively? And they have any political consideratios affecting their decision making as well.

Me? I would prefere to leave most of it to the seriously bright people and hard nosed business men and I include health deleivery in that statement as well.

*No link as its behind a subscription wall

Friday, December 12, 2008

You won't often hear this from a Yorkshireman

Well done Mancunians

BBC: More or less

As regular readers know I am always happy to bash the BBC, especially the lightweights on Radio 5. I may even call for it to be trimmed but as along as they produce programs like More or Less, its almost worth the licence fee on its own.

This week's program was excellent and exposed the nonsense behind the recent wild stories about sexual abuse of children:

A question of sexual or statistical abuse?

Between 5 and 10% of girls suffer the most serious forms of sexual abuse, according to reports based on a paper published this week in The Lancet.

These are shocking figures.

But are they true?

We investigate whether the statistics really support the claims of a hidden epidemic.

You won't be surprised to hear that it was statistical abuse. A meta study of a meta study of some very badly planned research. The one report that claimed this abuse didn't even include the UK is its research.

I recommend getting it on your MP3 players as a podcast. If you can't do get over there and catch the last program on iPlayer and then make a date in your diary to listen to future programs.

Ireland's 2nd Refererendum and Ever Closer Union

Guido is reporting that the EU has persuaded Ireland to have a new referendum in his own, inimical, style (my emphasis):

Reports from Brussels coming in suggest that Ireland's political elite are allowing their arms to be twisted by the EU into ignoring the "No!" vote in the referendum and having another one. This comes as absolutely no surprise - the undemocratic nature of the EU project has always been manifest. It has a semblance of voting but the outcome is as pre-determined as a Soviet-era party congress. On the rare occasions when the project comes off the rails, nothing, not even the will of the people will stop it.

Irish citizens were the only people in Europe allowed to express their democratic will. They said "NO!" The EU's dirty ratifiers won't accept that answer.
The BBC reports it a bit more sedately, pointing out that Ireland is seeking legally binding bribes assurances:

The mechanism for a second referendum is included in draft conclusions which are being presented by the current holders of the EU presidency, France, and which have been seen by the BBC.

According to the draft, the Irish government says "it is committed to seeking ratification" of the Lisbon Treaty by the end of October 2009.

What Guido misses and the BBC don't want to tell us that it is always inevitable that any country that rejects anything the slows down the integration of the EU will have to vote again and again until they get it right. There will be some tinkering for the sake of "face" but no Government can object and say No means No because membership of the EU obliges them to work towards "ever closer union".

The Treaty establishing the EEC calls for it as part of membership:


After the failure of the EDC, the economy, which was less subject to national resistance than other areas, became the focus of consensus in the field of supranational cooperation. The establishment of the EEC and the creation of the Common Market had two objectives. The first was to transform the conditions of trade and manufacture on the territory of the Community. The second, more political, saw the EEC as a contribution towards the functional construction of a political Europe and constituted a step towards the closer unification of Europe.

In the preamble, the signatories of the Treaty declare that:

"- determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe,

This is why Maggie always ended up losing and no matter what our politicians promise us they can't stop it. They can promise referendums in order to help win elections but they are meaningless waffle.

Although I voted to join the EC in 1975 I quickly became aware that something was wrong, but just put it down to empire building politicians and bureaucrats. I voted Tory partly because I thought that they could tame the worst excesses of the EC/EEC/EU only to see them embrace the EU.

It wasn't until I heard someone mention this ever closer union following the French No in their Constitution Referendum that I realised what was going on: we have been hoodwinked, conned or whatever phrase you prefer, into a position where we can't block the "progress" towards a United States of Europe. We were promised this wouldn't happen in 1975, they lied.

It is for this reason that I have moved from being a skeptic but accepting staying in and changing from the inside to outright hostility and a belief that we need to get out, immediately. I shall be voting, but not joining, UKIP at next summer's EU elections.

Met Police Just Dont Get It on Menezes Death

I caught most of Sir Paul Stephenson's press conference following the Open Verdict on my way home and he just doesn't get it. (See it here).

There is some justification to the "fog of war" argument. No matter how much you plan and train for these things something can, and usually does, go wrong. I have have some sympathy for the policeman on the front line, none of them go to work wanting to kill anyone, let alone an innocent person, and I am sure that they will lose sleep over it for the rest of their lives.

What was unacceptable, and still is, is the way the senior ranks colluded to hide the truth. The way they tried to smear him is beneath contempt:

Lawyers for the Met questioned whether the Brazilian’s cocaine abuse and illegal immigration status could have contributed to what happened on July 22.

They said the suspect's "threatening and aggressive" behaviour was like that of a suicide bomber when confronted by police.

Asad Rehman, the family's campaign spokesman, hit back at the claims about the 27-year-old.

He said: "We have been taken aback by how the police decided to defend this case, and the line that they have taken in terms of trying to muddy Jean Charles's name and diminish him as a person and make the shooting more acceptable.

"He [the defence lawyer] was literally saying he was asking for it, which I thought was pretty sickening."

There was also a leaked rumour just after the shooting that he was an illegal immigrant and that it was therefore somehow his own fault, as idiotic blogs like this one attest.

If Sir Ian Blair had put his hands up immediately and accepted it was a complete fuck up we could have had more respect for them, paid compensation had a very quick inquiry in to what went wrong and hoped that we wont be the victims next time.

Sir Ian Blair's belated sacking resignation was too little, too late, and anyone involved at a senior level in the events should be barred from applying for the promotion of any sort, at least.

Iraq finished - job well done

Travelgall has written an excellent post about the excellent work our troops have done in Iraq at A Very British Dude, which I commend to all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Daily Telegraph Letter(s) of the Day

Being away from home and staying in a hotel I have more time for the papers. I liked this one, it sums up the Governments our confusion about drugs and tobacco very nicely:

SIR – Last week it was reported that illegal drug use was costing the NHS £15 billion a year – 10 times the cost of treating smoking-related illnesses.

As illegal drugs have never been displayed for sale or put in fancy packaging, but always sold "under the counter", this method of marketing seems very effective, as there are more illegal drug users now than legal tobacco users.

But then, it is much easier to target the corner shop than the vast organised business of supplying illegal substances.

Stephen Leader

Chessington, Surrey

On a personal level, as a non-smoker of nearly 24 years standing I sometimes partake in this little pleasure:

SIR – I will regret the disappearance of tobacco products from display in shops and supermarkets.

I take great pleasure in checking the price of packets of 20 king-size filters. They were 37·5 pence a packet when I gave them up.

Mike Cooper

Southport, Lancashire

Just in case anyone passing through doesn't understand my position on smoking and drugs: I support the right of people to smoke, I was against the banning of smoking in pubs and I support the legalisation of drugs. I would, though, ban smoking outside.

Labour bashing welfare claimants without even a squeal from the BBC, what gives?

Another Government head talking on Radio 4 this morning:

The government's welfare reform plans - designed to get more than a million people off benefits and into work - are to be published. Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell discusses how benefit claimants "can play their part" in the economy.
Two things struck me about it:

Firstly, what a soft ride he got. If this had been the Tories the interviewer would have been all over them trying to rip their heads off. Furthermore, the studio would have had all the usual suspects from the Unions and self appointed spokes people claiming how bad they were, especially as we are having a recession.

Secondly, why now? We've had 12 years or so of growth without these initiatives, wouldn't it have been easier then? private industry is starting to shed jobs and the Government is doing its best to saddle us with ever increasing debt and is hardly in a position to go around creating even more jobs. That would pointless anyway as the non-jobs would cost more than keeping them on welfare.

Could it be that the Government have tipped off the BBC and their other friends that this is just a move to placate the Daily Mail tendency in the run up to a General Election?

The Great WiseOne's web site

I've just finished the latest version and am quite proud of it, although lots still to do. My main aim with this version was to improve the navigation and trying to keep everything tight and on one screen.

It doesn't work well on small screens of less that 1280x1040 pixels and I need to develop some sort of content management as it is a real pain making additions and changes. To that end I'm now teaching myself PHP, have set up a MySql database on the host and set up my vHosts on my home PC.

The main problem is that it doesn't work well with Internet Explorer even though the CSS and HTL code has been tested against standards web sites.

If anyone is interested you can see it here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Shit jobs

Tomorrow I have one of the shittiest jobs going – I have to tell 3 people they are being made redundant. They know its coming but that doesn't make it easier given the time of year and downturn oncoming deep recession. (As it happens this is nothing to do with the current economic conditions, it a business operating decision that means we don't need as many people for a specific role.)

It's not the first time I've done it and it doesn't get any easier, despite what some may think. I have been there and know that no matter how well prepared the 3 of them will be they will still be numb and disoriented afterwards.

And just to make the task even worse one of those being made redundant has just completed a long course of chemo therapy.

BBC and Plane Stupid

Despite feeling like shit I had to drive to "oop north" yesterday, 175 miles of mainly motorway driving. Set off about 9:15 and about 10 mins in to the journey discovered my iTrip was broken which meant that I had to listen to the radio. No liking the prattle of DJ's I was flipping between Radio 4 and Radio 5.

Radio 5 seemed to dedicate itself to a vox pop on the Plane Stupid demo at Standsted airport. At first I wasn't too bothered although I didn't think they had done themselves any favours on the PR front. However as the morning went on we had ever more callers claiming that they were right and coming up with ever wilder claims of what will happen if we don't stop emitting CO2 now. One even claimed that we only had 7 years to the "tipping point".

Not one guest was brought on to bring a modicum of reality to the proceedings. The presenter, Victoria Derbyshire, seemed to be complicit in all this. Anyone listening wouldn't have believed there was any sort of debate at all.

Anyway, rather stupidly I continued driving with my blood pressure rising as I shouted at the radio every time another idiot from Plane Stupid came on with another, wilder, claim.

This is a shame because I believe they could have made a very good point. Plane fuel isn't taxed which means that they aren't paying a Pigovian tax on the fuel. Instead they relied on ignorance and fear and the unquestioning obedience of the BBC to getaway with claiming there is positive feedback in the environment.

For an explanation of this see Climate Skeptic:

Frequent readers will know that I have often criticized climate scientists for assuming, without strong evidence, that climate is dominated by positive feedback. Such an assumption about a long-term stable system implies that climate is relatively unique among natural processes, and is a real head scratcher when advocated by folks like Michael Mann, who simultaneously claim that past temerpatures are stable within very narrow ranges (Stability and positive feedback are two great tastes that do not go great together).

Well, it seems that those of use who were offended by the notion of a long-term stable natural process being dominated by positive feedback may have been right after all (via Tom Nelson):

Cirrus clouds are performing a disappearing act which is taking scientists by surprise.

In the global warming debate, it is assumed that temperature rises will lead to more rainfall, which in turn will see an increase in high-altitude cloud cover that will trap infrared heat.

But research on tropical climate systems has found the opposite is happening, with cirrus clouds thinning as the air warms, leading to rapid cooling as infrared heat escapes from the atmosphere to outer space.

I also recommend looking at Climate Skeptic's video's for an even better explanation which you'll find in the sidebar

Dignity is in providing, not working

Following on from the Karen Mathews trial, Raedwald has posted about the breakdown of society and makes this comment, with which I have little to disagree:

I'm not interested in making a moral judgement on the lifestyle of the underclass, or on bastardy, but the economic and social cost to the rest of us is already vast, will get much worse during the recession and is simply unsustainable in the long term.

There is a simple truth that Brown and his party are just too thick to understand, and it's that welfare causes poverty. The most effective measure in tackling poverty is restricting welfare. Clinton's reforms in the US have won for millions the dignity of work and the benison of belonging that the caustic effects of welfare had taken from them.

It did make me wonder about the phrase "dignity of work" and whether this really is the case? Do we really value work so highly to the point where it provides dignity? I think not, but I do believe there is/was dignity in providing for our family and when that doesn't need be done there is no reason to work, especially if you are at the bottom end of the social and education ladder.

Firstly, when The Sprog was at school he used to complain bitterly when teachers tried to bribe them in to working hard by claiming that if they didn't they would end up as street cleaners or dustbin men. His point was that these jobs are something that we need doing and we should value the work, even if it is not highly paid. He makes a very good point, if those who aren't academically bright and will end up doing these jobs don't see them as worthwhile; they won't be at the front of the queue to do them, unless they feel they have no choice. But the welfare state means they do have a choice.

Secondly, I remember the feeling when The Sprog was born and I brought him home from hospital. It was an almost immediate transformation in my approach to life. I had always worked hard but did have a laissez-faire* approach to life but the new responsibility made realise I had to take control and ensure he and The Great WiseOne would be looked after if anything happened to me. I also wanted to ensure I could provide a comfortable life for them, even if it meant personal sacrifices. I know we men aren't supposed to talk about things like this when we are together but when I have discussed it with them they admit to similar feelings.

Now, I was brought up to believe that I had to provide for myself and family to the best of my ability by my father who was born and raised in the slums of Bradford, long before the welfare state was created. I remember that this was the approach of most of his friends and all my relations. They all took great pride in looking after their family and ensuring they were provided for, but then they grew up when the had no choice. I remember that they would have been appalled at having to take "handouts" as they saw them to ensure their family fed and most of these were miners, dustbin men and street cleaners.

So why don't those like Karen Mathews and her boyfriends have the same desire to provide for their children and seem happy to rely on benefits to provide not only for themselves but also their children? I often think "do they have no pride" and I suppose the answer is no they don't, well not in the same sense that I do.

Reading Raedwald's post made me realise that the Welfare State, in its desire to ensure that the poor don't have the hardship of the past, has crushed this desire to provide their family out of them- they don't need to do it and so don't see why they should make sacrifices to provide. This, added to our desire not to be judgemental about lifestyle choices, has meant that they don't have any shame; it doesn't worry them that the rest of us are working to pay for their lifestyle because they have been told that the money they get is an entitlement and anyway, any jobs they can do, like street cleaning or emptying the bins are sneered at as for failures and that doesn't include them

Now comes the difficult part, how to change that attitude? I don't have the answers other than reduce benefits to the point where they have no choice but to go out and work, or steal or beg and sadly the latter 2 will probably be the chosen options. The other problem is that we do as a society want to genuinely look after those who have suffered life's outrages slings and arrows of misfortune.

*The true (wiki) meaning of the words: "a term used to describe a policy of allowing events to take their own course with minimal intervention."

Monday, December 08, 2008

Work, weddings, house guests and man flu

All stealing valuable blogging time (reading and writing).

Perhaps I'll get some time an impetus in a few days.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

What would George or Betty have done?

I listened to the Speaker's comments on Damian Green's arrest and was appalled at his sloping shoulders. You would have thought that someone with the integrity to become speaker would not have blamed one of staff for letting in PC Plod without a search warrant.

Watching the 10pm news with the Great WiseOne she commented dryly: "This wouldn't have happened under Betty Bothroyd or George Thomas".

How true.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Honourable Politician Resigns

(Just noticed that I didn't publish this post from last week!)

Yep, you don't see that very often but it has just happened in India.

Indian Home Minister Shivraj Patil and national security adviser MK Narayanan have submitted their resignations in the wake of the Mumbai terror attacks.
I don't believe for one minute that either of these gentlemen did anything directly or through omission that led to the terror attacks in Mumbai* but they have shown that they understand that the buck stops at the top. The last of our politicians to resign on this principle was Lord Carrington who was Foreign office Secretary at the time of the Falklands invasion, if I remember correctly.

I'll bet our current bunch of snivelling politicians, of either party, would be desperate to hold their jobs and deflect responsibility on to anyone they could find. They would claim that it wasn't their fault as they don't have day to day control of any situation. Their duty, they claim, is to set policy and strategy, and not to be involved in the day to day tactics. They would will claim that they can't be held responsible for how these are implemented and for the consequences of any errors made on the front line.

What they don't understand is that policy and strategy lead directly to the way those on the front line act and behave when carrying out their jobs. Lord Carrington understood this very well. He knew that it was his policies and strategy that led to the Foreign Office downgrading the Falklands in their priorities. He knew the consewuences of this downgrading led to those who had an idea what could happen not being given the resources or the hearing they would get if the Falklands had been a priority. Even if they did raise the issue their bosses would be too interested in subjects that were a priority.

Lets look at a hypothetical situation that could be brewing at home. When a single prisoner escapes from jail it is reasonable that the Home Secretary shouldn't be held responsible and resign. However it is well known that our jails are overcrowded and that Labour has made increasing jail terms and harsher sentences a key policy to placate the Daily Mail voter. They have also ducked the decision to build more prisons despite dire warnings.

What if this overcrowding led to mass riots and a breakout of all the prisoners from a maximum security jail? Would the Home Secretary resign or not? I don't know, its hypothetical, but I would put money on it they wouldn't. They would claim that they can't be expected to personally supervise all the prisons, that's why we have Governors. What they willing and deliberately fail to accept is that their policies and strategies led to the the problems in the first place. They will rely on the political process that dictates that by the time any report comes out the Home Secretary will have moved on and a new incumbent will be in place. We will be told that lessons will be learnt ..... you get the drift.

We will have spent months, if not years, arguing over culpability until the report comes out, only to be told what we knew. We will then hold our politicians, all of them, in even more contempt, but nothing will change.

This is why I respect India's Home Minister and thought it was an honourable thing to do. He knows that, like it or not, he has set the environment in which India's security services work. It might be that subsequent reports find nothing reasonable could have been done to stop the attacks, but that's not the point, the public have been let down and someone must go. His resignation, even if not accepted, will allow the debate to move to what happened, why and how it could have been avoided, without it being dragged in to low politics as opposition and sections of their media demand resignations and other politicans waste time and political capital defending them.

*This is one story where I do have a bit of personal interst, I stayed in the Oberoi and know it well. Like everyone who travels on business I live in dread of something like this happening.

God Trumps

Via Heresy Corner this amusing game over at New Humanist will help you to select your religion of choice:

Are Mandy's state planners any better than the failed Soviet Union's state planners?

This has to be one of the most depressing stories of the recession:

Business Secretary Peter Mandelson has outlined plans to draw up a list of industries that could be saved from collapse during the economic downturn.
The thought that Mandy and a bunch of civil servants with zero business experience will start picking winners on which to squander my hard earned money sent a chill through me equal to the one when I heard interest rates were going up to 15%.

"Ah," I hear his supporters say in the beeb and Guardian say, "they will bring in outside experts to advise them". Yeah, right, and having given themselves the power to pick winners and throw even more cash around do you seriously believe politicians will relinquish it someone who else? Unless, of course, they are party hacks or sopperters*.

Let's think about how they might select industries and business to save. They will obviously need to give priorities to their deliberations. I suspect these will form the key criteria for selection:

1. Is it a Labour marginal?
2. Is it highly Unionised?
3. Is it a labour seat?
4. Have they donated to The Party?

If the answer to any of those is yes then it will probably get our money without question.
"He stressed the government was not going to "bail out" every ailing business or "prop up companies that are not viable".
So how will this work then. All business that meet the following criteria will be closed:

1. Is it a Tory seat?

This makes more people reliant on the State and likely to vote Labour.

Cynical, maybe, but I remember the 60's and 70's and how politicians, especially Labour politicians, can't help themselves. They are human after all and not only want to be liked, but they also want to protect their own jobs.

Thatcher fought tooth and nail to get us out of the mentality that politicians and civil servants are somehow omnipotent and can pick winners better than the market and what a painful process it was. It looks like we will have to relearn the lessons and submit ourselves to the pain once again.

Danian Green arrest, another thought

Like most of the liberal blogosphere and MSM I too was outraged when I heard of the arrest of an MP and the searching of his offices for what appears to be publishing information embarrassing to the Labour Party. But on reflection something doesn't seen quite right.

Firstly, for all I think that Labour would do just about anything to stay in power, surely orchestrating something like this would be a step too far even for them? Mandywould have realised that storm this would cause and advised caution in the process, even if Green has done something wrong.

And what of the arrest and questioning for "conspiracy" itself. Whilst it is an MP's duty to publish information that is brought to him, unless it seriously damages national security*. What if, and I am going to make a wild speculation here as I have no special knowledge or contact with the case, the MP encourages someone to leak information? Even if it isn't against the national interest and is embarrassing to the Govt should an MP be able to cajole someone to leak data or to encourage someone else to leak data? Other than guaranteeing anonymity and MP, or anyone else for that matter, should not be allowed to encourage others to leak information that their employment contract requires them to keep confidential.

As I say, I know nothing of this case, other than what I read in the press, but I do get the sense this story isn't all it seems.

*yes I know that NuLab have difficulty separating national security and Labour's security in Government, but parliament and senior police know better.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Work, the scourge of the blogging classes

Very frustrating when you have a load of rants whizzing round your head.

Monday, November 24, 2008

PBR Comment of the day (so far!)

From the BBC live feed:

1710Professor Peter Spencer, chief economic advisor, Ernst & Young Item Club This statement says more about the shocking state of the public finances inherited by Alistair Darling from Gordon Brown than it does about the recession or the measures he's taking to try to deal with it.

How much will the VAT change cost businesses?

Now that the VAT change has been announced we have started a project to implement it. We have our own IT team so the cost is an opportunity cost, which is high in our case because we have some key projects being delayed. I reckon about 10 man weeks of work in total just to change our billing system and bills.

Companies that outsource billing and accounting may have to pay for the changes, depending on their contract terms.

Will big out sourcing companies like EDS have the bandwidth to make all the changes?

As we bill in advance we have to rebate for the period. That is 50p per direct debit customer as well as the time to do the work.

Then there is the cost of calls to out call centre as customers query bills they don't understand.

And what about HMRC systems? I presume they will need to make changes to their notoriously crap processes and software, more cost to us, the tax payer.

This isn't going to be a cheap exercise.

And then we've got to do it all again in reverse next year.

I suppose it does increase economic activity, but not in the way predicted.

Credit Correction

is probably a better description of what we are going through.

Why banks aren't lending to consumers and businesses

Lots of angst from politicians, meeja and business folk over the weekend about banks not passing on the Government's (ie our money) largess to them.

Mark Wadsworth explains why they are all whistling for their supper in clear and understandable language here.

Such a pity that the Government didn't think about this before wasting our money.

VAT Cut:: Heads Gordon wins, Tails Gordon wins

Lets assume that we get the much trailed 2.5% VAT cut and one of two outcomes are likely:

1. Retailers have a good Christmas and Gordon claims it was caused by his wonderful fiscal stimulus, whether or not the VAT reduction reduction is passed on, or;

2. Retailers have a very poor Christmas and the economy continues to tank - Gordon then blames greedy retailers for not passing on the VAT cut.

Cunning bastard continues to avoid any blame for the current mess and continues to hold himself up as our saviour.

Friday, November 21, 2008

BNP, Human Rights Act, the Left and Geneva Convention

One of the oddities of the Left's attitude to the BNP is their belief that because the BNP doesn't support the HRA they shouldn't be able to benefit from it as demonstrated by Kerry McCarthy:

I liked the way Nick Griffin described the leaking of the list as being in breach of the Human Rights Act... We know his party are great supporters of that piece of legislation - when it suits them.
Yet the left seem to think that the Geneva Convention should apply to Al Quaeda terrorists captured in Afghanistan, even though those terrorists break just about every line of the convention.

They obviously can't make up there mind which bunch of nasty bastards to hate and which to love.

H/T Leg Iron

PS I think the BNP should have the protection of the HRA and those captured by the US should be treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention. Just because they are fascists it doesn't give us the excuse to act like fascists

Thursday, November 20, 2008

BNP List, Newsnight, New Labour and racisim at the next Election

I watched Newsnight last night* and wanted to write a post about their analysis of the BNP list they had carried out using the Mosaic profiling tool. This breakdown of the British people by location, class, salary and other information normally used in marketing campaigns.

As I had had a couple of glasses of wine I wanted to check my facts before posting so went to watch it on iPlayer and there it was, gone! Well "not available" anyway. This is unusual as it is available for other nights so I assume it was withheld because of the BNP analysis.

So although I can't refer to the source the main thing that I remember is how big the BNP were in Labour strongholds, most notably inner cities. Now this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who hasn't been hibernating on Zog recently, but it was the scale that struck me. It was big and accounted for a very large part of the BNP membership. Furthermore, they made the point that although there were many Professionals in the BNP it was dominated by C2's, again not too big a surprise.

I distinctly remember thinking that this is what frightens New Labour; they know there core vote in could melt away, not to the Tories but to the BNP, and why that are so keen to stress the BNP's racist undertones so much. Is this also why they raised the 70m immigration cap recently?

It could also explain why Labour has suddenly been very edgy on immigration recently, despite making political capital out of accusing the Tories of being racist every time they raise the issue.

Despite, maybe because of, the economic downturn, the next election could very easily turn in to a very nasty battle over immigration. If it does it could pan out like this:

Labour needs to be strong on immigration to satisfy their white inner city and C2 core vote that they can be trusted, this in itself will have racist undertones. They will stress their immigration points system. They may even revive the population cap argument.

The Conservative Party will stress high immigration rates and claim they first thought of the pints system, if not to get the vote switch to themselves themselves but to push Labour's core votes towards the BNP and so weaken them. Labour will accuse them of racism.

The LibDems will stand on the sideline and cast the racist pox on both their houses, but at the same time say they will be strong on illegal immigrants.

Amongst all this Nick Griffin will play the" we're not really racists argument for all its worth" and campaign heavily in inner cities, especially those with large immigrant communities. This will stir race tensions and I wouldn't be surprised if we get the odd race riot.

It does make you wonder why the list was published, though? Qui bono? I think I'll leave that one for the conspiracy theorists for now.

God, I hope I'm wrong, this outcome is far too depressing to contemplate as nobody will come out of it well.

* unusual for me as its past bedtime!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Why are local Governments still recruiting?

Old Holborn has been scanning the job pages of the Guardian and started a rather amusing post around the non jobs being created by local Government:

Pointless Jobs Competition

Here, you will find 574 Job vacancies.

Let's see who can find the most ridiculous one.

(PS, I've already found Lambeth council advertising for a "Welfare Take Up Officer")
At the time of writing there are 50 comments, most pointing out how idiotic these jobs are and amazement at how much is being paid. It a good bit of fun and there are some good points made. But I'm starting to think that we've all missed the point - why are they even recruiting?

As the private sector starts to tighten its belt and faces massive lay-offs, even those companies that haven't announced plans will be imposing recruitment bans and be looking at ways of reducing costs, which inevitably means reducing headcount either through redundancies or natural wastage.

Experience tells us that in a number of companies the word will go out "x% headcount reduction". This will be a critical measure to save the company and will affect good, loyal, hard working, people. Even those not made redundant will be affected as they try to ensure that the company doesn't grind to a halt and delivers the same level of service with the reduced headcount.

So, amidst all this we have the state sector increasing, or at best maintaining, headcount. This means fewer people in the private sector have to raise the same or more in taxes, or the money has to be borrowed ie delayed taxes.

Yes, I know that putting these people on the dole means welfare benefits, but as a lot of these jobs were for over £50k there has to be some saving, surely?

There is another benefit from reducing local Govt employment numbers - when we eventually get an upturn these people may go in to wealth producing employment rather than wealth consumption.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Are there too many women in Social Services?

I was musing about the death of baby P and all the people inolved and what struck me that was that it was all women. Even when they had a couple of former senior social workers on Radio 4 they were women. One could say that Social Services were hideously female if you wanted to be uncharitable.

But on a serious point, is this part of the problem? By there very nature we are told women are more collegiate and inclusive. Women tend to avoid confrontation and want to see the best in people. There is nothing wrong with this when in a mixed environment, indeed we are told women bring many benefits, but does it mean that in an environment like that surrounding baby P nobody was prepared to make the hard, confrontational, position? Did they all want to believe that their colleagues were right and acting in the P's best interest to the point that they missed what was really going on? Maybe one of them harboured doubts but didn't want to be seen breaking the consensus.

Perhaps a few men in the group, especially a couple of Alpha Males in the management chain, would have broken that consensus as they vied for or political leadership. They might have questioned the consensus as part of their own political positioning.

General stereoyping I know, but that doesn't make the point irrelevant.

I'l bet this question won't be raised in any of the of the inquiries or investigations though, but it would be if something as tragic happened in an all male environement.

Sir Ian Blair gets it right on community service

Now that he's leaving office Sir Ian seems to be getting it right:

Criminals ordered to work for their community should be forced to wear uniforms, Sir Ian Blair has said. The Metropolitan Police Commissioner insisted that visible punishment is the only way to convince the public the criminal justice system works. He said offenders wearing high visibility vests is "unpalatable" but could help restore confidence in the courts.
The only quibble is that ts is desirable, not unpalatable.

I learned this lesson as a young Sergeant in the early 1980's when serving in Germany. The Regiment had just moved in to an old barracks and hadn't got round to getting the jails serviceable and we had to send miscreants to another regiment if their crime received a jail sentence.

By military standards we did seem to have a high crime rate despite sending these young lads off to jail at ever increasing rates. I learned the reason when I was in the NAAFI having a beer as one of them returned from 28 days in jail with a nearby infantry regiment. He was laughing and joking about his time and became a bit of a celebrity, a bit of a "Jack-the-lad" hard man. I knew different, I had seen him in the jail and knew he had been a cowed, contrite young soldier. I realised then we might as well be sending them on leave for a month for all the good it was doing.

Anyway, we eventually got round to getting our own cells operational and what a difference it made. The first soldier to end up in there became a salutary lesson to the the rest of the lads. Seeing his daily routine was certainly a deterrence: roused o at 5:30am to start cleaning and other other onerous duties. Off to meals in full battle kit being marched at double quick time and then back at the same pace. A day full of military duties, PT and other "dirty jobs", all done at pace and under close supervision, which with a best kit inspection at 10pm. If the kit wasn't good enough then another at 10:30pm and the 6:30am if it still wasn't good enough. A cigarette ration of 2 a day also tended to be a bit of an eye opener.

As all this took place in full view of their mates they weren't scene as celebrities at their release and offending rates plummeted.

It was then I realised that any justice system needed to include 3 elements: protection of the public, punishment and deterrence. The deterrence element has to include not only deterrence for the offender to repeat their offence, but probably more importantly, deter others from committing crimes in the first place and this can't happen unless they are seen to be punished.

So what should those on community service be doing? Whatever it is it shouldn't undermine those who do the work as their normal jobs. By that I mean that street cleaning, say, shouldn't be seen as the punishment itself, it is that these offenders are doing it in their own time. So if we want them cleaning the street it should be in the evening in a city centre when that job isn't normally done and it gets maximum visibility as a deterrence. To that end any hi-vis clothing they wear should also be a different colour to that which is normally worn, pink or orange would be good choices, so that everyone knows that it is a punishment.

A word of warning though. It was easy in the Army because those young soldiers were volunteers and wanted to do the job. They also knew that the Army had the ultimate sanction of throwing them out, something we can't really do in the wider society.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Spectator Parliamentary Speech Of The Year

Via Head of Legal this video of Diane Abbot's speech in the recent 42 days detention debate which was awarded the Spectator's Speech of the Year Award.

I don't often agree with her but on this issue she is brilliant. I missed this speech at the time and if you did its well worth 5 minutes of anyone's time as she sets out the objections to the 42 days bill so well.

Unfortunately the embed script doesn't work and I haven't got time to work out why so here's a link to it.

He doesn't like new media types or Twitter

Work has its benefits; I get plenty of telecom's news letters and this one from The Register amused me this morning:

Here's a conundrum. Top Media People want to come out of the shadows and get "closer to their listeners" - it's what the Web 2.0 people urge them to do. BBC people in particular are obsessed with being seen to be bossy or "out-of-touch" - especially since three out of four license payers have a gripe with the corporation.

But the more of themselves media people reveal, the more the public sees them as clueless, self-referential and narcissistic bunch so many of them are. And the more time the BBC spends on peripheral New Media wankery, the more people wonder why they're paying a license fee. You'd need a heart of silicon not to enjoy their agony. The poor souls.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My response to Dr Crippen's post on the moral outrage against social workers

Dr Crippen has a post about baby P in which he takes the rest of us to task for our collective desire to find a scpegoat and crucify a social worker in the baby P case:

It’s time, once again, to vent our collective spleens.

It’s time, once again, for those on the moral high ground to stand up and be counted.

It’s time, once again, to crucify a social worker.
I'm not going to fisk the post as I have made 2 long comments, 37 and 38, which I have copied here:

The moral outrage from the rest of us in cases like this is driven by frutration.

Frustration at our inability to protect children, despite the huge amount of tax payers money devoted to social services. Maybe not enough for those spending it, but it seems like a a hell of a lot to those of us paying it.

Frustration at the lack of mea culpa. Nobody seems to have ownership in cases like this. I don't believe that someone should necessarily be fired every time something goes wrong when events like these occur. However the lack of ownership by one person is probably the biggest factor whenever something so catastrophic and tragic happens in any walk of live. How can we learn if nobody has ownership?

Frustration at the iablity professionals to learn by past mistakes. Professionals are supposed to be experts in their field yet we hear cries for more supervision. Either they are drones who need supervision or they are professionals who can be trusted to call for help when they need it.

Frustration that, despite very good wages, managers lack the ability to manage. They can't see when something is going wrong and fix it before the problem gets so far out of hand. Thats what managers should be doing, not constantly supervising individual professionals but taking a wider view ensuring that systems and procedures are in place to catch the exceptions that lead to these hoorendous deaths.

Frustration to learn that yet again its a lack of communication that is the root cause, despite the £millions spent on IT and telecoms, hours spent in cross departmental meetings and the appointment of evermore coordinators.

Frustration that the "system" seems hell bent in keeping children in care rather than risk them going to live with people prepared to offer them a home, time, love and dedication because they might smoke. Frustration that we know that this will extend from one borough to the rest of the country and more children will suffer at the hands of self righteous indignation that people smoke.

Frustration that the standard response is yet more enquiries and reviews, which only seem to give those involved a chance to take one pace back with a "not my fault guv" shrug of their shoulders.

Frustration that despite all these enquiries we find that recommendations of the learned people who chair them are ignored by the Government and professionals, only for the same mistakes to be made again.

Frustration that whenever we raise our concerns we are told that we don't understand and should leave it to the professionals, only to see another child die in such distressing circumstances. Yet at the same time those same professionals are drawing up plans to give themselves power to remove overweight children from their parents and place them into a system that can be so broken that this child died.

So, Dr C, by all means point out that some of the moral outrage may be misplaced, but don't think for one minute that it isn't real or unwaranted.

And yes, if we never heard of another death we would ignore social service, but thats the point isn't it? Professionals want to be left alone to get on with their jobs while the rest of us go out and generate the wealth to pay for them?

Friday, November 14, 2008 4:33:00 AM
Blogger The Great Simpleton said...

Ok, so that's the general outrage dealt with and now this:
[my emphasis]

"You cannot legislate to eradicate evil. There is no system on earth that will protect us against Harold Shipman, Fred West, Peter Sutcliffe and all the rest of them. You do the best you can, in difficult circumstances. Some times you get it wrong. Haringay Council got it wrong this time. God, did they get it wrong and, yes, once again we need to examine procedures and see if we can get it any better.

But, once again, the whole emphasis of the story is on social services rather than on the evil thugs that committed the offence. It was the same with Victoria Climbie:"

Yes there are evil people but we know that, that's why we have set up social services and other specialists, to protect the vulnerable. That's why we give them special powers, so they can act to protect the vulnerable.

I agree that there will always be hard cases like Shipman and most people accepted that fact and looked to the subsequent enquiry to provide the recommendations that protect us from from future Shipmans. But if it happens again the moral outrage will be deafening, because yet again we will have found that professionals have becaome self righteous and compacent and unable to learn from past mistakes.

And that's the point with this moral outrage, as I said in my first comment, we've seen it all before.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

An prediction about the economy

Yes, I know one should never make predictions, especially about the future, but here goes

As we run up to Christmas there will be tales of woe, fears of a hard Christmas for the retail industry will be raised, probably forecasting the worst Christmas ever*. Shops will be discounting heavily, claiming they are bleeding red stuff all over their balance sheet, but then say that Christmas wasn't as bad as they expected. Foir the first time in a long time year on year sales will not have grown though.

The good old consumer will know that we are in for a real shit time and will think "..hmm, fuck it, if its going to be that bad next year I might as well have a good Christmas and fuck the consequences, I'm going to spend".

There will be a bit of a bounce with the optimists, especially Gordon, claiming that the recession isn't that bad and that we can weather the storm.

Then in January credit card bills will hit the door mats. Reality will set in and retail sales will nose dive. Initially this will be masked by the January sales, but the discounting will be so deep that stores will be crippled. February's economic news will be so dark that we will wonder what is going on. By March key economic figures will be reported as worse than any recession in living memory, bearing in mind that some people who lived through the great depression are still alive.

Unfortunately the crystal ball only looks that far ahead and then the visions disappear in a gloomy haze.

*In the same way that global warming alarmists always claim that some weather anomaly was the hottest/coldest/wettest ever

1984 Book Campaign

I presume most people who come by here are familiar with the campaign to send all MP's a copy of 1984 on November 5th. The response has been somewhat underwhelming with only 3 Labour MP's commenting on it and they have been, at best superscilious in their comments.

Perhaps 1 week on is the time to follow up and here is a copy of an email I sent to my MP, David Liddington (Con).

Dear David,

By now you will have received a copy of Orwell’s 1984, although I haven’t seen any reference to it on you web site (at at 11/11/08). Although I didn’t send you the book I support the campaign as I have been increasingly alarmed at the way Parliament is allowing this Government to ride rough shod over our ancient protections from the State, supposedly in the interests National Security.

Just in case you think this campaign has been organised by a bunch of cranks here’s something for you to think about from a very thoughtful blogger, one of many who write eloquently on this subject:

National security has a floating definition, and if laws designed specifically to catch terrorists can be applied to people who have one bag too many in their bins, then anything that can be seen to disparage or insult the government can be considered a national security issue, and therefore silenced.

So, our government wants the power to lock us up for 42 days without bothering to think up a charge (it hasn’t gone away), to assume guilt from the outset (confiscation of property from suspected criminals who haven’t even been charge, let alone found guily), to make us pay for our own defence (Jack Starw’s recent kite flying), to hold autopsies in secret when we fall down the stairs (secret Coroner’s hearing with the Government appointing their own Coroner), and to prevent the media telling anyone about any of it (latest proposal from the security committee (whatever happened to D-Notices BTW)). In effect, this is the 'vapourised' that Orwell describes. Vanished so completely that nobody remembers you were ever there. All that's left is to edit any record out of history and you're not only gone, you never existed.

We have corresponded before when I praised you for your work in looking after the interests of the Iraqi Interpreters and I see from the emails I get from They Work For You that you still do some good work on this and other topics However, as a life long Tory voter, I even held my nose and voted Tory in 1997, I am becoming increasingly alarmed at your Party’s complacency to never ending stream of authoritarian legislation to the point where I may have to consider my voting priorities at the next election. You will note that I am giving you the benefit that it is complacency and not conspiracy.

David Davies may have been capricious, or even fool hardy, when he resigned to stand again on the subject of civil liberties but he had a point and touched a very popular raw nerve, if only for a short time. If the Conservative Party isn’t going to stand up to what is the most authoritarian Government we have seen in recent history it will not deserve any votes, no matter what it says on the subject of the economy.

Perhaps as someone who is rising through the ranks of the Conservative Party you could let me know, as one of your constituents, your position on this subject and what, if anything, you and the Conservative Party are proposing to halt this stream of authoritarian legislation?




Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote holds as true today as it did then, indeed it may be more so as the state develops ever more ingenious ways to spy on us and control our thoughts and behaviour:

They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.

And while on the subjects of quotes, Burke also provides a salutory warning for an opposition MP:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

I'll let you know if anything happens.

H/T Leg Iron for the blogger quote, I just did the bracketed bit)

BTW, I reckon he's one of the better MP's but I'm just about to find out.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How many more inquiries does it take to save a child

Every time a child dies at the hand of cruel parents under the the noses of the Social Services we get more hand wringing, more calls for enquiries, more claims that things are getting better and systems improving. Yet children still continue to die hideous deaths for want of basic care from those tasked to protect them.

Won't someone put their hand up and say they got it wrong and apologise? I don't know what's worse, the death or the hand wringing crocodile tears as everyone takes a quick step backwards with a "not me gov" shrug.

PS I find the whole story of Baby P too distressing to link to let alone include some of the story, googly Bapy P if you don't know the story

Changing my mind on tax cuts

Up until now I had been a believer as tax cuts both as a way to help stimulate the economy but also as a way to keep Governments lean. I do accept the Keynesian argument that in recession we might have to let borrowing increase, although the amount is up for discussion.

However, now that all 3 parties main are falling over themselves to promise tax cuts my natural skepticism is raising alarm bells. Ever since we were suckered in to the Common Market by all the great and the good supporting it I have held the view that if there is no serious political opposition to something it is probably bad thing ie if something seems too to good to be true, it probably isn't.

I need to think about this dilemma a bit more.

Remember them all

It is right that the Great War remains the focus of Remembrance Day services, there only a few survivors and it is important that we acknowledge the sacrifices that were made. All wars are horrific but as the first World War this was more so.

As our thoughts turn to other wars, most notably WW2 we generally remember Dunkirk or the D Day landings. In other conflicts the Falkands get a mention and we give a special thought to those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there is one part of WW2 that is often overlooked, the war in the Far East against Japan.

Few people realise that war continued for for a full 3 months until what is referred to as VJ Day

Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day, also known as Victory in the Pacific Day, or V-P Day) is a name chosen for the day on which the Surrender of Japan occurred, and subsequent anniversaries of that event. The term has been applied to both the day on which the initial announcement of Japan's surrender was made in the afternoon of August 15, 1945 (August 14 North American date), as well as the date the formal surrender ceremony was performed in Tokyo on September 2, 1945.
Yes of course most people are aware of the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but they don't associate that with the ongoing war. After WW1 it was probably the worst war in history with soldiers fighting in hand to hand combat to clear small islands. It also brought us some of the first fanatical suicide bombers, Kamakaze's.

Furthermore, the price of capture was horrific as the Japanese had no sympathy for prisoners and used them as slave labour with many being tortured and 1,000's starving to death. They had also inflicted great suffering on other countries, most notably China, Hong Kong and Singapore, but no country in the region was spared their viscous empire.

My father was in the Feet Air Arm and occiasionally talked about the state of the prisoners they picked up; it made grown men cry to see them as they were brought on board their ships for repatriation. Even then there was black humour, he had one story of a particular skinny man being brought on board and one of the sailors putting a comforting arm round him and saying "don't worry you'll be alright now and we'll give you some proper food". To which the response was "about time, I've been on this ship for 3 years and haven't had a decent meal yet"!

Despite all that what really got to my father was how much they were forgotten at the time. This was brought home to him when they found out there had been a general election and Churchill had been replaced by Atlee. They didn't know it was happening, let alone get a vote.

So, as your thoughts turn to those who suffered in the trenches, at Dunkirk, D Day, the Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ireland , Korea and the 100's of other locations people fought and died for us, spare a thought for those forgotten servicemen in the far east.